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.


Cathy Retired From The Y After A 27-Year Career. She Is Still Involved With The Y On A Daily Basis As Both A Member Of Her Local Y, And As VP Of Membership For Her AYR Chapter.

Tell Us About Your YMCA Career

Thinking about the Y still puts a smile on my face. It’s been an important part of my life. I believe in the Y. It’s like a second home to people, providing a very comfortable, welcoming environment for families and young children. It’s special – not a fitness club. The Y staff really cares about their members.

My first job in the Y was Administrative Assistant to the MRC Director in Philadelphia, located in the Association Office. I was hired by Len Wilson in 1986. Back then, the MRC was the Management Resource Center, providing consulting support to 72 YMCAs in the region. When national services was re-structured, I held positions, still with the Philadelphia YMCA, supporting VPs (HR/COO & Membership). I retired just as Philly merged with Phoenixville (Freedom Valley) to become the Philadelphia Freedom Valley YMCA.

How Was The Transition To Retirement?

The Y gave me a wonderful party which included current and past colleagues. Then my husband, Walt, threw a surprise party for me. Honestly, on my first day of retirement it felt strange not to rush for the train. Of course there was some transition time that took me a few weeks. Now I do my morning workouts at a suburban Y (4-5 mornings/week), have time to work in the garden, take walks with Cooper (my young Jack Russell), and also spend more time with my mother. To tell you the truth, I’m really having fun!

The month I retired, Len invited me to attend an AYR holiday lunch, and he urged me to join the Association of YMCA Retirees. So the same guy who first hired me in 1986 also recruited me to join AYR more than 25 years later. Now I am VP for Membership in the AYR Central Atlantic Chapter. It’s all about building relationships. I also do proofreading for Bridges, the WFYR (World Fellowship of YMCA Retirees) newsletter.

Tell Us About The Process Of Saving For Retirement

Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to save much early in my career. But the last 10 years while I was working, I got smart and started saving. It was a colleague in the payroll department who encouraged me. Also, my CEO, John Flynn, urged all staff to save, and so did Bob Hastedt from the YMCA Retirement Fund, who came to All-Staff meetings. I feel very lucky and blessed to have a pension from 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?

Is anything so important that you can’t live without it? Probably not. So instead of spending, save your money. Do it. It’s worth it. You’ll be glad you did!

Gary Green

Gary Green Retired In March 2010 After A 36-Year Y Career. By Planning, Saving, And Maintaining A Modest Lifestyle While Working, He Was Able To Retire Young And Debt Free.

Tell Us About Your YMCA Career

I worked for the Y for 36 years. I retired at 59 because I wanted to retire while I was  young and healthy.

What makes the YMCA different from other organizations doing the same kind of work is the Y’s inclusiveness and diversity. Also, the Y’s commitment to financial assistance differentiates the Y from other social service organizations.

When I was eight years old I became a member of the Greendale Y in Worcester, Massachusetts. I learned to swim and participated in a variety of activities continuing through high school. My experiences in the Hi-Y club program motivated me to pursue a YMCA career.

My first paid job was as a C.I.T at the Y Day Camp. After I graduated from Springfield College, I started as a YMCA Youth Director in Merrimack Valley (Mass). I advanced throughout my career as I moved to increasingly more responsible positions in Bridgeport and Boston.

I completed my career as the President and CEO of the YMCA of the Brandywine Valley in West Chester, PA. in 2010.

How Was The Transition To Retirement?

I loved working for the Y. What surprised me the most was that I didn’t miss work at all, and to this day I don’t understand why. Perhaps the transition was made easier because I gave myself a two-year runway to plan for my retirement. This succession plan benefitted both myself and the YMCA.

My wife retired six months after I did and we were able to spend four months a year enjoying our second home in Maine. We now spend most of our time in West Chester enjoying our family and grandchildren.

After being retired a few years I got involved in the coaching program for new YMCA CEO’s. It’s a great volunteer program and I enjoy staying connected to the Y.

My hobby is restoring and racing antique and classic cars. There is no vacuum in my life….I have plenty to do.

Tell Us About The Process Of Saving For Retirement

Always maintaining a modest lifestyle, I was able to put our four children through college and retire without debt.

None of my non-YMCA friends have what I have—an annuity for life with total protection from risk. I would never have believed the growth of my savings at the Fund.

If You Could Give One Piece Of Advice To Current YMCA Staff About Saving And Planning For Retirement, What Would It Be?

Plan ahead. Eliminate all your debt before you retire and save as much as you can along the way.

Barb Taylor

Barb Retired From The Y After 33 Years. She Saved As Much As She Could And Now Has A Comfortable Lifestyle In Retirement.

Tell Us About Your YMCA Career

What I like about the Y is it’s an organization that is passionate about its members and its community. They care for everyone. Also, YMCAs work with the whole community to ensure that everyone has the best care they can receive.

I worked for the Y for 33 years, starting as a part-time nursery school teacher at the Lower Bucks Y in Fairless Hills, Pennsylvania. I quickly became a full-time Program Director overseeing all youth programs and Day Camp.

Also, during this time I was a volunteer on the Day Camp Committee with the Philadelphia MRC, offering trainings for camp staff and directors. That led me to be a National Day Camp Trainer and the first Day Camp Facilitator.

After 17 years, I left for Connecticut and worked at the Westbrook Y as Senior Program Director and at the Fairfield Y as an Associate Executive.

My last position was with the Greenwich Y as the Vice President of Operations. John Eikrem was the CEO, and under his leadership we assembled a great team to undertake a massive turnaround and a major expansion.

How Was The Transition To Retirement?

Everybody has some trepidation about retirement. I know I did. My husband and I spent the summer at the shore, thinking about our future as retirees.

