Editor's note: This story appeared in Senior Living section of the May 11 edition of LNP.
Ask Ray Loewe about his retirement philosophy, and he’ll likely bring up the penguins.
When Loewe and his wife, Sandy, were in their 50s, they did what they called their “practice retirement,” knocking off some of their big bucket list items early in life.
While touring Antarctica, they went on an outing one day to see the penguins. When they returned to their ship, Loewe asked an older couple on the tour why they had stayed behind. More than two decades later, he can still remember their answer:
“We kept putting off this trip because we wanted to feel financially secure,” the couple told him. “Now we have all the money we need but we can’t climb up the hill to see the penguins.”
If he learned one lesson that day, it’s this: “I don’t want to have regrets.”
Loewe, who recently turned 80 and moved to Willow Valley Communities with Sandy six months ago, is still living life without regrets. He’s hoping to help others do the same.
A native of Cleveland, Ohio, Loewe graduated from the University of Pennsylvania, settled in the Philly suburbs and ran his own financial planning business in New Jersey for 45 years. While he spent more than half his life getting people financially prepared for their retirement years, at some point he realized there was a piece missing from the puzzle.
“We did a pretty good job of helping people accumulate money, but we never taught them how to spend it,” he says. “Spending is what life is all about. It’s why you save for retirement. You don’t want to get to a point where you don’t have direction.”
Loewe began to discover that the people who were unhappy or had regrets were the ones who retired without a plan or a purpose. It’s not enough to simply keep busy if you’re just meandering through life, he says.
So, he set out to learn the secrets of people he admired, those who designed the life they wanted to live and then started living it.
You might say Loewe has found some of his own retirement purpose by sharing the stories of how others found theirs.
He calls them “the luckiest people in the world,” and he’s interviewed more than 100 of them over the past two years for his podcast, “Changing the Rules.” They come from all walks of life. Among his past guests:
— A musician who now helps late bloomers achieve their hidden dreams.
— A former corporate executive who shares the ABCs of career success.
— A geographer who turned his passion for biking into a volunteer gig with Lancaster Farmland Trust.
“Every week we put a role model in front of people,” he says.
Originally, he started with guests that were 55 and older, until some younger listeners pointed out that the idea of finding out who you are and discovering your niche in life really applies to people of any age.
Loewe’s podcasts typically draw over 100 listeners, he says. And since they don’t allow for audience interaction, he also holds virtual weekly coffee and cocktail hours to give a limited number of people the opportunity to chat with guests and each other.
“The whole idea is to support each other,” he says. “People meet other people and get some ideas and support for how to revamp their life.”
Even though you need to live by your own rules, it’s OK to steal good ideas from others when you’re trying to find direction in your own life, Loewe says. He can’t help but mention at this point that there are even some wily penguins in Antarctica that steal rocks from each other’s nests to protect their young.
Loewe will be the first to tell you he’s stolen some life lessons from others who are living retirement on their own terms.
Like John, a 103-year-old he met a few years ago at the National Senior Games in Birmingham, Alabama. Loewe, a competitive Masters swimmer, was between events when he encountered John holding a stack of medals for the shot put, discus, hammer throw and javelin.
John may be more of an exception than the rule, but the number of people reaching 100 and beyond is growing rapidly. A 2016 Pew Research Report estimated that the world centenarian population could grow eightfold by 2050, reaching almost 3.7 million.
That fact gives Loewe pause when he considers the next quadrant of his life.
“Do I want to be like John, or do I want to be sitting on a nursing home doorstep in a wheelchair?” he says. “If I’m lucky enough to live to be 100 ... what am I going to do with the next 20 to 25 years? Am I going to waste them or am I going to put some direction to it and try to look at the value I can put at the table?”
A desire to make the most of those years spurs him to follow John’s example and continue swimming and staying active.
“Make sure you’re healthy enough to live well,” he says. “And make sure you can walk up the hill to see the penguins.”
Loewe is in search of Lancaster County residents to interview on his podcast. For more information or to subscribe to his podcast, visit www.theluckiestpeopleintheworld.com.