Second Acts: The New Face of RetirementView 6 Photos
Arline Mann, 71, thinks of herself as "a poster child for the new retirement." And she's right. According to a study by AARP, over 80% of baby boomers plan to continue to work in retirement and — just like Mann has done — 55% of them plan to do so in an entirely new field or industry.
The independent Rethinking Retirement Institute, which cites the study, points to the jump in life expectancy for fueling this new look at life after 60. "There is also a generational difference in the way people think about work," says Mann. "Many people in my father's generation worked at jobs/careers/businesses to make a decent living; they did not necessarily expect to enjoy what they were doing a whole lot. So when my parents retired in their early 60s, after lives of hard work, they wanted to be useful, of course, but essentially they wanted to enjoy themselves."
But just as Mann experienced after retiring at 64, a study by the University of Michigan revealed that 60% of early retirees were happier with their lives before they retired. They needed a purpose.
Mann has found that purpose in painting. Despite picking up a paint brush only six years ago, her work has been exhibited in New York City, where she spends half of her time, and won her Best in Show through the Association for Visual Arts in Chattanooga, close to her second home on Elder Mountain.
"With perhaps decades of time before me, I wanted to be serious about whatever I did next," she says, "and that meant starting on it while I still felt young-ish and energetic."
Here, Mann and six other locals raise the curtain on their second acts, sharing both inspiration and the insight they've gained along the way.
Then: Employment-law director at Goldman Sachs
Trained as a theater director, Arline Mann was working for a Broadway producer. She had no aspirations of a career in law, but after deciding on the need for something more stable, she attended law school and ended up one of the directors at global banking, securities and investment powerhouse Goldman Sachs.
Despite her background in theater, Mann never envisioned herself becoming an accomplished artist — especially not at age 65 after retiring from her 34-year, high-profile career.
"It is a puzzlement starting this career as I have at this advanced age," she says.
Puzzling, perhaps, but not entirely surprising. Mann watched her parents retire to a life of leisure expecting they had a few good years left to enjoy each other and their free time, but as it turned out, her father had roughly 30 years ahead of him until his death at age 95 and her mother is still going at 99.
"That's what I saw ahead of me when I retired, and I didn't want to spend it playing," says Mann. "Of course I want to enjoy myself, but for me, life is about being productive and progressing."
So she made a list of things she might want to pursue: private detective or writer, perhaps.
She decided to take a painting class. Her instructor recognized her raw talent. She took another class, and got the same feedback.
My (first) career taught me: I learned every day, every minute there, about putting a high level of energy into what I did, about perseverance, resourcefulness and many other things. But the trait I tried to practice at Goldman that translated most strongly into my retirement years has been ambitiousness about the quality of what I do.
In changing gears, I was most surprised by: How much I did not change. In my retirement, I have not become noticeably more relaxed or easygoing; I seem to be the same ambitious, somewhat driven person I was before! Who knew?
My "second act" has taught me: Because it's an expressive act I always think at the same time about my own life, the things that I'm learning still about myself and what is it that I want to do with the last section of my life.
In my future I see: Painting has a strong physical component as well as a mental component, and I know my eyesight and dexterity will decrease with age. But this is what I do now, so I will learn as much as I can and do as much as I can. It's a little bit of a mystery to me where go with this. So far, it's all been a surprise — and I've learned enough to know that my assumptions so far have not been correct.
My best advice is: If you have my kind of personality, my advice is not to fool around. Make sure your goal is narrowed to what is possible given your age and circumstances, and then go at it full tilt. I can't think of anything that says "alive" and "life force" more than producingand progressing.
Mike & Sheri Goins
Age: 66 and 61 respectively
Then: Mike – teacher and administrator; Sheri – nurse and medical practice manager
Now: Health and wellness coaches
Mike Goins spent 36 years as a teacher and administrator, but his first year as a middle school principal nearly broke his spirit.
"My first year as principal was really hard and I crashed," he says. "That's when I discovered mindfulness. I found myself becoming very much an embodied presence in the school and the whole school changed."
Sheri, who has a background in nursing, began looking for new ways to care for herself and others after losing her second husband suddenly to cancer.
"I said, 'OK, what now?' Because this was totally not the plan," she recalls. Drawing on the nutrition and lifestyle changes she'd adopted to try and save his life, "I realized I wanted to help other people stay well."
But first, another plan was in store. Having just moved back to Tennessee following more than a decade in Maryland, Sheri was up North visiting family when her friend convinced her to join a new dating app. God had told her Sheri needed to join, she said.
Mike messaged her nearly instantly, and two months later, they were engaged.
"We've been told we really inspire people being together," Sheri says.
They decided to follow their seeming karmic path by launching Choices Wellness and Coaching. In addition to their individual clients, together, they coach other couples struggling through life's ups and downs.
"We both feel very strongly that this is something bigger than us," says Mike.
