Retirement & creative employment

by Edward Henkler on June 2, 2015

I admire Mama Arlene, who was featured in a 10-May-15 Philadelphia Inquirer Mama Arlene. At age 84 she is devoting her retirement years to giving a home and hope to some of Africa’s neediest children. She also believes that her true value began in retirement. I’ll return to her story at the end of this post.


Creative employment is a frequent topic on my blog. It is my system for finding and maintaining meaningful employment in a world where lifetime employment no longer exists. I don’t mourn the disappearance of lifetime employment. It certainly was comfortable but might it also have led to complacency and reduced innovation? Creative employment starts with discovering your passion, then building a portfolio of activities around that passion. Full time, “traditional” employment is certainly an option but it is my contention that transition is just one bad economic forecast, patent expiry, or other setback away. If you share my belief, then I think your long-term goal should be to identify revenue-generating opportunities to supplement and perhaps eventually replace income from that “traditional” job.

The choices will vary by individual. My personal approach is a mix of consulting, coaching, and external business development for companies in which I believe. There is one consistent theme of helping others, especially if they are blind or visually-impaired. I am also in the process of launching a second blogsite which is focused on improving quality of life and employability of individuals with compromised vision. In addition to providing resources for people experiencing vision loss, I will market relevant eBooks and emerging technology with which I’m personally involved. My first eBook will provide guidance on coping with vision loss from the perspective of a caregiver.

With a bit of good fortune, these activities will evolve into sustainable income, which can be continued well past traditional retirement dates. I love the fact that I’m helping others as I never truly felt that way when I was part of a large organization. That is not a commentary on my employers but rather the relatively miniscule role that even senior leaders play in a large company. One other benefit of being able to work well past traditional retirement is that I believe my mind will remain healthier and more engaged. I also eliminate that fear of not having enough money in retirement as the calculations change significantly if you retain an income stream. Btw, I still intend to enjoy myself, as the activities I’m managing won’t require my full attention once they mature. Part of my inspiration comes from Pay Flynn and his smart passive income strategy. It’s not a get-rich quick scheme; it is a methodical approach to changing your future.

Which brings me back to Mama Arlene. At an age when many folks find it hard to walk, she is pursuing incredibly meaningful work. She’s helping many others and undoubtedly helping herself. Running out of retirement income is no longer an issue. No one knows whether she’ll live longer than if she had retired traditionally but I don’t believe there is any doubt that she’ll be happier.

What’s your passion? When do you plan to retire?

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