CFP and PhD Kathleen Rehl has had many careers spanning from academia to financial advisory. Most recently, Kathleen has continued penning pieced about widows and money and speaking at selected conferences and events. She is the author of Moving Forward On Your Own: A Financial Guidebook for Widows .
Today, Kathleen reflects on the death of her husband, speaks to how it impacted her and her business, and provides financial and personal advice for widows and widowers.
Watch on YouTube
01:03 – Kathleen Rehl shares her experience growing up in a four-generation family, early money lessons and her decision to leave academia
08:10 – What inspired Kathleen to write Moving Forward On Your Own: A Financial Guidebook for Widows
13:17 – How Kathleen’s business changed after the death of her husband
16:28 – Kathleen reflects on previous work she’s done with widows and how the experience varies with expected and unexpected deaths
25:03 – Pension, insurance and other general financial surprises that impact widows
26:40 – Basic financial advice Kathleen would give to widows and some of the biggest financial mistakes widows make
31:39 – Support systems and the importance of checking in
34:33 – Financial matters a widow should focus on
38:43 – Resources from Kathleen’s website
45:26 – The last thing Kathleen changed her mind about and one thing she wishes people knew about her
49:28 – Kathleen talks about her ‘ReFirement’
51:48 – Jonathan thanks Kathleen for joining the show and lets listeners know where they can connect with her
“I didn’t know – with my husband gone – if I was going to be able to continue the business without him. But, my assistant stepped up and took on some more responsibilities and we kept going. I pulled back for a little bit and all my existing clients were very understanding. But I found that I didn’t step back for very long because work was what made sense to me.” (14:10)
“Every situation is unique. And, just because it happened like this for me, doesn’t mean that it’s gonna fit this widowed person over here. But generally, if it was an anticipated death versus an unanticipated death, for many folks out there if it’s an anticipated death, they will start doing some of the things in advance that they need to do planning for this time. Whereas if it’s an automobile accident and they are just gone, they haven’t had time to put a lot of those things in place.” (18:59)
“If you look at men and women, eighty percent of all women when they die are gonna be alone or not married. Eighty percent of men die married.” (21:58)
“That’s where I got a lot of comfort. I had one lady friend who had lost her husband two years before and I had assisted her with some financial matters. That first week, she came over several times in the evening. She brought her crocheting with her. And there were some evenings that she’d just sit crocheting and I’d just sit going through the sympathy cards. But she was there. She was a presence with me.” (32:35)
“Be careful about people who are looking to take advantage who might be potential spouses. When I re-entered the dating game, a very wise widow said to me, ‘Kathleen, be careful. You don’t want to get together with somebody who is looking for you to be their purse or their nurse or their mother.’” (39:57)
“I call it reFirement with a capital ‘F.’ It’s not retirement, it’s reFirement. And, for me, the ‘Fs’ are: family, friends, fitness, focus, and fun.” (49:37)
Kathleen’s Website – https://www.kathleenrehl.com/
Kathleen’s Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/kathleen.rehl
Kathleen’s LinkedIn – https://www.linkedin.com/in/kathleen-m-rehl-ph-d-cfp%C2%AE-ceft%C2%AE-emeritus-30178421/
Kathleen’s Book – https://www.amazon.com/Moving-Forward-Your-Own-Financial/dp/0984579303
Soaring Spirits International – https://soaringspirits.org/
Modern Widows Club – https://modernwidowsclub.org/
Jane Fonda and I Happily Agree About Drinking After 60 – https://sixtyandme.com/abstinence-from-drinking/
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Jonathan DeYoe: Welcome back. On this episode of the Mindful Money podcast, I’m chatting with Gary Ray, who is the author of friendly local game Store, a five year path to middle class income, and the owner of Black Diamond Games in Concord, California. Now, Gary and I have known each other for 25 years. Can you believe that? We studied Buddhism together at the Institute of Buddhist Studies in Berkeley, California. We’ve played DNd together on and off since the mid ninety s. And full disclosure, I’m a small partner in his game store. Also, he is the Gary that I mentioned in my book. Gary, welcome to the Mindful Money podcast.
Gary Ray: Thank you. I don’t remember being in the book.
Jonathan DeYoe: You’re named in one spot. Okay, so Gary, just for the listeners, tell us where you’re calling from. Where’s home?
Gary Ray: I live in Richmond, California. Okay. Which is a suburb of the Bay area, so my store is in another suburb in Concord. So it’s about 25 minutes from here.
Jonathan DeYoe: Yeah. Where’d you grow up?
Gary Ray: I grew up in southern, well, I was born in Pennsylvania, so until I was eight I was in Pennsylvania. Then I moved to Irvine in southern California, so Orange county. So yeah, I consider this home now, but it took a while for sure.
