Stephen Pollan's revolutionary 1997 best seller "Die Broke" shook traditional retirement planning to its core with its audacious four-step mantra: "Quit today, pay cash, don't retire and die broke." Among the vest-and-wingtip crowd, Pollan might just as well have suggested, "Turn on, tune in, drop out."
At a glance
C.W. Post School of Business, Long Island University, B.S. Brooklyn Law School, New York, L.L.B.
- Best-selling author (with Mark Levine) of "Die Broke," "Live Rich" and numerous other books on personal finance.
- Television: Financial correspondent for NBC's "Today" show, ABC's "Good Morning, America," CBS "This Morning", PBS "Nightly Business Report" and Wall Street Journal Reports.
- Print: Contributing editor, Personal Finance Magazine; columnist, Working Woman magazine.
- Business: Practicing lawyer for 35 years; senior vice president of National Westminster Bank; CEO of an American Stock Exchange-listed closed-end investment company.
- Teaching: Adjunct professor of Business Management at Marymount Manhattan College and C.W. Post University's School of Business.
- Consulting: Small business consultant to AT&T, Irving Trust Company, Commercial Credit Corporation (Prime America), Manufacturers Hanover Trust, Citibank, Intuit.
- Member, Small Business Administration Advisory Council.
Ten years later however, "Die Broke" and its companion piece "Live Rich" have become virtual blueprints for baby boomers as they prepare to reinvent retirement. Many boomers have already left the corporate world to gain greater control of their career (quit today), freed themselves from debt (pay cash), and now plan to remain active (don't retire) and safely transfer their assets to their heirs while they're still around to enjoy the giving (die broke).
At 78, Pollan not only espouses the "Die Broke" philosophy, he lives it. He and his wife Corky remain active in their busy careers, they've transferred their property to their four children including actress Tracy Pollan (Mrs. Michael J. Fox) and author Michael Pollan ("The Omnivore's Dilemma") and still plan to bounce that final check to the undertaker.
Let's talk about dying broke.
Dying broke has caught on. People were horrified when I came out with the concept of dying broke, because this was a time when many people were measured, oddly enough, by the size of their estates. If you left a lot of money, you had a good life. Today, if you die with too much, you're considered a big schmuck.
At first blush, most people thought "Die Broke" was a manifesto of greed and selfishness.
Today, the belief is, you want to have your money maximize its productivity, which means if you're going to be giving it, you'll give it when it's needed, not on the arbitrary date of death. If you're thinking of your children, it's when the child gets married, buys a home or starts a business. But when the baby boomer dies, those children are going to be 50-some odd years old; if those kids need the money, then something's wrong with them. All you're doing when you take money with you is giving orders from the grave. I think dying broke today has become more a part of our culture than ever before.
Financial planners today tell us that the biggest difference between baby boomers and their parents is that boomers are more concerned about outliving their money than about leaving a massive estate.
That's right. That's the biggest fear now. Which is why, incidentally, annuities are coming back into vogue. What better way to die broke than a charitable annuity or a clean, decent annuity where, even today, if you're 75, you can get yourself an 8 percent yield, and sometimes a little bit more.