Living the Dream – Retiring Back Into Music

By on March 5, 2018
Living the Dream - Retiring Back Into Music

Saul Rosenthal –

My grandfathers both died in their early 50s while my parents retired from their careers in medicine and education when they were 65 and lived about another 25 years.  Last March I celebrated my 67th birthday and six months later I changed careers for the fourth time.  Three generations with completely different life trajectories.

Life expectancy when my grandfathers died was about 67 years for white males according to Most people in that era never even thought about retirement because they weren’t likely to live long enough to experience it.  The “greatest generation,” of which my parents were part, had a work ethic that anticipated “enjoying retirement” as a reward for years of education and work.  Improved health care, a strong economy, Social Security and Medicare meant that people could and would live longer to enjoy the fruits of their labor.

I have a few friends who have retired but most folks I know my age are still working.  My own plan had been to retire at 67 or 68, start drawing on social security and do some long-awaited traveling, among other activities.  There’s a famous Yiddish language saying – Man plans and God laughs – which apparently applies to my original retirement plan.

While I’ve had several careers – college professor, non-profit executive, Public Relations consultant – whenever someone asked me “what I did” I would tell them that I am a musician with a good-paying day job.  My mother signed me up for piano lessons at age 6 and I took up the guitar at 17.  In the last year I’ve added harmonica and ukulele to my repertoire.  And I’ve been singing all my life, sometimes for pay.

So it was probably not surprising to very many people around me that when the owner of the Denver Folklore Center, Harry Tuft, wanted to talk with me about selling or running a going-out-of-business sale I proposed buying the store myself.  After all, I’d been a customer for 20 years and a friend of Harry’s for much of that time.  Like a handful of other acoustic guitar stores around the country, DFC was an icon and the focal point of some famous and many not so famous music careers.

Did I mention that I have a couple of friends who flunked retirement?  They hit a birthday milestone – 65 or 70 – and stopped working.  As I have come to understand, without a plan there’s a chance you will flunk and have to go back to work.  So I knew I would need a plan.  My original plan was to play more guitar, write more music and maybe perform a bit more. 

There is considerable research that says playing an instrument or, even better, learning a new instrument can have a positive effect on your mental health in your later years.  I guess we’ll find out if that works for me.  Given that my parents died after years of dementia, my wife certainly hopes that all the music in my life will keep my brain healthy and focused. 

So, if you are thinking about retirement (1) get a plan, (2) make music part of that plan and (3) be prepared to change your plans.

If you enjoyed this article-check this music article out: Let the Music Play and the Art Flow!


Saul Rosenthal is a singer and guitar player based in Denver, Colorado.  Eighteen months ago he “retired” by purchasing the Denver Folklore Center, a 56-year old acoustic instrument store. 


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Living the Dream – Retiring Back Into Music