Jonathan DeYoe: So when you were growing up, I guess either in Pennsylvania or Southern California, do you recall lessons that you learned about money as a kid?
Gary Ray: No, because my parents kept it secret. My parents did not want us to know what was going on financially. So when we moved to California from Pennsylvania. That was kind of a difficult time for my parents financially, but they kept it entirely secret. And it wasn’t until my father had his own consulting business that I kind of started seeing the kind of hand to mouth checks coming in, going to the bank, that kind of stuff. Generally, they never taught us anything about money or money management. None of the stuff that I make sure I teach my son, because I’m really concerned as an older parent that he may not be prepared for that stuff. I may not be around to correct him when he makes big mistakes.
Jonathan DeYoe: Right. So are there any experiences you had that stand out as really important in the development of your money story?
Gary Ray: There’s a lot of mistakes, so there’s a lot of instant credit card debt. At 19, when I got to college, where I got a credit card without really a job and maxed it out, and I was pretty much in credit card debt all through college, it was only like, $1,000. So that was the upside to that. But it was perpetually being in debt for $1,000 and getting my car fixed only when there was enough money on the credit card to get it fixed as opposed to having cash. So it was pretty kind of hand to mouth when I was in college, but I was a student, so I never thought of myself as poor or my parents could always step in and bail me out if something really bad happened. Right. I don’t think I really took control of my finances until, well, really my first career job. Before that. Until then, I was just always, I still have bad dreams about not having enough hours on my schedule to cover the rent, stuff like that. That still happens now, right?
Jonathan DeYoe: Uh, wow.
Gary Ray: Yeah.
Jonathan DeYoe: So you said I didn’t notice about you and your history that your dad had a, uh, consulting business. So was entrepreneurship something that was in your family, something that you were taught?
Gary Ray: It really wasn’t. And, uh, the consulting was just kind of. He was already in it, so doing it consulting was very close to what he had done before. In fact, a lot of times, a lot of years running my store, I would think, wow, I should have just became an IT consultant because it was, like, adjacent to my previous career, didn’t have any risk involved. There wasn’t, like, a big capital expenditure to get started. So when I started the store, they didn’t know what to think of that. They thought that was a very strange thing to do. No one they knew or in the family ever had a store. And it wasn’t until years later my grandfather had a barbershop for his entire life. And it took them a long time to kind of connect. It’s like, oh, this is like your grandfather’s barbershop. I think we get it now. I think we understand what you’re doing. But it’s very strange not having that in the family. I have a lot of peers that have retail in their blood and they’re naturals because that’s just a natural thing you do. This is very od. To me everything was a learning experience.
Jonathan DeYoe: Mhm. So I’ve known you a long time and I know that I knew you when you had the big salary and you were in the tech job and I watched you kind of trade job for job to get a 20% increase and a signing bonus in that period of time. So you traded that all in for a five year path to a middle class income. So what was your thinking there?
Gary Ray: I was miserable in it. And I don’t want to say I experienced the Peter principle, but I went so far up that I could no longer understand what was going on around me. Right. And that really made me unhappy because before I could be in control of an entire IT system for a company, for an entire company, I’m that guy. And that made me really happy. I understood it when something broke, it was my fault. When it got fixed, it was my responsibility, all that. And then I got to the point where it was like I was at a large company, I was at Kaiser hospitals, and I was an architect, which was in my title. And of course, a long story, but somebody even objected to that title because I was in a different division and there was already architects, right? So I asked one day for a network diagram. Like, I don’t understand what’s going on here. Can you provide me a diagram of your network? And they’re like, wow, no one’s ever asked us that before. Turns out it didn’t exist and no one could provide it. And no one actually understood how any of that worked. They understood parts of it. But uh, as far as I know, had diagrammed the network, or at least no one would give me one, give me a copy of that. It was kind of like you rode a bike and you asked someone to could you diagram how this car engine works for me? And uh, be like, no, we’re not going to do that. That’s far too complex. All you need to know is you turn the key, it starts.
Jonathan DeYoe: So how does that contribute to misery so that you end up leaving?
Gary Ray: I have a level of control that I need to feel happy about what I’m doing with my life. And I felt like I had no control over anything that was going on. Not only did I have no control, but I had no understanding, which was even worse. Right? It’s not like I get what’s going on. I wish should throw me in the game so I could do. It was like, I don’t understand this game, uh, and I am not playing in it, so why am I here? And my last job, it took me six months to. I was there for six months. And my boss called me into his office. He apologized that he had not really found anything for me to do for the last six months. Anything relevant. I was doing stupid stuff. And so he had promised at that point that he would find me some relevant work. And I gave my notice. That was that meeting, uh, and I had already built a store in that six months. I had decided when I got there, that was kind of the final Straw. I spent my lunch hours across town building a store out to the point.
