Mike Kueber's Blog

February 27, 2012

Retirement – three years later

Filed under: Philosophy,Retirement — Mike Kueber @ 12:33 pm
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Three years ago today, at the age of 55, I took early retirement from USAA after almost 22 years of devoted service.  In return for those years of service, USAA provided me with a pension and, almost as importantly, lifetime health insurance.  Without USAA-provided health insurance, retirement probably would not have been financially feasible for me. 

So what do I think about retirement, three years later?  Even without financial stresses (the stock market has almost doubled since March of 2009), the problems of life do not disappear.  (That reminds me of Lonesome Dove’s Gus McCrae telling Miss Lorena that life in her imaginary San Francisco is still just life.)  In fact, I sometimes think that the obligations of work keep a person distracted and preoccupied from personal-relationship issues, and those personal relationships are what make the world go round.  As Barbara Bush famously said in a 1990 commencement speech at Wellesley College:

  • And as you set off from Wellesley, I hope that many of you will consider making three very special choices.
    • The first is to believe in something larger than yourself, to get involved in some of the big ideas of our time. I chose literacy because I honestly believe that if more people could read, write, and comprehend, we would be that much closer to solving so many of the problems that plague our nation and our society.
    • And early on I made another choice, which I hope you’ll make as well. Whether you are talking about education, career, or service, you’re talking about life — and life really must have joy. It’s supposed to be fun.
    • The third choice that must not be missed is to cherish your human connections: your relationships with family and friends. For several years, you’ve had impressed upon you the importance to your career of dedication and hard work. And, of course, that’s true. But as important as your obligations as a doctor, a lawyer, a business leader will be, you are a human being first. And those human connections — with spouses, with children, with friends — are the most important investments you will ever make.  At the end of your life, you will never regret not having passed one more test, winning one more verdict, or not closing one more deal. You will regret time not spent with a husband, a child, a friend, or a parent.”

All three of Bush’s choices are sterling solid separately, and when combined they form the basis of an excellent life.  And most importantly, they continue to operate throughout life.  They remain just as valid for someone retiring from a career as they do to someone graduating from college.

Recently, I have been thinking about the third choice – human connections – and I blogged about that as some of my New Year’s resolutions.  Emotional intelligence and personal relations have never been a forte of mine.  After high school, I focused on academics and then got married shortly after law school.  In 2007 I got divorced, and since then I have struggled to develop and maintain satisfying relationships.  Let’s hope that understanding the problem is the biggest step toward solving it.  

A final thought on the timing of retirement – NY Time columnist David Brooks recently wrote about a survey of retirees.  One of their biggest regrets was staying in their principal career too long.  From my perspective, that is exactly correct.  You only live once, so why spend so many years doing the same thing.  Although I enjoyed me time in the insurance industry and at USAA, I’m glad that I left as soon as I could afford it.  A life is enriched by variety.


  1. How about all of the people USAA “layed off” (slighted, discarded) as they were nearing retirement age? The ones who weren’t so lucky to leave with lifetime health benefits and such. I have NOTHING good to say about USAA and how they have treated people who have given them 20 and 30+ years of their lives! People I have personally known.

    Comment by Linda — February 27, 2012 @ 11:49 pm | Reply

  2. Mike,

    my father was a huge proponent of the “work ethic”… makes you get up in the morning. makes you prioritize. makes you think about the future. most people have trouble doing these things without work.


    PS – Linda, not everything about USAA is evil. Bob Davis was unneccessarily harsh in his actions. It doesn’t mean that USAA has no positive attributes. Joe is almost the opposite of Bob. I often say “Bob Davis, didn’t he use to work here… seems familiar. Whatever, he isn’t here now.”

    Comment by Q — March 3, 2012 @ 2:57 pm | Reply

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