I never had the opportunity to get retirement advice from my dad. He died at 43, when I was only 16. He never even had a chance to experience retirement. I’ve often wondered what he would have told me and my two brothers.

So, I talked to people from all walks of life from around the country over the past few months, and I put the same question to each of them: What was the best retirement advice you ever got, and who gave it to you? Turns out the advice came from everywhere — moms, dads, teachers and even mentors. It’s all good solid advice that I’m sure many of us would have loved to receive, specially when we were in our 20s.

Mike Jacobs, Alexandria, Va., retired

My best retirement advice was from two people:

My first senior level manager at work in the 1970s, who told me to invest as much money in the stock market as you can as early as you can.

My mom, who told me to invest in real estate … “They aren’t making any more land.”

Hill Harper, actor, CSI: New York; best-selling author

The best retirement advice I ever got was from my father. He told me to open up a low- cost mutual fund account, like an index fund, and set it up to automatically invest money from my bank account and automatically reinvest the dividend. What happens is that you forget that it’s even there and depositing, but it’s growing on its own. Fast forward 10 to 20 years and you have a sizable investment. Without saying these words, he was teaching me the time value of money and the value of compound interest — two super retirement musts! He has since passed away, but I thank my father for his wisdom and advice. #RIP.

Jim Poolman, executive director, Indexed Annuity Leadership Council

When I got my first “real” job out of college, my boss told me two things. First, he told me to give up one night out with friends and stick that money into my retirement account. That was an easy $50. He showed me that by staying home one or two nights a month would make an enormous difference to me years later in retirement because of those compounding dollars. He also told me how important it was to make sure that I took advantage of “free money” my employers would give to me in terms of a matching contribution to my retirement plan. Even if you have to scale back, those contributions from your employer can’t be replaced. I valued that advice, and still follow it to this day.

Ed Gjertsen II, financial planner, Winnetka, Ill., president, Financial Planning Association

Whoever said it was the Golden Years lied, but it beats the alternative. Live each day with appreciation for what you have, and don’t worry so much over what you don’t have.

These were words of wisdom from Dr. Frank, who was one of my closest clients, a good friend, really. We spent a lot of time together discussing all aspects of life. His candid conversations opened a whole new world into my understanding of aging — the good parts and the not-so-good parts. He was born in 1919, which places us nearly 50 years apart, yet we spoke as if we were peers. A retired dentist, he gave passionately back to his profession, a passion he instilled in me. His advice and guidance, which I still hear today, helps me frame and most importantly, re-frame my state of mind as well as my clients’ state of mind.

A piece of advice I developed from his wisdom and share with clients is, “It’s never too late until your view switches from the roses to the roots.” It’s not how you start, it’s how you finish. There are a lot of amazing individuals who accomplished great things later in life. Never give up a dream or ambition. This has been very helpful in the wake of the financial crisis, where some clients were literally starting over or recovering from “sudden retirement syndrome.”

Pamela Sandy, CEO, Confiance financial services, Cleveland

The best retirement advice I continue to get from clients that are living a successful retirement is — “never retire” — but if you must retire due to health, family or uncontrollable job circumstances, stay active and be engaged in the world. Work part time, volunteer and continue friendships that may have been nurtured during prime working years. One client in particular worked a couple days of week at his own business and had a standing Wednesday-night meeting with friends for over four decades. As those friends began to pass away, we scheduled our client meetings over dinner on Wednesday evenings and continued to do so until his passing a few years ago. Retirement didn’t mean that he retired from the life he had created during his working years. My successful retirees continue to make goals for themselves. One couple spent their travel time volunteering all over the world teaching English to other cultures and they continued this type of travel into their late 70s. Finally, the best advice that comes from those in their post-working years — live in the moment and appreciate each day.

Roger Ferguson, CEO, TIAA-CREF, economist, former vice chair, Federal Reserve

The words of wisdom that made all the difference in my life came from my father. He worked as a mapmaker for the Army, but had a keen interest in the financial world. We were not a wealthy family, but he saved and invested and closely followed interest rate fluctuations and other financial news.

My father’s words of wisdom came not in the form of a pithy phrase, but in his regular discussions of money matters with me, even when I was just a young boy. His passion was clear. We talked about money at the dinner table. I have fond memories of joining him on occasional outings to buy government bonds.

He taught me the value of saving and the importance of having a financial plan. Most important, he showed me that building financial security is not just about the size of your paycheck, but about how you manage what you have.

Joe Heider, president at Cirrus Wealth Management, Cleveland

The best advice I got was from one of my first early career mentors who told me that you need to be disciplined, and to set up an investment strategy that you stick with even in good and bad times. It’s important to keep a long-term view and not to be overly reactive.

My father also passed along great advice and taught me the importance in picking a percentage of income to set aside, as though it becomes part of your monthly expenses. If you pick a set percentage, as income grows over time that strategy will continue to work for you no matter your income level. As income grows naturally your outflow will grow as well and therefore you will keep up with whatever your lifestyle is at retirement.

George Fraser, author and motivational speaker

I got some advice many years ago from an uncle who retired. He said to me, “George, don’t retire, unless you have something lined up that is more fulfilling, something that gives you greater joy and greater satisfaction. If you don’t have that lined up, do what you are doing. Don’t retire. You don’t’ want to get in a rocking chair, you don’t’ want to watch TV.”

He said the worst thing I ever did was retire. I had no hobbies. I just thought I didn’t want to do this work anymore, but I didn’t have any other work. That’s the best advice I got. And the best advice I can give to anyone. The best advice I could give anyone who is thinking about “retirement” is to keep learning. Never stop learning.

Barry Spiegel, business analyst, Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Arizona

When my wife and I were just starting out, in the early 1980s, our MetLife adviser — a nice fellow named Bill Foy — was a contemporary of ours and, like me, a native of the New York City area. Maybe his familiar accent helped his advice seem more welcome to me. Bill told us that we should put aside whatever we could, however small, into a 401(k) account, even if it seemed insignificant, using dollar cost averaging. In explaining that term to us, Bill’s rationale was this: When the market is doing badly, we’re buying things on sale — when the market is doing well, we are buying a small piece of a successful stock. That has always been in mind, and seems to have helped us understand that every little bit helps.

Roger Crandall, MassMutual CEO:

The best retirement advice I can think of came from none other than Albert Einstein. He called compound interest the most powerful force in the universe. Starting early and reinvesting what you earn on your investments is the single best thing you can do. Sit down and look at what happens when you compound interest for 30, 40 or 50 years. If people start young, no matter how small, and keep it up until they retire, the rest will take care of itself.

Originally published 3/10/15 in USA Today

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