The Beer and Peanuts Story that started it all:

I have been a financial planner since 1998. Some years ago a client came to me for help in planning his retirement. He and his wife wanted to retire at a fairly young age, in their late 50’s. They had vacationed on a lake in the summers about three hours from home and wanted to retire there. I helped them understand how to pay off debt, how much money they needed to save and how to invest their savings. They did the work: they saved like I told them to, and paid off their mortgage. Retirement day came! They sold their house in town and moved to the lake. They had a great first summer of retirement. They felt great and so did I. They had reached their financial goals and I had helped them.

A Smack in the Facedoh

Our client service model is to meet with our clients at least twice each year. So in February following their retirement, I was excited to hear how this couple was enjoying retirement. Instead he told me, “John, there are days I have done everything I can think to do and by 10 in the morning I’m drinking beer and eating peanuts.” This smacked me right in the face: I realized I had helped them figure out their money, but not what the money is for. I helped them with numbers, but failed to address the critical psychological and social aspects of life. This realization totally changed how our firm works with clients. We now spend as much time on the “what and why” of retirement as we do on the money and the numbers. All of our clients get to have the beer and peanuts talk before we agree they are ready to retire.

Purpose, Meaning, and Social Contact

Let's SkipSince the smack in the face, I have come to realize that everyone needs purpose, meaning and social contact. During working years these come from our job, but once we stop working nothing will automatically replace them. Unless we are intentional and planful, retirement can feel like a big letdown. We call this “the dip” and you can read about strategies to skip the dip on other parts of this site.

Purpose refers to structuring your time and having something to do every day. There are all kinds of bad effects if you don’t have enough to do. People without purpose become subject to the tyranny of the trivial and may engage in appointment rationing. You can learn about these issues on the Purpose tab of this site.

Meaning has to do with deriving value from the things we do. The Beer and Peanuts project attempts to answer the question, “What if leisure isn’t enough?” The client who retired to a lake realized that simply focusing on having fun and not working wasn’t satisfying. We have been designed to do meaningful things. Meaning involves recognition from others, exchange of value, and stewardship of living things or organizations. There is a lot of content about this topic on the Meaning tab.

Social Contact seems self-explanatory but most of us don’t realize how much we actually get out of our relatively superficial contact with people at work. For most of us, especially men, a great deal of our social interaction occurs at work. Even if we aren’t going out to dinner with colleagues, we talk about projects, have staff meetings, and talk about sports or kids at the coffee pot. Once we stop going to work, all that interaction disappears. We have assembled ideas on how to maintain social contact and even how to make new friends in retirement on the Social Contact tab.

The Cycle

The last introductory concept is the retirement satisfaction cycle. People who have the most satisfying experience in retirement tend to cycle through periods of vacation or leisure, volunteerism, and part-time work. We have a host of resources about the cycle on The Cycle tab.

Want More?

A great way to go deeper on your planning for a satisfying retirement is to attend a live workshop. Check out the dates and locations of upcoming events on the Attend a Workshop tab. These are fun 60-minute high-energy sessions. You leave with an action plan and a deeper understanding of the issues to plan for that will help you stay engaged in your life and community, and skip the dip!

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While the Beer and Peanuts project focuses on the non-financial aspects of retirement, retiring without a good financial plan can be a serious bummer. The professionals at my investment firm Oak Point Financial Group are glad to provide a complimentary initial consultation to review your readiness for retirement or your investment strategy.

Finally, I am always looking for great stories of people who are doing retirement well. Do you know someone who would be an inspiration to others? An individual or family who has stayed active, vital and happy? I would love to hear their story and possibly interview them. Thanks for reading all the way to the bottom!

— John

John Knowlton is a branch manager at Oak Point Financial Group in Portage, Mich. For more information please visit or contact him at

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