Do you want a wealthy retirement without worrying about money? Welcome to “Retire in Texas”, where you will discover how to enjoy your faith, your family, and your freedom in the State of Texas—and, now, here's your host, financial advisor, author, and all-around good Texan, Darryl Lyons.
Darryl: Hey, this is Darryl Lyons, CEO and co-founder of PAX Financial Group, and you're listening to Retire in Texas—and I always have to give you the disclosure. This information is general in nature only. It’s not intended to provide specific investment, tax, or legal advice. Visit PAXFinancialGroup.com.
I'm excited today because I’ve got a long-time [friend]. It's like every time I do a show, I say this is a longtime friend, but we've known—Michelle, how long have we known each other now?
Michelle: Probably 15 to 20 years.
Darryl: I know, we were just talking about it and you've seen me grow up. [01:01.0]
Michelle: You've done well.
Darryl: Thank you. Yeah, you’ve kind of seen me grow up, right?
Michelle: Taken good care of yourself.
Darryl: Thank you. Now, pronounce your last name?
Darryl: Jacobson. So, Jacob-son.
Michelle: Son of Jacob.
Darryl: I love that last name. I've got a Jacobson friend. He's an attorney. See, I heard he’ll actually be on the podcast. Are you related to other Jacobsons here in San Antonio?
Michelle: Yes, but not the attorney.
Darryl: Not the attorney. Now, where were you from originally?
Michelle: Many years ago.
Darryl: Did you go to high school in Dallas?
Michelle: I did.
Darryl: What high school?
Michelle: Hillcrest, aka Hebrew High.
Darryl: Is that Hebrew High?
Michelle: That was its nickname
Michelle: Because there's so many Jewish people there.
Darryl: Is that right? Is it in Dallas proper?
Michelle: Yes, Dallas proper, center of Dallas, Hillcrest and Meadow Lane.
Darryl: Okay, and so growing up in that community, what did your parents do?
Michelle: My father died when I was very young, so I just grew up with my mother. My father died when I was 15 months old. He was a pediatrician. My mom never worked outside the household.
Darryl: Did she have enough to support you guys from his death? Is that how that worked? [02:01.6]
Michelle: He never had the opportunity to build wealth as a physician because he died at 42.
Michelle: He did have one investment that gave her a small stipend a month, as well as whatever she got from Social Security, and we were very middle class.
Darryl: How did she afford things if she didn't work?
Michelle: Were very middle class and those two streams of income gave us -
Darryl: That was enough?
Michelle: - a decent middle-class income and life.
Darryl: And so, it was you and who else?
Michelle: My mom.
Darryl: No, but you and your mom. That's it.
Michelle: Me and my mom.
Darryl: Okay, for some reason, because I read through your notes before and I thought you had a sibling, but no?
Michelle: I have half siblings that I’ve since found because I was adopted, but, no, just my mom and I.
Darryl: Oh, wow.
Michelle: I grew up with a lot of cousins. That may be what you read.
Darryl: Yeah, and so did you find your community with your cousins to be a part of your family? Were y'all close?
Michelle: Oh, yes, huge. Oh, yes, very. Yeah, together almost daily or every other day.
Darryl: Was Hebrew High a wealthy--
Michelle: It wasn't called Hebrew High.
Darryl: I know. I'm just playing with you, yeah. Was that a wealthy community? Upper middle class? [03:01.3]
Michelle: It was upper middle class, right.
Darryl: Yeah. Going to high school there-- Here's my thing. When I have a friend who grew up without a dad, it impacts them.
Darryl: When you become an adult, you look back and you say, “Okay, I had to overcome this deficiency in my life,” and you're a very strong person. I've known you for a long time, and so a lot of your strength is saying, “Okay, I’ve got to find the strength to get through these times,” maybe because your mom showed that same strength.
Michelle: Or I gave her the fill-in or I became the male figure.
Darryl: Yeah, I didn't think about that. Now, did you go to college after high school or how did that [happen]?
Michelle: Yeah, Texas Tech.
Darryl: Texas Tech. See, I didn't know that. Guns Up?
