Pasta, Pizza, and Passion

Retirement math isn’t what you think.

Investors focus limited time on asset allocation percentages, market returns, and perfect withdrawal rates.

While not inconsequential, they pale compared to the stats that matter.

Let’s say someone retires at 65. Maybe they’ll be lucky enough to get another ten years of good health. That equates to a little over 500 weeks. If one works for 45 years, that adds up to almost 2,400 weeks. If you agree with these figures, there’s a 5:1 discrepancy between work years and savoring a healthy retirement.

You better make those 500 retirement weeks count.

Don’t look for this math on a spreadsheet, but I think you would agree it’s a little more important than the Dow’s return this year.

As a financial advisor, I spend an inordinate portion of my work week encouraging people to take advantage of this diminishing window of opportunity. It can permanently close at a moment’s notice with no prior warning. Death plays no favorites.

As I get older, pondering my window occupies lots of headspace.

I imagine myself sitting on the other side of the table; how would I maximize this crucial period?

What would bring me the most joy?

Where could I spend time that would connect all the various aspects of a good life?

My answer is Italy.

It’s easy to feel disconnected in American society. People stare at their phones, rush to places in their cars, and buy lots of stuff they don’t need.

Don’t get me wrong, America is a great country, but we focus too much on external pleasure rather than internal peace. We don’t realize the material pleasures we seek are often the root of our suffering. Life isn’t meant to be lived on Instagram.

My experiences in Italy tell a different story.

Many cities are based on the concept of a Piazza. A centralized location where people can connect without their cars and phones. Small shops, cafes, and restaurauants inhabit this space.

Homes are conveniently located within walking distance. The journey to the Piazza includes lots of fresh air and exercise. Not surprisingly, when people arrive for a slice of pizza or a cup of expresso, their phone stays in their pockets.

Conversation with real people replaces an imaginary life on social media.

People care about what you have to say and are generally interested in hearing different viewpoints without considering you an enemy of the state. Rather than using the pretense of listening as an excuse for what they will opine about next, their questions are sincere and thoughtful.

While you don’t encounter many Ginormous SUVs, 120-inch Flat Screen TVs, or 10,000-square-foot McMansions, nature is the playground.


Hikes and Bike rides in the mountains and walks through ancient history make the idea of uber-consumption seem trivial. What can you purchase that’s more majestic than a magnificent mountain range meant to be shared by all?

Food has achieved religious status in Italy. Pizza and Pasta are its high priests. I can think of worse things than after a strenuous day of outdoor activity replenishing my body with the most sumptuous cuisine on the planet.

Recently, Dina and her brother and sister made a trip to see our relatives. Their stories confirmed my retirement plans.


I’ve been to Italy as a young man, and putting a period on my life by returning to the youth of my old age is a n0-brainer.

The moral of the story is to find your own Italy. It might be charitable work, a neglected hobby, or reestablishing old relationships.

Never lose sight of your limited time frame; don’t let market noise or a numbers fetish distract you from what’s important.

Start thinking about this today.

Five hundred weeks can pass in the blink of an eye.

If you make it that far.



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