In the past, retirement was perceived as an end of an era… sitting in your rocking chair watching life pass you by. Not as a launching pad to new and exciting vistas. Many that retired in the mid to late 1900s were simply worn out from working too hard and making too little. They suffered through the great depression and when they retired most didn’t have the energy or health to move on, they settled for whatever came their way and faded into the sunset. There were many exceptions to this and you can find examples of those who used retirement to launch new and exciting careers during the worst of times.
Fortunately, today things are different. We have support systems such as Social Security and Medicare for all those who need it, our advanced health care system has extended our lives and made it feasible for us to continue on as we age gracefully. Generally our generation is healthier, more secure, and able to stay active far longer than at any other time in history and with continued improvements in health care who knows how long lives will be extended. Plus, federal employees have the additional benefit of receiving a fixed annuity and are able to retire at age 55 and earlier under certain circumstances.
Life After Retirement will feature annuitants that have developed successful businesses in retirement. There are many who have the talent, interest, and motivation to do the same but just don’t know how to get started or simply fear the unknown. The people we feature have made the transition and may be able to pave the way for others to achieve their dreams.
We encourage federal retirees that have embarked on new careers to contact us. Your journey may help others realize they too can develop successful businesses based on their hobbies and interests. This first installment of this series will begin with my friend Randy Baldwin, a retired FAA employee who owns and operates Just Write Laser Engraving and its associated web site, www.justwritelaser.com . His company offers laser engraving, etching, marking, and personalization of a vast variety of unique and special products. He is very insightful about not only his business but the business of being retired.
Randy had an extensive government career before becoming an entrepreneur. He first served on active duty with the U.S. Air Force in the 1960s and after discharge landed a civil service wage grade position  with the U.S Navy. He accepted a GS-9 electronics technician position with the FAA in 1971 remaining with that agency until he retired on December 31, 2004 at the GS-14 pay grade. We featured Randy in an article titled Electronics Technician Positions in Federal Government  for our federal career exploration blog.
He began his entrepreneurial journey 18 months before retiring when he was working in downtown Washington D.C. Randy’s hobby was wood working and while still employed with the FAA he attended a demonstration of a laser machine that did inlay work. Randy states, “I had no prior experience in this area but there was an inkling of an idea for a laser engraving business.”
Randy states, “I started my business from scratch, in my garage and on a shoestring budget. The first six years I was able to move into a show room in downtown Farmville, NC. Today, I have three full time employees that work for me, and this company has nothing to do with what I did in the FAA”. He states, ” there is insecurity in not knowing where the next job will come from, it was safer working for the government.” Randy has so much work and repeat customers today however it took him years to build the company to a point where he has continuous business.
His company laser engraves ornate plaques, awards, mugs, wall tributes, and Christmas ornaments. They have the capability to provide each branch of the federal government and military service commemorative gifts and also hosts a National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association (NARFE) general store. The store sells hats, shirts, name badges, coffee mugs and other items. NARFE members have to sign in on the NARFE web site at http://www.narfe.org  to purchase items. To log in enter your last name and NARFE membership number (located on the address label of your monthly NARFE magazine), then select the general store tab to view their catalog. The general store is located under the RESOURCE LIBRARY on their home page.
His business is an official vendor for the Navy Exchange System . They are linked to the Navy Exchange website and you can order from anywhere in the world. Randy states that, “The Navy Exchange is a retail store chain owned and operated by the United States Navy under the Navy Exchange Service Command. The Navy Exchange offers goods and services to active military, retirees, and certain civilians on Navy installations in the United States, overseas Navy bases, and aboard Navy ships. The Navy Exchange is a type of base exchange, but is separate from the others.” All honorably discharged veterans are now able to purchase from all of the military exchanges  online and tax free effective this month.
Randy explains, “There is a big advantage to being able to retire comfortably, and that enables you to start a business. Over 90% of new businesses fail in the first three years, because they did not have enough capital for expenses or salary”.
Mr. Baldwin is always doing research and problem solving and is never bored. He is focused on his business, feels relaxed, and finds it very enjoyable.
He is also able to include the family in certain business activities. Every other year NARFE has a convention and the last one was in Reno, NV. He packed up his truck, took his wife, and they were able to combine working the convention, along with a wonderful three-week vacation.
Randy suggests, “retire so that you can do everything you want to do and enjoy doing it. Whatever you decide to do, be the best that you can possibly be. Learn all you can about it. Get firsthand knowledge from others about doing the same thing. I did that by driving 200 miles from my home and talking to a local engraver.”
Randy further states, “don’t let fear stop you, for it is really easy to be scared. I didn’t know anything about laser engraving when I first started. Talk to people about what it is you want to do to get a better understanding about what you are doing and modify it to what you need”. His most important advice is “never stop learning.”
Visit their web site listed below to view and order products. Randy and his staff make unique commemorative gifts for all occasions and will work with you to design the gift you desire. He made a very special gift for me many years ago when he first started one of his businesses that I cherish to this day. My father passed away when I was one and a half years old and the only thing I had of his was a set of tools. The hammer head broke away from the handle and I didn’t want to throw it away. Randy made me 3 wood pen and pencil sets from my dads hammer handle! I gave a set to my brother and mine is displayed in my study and I use it for special occasions.
Here is their contact information:
You can see many of their products on their Facebook pages and read testimonials from satisfied customers.
Resources you can use to start your small business:
- Working as an Independent Contractor 
- How to Market Your Inventions 
- Patents For Beginners 
- Legal Guide to Starting and Running a Small Business 
- Form Your Own Limited Liability Company 
- The Small Business Association 
- Encore.org  – Greater Acts for the Common Good
Coauthored by Dennis Damp and Betty Boyd, Ms Boyd also conducted the interview.
Request a Federal Retirement Report™  today to review your projected annuity payments, income verses expenses, FEGLI, and TSP projections.
Helpful Retirement Planning Tools
Distribute these FREE tools to others that are planning their retirement
- Retirement Planning Guide 
- Federal Employee’s Health Benefits (FEHB) 
- Medicare – Information 
- Master Retiree Contact List  (Important contact numbers and information)
- 2017 Leave and Schedule Chart  (Excel chart tracks all leave balances. Use this chart to set target retirement dates.)
- 2017 Annuity Calculator (FREE Excel chart estimates annuity growth)
Disclaimer: Opinions expressed herein by the author are not an investment or benefit recommendation and are not meant to be relied upon in investment or benefit decisions. The author is not acting in an investment, tax, legal, benefit, or any other advisory capacity. This is not an investment or benefit research report. The author’s opinions expressed herein address only select aspects of various federal benefits and potential investment in securities of the TSP and companies mentioned and cannot be a substitute for comprehensive investment analysis. Any analysis presented herein is illustrative in nature, limited in scope, based on an incomplete set of information, and has limitations to its accuracy. The author recommends that retirees, potential and existing investors conduct thorough investment and benefit research of their own, including detailed review of OPM guidance for benefit issues and for investments the companies’ SEC filings, and consult a qualified investment adviser. The information upon which this material is based was obtained from sources believed to be reliable, but has not been independently verified. Therefore, the author cannot guarantee its accuracy. Any opinions or estimates constitute the author’s best judgment as of the date of publication, and are subject to change without notice. The author explicitly disclaims any liability that may arise from the use of this material.
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