How to work in retirement and enjoy it

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How to work in retirement and enjoy it
Image credit: Roger Nusbaum

By Roger Nusbaum

Over the last couple of weeks there has been a lot of news related to minimum wage workers not earning enough to be above the poverty line with much of the focus being on employees of Walmart and McDonald’s.

There is a retirement planning element to this discussion. With the low savings rates, relatively poor stock market returns over the last 13 years and the solvency issues that some pensions will face in the next few years there will be many people who will need to work during “retirement” which may come as a harsh reality to some.

Worse than working in retirement would be being forced to work in a job you would hate doing like certain minimum wage jobs. Your pension not being able to deliver what was promised is beyond your control but preparing for some sort of adverse outcome is within your control.

One way to prevent taking a job that would make you unhappy is to start preparing now to make an income from something you love doing or would otherwise enjoy doing. One idea of course is to continue your fire career by providing training. Do you specialize in something in your department like technical rescue, hazmat or something else? If so, take advantage of all the free training you can get to make yourself the best resource in your area to provide training to other departments after you retire and maybe even your own. In our area we have a fire academy which would be another potential outlet for training income.

Another opportunity within the fire service in the western part of the country is working as a private contractor on large wildfires or hiring on to an incident management team. Both are very common where I live in northern Arizona.

One example from outside the fire service is a neighbor of mine who retired from law enforcement in the early 1980s. When he bought his property up here in the mountains he needed to do a lot of excavation so he bought a backhoe to do what he needed to get done—he thought it would be cheaper.

Almost as soon as he bought the backhoe he started getting calls from other neighbors needing backhoe work done and willing to pay for it. He ended up getting more opportunities for work than he could accept. He continued to do backhoe work until he was 80—he has since sold his backhoe and he and his wife moved off of the mountain.

In the last few years that he worked he was charging $65/per hour. Even if $25 of that went to fuel and maintenance he was obviously doing quite well. While it was not easy work he loved doing it. The word loved might be an understatement of how much fun it was for him.

The big idea here is to put in some effort in figuring this out. If you have some sort of hobby that you’ve been doing for years, is there a way to make an income from it? You may not know right now whether that is possible but you’ve got time to figure it out and the ideas are endless.

Do you like hiking and National Parks (or State Parks)? There are all kinds of seasonal jobs for guides and other employees. Are you a pro sports fan and are there teams (major league or minor league) in your area? There are seasonal opportunities there as well.

Whatever it is that you enjoy doing, there is someone who loves it just as much as you and has figured out how to make an income from it and there is no reason you can’t too.

Have any questions or ideas for a future article? You can email me at fire-chief at walkerfire dot org.

This week’s picture is from the Green Gate Fire from May of this year. The call came in for it around midnight after a pilot saw it from the sky. I was the first on scene and the name came from our needing to go through a green gate to get to it.

It was only about five acres but was complicated because structures were threatened and most of the fire’s acreage shot up a very steep chimney. Specifically this is from the next day when the Forest Service came to mop up, it was USFS jurisdiction. Our department’s Water Tender 82 is nursing Prescott National Forest Engine 930.