Retirement Weekly

What’s your best decade? 3 retirement lessons from a 67-year-old songwriter

What are you here for?

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I’m 67 and I just released my sixth album of original music. Two of those albums were recorded after I turned 65.

I’m obviously passionate about songwriting and music. I always have been. 

I started out in life as a pretty good student who could read well before I started first grade. In fact, they wanted to start me in the third grade and my mother decided that I would do better with kids my own age.

On the first day of class, the principal, Mrs. McRee, came into my class and called my name. I thought I was in trouble and it was only day 1! But what Mrs. McRee did for me that day turned out to be life changing. She took me by the hand and walked with me to the little elementary school library. I had never been in a library before that moment.

“When all the other children gather for the reading circle, you politely excuse yourself and come down here,” she said. “You can pick out any book you want and read it.”

And, so I did that. Not surprisingly I fell in love with words. That love affair has continued throughout my life and served me well in my chosen career paths.

More by this writer: ‘Don’t give up on your dreams,’ says the Medicare songwriter

In my late teens I started writing songs and eventually recorded some of that music. Much of it got played on the radio but I never made very much money from music. So, I went to work for The Gallup Organization, got an M.B.A. and did other things to feed my family and take care of our livelihood.

In my heart, though, I was still a songwriter. So, I continued to write and occasionally record a collection of songs and release them. No fanfare. No drama. Just a way to chronicle my work and to stay in touch with it.

In 2000, I finished recording what I thought might be my last record. For the next two decades I didn’t step foot in a recording studio once. But I continued to write as if I were going to make a record any day.

Then, in 2020, out of the blue, everything changed. A very talented Nashville producer friend of mine, Rich Herring, heard one of my new songs and offered to produce it for me. If only that had happened, it would have been a remarkable thing. But after we recorded the song Why Not Me, he offered to produce an entire album for me. “What Love Makes Us Do” was released in 2021 and it made the first Grammy ballot in five categories.

In late July of this year, I released another new Rich Herring produced album, “If I Live to Be a Hundred.” And, I am already writing for the next one.

So, what’s the lesson here?

Actually, I think there are three.

Number one, as corny as it sounds, don’t ever give up on the thing you were created to do. And if you don’t know what that is, do your best to find out. And when you do, get busy.  

Number two, you never know what’s around the next corner. Resources and encouragement come to people who are moving forward in some way. Don’t wait for things to be perfect to do your calling and things that bring you joy. I assure you, there are others on the trail ahead of you who can help you be better at what you do.

Lastly, change your paradigm about aging and retirement. I did an XM radio interview recently and the host asked me an interesting question: “What has been your best decade?” My answer? “The one I’m in.”  

Of course, it is. I have more time and energy. I feel less pressure in some ways than ever. I know more. I have more experience and experiences. I have deep and wide friendships and business relationships cultivated over a lifetime.  

And, in spite of what the culture might try to tell you, so do you.

So, what do you care deeply about? What would you like to do if money and time was no object?

I am here to tell you that whatever it is, you can do it. It’s not too late.     

Dennis Welch is president and chief executive of Articulate, a public relations and communications company specializing in books. Welch has recorded six commercially released records and penned hundreds of songs. His sixth album, “If I Live to Be a Hundred,” was released on July 25.