[photo: couple planting trees]

American Families

Working for Play Money

Bernard and Sandra Yoder
Goshen, Ind.

"Living off the land" isn't just an expression to Bernie Yoder. One of five kids of a "sporadically" employed father, the 64-year-old remembers the gamey taste of Indiana wildlife and the lessons it taught him.

"My father hunted and fished, and when he wasn't working, we ate a lot of wild game and a lot of fish and mushrooms and anything you could get for next to nothing." Yoder summed it up, "That is where I learned that if you don't work, you don't eat very well."

Living within your means is a lesson Bernie's wife Sandy also learned from her parents.

"They are from the 30s, the Depression era. They went through that, so they were very keen on saving money," Sandy said. "They learned very early to pinch a penny."

Her parents' penny-pinching carried over to Sandy, who admits to a lifetime of grocery shopping for dented, discounted cans of food.

Sandy said that even though her children still poke fun at her thriftiness, she hopes her habits imparted a greater lesson -"that you didn't need to have a whole lot to enjoy life." The 62-year-old retiree went on, "If you did want something, please try to save up before you get it, and be careful, don't pay pull price. For goodness sakes, it has got to be on sale."

Despite their ingrained Spartan attitudes, the couple feel they're living a high-on-the-hog retirement in northwestern Indiana. An ultra-light plane, 21-foot boat, and four months at a Florida campground are as much a part of their lives as Goodwill and garage sale shopping.

Bernie's pensions from careers in factory maintenance and Army helicopter repair, Social Security payments and a part-time job transporting recreational vehicles all are helping to fuel the Yoders' retirement. The couple met at a helicopter factory, where Bernie put in 30 years. So far, they said they haven't had to tap into their savings.

"I deliver the trailers to pay for my fun and games and my boat, so I do work for the extra money," Bernie said. Bernie's once or twice-weekly trips can earn $200 to $400 a week for the Yoders, supplementing Bernie's roughly $2300 monthly income from pensions and Social Security.

While Bernie works in transport to earn "play money" for plane fuel, hunting licenses and other pleasure expenditures; some retirees work in transport expressly for the pleasure of travel, according to Bill Garvey, who founded the company that employs Bernie.

Struggling to attract drivers and finding the best prospects in retirees, Garvey said his company started targeting truck-owning retirees through ads in RV and retirement magazines.

"The main reason they were interested in doing it, was it gave them an opportunity to see the country and get paid to see the country, and they did not have to dip into their retirement savings to travel," Garvey said.

More than the joy of travel and maybe even more than his "play money", the benefit of his part-time job, Bernie said, is the value of remaining active. The former Army helicopter crew chief has worked since high school, when he sandwiched his school day between garbage truck-driving, starting at 4:00 a.m. and ending at 10:00 p.m. Accustomed to always working, Bernie admitted that he's afraid of stopping completely.

"I see some of the people I know retire and sit down, and they are dead in a couple of years." He continued, "I keep looking over my shoulder at that guy; as long as I'm moving he isn't catching up to me."

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