ABA Journal

Road to retirement -- Are you prepared for your golden years?


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Do you have all your ducks in a row?
Illustration by Shane Rebenschied.

Deanell Reece Tacha has the characteristic enthusiasm of a 3L.

“I’m in my third year here and I love it. It’s very interesting and challenging. I think there is something to not just letting yourself sit by,” she said. “There is a commonsense fact that when you challenge yourself, test yourself in a new place, challenge your analytical and interpersonal skills, they sharpen.”

But Tacha’s not a law student. She’s the 67-year-old dean of Pepperdine Law School.

“I can see the beach, but I haven’t had time to go there,” Tacha says of her work schedule. “It’s very different from being a judge, where you control your own time. ”

Formerly a judge on the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals at Denver, Tacha rejected fading into the judicial woodwork of the traditional senior status route, retiring so as to take on a new career.

“I’m so fortunate to have been on the bench for 25 years, but I’ve always known that I needed a new challenge to keep myself energized.”

She started the new job when she was 65 years old. “That was my first year here. I traveled to 22 cities learning new names, faces and goals of employers, alumni, donors and educators—all this when I wasn’t visiting with students about their needs.”

Tacha describes herself and her husband, John, as “both people who feel like we’re better when we’re engaged.” And she doesn’t think they are unusual.

“Take the man who was checking me in at the airport,” she says, “I said to him, ‘You have as much white hair on the top of your head as I do,’ when I saw him lift my heavy bags. He replied, ‘It keeps me in shape and I don’t have to go to the gym.’ He’s active.”

“Reflecting a bit on the women’s movement 30 years ago,” Tacha says, “I’d say that we have a situation now where many seniors feel disenfranchised. They may not have the same energy level they once did; but with respect to lawyers, they have an experience level and intellectual contribution to make. It’s just [that] the uncertainties of the legal market are very disconcerting.”

Mary Beth Blake’s approach to work matches Tacha’s. “I’m still having fun,” says Blake, age 62, a Kansas City, Mo.-based senior partner in Polsinelli’s health care law practice.

Law school sweethearts, Blake and husband Mike have similarities that also complement their differences. “Neither one of us are the types to lounge around in a retirement community,” she says. “But my practice kicked into high gear when he decided to retire from his construction law work.”

“The fast-paced changes to our health care laws bring intellectually interesting work, and I still receive great satisfaction helping my clients cope with the new requirements,” Blake says. “My husband refocused on issues that are of interest to him, … including design and construction work and developing new computer programs. We like traveling and visiting with our kids and grandkids, but we also both need intellectual pursuits to be happy.”

The Tachas and Blakes are among the baby boomers changing the way society views traditional retirement. Whatever your personal definition of retirement is, everyone shares the same goal: a comfortable retirement life. Whatever your age, managing retirement savings is as important as managing your career in a transitioning legal market. To the extent that shrinking incomes, increased stresses and relationship obligations are blurring your retirement vision, the good news is this article is the first of a series focusing on the steps you can take to sharpen it.

Should you be among the 40 percent surveyed by J.P. Morgan Asset Management whose savings plan is to “wing it,” it’s not too late to plan. Deciding how to handle your finances, your health and your life events will determine how, when and where your retirement days are spent.

Click here to read the rest of this article from the January 2014 magazine issue, including financial-planning tips based on your current age.

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