Jonathan DeYoe: What do you mean by that? What is building up a store?
Gary Ray: At that point, I leased a space, I hired a contractor, and I built out the space to be my store. I, uh, installed.
Jonathan DeYoe: Literally.
Gary Ray: Literally, I would be there, ah, on my lunch hour, inserting slat wall. Inserts and grids in the slat wall.
Jonathan DeYoe: So take us back to before that. You’re working, you’re unhappy. How did you have this? I should start a gaming store. How did that come about?
Gary Ray: It’s a cautionary tale, right? Because this is very easy. It’s very easy for this to happen. I was at the previous job, and I was with a buddy I was working with, and we would just go off, off at lunch for a couple hours at a time, because we were just so disgusted. And we would go to a game store in San Francisco. We’d go to gamescape in San Francisco, and we talked about how we could do this better. And I would get there, and I would special order things, and they would lose my special orders. Or I would question, like, how come you don’t have this high end product on your shelves? And there would be no good answer from, they couldn’t, they weren’t serving me at all. And we discussed we could do this way better. We was just starting a store, and he had been barista and had some. He was a very smart guy, carl. Carl had great understanding of how to run a coffee shop. We were going to run a joint coffee shop, game store, which is actually really popular right now. That’s a really good model. And eventually Carl left, and I left and we got back together and I told him about how I was going to start the game store. And Carl had already moved on. He wasn’t interested in the coffee shop. He had a fiance. He was going to get married. He was doing more consulting work that was more meaningful. And that was the thing. The trap is you see a business and you’re like, I could do this way better. And of course you can, right? That’s the first thing. Of course you can. But should you, is this where you should be spending your time? The other thing is, there are reasons why that store wasn’t serving me well. I was an outlier in that business model. As a customer, I was an outlier. I was the guy who drove up in the BMW who was asking for custom painted buildings from hand painted in China. And, uh, nobody else buys that stuff, right, except guys like me. And there aren’t enough of me to go around. And I learned that when I started the store and filled it with all the things that I wanted is that, oh, people actually don’t buy this stuff. I understand better now why the stores were not catering to my needs, because I was an outlier. My needs were not, uh, mainstream enough to make any money at this.
Jonathan DeYoe: So go back to this, to the idea of Carl. That was probably, what, a year before you did it? A couple years before?
Gary Ray: It was like a year before, yeah.
Jonathan DeYoe: Okay. Because I remember sitting around the game table and talking about you saying, hey, I’m thinking about doing this. And I remember a couple of guys around the table saying, hey, that’s a great idea. Uh, how can we help? And I remember you talking about traffic counts and talking about people walking by the store and walking scores and these kinds of things and seeking the right place and all the detail. And I think, I don’t know who said it, but said, gary, you got to have a business plan. You’re like, what’s a business plan? Uh, so talk about some of those lessons that maybe partners mentioned it, maybe mentors mentioned it that you learned early on that were critical in the setup.
Gary Ray: There were two parts of that. First is the business plan, which is basically the research that you need to open the store, both in things like location, but also the financials. Because I had no idea how to do things like an income statement. I had no idea how to project sales. I really had not a clue in the world. And I remember sitting in excel and punching in numbers and trying to make all this work like I was faking an income statement because I didn’t really understand how it was going to happen, right? Or a balance sheet or whatever. None of these things made any sense to me at all at the time. But being asked to produce this, even if it was, I mean, business plans are half research, half bullshit speculation, right? It’s like because the business plan basically says we’re going to be successful and here’s how we’re going to do it. And you don’t know if you’re going to be success full, but now you have to say, well, here’s how we’re going to do it. And you don’t really know how you’re going to do it. You just know you’re going to spend a bunch of money and people are going to give you their money, and at the end you’re going to have a reasonable profit margin. What’s a reasonable profit margin? Nobody even knows the answer to that until I asked a bunch of questions and started figuring it out, which is a crazy thing to not know what your average profit margin is for your industry, right? To start a business and go, and I have friends that are starting business and I’m like, well, what’s the net profit for your business? You expect to make a million dollars. What is the average? And they don’t know. They have to go research that, uh, they don’t know that’s not available. So the business plan is really important. And my book is kind of walking people through the elements of that business plan so that if you, the first idea there is, the first question is how much money do you want to make? And it’s a very transgressive question to ask in my trade, because it’s a hobby trade and there’s a lot of passion. And to ask how much money do you want to make is kind of like, what makes you think you’re going to make any money? They don’t want to talk about that. So that’s where I start. How much money do you want to make? Now let’s work backwards from there, right? Because then we’re going to need sales to make money. We know our profit margin. We need to know what our turn rate is, so we know how our inventory, performing inventory turns into profit. And then once you know your inventory, you know generally how much capital you’re going to need to start the business. You’re going to need capital for that. Furniture, fixtures and equipment, you’re going to need startup losses. You’re going to need to, including paying yourself, because most people don’t even pay themselves during this time. They just somehow survive and part of the book is it’s a discouraging process. Right? It’s like, let’s start with making you money now. Let’s go back and see how much money you’re going to need to start this process. Oh, this is a lot of money, isn’t it? This is six figures. This is like $150,000, right? Do you have $150,000? Maybe you don’t want to do this. Here’s the trap. If you don’t have enough capital, you’re going to end up with a buy a job, and you’re not going to make the money you want. You’re going to constantly be poor, and you won’t want to quit because you still have this job and this investment you have sunk. Cost fallacy. So that’s what the book is basically about. And it’s funny because the store owners like to carry the book because it discourages. People come in all the time wanting to start stores. It discourages them from wanting to open a store, or at least, um, it gets it to where only the people who are serious open stores and we’re okay. A good competitor is great, but there’s a lot of bad competitors, and the sign of a bad competitor is they’re under capitalized. They get desperate, they do stupid things, and they ruin things for you. So it’s funny that the store owners like to carry the book and hand it to people for $20 if they’d like to buy it.
