In one case, a one-semester opportunity to teach abroad in Iran in 1970 turned into a jet-set trip with stops in Egypt and Ethiopia for a year. “It was the highlight of my life,” says Guttentag, who bought four plane tickets for the world tour and traveled with his wife and two school-aged children. “There were heavy expenses incurred.
Another time he continued his education after eight years in finance – only two years of having a pension. “It was a tough choice to make because I was losing so much, but I wanted the freedom to do my own research and explore other possibilities,” he says.
Today, Guttentag focuses on retirement savings.
It quickly fixes a common mistake: There are no hard and fast rules about how much you need to save for retirement.
“What’s the point at 40 trying to guess how much you’ll need 25 years later?” Says Guttentag, who was married for six decades before his wife passed away in 2017. “My goal was to generate as much wealth as possible and I knew that the more I could accumulate, the better my position would be.
On the other hand, he recommends maximizing retirement savings vehicles. “You invest as much as you can in these accounts and certainly as much as you can to avoid paying taxes,” he says. “Not taking advantage of this great advantage is a violation of your self-interest.”
This kind of mindset also helps avoid a last-minute retirement savings crunch or the need to make risky investments in your later years, he adds. “When you’re on the cusp of retirement, it’s too late to exercise a lot of discretion,” he says.
Guttentag says his new career goal is to help retired owners understand the financial options available to them, even though these tools are not widely used. Specifically, Guttentag is passionate about reverse mortgages for the millions of retirement-age homeowners who need the extra cash to live on. Reverse mortgages allow homeowners “in the cash-rich home class” to convert some of their home’s equity into cash and repay the money after the home is sold, he says.
While critics say reverse mortgages can be a form of risky debt or lead to foreclosure, proponents including Guttentag are embracing them because they help cope with a cash crunch when few other options are available. “Existing pension facilities are not well designed for people who do not have a pension to rely on,” he says.
As the economy sinks into a longer recession, these retirement savings vehicles will only become more relevant, he adds. Currently, Guttentag is working to generate wider interest in reverse mortgages by helping retirees integrate them into their retirement plans as well as annuities and financial asset management.
“There is a group of retirees whose only wealth is in their house and it is growing, so the need for this type of integration will be greater,” explains Guttentag, who finances his business by drawing on the savings of a company. software company he started in the 90s and sold in 2005.
Publishing research on retirement finance issues keeps her mind sharp while keeping busy. Four independent entrepreneurs help her create the tools for her website; her grandson is now her lawyer. The ability to do meaningful work is especially important at a time when most of his in-person interactions have been replaced by family Zoom calls on Sunday mornings, he adds.
With no intention of stopping, he’s determined to find new ways of working that still seem achievable at his age. Running a business “is probably the reason I still operate,” says Guttetag. “It piques my interest and it’s what gets me out of bed in the morning. “
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An earlier version of this story indicated that Guttentag’s nephew, and not his grandson, was his lawyer.