Attorney PIVOTs before age 65 with JK Leonard


Many Americans dream of retiring before 65. After all, imagine the time you’ll have for your family, church and hobbies!

But financial strain, lower social security benefits, and lack of Medicare turn early retirement into a minefield.

Despite the complications of retiring young, today’s guest JK Leonard has pulled it off. After a challenging career as an attorney, he’s stepped back from law and is enjoying more free time. Now he’s here to show you how to prepare for your own early retirement.

In this episode, you’ll discover how to pivot into retirement before age 65. You’ll enjoy more time with your family, church and community – without penny-pinching in retirement.

Listen now!

Show Highlights Include:

  • Why tithing throughout a financial emergency sets you up for financial freedom (even if it hurts to let go of your money) ([7:28])
  • How Michael Jordan can help you end your career on a high note ([10:08])
  • How to dip your toes into the retired lifestyle without sacrificing all of your income ([13:38])
  • The “sweat” method that guards against career burnout ([16:04])



Do you want a wealthy retirement without worrying about money?


Do you want a wealthy retirement without worrying about money? Do welcome to the Retire In Texas Podcast, where you will discover how to enjoy your faith, your family, and your freedom in the state of Texas. And now here’s your host, financial advisor, author, and all around good Texan, Darryl Lyons.


([00:29]): Welcome to retire in Texas. My name’s Darrell Lyons. I’m the co-founder of PAX financial group and PAX  financial group is the sponsor of this program. So be sure to visit PAX  financial group.com and I’ve got a legal disclosure I’ve gotta share with you. This material contains general information only and is not intended to provide specific investment tax or legal advice. Visit PS financial group.com for more information, on investment advisory services offered through PAX financial group, LLC. I also wanna remind you that if you text the phone number seven four eight six eight, and put in the text texts, we will send you a retire in Texas ebook for free that’s 7 4 8 6 8, and just put in that text, Texas. So I’m excited to have a long-time friend here JK Leonard JK. Thanks for being here.


([01:21]): Thanks, Dar for the invites. Good to see, how did we first meet? I think the first time we met was actually through our mutual connection David Robinson and the admiral’s basketball academy and yeah it was an AAU tournament when the admirals for Mo Dover were in town and playing over at factory champions off of Broadway. And I think that’s the first time we actually laid eyes on each other though. I’d heard your name from, from David and from Nick of the admirals. Yeah. And, and for those that haven’t heard previous episodes, I, I don’t know how much I’ve mentioned it, but JK and I along with Nick Nick calls us the co-founders, which is really gracious because Nick has done a lot of the heavy lifting of, of getting kids. So in order to,  give clarity myself, JK and Nick, who is overseas in Moldova have a calling to get kids off of the streets on the basketball court to teach them about life leadership and the love of Christ. So that’s how JK have gotten to and I have gotten to know each other and continue to know each other. And we just recently after a long, long time of surveying, we just recently both stepped away. So now the next chapter of life, which is what we’re gonna talk about today. So JK, tell me, where did you grow up? Was it, were you Texan?


([02:34]): Yeah, I was actually born and raised in Keville. So about an hour from here and I’m one of the rare guys who, when my parents brought me home from the hospital I came home to a house. It’s the same house I left when I left Keville to go to college over 40 years ago. But I grew up knowing one home, one house, one address, and multiple phone numbers as he grew as a town group. Yeah. But I was born and raised in the hill country. Beautiful part. So were you in Curville when you could just dial with four numbers? It’s funny you asked that question because we had a challenge on Facebook the other day. And agree. Could you remember your original number from so long ago? Yes. Not only would you, but would also just dial four numbers, and then it was five and then it went to Clearwater 7, 6, 2 40. And the Clearwater stood for two, five. So then it was 2 57. So yeah. There was four numbers. There were party lines. You knew the name of the operator on the other end, you knew who you were. So it was a very different time.


