Don't Retire From Life

Sunny Tang says you’ll likely have lots of time – plan to take advantage of it
Industry Matters Newsletter
Sunny C. Tang, ACS Fellow
Sunny C. Tang, ACS Fellow

Sunny received a BS in Chemistry from UCLA, a PhD in Inorganic Chemistry from MIT, and was recruited to join Shell in 1975. For 27 years, he operated in various capacities for Shell Chemical Company, primarily in the areas of analytical chemistry and catalysis. Initially engaged in research in homogeneous and heterogeneous catalysis, analytical science, and molecular modeling, he completed his career supervising analytical laboratories in providing thermal analysis, X-ray diffraction, X-ray spectrometry, particle sizing, and structural properties services. He published 8 technical journal papers and obtained 11 patents. 

After retiring from Shell in 2002, Sunny entered the financial world, working for AXA Advisors, LLC and SilverOak Financial Group, Ltd. in providing financial services (financial planning, brokerage services, and portfolio management) to clients. He held the Group 1, Series 7, Series 66 licenses, and received the CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNERTM (CFP®) designation in 2006. After attaining the age of 70, Sunny retired a second time in 2018.

In 2007, Sunny co-founded with his wife Barbara Tang the AllPeopleBeHappy foundation, a non-profit foundation dedicated to ending extreme poverty and Building a World Where All People Can Be Happy. Currently, the Foundation makes annual grants totally $0.25 million to organizations working in the areas of education and training, healthcare, and sustainable agriculture in the developing world.  

Did you choose retirement? Or was it chosen for you?

I had two retirements: 1. Retired from Shell Oil after 27 years; I chose to retire because I wanted a second career. 2. Retired from financial world (2 companies) after 17 years; I chose to retire because I reached age 70.

How was the transition from the working world to retirement? 

Very easy. My wife and I started a non-profit organization (AllPeopleBeHappy foundation) after several years in the financial world, so my second retirement meant that I have more free time to work on the Foundation’s business.

Looking back, what do you wish you knew about retirement before you retired? 

That I have more free time in retirement than I anticipated. To elaborate, during my working days, every hour of the day was planned, now in retirement, I find there may be hours in which I have nothing to do, so I just watch TV. If I had known this earlier, I might have been more ambitious in my planning, perhaps take on-line courses, or in-depth study of a technology topic, or write a novel… 

George Bernard Shaw said, “Youth is wasted on the young.” Assuming they would listen, what’s your best advice for someone in their 20s/30s?

Life is short. You should accomplish as much as possible, even in retirement. Very few people can accomplish a great deal after they reach age 80.

What do you enjoy most about being retired?

The freedom to do what I want to do, rather than what someone else wants me to do.

What’s the biggest challenge you have confronted to this point in your retirement?

Mostly physical: I can’t run as fast, I can’t ski so well, I can’t see so far, I can’t think so quick… 

How do you stay connected to the chemistry enterprise as a retiree?

I continue to be active in the ACS, both at the local and national level. 

Do you keep current with chemistry literature? If so, how? 

No, not anymore. 

What do you like most about where you are living, in retirement? What’s one thing you wish you could change about where you live?

I maintain three residences (Houston, TX, Portland, OR, Angel Fire, NM). No place is perfect all the time, so I travel a lot, both in the US and abroad. The general intent is to spend one quarter of the year on-the-road, summer in Portland, hiking and skiing at Angel Fire.  

What guidance do you have for people who are getting ready to retire?

Retire from Work, but don’t retire from Life. You are not going to be able to just sit around for the next 20 years.

This article has been edited for length and clarity. The opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the view of their employer or the American Chemical Society.

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