Retirement Reality and Truth

When people met me here in Arizona, they always asked: “Are You retired?” I wasn’t so lucky. I left the lucrative, high paying corporate life and agency ownership in NY to move to Arizona. It was unchartered, and operated at a different level than back East.

1999 was a time when there was NO real internet or virtual world, it was assumed by clients of my newly created PR firm, that I was retiring. But that was NOT the case.

The economics were different. Clients didn’t pay here what they did ‘there,’ but in life, one adapts to the market and also, the cost of living.

In 2017, at 64, I decided to retire. There were a few reasons; a business relationship gone sour with someone who worked with different values and ethics. A lawsuit victory a year later, there is some comfort.

I made a conscious decision to exit with my legacy intact, my skills as sharp as they were when I first started as a PR guy in 1976 and knowing I did some pretty amazing work for the companies that employed me and the clients that hired me. There’s a saying: no one can make you feel bad about yourself, only YOU can do that.

Relevance as we get into our 60’s seems to weigh heavily on our minds. We know where we were but where are we now and where are we headed? The fact that I-and many others-have not found that answer, means there is the unknown and not knowing what tomorrow will bring, is what keeps us searching with enthusiasm.

At 64, my Dad was playing tennis three times a week and in a bowling league. Despite the fact that his pants were pulled up in typical South Florida style, age was not important to him. He had a job, not a career and his private time is what he cherished.

He moved to Florida permanently in 1977. He was just 54. Too young to retire and but too old to live under the tutelage of his brother/partner. My mom was a retired teacher with a pension. But they still needed an income. I watched them struggle and my brother and I sent them money from time to time. They hated it. They never wanted to rely on their children. Sometimes, weeks would pass before the checks were cashed. I made a promise to myself to never have that happen to me.

Life in Arizona was different. My corporate years provided a net for those retirement years but money can never take the place of feeling worthy. That comes from knowing you’re talented and knowing it is respected. I came to grips with the fact that my past would not guarantee my future.

But it wasn’t until a year ago that I realized, no one can take away who I am and what I have accomplished. Other’s rejection could not diminish me. It would NOT diminish me.

In the year since, I have volunteered for animal rescue (dogs, not cats), driven for Uber, worked on my new house, still trying to sell the old one and recently offered to help returning veterans write their resumes and help them transition into a new business world. All to keep busy and enjoy my life.

I was in NY a few months ago and saw an old friend who is financially sound but also struggles with the question: what is our place? How do we gain the respect we had (and still have)?

I don’t think there is anyone who is approaching their sixth decade,or is there already, who doesn’t ponder that question every day.

As Fredo Corleone used to say: “I’m smaaart!”

As we wake each morning, I’m reminded of a quote by Orson Welles; “I have always been more interested in experiment, than in accomplishment.”

Experiments happen in a lab and I’m finding that the world is a huge laboratory that has many things untried and untested. And that is what inspires me to be a discoverer of a whole new world. And that is what makes me relevant.

So, in a nutshell and admitting the truth, I left because my talent was not appreciated. I didn’t feel I was perceived as valuable and every phone call from a prospective client was a negative reinforcement. And who needs that?

There are likely new roads, new jobs, new volunteer projects that place value.

Jackie Robinson said: The most luxurious possession, the richest treasure anybody has, is his personal dignity.

And if you don’t have that, no amount of business can ever compensate.