211. How Much Money is Enough to Be Happy in Retirement with Luke Mathers

Lou Blaser (00:00:01) - If you've ever thought that if you were set financially and money was no issue, you would most certainly retire right away and just enjoy life. You might want to listen to this episode. You're listening to Second Breaks, the show where we explore how to navigate and thrive in our midlife transitions. I'm your host, Lou Blaser. I also publish midlife cues, a weekly meditation on intentional living and personal growth in midlife. Check it out and subscribe at midlifecues.com.

Lou Blaser (00:00:54) - You know, I was never the person who dreamt of retiring. Even when I was in my 30s, I never thought that I would stop working. I mean, yeah, I knew at some point I probably would have to leave my corporate life, but I always assumed that I would then evolve and transition into something else. I credit my father for this idea, for this image in my head. He was my earliest role model, and he never retired. He maintained his law practice until he passed away and most of his friends did as well.

Lou Blaser (00:01:29) - So I never imagined doing anything different. Having said that, there's this tiny voice in my head that has always wondered if I might feel differently if I were independently wealthy. Like, if I were to hit the jackpot and win the lottery, say, would I immediately quit working and live a life of leisure? The first time I ran into Luke Mathers on LinkedIn, there was a part of his story that I was immediately intrigued by. Luke retired, or rather the first time he retired, he was 31. He had just sold his business and he was set financially.

Luke Mathers (00:02:13) - I'd taken over a practice in the UK that I took from being really, really terrible and I got it for next to nothing and then sold it for, you know, like winning the lotto and moved back to Australia with the Aussie dollar was a lot lower. And basically, at 31 years old, I had enough money. Money wasn't something I had to get too worried about.

Lou Blaser (00:02:32) - Luke was an optometrist. He had built a lucrative practice in the UK at that time doing something he loved.

Luke Mathers (00:02:40) - I've actually asked which one is clearer, number one or number two, 9.5 million times. So if you've ever had your eyes tested, you're wearing glasses. So you obviously have. Yes, I've asked the same question a lot, but I also got to meet some really amazing people and got to run some really big businesses. And and do some great stuff. So optometry has been a wonderful sort of profession for me to to have got into. And yeah, I loved every moment of it.

Lou Blaser (00:03:05) - Having said that, Luke actually welcomed retirement when he sold his practice at 31.

Luke Mathers (00:03:12) - When we've been on one end of something for a long, long time, all we want to do is get to the other end. And because I've been working so hard for so many years and was, you know, I wouldn't say I was burnt out, but I'd had enough of it, All I wanted to do was not do that, and that was my driving force and that's what I thought I wanted. We had a daughter at the same time, so we had a baby.

Luke Mathers (00:03:34) - So I got to be a sort of dad who had lots of time with her, which I thoroughly enjoyed. Yeah, we get up in the morning and I'd exercise and go go surf. I used to have one of those kids buggies with the big bicycle wheels on it and I take my daughter for a run and and things like that.

Lou Blaser (00:03:48) - So, that sounds like the perfect picture, yeah. You're young with a young family, you're set financially, you're healthy, and you can do whatever you like. Not to mention you live in Australia and can surf every day if you wanted to. That's life, baby!

Luke Mathers (00:04:06) - Yeah, I just really quite like the freedom of being able to do whatever I like until I got to the point where the freedom wasn't quite so freeing anymore. It actually didn't feel, didn't feel as good. And I found within about six months I was bored out of my head.

Lou Blaser (00:04:18) - Uh, say, What?

Luke Mathers (00:04:20) - I was playing golf and going surfing every day and all of these things, which I thought retirement would be awesome. That's exactly what I thought I wanted. And I realized pretty quickly that it wasn't. And it's actually been something that's stuck in my mind the whole time

Lou Blaser (00:04:33) - How did those initial feelings of "this is not enough anymore", how did it manifest itself? What did you start feeling?

Luke Mathers (00:04:42) - I started feeling jealous of people that had goals and purpose and things that they were trying something new. Like I had a friend that had owned a big lumber business and I don't know anything about lumber, and I have no desire to be in the lumber business. But he was saying that they've got these expansion plans and they're going to do this and that. And I'm in business land. I'm very strategic. I love I love that strategy of being able to get your teeth into something new and try some things and and see how they go and work out new systems and strategies. I love doing that sort of stuff and I was really good at that and I was finding myself being jealous that I didn't have any of that. I didn't I didn't have the ability to do any of those things.