Michelle: Guns Up, and I hate that term, but, yes.
Darryl: Yeah. Are you still involved with Tech at all?
Michelle: Yeah, I watch the games once in a while.
Darryl: After Tech, where did you go?
Michelle: Came to San Antonio right after college.
Darryl: Okay, what brought you to San Antonio from there?
Michelle: My first husband who got into dental school here, and I took the first job I could find, because, clearly, he was in school and not working, and I started as a copywriter. [04:08.7]
Darryl: Did you have any desire to get in the medical industry?
Darryl: Like your dad?
Michelle: No, didn't have that side.
Michelle: No. My father was my adopted father, so it wasn't biological.
Darryl: Yeah, but I was just curious if maybe it ever resonated with you.
Michelle: No. I mean, I didn't have his influence.
Darryl: Dental school is in San Antonio. A lot of people listening around the country. It's a big deal in San Antonio. They've got a great dental school.
Michelle: They do indeed.
Darryl: Yeah. You came here, your first husband, and it was a really great time in San Antonio to get in kind of the PR business and the marketing business.
Darryl: Media business, media buying.
Michelle: Media selling.
Darryl: Media selling. Tell the audience a little bit more about what that is.
Michelle: I couldn't believe they paid me, and I couldn't believe they paid me that much to do something that I loved. I heard about the job through a friend who said, “You should go apply for this,” because the job I had, I was finished with my work by 10 o'clock in the morning. I was bored horribly as a copywriter, and I said, “I don't want to be in sales.” I think I imagined the Fuller Brush salesmen who used to come by our house, and she said, “You don't know what you're talking about.” [05:14.5]
Go, interview, and they told me about the position, and it already paid more than my paltry salary I was making. I said, “What have I got to lose?” I started, and within six months, I just adored it. It basically is a position where you inform people about a product or products that you love, and it's a relationship business. This is how it was in the early days.
Darryl: Yeah, absolutely.
Michelle: And it was just right up my alley, talking to people all day and helping them grow their businesses. It was wonderful.
Darryl: But, I mean, that wasn't the internet.
Michelle: Oh, way pre-Internet.
Darryl: Yeah, way pre-internet.
Michelle: It was total over-the-air broadcast.
Darryl: Yeah, and that was how you got your message out. [06:00.3]
Darryl: There wasn't an “I'm going to do Facebook ads.”
Michelle: You used radio, you used TV, or you used newspaper, and newspaper was the biggest at the time.
Darryl: Was it really?
Michelle: Yeah. Now look at it.
Darryl: What about phonebooks?
Michelle: Phonebooks were huge.
Darryl: Right, in the back of the phonebook.
Michelle: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Darryl: Did you sell any ads in the phone books, or No?
Darryl: The thing about it is you're helping business owners identify ways to grow their business.
Darryl: And then you are responsible for maintaining those relationships.
Darryl: Was there a lot of fun involved in this?
Michelle: Very much fun. Very much fun, and creativity, because in order to get somebody to react to your business, you have to engage them over the year, so you have to be creative in your outreach and I had a lot of input in that, and that was … I started as a copywriter. I loved to write, and that was a very fun part of the business.
Darryl: Oh, yeah.
Michelle: Creating the commercials. You didn't do it for advertising agencies. They did it for themselves and that was a big part of the business as well. But for this smaller direct clients -
Darryl: Yeah, that's right.
Michelle: - you helped them create everything, so it was wonderful. [07:01.4]
Darryl: So, you got to use that creative side.
Michelle: I did a slogan for one business that still uses that slogan today, and that was from 40 years ago.
Darryl: No kidding.
Darryl: Can you share that?
Michelle: I don't know. I don't know if that's proprietary.
Darryl: Yeah. Okay, gotcha. But it's still cool.
Michelle: Yeah, it's very cool.
Darryl: Hey, I learned something, a while back, but apparently my great-grandfather was responsible for the logo on Frito-Lay.
Darryl: Yeah, that’s kind of cool, right?
Darryl: Frito-Lay is a San Antonio company.
Darryl: Was, yeah.
