Shakespeare in Retirement

Warren Ward |

This morning I’m thinking of the delightful 1998 movie Shakespeare in Love. It involves a poor, unknown playwright named Will who falls in love with the far-out-of reach daughter of a wealthy merchant. As love stories often do, it ends with a parting, leaving us to wonder what the rest of their lives might have been like.


Shakespeare specialist Kenneth Branagh offers something of a (fictional) answer as he presents Will’s later life in his new movie All Is True. In it, the Bard has some difficulties adjusting to retirement. While Shakespeare’s issues are different than those of 21st century retirees, the movie reminds us that the transition to retirement requires changes to almost all aspects of life.


WWA has had years of experience helping many people take that step and we find it often involves several incremental steps along the way.


In the new film, Shakespeare appears to be reasonably prosperous but finances are often the first question on a potential client’s mind: when can she or he stop working or is that even possible? Once working days are over and retirement assets must be tapped to replace income, how does a person begin? Should investments be reallocated to provide more income? When should a retiree begin taking Social Security payments? Even with the associated costs, would an annuity make sense?


Anyone who is accustomed to getting up and going to work every day is going to have to find other activities to fill that time. In Branagh’s movie, Shakespeare has taken up gardening. We think any hobby that’s of interest might be worth pursuing more deeply in retirement. Would following up on an interest require further education? Many colleges allow seniors to audit classes for a small charge – often nothing. And lots of our clients are volunteers at local agencies.


Travelling is often on a retiree’s agenda so helping clients decide whether to fly and rent a car, drive or even buy an RV is also part of our work. Over the years, we’ve come to believe that it’s best for our retired clients to invest in more experiences, not more things. At some point, most of us are going to need to downsize. Looking at pictures and reliving fond memories is going to prove much easier than dealing with additional household items there may not be room for as we age.


In the new film, Shakespeare’s daughters are grown and he (apparently) owns his home outright. In that situation most retirees have a reduced need for life insurance. Of course, we review this question on a case-by-case basis because we often discover the need for increased levels of coverage in other types of insurance. Clients may need a higher ‘umbrella’ limit to make sure that an accident doesn’t claim assets that can no longer be replaced through work. Or they may have jewelry, art or other collections that need protection.


Not surprisingly, the film doesn’t raise the issue of estate planning. With grown children, perhaps the Bard’s estate would be a simple one. In fact, most of our clients’ situations are a bit more complex. What if a retiree owns property in another state? Would that require a different approach? Everyone needs a will but the associated documents (Durable and Medical Powers of Attorney, the naming of a Health Care representative and an Advanced Directive a/k/a Living Will) are sometimes more important. Almost everyone experiences a decline in health at some point. These documents can help make sure the client’s wishes are carried out and make things easier for the family and those providing care.


Tax planning can be critical for retirees. Shakespeare is understood to have been a significant land owner, although some researchers suggest that he may not have complied with all the tax-related rules of his time. We believe that taxes are to be managed, and avoided when possible, but never evaded. Although WWA does not prepare tax returns, we participate in many hours of tax-related continuing education every year so that we can advise our clients on their best tax management strategies.


Our clients aren’t as famous as Will but each of them is very important to us. Helping them achieve their aims, especially in retirement, is why we continue coming to work every day.