Retirement Redefined

Different ways to make the golden years work for you...

   Bob Wasky traded in a 28-year career as a mechanical engineer to run his own high-end restaurant in a bustling tourist town.
Tom Hetherington spent 25 years as a school administrator before taking a captain's course and opening a chartered boat business in Southport, North Carolina.
   Rita Montequin worked as an information analyst for the National Security Administration before she found fulfillment working in the floral department at her local grocery store.
   It looks like the boomer generation is just getting started.
   That includes Robert Gorman, coauthor of "ReWorking Retirement: A Practical Guide for Retirees Returning to the Workplace" (Adams Media, $14.95).
   A former financial planner and insurance executive, Gorman found retirement to be quite boring. Endless empty days framed by the occasional golf game - it wasn't exactly how he had pictured his golden years.
So he went back to work.
   Now, a part-time business professor at the University of North Carolina Wilmington and an author, Gorman not only extols the virtues of working during retirement, he serves as an example of how fulfilling a second career can be. "The previous generation had seven to eight years of retirement to sit at home and read the paper, but people are living longer and retiring earlier. Now you're looking at 20 to 25 years of inactivity. Retirees are looking for ways to fill that time."
   "You need to figure out what you really enjoy doing, then figure out how to make that a part-time career," Gorman explained. "You've worked your whole life in a career that maybe you didn't like, that maybe was stressful.  Now it's optional, so have fun."
   Gorman's path to becoming a college professor became clear when his children reminded him of how much he had always enjoyed giving presentations and conducting seminars. His love of public speaking and a desire to make a difference led him to the part-time position, which still leaves plenty of time for writing and enjoying retirement.
   "Figure out what you really love doing, get an idea of what you can do that won't add stress to your life, and determine how many hours you want to devote to work," he said.
   Chances are, once you know your own limits, you'll be able to find a perfect fit - but it will take some creative thinking.
One woman that Gorman interviewed for the book had a lifelong love for dogs. A little research revealed an abundance of kennels in her retirement community. As it turned out, traveling seniors were willing to pay to keep their pooches pampered in their absence.
   Rather than go to work at one of the kennels, Ann Driscoll got creative and offered her services as an in-home dog- and house-sitter. Through word-of-mouth advertising, she now has enough dog-sitting gigs to call it a full-time business. She spends up to two weeks at a time doting on dogs while living in lavish homes, stocked with her favorite foods and wines.
While many retirees choose to funnel their talents and technical expertise into a small business or consulting practice, many others find that a part-time job at a local supermarket, specialty store, coffee shop or museum is just the ticket to banishing boredom and earning some extra cash. Such jobs aren't hard to come by if you're a savvy senior.
Employers recognize that with age comes wisdom. According to Gorman, employers love hiring retirees.
   "Older people have learned how to maintain good client relations. They want to be there, so they have a good attitude," he explained. "Plus, retirees can book their schedules in advance and they're reliable - if they say they're going to be there, they will be there."
   Working during retirement isn't always about the money, though. Plenty of retirees find fulfillment in volunteer positions, whether filling in at the local food bank or teaching English as a second language at the local community college.
   "It's not always about the income," Gorman said. "Retirement is the time to try something different. It's about finding something to do, something that gives you a good feeling.
   "That's the really great thing about retirement - it really is all up to you. If you don't enjoy, it you don't have to do it."

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