([03:36]): So you had brothers and sisters? I did. I had I have an older sister and I had an older brother who passed away in 2019. Okay. I’m sorry to hear. Yeah. So your parents, what did they do for a living? Were they attorneys? My father was mom and dad. Dad was a, a Curville boy. He was actually the district attorney in Kirk county before I was born and gave it up shortly after I was born. My parents actually divorced when I was a young kid. But he was an attorney well known here in San Antonio was a federal magistrate here in San Antonio in the seventies. But it ran in the family. My maternal grandfather was an attorney and it ran in the family. So what was your dad’s name? Joe Leonard. And so for those that are listening, some of you guys might know him hopefully, and not as a somebody in the district attorney’s court, but yeah, it’s, you know, the da in, in Keville. I mean, everyone would know him. Everybody knew everybody, Darrell. Carville’s a very different place now than it was back then. I mean, we were about 8,000 people I want to say. But no, you’re absolutely right. There’s good and bad to that. And even though I did not live with my dad and he was never da, when I was cognizant of anything, it was one of those towns that if I did something stupid on one side of town, my mom knew it by the time I got home. And that, that there’s good and bad in


([05:00]): That. But JK, you did do anything stupid? No, I have a halo. Right. Did you see It? So did your parents teach you, I mean, they’re divorced, you lived with your mom is what I’m hearing. I live with mom. Did they ever teach you about money? Anything in particular, did you observe things? I, more observing than anything. My mom had never worked. She had been a mother and a housewife, and then when the divorce came, she had to go out and get a job. So I observed how we had to live and budget and do things like that. I had odd jobs as a teenager, like most teenagers do. Yeah. But I just had to learn how to deal with money quicker, had a checking account and things of that nature. I think more before anybody my age did. Yeah. Checking account for those that don’t know is where you write checks. And just kidding. So, but you know, I’m picturing this idea of you going to the bank as a teenager. And I don’t know the lady there that’s, the teller knows your family and they come in and it’s really easy. I mean, I can just picture that. It’s fun. So obviously a divorce is a tough situation, but was there ever low point financially for you guys or were you steady middle class family?


([06:02]): You know, mom worked very hard and if there were problems and I’m sure there had to be challenges that she faced, that I just didn’t know that much about, I know my wife and I, my wife’s also an attorney and, and, you know, George unwell, we actually went through a point in our life where we had a money crisis of sorts and we’ve treated money very differently ever since. And it happened, I tried to do this quickly back in 1997. I had just become a partner. I had started working up in the Fort worth area, just a, we both wanted to get away to get started in our marriage. But when we moved back down to this part, she’s an Austin native. We were in San Antonio and I’d just become a partner of a law firm here in town. And there had been a very successful year before, but they started off the new year with no cash flow. Right. And I was a brand new partner and we immediately went into a time of no paychecks as a partner. And I wasn’t ready for that, frankly. And you know, they had had a distribution at the end of the year that I didn’t get, I had my third, we had just had our third child. Reese was born in early January 8th of 97. And all of a sudden I had a mortgage and different things and I had paid an equity payment to get into the partnership and I didn’t have any income coming in. And that was a very stressful time. But what we did is we prayed about it. We had been giving but we had not been tithing and we made a really a decision that many people went. You did what we started tithing right there


([07:39]): When you’re Broke when you’re broke <laugh> but we tith that everything. And some people may not believe it, but the truth is our lives changed almost, almost immediately because we then came into some oil and gas interest. We didn’t know we had, oh wow. We were blessed. We were wow. Very, very blessed. It’s an amazing story, but it also taught us a lesson and we’ve stayed faithful to that lesson about the tithing is very important to us. Sometimes there’s not a good time to make that choice in people’s minds, but my statement is there’s never a wrong time to make that choice. You know, I find that that’s a fascinating story. And, and I, I could unpack that because there’s stories behind the stories. I’m sure there’s tears and frustration and nervousness. And as a young dad, you know, am I capable of handling this whole situation? And then you put your faith, you put your faith in your pocket book, really. And so I wanna just honor you because you know, you and George have been, and I know this for a fact have been faithful to your tithing over the years. And it’s, there’s been more zeros on it now.


