Plan for the Next Chapter of Your Life Like a Rockstar
5 minute read
Here’s the drop-the-mic moment: Retirement is scary… even if you’re power couple Elton John and his husband David Furnish. But having a plan – in their case, a five-year plan – makes it so much better. That’s what Furnish, CEO of Rocket Entertainment, said, with an audible sigh of relief, when he sat down to chat with Alliance Education Fellow and HerMoney CEO Jean Chatzky in Los Angeles right before the annual (and legendary) Oscar party thrown by the Elton John AIDS Foundation. You have to know what “financial independence and financial freedom look like, because that’s the place that you want to be,” he said. Here are some highlights from their conversation.
Jean Chatzky: You are a self-described planner. That’s how you spent your business life – in strategic marketing and advertising and then producing shows on Broadway. But you said that when you made the decision to step in and run Rocket Entertainment, managing Elton full-time, it was with planning for your whole family in mind. Tell me about that.
David Furnish: You can’t make a map until you know the destination. So where is it we want to go? What kind of life do we want to have? What does that entail? And how much is that going to cost us? What are we going to need to basically earn every year, free and clear, in order to maintain a standard of living and a lifestyle that allows us to fulfill all our ambitions? Now we want to be home to spend time with our kids and see them do well in their school and their studies. But we also want to take time and travel and see the world with them. So we made a list of the things that we wanted to achieve and what was important to us, and what kind of life we wanted to have. And then you get the calculator out and you start working – how much is that going to cost us? What do we need to live comfortably?
“Though Elton and I have been fortunate, the need to save, protect and plan for the future are universal principles and the same for all of us”.
– David Furnish
JC: Get out the calculator? Clearly, your financial life is bigger than most. Does this same math apply?
DF: Well, yes, it does. Because it’s about your goal. It’s about, what are your needs? What is a comfortable life for you? And in the case of someone like Elton, who I would say [is] arguably one of the 10 most famous people in the world, we have to have a home life and an environment and a way of traveling that protects him, that gives him the privacy that he needs… and that costs money. The point is, our motivation was to build a sustainable future and to give Elton the financial freedom to stop touring so he can spend time with his family, work on his foundation and pursue all of the other interests he has. Planning and preparing for your next chapter in life can be difficult for anyone, no matter how much money you make or have.
WATCH Your Money Map: Planning for the Next Chapter of Your Life Like a Rockstar
JC: Absolutely. Let’s talk about the Elton John AIDS Foundation. There are about 3 million LGBTQ+ Americans over 50 in the US right now, and that number is expected to grow to 7 million by the year 2030. Finances have been a challenge for many of them, and so has planning for retirement, according to a recent Gallup poll. What are some tips that you might give to members of this community?
DF: [To take a step back,] part of what impacted the LGBT community has been the scourge of AIDS. Both Elton and I were gay men who survived the 80s when AIDS first reared its ugly head. It was a really horrible, desperate time. We lost so many friends. Everybody was living with a huge, dark cloud over their heads… a sense that one could be diagnosed with HIV, and you… might not live a long life and be able to even reach retirement. And I think it created a sense of, “I’m just going to live for the day. I’m just going to enjoy life as much as I possibly can right now, because I’m scared of what tomorrow may or may not hold.” There were 75 million people infected with HIV, 35 million deaths. [But now, although] we don’t have a cure yet, we have treatments, treatments that reduce infection to a point where the viral load is not detectable inside someone’s body. And they don’t pass the virus on to someone else. We really believe we can end AIDS by 2030, but we have to keep our foot on the accelerator.
So it’s a shift in mentality from, “I’m just going to make ends meet, and I’m just going to live my life and enjoy every day because it could all end tomorrow,” to, “I don’t want to be working the way I’m working for the rest of my life. I want to have a time when I can have more freedom and enjoy myself.” And again, I think that’s down to making a financial plan. I think you sit down and you have to visualize. Sit down with your partner, sit down with your husband, with your wife, your lover, whatever title you have, [and get granular.] Whenever I feel like sometimes things are getting a bit untethered, I’ve never, ever regretted and always appreciated the support I get by putting things into a structure, putting them into a plan, giving them a shape and a timeline. So write down the things you want, the kind of life you want to have, when you want to do it, and how much money you need to have put aside in order to reach those goals.
[In our case] Elton’s just finished a very successful tour. [So now the question is,] how am I going to manage those resources to maximize our return on it, [but also] so that it’s invested safely? Elton’s going to be 76 soon, and I don’t want to ever be in a situation where I have to say to him, “Oh, we’re a little short this year. You’re gonna have to go back on the road and do 20 more concerts or 30 more concerts.” I want retirement to be real freedom for him.
JC: Speaking of the Farewell Yellow Brick Road tour, your sponsor was The Alliance for Lifetime Income, the first not-for-profit partner an Elton John tour has ever had. Why choose them as your partner – and why continue the partnership beyond the US tour?
DF: Elton has fans who have been listening to his music for 50 years. They are at the same stage of life that he’s at – where they’re going into the next phase of their life, which involves not working as much or retiring altogether. And it’s a tour that has a specific goal in mind – for Elton and I to be able to provide for our family so that we can enjoy the most fruitful and wonderful retirement. So, to partner and ally ourselves with an organization like The Alliance for Lifetime Income is a perfect fit. And now that we’re in the final stretch, I’m just allowing myself to exhale a little bit. Oh my goodness, it’s already feeling so sweet. I’m really genuinely excited about that.
“I’m sure my fans have big plans for their next chapter just as I do,” said Elton. “I want my fans to follow their own Yellow Brick Road so they can continue to check off all of those amazing things on their bucket list. Over the past year, and thanks to the Alliance, David and I have learned that protected income from an annuity can help make that possible”.
– Elton John
JC: When we had a chance to speak to Elton, he told us on his bucket list are a couple of specific things. Taking the boys to more Watford games –
DF: Absolutely, as long as they win.
JC: Paging Ted Lasso! And spending more time on the Foundation. But what’s on your personal bucket list?
DF: There are places I’d like to travel and take the boys. I have a real fascination and love of India… and our sons both want to go to the Antarctic, and Elton wants to go as well. I have no idea how to get there. Or what you do when you get there. But it’s something that we can all do together, which is great.
JC: Amazing, David. Thank you so much for doing this with us. We appreciate it.
For more insights into how you can plan ahead for your own next chapter in life and make your income last a lifetime, visit the Tools and Guides section of The Alliance website.