When and how to retire is one of the most important decisions of your life. And it’s a tough one.
With so many considerations: money, family, church, health, and your legacy… it’s no wonder many of us end up frustrated and confused.
In this conversation, Darryl interviews Steve Swann. Steve is a God-loving Texan who successfully retired after 40 years as an accountant.
Listen to this episode to discover how you can retire without regrets and spend your golden years passing down your values instead of worrying about money.
Show highlights include:
- The one thing your spouse wants to know, so you can retire without a fight ([9:12])
- How to have more “fun money” in retirement than when you were working ([9:22])
- Why you shouldn’t worry about losing your mental sharpness in retirement ([12:36])
- The “balance principle” that lets you relax more, spend more time with your family, and pass on your legacy ([13:00])
- The two fulfilling habits you should make time for in retirement, so you can enjoy vacations with your children and grandchildren for years to come ([14:48])
Do you want a wealthy retirement without worrying about money?
Do you want a wealthy retirement without worrying about money? 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.
([00:24]): Welcome to the retire in Texas podcast. My name is Darryl Lyons. I’m the co-founder of PAX financial group in San Antonio, Texas PAX financial group is the sponsor of this program. So visit PAX financial group.com. And before I get started, I need to share our legal disclosure. This material contains general information only and is not intended to provide specific investment tax or legal advice. Visit PAX financial group.com for more information, investment advisory services offered through PAX financial group, LLC. So today, I’m excited to have a longtime friend, Steve Swan, here today. He retired out of the energy industry. So we’re going to hear more about that, and I’m thankful that he was able to carve out some time to be with us. So thank you for being here, Steve. And welcome. Thank you, Darryl. I’m honored that you’ve asked me to be a part of this.
([01:15]): Yeah. So, Steve, we’re going to talk a little bit about where you retired from and that transition, but I’d like to know a little bit more about you. Where did you grow up? Was it Texas? Yeah. You know, I was born in San Antonio, and I’m glad that I can claim that, but I only lived here for the first two years of my life, and we moved four times, and we ended up in Dallas, and I tell everybody I was raised in Dallas and big D. So I went from fifth grade all the way through high school in Dallas. Was it Dallas proper or one of the suburbs? It was Dallas proper. It was inside a loop. LBJ.
([01:56]): What high school? I’m sorry. W T white. Okay. Yeah, I think I’ve seen their football team somewhere on, on the map. I don’t know. They might be a big school or a big football school. I know there’s a lot of big football schools. I don’t think they’re a big football school. They’ve had teams, you know, they’ve been around several decades at this point. So, you know, every once in a while you hit and miss and you have a good team. Now, did you have brothers and sisters? Just one sister. So we were a family of four. Of course my parents were always together. They were married for six years. My sister’s two years younger than me. Did your parents, do they specifically teach you about money or was there anything that you observed about money growing up? You know, both my parents they were youngsters during the great depression. So let’s just say they both, they thought beans and cornbread was like a gourmet meal.
([02:51]): Well, really beans and cornbread, literally. You’re not just, oh yeah. My dad loved to make cornbread milkshakes because, you know, growing up, I mean, that was the staples that they had to eat. My mom’s family were land rich but cash poor. They had farmland and ranch land. They were sharecroppers until my grandfather tried to go work out of town, but he passed away at a very early age. And then my dad went into the merchant Marine and then into the the army. And he was kind of he was the oldest of three other siblings. And so he always was responsible. One of the most responsible people I’ve ever met was my dad. And he taught me that for sure, as far as money goes, my parents were always frugal and did not ever spend on anything big. Probably the biggest thing that ever really came up was when it was time to go to college.
([03:49]): And, you know, I’m very grateful that they funded tuition and boarding for me for college. I covered all the other incidental expenses through jobs. But yeah, I would say just from sorry, debt, and of course they kept it a checked book, which I guess I would think a lot of people were back in the day, but they of course were writing every expense down in their checkbook today. I still do that same thing just to follow my parents, even though it’s, it’s double work because obviously as an accountant, I keep a spreadsheet too transitioned into. That’s a good point. So you’re an accountant by trade. Where did you retire from, from a Valero energy corporation? Their corporate headquarters is here in San Antonio and I’ve been a CPA since 1984. I started with Valeros affiliated companies in 1981. What call is, did you go to Steve?
([04:40]): I went to Abilene Christian university and for the best years of my life were there mainly because of the relationships I made. It was great. I probably didn’t tell you Christie, who helped set up this podcast. She’s an ACU graduate as well, but I didn’t know that now we like to hire there’s three schools in Texas that we like to hire from Texas tech, Abilene, Christian, and a and M of course there’s a lot of schools, but those three, we specifically talk to their college folks. Yeah. So, and then, so when you went to Abilene, Christian, did you know you were going to be an accountant or how did that? No, my freshman and sophomore years, I was a Bible major. I thought I was called to be a minister, but during the spring semester that sophomore year, I wasn’t quite sure that I could relate to people the way that an effective minister needs to.
