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Oak Crest couple not ready to call it quits doing the work they love

Created date

May 9th, 2018
Oak Crest residents Judy and Ken Phebus (pictured at Mount Rushmore) work together leading travelers to destinations across the U.S.

Oak Crest residents Judy and Ken Phebus (pictured at Mount Rushmore) work together leading travelers to destinations across the U.S.

Nine years ago, Judy Phebus gave retirement a try. She left her job as a travel tour coordinator with Gunther Charters and Tours but quickly discovered retirement wasn’t all it was cracked up to be. One year later, she returned to doing what she loves most, leading travelers to destinations across the country with her husband Ken at the wheel.

From the top of Mount Rainier to the Florida Everglades, Judy and Ken’s road trips have taken them to all 50 states.

“This job has been a real blessing for us. It afforded us the opportunity to explore this beautiful country of ours,” says Judy.

A former hair salon owner and stylist, Judy cut her teeth in the travel industry coordinating fundraising trips for organizations like the Redeemer House and Our Daily Bread.

“Churches started calling me, and before I knew it I had a small business that was growing,” says Judy. “I left the salon and partnered with Gunther’s. They took care of the reservations and the financial side of things, and I coordinated and escorted trips.”

Ken, a retired Baltimore County firefighter, began driving a motor coach for Gunther’s in 1995. That same year, he met Judy on a bus trip to Washington, D.C. They married in 2000.

The Phebuses are among a growing number of retirement-age people who continue to work, not for financial reasons, but because they’re passionate about what they do.

“When I retired about nine years ago, I was so devastated,” says Judy. “I felt like I had lost all my kids because I looked at the passengers as my family. So I made the decision to go back to doing what I love.”

Redefining retirement

A recent survey conducted by the nonprofit research firm RAND, found nearly 40% of workers over 65, like Judy and Ken, had retired previously at some point.

“We definitely see evidence that retirement is fluid,” said Kathleen Mullen, a RAND senior economist in a New York Times article. Mullen cowrote the American Working Conditions Survey, a survey of individuals designed to collect detailed information on a broad range of working conditions in the American workplace. “There’s less of the traditional schedule: work to a certain age, retire, see the world. We see people lengthening their careers.”

According to a Pew Research Center analysis of employment data from the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), more Americans age 65 and older are working than at any time since the turn of the century, and today’s older workers are spending more time on the job than their peers did in previous years.

For example, in May 2016, 18.8% of Americans age 65-plus and older reported being employed full or part time, continuing a steady increase that dates back to 2000 when just 12.8% of Americans age 65-plus said they were working.

By 2019, BLS projects, more than 40% of Americans age 55-plus will be employed, making up more than 25% of the U.S. labor force. By 2024, the labor force will include about 41 million people age 55 and older—of whom about 13 million are expected to be older than 65.

Working smarter, not harder

Last August, Judy and Ken sold their house in Mount Airy, Md., and moved into a two-bedroom apartment home at Oak Crest, an Erickson Living community in Parkville. They were attracted to Oak Crest’s maintenance-free lifestyle and the peace of mind of living in a continuing care retirement community.

Now that they are settled in, they can focus on their upcoming trips to places like Ohio, Michigan, and Missouri knowing that, while they are away, everything back at home will be taken care of.

“Living here makes your life a lot easier, especially if you work,” says Judy. “We have everything here we need. We don’t have to worry about taking care of the outside. They cut the grass and take care of the landscaping. The biggest decision we have to make living here is what are we are going to have for dinner. And when we travel, we just lock the door and go. It’s perfect for us. It feels like home.”