Living the good life in semi-retirement

Calling John Beaney “retired” is not quite accurate.

“I’m happily semi-retired,” says John, 65. He spoke to Renew just after a long weekend trip to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico with his wife Kim, and just before embarking on an all-hands-on-deck vacation with their three children, two grandkids, and other family members at their timeshare in Branson, Missouri.

“I have to admit,” John smiles. “It’s a good life.”

When he’s not journeying around Europe and North America, the non-retired part of his life is rather enjoyable, too.  The co-founder and partner in an Orange County-based commercial real estate business, John is contentedly setting his own work hours these days, usually putting in about 20 per week.

But for years, he hadn’t seriously been thinking about even a partial retirement – not while working dawn-to-dusk and traveling often to visit clients. “I love my work, and feel I was hitting my stride in the last decade or so – the prime of my career.”

But all it took to get him to step back from his business-centric pathway was a gentle nudge from Kim, whom he married in 1979 after both had graduated from the University of Missouri, Kansas City. Their heart-to-heart talk reframed his outlook on work, retirement and their future together.

Why wait?

Kim and John have spent over 40 years as friends as well as spouses, true partners in raising a family and building an enjoyable and meaningful life. “We really enjoy spending time together,” says John.

But Kim – a musician who manages and performs in The Bluegrass Gospel Country Band, and during worship services at Saddleback Church – is an insulin-dependent diabetic. While she exercises regularly, eats a healthy diet, and gets frequent checkups, Kim was worried that if they waited until John was 70 to retire, they wouldn’t be able to do – together – all the things they currently enjoy.

 

Photos by Sean Hazen

 

Explains John: “Kim was very blunt about her awareness of mortality. She said, ‘I’m not going to live forever. My future doesn’t look as good as yours, health-wise. I don’t want to have to wait until you retire, and then all of a sudden not have the same energy or ability to travel.’”

That was all John needed to hear. “I said, ‘Let start doing it now.’”

With the support of his partners at EDGE Realty, and encouragement from family and friends, John is gradually easing into retirement. Further inspiring him to slow down from work was the birth of their first grandson, now age 4. “I want to be able to spend more time with my grandkids, my kids and my wife. My priorities really changed.”

While he typically works 20 hours per week, he often takes time off for trips with Kim. A popular destination is England – the land of his birth – to visit his 88-year-old father, who still resides in the family home near Dover.

Those journeys often include a side-trip to London, where they enjoy climbing the 528 steps to the Golden Gallery atop the dome of St. Paul’s Cathedral, to enjoy breathtaking views of the River Thames and the London skyline. They’ve even tried their hand at “mudlarking,” the age-old practice of walking along the Thames at low tide and combing its dark shoreline in search of artifacts.

In Italy, another favorite European destination for the Beaneys, they’ve taken in a less muddy, but quite arduous hike, traipsing along the part-mountainous, part-seafront 11-kilometer Cinque Terre trail. It links the villages of Riomaggiore and Manarola in the heart of the Italian Riviera, with amazing views around every twist and turn on the trail.

Indeed, the transition to semi-retirement has been quite smooth, thanks in no small part to careful retirement planning and investing, which they began soon after John graduated from law school in 1982 and embarked on his commercial real estate career.

“We started saving pretty early, and we’ve been fortunate not to have many financial worries,” he explains. “That’s given us the ability to have options we wouldn’t otherwise have.”

Easing into retirement has proven to be a blessing, John says, especially compared with some friends of his who have made the switch too abruptly.

“When I look at some guys I know who did a ‘hard-stop’ retirement, it was a shock to them. Suddenly, the husband’s home and the wife is saying, ‘Wait a minute. I wasn’t ready for this. You’re here all day?’”

John is certainly home more often, but – with his office just a mile from their Lake Forest home – he’s not burdened by the lengthy commutes that many Southern Californians endure. “Kim and I have plenty of time for walks in the morning, lunch together at home, and I play a lot more tennis,” he explains. “It’s a good balance.”

 

 

As for the future, John and Kim have a number of items on their bucket list. They are currently planning a return trip to Italy, with a stop-off to see his Dad first. This time, they plan to visit Naples and the Amalfi Coast since they explored Rome and Tuscany previously.

Another top priority is a first-ever visit to South Africa, which may have to wait until his “real” retirement.

“To do that trip the right way, we’ll want to take three weeks or so,” says John. “I can hardly wait.”

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