At 78 years young, Stephen Pollan says that both he and his wife are happily working full time. Retirement for the couple is out of the question, but Stephen says it's not because of unsound financial practices—it's a matter of choice. Rather than working hard, saving up and retiring at age 65, Stephen says a better approach to retirement is to "die broke," which he writes about in his best-seller by the same name. He talks to Jean about Die Broke and shares some of his unconventional views on retirement.
Stephen says the concept behind Die Broke rests in large part on the idea that you can't take your money with you, and therefore it's best to live life to the fullest while you still can. "The theory was your last check should be to the undertaker, and hopefully, it should bounce," he says.
Yet Stephen says he didn't always operate under that belief. Like many couples, Stephen says he and his wife were preoccupied with the future and the "what ifs." When Stephen was diagnosed with lung cancer at the age of 48, he says they began to shift their way of thinking. Fortunately, the diagnosis proved false, and though Stephen "only" had tuberculosis, he says it was a turning point for him. "It was a real bout with mortality, but it was also probably one of the best things that ever happened to me because it changed my life," he says. Having already enjoyed success as a lawyer, banker and financial adviser, Stephen decided to pursue other interests, including writing, media, teaching and mentoring.
Stephen says rather than sticking to a calendar or setting a date for retirement, individuals should plan to work their entire lives, always growing, learning and doing. "Leisure can be lethal," Stephen says. "What you're doing doesn't have to be work—it could be any project. I think the word retirement was a terrible word, they should have changed it to perhaps freedom."
In fact, Stephen says that retirement is a relatively new concept that was created during the Depression under President Franklin D. Roosevelt. With unemployment rates hovering around 60 percent, Stephen says the government instituted an artificial age of retirement to force people out of jobs so others could fill their shoes. Today, Stephen says people are living longer and changing careers more frequently, and he says the idea of retirement is simply outdated.
A father of four, Stephen says another aspect of "die broke" is that instead of leaving his children with a huge inheritance, he gets to enjoy sharing the wealth now while he's still around. Moreover, Stephen says his children are themselves financially independent—and that makes it a win-win situation. "Our fulfillment is the children and watching them grow and having them be so wonderful," he says.