Thursday, December 07, 2000

Early retirees

Zoomers new hope for future?

        If it had been just the one shoe, she might have ignored it. But Theresa Tucker, driving home to Finneytown after shopping, thought she saw its mate alongside the road.

        She hates waste.

        Plus she could imagine how those shoes got there. “Anything I put on the top of my car I might as well kiss goodbye. Invariably, I continue loading the car, forget what's there and start driving down the road.” She lost a pair of her son's tennis shoes that way.

        So she pulled over onto the berm along Interstate 71, just south of the Smith-Edwards roads exit.

"Almost brand new'
               Black Kenneth Cole Reaction shoes, made in Italy, leather-lined, men's size 10. Retail about $140. “They look almost brand new,” Theresa says. “Worn a little on the outside of the heels.” Probably just enough to be comfortable.

        Not that she doesn't see the value in things that are old and not so gently used. Sometimes she ransacks her neighbors' garbage cans looking for things somebody might need if she spiffed them up a little.

        “Sometimes people cleaning out their basement just don't have the stamina to sort through it all.” Or maybe sometimes we just don't see the possibilities. Life seems to be loaded with possibilities for Theresa.

        Some stuff she takes to Goodwill, carefully getting a receipt in the name of the person whose former garbage it was.

        “So they can get a tax deduction,” she says.

Value added
               Retired for three and a half years, she has formed what she calls a family foundation. “We'd like to name it the Value Added Family Foundation,” she says. “We're checking to see if we're allowed to register that name.”

        Her foundation, whatever it eventually will be named, doesn't solicit money from anybody. (Right away, this sounds refreshing.) And the family doesn't distribute money. They give time and effort. It's sort of like recycling. But more complicated. And maybe not so much concerned with the community landfill as with the community itself.

        She says what she, her husband and two teen-age boys are doing is simple. “We just try to find something that has some value to someone if we fix it up and get it to them.” This, she says, is “what I have chosen to do with my time.”

        KeyCorp calls people like Theresa “zoomers.” Which I personally find a lot more attractive than, say, “senior citizen” or AARP-ready. It has zip. Hey, if we can let Hallmark come up with holidays, I say we can allow financial institutions to identify social trends. Besides, they did a survey.

        “There is a new generation,” a company news release claims. “They are not baby boomers and not quite members of Generation X or Y. They are "zoomers,' and they are changing the look of retirement.”

        Laura Scharf of KeyCorp says many retirees, especially those who retire early, see retirement as a new chance. “Zoomers will be doing things they put off while they were earning a living, maybe supporting a family.”

        More than 64 percent of men and women surveyed say they'll retire before they're 65, and almost one in four planned to volunteer. “Many people,” Ms. Scharf says, “told us they wanted to do good now that they could afford it.”


        Just like Theresa's shoes. Valuable. Worn enough to be comfortable. With a lot of good left in them.

       E-mail Laura at or call 768-8393.


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