As part of our ongoing “Life After Intel” webinar series, we’ve conducted several interviews with Intel retirees to draw on their insights and experiences making the transition from Intel and to learn more about what life looks like after this transition.
Given the current situation at Intel, we know many are considering what life after Intel might look like for them, and they are looking for ways to make this transition happen. The following interview with 2006 Intel retiree, and current chairman of the Intel Retiree Organization Volunteer Committee, Ben Manny provides perspective from someone that has been in your shoes and offers some tips on making the most of retirement.
For those looking for financial advice about this decision or simply wanting to be ready for the next opportunity (like Ben was), please get in touch with Cordant.
The following is an excerpt from a conversation between Cordant Ambassador, Dave Unzicker and Intel Retiree, Ben Manny. The interview was conducted on 12/15/2015 and is edited for length and clarity. You can listen to the entire interview here or by clicking below.
DAVE: So, Ben when did you leave Intel for retirement?
BEN: I left Intel at the end of 2006. Intel was cutting back and they were preparing a list of people to let go. I told my manager at the time that if I could save somebody a job to put me on that list. It just worked out great. I never looked back. I was ready. I was financially able to retire probably ten years before that. The rule of 75 for me kicked in probably seven years before that. So I was working because I enjoyed working and I liked the type of work I was doing and, of course, the people I enjoyed working with. It was a good time to leave. I hadn’t really planned on leaving specifically then but it was just a good opportunity.
DAVE: Let’s turn the subject a little bit away from you and your history and I want to learn a bit about how you prepared. And I’m wondering, what sort of financial concerns and considerations did you have and how did you get comfortable with your decision to retire? Did you do anything special to prepare?
BEN: Well, when I first started working I saved as much money as I could. I always maxed out my contributions to the 401k, I maxed out the stock participation plan, and I also never touched my stock options. The only time I would have to touch those options was when I had to pay income tax and cash some of them in. So I built up a nice nest egg and plus there were 401 accounts and so on. So I was financially prepared pretty early and Intel was just a wonderful place to work in the 90s. It was a crazy time. It was kind of like winning the lottery. And so that part was taken care of. I had, at the time, used several different financial planners and I wasn’t really happy with them, per se. They did okay but I had enough resources that I didn’t need to really worry about it. When the paychecks stopped my first concern, and in hindsight it should not have been a concern because of the assets that I had, is how do I replace that income? How do I get an income stream? Because I wasn’t use to using my investments to generate income to spend. I was just keeping it in all those accounts. I ended up taking some of my Intel stock and putting it into a charitable remainder trust that basically replaced that income. So that took my mind off of that. The other thing that I had to worry about was healthcare and health insurance. When I retired nine years ago the Affordable Care Act had not passed. My wife and I were both blessed with good health. The COBRA insurance that I was offered was basically a continuation of the Intel insurance—a really good insurance policy but it’s expensive. I decided to not even go into COBRA but went ahead and took out a high deductible plan with a health savings account. And that saved lots of money. I never had to tap into the SERMA account. One of the interesting things about that is that, at that time, the SERMA account could only be used for the Intel medical plan. And I because pretty active with the Intel Retiree Organization and decided one of the things that they really needed to change was to open up that account so that it could pay premiums for other plans and actually was eventually successful in getting that change made. And so that also helped a lot to not have that huge expense for health insurance.
DAVE: Is there anything that you worried about when you were preparing for retirement, or thinking about retirement, but it turned out that you didn’t have to worry about it, or shouldn’t have worried about?
BEN: Well I had a little concern about the health care costs that they would be high. And I hadn’t really researched all the policies. But they did have policies that I would consider more like insurance policies. In my mind most health care policies are prepaid healthcare. You pay quite a bit per month and that goes to reduce co-payments. We could talk all day about health care and the way the system is broken. That was one concern I had. I didn’t have the financial concerns because I was pretty diversified. I had the income stream concern that I was able to deal with. I didn’t really worry about finding things to do. I have lots of interests. One of the other things that I did was to join a gym right after I retired. I realized the importance of exercise. One of the tips I would give anyone who is interested in retirement is health and keep active.
DAVE: When you think back to actually going through the Intel retirement process, or retiring from Intel, were there any “gotchas” in the process that people should be aware of that, not necessarily were they planned in there but something you look back and say oh man, I wish I had thought about that, or knew about that, before I was going in?
BEN: Well one of the things I would recommend people to do, and this actually came later. When you spend time at a company like Intel or just out in the workforce you develop a lot of relationships. And I think that it’s important to keep track of those relationships, or at least keep contact information available. And that’s where LinkedIn, I think, is a really good asset. So I would encourage people to use LinkedIn while they are actively employed to build up this set of contacts.
DAVE: Do you find yourself doing things differently with your investments now that you are retired compared to when you were working?
BEN: When I was working I was probably more actively involved in managing my investments because I really hadn’t found a good organization to manage my money. I had several people that I used. I had a couple of brokers and probably 6-8 accounts that I would have. So I would spend time tracking buys and sells and so on. But that’s really not related to retirement. But the big change is not so much retirement but finding an organization that you really can relate to. [Cordant] really follows a lot of the Intel principals of managing with intention and I think that’s really important to have some goals that you think about and then structure your financial situation around those goals. And as you progress through retirement and you start to think about passing on your estate that becomes even more critical—that you know what those goals are for yourself and for your heirs.
DAVE: So knowing what you know now, what do you wish you had known before you retired or maybe when you were considering retirement?
BEN: I was working pretty hard and I guess I didn’t know how great retirement would be. I might have retired earlier. I could have retired before the dot-com bubble burst. If I had done that and diversified my investments then I’d be much better off financially than I am now. I might have had more sense to do that. When I look back at that time, before the dot-com bubble burst, Intel was one of the few companies that was turning in a profit. I felt it was pretty safe that the stock was going to be up there like that. But didn’t happen, of course. It’s never recovered. It’s about a third of what it was at the peak and it’s, you know, 16 years later. So I probably would have retired earlier if I had known how great retirement was. I’m healthier now. But I still did enjoy what I was doing basically. So it’s hard to say. That’s probably the main thing I would have done.
DAVE: Ben, thanks so much for inviting me into your home today and for this conversation. I appreciate you taking the time to share your experiences. I hope that the people who are listening were able to get some wisdom from you. Thanks a lot.
BEN: Thank you, Dave.