Lou retired after a 32-year career with the Y. His retirement philosophy: Have fun every day!

Tell Us About your y Career

I’ve been involved with the YMCA for seven decades, even though I’m not yet 70 years old! I first became a member in the 1950’s (through a Learn to Swim campaign) and became a volunteer swimming instructor while I was a junior high school student. Then in high school I worked on the Kitchen Crew of a resident camp run by the YMCA in Scranton, PA. I also became a lifeguard at the Y at the astounding salary of $.75 an hour.

I advanced during my college summers to become a Camp Counselor, Unit Head, and Assistant Director. I still think of these as the best years of my life! And before I had even graduated from West Chester State I served as the interim Physical Director for the West Chester YMCA. Once I graduated I became the full-time Physical Director at the Hazleton (PA) YMCA ($5,350 a year), where I served for 5 years.

After a short stint as a resident camp director in York, Pennsylvania, my next stop was in Frederick County Maryland, as Physical Director and then Associate Exec. Next it was on to a Branch Exec’s position at the YMCA of Greater Hartford (Connecticut) in Plainville. I stayed in the Hartford association for the rest of my YMCA career, moving to District Executive (supervising several branches), and then adding the collateral duty of Director of International Programs.

How was the transition to retirement?

My last day working for money was in May 2002. But my wife Mary didn’t retire for another 5 years after me. When I retired, the first thing that I did was spend some time throwing things out. Stuff I really didn’t need. Stuff from my “old” life…

One thing that surprised me was how easy it was to live financially, even though Mary and I shifted from two salaries to just one, as I didn’t begin drawing on the Retirement Fund till later on. And while we stayed in Connecticut to be near friends and family, we moved to live at the beach in Old Lyme. As a boater and fisherman, that’s where I wanted to be.

Fishing is just one of the things that I do for fun. I do lots of different fun things. I serve as the Chair of the Finance and Resource Development Committees for a 105-year-old resident camp in southwest Massachusetts. And they let me go fishing at camp! Kinda takes me back to days of my youth!

As a Chapter President and now Regional VP for YMCA Alumni, I’m deeply committed to growing this organization using the new motto of “Connect-Travel-Serve”. For the past six years I have organized annual Homebuilding trips for New England YMCA Alumni (and friends and family) to the Dominican Republic, where we have built nine new homes and a shower/toilet facility in a very poor barrio.

Soon after I retired, I became a substitute teacher in a Middle School, again for fun, where I actually followed the lesson plan the permanent teachers had laid out in all different subjects. And since I have a Middle School mentality (according to my wife), I got along great with the students!

I’m also an Official at competitive collegiate and high school swimming and diving competitions, and serve as local chapter President.

Bottom line, every day when I wake up my first thought is this: What fun can I have today?

Tell us about the process of saving for retirement

Honestly, I wasn’t able to afford to save extra for retirement beyond the normal 12% until my kids were out of college. Then, after they graduated, I did my best to max out my retirement contributions every year. I knew that if I didn’t save it, I’d spend it. Like some people say “Pay yourself first”!

And now my retirement benefits are awesome! Most of my friends will admit to being at least a little jealous as each month a check arrives and I have no worries about managing anything except how to spend it! To me it’s magic!

Mary and I have been able to visit 53 countries since we retired. We’ve actually been on all continents but one, and we’ll hit Antarctica later this year to complete the list. Near or at the top of the list of favorites was a visit with the Gorillas in the Mist in Rwanda, up in the mountains, with no bars separating us! Our kids think we are nuts, but so what?

My advice to older staff is this: Retire as soon as you can. Don’t be afraid. You can easily remain relevant and needed just like when you were “working”. There is a wonderful life awaiting you, and too many people just don’t get there.

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

Make the Y your career. Start putting some extra into the Fund as soon as you can, then retire as soon as you can. If you leave you’ll never find as great a retirement benefit.