([08:45]): Yeah. There are we’ve been blessed with that, but the it really does change your outlook about money and really who it belongs to. And that you’re steward, you know, I’m not gonna say that everybody is just gonna have it a miraculous yeah. Development like we happen to have, but it was a, it changed our view about things. It made us more careful with our money. I believe. It made us look at things differently, but frankly it has also opened our eyes to things that are out there that need to be done and we can be a part of it. I love it. So now I’m gonna fast forward quite a bit. And you, I think may be the most recent retiree on our show. Well, I have to warn you if you use the word retire anywhere near my wife, you may leave with bruises. Love it. Yeah, no, she does not accept that word. So what we we’ve used the word transition. Okay. I’ll handle that. Yeah. I can take, I am I retired? And I used that word from the practice of law as most people know it. Yeah. I’m, I’ve been a trial lawyer for over 33 years and all that entails, most of my practice was outside of bear county, much of it outside the state of Texas. That meant a lot of road time, a lot of flight time, a lot of time away from home. And so I’ve retired from that. I’m not representing clients anymore. I’ve transitioned to a, as my wife says, and I’m a full-time mediator working part-time


([10:06]): So I wanna know more about your mediation work. And I love transition. We often use on the show pivoting, right. You know, pivoting into the next chapter. So just to give context, the career as a trial attorney, what made you say, okay. I think it’s time for me to, to pivot, to transition. What I mean, was it a month long deliberation process a year long? Or was it just one day you woke up and said, yeah, it’s time. What, what, what was the catalyst there? You know, Darrell, that’s a good question. And, and the thoughts started coming sometime ago. You know, when you, when you start reaching certain milestones, I’ll be 60 this year. And I retired early from that from my career. I, I, I admit that I recognize that, but I’d been looking at age 60. I know I was not one of those people that was gonna be working into their late sixties into their seventies. There are a lot of lawyers that do that. That was never me. So I started thinking about it some time ago and I had pegged the end of the fiscal year of this year, which with the firm I was with would be October one of 20, 22, I would be turning 60. And that was when I thought I would transition to more of a part-time slowdown. But the urge, the, the voice kept getting stronger. I was managing the law firm, which is its own level of stress.


([11:23]): Yeah. Yeah. That’s beyond just doing trial work. That’s a whole nother animal. We were a, we’re a firm of about 75 people headquartered in Waco actually, but with substantial offices in San Antonio, Austin, and Fort worth, in addition to that, and then the pandemic hit and managing a law firm during the pandemic brought challenges. Mm-Hmm <affirmative> and keeping your practice going and clients happy. But I’ve said this to a bunch of people. When you see a, a baseball player you love, or a basketball player you love, and they announce they’re retiring. And, and they say, well, why now? 99% of the time you hear it’s time. Oh, it’s just time. Yeah. And I just put out an announcement recently with my new website and everything, but the way it started was, and I truly believe this, if you’re paying attention, life will tell you when it’s time. Yeah. And I listened life told me it’s time and I listened. I Love it. So for those that have just tuned in, you’re listening to retire in Texas, my name’s Dar Lyons. Our guest today is JK Leonard. And continue to listen as the conversation will continue for probably another 10 minutes with JK Leonard, as we unpack what this next chapter looks like. And for those that are curious to know more about P’s financial group, you can visit us at PAX financial group.com. And there’s a link there for a 15-minute consult. Doesn’t cost anything, if you wanna do that. So JK you just recently transitioned and pivoted and you knew it was time, but there’s also money involved. I mean, you’re getting paid well, I mean, I would imagine. Right. And so what were some of the trickier money decisions you have to make? I mean, social security hasn’t kicked in yet, you know, you’ve gotta bridge the gap between whenever you take social security, whether it’s 62, 66 or 70. I mean, I know those decisions are part of the planning process, but you’ve gotta bridge the gap. So what are some of the trickier decisions you’ve had to make recently?


