Retirement has been, up until very recently, a much-longed-for experience-a time of rest, reward, leisure and financial ease. This kind of retirement lifestyle experience is being seriously challenged by a new wave of individuals who call themselves unretirees.
“Unretire” became an official entry in the Random House Unabridged Dictionary in 2006:
– verb (used without object), -tired, -tir-ing
to return to the work force after having been retired
– Related forms
1 unretirement. Dictionary.com. Dictionary.com Unabridged (v 1.1). Random House, Inc. http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/unretirement (accessed: August 19, 2008).
An increasing number of retirees are becoming unretirees. They are embracing the unretirement lifestyle, looking for meaning, mental stimulation, human connection, physical action and money. Unretirement may not be for everyone, but it is sure working for the five unretirees who I recently interviewed!
Werner Keller’s Road to Life’s Riches
Older entrepreneurs never die, they simply rebirth themselves. And, so it is with Werner Keller, a Wall Street analyst and portfolio manager. After working in the money business in New York and Los Angeles for 25 years, Werner founded Centurion Capital Management in Los Angeles in 1991, and managed over $2 billion of client assets. Ten years later, Centurion was acquired by General Electric Capital (now Genworth), and Werner was instantly retired.
A three-year period of retirement followed the sale due to acquisition-related intellectual property and non-compete agreements. He describes himself as “being miserable and starting a search for ways to kick his own butt back into the game of life.” In 2005, at age 65, Werner unretired and formed Keller Partners LLC, a registered investment adviser firm based in Oxnard, California, that advises money managers on hedging strategies and manages energy portfolios for high-net worth individuals (www.kellerpartnersllc.com).
What does all of this have to do with unretirement? Werner believes that these rules represent the underlying conditioning for unretirees. Like any training, the process won’t always be fun-but he believes that if you develop some or all of the above mindsets, business opportunities large and small will present themselves automatically.
“Actually,” Werner says, “they are always right there when your mind is prepared to see them.” He welcomes conversations on unretirement at email@example.com.
Joan and Bruce on the High Seas of Adventure
Joan Worthing and Bruce Dinsmore have had a love affair with sailing for more than 20 years. Living in Southampton, Long Island for more than three decades could explain that. They are currently sailing out of Sag Harbor on the Wave Equation, their C&C 99, 32-foot sloop. They race most Wednesdays and many weekends in the May to October season, and take at least one two-week cruise a year on Wave Equation. They are involved in scoring races in Sag Harbor’s Breakwater Yacht Club, and are officers of Eastern Long Island Yachting Association (www.elisailing.org), and their home is filled with 20 years’ worth of racing trophies and awards.
Bruce and Joan taught high school chemistry and math respectively for almost 30 years. Bruce retired in 2000, and Joan followed two years later. One would think that when they retired from their full-time teaching careers, sailing, and all that is related to it, would be enough to keep them satisfied in retirement… but it did not take Bruce long to discover that the traditional retirement lifestyle did not work for him. Since he and his wife already had a passion for cruising, he decided to work part-time for their travel agent. It was a little something to fill in the time while he waited for Joan to take her full retirement. And that was how one more retiree became, well, an unretiree.
Bruce, 62, and Joan, 57, now team up for 10 to 50 hours per week in their own travel business that they operate out of their home. They mainly book cruise travel and all-inclusive vacations, but also book group and individual land destinations. They are both credentialed by CLIA (Cruise Lines International Association); Bruce is an MCC (Master Cruise Counselor) and Joan is an ACC (Accredited Cruise Counselor). Their client base developed from friends, former students and family into a national database. Their website offers amazing travel packages (www.worthmoretravel.4mydeals.com).
Teaching is not gone from their lives altogether. They both tutor several times a week. In addition, Bruce rounds off his unretirement with weekly gigs playing keyboard at local restaurants, clubs and events.
Bruce and Joan will be happy to discuss their unretirement lifestyle with you. You can email them at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dan and Norma Find the Road to Happiness
Norma Alkins and Dan Mitchell of Golden Valley, Arizona, retired in 1999 and unretired in 2000. Dan’s earlier career was comprised of 37 years in the construction of refineries, dams and power plants nationwide. It was hazardous work; he toiled at 200 to 300 feet above ground level in all kinds of weather. Norma was a nutritional educator in hospitals, schools, private industry and county government in New Jersey and Arizona.