Jonathan DeYoe: So I’m imagining that the lessons that are in the book, these things weren’t. You didn’t learn these in the writing of the business plan. You learned these over the first ten years of running the business. And I’ve heard you say things like, I’m finally making. This is 20 years later. I’m finally making the money I was making when I left tech. So do you feel like you asked yourself that question, how much money I want to make, and you’ve been successful, or do you feel like you’ve been on a treadmill and you’re finally getting to a place where things are okay or better right after a pandemic? Right.
Gary Ray: I was making pretty good money before the pandemic, and now I’ve been forced to invest a lot of money into inventory. And now I’m realizing that I had a lot of, um, potential that was unrealized beforehand because I was under capitalized even more than I talk about. Right. And now that I’ve properly capitalized the business, I see enough revenue coming in to where I’m like, oh, yeah, okay, I am making about as much money as I was making during tech, and I can finally pay my employees more. I could do those kinds of things that I’ve wanted to do. It’s a great feeling, but it took a long time. There were different stages of this business where, uh, the more money you invest, you can slow your growth quite a bit by overinvesting. And that’s what we did. But it’s kind of a boomerang slingshot kind of thing where it’s all this potential energy, and eventually it catches up, and then the money starts finally rolling in. That might take a long time. You might be gone by then if you can’t. And there were a lot of years where I just wished to die. I think in years five through seven, I’m just like, every time I would take a chance, it would not make any money. It was just like, I’m just not growing fast enough to do cool things. I just wish this thing would either break out or die. And eventually we broke out. Because time is, if you’re doing your business right, at least in retail, at least, um, time kind of is the main factor. You can’t fudge time. You just have to grow organically to a certain extent. And, uh, that seems to be the only commonality of very successful stores is they’ve been around a long time. You do the right thing long enough, and eventually you’rewarded for it.
Jonathan DeYoe: So I know, uh, again, early on, you had money, but you had a lot less time, and now you have a little bit less money, or maybe you’re finally getting back to that place where you have the same amount of money as you had, but you have a lot more time. Can you talk about the difference of being in those two places and how that, for you, was kind of a good choice?
Gary Ray: Well, if you go back to it, I had money and no time, so I would take vacations and have fancy cars. I would buy a nice car, and then I would spend another 1020 grand making it my car, making it special. And my wife reminds me of this because she hates this stuff, right? So I consider that to be, you’re unhappy, and you’re just kind of trying to spend your way out of your unhappiness with projects. And I’m not saying I’ve overcome that, but that’s how I was then. And I’d go on vacation, but it’d be like a two week vacation. It wouldn’t be anything special. It’d be pretty typical because I would switch jobs. So often I would make more money, but I would never kind of accrue those long three, four week vacations that people who stayed a long time at one place would have. So eventually, when I started the store, I had no money and no time. And I have to say it was some of the best years of having no money and no time, especially the first few years. I think the first year, I had like three whole days off the whole year. And by the second year, I was able to take Sundays off, right? So that was like, I was working long hours and I was kind of breaking through my ego because I remember vacuuming the store for the 7th day in a row and thinking, I have a master’s degree. I’m vacuuming the damn floor of this little store. It’s like, what the hell am I doing? It’s wrong with me. And eventually that voice kind of quiets down, that ego subsides. Eventually you hire other people to vacuum the floor and they get upset and they have an ego, and you’re like, you got to start someplace, and it’s vacuuming the floor, and eventually you move on. I did it too. I’m not asking you to do anything I wouldn’t do. So I’ve had no money and no time. And then eventually I had a little bit of money, and it went a little crazy because after not having money for a long time, for years, it was like a, uh, man dying of thirst coming upon an oasis in the desert. I spent a little crazy for a while, and eventually I started realizing I needed to kind of disengage personally from the day to day. And I got three days off a week. And then I stopped working the counter. So I’d just do office work and I’d listen for conversations I wanted to be part of, and I’d come out for those. So I could kind of pick and choose the interactions I wanted. After about nine years, I got a little snippy, and, uh, I got really got tired of people after that. So coming out when I wanted to come out was kind of a nice luxury, insulated me, and that all came. I had a day where I remember being at the counter and I told my manager, I’m like, I just can’t do this anymore. I’m just done being at this counter every day. She said, well, then don’t, then don’t be at the counter every day. Go in the office.
