Back to School

Chalkboard with Math ProblemWith the support and encouragement of Gib and John, I have recently embarked upon a new venture. Like Billy Madison (for all you Adam Sandler fans), I've gone back to school: “I got my lunch packed up, my boots tied tight.” Actually, “back to school” is a bit different now than it was when I attended college in the 1970s. The first course I’m taking is a retirement planning course through the College for Financial Planning, and my classes are online; in the 1970s, “online” was where I waited to get lunch in the campus grill.

This time around, I can be found every Tuesday and Thursday night at my kitchen table, listening to my instructor from Scottsdale, AZ, along with my 34 classmates from all over the United States. I’ve taken online courses before for the continuing education hours required for my securities and insurance licenses, but never with this level of interaction and intensity.

Aside from the fact that I’m not in an actual classroom, I’ve noticed other differences about learning as a 50-something. I’m much more serious about learning the course content, for one thing. (I’m sure Gib and John will be happy to hear that, since they’re footing the bill!) I also find it much easier to relate this course to the real world, since such a big part of our business at HMC Partners relates to retirement planning. There’s a quote sometimes attributed to George Bernard Shaw, “Education is wasted on the young.” I think what Shaw really said was, “Youth is wasted on the young.” I would never want to think that either education OR youth is ever wasted, but I do believe we sometimes appreciate each of them a lot more as we age.

In our business, as with most other professions, education can never stop. Tax laws are rewritten, regulations change, and new products and new types of accounts are made available. Just look at the changes to Individual Retirement Accounts, originally created in 1974 as part of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act. The restrictions for IRA eligibility and deductibility were changed with 1981’s Economic Recovery Tax Act, again under the Tax Reform Act of 1986, again with the Small Business Job Protection Act of 1996, again with the Taxpayer Relief Act of 1997, and yet again with the Economic Growth and Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2001. Is your head spinning yet? Has there ever been, in the history of our nation, a member of Congress who could leave well enough alone?

In addition to making us more prepared as advisors, there are other reasons for continuing our education well into our later years. For one thing, education and training are key components in keeping employees engaged and happy with their positions. According to HR World magazine, in a study conducted by the staffing firm Spherion Atlantic Enterprises LLC, 61% of respondents who received training or mentoring said they were very likely to remain with their current employer for the next five years or more. Education and training are important components of job satisfaction. As the saying goes, money will buy a pretty good dog, but it won’t buy the wag of the dog’s tail!

From a personal health standpoint, higher levels of education have even been found to be somewhat protective against Alzheimer’s. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, “keeping the brain active seems to increase its vitality and may build its reserves of brain cells and connections.” They recommend committing to lifelong learning as a means of prevention of that hideous disease.

There is an ad campaign from Lowe’s Home Improvement with the slogan, “Never stop improving.” On the one hand, that slogan sends chills down my spine because my husband Russ and I are in the process of remodeling our home; it makes me think this process will never, ever end. From a personal standpoint, though, I think it’s a great philosophy for all of us – at all ages!



Billy Madison “Back to School” song – Written by Tim Herlihy and Adam Sandler

Forbes Magazine – “Deduct This: History of the IRA Deduction” – Kelly Phillips Erb, Contributor - 6/27/2011

HR World Magazine – “The Pros and Cons of Providing Employee Continuing Education” – David Hakala – 8/18/2008

 Lowe’s Home Improvement –

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