Tom Hegna is an economist, author, and speaker. He has been an incredibly popular industry speaker for many years and is considered by many to be The Retirement Income Expert.

Where did you grow up and what was your childhood like?

I grew up in a small town in Minnesota (Pop 2,500). Both of my parents were teachers so we never had a lot of money. I had numerous jobs, even as a kid to make money. I sold seeds door to door, Raffle tickets, sold popcorn and soda at the fair, etc.

Did you have any particular experiences/stories that shaped your adult life?

I think being a paperboy was an incredible experience. Having the discipline to get up EVERY day at 5 am, rain, shine, -30 Degree windchill, it didn’t matter, the paper had to be delivered. But then collecting was even harder. People wouldn’t answer the door or their phone, they came up with all kinds of excuses why they couldn’t pay the $1.50 they owed. I had to go back 3, 4, 5 times to collect the $1.50. But I LOVED the people who paid for 12 weeks at a time. I had a checking account and had to learn how to handle money and people.

What is something you wish you would’ve realized earlier in your life?

Maybe that I should have smelled the roses a little more while I was working. I took my work so seriously to the detriment of some relationships. I’m not saying I would do things totally differently, I wouldn’t, but maybe on the margins, I would have slowed it down a bit. But I’m making up for lost time now! My golf handicap is the lowest it’s ever been. I won the club championship – I’m the oldest club champion in course history. I’m trying to live the “Don’t Worry, Retire Happy” lifestyle.

What are bad recommendations you hear in your profession or area of expertise?

“Only buy Term Life Insurance,” “Annuities are bad”, “Long Term Care Insurance is too expensive” Each of these has caused a lot of pain to the people who listened to this stuff. The truth is that less than 2% of Term policies ever pay a death claim. Death is a permanent problem that needs a permanent solution. You cannot retire optimally without a guaranteed lifetime income. That is a fact. So annuities must be part of a retirement portfolio. And if you think Long Term Care Insurance is expensive, you ought to try NOT having it. That will wipe you out.

Tell me about one of the darker periods you’ve experienced in life. How you came out of it and what you learned from it?

I’ve had 3 really dark times in my life. I teach my kids that life is not fair in the short term but in the long term, it’s pretty fair. Meaning that bad things happen to good people all of the time. 3 times in my life I have been treated very, very unfairly. Each time it was caused by poor leadership. Leaders who did not give a care in the world about me and only focused on themselves. Each time, I left the organization. Each time I was hurt deeply. But each time I kept moving forward. I joined a new organization and reached higher highs. That is also something I noticed. Over time, the highs in my life got higher after each low which was lower than the previous time. Keep moving forward and don’t look back.

What is one thing that you do that you feel has been the biggest contributor to your success so far?

It is my work ethic, for sure. I’m not smarter or better looking than the other guys. I just will outwork everyone. Maybe not anymore because I’m at a different place in my life now, but for 30 years, I knew no one that outworked me. Nights, weekends, holidays, whatever it took. Certainly, I sacrificed a lot but now I get to reap the rewards of that work. Remember, if you do the things no one else will do, you can live the way no one else can…

What is your morning routine?

Since I’m Army, I’ve always been an early riser. I’m normally up by 5 or 5:30. Earlier if I have a flight to catch, later if I got in late. Since I spent 30 years on the road, my routine depended on my schedule. I never had a 9 to 5 job so there was really nothing routine about my mornings. I had to check my email, social media, see what the markets were doing, etc.

What habit or behavior that you have pursued for a few years has most improved your life?

My calendar is always filled. Every day is mapped out ahead of time. This keeps me on track and helps me avoid wasting time. Many people waste a lot of time every day. I know because now that I’m semi-retired, if I don’t put things on my calendar, I will waste time too. We all have 24 hours every day. Some people use their time much better than others.

What are your strategies for being productive and using your time most efficiently?

This kind of ties in with the last few questions. I keep my calendar full of productive activities. I work hard, I read, I study, I learn from those who know things I don’t. I will say that Social Media is a huge time suck. Limit your time spent on unproductive activities.

What book(s) have influenced your life the most? Why?

The book Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill had a significant influence on me when I entered the insurance business. Sales is really a mental game and that book really got me to focus on what was important every day and how you must stay positive despite all of the negative things that happen in the sales business. Marv Feldman’s Man on a Mission is great for those in the Life Insurance industry. The Feldman family has sold more life insurance than any other family in America and he shares their secrets in that book. David McKnight’s Power of Zero is another one.

Do you have any quotes you live by or think of often?

If it’s to be, it’s up to ME!