Michelle: And that's PepsiCo.
Darryl: Yeah, exactly. Did you work with some of the real established companies here in San Antonio?
Michelle: Oh, yes. Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Darryl: Yeah, I was thinking you did. Yeah.
Michelle: And then, as my position grew and I got into national sales, I worked with companies from all over the world.
Darryl: Now, the creative side gets you in the door, but it's the analytics that keep you there.
Michelle: Early on, it was minor analytics. There was not the deep research early on. Remember I started in ’79, so it was pure ratings, but there wasn't the psychographic information available for a while.
Michelle: And in the analysis that now it's total analysis. [08:02.0]
Darryl: It's total analysis.
Michelle: Right, right.
Darryl: Even then, I still think there's another layer to go, because a lot of it is still you buy a lot based on impressions.
Darryl: People will pay for impressions. We've got--
Michelle: Eyeballs, earballs.
Darryl: Yeah, eyeballs, earballs. Yeah.
Darryl: But still, now analytics is going deep and you're looking for really tangible stuff, right?
Michelle: Sure. Sure.
Darryl: But at the time, you were really using your creativeness to develop content, and then you had the analytics to show that you were providing eyeballs or ears.
Michelle: Ear, ears at that time. Yeah, I got into TV later.
Darryl: Okay, so let's move into TV. When did you get into TV?
Michelle: When Univision-- I started in English radio, but they also owned a Spanish radio station. I ended up in the Spanish side, which was wonderful because my degree was in radio, TV, and Spanish, so it was wonderful for me to be able to use the language, the second language that I loved. And when Univision bought the company that I was with at the time, I basically stayed with the same company, but it changed. [09:01.7]
Darryl: They changed, yeah.
Michelle: They changed five times. Univision also had the TV stations, and we were allowed to cross-sell, so I had to learn the TV business. That was in the 2000s, mid-2000s.
Darryl: Univision was just an infant at that time.
Darryl: I mean, relative to where it's at today.
Michelle: Early adult.
Michelle: Yeah, yeah.
Darryl: I mean, it's got a lot of respect today.
Michelle: Oh, it’s huge. Yeah. I don't know where it stands in the local community, but huge. Yes, it's a huge company.
Darryl: Our mutual friend, you remember Andres Gutierrez?
Michelle: Of course.
Darryl: Andres and I still talk about Univision, and so it's part of our dialogue. It's not necessarily my community, because my Spanish is subpar, but I know it's a really important resource for a lot of primary Spanish speakers.
Michelle: It would be a good place for you to go if you’ve got Spanish speakers on your staff.
Darryl: That's true, yeah. I used to watch novellas, Pobre niña rica, to learn my Spanish.
Michelle: Oh, que bien.
Darryl: To learn my Spanish.
Michelle: Bueno lugar para aprender español.
Darryl: Yeah, thank you. And so Univision, you were doing TV. [10:00.0]
Michelle: Radio, TV, and online, internet stuff.
Darryl: As we kind of advance, I'm kind of taking people on a journey from childhood to college to early career, and I'm missing a lot because your life is much more complex, so forgive me for that. But for the sake of time, did there get to a point with burnout? I mean, what made you want to transition into retirement?
Michelle: Oh, yes, corporate America style of management.
Darryl: Did it get there?
Michelle: Oh, yes. Yeah, yeah, it did. It did.
Darryl: I mean, obviously, they changed. The leadership changes and then they become really, really dogmatic about numbers versus relationships. Did you feel that piece?
Michelle: Let's just say that it wasn't the environment that I loved. It's still a great company.
Michelle: But I believe that environment exists in most of the media companies today.
Darryl: Yeah. Oh, it's tough.
Michelle: It’s business today.
Darryl: It's business, yeah. [10:56.5]
Michelle: It's business today, and the media business has changed hugely since I began. We did not have social media. We did not have internet when I started. All of the media companies are going through magnificent, huge changes that have had to make them shift into online, into streaming, etc., that give them a place to grow, but just have to adapt.
Darryl: We had Helen Thompson.
Michelle: She's great.