([13:09]): There are a few Darrell you’re right. About social security, probably the biggest one being not yet 60 and having some time is health insurance. Yeah. That’s a very big thing that we’re dealing with. I’m still on Cobra for the moment. Good. But am searching because you know, health insurance is a, is a tough nut to crack. And so most people who transition or retire out of the legal practice, do it in a way they’ve already qualified to get on Medicaid or Medicare. And that was one of the bigger things. We have a couple of things in our favor that we considered, we were smart about putting money away. I should probably say my wife was really smart about forcing us to put money away, but having a bunch of financial planners and the family helped. Yeah. So we saved we watched things we carefully did that we tried to live within our means sometimes more successfully than others, but she’s continuing to practice in her area. So there’s that income coming. I’m continuing to work as a mediator. So there’s some stream of income coming. We have some oil and gas interest, which helps tremendously knowing that there’s some stream of income coming, but you’re right. We had to put pen and paper. We had to sit down with our planner and say, can we really do this? If this is what it looks like, it’s gonna be, can we do this?


([14:27]): And what did they say? They said, yeah, it looks good. Or He, they did. But he actually said, if you wanted to walk away today, you could. Okay. And that was about a year before I actually did it, but that was very comforting, right. Because I thought, am I gonna have to be doing this for another five or six or seven years? And you hear the way I just said that have to be doing this, obviously, a passion for what I had been doing was gone. Yeah, That’s right. That’s A huge part of it. And so passion, lifestyle, health all of those things have to be considered. But you gotta be honest with yourself. I truly believe that if you’re doing things that you don’t want to be doing, it will have a negative effect on everything about you, your health, your attitude, your mental health. And so you have to listen to yourself too. I love that. Now. What’s cool about our relationship is that you’ve always made it clear that you have family that does financial planning. And you said, you’ve always said, Darrell, I’d use you, but I’ve got family. And I, and I respect that. And I’m glad that you’re getting good care and good advice. And by the way, if you ever need in letting our audience know health insurance, we only do it for our clients, but because you’re a friend, we will absolutely help you with health insurance. So if you need any help, we can guide you there. So see,


([15:41]): That’s why you’re such an awesome guy. Thank you. But I wanna make sure that, you know, I can help you with health insurance. We’ve got Justin Elliot who has been on the call. You can listen a previous episode where he unpacks Medicare. It’s a brilliant episode. One of the things I love about this conversation so far, I hope other attorneys are listening because I have a lot of, you know, I’m a St Mary’s alum. So a lot of my buddies and you are as well. And a lot of my friends went to St. Mary’s and their attorneys, and they’re in the mid forties, fifties. And I know they’re feeling the burnout. What would you say to them? Well, it’s interesting burnout, I think has affected everybody. Whether you’re a lawyer or not. I think attorneys have, have felt a different level. Not to feel more sorry for ’em, but they carry a lot of burden anyway. Mm-Hmm <affirmative> because they truly do take their client’s best interests at art mm-hmm <affirmative>. And they bear a lot of the stress that their clients bear. And so you gotta take care of yourself and there’s constraints. If you can’t afford to do it, you can’t afford to walk away, but there are changes you can make to your lifestyle. There are ways to take care of your stress. I was not good about taking care of myself for many, many, many years. What I’ve learned in the last four years with walking around bionic with two new hips and things of that nature is if you don’t take care of yourself, you’re really gonna pay for it.


([17:01]): And just getting out and sweating and letting things escape you. But if you’re not enjoying what you’re doing, you just don’t like what you’re doing. Then you really need to sit back and go, what is going to make me just happy? Mm-Hmm <affirmative>. But what is gonna make me happy and support the way of life that I think is necessary for my family and me. I’m never gonna get the time back with my kids, that I didn’t have all those years that I was traveling all those years I was gone and, and tons of people make that sacrifice. All I can tell you now is the ability to, to have time with my now adult kids and the quality of time we’ve had over the past six months, which is how long I’ve been doing this. It’s been incredible. So I don’t wanna put words in your mouth, but I’m, I’m gonna summarize what you’ve told me. In this conversation, a priority for you in this next chapter of life is quality time with your family health and your faith. Did I get that right? Not in that order necessarily. No, no, no. I think you’re right. You know, this may sound trite, but if you live well, if you purposely live well, and that means your family, that means your faith, your church, your faith community means your community. Mm-Hmm <affirmative> you just strive to live well. That when you look back, you’re gonna have a life well lived. Mm-Hmm <affirmative> right. And so the, the trick is to try to live well in all your relationships. At least in my book,