I didn’t realize how busy I would be in retirement. Since my family lives in Pennsylvania, we decided to move ‘home.’ We joined the Hatboro Y, where we reconnected with old friends and became volunteers. I now help with the annual fundraising and have been approached to join the Board.

I also became the President of the Central Atlantic Chapter of AYR (Association of YMCA Retirees) with a great group of Y retirees. We work as a team to make our Chapter fun and interesting.

Tell Us About The Process Of Saving For Retirement

The first person to encourage me to save for retirement was John Preis, the CEO of the Retirement Fund. He was making a presentation that I attended. I’m glad I listened to him.

I don’t know how my retirement compares to others, but we are comfortable. After marrying Roy (my second marriage), we were smart — we went to see a financial advisor. He advised to save the most we could for retirement, and we followed that advice.

If You Could Give One Piece Of Advice To Current YMCA Staff About Saving And Planning For Retirement, What Would It Be?

Be smart with your money. Think about seeing a financial advisor well in advance. They will help you prepare for retirement.

Terri Texeira

Terri’s Career At The YMCA Let Her Creativity Grow And Shine, And Allowed Her To Change The World In A Small Way

Tell Us About Your YMCA Career

Everybody knows what the YMCA does for the community, but the great thing about the YMCA is that it helps people grow, both individually and also professionally. It let my creativity grow and shine as a woman, and allowed me to change the world, in a small way.

Every day I got to go to a calling. It was more than a job, and I feel very blessed to have had the opportunities it provided. I actually started in the Y in 1978 as a volunteer. It wasn’t until 1980 that I was invited to join the staff. I was at the old downtown Y on Telegraph Avenue in Oakland. I started in the Women’s Health & Fitness Center, first as a part-time instructor, then part-time director. I got my first full-time position in 1984 at the Sequoia Y, which is now part of the YMCA of Silicon Valley.

In 1989 I left the Y to become Development Director at Big Brothers Big Sisters, but I missed the Y and I came back less than 2 years later. I worked for the Y in San Francisco, where Martie Bolsinger was my mentor, then I moved to become the Exec at the Mt. Diablo Y. I ended my career as COO in San Francisco.

How Was The Transition To Retirement?

My last day of work was a Friday and there was a wonderful party! The next day I slept in, which was different, because I used to get up every day at 5:00 am. I took a deep breath and enjoyed the backyard and then started planning our wedding.

I got married in September and my wife and I took a trip to Italy for one month. It was fantastic!

Although I’ve done some work as a consultant, overall I’m surprised at how busy I’ve been with the family. We have three grandchildren and another is due in March. Also, I haven’t been inhibited by time limits and I have had the energy to explore different parts of who I am through classes and hobbies.

I didn’t realize how blessed I was to have a Y career, and little did I know what a blessed retirement I’d have!

Tell Us About The Process Of Saving For Retirement

Two people taught me to save for retirement:

Back in the mid-1980s, the Office Manager at the Y said “Save as much as you can now, and you’ll be happy later.” She was right!

My father emigrated from the Hawaiian Islands with a 10th grade education. He had to quit school in order to work to support his family. He always said “Pay yourself first.” So I did. I saved part of every raise I got.

If You Could Give One Piece Of Advice To Current YMCA Staff
About Saving And Planning For Retirement, What Would It Be?

Always pay yourself first; it’ll come back in spades in retirement.

Ralph Christian

Ralph Christian Worked For The Y For 29 Years. He Continues To Serve The Y As An AYR Volunteer.

Tell Us About Your YMCA Career

The amazing thing about the YMCA is the breadth of knowledge about serving communities and individuals that the Y provides to new, incoming staff. Where I grew up in Virginia I was not permitted to attend the YMCA. Things in Virginia were segregated including my local Y. But as a young man, when I came to New York City I learned much more about the YMCA including the many opportunities that were open to me as a new staff person.

I was hired by Dr. Paul Sharar (Director of Counseling & Testing) to do street work through the Harlem YMCA. We had thirty 15-passenger vans (“Youthmobiles”) that allowed us to reach out to local kids and bring them to YMCA programs in parks, camps and in the facilities.

Later in my Y career (in 1980), after serving 6 years as the CEO of the Mount Vernon New York YMCA, I left the Y for a period of time and worked as a manager of a Jazz Club called Sweet Basil, in Greenwich Village, NY. After a few years I returned to the Y, serving in both Oklahoma City and Indianapolis respectively. I returned to New York in 1995 as the Executive Director of Central Queens Branch of the YMCA of Greater New York. The YMCA is very nomadic; to advance your career often requires moving around. I worked for the Y a total of 29 years during a 35-year period.

How Was The Transition To Retirement?

Honestly? At first I was somewhat lonely, thinking about what I’d do next. But as time passed, my wife and I went looking for a house to buy near the water on Long Island, and we found something that was reasonable so we took it. We have three granddaughters in Indianapolis, so we visit them when we can.

My wife has been a school teacher in NYC for nearly 50 years and loves it. That’s a commitment to youth. I’m actually very busy now in retirement, working hard on projects I don’t get paid for! I’m honored to be a Regional Vice President for AYR, the Association of YMCA Retirees. That’s just one of my projects.

Tell Us About The Process Of Saving For Retirement

Chuck Swineford and Bob Wilson were my mentors about a lot of things, including the importance of saving for my retirement. I do wish that I had found a way to save even more. However; when I compare notes with my friends who did not work for the Y, I find that the Y’s retirement program is competitive with any other.

If You Could Give One Piece Of Advice To Current YMCA Staff About Saving And Planning For Retirement, What Would It Be?

Don’t be sorry later on. The Fund is sending streams of info to you, so don’t say you weren’t encouraged to save for your retirement. And one more thing, when you retire, join AYR!