Dan and Norma met in late 2000. Dan was divorced, Norma widowed, and both were retired. A romance quickly developed into a relationship and before either of them knew it they were off living Dan’s dream of seeing the USA in an RV. For Dan, it was a nostalgic revisit to many of the construction projects on which he had worked. For Norma, it was a magical discovery that there really was something between her home state of New Jersey and her new home in Arizona. And so began their six-months-of-each-year-on-the-road RV lifestyle.
The fall of 2001 found them in an RV park in Casper, Wyoming. Destiny struck when Norma spotted an ad in the RV park office for Southeast Publications. The ad read, “How would you like to travel, have fun and make money?”
Dan and Norma followed up on the ad and discovered that Southeast Publications USA, Inc., one of the oldest, most solid companies in the business of furnishing site maps for a number of industries, was recruiting active RV owners into the business of selling ad space on campground site maps throughout the United States.
Norma and Dan decided to give it a try. They were provided with several months of very supportive training, both on-the-job and at biannual sales meetings. That was not enough to turn a construction worker and an educator into super salespersons overnight. “Client rejection was a killer,” said Dan. “Working the numbers game day after day was exhausting, but when the money started rolling in, it was
Seven years later life finds Norma, 71, and Dan, 70, eager to be up and out on work days. Their work flow varies-sometimes it is seven days a week, sometimes zero days a week. As independent contractors, they work and play when they want to, and they can choose the areas of the country in which they want to work. Their 2½ week RV park stays are all complimentary. They usually choose parks near the homes of their combined five children and four grandchildren. Their rig is a 32-foot Damon Daybreak; a Saturn sedan gets towed behind.
Annual income of Southeast Publications unretirees ranges between $6,000 and $120,000, depending on how hard an unretiree chooses to work. The job perks include meeting and working with wonderful people and working at one’s own pace in some of the most beautiful places in the country. According to Norma, “It is all about learning to do something totally new and proving to yourself that you can be good at it.”
Norma and Dan would be happy to discuss their unretirement experience via email at email@example.com.
Is Unretirement for You?
Unretirement is not for everyone. It seems to be most attractive to retirees who loved their former working careers, are adventuresome, love being with people and have an abundance of physical energy and mental curiosity. If this sounds like you, consider making plans to reinvent yourself, reenter the work force and start channeling your energies in a whole new way..
Basic Principles for Unretirement
In her recent conversation with entrepreneur Werner Keller, author Carol Segrave began to understand some of the basic Principles for Unretirement:
1. Never hang out with traditional retirees. They are often held in the grip of mental malaise and obsession with physical ailments.
2. Surround yourself with intellectual and business colleagues in their forties. Do the things they do.
3. Socialize with a younger crowd and then trick your brain into believing you belong in their era.
4. Never, ever slow down mentally or physically. The body is lazy and will be only too happy to accommodate you if you start to slow down. It actually will have a conversation with you. “Oh, you want to slow down now? Okay, that’s fine. I can slow down for you.” There goes your mind and your body on a steady decline, and you are the one who started the decline-ball rolling.
5. Take on a challenging professional project. In Werner’s case, he recently researched and wrote a technical white paper on portfolio hedging strategies. “Like doing another master’s thesis,” he complained with a smile, “lots and lots of details to get right.”
6. Look forward to, and embrace, change. For Werner and his wife Audrey, their non-business focus this year and next will be building a large home in Bend, Oregon. They hope to have it finished in time for Werner’s 70th birthday in 2010, and have designed it to accommodate future family gatherings, large and small. Between them, Werner and Audrey have four children and six grandchildren with whom to forge memories in their new home.
7. Know that in raising children, the first 40 years are the hardest. Children bring great joy, but often have needs for crisis management, career advice and cash infusions to launch their dreams. Consider it your business to facilitate wonderful memories for your grandchildren. All of the above is positive and is just a part of life.
8. Commit to being at least as computer literate as the average 25-year-old. This is a tough one, especially if you have allowed yourself to lag a little and are suddenly struggling to manage e-mail. You really need to know how to get around the Internet, embrace that new cell phone and send text messages like a 20-something.
9. Challenge yourself mentally every day. Linus Pauling, one of Werner’s heroes, said that in his 80s he tried to devote three hours every day to studying things about which he knew nothing.
10. Involve yourself with a non-profit organization. Choose one where you can really make a difference, not just show up for luncheons and auctions. Werner chairs (and sings with) the Angeles Chorale, a classical choir in Los Angeles.
Carol Segrave is President of Segrave & Associates, an Executive Coaching and Retirement Planning Consulting firm. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.