More seniors re-inventing themselves to ‘un-retire'

07/28/2014 11:00 PM

07/29/2014 1:44 PM

Retirement. Days of sleeping late, playing bridge, golfing, sailing, traveling, enjoying grandkids and other long-delayed pleasurable pursuits.

Ahh, at last.

Not so fast, say many seniors in the Kansas City area: Retirement is over-rated.

Jerry Ogilvie, 67, recoils at being asked how he likes retirement.

“I don’t think of myself as retired,’’ he said.

In fact, he isn’t.

Ogilvie is one of 8 million Americans 65 and older who are working this year, a number the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics has seen rise consistently over the last 10 years, nearly doubling from 4.8 million in 2004. And the trend is projected to continue as older workers pursue a second career, a part-time job or self-employment.

Ogilvie no longer runs a dental practice in Blue Springs. He now teaches full time in the School of Dentistry at the University of Missouri-Kansas City — the same building he first entered as a student in 1970.

For 40 years, Ogilvie managed his own practice. Now he’s an employee, and freedom from “calling the shots” is just one of the perks of his second career.

“I like doing dentistry, but I didn’t like running the business,’’ he said.

He and his wife enjoy a lakeside home at Lake Lotawana, but boats in the backyard don’t mean that Ogilvie is ready to sail off leisurely into the sunset.

“I can’t be satisfied just playing,” he said. “Teaching makes me feel useful and that I’m accomplishing something.”

Re-energizing retirement

As appealing as retirement might seem on an especially stress-filled workday, “No one wants to take an 18-year vacation,” said Tina Uridge, executive director of Clay County Senior Services in Gladstone.

More and more seniors are seeing the traditional retirement years as the next stage of an active life, a time to keep working, using their skills and expertise in a different way, she said.

“Mandatory retirement at 65 was set at a time when people didn’t live much past 65,” she said.

Now, retirees may have as many years after retirement as they did when they were working full time — especially in education and government jobs where workers may be eligible to retire in their 50s.

Much of the interest in a second career is being driven by baby boomers who are turning 65 at the rate of 10,000 a day, Uridge said, and they expect to do more at 65 than just sign up for Medicare.

To help them choose the direction they want to take in their later years, Clay County Senior Services is a sponsor of “Explore Your Future,” a four-session workshop specifically designed for adults 50 and older who are asking themselves, “What’s next?”

Two years ago, Steve Hermes, 67, of Leawood participated in the workshop, coordinated by Shepherd’s Center Central, when it was offered at his church. Hermes found that what he wanted to do next was to train to become a workshop leader.

“This workshop changes lives,” he said. “I realized a storybook retirement was not the reality for me.”

Hermes said he waited to retire until the “magical age of 66” when he was eligible for full Social Security benefits. In addition to leading the workshops, he works part time as an adjunct consultant to nonprofits nationwide.

The workshops give participants a chance to reflect, to consider where they want to invest their time, energy and gifts, said Shari Wilkins, program director of CrossRoads ministry at the Church of the Resurrection in Leawood.

More than 6,000 members of her congregation are 50 or older, and the church recently added the workshops as a way to help older members “find significance after they retire,” Wilkins said.

From baby boomers to retirement pioneers

“Up to the time of retirement, there are clear-cut steps and expectations in our culture,” said Lorrie Crystal Eigles, retirement coach and licensed professional counselor in Kansas City. “We go to school, to college, get a job, get married and have kids.”

Traditionally, children grew up and left home, and parents eventually moved from the work place to retirement. But baby boomers are changing that picture, and their focus on the future is different from that of any previous generation. They are retirement pioneers, she said.

“They are not ready to not be working — they want a sense of purpose,” Eigles said.

Retirement now means retiring from an obligation to work, said Erica L. Gabrick, certified financial planner with Edward Jones in Kansas City, North.

It doesn’t necessarily mean not working at all.

Retirement may mean volunteering, working part time, turning a hobby into a job or becoming self-employed, she said.

Leah Lehman of Liberty thought she was ready for early retirement when she was 62. So, she left her job as a college admissions counselor and spent the next six months feeling more restless than rested.

At her husband’s recommendation, Lehman invested part of her pension and started a home-based business helping students plan their careers, navigate the admissions process at post-secondary schools and find out about financing available.

“It took almost two years for me to earn a living at this,” said Lehman, now 66. “But now I get 20 to 30 new calls a week, and I love what I’m doing —- making students happy.”

In 2010, Janet Nease of Kansas City, North, retired at 55 after 32 years in education.

“But I needed something else,” she said.

Like Lehman, she parlayed her experience and expertise into a second career the same year she retired. Nease is an independent contractor for Authentic Education in New Jersey.

She chooses the consulting assignments she accepts, as varied as the American Academy in Dubai to a school in an Alaskan fishing village so remote it required three commercial flights and a water plane to get there.

After three intense years of consulting, Nease took most of 2013 off to care for her mother.

“I blocked off the entire year to get her healthy and back on her feet,” said Nease, now 59.

And that kind of flexibility — choosing not to accept assignments — is a huge benefit, she said.

Leaders now serving, teaching others

Even mayors and college presidents aren’t resting in their retirements.

In 2007 at the age of 69, Kay Barnes finished her second four-year term as mayor of Kansas City and immediately accepted the position and challenge of starting a Center for Leadership in the Park University graduate school of public affairs and serving as its director.

