How The Fund Works

Retiree Profile: Phil Wortman
After a 35-year Y career, Phil enjoys an active retirement. He travels, spends time with grandkids and great-grandkids, and is very involved in the Association of YMCA Retirees (AYR).
Tell us about your YMCA Career

Mine was a 35-year career in the YMCA. I initially got involved in the Hi-Y program at the Savannah, Georgia Y when I was in 10th grade in high school. Then, from 1954 to 1956, I worked part-time for the Y, teaching swimming, including being a counselor at day camp.

I went to college at the University of Georgia (UGA) where I initially majored in commercial illustration and pharmacy. But, I missed physical education so much that I switched my major to physical education. I got involved at the YMCA in Athens, Georgia and also worked at the Savannah Y in the summers.

In 1961, after I graduated from UGA with my Masters Degree, I started working professionally for the Y as the Assistant Physical Director in New Orleans, earning $3,000 per year. Back then, the Y began to integrate racially and also started to welcome women at the downtown facility. The racial integration was without issues; however, some of the members felt “invaded” with the inclusion of women downtown. This was partly due to the men having to start wearing swimsuits in the indoor pool and then worry about having to store wet swimsuits in their lockers.  

I advanced in New Orleans over a 20-year period, eventually becoming the Associate General Director and during the last six years, sharing 50 percent of my time with the YMCA South Field as the South Field’s Health and Physical Education Consultant.  During my time in New Orleans, I was fortunate to coach several national championship gymnastics teams, initiate a medically-supervised comprehensive cardiovascular assessment and rehabilitation program, and was awarded the YMCA Roberts-Gulick Award for contributions to YMCA physical education in 1979.   

In 1980, I accepted the Executive Director’s position at the YMCA in Lakeland, Florida, and developed that association to become the West Central Florida YMCA, where I retired in 1994.

What’s special about the Y is the relationships we build with our members. I still stay in touch with my “kids” from New Orleans, and I’ve watched some of them start and advance in their own YMCA careers. In fact, quite a few of my “kids” went into Y work, and that’s very gratifying to me.

How was the transition to retirement?

On my last day working before retirement, my son gave me an expensive cigar. I lit it walking down the steps of the YMCA, and I drove home. It was the end of one chapter and the beginning of the next.

Honestly, my retirement has been just as I expected, including an adjustment all new retirees have to make. I had to get used to not having “positional” power and recalibrate myself to having “personal” power. Those are very different, but when anticipated, is an easy transition.  

My wife, Gail, and I travel frequently. We have a motor home. It is kept by our home, plugged in and always ready to go. We’ve got grand kids and great-grand kids to visit.

When I retired, we did not move away from Lakeland. During the early years of my retirement, I purposely stayed away from the Y. I did not want to be in the way of my successor, who had been the Central Branch Director when I was leading that YMCA.

Recently, I received the F. William Stahl Award for significant contributions toward the advancement of YMCA professional knowledge and skills through written expression.  I volunteer for my church, developing marketing materials for some of their programs. I’m also very involved with AYR (the Association of YMCA Retirees) and along with Gail, we are heading up the YMCAlumni Reunion Cruise set for February 2017. It will be a super experience, and there is still time to register!

Tell us about the process of saving for retirement

Thanks to my CEO when I worked in New Orleans, I started saving early. Back then it was voluntary to be in the Retirement Fund, but he told me it was a “must do,” and I am very grateful for that early guidance. I am so thankful for the YMCA Retirement Fund!

If you could give one piece of advice to current YMCA staff about saving and planning for retirement,
what would it be?

One word is key: “Compounding.” If you save early and often, the interest will compound, and it’s just amazing!

Also, as you look toward retirement, plan what you’ll be doing 1-2 years ahead. Keep moving and stay involved.


Start saving today! Open a 403(b) Smart Account.