It was loud, hectic and there were no windows to the outside world. I was working a summer job after my first year of college in a massive engine-assembly plant. On any given day, you could hear shouts of, “All clear…Stop the line…Mechanic,” and a few others I won’t repeat. The money was great back then, $11 an hour, but the work was less than glamorous. 

As a summer worker, you were basically placed in roles when other workers were either going on vacation or were out for a medical issue. During my seasonal stint, I had several jobs that allowed me to meet some really interesting characters, as well as learn some valuable lessons that both advisors and clients can use in planning their “time” in retirement.

There is a famous quote out there that goes something like, “You can’t buy or save time, you can only spend it.” On the surface, it sounds logical, but that summer at the assembly plant, I met Jesse who perfected the art of buying time. 

I was there only a couple weeks before I met him, and right away I noticed something special about him. He was an assembly line magician. Not in terms of card tricks or sleight of hand. This guy would seriously disappear from his station, and the line, a couple times a day for as long as 30 minutes. I started referring to him as Houdini because this guy would just vanish.

Even though I was just a rookie, it seemed like a really bad idea considering the order in which the parts are supposed to go on the engine. I finally dared to ask Ralph at the next station over, “Where does he go?”

I will admit, I was asking because I was jealous of his extra free time and would daydream of all the wonderful things I could do if I was in the same situation. Plus, I was wondering why he didn’t get in trouble for standing at his station all day like the rest of us robots. 

What I came to learn was that Jesse held one of the most coveted jobs in the place. He had a role where he could work up the line, about 10-12 engines, whereas the rest of us had more traditional assembly line jobs where we had to wait for the station ahead of us to put their part on first. 

Simple math tells us that if each station was allotted two minutes per part, and Jesse could move up several spots, he could buy himself 20-30 minutes of free time at any point during the day, making for an easy escape. 

It’s an important story for advisors and their clients for a number of reasons.

First, clients don’t often think about buying extra time in retirement primarily because they don’t know how. No one has ever sat down and told them how they can work ahead in their personal life to make sure that when they are ready to make the transition, they are prepared.

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