Did you choose retirement? Or was it chosen for you?
I definitely chose to retire. I actually planned it two years in advance and advised my ACS Rubber Division Board of Directors of this. I even specified the date, January 15, 2020. This was one week after I turned 70 years old and the exact date of my hire 19 years earlier. This was also my third career retirement, so I knew it was time to relax more, get back to my hobbies and interests, and most of all, spend quality time with my wife, kids, and grandkids.
A year before I retired, I helped our Search Committee determine what questions to ask interviewees for the position, where and how to advertise the position and initial review of potential candidates. Of course, they made the final decision, but I am glad they chose my Finance Director to replace me. She was the perfect choice and has done an outstanding job!
How was the transition from the working world to retirement?
It was very easy for me, because my philosophy has always been to do your best in the position you are in, but once you leave, recognize that your replacement has the reigns now, so move on. I guess the biggest change was waking up early and telling myself I don’t really need to get up and go to work.
I also needed to prioritize with my wife what we wanted to do with our time. As I said, I let go of my job immediately and all of its challenges, so the transition was very smooth. The stress was gone. I think where many people make a mistake and have a difficult time in transitioning is when they wait too long to retire, have no outside interests beyond their career and current life, and erroneously believe now they have nothing to look forward to. I will expand on this when I offer some advice at the end.
What do you wish you knew about retirement before you retired?
I wish I had known that what many retirees had always told me was really true, e.g., they seemed to be busier now than when they worked! If I had believed this, I would have taken more time in the beginning to think before I volunteered to help or lead different organizations in retirement, feeling I had all the time in the world.
At first, I did too much and never really got to my hobbies which I missed, including coin collecting, rock and gemstone collecting, hiking and oil painting. My wife and I finally talked about this and we decided to say no to some things. We also dedicated more time to travel, our interests, our grandkids, going out with friends and fun activities.
Another and more impactful thing I wish I had known was that I could not do as much physically as I did over the past years. Like most guys, I figured I would always be in shape and have great joints. Nice idea, but it does not work that way.
I have always been very active in the military, martial arts, marathons, scuba diving, and heavy “do-it-yourself” projects. Now at 71 years, I still do a lot of yardwork and heavy downsizing in our home, but I get worn out quicker on big projects than I used to. I waited too long!
How do you stay connected to the chemistry enterprise as a retiree?
One way is that I went back to teaching Fourth Graders once a year how the Earth was formed, starting with the elements (using ACS’ Periodic Chart), then combining into minerals and finally rocks. I have a huge rock and gemstone collection from all over the world, so I showcase them in the talk and let the kids see and feel them.
Another way is that I try to attend ACS Rubber Division events when they occur locally or in a nearby state. I also still do a little free consulting on asphalt pavements for friends, and often discuss asphalt chemistry and the attributes of the binder.
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 enjoy all the nature parks and hiking trails in Ohio, and still do some spelunking for rocks and minerals which are in abundance in the state. I also enjoy no state taxes for retired military pensions because my wife and I are both retired Air Force veterans.
Of course, our disabled daughter, our son, daughter-in-law and two grandchildren live here, so that is a blessing in retirement. The only regret I have is that one of our sons lives in Kentucky and another lives in New Zealand, so we do not get to see them as often. I don’t really envision moving, but I do wish airline tickets were cheaper!
What advice do you have for people who are getting ready to retire?
Each of us have basic differences in our lives that impact our decision to retire. If I were super rich, I would just do it and go cruising on my yacht the rest of my life. Unfortunately for the rest of us, the decision takes more thinking. However, I believe there are some basics that we all share when we make this decision.
Don’t do it on the spur of the moment or in an emotional state, due to the job. Plan for your retirement well before you actually retire. This includes a full financial review to assure you will have the means to retire, where you want to live, whether you want to downsize, and if you do, are you willing to tackle the large, physical projects that go along with downsizing..
My wife and I did our own full financial review many years ago and built upon it as we got closer to retirement. We spent the last five years paying off our major credit cards and other loans, calculated what we would have in retirement and what our costs would be. This helped prepare us to answer the questions on our home, our cars, where we wanted to live and what we could do for fun, as well as helping our kids and grandkids. I sleep well at night because of this.
The key though is to ask yourself what you and your spouse want to do in retirement, not just what you can afford, but what brings meaning to your life. Don’t go into retirement blindly. Think about how you want to spend your time and whether you can truly do it all.
It is fine to take some time to simply relax when you first retire, but don’t stay inactive too long. Remember what Isaac Newton’s first law of motion shows us, e.g., “A body at rest stays at rest and a body in motion stays in motion with the same speed and in the same direction unless acted upon by an unbalanced force.” You are that force and can choose to sit at home, or you can choose to be active; just keep it tempered to your abilities!
Ed Miller retired from the ACS Rubber Division on January 15, 2020, after serving as its first Executive Director for 19 years. Prior to this, he was President and CEO of the Asphalt Institute for nine years after serving 20 years in the U.S. Air Force and retiring in 1992. He has been involved in research, design & construction, developing new products, teaching graduate school as Assistant Professor and technical consulting in 20 countries.
He is a graduate of the U.S. Air Force Academy, holds master’s degrees in both Civil Engineering and Business Administration and is a licensed Professional Engineer. Ed has also been very active in civic matters, working with abused and neglected children in the United States and third world countries. He also ran an orphanage in South Korea.
In retirement, he remains active in his church, serves as Commander of the American Legion Copley Post 473, and teaches fourth graders the formation of elements, minerals and rocks. He and his wife, Diane, are now enjoying time in retirement with their children and grandchildren, travelling, hiking and enjoying dinner with friends.
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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.