([05:29]): And so I decided though, if I was going to get a different degree, it should be in something that’s practical. And I had this idea that accounting would be extremely practical and that proved to be true. There’s always jobs in accounting. And so I did an about face and changed it to accounting today. I would have had to have gone an extra year, I think, to be able to fulfill the requirements. But back at when I graduated in 1977, I just barely had enough accounting credits to graduate with a BBA in accounting. And so what was your role and responsibility at Valero over the the first half I was an operations uptown and working in a pipeline accounting. So I’m, you know, measuring the amount of fuel and other types of petroleum products that are going through pipelines, working with meter tickets and things like that.
([06:19]): Just things that are specific to that industry. But then I got the opportunity about halfway through my career to move to corporate accounting. And so there were doing a balance sheet reconciliations and making journal entries to close out the books. It’s all standard stuff that kind of looks the same regardless of what industry that you’re in. But as big as Valera was Valero had accounting, things that they did that we actually studied in college when it was time for advanced accounting. So that was pretty fulfilling. How was the environment of Valero you were there? How long? I was there 36 years. And I started with Sigma, which got bought by diamond Shamrock, which merged with Ultramar, which finally got bought by Valero at the end of 2001. So roughly 20 and a half years with diamond Shamrock and then 19 and a half or 15 and a half years with Valero.
([07:18]): And let me say that at diamond Shamrock, we worked a lot of overtime because we just weren’t as organized as we should have been, particularly the accountants were kind of abused. Valera was more organized and managed better. However, that didn’t stop me from working overtime overtime. When you get to the corporate level at the headquarters of a fortune 500 company, it’s kind of unaffordable because not so much just because the closing process, but now you’re interacting with the executives who actually make the highest level decisions and they need their information right now. And so it would require a lot of late nights, you know, to be able to have numbers on the desk of those executives. The next morning in that reminds me, how was it working with bill greehey? He has a great reputation. Well, I have to say now my only direct interaction with Mr greehey was when I had an employee who reported to me and her son actually won a scholarship.
([08:17]): They gave out scholarships every year to employees and, and for that group at the San Antonio headquarters office, Mr. Gree would have a luncheon for them. So I was invited because I was a, this employee supervisor, besides that I’d never had any direct relationship with Mr. Green. He was an amazing person though. You know, he’s an accountant himself, however, just such ability he has and his strategic insight on, on businesses. I’ve never really seen anybody quite like Mr. Greeky in that regard, as I continue to have a dialogue with Steve Swan here, I want to remind you that listening, if you want to pick up the retire in Texas ebook at PAX financial group, to help guide you a little bit, I don’t want you to forget about that. So let me move on from that commercial. See, when did you officially retire?
([09:09]): August of 2017. Okay. Did your spouse agree or resist or did that look like she didn’t have any trouble? She knew that our quality of life wouldn’t change. And so she was fine with it. You know, I, I was fortunate to work for a company that not only do we have a 401k, but, but I have a pension as well. And these days I add to it was so security. So actually we live better than we did when I worked. So Stephanie’s happy. She’s fine. And how did you know it was the right time? I’ve kind of described a kind of the work culture. I would say of my 40 years in the workplace, at least for 20 of those, I worked for 60 hours a week or more as I described when you’re working at a, at a headquarter level, sometimes just that’s just the situation.
([09:58]): And it also, I realized that in doing more than was anticipated, that was going to end up promoting me sooner or later. And that finally ended up happening to tell you the truth. At year 25, I was exhausted and I actually took an opportunity to move back down to a staff mechanic position. And from that point I had another 11 years at Valero. And I knew at that point I was working until our financial situation made sense to retire. I mean, since. And did you have any other considerations other than San Antonio about our retirement location? Didn’t I mean, our daughter lives here with two grandsons and of course her, her husband, and then our son moved back here about two years ago. And he and his wife have a son too, so we have three grandsons in area, but another thing too is, so we love our church family.
([10:53]): And I think even if our kids I’d have to talk to Stephanie about this, but if our kids up to move someplace else, I’m not so sure we would go follow him because, you know, we’re so tied into our church family here in San Antonio. Yeah. That’s a great point. Now the Valero is nice cause they, you know, like you said, there’s a pension, there’s a 401k that’s, you know, at a nice match over the years. Of course during the time period that you worked there, you know, I know you and you’ve been a great saver. So, you know, I’m sure you looked at your finances as a CPA and said, I feel pretty good about that, but was there any scary part or concerning part whether financially or emotionally on making that leap to retirement? So the financial part wasn’t scary to me because I saw what the numbers were and we had developed a pretty good habit of not spending more than we make most of the time.
([11:49]): And if we were going to spend more, we knew ahead of time. And so we planned it, the scary of profit. This is an interesting question. I think maybe it would be, you know, how am I going to keep my mental acuity? Because you know, there are some people, I mean, in their jobs, they have to rely on physical strength and accounting. You’re using your head and your mind, you know, every moment. And, and so you know, I don’t have to do that in retirement. In fact just a while ago, I was working with some spreadsheets, which I’m asked to do just to keep my finances in order. Plus I’m, I’m getting ready for a meeting. I have coincidentally tomorrow with one of your colleagues and Stephanie asked me, you know, what are you doing? And I said, well, I’m working on my spreadsheets.