Luke Mathers (00:05:19) - So it's it's almost like you've got a gift and you've got something that you're really good at sitting there and you're not utilizing it. And I think there's something about that makes you a little bit antsy and a little bit agitated and, and makes you want to go out and and do something else. But there was a thing that happened and a lot of people, if they retire early, will get this is that you're retired but all of your friends who are your age and stuff aren't. They're all going to work. So I was going I was playing golf with with people who are my age now. And, you know, so I, you know, all of the people that I really wanted to hang out with, they were all busy going to work. And, you know, you'd catch up and they'd have all these stories about things that they've done and what they do and what they're trying to achieve and all of that sort of stuff. And I didn't have any of those.

Lou Blaser (00:06:06) - Luke started to feel left out. And as he told me, things began to feel flat after a while. He figured he needed some stress in his life, some purpose, some new and real goals to go after so he can feel fired up again.

Luke Mathers (00:06:23) - I had a few years of sort of looking around to work out what else I could do. I looked at a lot of franchises. I looked at I looked at everything from kids play centers because we had a baby to things like, you know, subway franchises and things like that that you could sort of own and not have to work in completely and that sort of stuff. And I looked around and there was a lot of lots of other options, and none of them were anywhere near as good as optometry.

Lou Blaser (00:06:47) - So about a couple of years later, Luke retired and went back to his original profession Optometry, and then an optical retail chain called SpecSavers came to Australia. The company offers optometry and optician services for eyesight testing and it sells glasses and contact lenses and such. And it was a company that Luke already had an experience with when he was in the UK.

Luke Mathers (00:07:13) - And when they came to Australia we opened a hundred stores in 100 days, which if you've opened a retail store, that's a really stressful thing to do. And I kind of we did that and it was the most exciting period of my life that 100 days and 100 stores and 100 days. I loved every moment of it, but it was really stressful and really difficult. And that's kind of that piqued my interest a little bit.

Lou Blaser (00:07:38) - So basically in his mid-30s, Luke was back in optometry, building a huge business that would take up his time for the next 12 years or so. In 2020, he decided to retire from optometry the second time around. And so. Was that planned or was that like again, sort of feeling like, okay, enough of this? Or how did that retirement come about?

Luke Mathers (00:08:04) - The last one, it was basically I could tell I wasn't as good as what I had been in the past. You and I have both read From Strength to Strength by.

Lou Blaser (00:08:15) - Arthur C Brooks.

Luke Mathers (00:08:16) - I love that book. I've read it, like three times. Absolutely love it. And one of the things he talks about is your professional decline is coming whether you like it or not. And I just know that as a as a leader insider business of being there from 9 to 530 every day and stuff, I wasn't as good. I wasn't as motivated, I wasn't as driven, I wasn't as good a leader as I had been in the past. And my businesses weren't quite as good as they had been. They were still okay, They were still good, but they weren't. I wasn't as good a leader towards the end as well, because my heart and passion wasn't in there, you know? So, you know, if your heart and passion is not in there, you've got to find where your heart and passion is.

Lou Blaser (00:08:56) - Now, I would be remiss not to point out here that clearly Luke was operating from a position of privilege. He was, financially speaking, in a position to follow new passions and interests. And obviously, not everybody can choose to do this. But for those of us who can, it leaves us with a great opportunity to prioritize purpose over purely financial rewards.

Luke Mathers (00:09:22) - We all crave safety as well. You know, it's a bit of Maslow's hierarchy of needs that once we've got that bottom part of that pyramid of Maslow's hierarchy of needs, then we can start to look towards the other ones in midlife, particularly if you've had reasonably good, you know, you've been lucky and you've worked hard and things have gone your way, that you then have the ability to be able to not be driven by extrinsic things anymore. And I don't I get the extrinsic rewards. Like I run workshops for places and I go and speak at conferences and stuff and they pay me really well and all of that sort of stuff. But I'm not doing it for the money. I'm doing it because I really love sharing this message. I really love being able to, you know, take the stress out of change and being able to help people to embrace how they look at stress and how to how to actually fire up and see challenges rather than being stuck in threats with anxiety and and depression and all the things that go along with that.

Luke Mathers (00:10:15) - That gives me so much joy. And most of it I would probably do for free, you know. But if people are going to pay me for it, I'll go I'll go and get too. So Exactly. The drive is still there. But I think I think once the safety part of it and you're financially not, you know, you're going to be okay. Um, I think I think it affords you a luxury of being able to do things with more intrinsic rewards. And I guess that's where that purpose and that's where you have that balance of time and purpose happens because you don't have to go hammer and tongs every single day. You can actually have the time to enjoy certain things. But then when I'm going to do the work I'm doing, I'm going to do it really, really well and be 100% into that.

