A former newspaper reporter talks about transitioning to his second career.

“The trouble with retirement is you never get a day off.” —Abe Lemons

Assess, plan and create structure. Skim through the voluminous material available on retirement and you can sum up all of that wise counsel with those three directives.

I didn't follow any of that guidance when I left a 25-year, Columbus-based career as a journalist withThe Plain Dealer, Cleveland's daily, at the end of 2006.

My departure was forced retirement. Basically, The Plain Dealer offered 61 colleagues and me money to disappear as the newspaper business downsized.

I happily accepted with little-to-no planning for the future. I'm not suggesting that was the smartest move, but it's how I roll—tossing caution to the winds, go with the flow.

My job went away but expenses did not, of course. House and car payments, utilities, groceries and other expenses continued to come due every month. It helped that my buyout provided several months of a cushion with financial and medical coverage, but I knew that benefit train would leave town.

So, I began to work my extensive network of the people I'd met through my newspaper career covering the state of Ohio and more. I was on the hunt for new fields of business—freelance magazine writing and media consulting gigs. Out-of-pocket medical expenses loomed ahead; the costs would start in the range of $600 a month and steadily creep to more than $1,000 per month.

But like a hot craps shooter, I was fortunate to land a six-month gig as a Knight digital media fellow in the Kiplinger Program at the Ohio State University. There, I learned an array of digital skills that positioned me to find work in a new era at my not-so-tender age. Teaching this old dog new tricks and a reliable network opened doors as social media exploded across the business world.

With help, I created a personal website and eventually ramped up my Linked-In presence. Both brought some, but not always steady, employment. More than once I envisioned sinking beneath a wave of bills, but that never happened. Someone in my matrix of contacts would toss me a life preserver of work to get through another month, or so.

Yes, I drained some of my savings that were built up by my mom's investments years ago. Thanks to living expenses and a personal conviction to help two grown daughters on occasion, my cash seemed to flow outwards.

Once again, personal contacts paid off. I was offered a part-time adjunct position to teach journalism at Ohio Wesleyan University, where I've been since 2014. Top that with regular freelance writing assignments, and now my days are usually filled with work.

Today, when people ask how I'm enjoying retirement, my typical reply is: “Retirement? Hell, I'm working harder now than when I was working.”


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