Designing Your Retirement Career
Interviewed by Joanne Waldman
Would you be bold enough to change your career at age 70? We can learn a few things from Ellen Goldfarb who decided to follow her heart and take the plunge into a late life career change. Goldfarb went to FIT (Fashion Institute of Technology) in New York and graduated in 1963 majoring in textile design and wovens. As a teen she picked up a piece of fabric, and could not figure out how it was made. Her curiousness to find out inspired Goldfarb to learn to make fabric. Her first job in the industry was as a woven fabric designer for Galey & Lord, part of Burlington Industries.
After a while she left New York for Europe, taking her floor loom with her. Goldfarb eventually discovered her interest in helping people and when she moved back to the United States to Spokane, Washington she got a job with SCAN, the Spokane Child Abuse and Neglect Prevention Center. She worked with one specific client for a year and it changed both her and the client’s lives. Goldfarb then went on to work fourteen years for Medicaid, helping clients get their lives in order. At 59 years of age, in 2002, Goldfarb retired from the State of Florida. As many retirees do, she went back to an old passion, weaving.
Yet, by 2004, Goldfarb was not enjoying retirement; she found it boring and did not know what to do. Even more conflicting was the fact that she was not happy with herself, so for about four years she just did nothing. Then Goldfarb says a conversation with her role model, her Mother, inspired her to go back to school. Her mother was 95 years of age and had just retired from teaching as a professor of Art Education at a college in New York. Goldfarb thought “wow, if she can do it, I can do it!” Then, someone sent her an email about taking a marketing class and a basic coaching class. At 68 years of age this led her to coaching. She did not intend to go further than the basic class, but her heart said she had to continue. At the time, Goldfarb thought that she needed to choose either coaching or weaving, but came to the decision that it did not have to be an either/or situation and she is still continuing to do both.
According to Goldfarb, “I enjoy learning and the fact that I can help other people move forward with their lives makes me happy. I don’t ever want to retire again. There is too much to do in the world and so many opportunities. I am not a retirement type of person. I enjoy coaching people of different ages, no matter how old or young they are. I am coaching them to step out of their comfort zone, which I have gone through my entire life. People have a fear of the unknown which relates to taking that first step toward what they are looking for.”
Six years ago, Goldfarb started working on herself. She always had a fear of talking in groups and class environments so she decided to join Toastmasters and that helped her get over her fear. Now she loves to help others get over their fears.
When asked what advice she had for potential retirees, Goldfarb suggested that they find a coach to help them figure out what to do if traditional retirement was not for them. For Goldfarb, it did not hit her until that life altering talk with her Mother who told her to “do something you love – it’s the most important thing.” An important question to ask yourself is, if you could do anything you wanted, what would you do? People are retiring earlier today and may want to pursue a second career that they are more passionate about than their previous work. According to Goldfarb, retirement is no longer a time in your life that you are looked down upon and instead you can move on to something you enjoy. “Being both a woven fabric designer and a coach means a lot to me.”
Today, Goldfarb designs purses, earrings, and wall hangings. “This is not a hobby but a creative outlet to express who I am, a way for me to get in tune with my creative side as well as being a spiritual practice.” Turns out, Goldfarb has designed herself into being a true role model for many others, just like her mother was for her!
Joanne Waldman, M.Ed., PCC, BCC, LPC, NCC, NCGC, Master Career Counselor