Michael Gillett from the Scone office describes John McCormick as one of the most interesting clients he’s ever had. Michael greatly admires John for his intellect and for his many achievements to date.
John is a former US infantry officer who served in Vietnam as a rifle platoon leader. During the war, John was involved in extensive ground combat and he has been highly decorated for his courageous actions. Later in life, John pursued post-graduate studies and became a high school English teacher, a role he absolutely loved. Between these two very diverse careers, John lived in Saudi Arabia for a number of years and it was here that he crossed paths with a tiny and very intelligent Australian midwife by the name of Kathleen who changed the course of his life.
Below, John offers insights into their life together, reflects upon Kathy’s tragic passing from muscular dystrophy last year and says that the impact of having a financial adviser in their lives has been ‘profound.’
John McCormick (76) has called the regional NSW town of Scone home for the better part of twenty years. He was posted there by the Department of Education as a graduate teacher in his 50s.
When we chat, John is in the final stages of packing up his home for a move back to the US. His three adult children and five grandchildren all reside there and John is in poor health after a stroke a few years ago left him incapacitated and wheelchair-bound. John will be moving into a retirement facility close to the home of his daughter Nora but he makes the move with a heavy heart…
John tells me that the past several days have been particularly difficult for him. When we speak by phone, the first anniversary of Kathy’s death is just days away and he is emptying their house of most of its possessions (and giving almost everything away to younger people who ‘need it more than me’). As he prepares to say goodbye to the home they shared for many years, he is reminded of how much he loved Kathy and how much he misses her still. He does not say this to evoke sympathy but I’m teary, nonetheless. Death, he reminds me, is part of life. John has seen enough of both to understand this well. “I had 25 good years with Kathy.”
Together, they made a wonderful life in Scone and were very fulfilled in their careers in education. Kathy was an itinerant teacher (and later a School Principal) who taught deaf children in the region whilst John taught English to high school students. “It was a great job, and I would recommend it highly to anyone.” He remains particularly proud of having taught so many kids how to use language well.
It was about 10 years ago that John and Kathy first connected with Financial Planner Michael Gillett who, at the time, shared office space with the couple’s accountant.
John says he and Kathy were both very good savers, but they knew little about investing. Consequently, their entire savings were sitting in bank accounts, and they were paying ‘outrageous taxes’ on the interest the accounts were accruing.
“Michael resolved this issue immediately and moved our money into our superannuation which then stopped the sky-high taxes we were paying. This impacted us significantly and over the years, our money has grown substantially. I’m now very comfortable financially.”
He adds, “Michael did it quickly and easily without any fuss or bother.”
I ask what difference having expert advice has made.
“It has made a profound difference and I recommend to everyone that they get a financial adviser unless they are very sharp themselves. There is an inertia against which one struggles filling out forms and trivial details.
Michael is prepared to do that for us. He has all the info he needs and completes it easily on our behalf.
He takes care of these details and although they are minor, they can cause people to delay taking the necessary steps.”
John is quick to point out that seeking professional guidance is not something people should hold off on until their later years.
“I swear by the idea of a financial adviser, and I urge young people to load up their super and get a financial adviser.
It has certainly been worth it for Kathy and me.”
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The relationship between Kathy, John and Michael was about more than business, too. Due to her muscular dystrophy, Kathy found it very hard to get around. She had difficulty walking and weighed just 35kgs. Michael would visit the couple at home for any catch ups and reviews which was always greatly appreciated. That tradition continued once John suffered his stroke and he too lost mobility. Michael says that once the work-related issues were out of the way, it was always a pleasure to spend time with John and hear stories from his fascinating life. Michael describes a home filled with countless books to satisfy voracious reader, John.
Whilst he has given much away, John’s treasured books and bookshelves will be making their way to the US with him. He leaves Australia reluctantly. “I’m going to miss Australia. With the exception of family, everything is better here than in the US. The health care is excellent, the wine is terrific, jobs are good, salaries are high, and people are warm and welcoming.”
It is lovely to hear that John reflects on life in Oz with such happiness, despite the brutal illness Kathy was battling for much of their marriage. Muscular dystrophy is an insidious disease that attacks all the muscles in the body. Kathy lost everything, including her speech. John is proud to have been such a support to Kathy during her long illness. “It was wearing and unpleasant at times but I’m glad I could care for her and I’m proud of having done it.”
There are beautiful memories to sustain John as he begins the next chapter of his life in the States. John tells me Kathy put so much effort into everything they did together. And what was it you most loved to do? I ask. “We loved to dance”, he replies. “I used to be a very accomplished dancer and I taught Kathy to dance. She turned out to be really good. For the first year of our married life, before the disease really laid itself upon Kathy, we danced aboard cruise ships. Over the years we took many cruises; we visited New Zealand perhaps a dozen times.” Jitterbug, Latin, waltz, foxtrot – you name it, they did it in style. “We had such fun dancing with one another.”
And so, with the move just days away, Michael and all of the Invest Blue team bid John a fond farewell from this, his adopted country, where he found a rewarding career, a welcoming community, financial security and of course, students who were no doubt greatly impacted by their extremely well-read and well-travelled teacher.
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Connect with Michael on LinkedIn here.
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