Turning Early Retirement into something Better than “Retirement”

Lou Bigliardi has changed lanes more than once since he was able to take early retirement.

He needed something more than a multi-decade vacation (traditional retirement). Instead, he has evolved, and like a Millenial, continues to shift his life both personally and professionally.

Tell me about your first career?

“I was a motorcycle, mountain bike, and a road cop for a metro-Detroit police force. I did a bit of detective work, some drug busts, and some field training.  Field training was my favorite; I liked developing the next generation of officers,  some who became officers at the federal and state level, as well as lieutenants.” 

You planned to take early retirement, but you did anything but that.  

“After 25 years, I was eligible for full retirement. But, since retirement, I have had more career changes than most people have in a lifetime.” 

At age 48 you retired. What did you plan to do with the rest of your life?

“When I left the police force, I was excited for something new. I had planned for it. I took a month off to travel, visit friends, and work on projects. The entire time, however, I had every intention of working a handyman business part-time, living off of my pension, and continuing to travel.

I really love handyman-type work. And, when you hang your shingle up and call yourself a handyman, your phone will ring off the hook. My part-time gig quickly turned into a full-time job, which was okay.

My original business plan was to do “Aging in Place” construction. For example, if someone comes back from the military or has a stroke and is in a wheelchair, I would outfit their home to accommodate those changes. To become certified, however, you need to work construction for some time. 

 So, taking the next step, I got my builder’s license, and my business boomed.”

Then things changed dramatically for Lou. He went through a divorce and the subsequent financial challenges.

Lou discovered where he was, where he wasn’t, and where he wanted to go in this new life.

After a while, you changed lanes, rather than continuing to develop the business.  Why?

“I often ask myself that question. At the business peak, I tried to hire workers.  But, the construction business is known for unreliable help, which I experienced.   Shoddy workmanship or no-show employees ended up costing me 10-12 hours a day, sometimes 6-7 days a week. 

My business started to control me, instead of me controlling the business. The work/time vs. the payoff simply didn’t make sense anymore.  

So, when the opportunity presented itself, I decided to take a midnight patrol beat at a local police department. I was eager, but midnights are hard on a Millennial, let alone a second- career police officer. After 8 months, I moved on.”  

What are you doing now?

“I am a Compliance Officer for the University of Michigan. It’s a straight-up office job, which has been quite a change for me. Before COVID, I visited laboratory researchers who work with controlled substances, ranging from Marijuana and CBD to Opioids. I give researchers professional development while ensuring compliance with state regulations.  

I have always done more physical and creative work. This position is challenging, offers incredible benefits, and time to stash away savings for a second retirement.”

What are your thoughts on work after retirement?   

“A lot of people retire thinking they have all the time in the world to do all the things they ever wanted to do. Before they know it, they end up twiddling their thumbs and sleeping in late; even golf gets old. 

Work is good for you. It keeps you current. It keeps you healthy. It gives you a reason to get out of bed in the morning. It gives you a sense of accomplishment.  

I think a lot of people don’t realize that they will miss the social aspect of work. People tend to miss people more than they miss the actual work. I miss the comradery of the police force.”  

Would you say to someone facing early retirement?

  • Aim High.  “Make plans to do something better or different in your life.”
  • Give Space.  “Stay flexible. You never know what life is going to throw at you.”
  • Keep Your Eyes Moving in All Directions.  “Stay current with technology.”
  • Leave Yourself an Out.  “Start early” on your plans for a second career.
  • Make Sure They See You.  “Don’t pigeonhole yourself.”

Did you originally ‘pigeonhole yourself’?   

“If I had known ahead of time where my professional career was going, I would have developed more contacts in public safety. I didn’t do that because I planned to open up my own handyman business. I did prepare myself by working with a builder before retiring. I saw retirement as my chance to try something new.”  

Balance describes Lou Bigliardi’s life at this juncture.

Since changing lanes, he now has time for fun. He has a career that gives his life purpose.  And, he has time to stash away another pension for his second retirement.

Better yet, Lou has time for handyman work on his own home and vacation cottage!

Marylin studied at the Julliard School of Music, has a degree in Journalism and Music from the University of Kansas and a master’s from the Richards Institute. She is the mother of four and the owner of floydpianostudio.com. She also has a blog poopfromthecoop.wordpress.com.

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