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End Your Job. Begin Your Life.

August 29, 2013

Remember the pet rock craze and how silly it seemed? Not so to Deb S., who paints them like animals and reports selling several hundred over the summer. How's this for a pet?

Is Deb's career encore better than retirement? You're damn right it is. That was the overwhelming response to the question posed in my July 25 column. Your responses blew me away.

My wife Jo just sent me a list of William James quotations, and one of them sums up the approach our readers take to retirement:

"To change one's life: Start immediately. Do it flamboyantly."

Retirees are out there having fun, doing worthwhile work, and making money… Yeah, money helps.

None of you mentioned drudgery. As a young man, I often dragged myself out of bed and forced myself to go to a job that was just that—a job. Those days are over for all of us. We're a fired-up group of folks enjoying life.

But that's enough from me. Let's read what you had to say, starting with Charlie B.:

"Dennis, many years ago I was [flying across the country] in a 727. A nicely dressed guy, who was a good bit older than I, was crying. I asked him why, and he said that morning, he had retired from a 44-year career at an aerospace company. On the spot, I invented what I have subsequently titled my 'Don't Retire, Restart' speech. When we got to the East coast, he went hippity-hop down the ladder with a whole new career ahead of him. We did not keep in touch for very long, but he did launch [a second career] and was extremely happy and quite productive going forward."

Cancer Victory Spawns a New Career

David L. took flying lessons with his wife when they were in the commercial real estate business. His wife beat cancer, but their retirement fund took a hit along the way. When he was at the dealership having some work done on his plane, the manager asked how his wife was doing. He said she was doing well, but they were concerned about retirement. Then the dealership offered him a job delivering new and used airplanes. Now he and his wife fly all over, and the company pays for hotels, meals, and return flights. He sent in some beautiful photos of the places they've visited. How cool is that?

Readers are delivering everything from flowers and meals to cars for dealers and rental car fleets. Others are delivering boats, trucks, and motorhomes.

Gary V. wrote:

"Those who love driving and own a heavy-duty pickup can run hot-shot loads under 26,000 lb. for shippers that need to get a shipment somewhere fast without paying the high shipping costs of the large trucking companies."

The Same Job, Only Different

Folks with accounting backgrounds are doing payroll work from home, working only during tax season, or doing specialty research for local CPA firms.

One reader sold his bakery. Now he bakes part-time at a local store. The perks? Flexible hours and none of the stress of owning his own business.

Some retired Floridians got together and formed a company called "The Snowbird Service." They look after hundreds of vacant houses and condos while the owners are up north for the summer.

Buy a Job

Richard D. and his wife bought a 75,000-square-foot storage facility. Now he manages it and loves it.

Glenn B. bought a piece of property in Costa Rica that had been part of a rainforest. The trees had been harvested, and the erosion left the land unsuitable for a ranch. Concerned about the environment, Glen reforested the area and turned it into a large butterfly farm—and a nice retirement income.

The Altruists

This was by far the largest group of responses. Readers are working in soup kitchens, homeless shelters, and prison ministries. It most cases, it started as volunteer work and turned in to a paid gig.

Edward H. wrote:

"I always had a desire to help children… Next thing I know, I am running the organization. I am working harder, but my passion is protecting children. I am exactly where I belong."

The Athletes

My friend Phil C. took a part-time job at the local golf course so he could play golf for free. He doesn't make much more than minimum wage; however, his hourly rate combined with his savings on greens fees shapes up to a nice salary.

Arts & Crafts

Our friend Toots made an old-world Santa as a gift one Christmas. Now she makes them to order, and it pays for Christmas.

Another reader makes birdhouses from homegrown gourds. One buys the plastic kits to make buildings for HO railroads, glues them together, paints them with exquisite detail, and then resells the finished product.

Our friend Maggie is a gifted artist. Much of her artwork is based on the little Indiana town where she and Jo grew up. After retiring, she opened her own gallery and now she has quite a following. Jo and I are proud to have a few "Maggies" displayed in our home.

The Moral

Many readers wrote in and shared their black swan events—the terrible, unexpected things from which they haven't recovered—yet. No matter how tough the situation, they set out to tackle the rest of life on their own terms.

Matthew P. wrote that his income took a huge hit when he became disabled. He ended his note with this message:

"When I helped out at our homeless shelter, I heard many stories similar to mine that ended up with the loss of their home... My wife and I realized we were lucky; our situation could have been a lot worse."

On that note, I'll end with another fitting quotation from William James:

"There is but one cause of human failure. And that is man's lack of faith in his true self."


Our production people sent me a note to remind everyone about our upcoming webinar. The event is called America's Broken Promise: Strategies for a Retirement Worth Living, and it premieres on Thursday, September 5 at 2 PM Eastern. Attendance is free, but frankly we've been overwhelmed by the response. We're asking everyone to register so we can get a good headcount and allocate enough bandwidth. You can find more details and register here.

We have dynamite guests lined up who will share terrific ideas and unique investing strategies that I hope you'll start using right away. It's been fun working with such talented people as we've prepared for the presentation. I'm pretty excited about it. Oh, and did I mention it's free? After the event, please drop me a note if you have comments or questions. I always appreciate hearing from you. Here's where you can find out more.

On the Lighter Side

Labor Day weekend has taken on a nostalgic tone for me over the last decade or so. Our friends with college-age children are shipping them off to school. As the last child leaves for freshman year, they're flooded with mixed emotions: pride, sadness, worry, etc. At the end of the following summer, those emotions boil down to excitement: "We're getting our privacy back!"

Then, just like that, the kids are turning 30. I recently found myself staring at our wedding picture, thinking: "I didn't always have gray hair?" Autumn is a nice time of year, and a nice time of life. Savor it.

And finally…

My all-time favorite Super Bowl commercial captures the nostalgia quite well. There was a contest to name the foal, and 60,000 entries later, she was named Hope. I wonder if her proud parents hoped she would grow up, get a job, and raise her own family.

Have a wonderful Labor Day weekend.

Until next week…


About the Author

Over the course of his career, Dennis Miller has consulted with many Fortune 500 companies, training hundreds of executives to effectively communicate the value of their company's products to their customers. Among his many multi-national clients are: GE, Mobil, Shell, Schlumberger, HP, IBM, Corning Glass, Eastman Kodak, AC Nielsen, and Johns-Manville.

An active international lecturer for 40 years, Dennis wrote several books on sales and sales management. He was a contributor to... read more