Darryl: Did you listen to her episode by any chance?
Michelle: No, no, but I love her.
Darryl: You have to listen. But, yeah, she was sitting in this chair, too, and she was sharing with me the changes in the media space. Her son is now taking over.
Michelle: Sure. Brandon.
Darryl: It’s dynamic changes.
Darryl: And I don't think people appreciate the media side of the business so much because it's just like everyone gets mad at commercials and everything else. But Netflix is an example. They have pay per service.
Michelle: As does Hulu,
Darryl: As does Hulu, but that's not going to be sustainable. They're going to have to go to media buying. We'll see that probably over the next 12 months. I mean, Netflix, they changed to-- they want to add gaming. [12:01.6]
Michelle: There will be two options that you'll be able to have the lower-priced one with advertising and the higher-priced one without, just like HBO.
Darryl: You're exactly right, and I think from a consumer perspective, that's all we see. Right? Commercials or not commercials, right?
Darryl: But behind the scenes is what I'm trying to get people to appreciate. Your career path was making sure that you put quality commercials, commercials that sent a message to the right audience at the right time that were engaging.
Michelle: That's still the goal, though, with whatever-- The message will get to somebody, and so the way it's perceived, heard, or seen, that’s it. The creative is the most important part of it. There's listeners, viewers, online, people on every platform, so wherever you are, the message is the most important.
Darryl: Yeah, that's good. Do you still have a critical eye whenever you hear messages, or ear?
Michelle: Oh, sure.
Michelle: Sure, sure. Even at the-- we went to the UTSA vs. UT game and I was watching some of their messaging on just the TV screens in between the place, and I thought, Gosh, they've got a really good writer here in a creative team here for the sponsors. For example, when they were doing their “Get loud! Get loud!” message. [13:12.0]
Michelle: It was brought to you by NS or MS Audiology, and I thought, Oh my God, that's so perfect.
Darryl: That is perfect, yeah.
Michelle: They're killing our ears and they're recommending an audiologist with it. It was perfect.
Darryl: That is perfect.
Michelle: Yeah, so, yes, of course, I do.
Darryl: It is really fun, and I think a lot of people that are listening, it's a different business, right, but it's a really cool one because of the art and science involved. I've always found it to be very interesting and the creativity involved in it. Going back to the corporate world, it was just getting too corporate and then did you just wake up one day and say, “I quit,” or how did that go?
Michelle: I was getting towards the age as well and the ability to stop, and I had an opportunity to leave and it was just like, this is good timing.
Darryl: Was there anything that scared you about the transition?
Darryl: Zero? You were ready. You were confident. [14:01.0]
Michelle: Ready. Left for Italy the next day.
Darryl: Let me make sure I'm teasing this or asking this question the right way. Financially, was there anything scary to you at the time?
Michelle: Sure. The income is not coming in anymore, sure. Yeah, and I was ahead of Medicare a couple of years, so I had to go COBRA for 18 months.
Darryl: But that's not the end of the world.
Michelle: It's not the end of the world. I'm just saying it was another expense without the income coming in, but that took a week to adjust to.
Darryl: I want to go there for just a second because people are listening. A lot of people don't retire because of Medicare and they're sitting in a really bad job.
Michelle: That we have as a developed country. We're embarrassing as to how we take care of our citizens, and our health system and our insurance system. It's embarrassing that all of these other countries have figured it out.
Darryl: And to the point of what you experienced, you had to do COBRA for what?
Michelle: Eighteen months.
Darryl: Eighteen months. It's not the end of the world to--
Michelle: No, but it's very expensive. [14:58.8]
Darryl: It's very expensive, but what we have is we have a lot of people that are sticking in very bad jobs, and their health, they're subject to strokes and heart attacks, and they're not willing to retire because they're waiting for Medicare, and there's other solutions. They may not be great solutions and COBRA was yours.
Darryl: And so that allowed you to retire. It was a little pain adjusting to COBRA. It was, of course, expensive, but you had a game plan.
Darryl: And, financially, you felt comfortable with that game plan. Of course, you felt the pain of losing that salary, but you understood the variables and risk involved, right?