([18:23]): I love it. And so now you’re still working, which I love, I, I think it’s honorable. And I think it’s worthy of consideration for those that to continue to, to work in the second chapter of life in the, in the capacity that they’re comfortable with, but you’re doing mediation work, tell people what mediation is. A lot of people don’t even know what is that? Sure. If you’re involved in a lawsuit, there’s only two ways to get out of that lawsuit. One of them is to go down the courthouse and have the judge or jury make the decision. And you live with the verdict. The other way is alternative dispute resolution, primarily mediation in Texas 99% plus of cases don’t go to trial. It’s very rare in the bigger scheme of things for the case to go to trial than it is for it to be settled or resolved. And mediation didn’t really exist in this form when I started back in the eighties, but in the nineties, it, it took hold. And it’s now just a common form of things we deal with in mediation. I don’t represent either parties. The parties come in with their attorneys and they make presentations. I make no binding ruling. I’m a facilitator that helps these parties explore ways to get their case resolved, provides certainty, provides clarity. It can be much more cost effective. Mm-Hmm <affirmative> it allows people to vent and get the emotional side out. But you never know what’s gonna happen when you walk into a courtroom. And what is your jury gonna look like? And are they really gonna listen? Are they gonna be mad that they’re not there, but it gives control. And the joke is most mediators would say is if everybody leaves that room unhappy, except the mediator, if both sides are unhappy and there’s a deal, you’ve done your job.


([20:01]): I, I mean, this is really an important role that you’re playing in the community. I would imagine that you could find yourself busy. So you’ll have to put some boundaries on, on that role, of course. But if somebody wanted to reach out and find you, how did they find you? Thanks, Darrell my information, my background, my fee structure, and actually my calendar of availability. It’s all available@wwwdotjkladr.com. What’s the ADR Alternative dispute resolution. Okay. Got it. Say it one more time. Www.Jkladr.Com. Got it. Thank you very much. Okay. So understanding JK Leonard, understanding what the next chapter looks like. Faith, health time with family, and the mediation work, which will, I’m sure also provide some value to your life and purpose. And so I kind of have to tie a bow on here and leave, you know, there’s so much unsaid and unasked, but I can’t leave without asking this one question. What’s your favorite salsa? You know, it’s nothing you can bite HEB, at least not that I know of. My favorite salsa, you have to go to the Pearl farmer’s market. They’re probably at other places, but it’s Alamo gr mill Ponti salsa. Okay. It is the best. I found it hits what I Love. Where do you get it at? It’s I get it. We, we are devotes of going to the Pearl farmers market. Okay. On Saturdays or Sundays. And, and they’re there both days. Do they have the farmer’s market every Saturday and Sunday at the Pearl brewer?


([21:28]): They I’m sorry, de, but they do, unless there’s something special major going on or unless it’s 10 degrees in fleeting. Yes. Every Saturday, every Sunday down at the Pearl farmer’s market. Look for Alamo gr mill and make sure you get the Pante salsa. Got it. Great. That’s I haven’t got that one yet. So thank you again, JK for being here flew by. Appreciate It. Thank you, Darrell for inviting me and for those that are listening. Thank you again for hanging with us to the end. Great conversation with JK Leonard, loved it and grab our ebook, a retired Texas get a 15 minute consult. You can get that at PAXs financial group.com. And then finally, I wanna remind you, you think different when you think long term have a great day.


([22:11]): This is the podcast factory.com.


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