Top of Mind

Retirement Lessons from the Four Seasons

Sorry to disappoint classical music fans out there, but, rather than Vivaldi, we are discussing the other Four Seasons. You know, the ones that were one of the best-selling musical groups of all time and also one of only two American groups to have hits both before and after the British invasion (the other being the Beach Boys). And, since I am writing Top of Mind on this, it’s easy to guess that I am a huge fan! I grew up listening to Sherry, Dawn, Walk Like a Man, Rag Doll, and Ronnie. In fact, Jersey Boys is the only Broadway musical I have seen twice - and I will no doubt see the movie many more times than that!

Fandom aside, we can actually learn a few things about retirement from one of my favorite bands:

  • Financial wellness is a thing, even if you have a lot of money — Three of the Four Seasons grew up poor, starting out singing on street corners for change (Bob Gaudio, who joined the group later, was the only one with a middle-class upbringing). However, within one decade, they went from playing for change, to playing for $120,000 a day! But making money doesn’t necessarily translate into knowing what to do with it. Tommy DeVito was famously in debt to loan sharks, despite the riches that came with being in the group. By middle age, he was even taking odd jobs landscaping and cleaning houses! On the other end of the spectrum, Bob Gaudio recognized early the need to plan for the long term; perhaps his middle-class background and early musical success (he had a hit with the Royal Teens, called Short Shorts, prior to joining the Four Seasons) had something to do with his forward-thinking mindset. For Gaudio, this meant ensuring that the Four Seasons were not taken advantage of by record companies, and that they retained valuable publishing and other rights to their music. Unlike many other artists of their day, who barely saw a dime, the Four Seasons fared quite well financially as a result of their music (DeVito sold his rights to Gaudio and Frankie Valli, presumably due to his financial troubles).
  • Retirement may not be so bleak, even when you’re in financial difficulty — Is Tommy DeVito living out his golden years as a pauper? Well, according to published reports, it’s unlikely. After the stint cleaning houses, he appears to have figured it out, establishing a second career booking musical acts (as a member of the Four Seasons, he had been responsible for many of their early bookings as well). He now appears to be enjoying a comfortable retirement. While there is a lot of doom and gloom in the press lately about the retirement prospects of many Americans, a lot of retirees do, in fact, figure it out and manage to survive - and even thrive - financially in retirement. Now, this may change as an increasing number of baby boomers age, but the current lifestyle of many retirees does provide hope for the future.
  • Retirement paths can be very different, even among friends — Nick Massi, the bass vocalist of the group and its oldest member, quit the Four Seasons at age 38, reportedly exhausted from being in a group with a nonstop touring schedule. Presumably, for him, it had become work rather than play - so, with his financial independence in hand, he pursued other options such as spending time with his family, painting, and occasionally working on musical projects. At the other end of the spectrum is lead singer Frankie Valli, who, at age 85, is STILL working, despite having the financial independence not to do so. In fact, he is likely coming to a city near you with a new version of the Four Seasons, a band he has fronted in one form or another for over 60 years! I’m guessing that he still loves his work and is not ready to retire – and he may never be! This retirement path - or lack thereof - is not unique to celebrities; some people cannot imagine a life outside of their work. Of course, the Nick Massi-path is not uncommon either. We all are different, which is why retirement solutions are far from one-size-fits-all.
  • Celebrities - and everyone else - are living a lot longer — Amazingly, after all these years, three of the original Four Seasons are still alive; Tommy DeVito at 90, is even older than Frankie Valli, and the youngest member of the group, Bob Gaudio, is 76. Only Nick Massi is no longer with us, but even he lived to 73. If you look around, it is easy to see that people, in general, are living a lot longer, which, going forward, will present advantages (more time to save!) and challenges (more time to spend!) in retirement.

No matter how you feel about the Four Seasons, I hope you enjoyed their valuable retirement lessons!

Any other thoughts you would like to share on retirement and/or the Four Seasons? I would love to hear from you on LinkedIn, Twitter or at!

Note: This feature is to provide general information only, does not constitute legal advice, and cannot be used or substituted for legal or tax advice. Opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily represent the opinions of Cammack Retirement Group.

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