In my future I see: The potential for making a positive difference in my realm of influence.
My (first) career taught me that: Working in a job that is purposeful is important to me.
My "second act" has taught me that: It is important for me to do what I like and like what I do.
My inspiration was: A weeklong mindfulness retreat with Jon Kabat-Zinn I attended in the spring of 2012.
In changing gears, I was most surprised by: How challenging it is to create the structure needed to move forward in one's business.
Sometimes I still have to remind myself that: Words make our world. We become what we think.
Life is meant to be: Lived in service to others.
My best advice is: Follow your heart and know you are worth it.
Life is meant to be: Lived to the fullest with our ultimate purpose in mind.
I wanted a job that: Would teach people how to live their best life both physically, spiritually and mentally, keeping them well.
My "second act" has taught me that: I continue to love "mentoring"/coaching people and that I get so much satisfaction out of seeing them live better lives, stay healthy with better habits and relationships. I've found that it is my purpose in life.
My inspiration was: Going through cancer with my late husband and seeing how our lifestyle choices really do make a difference, especially nutrition, exercise and stress management.
My best advice is: Seek God first in your life, [and] the rest will fall into place.
I wish I had known: All these things when I was younger to make better decisions in life.
Sometimes I still have to remind myself that: We are all human and to forgive myself for not always being perfect in life and love.
Then: Certified public accountant
Now: Director of the Chattanooga Jewish Film Series
Every fall, Sanford Winer takes a class at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. In the very first class he took, public history, "One of the questions was 'Where do people learn their history?'" he says.
"Movies are one area," he adds. "Film is a big part of culture around the world."
The theater has also become Winer's classroom. Upon his retirement 13 years ago, after 40 years as a CPA, he started the Chattanooga Jewish Film Series, now the longest-running international film series in the city.
Winer and a handful of dedicated recruits serve as judge and jury for the series's featured films, personally screening 30-40 each year to narrow the final selection down to 6-10. Many are award-winning films from places including South Africa, Mexico and, yes, Israel.
"They're movies with messages," Winer says. "They're really not religious messages; they're more social and economic messages."
He'd like to see the city birth an even bigger international film series so more people could learn together and from each other.
Though Winer is quick to add, "I'm not looking for a full-time job. I've got a great part-time job. It's the most fun job at the Jewish Cultural Center."
Life is meant to be: Lived actively. Nothing is more important than family. Then come friends and service to the community.
My (first) career taught me that: Practicing as a CPA for 40 years was a most challenging, educational, stimulating and rewarding time. I loved it. As in any profession or business, change happened at a record pace. Accounting, auditing and tax laws were always being revised. However, one thing I observed which never changed was that businesses which put their clients or customers first, as their reason for being in business, offering quality products or services at reasonable cost were the most successful.
My "second act" has taught me that: Like any business or profession, people are the most important asset. This principle certainly is true regarding the Chattanooga Jewish Film Series — our success resulted from working with the staff at the Jewish Cultural Center and with a devoted volunteer committee.
My inspiration was: When we first started 13 years ago, our audience was very encouraging. This was my inspiration to continue. Since then, we have grown both in audience size and enthusiasm. Further, the series has made certain appropriate films available to public and private school groups, university staff and students and other community groups in an attempt to teach and entertain. We have filled a void in that we are the longest-running and probably the largest international film festival/series in Chattanooga.
In my future I see: Hopefully more of the same. We expanded the film series to have a separate documentary series, and now we have some thoughts for an additional series.
Sometimes I still have to remind myself that: I am 79 years old and have certain physical limitations. However, I like to think that I am 40.
Then: Owner of Medical Software Associates
Now: Vintage sports car collector, hobbyist and broker
Gary Higbee has always been a "little bit of a speedster," and this propensity only picked up momentum after his retirement. Having sold his medical systems company roughly eight years ago, he gave in to the sports car "bug" of his college days and began buying, rehabbing, selling — and racing — vintage models.
"I only had one instance where I thought I was going to flip," he says, detailing his slide off a track, where the rumble strips threatened to topple his car.
He wasn't scared, he says, but he decided to quit racing all the same.
"I got two medals and a lot of great memories," says Higbee. "I figured I haven't hurt anybody, I haven't hurt myself, and I'm pushing 75. I probably better park this."
That was last year. He's now looking into participating in parking lot speed navigation challenges with the Sports Car Club of America.
But it's not all about speed for Higbee. Much of the appeal in collecting old cars actually lies in slowing down. "I'll tell you what sells most of them—bringing back memories," he says.
The sharing and reliving of those memories is what's truly kept his hobby going, says Higbee. And he's not done yet.
"I was hoping to get 10 years out of it," he says, adding with a chuckle, "That may get pushed out a little longer."
When I decided to do this, people told me: I envy you a bit.
My "second act" has taught me that: The collector car business is harder than it first appears and chasing a passion can be quite rewarding.
