About the Authors

We set out on a mission to guide ourselves and others through this time of transition. To learn more, we started attending seminars on retirement. We visited 55+ centers. We read reports on aging. And most importantly, we interviewed hundreds of retirees and hundreds of others still in the same awkward age we were in. We watched, we learned, we listened.
Cecilia Williams, Ph.D

Cecilia Williams,
Ph.D.

I grew up in a day and age when girls were advised against going to college (it will make it harder to get married), or if they did go, choosing a feminine career. This type of guidance permeated my life just as it permeated the lives of most girls at the time. As a child, I was primed to be a ballerina and a pianist; yet I much preferred playing basketball or fighting for the right to be a priest. Not sure where it would lead, I enrolled in college and soon found myself working nightshift while obtaining a Ph.D. during the day. I think it was exposure to my dad’s office with its big wooden chair that was the catalyst to my ambition. Dad took me there when I was eight – right after I had announced in class that, as a school administrator, my dad really did not work. I don’t think my dad ever realized what an impact his office had on me. I didn’t know what it would take, but I knew that one day, I would have a swivel chair in a cozy office of my own.

Even as a child, the word retirement made an impression on me. My father’s retired Spanish teacher was a fascinating woman. She had three cats, each with their own bedroom in her home, and although she had retired from her formal day job, she continued to tutor. At the time I met her, she was also planning a trip to Spain. In my young mind the translation was that retirement meant being able to spend time with pets and travel where one wanted. And this impression was reinforced by another couple who lived in an upscale retirement community and travelled the world helping under-privileged kids in school. They also demonstrated that retirement was about travel with the added component of helping others. Bring it on. At age eight, I was ready for retirement.

I had two experiences in my early teens which made lasting impressions. One was seeing the Broadway musical, Man of La Mancha. I soon embraced the dream of fighting for a cause, doing what is right, and bringing out the best in others. The other was words of wisdom from my mom. One day, when asked what “style” she had chosen for the décor of our house, she responded, “In the style of everything I love.” These scenes have guided my life: fight for what is right, stretch beyond the norm, see beauty in others, and surround yourself with what you love, “without question or pause.”

My life is indeed styled in what I love. Throughout the years, I traveled worldwide. To me, travel has never been something to wait for until retirement; rather, it is something to be enjoyed along the way, the experiences enriching our lives in countless ways. I love to garden, and my garden is made up of fairy gardens, meditation circles, succulent gardens and vegetable boxes—all that I love. My two kitties don’t each have their own bedroom; rather, they share mine. Life is purrfect.

My diversity of interests also defined my school and professional work. I always studied and pursued what was interesting to me without necessarily having a goal as to how it should turn out. Learning was an end to itself. So in spite of the fact that my doctoral studies included eight extra courses in quantitative methods, I never realized I was a mathematician until someone offered me a good-paying job as one, as a manager of a research group. In retrospect, I had tutored kids in algebra when I was 13. I was a teacher’s assistant in statistics as an undergraduate. And I helped all my teammates in their graduate stats classes. I was just too busy enjoying myself to notice where I was headed. As I continued in my professional life, I never chose a career path, but followed the next step that interested me. As a result, loving what I do, I have never felt like I really worked.

A data processing manager in my first job, I was at the forefront of technology. Next moves were into more advanced management positions, followed by a stint as a consultant in organizational development where I helped executives manage change. Eventually, I landed a vice president job with a Fortune 500 company. Using the broad range of skills absorbed in all my experiences kept things fresh for me; I was always learning. It was only in retrospect that I was able to see how every experience opened up the next, and greater, opportunity.

With my mother’s Alzheimers diagnosis, my career path re-directed, and I opened a health care facility dedicated to long-term rehabilitation, founding, building, and selling the company in six years. At the same time, my love for helping others fulfill their dreams led to a part-time position teaching statistics, leadership, and business at the university level. Without realizing it, I was gravitating to a career in higher education and, when the Campus Dean for Business position opened up, it was perfectly timed with the selling of my business. I took the job without hesitation! (Besides, it came with a cozy office and swivel chair). My favorite time is during transition when I see a world of opportunities in front of me. Change can be intimidating, it can be scary. But when I see choices, I choose to say “that seems like fun.” My life has been full of transitions, and, though there is always the temporary pause, there was always a forward motion; a forward transition; a forward metamorphosis.

Through all my changing roles, I have never seen a job as something to be done until retirement. Instead, I continue to wonder what is next to do, to learn, to experience. I continue to see life as a series of opportunities. Perhaps that is why I so wholeheartedly avoid the traditional view of retirement and instead am immersing myself in my Act III. I met my coauthor and best friend, Paula, as she was transitioning to life in California and looking for a place to stay. I invited her to stay with me and we soon discovered we had commonality with the caregiving of our parents and our general attitude towards life. In addition, we both love to cook, particularly love to find new ways of cooking veggies. Above all, as we both enter our ACT III, neither of us want to define a traditional idea of retirement any more than we feel there was one perfect stuffing for a Thanksgiving turkey. If you come to visit, I might serve spareribs, sweet potatoes and a chai tea latte. Then some chocolate chip cookies for later. Or maybe a pastrami sandwich on a dipped Kaiser roll. Hmmm Fried oyster sandwich?