Jonathan DeYoe: This was your 10th year?
Gary Ray: 9Th or 10th. My 9th year. It took me that long. I think I talked about it, as in, like, there was this invisible ball and chain attaching me to this counter. And it was, in my mind only I could have done it years earlier if that’s what I had wanted. But I had to get to the point where I just couldn’t do it anymore. And if I had got to that point, at a different stage in the business, I may have had to quit. Uh, if there had not been enough money or enough good staff to take my place, I would have had to stop. I would have had to just quit. So I guess it was good. It took that long, but if I had planned it, it probably would have been sooner. It could have been sooner. And then Covid is when I stopped going in, because I took over the business in 2020 and did deliveries, home deliveries, and set up a new pos. And I wasn’t sure at that point, after having a step back, whether I could do any of this stuff. I kind of felt like I may have lost my edge, may have lost the knowledge of the business because I had been in the office for so, um, long doing that kind of work. But I kind of gave myself the confidence to say, no. It doesn’t take anything for me to walk back into this. I know this trade. So I stopped going in to work on a daily basis. I don’t work in the store anymore. I work from home. And that’s been a transition, but it’s been a couple of years doing that. And I keep saying it seems to work, but it works. I can do that. And now I have a lot of time. And after Covid, I have a good income, a good amount of money coming in. Uh, so I have both. And then it’s a question of, what are you going to do now? You don’t need to be there. You don’t need to be home, really. You could be anywhere, and you have a little bit of money. Maybe it’s time to go off and travel and do some things.
Jonathan DeYoe: So what is the answer to that? I know that you have a special passion that’s burgeoning right now. So tell us what that passion is.
Gary Ray: My goal is I want to go to Mexico and spend about six months out of the year in Mexico working remotely. And I’ve been working on Spanish for a couple of years now, almost three years, really. And I want to take a travel trailer in my big truck, and I want to go down there and kind of live out of the trailer and explore different cultural sites in Mexico. There’s these pueblos, mahicos, which are these. It’s a bit of a tourist designation. But there’s like, 150 towns in Mexico that have something of cultural interest. And it’s a mexican tourist board thing where they’ve tried to get Mexicans to visit their own cultural sites. But I see this as kind of an excuse to go to really cool places in Mexico. Maybe they’re not that great, but every place I’ve been to Mexico has been kind of interesting. So the plan is to hit each of those, along with, uh, UNESCO World Heritage sites, and just do that over, like a five year period and then be done. Then that’s the end of that trip. I need a beginning and an end.
Jonathan DeYoe: So there’s two things I want to pull on there. Well, two indications of one thing that I want to pull on there. So to get from where you were when you started to here is like a 20 year process. And as part of that process, there was periods where there was no time and no money. There was periods where there, and that was not like you weren’t angry about that. That was a good time. There was times when there was no money, and, uh, there was a little bit of time. And now there’s some time and some money, and it took 20 years to get here. And you’re preparing for this trip. The second part of that is you’re preparing for this trip, and you’ve been working on your Spanish for a couple of years. So it seems to me like you are able to commit to something and stick with it when it’s painful and hard and difficult. How much of your success do you think comes from just either being too stupid to fail? Because, uh, I think that’s been. People have told me that I’m too stupid to fail, which is why I’ve been relatively successful.
Gary Ray: Stubborn is another word.
Jonathan DeYoe: Yeah. My dad says too stupid to fail. But stubborn is a good way to put it, right. Overly resilient, like dumb. Stupidly resilient. And how much of it is just luck? And how much of it is, what is it that got you here? Because that’s a 20 year period is a long time. Spending a couple of years studying a language so you can take a vacation. That’s a long time, right? So explain that.
