At the end of successful careers in international publishing and public relations, Howard and Marika Stone chose not to retire, and instead began new careers as a life coach and a yoga teacher, respectively. In 1998, they co-founded a website, 2young2retire.com, to advocate an alternative vision of the post-midlife years, providing ideas and advice about meaningful work and community engagement.
New Dream spoke with the Stones about their efforts to pursue a "new American Dream." Their book, Too Young to Retire: 101 Ways to Start the Rest of Your Life, is an inspiring read, regardless of how close you are to retirement age.
What does “the good life” mean to you? And how did you come to this vision?
We grew up in very different cultures and circumstances: Howard in Brooklyn, New York, in a comfortable, stable family of five, and Marika in Burma, England, and the U.S., an only child of Anglo-Burmese diplomat parents with no single place to call home. Yet what attracted us to each other was an agreement on what makes life worthwhile: work that matters, strong relationships (family and friends), music, daily exercise, and not taking ourselves too seriously.
In our 50s, we realized that the retirement dreams of our generation would not be our own, although we were financially capable of it. Moreover, we realized that “retirement”—in the traditional sense of an endless vacation—was an unhealthy idea for individuals and society in general, and that older people could and should remain fully engaged in life.
In 1998, a watershed year that brought the birth of our first grandchildren, we also birthed 2young2retire.com as a way of sharing this vision with others. Through the website and our book, Too Young to Retire: 101 Ways to Start the Rest of Your Life, we encouraged mature people to find meaningful work. We urged our readers to look inward, pare down their possessions, and become the people they were looking for.
What’s the one thing you enjoy most about your lifestyle?
In recent years, we decided to follow our own 2young2retire advice! We sold the website last year to a facilitator trained in the 2young2retire coaching method. This freed us to put our attention on work that enabled us to use our interests and talents in ways that helped other people. We still believe that doing good work is the center of life.
Is there anything at all about your life these days that you really wish you could change or improve?
When we witness the impact on the planet that the ideology of endless economic growth has had, we wish we had tried harder to realize our dream of a family business owning and running an olive grove in the Northwest, and building a museum dedicated to olives and olive oil. We believe that we must reconnect with nature—and we include human nature—to save it, and ourselves.
Tell us a little about the work that you do.
Howard, a music student since childhood, now plays piano for the elderly a few times a week and is a Hospice volunteer. Marika, who became a certified yoga instructor in 1998, continues to teach in the community. We make time for our grandchildren, one family here in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, and the other in Rhode Island (thank you, Skype!). Marika has also become an environmental activist. She writes a blog, Transition Tales, and is a volunteer with the Sustainability Office of the City of West Palm Beach.
Describe some ways that you are involved in your community.
Howard plays with the jazz band at our congregation. A few weeks ago, we participated in a “packing party” to produce ready meals for migrant workers. We planted a model vegetable garden at our congregation and another in our grandchildren’s backyard, to demonstrate what can be done in a small space. We are CSA members and also support local food growers by sourcing from farmer’s markets whenever possible. We are members of a Transition Town start-up for Palm Beach County. We are co-founders of a meditation group that is open to the community at no charge. Occasionally, Marika offers free yoga classes at our church.
For many, your lifestyle is considered “outside the mainstream.” Does this present any challenges, and, if so, how do you deal with them?
If there is one thing mavericks like us have learned, it is that the “mainstream” is really not so monolithic as it sounds. In fact, there is plenty of evidence suggesting that mainstream is a concept whose time has gone. During our years with 2young2retire, we collected stories of people from all over the world who were living adventurous, experimental, gutsy lives, and thriving—though not always materially. That experience has made us seek out people of every age who are really alive: musicians, community gardeners, goat keepers, homeschoolers, meditators. This summer, we are planning a six-week road trip that will take us to Washington, D.C. for the Walk for Our Grandchildren and on to visit family and friends in the Northeast. We plan to do at least some of it "off the beaten track."
Please describe any new skills or hobbies that you’re really excited about or that you would love to learn if you had the time and resources.
Marika is interested in permaculture and becoming a really good poet and guitarist. Permaculture draws upon traditional practices of earth stewardship integrated with appropriate modern technology. Howard is learning how to listen with more kindness and less judgment.
What is the best piece of advice you have ever received?
Marika: From the late Forrest Church, Unitarian Universalist Minister – “Learn to want what you have.”
Howard: From Dr. Seuss – “You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose.”
New Dream's "Living the Dream" series profiles folks from around the world who are living lives focused on “more of what matters.” If you or someone you know is living the New Dream, please contact us—we're looking for inspiring stories to share!