I now look forward to bringing others to the realization that what we once called retirement is now Act III – a time of adventure, self-discovery, further metamorphosis, and certainly not a time for slowing and stagnation. Act III is the time to take huge bites out of life, trying and tasting the new, all the better prepared to enjoy because of wisdom and experience acquired along the way. Act III—everything you love-- savoring at its best.

Paula White, CPA, MBA

Paula White,
CPA, MBA

I am probably dating myself with this, but as a girl, I wanted to be a secretary to a top executive; in the movies, that was the pinnacle of success for young women and so, ambitious as I was, that was my goal. But once there, finding myself quicker with ideas than the people for whom I worked, I soon realized the only difference between them and me was a college degree. And, of course, the fact that they were men. Reaching to change what I could, I began working towards my bachelor’s at night, rushing home by bus after work to get the car from my dad as he arrived home, and running off to class that started at 6:30 p.m. It was a busy, heady time, but I knew where I was headed – out of the steno pool. School was a passport to bigger, better, more exciting; it meant development and evolution. School taught me there were no barriers, that I could be whatever I wanted to be. Now all I had to do was choose.

Grad school came next. A friend counseling that I could not afford it was, to me, akin to a red flag to a bull; it added fuel to my drive. Working full and part time, I got my Master’s from Washington University and finished school debt-free. Bonus: prospective employers no longer administered typing tests as I had arrived in my professional career. So, now what? “Get a good job with a utility and you’ll be set,” was my dad’s advice. The pension it offered was for my dad, a shoe repairman by trade, the end of the rainbow. Just starting my career, already I was being advised to consider my retirement.

Taking my dad’s advice to heart, I began working for the telephone company. But the security of which he had spoken was not what I experienced. We were downsized, right sized, and reorganized until I finally found myself back home, building a CPA practice. I was in transition. I could follow up with my CPA, have control of my destiny, and live with my parents to help support them; or I could go back to corporate America and start at the bottom. I chose the business/ caregiver route, and I loved it. My business grew from a sole proprietorship at home to an office with four employees. My focus was not tax return preparation, accounting entries, and the other details. It was using the details of my profession (my talent) to help my clients. I helped them run businesses better; more profitably; helped them establish a work/home balance; helped them through financial transitions of divorce and reorganization; and I had the satisfaction of helping them recognize, reach for, and even realize their dreams. This ultimately evolved into my consulting practice through which I worked with people and businesses in transition. Then came the economic downturn of 2002. At a time when businesses could most use my advice, where I lived and practiced in the Midwest they could no longer afford it. What now? Then began the real adventure. Still driven by my work, which I loved, I knew I had to make a move. Next stop, California. I sold my house, sold the detail part of my practice, and moved my consulting practice. I loved this stage because I could still help people reach their dreams while looking at the ocean and avoiding Midwest winters. California provided multiple career paths. I made awesome friends, including my “sister of choice” and co-author.

Through personal experiences, I recognize the patterns in peoples’ stories. I see how people going through stages don’t always see opportunities that are just before them. And I have evolved in my consulting to take these stages ever more into account.

Now moving toward the age when many start thinking seriously of retirement, I have given that some serious thought, too. And what came to mind first was my grandparents. Retired from coalmining, they worked hard because they owned a small farm. I remember grandpa selling vegetables and chrysanthemums in the fall. So, my first thoughts of retirement, colored by memories of my grandparents, were of what would follow, what job or work would be next.

Discussions with my co-author ensued, and what we came to realize was that retirement – or what is traditionally thought of as retirement – was not for us. And in speaking with others, we realized it was not for many of the Boomers we know. The further we delved into it, the more our view of retirement morphed, and that was the genesis of Act III.

Still not retired, and not seeing retirement in my near future, I enjoy cooking and have transitioned from mid-west hearty casseroles and cobblers to a vegetarian palate – although I must admit I have a smoked turkey leg in my freezer for emergencies. One day I may even be a vegan, but that would mean no cheese. No, not yet.

I played clarinet in elementary school through high school; I still have my first place solo and ensemble medals. My clarinet sadly needs to be re-padded and is sitting in my coat closet. One day it may come out when Cecilia learns to plays the piano.

Who knows what the future holds. But what I do know as I enter my Act III is that I look forward to the adventure of it, and of bringing that sense of wonder and adventure to our readers as they, too, engage in the exciting time we have now dubbed Act III.