Gary Ray: The complexity of what I do. I mean, I thought this would be when I started, I thought I would retire. I had a boss who told me he had this fantasy of he was the CFO of a company, and he told me he had this fantasy of opening a hardware store. He was from Canada. He was doing all this high end finance work at a startup. He just wanted to open a hardware store that would be like the thing, just the kind of relaxing thing to do. And I kind of picked up on that. And after I started the business, I met with him and I said, hey, I opened the hardware store. Right? He’s like, you’re not supposed to actually do it. That was his thing. It’s a fantasy. You don’t need to actually do the fantasy. But part of that is that he thought it would be easy to have a hardware store. And I have store. It’s not a hardware store. It’s a game store. And it is wickedly complex and difficult. It’s the most complex thing I’ve ever seen. It’s taken me 17 years, 20 years, whatever you want to call it, to understand how it works. And I’m still learning on a daily basis. A wise person would have gotten into it and said, oh, this is a mess. This is just chaos. There’s no answers to these questions. And they would have quit. They would have stopped. But I have less wisdom, and I’m more in my head. I’m trying to figure out how this system works. So the fact that it’s been so complicated, that it’s such a difficult thing to crack has kept me in it for as long as it has, because there’s always another challenge, another opportunity to try to turn something around, try to make something better, try to eke out a little profit. I think if it had been easy, I would have quit really early on.
Jonathan DeYoe: So it was the interest, it was the complexity that made it interesting.
Gary Ray: Yeah. Which is another trap. Right. If you want to talk about traps, you can do it better is a trap. Um, getting stuck in something because it’s so complex and being fascinated by the complexity is a trap.
Jonathan DeYoe: So talk a minute about the trade off. I think you’ve written blogs about the impossibility or the difficulty of retirement savings as a small, even a successful retail store owner. So are you thinking about what comes after work?
Gary Ray: No, you’re not? Yes and no. So here’s the problem, right? If you do this and you’re under capitalized, it’s going to take a lot of years before you can really save money for retirement for yourself. And you should do it as soon as. So the first thing I have to tell people, because I teach the young ones that do this, is you have to pay yourself. Right? This, trying to get them to pay themselves is the first step because a lot of them are like, oh, I’m profitable. I’m like, well, what’s your salary? It’s like, oh, I don’t take a salary. Well, then you’re not profitable. Take a salary and then come back to me and we’ll talk about profitability, right? So you might spend a lot of years just trying to pay yourself if you haven’t planned that, uh, properly. Part of my book is to pay yourself on day one and never stop. If you can’t pay yourself, you’re done. You should be done. Go get a job. So you got to pay yourself first, and then you got to pay yourself again. You got to save for retirement, right? And most people don’t get to that, and I really didn’t get to that until recently, and now I’m playing catch up like a lot of people. There’s another stage to that is being able to have enough profit to save for your store. It’s like, just like you have, uh, a special account, your store should have a special account for things that break or for expansion or for needs. And I have only seen a few stores that have this, only the largest stores I know one store where in January, they have a meeting between the two partners, and they’re like, how are we going to spend our fund this year? Right? That is just God level retail, right? Uh, like, we have money. How are we going to spend it? Because most of retail is about fixing things as they break, and everything breaks. Uh, absolutely everything. I’m replacing toilets and air conditioners and carpeting, and if you’re there long enough, you do it again and again and again, just on a treadmill. And if you don’t have enough money, you’re just always digging into your pocket for the next. It took me like ten years to put new carpet in. The carpet was disgusting, but I just really couldn’t come up with the money. I couldn’t justify it for that long. So there’s so little money, and you just have to prioritize it properly, and I didn’t do that properly. I could tell you what to do, but I didn’t do it that way. I think you can save for retirement, but I think there’s a stat that says something. Um, some huge number, like 80% of small business owners don’t have any retirement savings at all. That doesn’t surprise me.
Jonathan DeYoe: Right. We could go really deep on that one topic, and maybe that’s a different podcast, but I’ll set that aside for now. So the purpose of this podcast, the Mindful Money podcast, is to help sort of real people who have limited access to professional advice make better financial choices. And I think you can speak to the small business people out there, and, uh, you’ve never claimed to be a financial expert, but you have experienced some trade offs and you’ve made some of your own. So can you give our listeners just one thing that they can do this week that will improve their financial well being? And then we’ll ask the opposite of that in just a sec.
Gary Ray: If you’re not paying yourself, pay yourself something, even if it’s like $100 a week, just starting the process, in your mind, allows you to then build on that. So I didn’t give out any profits until, I think, my third or fourth year. But just the act of giving out $1,000 during Christmas to investors, that process built to where we are now, where, like, half my income is now profits is now dividends. So I would say do that, and as soon as you possibly can and maybe at the same time, start saving for retirement, even if it’s 1% of your. Some tiny amount, is just to get your foot in the door.
