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“Are You Thinking About Retirement?”

Before going to law school, I worked for a year at Birsch Chemicals in Norfolk, Virginia. My job was to sell equipment and cleaning supplies to military ships on the Naval base.

It was a fabulous experience to be on different Navy ships every day. I always tried to look like I knew where I was going, as I walked the plank to board the ship. ( Kinda like this guy)



In reality, I was learning something new everyday. Like sailors telling me about arriving at 0’dark thirty, sleeping in the rack, or carrying a short-timers chain. A short-timers chain is the chain that some of the sailors would carry, with a number of links to indicate the days or months that they had remaining until they were discharged.

Most of the Navy personnel that I called on were either chiefs, sr. chiefs, or officers. None of them carried a short-timers chain, but many would tell me how much longer they had until they retired. It was their focus.

I learned that the chiefs’ mess (where they ate) served better food because the Navy paid for it. The officers had to pay for their own food. They had better silverware… but they saved money on the food! Best to eat with the Chiefs!

I have many good memories and lessons from that year. Still, one things that sticks with me relates to the retirement of the chiefs. As they were given their retirement party with the send-off of “Fair Winds and Following Seas”, many of them that I knew, never found what they were looking for in retirement. I would come to learn that several passed away, probably out of sheer retirement boredom.

Which leads me to the memory of one of my relatives, who had impact on me. Uncle Dick was actually my mother’s uncle, but he was “Uncle Dick” to me as well.

I remember him retiring at age 55, as an accountant from Sunoco. But I never thought of him as retired.  Over the next 45 years, he was busier in retirement than when he was working at Sunoco. He had a cable TV show; wrote for the AARP magazine; and was active in speaking and Toastmasters. It was not unusual to see him watching a Phillies or Sixers game, while knitting a hat.

That’s how versatile he was. Never bored; Never just retired. And, he was so interesting. Even as a teenager, I truly enjoyed just talking to him.

Now that I am in my 50’s, I am regularly asked whether I am thinking about retirement. Life is never unbearable by circumstances, but only by lack of meaning and purpose. (Viktor. E. Frankl)

I feel a great deal of purpose in what I do. Every day at the firm is a new challenge. One family member said to me after his retirement, “whatever you do, don’t retire“. I think that now he is truly enjoying retirement. But I am glad to say that I enjoy work and… Life is good! Let’s see what I say over the next 45 years!


And for pic o’ day, I worry that this could become me in retirement, even though it references “football”…right?







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