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In the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode “Final Mission” Captain Picard speaks fondly of the groundskeeper from his days at the Academy. Boothby, the groundskeeper, left a lasting impression on the captain, teaching him what life is really about as he called Boothby one of the wisest men he ever knew. Captain Picard learned at an early age the greatest lessons in life are frequently taught by the most unassuming people outside the classroom. Boothby understood people better than anyone as he witnessed young men and women embark on their career and was willing to share his insights.
I work out three times a week at Lake Park Swim and Fitness. There is a maintenance man there named Wally. Everybody knows Wally and likes him. He is quiet and wise, like Boothby. I do not know how old Wally is, but it appears to me as if he is retired and is working at Lake Park to fill in time. Wally never helped me out like Boothby help Captain Picard, but he has taught me one of the most valuable lessons in life: be useful. Wally is doing more than wasting time for an extra paycheck to supplement his retirement savings. He takes pride in his work and keeps the gym is tip-top shape. Wally is an awesome man.
Whether you decide to work a part-time job in retirement or not, you can learn a lot from men like Wally. People visiting this site are heavy savers and investors so they reach financial independence at an early age. The problem for many people is to find meaningful activities to fill each day. Golf and fishing might not cut it.
The younger you bow out of a full-time career because you have reached your financial goals the more likely there will come a time you want the comradery of a work environment without the stress. Bridge careers fill the void perfectly while satisfying the needs local businesses have. I am not talking about a high paying part-time job like accounting or tax preparation coupled with high levels of stress. I am talking about part-time jobs with low stress, but offer a satisfying work schedule and environment.
The pay in many of these jobs is low, but the extra money is always nice, but unneeded if you are financially independent. Groundskeepers, janitors, and maintenance jobs in small businesses are a perfect solution to the problem of early success in life.
The opportunity to provide an important service is not limited to small businesses. The greatest thing about financial independence is you can choose the work you want without regard to the pay scale. Non-profit organizations have plenty of things you might enjoy doing. Helping a non-profit can be as little as a few hours a week to full-time if you are energetic.
When I met Mrs. Accountant and we decided to get married, the church where she belonged offered me a job. At the time I prepared about 50 tax returns a year and was for the most part retired. I love reading, but reading all day was not providing the emotional attachment I needed to feel healthy. I accepted the job as custodian for a year before deciding to go full-time into accounting and tax preparation. The pay was small. The real value of my job as custodian was the relationship I had with employees and members of the church. I felt like I belonged. Maslow was right; I needed to feel loved, like I belong to feel my psychological needs were met.
At the church was a retired woman named Lillian Roth. She neither married nor had children. She was the kindest soul I ever knew. If I were half the person Lillian was I would be listed among the greatest to have ever lived. Lillian came in most days and helped in the church office. She attended choir and was willing to talk with anyone, anytime. She shared stories of her life. She may never have married, but her life was still full and meaningful.
Lillian was not the kind of person to quit. After a long career she needed something meaningful in her life. The church was the perfect opportunity. The only compensation Lillian ever got from all those hours working at the church was free coffee. One night after choir practice Lillian went home and sat in her favorite chair and fell asleep for the last time. The next day when she did not show up at church a member checked up on her and found she left this world to be with her Lord. Lillian never owned a TV. She only listened to radio as she knit in the solitude of her small home. She was the happiest person I ever knew. She lived life right.
The Unknown Path
Early retirement is the goal of many. Others find circumstances brought their preferred career to an early end. Financial independence is great. Even if you are short financially, you do not have to restart a full fledged career. With modest savings/investments and no debt, you are in a position to take a satisfying bridge career, straddling your regular career and full retirement.
I see a lot of clients in my office. Over the years I noticed many people age 10 years in only one short year once they retire. They lose meaning in their life and the support team co-workers were. Without a reason to get up in the morning, age begins to show. Those who found a way to provide a useful service never showed the accelerated aging. Retired clients who kept active and involved in either part-time work, serving at a charity, or found meaningful ways to engage with people on a regular basis almost stopped aging. The ability to do something meaningful without stress is part of a magical formula to live a healthy life to a ripe old age.
Serving others when you reach a level of security is a gift that pays many dividends. By sharing your experiences you help young people attain their goals. Modern technology provides all our needs with only a few hours of work needed per week. Helping young adults understand our world paradigm grants them the stress reduction and satisfaction you have found in life. Then they, as you have found, can live any life you choose. It is the ultimate gift
Bridge Careers to Consider
Before I leave I want to share a few bridge career ideas. You can be wise like Boothby, lovable like Wally, kind-hearted like Lillian, or you can just be you. All the ideas I share here are things that appeal to me personally. I can’t do them all, but at some point in life I would love to spend at least enough time doing several to find understanding in the listed field.
- Landscaper: Helping a botanical garden or an elderly couple no longer able to manage the outside work around their home has plenty of appeal.
- Light repair work: This occupation has a wide range. Small businesses, landlords, and non-profit organizations have plenty of light repair work to do. This is similar to the work Wally does. Working part-time at a gym also has its appeal.
- Small engine repair: This is solitude work and is a great way to work out of the garage from home.
- Meals on Wheels: Imagine the happy faces you will see when you deliver lunch.
- Hospice care: As the Baby Boom ages there are plenty of opportunities to provide comfort to those less fortunate. Hospice duties include medical services, emotional and spiritual support. I can only imagine the gratification people providing hospice care feel.
- Drivers/Ride services: Helping people get to doctor appointments, attend church, grocery shop, or visit family.
- United Way: This awesome non-profit has a thousand opportunities to share and grow. Many bridge career options are all under one roof.
- Goodwill: Goodwill is more than a store selling used items. Goodwill Industries provides a large number of services. Your help is needed. (Note: I speak to a group at Goodwill every year on tax issues as they pertain to people way over their head.)
- Dream job: Many businesses are happy to have your help as an intern. You might even get paid. Plus you are part of the employee family which is always fun.
- Farming: Farmers large and small need part-time and season workers. Everything from milking cows, feeding young stock, to planting fields or picking rocks (we have lots of ledge rock here in NE Wisconsin; farmers need rocks picked to prevent equipment damage) are available job opportunities. Working outdoors in nature and with animals is a great way to feel young and needed.
The opportunities are endless. Just because you reached your financial goals and can walk any path you want does not means you have to sit around all day watching the grass grow. A healthy mind, body, and spirit only happen when you provide valuable services to others. Giving is what makes us human; giving is what makes life worth living. You have something to share. As Boothby, Wally, and Lillian have taught, we can live a productive life without a high level of stress. We can do what we want, enjoy it, and share stories. It is the only chance the next generation has to find self-actualization, as Maslow would put it.