Ron Manheimer: The Post-Work Crowd

The baby boom generation is fast approaching retirement. Ron Manheimer, executive director of the North Carolina Center for Creative Retirement in Asheville, discusses smart ideas for making the transition.

October 1, 2007

Tell us about your center.

MANHEIMER: It’s a lifelong learning program that’s been part of the University of North Carolina at Asheville for 19 years. It’s dedicated to lifetime learning, leadership, and community service.

Why is it so important to plan for retirement?

MANHEIMER: From the studies I’ve read, those who do are generally happier with the outcome because they’re more in charge. They’ve anticipated issues and begun to deal with them rather than sit back. Some people focus on financial issues and don’t think about their goals or how they’ll spend their time. People need to consider all the issues.How far ahead of retirement should planning begin?

The earlier the better, especially regarding financial planning. It may not be realistic to do so in midlife, when you’re trying to pay for college tuition or remodeling. But it’s important, particularly now when company retirement plans aren’t as automatic as they were five or 10 years ago.

What issues should preretirees think about to improve their odds for a happy retirement?

MANHEIMER: First, assess their values. What’s most important to them, and how do they want to spend free time? Second, communicate those values to a significant other. Many never have a candid conversation about when and where they’ll retire. Third, develop a financial plan. Fourth, have a contingency plan that covers what to do if someone gets sick.

Is it a myth or reality that many retire, get bored, and go back to work?

MANHEIMER: It’s truer for men. I’ve seen many educators, lawyers, and football coaches go into real estate after other careers. They have lots of contacts in a community, are energetic, and love being with people.

Is it best to test-drive a new retirement location?

MANHEIMER: Absolutely. Go and rent a place, and do so in the worst season. Rent in Florida in summer or Maine in winter. If you’re happy, your move will be a piece of cake, though you also need to see how open a community is.

Despite rumors to the contrary, most people retire near their current home, right?

MANHEIMER: Yes; according to the 2000 census, the rate of interstate migration within the five-year period that led up to that census was 4.6 percent of those 60 and older. We have just completed an analysis of 2005 census data and are projecting 6.4 percent. The higher number is based on a new method that surveyed a smaller population annually. Most retirees stay put because of family, friends, doctors, and even favorite restaurants.

How can real estate professionals help?

MANHEIMER: By listening carefully to how retirees envision their lives. Maybe it’s getting to know new neighbors, walking to stores, or pursuing an interest. Everyone has a story. The professional has to draw out the narrative.

With longer life spans, will people have more than one retirement home?

MANHEIMER: My guess is that most retirees will have two moves. First, to greener pastures for amenities. They’re called amenity retirees. Then, because of health problems, they become dependency retirees.

What can architects and builders do?

MANHEIMER: There’s no single housing model, so they need to offer more choices. Currently, there’s a lot of interest in cohousing, in which people co-own parcels with different units and share amenities, such as a common kitchen, media room, art studio, or garden. We offered a seminar on such “intentional communities,” and 170 people showed up. There’s also more interest in living downtown. Ten years ago, Asheville had only a handful of condos, but now there are many. People don’t want to live on a mountaintop. They’d rather have a mountaintop close by that they can drive to in 15 minutes.

I’ve read that retirement is a great time to rectify regrets—learn to dance the salsa if you’ve always wanted to.

Yes, it’s an opportunity to take the road not taken and do things you didn’t have time to do. I’ve also seen people do things to redeem past experiences, perhaps become a big brother or sister if they felt they hadn’t done well parenting their kids because they were distracted with work. I call that the redemptive theory of aging.

Have you crystallized your own retirement plans?

MANHEIMER: I’m trying to retire while still working. My job is so wonderful, but I’m trying to figure out how to get wiser about my life and have better balance. I don’t want to be preoccupied with work all the time. I’m 64 and have set 70 as the time when I retire from this job and bring in new blood. I’ll stay in Asheville, since I have lived here 19 years and have grandchildren here. Moving to another place is one decision I don’t have to make.

Click here to learn more about the North Carolina Center for Creative Retirement.

For more information on the Center’s “Creative Retirement Exploration Weekend” or its “Paths to Creative Retirement” seminars, go to

Barbara Ballinger

Barbara Ballinger is a freelance writer and the author of several books on real estate, architecture, and remodeling, including The Kitchen Bible: Designing the Perfect Culinary Space (Images Publishing, 2014). Barbara’s most recent book is The Garden Bible: Designing Your Perfect Outdoor Space, co-authored with Michael Glassman (Images, 2015).