Darryl: Yeah, very cerebral in that regard. Okay, I understand the risk. I understand what I need to make, and now let's go to Italy.
Darryl: And since then, you've been traveling a lot, right?
Michelle: A lot.
Darryl: And no regrets.
Michelle: Zero. Africa, Israel, Croatia, the Balkan countries, Galapagos. Yeah, no, magnificent.
Darryl: That's so cool.
Darryl: And so, how long has it been now?
Michelle: Since June 2019. [15:58.3]
Darryl: Yeah, it's so cool to see you do it. How expensive is it? Have you figured out some of the tricks of traveling to reduce some of the cost, finding the best airfare, finding the best hotels?
Michelle: It's real tough right now.
Darryl: Is it? Yeah.
Michelle: Oh, right now it's just about impossible. The airfare is out of sight and sometimes we just say we're not going to do it right now. Hopefully, that'll calm down, but Covid messed up all the airlines.
Darryl: But you've been working through it.
Darryl: And you're working through it because you're committed, you're going to travel.
Darryl: I think that's important because--
Michelle: Time is now.
Darryl: Time is now, and a lot of people are still uncertain in retirement, because you're the type of person that says, “This is what I'm going to do, and despite the circumstances, I'm still doing it.”
Darryl: Not everyone has that attitude in retirement. They vacillate. “Oh, I want to travel, but, um, the circumstances aren't right.” You're just like, I'm traveling. The circumstances are right. We'll figure it out.
Michelle: I want to be physical, do it while I'm physically very strong. I can enjoy everything. I can do the hikes. I can do the exploration. I want to do it all.
Darryl: You're doing it all.
Darryl: Yeah, very cool.
Michelle: Yeah, love it.
Darryl: Okay, fast-forward. I’ve got several more questions to ask, but fast-forward over the next 20 years, travel is a big part. International travel, and so make it clear, not just to-- [17:07.7]
Michelle: And local. I mean, we spent the summer in Chautauqua, at the Chautauqua Institute. That is one of the most magical places on the planet.
Darryl: Okay, tell everyone where that's at.
Michelle: It's in Chautauqua, New York, which is about an hour and a half south of Buffalo.
Darryl: Yeah. Okay.
Michelle: The motto is lifelong learning, and it's in a beautiful setting on a lake with flowers everywhere, light hills, 70-degree weather during the day, which is very appealing to Texans.
Michelle: Stimulation every day. High-level speakers, high-level authors. Art, music, dance, theater every day. And you can do as much as you want or as little as you want. It's a utopia.
Darryl: You would put that up against some of your international travels?
Darryl: Okay, so you did domestic and international.
Darryl: Anything else? Set travel aside for a second, that's going to be a big part of your future. Anything else? You were involved in some non-profit work along the way?
Michelle: Oh, yeah, I’m very involved. I entered the Masters Leadership Program - [18:02.4]
Darryl: I remember that, yeah.
Michelle: - right after retirement, which I highly recommend. You have to apply and be accepted, but it is a back-scenes look at everything that makes the city work.
Darryl: I applied to that and they rejected me.
Michelle: To Masters Leadership?
Michelle: I don't believe that. You're a little young. The reason it’s called--
Darryl: At the time, I was 28.
Michelle: Oh, that's ridiculous. Yeah, you shouldn't. It's not for that. It's for when you're older. That's why it's called Masters.
Darryl: Okay, I was like a city--
Michelle: You should apply to a city leadership program.
Michelle: Yeah. No, for people, I would say, 50 and over.
Darryl: Okay, yeah.
Michelle: That's why it's called Masters Leadership.
Darryl: But I like the program.
Michelle: You should absolutely do it a little bit later.
Darryl: I tend to get in over my head. That's just part of what I do in life, so I try things that I probably shouldn't do.
Michelle: You wouldn't have fit.
Darryl: It went up. But less about me for a second. Tell me about what you liked about this program.
