“Think about what you love to do, and do it on your schedule.”
These are the words I have shared hundred’s of times when explaining to 40 to 60 year-old public school employees in Wisconsin how one should “retire” today. First the word retire really is completely misleading as to what we do today when we leave our primary employer. What do you think of when you hear the word retirement? For many we think of our Grandmother or Grandfather, sitting in their recliner, looking out the window or reading the paper. Every now and then they probably went fishing or hunting, maybe a coffee klatsch with their friends in the mornings down at the diner, and/or possibly a nap every afternoon. This is not what initial retirement looks like today.
First off, we all have to figure out how to cover health care until we turn age 65, or our first Medicare eligibility. Back when Grandpa and Grandma retired they could afford to self-insure, or they may have had a post-employment benefit from their former employer. I could talk about retiree health care issues until the Brewers win the World Series, (I am afraid they are both insurmountable achievements), but that isn’t where I am going with this. Let’s assume we have figured out the health care issue to Medicare eligibility.
In my “scientific” study of somewhat average Americans that I have rigorously conducted across airport bars, dive bars, and hotel lounges across this great country, a large proportion of Americans do not want to work at the same pace, or in the same work that they are at 40, 50, or 60 years old. It can get mundane, repetitive, and lack any challenge. I also argue that encourages us to get old prematurely. There are many actual scientific studies (none of which involved interviewing people at bars) that have found changing work can stimulate areas of the brain that haven’t been active. Learning new tasks, performing current tasks differently, or switching employment helps activate idle areas of our brain and help prevent dementia or even Alzheimer’s.
In my experience many people want to stay somewhat active working but work on their schedule, doing what they want to do. With Grandson’s, two daughters, and a son-in-law in Spokane, and another daughter in Northern Italy, that is exactly what I decided to do. It was obvious there was no more upward mobility at my last employer, they were happy to have me out in the field, meeting with administrators and the critical public’s doing what they knew I was very good at. Without any plan to advance, remember I get very bored without a new challenge, I decided it was time to go out and find my own challenge.
What did I like best about my previous career? I was able to meet new people all of the time. Hey, I like people! Even difficult people! My favorite is to take a person who is obviously having a bad day, in a position of customer service, and turn them around to where they are smiling, laughing even, and willing to go beyond to make our experience, at whatever restaurant or attraction we are visiting, an enjoyable one. There are a couple legendary stories about this that Teri just shakes her head and wonders how I don’t get punched at some point.
I also loved presenting retirement seminars to participants, I loved the Q & A. Rapid-fire response to questions audience members may have and looking for that opening where I can make a quick joke that everyone in the group finds funny. I enjoy doing the research to learn the information about that topic and tend to retain the information in a mostly accurate fashion……..mostly. I also enjoy educating people on useful or practical information that they can go out and use in life.
When I gave my notice to my former employer back in September of 2018, we did not know what I would do next. We weren’t very worried about it, I have left other careers with less notice before and it all worked out. Teri and I were only financially responsible for each other, our children were all out of the house and college, so this scenario was much easier to manage than they day I left a steady hourly job to go sell real estate, right before Desert Storm was launched. By the way, apparently, everyone decided to stay in their own homes and watch the war on tv rather than buy a new home. There was a bit of a lesson in that decision.
After some discussion, the initial efforts to set up a retirement consulting firm, and a trip out to Spokane, we came to the resolution that I really wanted to be a tour guide and that we wanted to bring it to an unusual location. We stopped the retirement consulting firm discussion and decided to move forward with developing an Agri-tour of the Driftless Area. In the Driftless we have points of interest equal or greater to those on other parts of this Earth. We have toured most major cities and sites in the USA, we have toured the Demilitarized Zone of Korea, we have seen the snow monkeys of Nagano Japan, we have toured Germany, Italy, and Switzerland. Why not the Driftless?
In our little corner of the world that encompasses Richland County and the Driftless Area we have, a winery with the most vines in Wisconsin, a world-class microbrewery facility, natural history in Rockbridge and Elephant Trunk rock that is unique on this earth, cultural history in Frank Lloyd Wright and the only remaining commercial building he designed with a whole unique story to itself. We also have one of the most interesting and intriguing commodities to the rest of the world in the Driftless area, great people with great stories. Probably my most enjoyable moment of each tour so far, the end of the tour where everyone is sitting around a farm-style, or large table, 8-15 people. Enjoying a meal, talking, connecting, and enjoying good fellowship.
This is why we came up with the concept of Ridge and Valley Tours. Bringing new people to visit with exceptional people and places of the Driftless Area. We would love to have you join us soon!