Jonathan DeYoe: Start the habit. Start the habit.
Gary Ray: Start the habit. It’s really starting habits. Everything I think, for me is habits. If I habitualize my behavior, then, uh, I will continue doing it. Uh, do a little bit of Spanish every day. Just a little tight. Like, 15 minutes is enough to just kind of every single day.
Jonathan DeYoe: Yeah. So at the same time, there’s a ton of financial noise out there. Like, do this, do that, do this, do that. So what’s one financial concept or action that sort of pervades culture, but we’re better off just completely ignoring?
Gary Ray: I mean, it’s most of it, most everything. Well, here’s something I can tell you. My business has almost the success of my business, or the sales or whatever you want to call it, has had, uh, does not track against any of the financial news of the day. Right. Like, something has to dramatically happen, such as Covid or, uh, like, 911 stopped a lot of businesses cold, but generally, I still spend a lot of time watching financial markets and podcasts and things like that, and it honestly has no bearing on anything. I feel good because I have this context of what’s going on outside of my business, but, uh, generally kind of minding my own business is probably the best use of my time, as opposed to trying to look at tea leaves or other people looking at tea leaves.
Jonathan DeYoe: So it’s like, ignore the noise. It’s all noise.
Gary Ray: It’s all noise. And it just rules out a lot of that. If you can just ignore most of the noise. Right.
Jonathan DeYoe: I want to sort of shifting back to this time question. You have this story that you’ve told about a scout master talking about your son missing a couple or more than a couple scouting events and the reason why. And why that’s okay. Would you just tell us that story?
Gary Ray: Right. So my son loves scouts and loves being with the boys, but he despises all sorts of bureaucracy, right? So he refuses to go to a lot of scout things because there’s going to be a meeting. Go to the meeting. They’re going to go on a hike. He’ll go. But if there’s a meeting, doesn’t want to go. We missed a lot of scouts, a lot of scouting events, and we had just come back from this ten week trip to Honduras and back this giant road, this amazing once in a lifetime road trip. And we pulled in the parking lot, and I’m in the jeep, and it’s covered in dirt, got all this junk attached to it, and I’m Od man out, but I don’t care. I’m fine. This is my life, right? And the scoutmaster comes up, and he’s like, I get it. I’m like, what do you mean? It’s like you go off and you do all these great adventures. He doesn’t really need what we’re doing, right. He doesn’t really need scouts. And it made me realize that that sense of adventure, the camaraderie, the adult male, uh, role modeling, that kind of stuff is not available to all the kids out there. So kind of scouts plays that role. And I was kind of already, I didn’t understand it. I was duplicating the efforts. I was providing the scouting experience while he was in scouts, and he was missing scouts to do it. Well, I don’t know if that was the story you referred to.
Jonathan DeYoe: Yeah.
Gary Ray: I kind of was apologetic that we were always missing these things, but we’re going off and doing these adventures and having a great time.
Jonathan DeYoe: Yeah. And you say that’s a ten weeks to Honduras or eight weeks to Honduras. Uh, and that’s a once in a lifetime. But now you’re about to depart for. You’re planning on the departure for six months and sort of six months a year for, like, five years, maybe. It’s not once in a lifetime. I mean, if you build it right, you can kind of take that. You have to make choices, right?
Gary Ray: Yeah. You got to build it right. The six months is really tough because three months is a vacation, but six months is a lifestyle. Right. So it then becomes like, what are you leaving behind? Who are you leaving behind. Right. I’m 54, trying to find someone who wants to go with me, who’s my age. No, it’s very difficult because by 54, you have roots in the community, and if you don’t have roots, you’re a bit of an outlier in that respect. Right. So I have one friend who’s going to. We’re going to go, but nobody else wants to go. They’ll come and visit you on your adventures, but they can’t take the big commitment.
Jonathan DeYoe: Yeah. They join you for a week.
Gary Ray: Right. And even my son, I want to go with him on these adventures. But he’s 17. By the time we go, he’ll be 18. We’ll probably do a summer together first. The last summer together like that, probably. And then he’ll be off in his life, whatever that is. And then the next trip will be the six month trip, and that will be. I’m not sure who’s going on that trip yet. Right. That’s a pretty crazy thing to say. Right? Because I’m putting a lot of money and time into this, not really sure who’s going, and I don’t really want to go alone. It’s very different. And you start to realize, what are you trying to accomplish? What are you trying to get away from? What’s good in your life now that you’re going to miss when you’re gone? Uh, is this really what you want? Is there something you could do that’s not like that? Right. This is where you have a partner who wants to go with you. You’re in great shape. If you don’t, that might end a relationship. Who knows?