Michelle: The program, like I said, introduces you to the big players and the pillars that make San Antonio what it is, education, military health, technology, science, art. It shows you where the holes are in our city. We are the largest segregated city in the United States. We are the poorest big city in the United States. There is a huge amount of need here. [19:16.3]
Currently, I serve on the KLRN Endowment board and on the San Antonio River Foundation and then I'm active in Impact San Antonio, which is a magical women's giving circle. This year gave over $500,000 in grants.
Darryl: That's a very highly-respected non-profit organization, yeah.
Michelle: As it should be, because it is completely volunteer. The women that put their work into the board and into the committees, it's almost a full-time job.
Darryl: Yeah, I'd imagine so.
Michelle: And they are the smartest darn women I’ve ever seen.
Darryl: Yeah, I've heard great things about that organization.
Michelle: It's magnificent.
Darryl: You mentioned three nonprofits. There's a lot of holes in our community and beyond, and it's hard for me as a person, and we spend a lot of time, as everyone knows here at PAX, we do a lot of giving and a lot of serving. Is there one specific area that has your heart right now? [20:08.0]
Michelle: Animals always have my heart and I spent a long time in board positions in animal care, so that's why I pivoted to do something else at this time. But I’ll go back to animal rescue at some point.
Darryl: That makes sense. This is just kind of a change of pace a little bit.
Michelle: Then the poverty issues here, the childhood issues here. There's so much to do.
Darryl: That's a whole nother episode.
Michelle: A whole nother episode. That'll be Chapter 2.
Darryl: Yeah. You've retired well. They say retirement, the definition of retirement is to dispose of an asset that no longer has a useful life.
Michelle: I'm very much in favor of what the leader of Patagonia just did.
Darryl: What's that?
Michelle: Just donated his fortune to climate change to try to mitigate it, everything, his company, yeah.
Darryl: You don't see that too often, but you're donating your life to many of these causes.
Michelle: Trying. The motto of our class in Masters Leadership was “from success to significance.” [21:06.0]
Darryl: Yeah, that's good.
Darryl: Yeah. Bob Buford, I think, wrote a book called “From Success to Significance.”
Michelle: I don't think, yeah, we didn't originate it. We used it.
Darryl: Yeah, yeah, yeah, but it's still meaningful. It’s so cool to see you not just enjoy this life of significance, but also having a good time along the way and traveling.
Michelle: Yeah, yeah.
Darryl: Any last thoughts? I have one more question.
Darryl: Okay, it's the most important question.
Michelle: Let's do it.
Darryl: What's your favorite salsa?
Michelle: I am a salsa lover and I love it hot. My favorite one is a fresh one in the produce section. I usually get it at Trader Joe's. It's called Wright’s. That's Wright’s Habanero Green Salsa, and it is just the most delicious combination of flavors and heat.
Darryl: Okay. Do you like it hot?
Michelle: Oh, I love it hot.
Michelle: The hotter the better.
Darryl: Okay, so that's at Trader Joe's?
Michelle: It’s at Trader Joe's. It’s at Central Market. It may be at H-E-B as well. But I usually get it at Trader Joe’s.
Darryl: Is it Wright with a “W”? [22:00.8]
Michelle: Yeah, and it's Wight’s of Texas.
Darryl: Okay, cool.
Michelle: Yeah, so it's a Texas company. I don't know where it's made.
Darryl: Love it.
Michelle: But it's really good.
Darryl: Okay, good. Thank you. Hey, this has been cool to catch up with you.
Michelle: Thank you. Very nice to see you.
Darryl: I learned a lot about you. I think it's been cool to know you for 20 years from the outside, but to learn that you were adopted and mom raised you, and then all the success that you had in the media business and now transitioning to this really cool retirement, it has been an honor, so thank you.
Michelle: Life is good and I'm very grateful. Thanks, Darryl.
Darryl: Thank you.
Thanks for listening to Retire in Texas. I really appreciate it. For those that stayed until the end, remember if you need to meet with an advisor, it doesn't cost you anything, there's no obligation, but you can text “Texas” to the number 74868. That's “Texas” to 74868. And I just want to remind you to think long term. Have a great day. [22:46.7]
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