My driver, Bernard, is turning 60 this year. He has been driving for me for over two decades now and has been exposed to many of my projects, knows many of my friends and colleagues, and is almost the telltale sign that “I am probably in the area” when our employees see him waiting in the parking area or near the store or office.
He recently went to Cebu to attend his son’s college graduation and found some time to visit his wife’s birthplace and hometown. In this small town near the sea, he enjoyed deep sea fish, freshly-caught and simply grilled to preserve its inherent sweetness. He cooked and ate corn grits instead of rice, and found out he did not become hungry as fast as when he ate white rice. It must be the kind of sugar there is in native corn as opposed to white rice, its glycemic index or it probably also is all “in the mind.”
He observed that in that town, older men in their late 70s still fetched water and were still able to carry the jerrycans or containers on their shoulders. “They may be old,” he said, but “they looked healthier.”
For two weeks he ate vegetables they picked near their piece of property, they gathered coconuts and ate its meat and drank coconut water. He could catch fish ,too, if he had more time. But the day’s catch was available at a price almost anyone could afford, he said.
So, he wondered why he and his wife never thought of just retiring in her hometown. Well he did not think of it . . . until today. So, I assured him that I would let him retire at 65 if he wanted to. This gives him a few more years to fix his house in Cavite, so he could rent it out and live on the rental income. He also has worked long enough to fully-pay his humble home and be debt-free.
So as we were planning his rental income, he added that he also wanted to buy a coffee maker and some equipment to even put up a café for tourists. Oh, Bernard, my lessons did not go in vain or fall on deaf ears. He had been listening all this time when people ask me for advice on what to do upon retirement. And he listened well.
He reminded me of the chauffeur in the movie The American President where he listened to his master’s advice and tips for the stock market and bought when his master did, and sold when the master sold his holdings.
Well, at least he has his retirement all figured out. To plant his own food in their piece of property. To fish when he can or to enjoy whatever the sea has to offer. And most of all, he has a regular income from his house to be rented out in Cavite. And let us not forget his plan to open a little café.
I am no Suze Orman but I think Bernard learned many lessons from my conversations with friends, colleagues, NGO people and even government officials.
He knows the mayors I have met, has traveled to many coffee farms and towns, and has been a part of my advocacy the past 20 years.
Retirement does not mean stopping to work. I think it only means doing what we love to do, eating what is good for us, spending less on city life and spending time with our loved ones while we are still healthy and wise. Being wealthy helps I am certain. But that is something people aspire for and sometimes never get to. And in the process of chasing all that wealth we forget why we were chasing it in the first place.
Maybe it was to buy a farm near the sea. So we could fish and plant our own food. And enjoy retirement while we still can.
For Bernard and his wife, they had it all along. That piece of land by the sea. But it took a few good working years for him to appreciate that this piece of land is his perfect idea of retirement. And now to also add the idea of having a coffee shop, too.
All will be perfect for him as he retires in five years. We all need to do something even when we retire. For some it only means the beginning of a new, relaxed but more fruitful phase in life.
Chit Juan is a founder and owner of ECHOStore sustainable lifestyle, ECHOmarket sustainable farms and ECHOcafe in Serendra , Podium and Centris QC malls. She also is President of the Women’s Business Council of the Philippines and President of the Philippine Coffee Board Inc., two non-profits close to her heart. She often speaks to corporates, youth and NGOs on social entrepreneurship, women empowerment, and coffee. You can follow her on twitter.com/chitjuan or find her on facebook:Pacita “Chit” Juan. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.