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My Turn: Test-driving retirement during coronavirus pandemic

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I am now in my early 60s and have been working since my teenage years. I’m entrepreneurial by spirit, from my first traveling lemonade stand (at the age of 9) to owning and operating many businesses since. On March 12, things took a turn when we were forced to close our business activities. I like to think of this time as my sampling retired life. I had often wondered what retired life would be like and how I would adapt.

The first week or two, the days just melded together. As my “retirement” continued, I started to feel like every day was Saturday. Within a couple of weeks, I had lost count of what day it was. Time was also becoming strange. Some days I slept late, other days I awoke early. My routine had been breakfast and dinner, and now I found myself thinking about dinner in the early afternoon. Maybe this is what the jokes about the early-bird specials were all about. Not that I complied, but I wouldn’t have fought heading off to bed by 7 or 8 p.m. The days were running into one another, and I was feeling unproductive.

In mid-March I contracted the virus, which gave another purpose to my “retirement”: Just to beat the illness and stay as comfortable as I could. If nothing else, it took my focus away from working and doing business and shifted it to sleeping and getting well. Fortunately, my case was not as extreme as others; within three weeks, I felt great physically, but drained mentally.

Feeling healthy again, I realized retirement is not something I want for myself — at least not now — and I was anxious to get back to work. Until the guidelines change, I remain hunkered down. I am devoting more time to mentoring through Score to help fellow business people make sense of finances and their futures. It’s the most I can do to stay connected to my love of business.

One thing I have missed quite a bit is going to the gym for weightlifting, which I had been enjoying for years. Not having any equipment at home, I started to improvise weights by using large water jugs, which were cumbersome; I considered removing the tires from my car to engage in tire pushing like I saw on TV competitions, but that seemed too much work.

When I discovered that the 40-pound bags of birdseed that my wife feeds outdoor birds had handles on them, I purchased two sacks and started curling the bags. It was awkward, but the weight distribution was excellent. A week into this I was feeling stronger than ever! Then I realized that my wife had made small slits in the tops of the bags to siphon food each day for the birds. I was actually losing strength.

I improvised, lying down on the floor and trying to bench press my wife, who was a good sport. This was very short-lived, horrifying and probably one of the reasons the Life Alert button was created.

My daughter was once asked “What are your father’s hobbies?” She replied, “business.” I have always enjoyed working and creating businesses. My toolbox was taken away from me for damaging much more than I can fix; my experiments with plumbing and electricity repairs created floods and hair-raising moments; my crafting skills merely rival those of a toddler.

I know there are many entrepreneurs like myself, of all ages, that enjoy working and running businesses and are excited about talk of reopening the economy; there is also a segment of our older population who are ready for their retirement and will enjoy it more than working. I have discovered during the coronavirus pandemic that I am not among the latter!

Martin Stevens,

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