My inspiration was: I was looking for a way to experience the greatest number of collector cars with a limited amount of money.
In changing gears, I was most surprised by: The power of the internet. It has helped me to sell cars in Australia, Great Britain, Germany, Japan and all over the U.S.
Sometimes I still have to remind myself that: I just cannot buy every car that interests me.
In my future I see: That I need to work on planning an exit strategy. I do not want to leave my wife and family with a mess when I pass on.
My best advice is: Don't be afraid to chase your dream. I used to tell friends and family that in my next life I wanted to be a scratch golfer and a race car driver.
I was lucky enough to become a race car driver in this life, getting to race a sports car on some of the famous race tracks. I even got a couple medals and lots of memories.
Then: Teacher and administrator
Now: School board member; volunteer; part-time employee at Estate Sales by Linda
Asked when she sleeps, Carolyn Ingram answers with a chuckle, "I don't."
She is chaplain of the Noon Day Rotary Club and heads the Cleveland club's project to provide dictionaries to every third-grader in the two local school systems. She's on several committees at her church, Broad Street United Methodist, where she also teaches Sunday school and helps run the after-school program. At Habitat for Humanity, she's on the board and family selection committee. She's also on the board of trustees for Holston Home for Children. And, upon her retirement two years ago, she won a seat on the Cleveland City School Board.
"I thrive on staying busy, and retirement for me was a transition from one full-time job that I loved to being able to give in other ways," Ingram says.
A self-described "doer," she seems suited to a life of service. Working in the Cleveland City School system for 45 years, Ingram was the kind of educator who welcomed children in the mornings by throwing open car doors and giving them a big hug.
"What is your act of kindness today?" was the common ending of her morning announcements.
She still makes it into the classroom on occasion, visiting with the teachers and reading to the children. And it's not uncommon for children she's taught over the years to approach her at the grocery store or restaurant to tell her what an impact she made on the life.
"I really think of it as a ministry, a way of reaching children to make a difference in children's life," Ingram says.
My best advice is: That when one retires, find ways to be involved so that your life will continue to have meaning. Life is meant to be lived to the fullest at any age.
My (first) career taught me that: If I wanted to be successful, I had to give it my all.
I wanted a job that: Would give me the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of people.
My inspiration was: My mother.
In changing gears, I was most surprised that: Retirement can be a new beginning. It can bring amazing possibilities of which I had never dreamed.
Sometimes I still have to remind myself that: Retirement is not the end.
In my future I see: Things that will still need to be done.
Then: Radio sportscaster and TV news sports director
Now: Freelance sportscaster and writer; grandfather
A longtime sportscaster, Randy Smith has done play-by-play on ESPN, ESPN II, CSS, Fox Sports South, and spent 17 years as a recognized voice on the Vol Network. He continues to relay games to listeners around the region when local high schoolers take the field on Friday nights, now joined in the broadcast booth by his son and two grandsons.
"You can only mow the yard one day a week, so you've got some other things you've got to do just to fill up your time," says Smith, who also covers sports for the Chattanoogan news site and is planning his second book, a look at his decades-long career.
Smith comes by sports honestly. Growing up, he played football, basketball and baseball. " My dad was a great athlete and my uncle was a great athlete. Me, I was good enough just to play long enough to really have a deep love for it," he says.
Just before college, he started adding flavor to the field from the broadcast booth. He wanted to be a coach, he decided, but after graduating, he continued to follow his love for broadcasting instead.
Transitioning to TV in 1978, Smith became the sports director at WDEF Channel 12 and then WRCB Channel 3, picking up prestigious freelance gigs along the way.
"The fact that I'm still doing high school play-by-play for WFL Radio and still writing for the Chattanoogan gives me something to fill up one or two days a week. If I can find something to fill up the other two days, I'll be doing fine," he says.
I wanted a job that: Never seemed like work. Overall, that is what my career in sportscasting was. I always said, "You mean I get paid for this?"
In changing gears, I was most surprised by: How lonely not working can be. You miss your work family so you must go the extra mile to fill that void. A good dog is a great colleague.
I wish I had known: How wonderful grandchildren can be.
Sometimes I still have to remind myself that: I have to work at not working. If you just take a passive role to retirement, you will miss a lot.
My (first) career taught me that: Sport is about much more than sport. At the higher levels, it is about money. Sport at the purest level is played in the Miracle Leagues and at the youth levels.
My best advice is: Turn off the TV. Put down the phone. Get up and go, even if it takes some effort. Whatever you loved about your work, find a way to make that part of retirement.
And forget the word "retirement." Clint Eastwood was asked how he stayed so fit and active. His response? "I don't let the old man in."
Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that Arline Mann's work had been exhibited at Chattanooga's 4 Bridges Arts Festival. Updated Monday, Nov. 4, 2019, at 7 p.m.