Jonathan DeYoe: That’d be hard to survive for sure. Six months apart, that’s not going to be easy. So we started sort of asking you about lessons you learned about money. What are some of the lessons to sort of change the script. What are some of the lessons you want to leave with your son? You spend a lot of time with him. You’re doing some adventure stuff with him. What do you want him to walk away with?
Gary Ray: I, uh, want him to, uh, understand some of the traps that I fell into so he can avoid them, like debt. Traps are obviously really big. He really likes cars. I’ve unfortunately been influenced him on him with cars. So I’m trying to get him away from the car trap. So we’re talking about if he goes off to college, I want to get him a car if he needs transportation, but I prefer that he doesn’t need transportation. My father told me not to get a car when I went to college, and then I wouldn’t have to work, and I could focus on studies, and then I could work when I came home for the summer. And within a couple of months, I got a girlfriend. And then I needed a car, and then I got into debt, and then I had car repairs, and I had to get a job, a bunch of different jobs. So I kind of was told what to do and then didn’t listen, of course, and then fell into that trap, which I’m probably still in, and I’m starting to get him to save. He’s got a debit card now. He has an allowance that goes on there, so there’s different things that I was not. And I’ve always been very upfront with him about money and where we are, what’s going on with the business. I want him to understand that my parents didn’t want us to stress about that. No, you can stress if you’re my kid. You can stress about where we are financially.
Jonathan DeYoe: You can keep this in mind, but barbershops are pretty successful now. Maybe someday he’ll start a Barbershop, right? Full circle family footsteps.
Gary Ray: Yeah.
Jonathan DeYoe: So just a couple of closing questions I’d like to ask, and one of them, I think you’ll know where this is coming from. So what’s the last thing you kind of changed your mind about?
Gary Ray: I think the big change is that, uh, I don’t want to buy or be involved in anything that requires me to work more. And, uh, that’s a recent thing. It just makes me tired thinking about a new car or, I mean, I just got a new truck, but I have a mission, right? If it’s not on mission and it cost me money or future payments or future stress, I don’t want it. I don’t want anything to do with it. So that took a long time to get to. I think it’s kind of my. I finally realized my future of work, which is there’s probably a finite amount of time I want to work, a finite amount of income. The less stress I have on my finances, the more fun I can have doing what I love to do. So I just really get really tired with the kind of, what do they call it? Uh, the rent seeking economy where everybody, there’s a monthly charge for everything. Nobody wants us to own anything anymore. They want us to rent even my phone. I bought a new phone, and I bought it outright, and they put me on a plan to replace my phone at the end of the period. One of the new at t plan to $5 a month, and then you get the new. So I kind of want any of that. I just want my phone. I want to buy it. I want to own it. I want you to go away now. So that has to do with future labor. I don’t want to be committed to future labor.
Jonathan DeYoe: Right. It’s interesting, but you’re right. We do add the $5 and $8 and $12 charges on a regular basis. You get something for cable, something for this thing, something for that thing, and suddenly it’s $1,000 a month and it’s a real thing. And now you can spend $10 a month for a service that will help you remove those other $10 a month charges. Right.
Gary Ray: So it’s crazy. Yeah, exactly.
Jonathan DeYoe: Is there anything that people forget about you or don’t know about you that you really want them to know?
Gary Ray: No. It’s funny because I’ve tried to keep a low profile in the business. I’ve never wanted to be the face of the business, but then I write a lot. I have become not only the face of the business, but probably one of the bigger faces in my trade, but not really on purpose. Like my search engine optimization, uh, is amazing. I have probably the best SEO in my trade because I’ve just written so much on my blog. I have to keep online sales away because I don’t ship. I have to keep those people away because the SEO sends them to my store when I don’t want them to be there. So, no, I don’t really have anything that I’m trying to let people know, buy my book. How’s that?
Jonathan DeYoe: Yeah, we’ll put the book in the show notes. I’ll, um, actually link to the blog in the show notes. I think business people, not retail business people of any kind, not just game stores, would probably benefit from some of the stuff that you write. I share some of the stuff you write from time to time. That’s just really sharp commentary on some of the challenges that small business people face. And it’s a good thing to read. So tell us how people can connect with, with you.
Gary Ray: I have a author page on Facebook. Just can see. I tend to write something every couple of days there. I mean, it’s not the highest quality stuff, but it’s what’s going on. It’s kind of the raw small business experience. That’s probably the best way. I have a blog. If you go to my black Diamond Games website, there’s a blog link, and you can read a little more polished blog stuff, slightly more polished stuff there sounds good.
Jonathan DeYoe: Um, yeah, Gary, thanks for coming onto the Mindful Money podcast. I enjoyed the conversation and, uh, I think listeners will get something out of it.
Gary Ray: I hope so.