September 14th, 2022.  The day came and went without much fanfare.  A morning bike ride.  Hugs and kisses as I sent the kids off to school.  Coffee with a friend.  A meeting or 2 with a client.  A haircut.  Yet, that day was so much more.  My heart, full yet heavy.  My mood, solaced yet beaming.  You see, a year ago I released a book into the world: Retirement Stepping Stones.  Recent stats reveal that over 2 million books were released last year.  That’s over 5,400 books per day!   Yet, this book was unlike others you may have read.  It was more of a memoir.  A reflection of a story that changed my life, and the lives of my family.

After retiring in the fall of 2010, my mom began to lose purpose and meaning that she had found in her career.  She had suffered from such a bad case of career burnout, it had to be the right decision for her.  Little did we know however, she knew exactly what she had retired from, but was adrift wondering what exactly she was retiring to.  6 months and too many sleeping pills later, she chose to end her life.

I remember the day the idea of writing a book was solidified within me.  The story of tragedy that had occurred in my family was somewhat private, yet so full of lessons learned.  You see, I was one of her financial advisors who had given her the green light to retire.  My experience, software and credentials were a perfect cocktail to reveal to her that she was fully prepared from a financial perspective.  Little did I know at the time that the non-financial side deserves the same amount of, if not more, effort and attention.

This book wouldn’t be like the others.  No mention of savings rates or maxing out an IRA or a required amount to put in an emergency fund or how to cut up your credit cards.  Rather, this one would offer steps that a retiree could navigate from a non-financial perspective to continue a life of meaning beyond retirement.

Before I could begin writing, I needed the support of those who loved my mom the most. I walked into the coffee shop on a brisk morning in the spring of 2019.  My dad and sister had arrived before me.  My dad, always a generous man, rose from their table to buy me a coffee.  They had thought they were there to simply catch up.  I had a different agenda.  I wanted to communicate my journey as a financial advisor, to let them know how much I had learned as a result of mom’s tragedy, and how I wanted to turn that tragedy to triumph, that stumbling block into stepping stones.  I wanted to help others, just like mom did in her career as a healthcare professional.  I wanted to give insights and perspectives to retirees on a mass scale.  I could easily sit across the table from my own clients and help them navigate retirement one to one, but I wanted to help more people.  And, the best way for me to do that was to put these lessons into book form.  But there was no way I was going to do this without my dad and sister’s permission.  Through tears and reflection on their part, permission was granted.  And with that, the journey began.

Over the next year and a half, I worked tirelessly to carefully articulate the story, and outline stepping stones a retiree can traverse to ensure a meaningful and purposeful transition into retirement.  And, a year ago this week, the book was released.

A year later…several thousand copies sold, more importantly, several thousand readers helped.  The book became an Amazon Best Seller in 5 categories including Books on Suicide, Personal Budgeting and Wealth Management.  I’ve been a guest on a couple dozen podcasts (and counting) and have been interviewed for or have written columns that have appeared on various national media outlets released throughout the country.  Several organizations throughout my community have invited me to speak to share my story and help others.  Should you think I’m bragging, rest assured, I’m not.  I’m only revealing the deep impact of my mom’s story and its astounding ripple effect.  These stats are insufficient to provide perspective on how meaningful this story has been to so many, but the countless heartfelt stories from readers do.  And ultimately, I simply want to show how this tragedy is being used to help many retirees throughout the country deal with the mental health side of retirement.

I think mom would be proud.  I’d give anything to have her back.  To have her be a grandma to my kids and a companion to my dad in his retirement years.  She was my prayer warrior, my support and my biggest fan.  Moms who have sons know what I mean.  But life didn’t happen that way.  Instead, she made a decision that would change the course of history.  The book is a result of the Hixon family choosing to use this tragedy to help others.  And this essay is to reveal that we have.  And the exciting part?  We’re not done.  The thing about a book, it’s ever-green.  It’s still there.  It’s still available for purchase.  The story never expires.  I’m still being interviewed on podcasts.  My team at HZ Capital is still fully engaged with the mission.  Refocus Coaching is fully launched to provide a content platform for retirees to take actionable steps toward a balanced and purposeful retirement.  The flywheel is picking up steam.  It can’t be stopped.  So many more to help, so many more to share the story with.

I’m so grateful for my faithful readers over the years.  Those who have bought the book, shared it with a friend or loved one, given it as a gift, engaged on my social media platforms, and who have genuinely and vulnerably shared their stories of how mom’s story has impacted them.  I’m grateful for how the Pamela M. Hixon Memorial Nursing Scholarship Fund has grown as all net proceeds from the sale of the book has gone to this worthy cause.  I’m grateful to have met this year’s Scholarship recipient where I was able to share the story of my mom and encourage her in her career as a healthcare professional.  I’m grateful for my team who has helped spread the message and support me in this mission.  I’m grateful to my family for their support and understanding as all of this has taken a lot of my time to make happen.  I’m grateful to my dad and sister that they granted permission for this story to be shared.  I know they’re so happy that this story has impacted so many of the book’s readers.  They send their love.  And, I’m grateful that God created me on purpose, for a purpose, and that through this book project, I’m able to feel a bit closer to mom and connect with her in a special way.

As I reflect over the past year, I can summarize it in one word: Blessed.  Thanks to each of you for your love and support.  Know that we’re not done.  The conversation on retiring to a life of meaning beyond retirement is just beginning.  Please continue to interact with my platforms and if prompted, please buy another copy of my book to give to a loved one or friend.  In its pages is a blueprint to a successful retirement, and they’ll be better for reading it.

The Best Is Ahead!