Have You Thought About Your Retirement Strategy? (Part 3 of 3)

Looking Back as I Start to Look Forward

This is the last in a series of three posts I’ve written in anticipation of my retirement at the end of this June. One of the most common responses I receive when informing clients and associates about my pending retirement is, “What are you going to do?” In this series I outlined key factors that anyone approaching retirement should consider, and I intend to embrace those concepts as I enter a new chapter in my life. I’m not worried about having enough to do, and I’m looking forward to doing new meaningful things. But for now I want to take a little time to look back. With all of the planning I have barely reflected on my career, but now seems like a good time to do so.

From the Beginning

My career is not one that I planned on. When I graduated from the University of Oregon in 1977 I never imagined that I might become an owner in a firm as successful as Perkins & Co. After starting my career with a small local accounting firm I was lucky enough to connect with a college classmate that worked for a new firm that needed additional staff. That connection led to a lunch in 1978 which included Gary Reynolds, Perkins & Co’s longtime president, and resulted in my joining one of Perkins’ predecessor firms. To have worked with a person for as long as Gary and I have is a remarkable thing.

I was first introduced to the accounting profession during a math class in my senior year of high school when the teacher brought in a CPA as a guest speaker. To this day I can’t tell you a single word that man said. In spite of that, it left an impression on me, and it was on my list of areas to study in college. It originally was behind Physics/Engineering and broadcast communications as priorities. The evolution is a longer story, but the short version is that I eventually took an introduction to accounting class, got an A, and never looked back.

My Time at Perkins & Co

Back in 1986, when Perkins & Co was founded, one key principle was to have the firm continue beyond its founding owners. In a of couple years we will accomplish just that. I’m very proud of the next generation of firm leaders and have great confidence that they will take the foundation and vision that has been developed and carry it onward. I look forward to watching them from the sidelines.

So, here I am at the end of a 40-year stint in public accounting. My son would tell you that I have spent more than 40 years’ worth of time at this job, and I suppose he’s right based on total hours worked. This was rarely a 40-hour-a-week job, but I knew what I was signing up for.

Thinking back on when I started in public accounting it’s hard not to appreciate the breadth of change that has happened in business and the CPA profession. The year I started as a staff accountant the rules of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) prohibiting direct solicitation of clients were changed under pressure from the Federal Trade Commission. IBM first started selling its stand-alone personal computer in 1981. Almost simultaneously with the merger of the two local firms that formed Perkins & Co in 1986 was the passage of the Tax Reform Act of 1986. It was sometime in the 1990s before everyone had a computer assigned to them. All this combined with a plethora of new professional standards, rules, and regulations caused many of us to change from being generalists to focusing on either tax or audit to stay relevant. The rate of change today is not lessening.

Growing with the Firm

As the firm grew it became clear that we needed to up our game on college recruiting, and I enjoyed being active in the firm’s recruiting activities. I’m particularly proud of the students that have been here for many years and are developing into great professionals. I often say that organizations have personalities and tend to hire employees with similar traits. As I finished my final busy season this year and celebrated with our staff I was reminded about what a nice group of people we’ve attracted here.

Also during my tenure, it has been heartwarming to watch Perkins & Co be named one of “Oregon’s Most Admired” professional services firms by the Portland Business Journal for nine years running. It epitomizes more than just consistently doing good work: it’s also about adding value to your community. The level of engagement by our shareholders and staff in local and national organizations is inspiring. Over the course of my career I have been fortunate to serve several organizations of which I’ve been particularly proud including FISH Emergency Services, Legacy Emanuel Hospital Foundation, Classroom Law Project and Ronald McDonald House of Oregon and Southwest Washington. Participation in these great organizations has made me a better person.

The Closing of One Chapter

As my days at Perkins wind down there are some parts of this job I won’t miss including long days, daily time entry and monthly deadlines. Those are overshadowed by the things I will miss. It’s easy to be able to come to work each day and be surrounded by admirable people who give their all each day to create great outcomes for clients and each other. The firm has a tremendous set of goals to move the organization forward, and I’m keen to watch Perkins accomplish them.

I’ve already received nuggets of advice from friends that have crossed the retirement threshold. One said that “retirement is the last vacation you’ll ever take” while another counseled that the two most important letters in retirement are “N” and “O”.

The Next Chapter

So now to the question at hand, what am I going to do? Based on current research and my family history there’s no reason to believe I won’t live into my 90s. In order for those to be happy years I intend to work hard at taking care of myself. I enjoy cycling and hiking, so I’m not worried about having to adapt new behaviors. But exercise alone isn’t enough. I am a big fan of lifelong learning, and I’m trying to increase the number of books I read every year with a goal of getting to two books a month. Plus I’d like to become a better photographer. Beyond that, my plan is for this first year to be a gap year. I’m going to fill that time exploring what my retirement will be like. During that time my wife and I have some big trips planned plus visits to our children and grandchildren, none of whom live nearby. I don’t worry about having enough to do, but I am open to how I will have to adapt to a non-work schedule.

So I’m off to a new phase of life and I look forward to learning how to engage at a different pace that creates opportunities to discover a lot of new places, subjects and experiences. For me, retirement is a beginning, not an ending. It’s a time to consider a future that includes new ways to stay connected to the people that are important in my life and by keeping a positive attitude toward what’s ahead. I just finished reading a translation of Cicero’s “How to Grow Old” written around 44 BC, and it’s a great reflection on how to approach the last half of life. One of my favorite quotes is “There is no greater satisfaction to be had in life than a leisurely old age devoted to knowledge and learning.” Ageing is a natural part of life and we only get to travel this road once. I’m looking forward to the knowledge and learning adventures that lay ahead. Wish me luck!

About the author:

Grant Jones began his career in public accounting in 1977 and has been a shareholder at Perkins & Co since 1989. In fact, he’s the only remaining non-owner employee of the original Perkins & Co, which formed in 1986. He’s a leader in the firm’s Employee Benefit Plan Audits and Nonprofit practice groups and actively assists clients in managing operational, strategic, and ownership issues. He specializes in working with closely-held businesses in a variety of industries, and his areas of expertise include accounting and auditing, financial management, and general business consulting.

If you missed the first two post(s) in the “Have You Thought About Your Retirement Strategy?” series, be sure to check them out in the links below. Thank you for reading!