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Play-time for grown-ups
The dream retirement: Pam and James Weil, world travelers and retirement entrepreneurs, Westport, CT
October 11, 2005: 3:58 PM EDT
By Lee Eisenberg, for MONEY Magazine
Pam and James Weil, world travelers and retirement entrepreneurs, Westport, Conn.
Pam and James Weil, world travelers and retirement entrepreneurs, Westport, Conn.
The dream retirement

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NEW YORK (MONEY Magazine) - "Don't focus on the money. Instead, ask yourself what is the experience you want most in your life," says James.

Six years ago, James Weil was a stressed-out senior executive at Metropolitan Life, a self-described slave to the job who knew all about the price of retirement but nothing about its value. At home in Westport, Conn., he and his wife Pam faithfully put aside 15 to 20 percent of their income, and when they envisioned life beyond work, all they saw were numbers.

"I'd spend hours looking at my cash flow, projecting it out to age 90," James says. "Today, however, I don't think it's about the money at all."

Immediately after retirement, James began taking adventure trips organized by groups such as Elderhostel. But the light bulb didn't really switch on until he took a cross-country bike trip with people who were 10 and 20 years older. The trip cost $2,000 or so, and few of the seniors he went with could be considered wealthy.

"But they were the happiest and most vital people," he says.

It was through their example that the great freedom of life after work began to dawn on him. Once you had enough money to get by, you could finally forget all the stress of getting and saving and focus exclusively on what you want to get out of life.

The Weils, now both 61, say the key to a dream retirement is to pare life down to what you enjoy and to discard all that is dutiful and dull.

The couple marvel, for example, that after decades of marriage they have mastered what they call "parallel play for grown-ups."

He likes adventure travel; she likes Paris. So when he heads for the Himalayas, she takes a solo holiday in France. Sometimes they meet up in Europe, sometimes not.

The same philosophy infuses the businesses that the couple have started. Pam, who had been a stay-at-home mom, pursued her love of gardening to the point of founding Connecticut Gardener, a four-times-a-year magazine with a circulation of more than 2,000, for which she acts as editor, publisher and sole employee. The publication makes enough from subscriptions and ads to fund Pam's travel, and it gives her a deep sense of accomplishment.

Besides, it takes only about 60 percent of her time, leaving her free to travel and tend her own garden.

"Life just doesn't get any better than this," she says.

James, meanwhile, is starting a company called My Time Centers, which will counsel new retirees struggling with the question of what they are going to do with the next 20 years of their life.

One answer they'll all get, he says, is drawn from the Weils' own experience: "Eliminate everything that doesn't matter," he advises. "Then put all your focus on what makes you happiest."

Why slow down? Ione and Bob Perry haven't. »»


Read more of MONEY's special report: The Dream Retirement

Lee Eisenberg is the author of "The Number: A Completely Different Way to Think About the Rest of Your Life," to be published by Free Press in January 2006.  Top of page

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