Barnes holds a master of public administration degree, and the position at Park seemed a “logical continuation” of the kind of work she had been doing since she was 30, consulting and training in the areas of human resource development, leadership, communication skills, time and stress management and conflict resolution.

Now 76, Barnes teaches a three-credit-hour course in leadership for graduate students at the university’s downtown campus, consults part time and uses the hours she’s not working to serve on boards in the community.

Jackie Snyder, 66, reversed Barnes’ sequence, going from academia to politics.

Snyder retired as president of Penn Valley Community College in 2010 and was elected to the Parkville Board of Aldermen in 2012. Her two-year term, which ended in April, was “one fothe best things I ever did,” she said.

“Many of the issues the board faced were very similar to those of a community college system — doing creative things with the resources you have on hand for the better good,” she said.

Snyder is also a scholar in residence with the School of Education at Baker University. In 2011, she helped start the doctoral degree program in educational leadership.

Employee to entrepreneur

Though some retirees are only too happy to relinquish the reins and work for someone else. Rand Smith, 58, had a different vision of his retirement years.

For 35 years, Smith worked for retail and wholesale optical companies. His work led him to thousands of optical stores worldwide.

When a job offer took the Smith family from New York to the Kansas City area, he knew he had found the right place to realize his dream of opening his own optical store.

After consulting with business financing advisers, Rand and Janeel Smith used their retirement funds to open their own retail store, “eyeSmith,” in May of 2012 in Kansas City, North.

“We live simply and frugally, and we didn’t have any debt,” Rand Smith said.

Still, the Smiths were cautious after opening the doors to their store. They lived off savings for a while and didn’t start paying themselves a modest salary until December of 2013.

They are now realizing the rewards of their investment.

“In June, we were 42 percent over sales of the previous June,” said Janeel Smith, 54.

They sell eyewear to those who want fashionable glasses and to those who want functional glasses such as eyewear designed for motorcyclists, tennis players, golfers, fishermen, motorcyclists and other sports enthusiasts.

Finances also influenced how Nancy Graves of Leawood defined her retirement. Graves, who is not yet 65, knew that health insurance would be a big expense — about $6,500 a year — if she left full-time employment and started her own business.

In 2009, she found a way to combine the best of both worlds.

Graves started her own business doing grant funding and development for nonprofits, and she receives health insurance coverage as an employee of a medical clinic.

Finding a way to get the health insurance was what tipped the scales in favor of starting her own business, she said.

Fulfillment vs. finances

Studies have found that the most popular reason retirees return to the workforce is to find personal fulfillment.

“We see a certain portion of the retiring population seeking a next career although it’s not always a second one,” said Kathryn Lorenzen, senior recruiter and career coach with LandaJob Marketing and Creative Talent agency in Kansas City. “Sometimes it’s a third or fourth career.”

Often these retirees want to see the impact of what they do — especially if they’ve spent many years in a large corporate environment where their efforts enriched the owners of the company but didn’t satisfy their own longing for significance.

Another motive is to create meaning or to leave a legacy, answering the question, “What will I leave behind?”

Let’s hope it’s not a mound of debt.

Lofty ideals are admirable but the practical, financial side of starting a business needs to be seriously considered as well.

If retirees want to take money out of their retirement funds to launch a second career, “We drag our feet and recommend against it,” said Sandi Weaver, certified financial planner and owner of Financial Security Advisors in Prairie Village. “We would rather they find other ways to get to the same end instead of dipping into their retirement portfolio — such as a loan or taking on a partner.”

A low-entry-cost kind of career is another consideration, such as consulting that doesn’t require much fixed capital investment.

Social Security and taxes are another financial reality.

“When you start Social Security at 62, you will take a 25 percent reduction that will last all your life,” Weaver said.

Older adults who plan to continue working might be better off to wait until full retirement age of 66 or 67 or even later and let the benefit increase about 8 percent every year, she said.

Taxes also need to be factored into the financial reality. Social Security income may be taxed if all sources of income for retirees exceed a base amount.

Working adults — especially those who have worked for a company all their lives — may not know about taxes, government reporting requirements and other demands of self-employment or owning a business.

Sitting down with a financial professional can help those not ready to retreat into retirement understand the ramifications as well as the rewards of their plans, so that if they do start or buy a business they’re prepared for their new beginning.

“Explore Your Future” workshops

For those 50 and older who want to look forward to a fulfilling future. Reservations are required and

attendance is limited. The workshops are held throughout the Kansas City area and coordinated by

Shepherd’s Center Central.

The four sessions cover:

1. What Has Influenced Me?

2. Who Am I Now?

3. How Can I Realize My Dreams?

4. How Do I Create an Engaged Life?

Reservations are required at all workshops and attendance is limited. For information about fees and locations, call 816-444-1121.

Here are two coming up.

In the Northland: 9:30 a.m. to 2 p.m., Oct. 11 and 25, Metropolitan Community College-Maple Woods,

2601 N.E. Barry Road, Kansas City, North. Call 816-604-3177 for more information.

In Johnson County: 6:30 to 8:30 p.m., Oct. 14, 21, 28 and Nov. 4, Church of the Resurrection, 13720 Roe Ave., Leawood. Call 913-544-0717 for more information.

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