([12:32]): And you know, it does kind of feel good to do that. But my point here is, you know, I, I don’t have to do that, and I’m not involved in that cause I have plenty more other things that in retirement I’m interested in doing. But I guess the fact that we are, we’re busy, actually, we don’t have to be busy, but we have a fulfilled life. And so keeping that mental sharpness is there, hasn’t been a problem with that. So I’ve been grateful about that. Good point. If you look back on your life, was there a challenge that you had that has made you into the man you are today that helps guide you and will continue to guide you for the rest of your life? How I’m going to answer that question is the principle of balance life is meant to have balance and that I’ve always struggled with that as I’ve described the overtime that I work before, and I’m kind of an all or nothing type guys sometimes, but you know, you’ve got to plan to make sure that you spend that time with your family and particularly with your kids, so you can pass the knowledge on to your kids and, and also relaxation balance as well.
([13:45]): That’s why I’m so grateful to retire. It’s easier to balance those things when you don’t have to go to work every day. But I didn’t always do a good job, but trying to maintain that balance. And so reflecting back on that and how I might’ve done things differently, what I would’ve done is I should’ve put more effort in learning how to be more efficient because and that’s harder to do than just throwing work at a project. But in accounting vibes, hiring people, you can trust and learning how to delegate and a part of that balance too involves never trying to do anything all by yourself, but you know, involving others to help you in whatever your, your goal is. And so you see yourself, a human reference, you alluded to this, that balance is a little easier in retirement. Do you ever see yourself getting out of balance in retirement on projects or initiatives or church or volunteering or whatever that looks like, do you see out of balance and do you check yourself, what does it look like in retirement?
([14:46]): Well, I haven’t had that problem probably because I don’t have the obligation and maybe part of it too is because we do plan, you know, times when we’re going to take off a couple of weeks ago, we took a week off who took my daughter and her husband and the two grandkids to Disney world. And so there, we just kind of blocked out everything for a week. And of course I’m grateful that we’re able to fund that trip. You know, you don’t get much more of a escapism going to Disney world, you know, but you know, I’ll say too, if I try to build in time, always try to build on time to make sure I exercise. I love to get on my bicycle and ride the Greenway. That Greenway is a super asset and it’s safe, you know, to ride your bicycle one, you talking about the one in McAlester park.
([15:37]): Yeah, right. Yeah. I usually throw my bike in the pickup and drive to Mecosta park, which is about three miles from here. And then hop on a it’s by the dog park is where the Greenway starts there at McAllister park. And you can go one direction or the other. So just the freedom that I have in retirement to try to keep that balance. Another thing though, that’s a real blessing is we watch the youngest or I guess the middle youngest grandchild. And so I want to be available to be able to help pass on information, particularly spiritually to those grandkids. I have a lot of things that I want to still do here in retirement, but I think this idea of balancing things out and making sure I don’t forget that God’s in control and not me is important, whether you’re working or in retirement.
([16:28]): Yeah. I really want to leave it at that because that really sums up who you are. And is it a reflection also, Stephanie too, of who both of you guys are. So I do have one last question and it’s a bonus question. What’s your favorite salsa? I would say my favorite sauce. I’m thinking of the different restaurants that I go to because normally that’s where I have it. So, you know, I would say it’s, Garcia’s Mexican restaurant on three double oh nine in shirts, mainly because Garcia’s has the best chips anywhere and their sauce is pretty good to go with it. And then number two, I would say would probably be Alamo cafe just cause that’s my family’s favorite restaurant. I imagined my kids were raised on Alamo cafe a couple of times a month.
([17:14]): And for those that are listening, that aren’t in San Antonio that are, you know, there’s people all across the country, listening shirts is not spelled like a t-shirt, it’s a S C H E R T Z. And there is a nice restaurant. Garcia is it’s really packed on a Sunday afternoon and the Alamo and correct me if I’m wrong is really one of the tourist. I mean, tourists like to go there. It’s not, I don’t even know if I’d describe it as authentic. It’s just, it’s really easy, too easy for your taste buds. Right. That’s right. And good tortillas, right? The tortillas are just wonderful. Really known for its flour tortillas. Yeah, that’s right. Good stuff. We always joke. We’re going to go there and eat chips and torts fire tortillas and they’d get up and leave right. A bucket of, oh man, this has been great, Steve.
([17:59]): I really appreciate it. Appreciate your time. Great insights. And I’m just honored that you came on the show today. Well, same here, Daryl. I appreciate you and PacSun and all of the people who work with you mainly because the principles you stand for. So I’ve enjoyed being part of this as well. Thank you, Steve. And thank you to all of you listening real point to remind you to grab the in Texas ebook at PAX financial group. And I’d also like to remind you that you think different when you think longterm have a great day.
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