The Many Faces of Retirement
After the dust settles from yet another hectic tax season, many CPAs may be asking themselves the same question: Is it finally time to consider retirement?
For CPAs and many others who are getting the opportunity to finally distance themselves from the daily grind, retirement can represent everything from the opportunity to get involved in volunteerism, to a later possible return to the workforce, to traveling the world.
Barry Doll, president of the Manhattan/Bronx Chapter, retired last year from PricewaterhouseCoopers after 38 years with the firm. He said his work with the chapter is a “great transition,” and added that getting involved in Society activities is a good way to stay abreast of accounting and professional happenings.
“It kept me active in the Society and in the profession,” Doll said. “By continuing on as president, I felt I was able to contribute the time necessary to do the job... You’ve been busy all your life and you just don’t stop and cast that aside, because I think it’s not a very healthy thing to do.”
Doll said that it’s important for retirees to stay active.
“I think it’s an excellent choice for someone who’s retired to stay active in the profession. It gives you an opportunity to give back to others the things that you’ve learned, and you have the time,” he said.
But there’s also the question of when to retire. In Doll’s case, he had technically been working since he was seven years old, giving an extra hand to his father’s fishing boat operation.
“I used to make money catching and selling fish, helping people with their fishing and tackle,” he said. “I’ve been working practically all my life and put myself through college. I was 64 when I retired. And you really start thinking about retirement when you get around 60 and you know it’s on the horizon, and get your financial affairs ready.”
The key to mastering the shift that comes with retirement, Doll said, is controlling the ability to create your own schedule.
“When you retire, there’s a big transition. I think the most important thing is to get back into some sort of routine. You may get involved with community issues in your town, or your church or charitable organizations, or things you’ve been wanting to do for years,” said Doll, who serves on the finance committee in his parish and town homeowners’ association.
Other CPAs find that becoming active in a teaching field after retirement is rewarding. Arthur Agulnek had worked for 32 years when he decided to retire in 2001 from Ernst & Young. Shortly after retiring, he got a faculty appointment at the University of Texas at Dallas and began working as an adjunct professor giving lectures about taxes, which quickly led to approximately 10 hours of classroom time per week. Agulnek is now working with the university on developing an online program as well.
Having a retirement strategy at hand is an important factor, Agulnek said.
“The only advice I’d give to anyone considering retirement is to have a plan of what to do,” Agulnek said. “Just have a plan, a combination of plans—for personal time and a financial plan. And maintain your network. It helps you keep current, stay active; it helps keep you involved.”
There’s no specific timetable for a CPA to retire, Agulnek said.
“There’s a point where you have enough financial resources to sustain a lifestyle—the kids graduated from college and it’s time to slow down a little bit,” he said. “And in a Big Four environment, slowing down means getting out.”
But for some CPAs, there’s never a full removal from working. Phil Wolitzer technically retired in 1986 but refers to himself as “semi-retired.” He still teaches, in addition to doing expert witness work, advising other CPAs and attorneys, and volunteering.
“I’m very active professionally in the state Society, I’m on the board of directors, the Public Relations Committee, and a couple of other activities,” Wolitzer said.
Retirement also brings the chance to rekindle connections with family and friends, he added.
“We all tend to neglect the family-and-friends obligations when we’re in the throes of 80-hour weeks, and retirement starts letting us pay more attention to family. And it’s pleasurable,” Wolitzer said.
Some CPAs find that volunteerism becomes especially important during retirement. David Diness volunteers at a mental health association hotline, works on the board of the mental health association, and is a member of two other boards, The People For People Fund and The Orange Regional Medical Center Foundation. He also serves on the Community Investment Committee of Orange & Rockland Utilities and volunteers as a firefighter in Orange County. Additionally, he was secretary to a board of fire commissioners for over 13 years.
“Volunteerism is where I really am,” Diness said. “Accounting talent in the nonprofit arena is a vital, vital need, because most board members don’t have that financial background. Trying to match CPAs with nonprofits is a very critical need. The responsibility and the exposure is very great, but CPAs have the required talent.”
When Marty Rotheim retired after 29 years of working, he was confident that the timing was right.
“I really felt I’d done everything professionally,” Rotheim said. “I was active in the AICPA (American Institute of CPAs) committees and the Society, set up a worldwide association, handled a few mergers with my firm, chaired the audit committee and many other committees of the firm. Professionally, I don’t think there was a thing that could be done.”
Rotheim retired at 50, an earlier age than when most CPAs consider retirement.
“I think I’m a little unique,” Rotheim said. “I think I retired younger than most. I think that my payout was a more comfortable payout. And I had this lust to learn and wanted to learn computers.”
But for some CPAs, retirement is all about the ability to concentrate on relaxation.
Norm Adams worked with PricewaterhouseCoopers for nearly 35 years before retiring in 1999. Since retirement, Adams has gotten the chance to focus on “mainly golf and reading and traveling,” going on an African safari as well as visiting Tibet, Bali, Australia, New Zealand and other destinations.
“You only go around once, and if you can afford to retire, grab the ball and run with it,” Adams said.
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