Expert Interview with Dave Starr on Empowered Retirement for NewRetirement.com

Expert Interview with Dave Starr on Empowered Retirement for NewRetirement.com

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Empowered RetirementThe smartest thing anyone can do to prepare for retirement is to start early – long before you need it – and to look for sources of income that will sustain you after you’ve officially retired, says Dave Starr, the founder of RetiredPay.com.

Even if you have the promise of a comfortable pension, that is no excuse for not seeking other opportunities.

“No matter what your age, you can still ‘unfix’ your income, but if you set up some business or other income stream in your 40s, 50s 60s or so, you will be ever so much more ‘comfortable’ when you cruise into your later years.”

Dave says he officially retired from a mid-level government job 11 years ago and retired eight years ago from the U.S. “squirrel cage” economy and now makes his home in the Philippines. 

“I put quotes around the word ‘retired’ because I really am anything but ‘retired’ in the sense most people have of sitting under a shade tree sipping a drink with a little umbrella in it or playing golf all day,” he adds. “I’m an internet author, serial site founder and entrepreneur who intends to ‘work’ at things which are rewarding to me for many, many years to come.”

Here, Dave shares why he recommends other seniors skip a passive retirement in favor of pursuing an “empowered retirement” and offers insight for how to do it.

Tell us about Retired Pay…when and why did you start your site?

I started RetiredPay.com in 2001 or so, mainly as a personal reference source for items I had researched and studied while work for an attorney in the USA helping to solve special issues faced by military and federal employees undergoing divorce. 

Over the years I have shifted focus toward the idea of helping retirees and “Boomers” with honest ways to supplement their retirement income, but more importantly to make them feel useful and empowered, not washed up, broke and “used up” as so many (even many seniors themselves) seem to think of us folks in our “Golden Years.”

Who should be reading it?

Anyone who wants to feel useful and alive, no matter what their birthday happens to be. Those who mainly want to complain about “how hard it is to live on a fixed income” probably won’t find much of interest here, because I personally don’t believe there is such a thing as a “fixed income” unless the recipient is happy with letting their income be “fixed.”

What’s the biggest difference between retirement savings for a federal employee versus those in the private sector?

Well I’m not really about “savings,” per se. Savings and intelligent investments are a huge part of preparing for retirement, but there are literally hundreds of thousands of sites out there that do a much better job than I do in talking about savings and traditional investments. A major difference between federal retirees and other more traditional retirees is that federal pensions and benefits (life insurance and medical care) are much more generous and more stable than private industry. But to my mind, it is no less important for a “fed” to empower his or herself than a retiree from any other walk of life.

How would you define “Empowered Retirement”? How can seniors empower their retirement?

Mainly it’s a state of mind. Stop thinking that at some arbitrary age you will suddenly change from having an income based on doing something of value to being a “ward of the state” limited in your decisions based on what social security and other government programs give you “permission” to do. Just decide upon something that pleases you and makes you feel alive and useful, and do it. You already have all the “permission” you need.

Why do you advocate entrepreneurship for seniors? What are some of your favorite business opportunities for seniors?

As I’ve already mentioned, money is not the be all and end all. But “building something” which adds value to life…your own life and others…is worth way more in real value than, say, making some investment in some fund that pays you another $100 a month. Money’s nice – we all need it – but building “something” that empowers you (and others) means a lot more.

What types of businesses do you think aren’t worth the investment from a retiree’s or soon-to-be retiree’s perspective?

Anything ethical, which doesn’t screw others to make a fast buck, is generally fine. Anything which promises “easy, quick money” or unbelievable rates of interest on an investment is generally to be avoided like a plague. 

I am mainly into opportunities in the online world, and one thing I disagree with many of my colleagues about is the definition of “passive income.” Very little online earning is “passive.” 

If a business is providing value to others, and if you, yourself can explain how that value is provided, it’s probably a safe bet. If you don’t understand it, don’t get involved.

What part of retirement planning do you find your readers have the most questions or concerns about?

Time, risk and knowledge.

Time: People ask my advice or help and they always tell me how the “have no time.” That is a lame excuse. Everyone has exactly the same amount of time…it is perhaps the only way we are truly created equal. How we choose to spend it? Ah, that’s a different story.

Risk: Of course we must always manage risk. But you essentially can’t earn without some risk. Banks are paying about 0.1 percent these days. And bank savings aren’t necessarily “safe” any more. If you want to be assured of “zero” risk, I don’t know how that can be accomplished. But so many businesses, especially online, are so low in “real risk” – say you start a website with the idea it will earn and it fails. What have you really lost? $10 or $20? Come on, most of you spend that much at iHop every Saturday morning and then complain about your weight.

Knowledge: “But I don’t know how.” That is an even weaker excuse than the “no time” refrain. The answer is so easy most people can’t see it…LEARN. Old dogs can learn new tricks. And learning promotes a longer, happier life. Your learning didn’t (or shouldn’t have) stopped all those years ago when you last graduated from a school. Many of my online activities have been way more valuable to me in my depth and breadth of learning than in any monetary value. Knowledge is power.

What do you think your readers should be most concerned about when it comes to their retirement savings? 

No one can assure you today as to how much will be “enough” on the future. Save? Indeed you should. Economize? Indeed you should. But “what if” you wind up with life left over at the end of your money?

My answer is, empower yourself now with the ability to earn more, almost without respect to your age or even where you choose to spend your retirement years. 

Do something now to add value to your won life and the lives of others, always think in terms of “semi-retirement” so you’ll always have the ability to earn more, and you’ll avoid that most common (and probably life-shortening) concern of “oldsters”…worry about money. That’s real “empowerment” in the best sense of the words…freedom from uncertainty. 

“We cannot predict the future, but we can invent it – and we had better start now”. — Nobel Prize Winner in Physics Dennis Gabor (1900-1979) (later others).

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