From Fire Fighter to Ferryman: A Reinvented Retirement
|May 18, 2016||Posted by Marcia Mantell under Boomers in Action|
I got off a recent flight to Cleveland and hopped in a cab to my hotel. The cab driver (ferryman) was delightful, welcoming and warm, clearly loving his city. It was easy to strike up a conversation…
Turns out Jerald was from the San Francisco Bay area. He was a fire fighter for 20 years and retired about 7 years ago. Originally, he planned to retire after 25 years, but several knee surgeries and back problems made it clear that his body needed a different plan. Being a fire fighter is a big job, fraught with tremendous physical demands, life and death risks, and emotional highs and lows. The schedule was demanding as well – 48 hours on, 48 hours off, year round. While he misses his friends and the “good old days”, he feels he retired at the right time for him. He has a full pension through the Public Employees Retirement System (PERS) of California and has good health care coverage.
I couldn’t help but wonder, what brought a handsome, silver-haired guy from San Francisco to Cleveland. He was more than happy to share his story: Right after he retired, he took a trip up to Lake Tahoe to visit some buddies. One night he walked into a restaurant and sitting in the lobby area was a woman. “It was love at first sight,” Jerald told me. He struck up a conversation and the rest is history. They were married six months later and he happily relocated to her hometown of Cleveland. She’s from a big Italian family with five sisters. He was warmly welcomed into the family and had a ready-made social network.
Since he is a lagging-edge Boomer (born in the latter half of the Boomer generation, somewhere between 1956 and 1964), and his wife works full time, he wanted something to do that would not abuse his body and was not a corporate job with someone telling him what to do every day. He joined a local cab company and sets up his nearly full-time schedule driving folks around the city. He loves meeting new people and tends to drive many international travelers to the Cleveland Clinic. In his spare time, he and his wife spend their time outside. There is the “Emerald Necklace” of parks that are interconnected and surround the greater Cleveland area. They bike, walk, and enjoy the lake area. Plus, Cleveland has a full roster of professional sports teams to follow. It’s much easier to attend a Browns or Indians game than the arenas in the Bay area. They also visit museums and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on winter days.
Food is excellent here. There is a good mix of traditional Polish perogi (those yummy potato and cheese-filled dumplings often served with sour cream) and Italian fare mixed in with fine dining from some of the country’s top chefs, including a personal favorite of mine, Michael Symon (the Iron Chef, co-host of “The Chew” and a James Beard award winning chef). Jerald also enjoys cooking and having big barbeques with the in-laws and new friends he’s made here in Cleveland.
It has been a nice transition for him. Jerald was ready to make a change, and coming to a more affordable region of the country was part of his plan, even before he met his future wife. He’s also more confident about his personal financial situation now that he’s living in a moderately priced area. The money from his taxi job more than supplements his fire fighter pension, making it easier to plan that next trip to the Caribbean islands. He has good health care insurance and IRAs that he doesn’t think he’ll have to tap until he actually retires. Combined with his wife’s salary, he feels quite positive that they will be able to pay off their mortgage and retire by their mid-60’s, while maintaining the lifestyle they want.
All in all, he considers the day when he walked into the Lake Tahoe restaurant the “luckiest day of my life”. He loves his reinvented retirement and enjoys waking up every day.
For More Information:
Interested in looking at Cleveland as you think about reinventing retirement? It is a lovely city filled with arts, culture, professional sports (not to mention the Cleveland Clinic) in an affordable area of the country. And, the winters aren’t that bad for the tough and mighty!
Top 10 Chefs in Cleveland – You can surely get a table at these top chef’s restaurants
Colleges in Cleveland – Reinventing retirement often includes going back to school. Check out these colleges including Case Western Reserve and some culinary arts programs.