Lou Blaser (00:10:58) - This conversation with Luke has certainly highlighted a few things for me. One, you know, having enough money, however we may define enough, quote unquote, isn't a guarantee for happiness. This is something that we have heard time and time again, and it certainly applies in the retirement space for sure. Of course, we need money to support our basic needs. As Luke alluded to when he mentioned Maslow's hierarchy of needs. I'll put a link in the show notes if you're not familiar with it. But the quick gist of it is that the most basic of those needs level one and two are the physiological and safety and security needs. We need some level of financial security to feel safe. We need to know that we can support ourselves and finance our life as we get older. But beyond that, other things beyond money in the bank drive our happiness. Which leads me to the second thing that I wanted to highlight from this conversation. While a lot of fun and leisure sounds fantastic in reality, we need stress in our lives. We need to have a purpose beyond simply having fun. We have an innate human need for purpose and meaning and a life of fun and relaxation. While it sounds wonderful, it just isn't enough to meet those needs.

Lou Blaser (00:12:21) - We need to strive for improvement and to see ourselves grow and get better. We need purpose to motivate us to get up every day and apply ourselves. This is something increasingly important. As we get older, without purpose, we are likely to question what is life for.

Luke Mathers (00:12:42) - It's really easy to be busy, but unless there's a purpose behind that busyness, I think it ends up it almost sounds like a bit like junk food. It's got no nutritional value to it. I think distractions are like junk food. They might scratch an itch, but they're not going to. They're not going to give you proper purpose. The world needs to be a slightly better place because you're in it. And I think that's really important. One of my sisters has got lots and lots of degrees. She's really, really smart and she was a teacher for a lot of years. She did a law degree. She lectured at universities and law and she's not doing any of that anymore. She's a she's almost a full-time grandmother now, and she has a whole bunch of purpose of that.

Luke Mathers (00:13:24) - And that's that's a whole heap of purpose. And it might not be the corner suite and it might not be any of that sort of stuff. But she she's really, really loving it and she's as happy as I think I've ever seen it because she's time-rich and purpose-rich. And the purpose that she has is I'm I'm going to be the best grandmother I have to this beautiful little daughter, little granddaughter. So, you know, that's where that purpose comes from.

Lou Blaser (00:13:46) - I think the last thing that this conversation really highlighted for me is that, you know, it may take us a while to figure out what we want to do next, especially if we've spent a long time, especially in one thing, or building a career in one field. Look, for example, consider different things. Back in his early 30s, after he initially retired and he still ended up choosing to return to his primary profession. One might say that it took him another 10 to 12 years to figure out what he wanted to do for his next chapter after that.

Lou Blaser (00:14:22) - I think we need to be open to trying on different hats. We don't want to just jump into the first thing that lands on our lap because we're already antsy and we want to figure out what we want to do next. For our next chapter, we have to give ourselves some space to open ourselves, to experimenting and like I said, trying on different hats to see what fits best and what we might actually love to spend our time doing. We want to give ourselves time to discover what could possibly spark a fire that turns into a new passion. As I mentioned in episode 208. Curiosity is a key skill that we need to navigate modern retirement in the 21st century. And this skill, curiosity can definitely help us figure out where we might want to go next in our careers.

Lou Blaser (00:15:19) - I want to thank Luke Neighbors for sharing his experience with us. If you'd like to learn more about him, check out the show notes at secondbreaks.com for links to his website and LinkedIn account. Retirement is a major milestone that hits mid-lifers, and it's something that we've always known we should be planning for.

Lou Blaser (00:15:43) - But modern retirement, retiring in the 21st century, is proving to be a much different kind of experience than what we were taught to believe or what we may have been preparing for. If you are beginning to plan for your next chapter or have just started it and can use some help and clarity with your plans, I may be able to help you. I now offer consultation services for navigating midlife transitions, especially retirement. You can check out loublaser.com/consult to find out if I can help you. I have outlined the areas that I can be of assistance with on that page. Again, that's loublaser.com/consult, or you can send me an email at lou@secondbreaks.com to connect. That's all I have for you today. I'll be back in a couple of weeks with a new episode. Until then, keep on making your dent in the universe, my friend. Cool beans.

211. How Much Money is Enough to Be Happy in Retirement with Luke Mathers
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