I had the pleasure of interviewing Frank Ariano, a retired attorney from Elgin. He is thoroughly enjoying his retirement in Steamboat Springs, Colorado. Read this interview to find the secrets of his successful retirement.
Mateer: What was the focus of your practice and what did you enjoy most about it?
Ariano: The concentration of my practice was family law, dissolution of marriage and mediation. There are two things that come to mind as to enjoyment: (1) the interaction with fellow attorneys, usually at the court house and (2) meeting new clients in the initial interviews.
Mateer: When did you retire?
Ariano: June 30, 2004. I got into the car, headed west to Colorado and never went back to the practice.
Mateer: What were the mechanics of your retirement; did you sell your practice or retire from a firm?
Ariano: I retired from a firm. The firm continues to use my name and I was “of counsel” for several years, although I really have not practiced since 2004 in Illinois or Colorado. The firm made a lateral hire about four years before I actually retired and I integrated her into my practice, eventually turning it over to her.
Mateer: Was retirement the right decision for you, and if so why and if not, why not?
Ariano: Absolutely. I can honestly say I have never looked back and second guessed my decision. I was burning out--I practiced 34 years. I wouldn’t say I was totally burned out, but I was ready. I wanted to do more of the activities that I had been only able to do for several weeks out of the year on vacations. So I started my countdown. I really feel so much better retired. I think a large part of it is being out from under the responsibility and stress of the practice. It is a wonderful feeling being able to get on to a different phase of your life, at a time when you chose to do it. That was right for me, no question about it.
Mateer: What do you miss most about the practice of law?
Ariano: Again I would have to say the interaction with the attorneys and meeting new clients. It was the contact with a group of people that I was good friends with, not just the lawyers, but also the judges. I miss the clients that for the most part appreciated what I did for them. That was rewarding—that felt good. I enjoyed going to the court house each day. I am not a person who could sit in the office. But, to be candid with you, I really don’t miss much else.
Mateer: Where are you living and what are you doing with your time?
Ariano: I live in Steamboat Springs, Colorado. We started on the idea of retirement by building a house in 1999 on property purchased earlier. It’s a modest house, nothing real fancy, but it is right on the golf course, looking up at the ski mountains. In Colorado, you almost don’t need a house because everybody spends all of their time outside. That’s what I do, I spend as much time outside as possible. As to what I specifically do, in the winter it is skiing, cross country skiing and snow shoeing. In the summer it’s golf, hiking with or without the dog, travel and I love to cook. I have taken over all the cooking since I retired. I read which I did not do much of in the practice, other than what was required, and I am enjoying that now. Just having freedom to do what I want. I even tried a little fly fishing. I also enjoy biking; I spend a lot of time on the bike. As part of my retirement philosophy, I decided to try to spend as much time each day outside doing an activity here in Colorado as I did in court. I have pretty much kept up with that, a minimum of two to three hours a day, and I am absolutely loving it.
Mateer: If you have one piece of advice for those already retired, what would that be?
Ariano: Keep active, absolutely, keep active. Develop a social network. We have a group here in the community of Steamboat Springs that is unbelievable. We have retirees from literally every walk of life. Interestingly, there are very few attorneys in my particular group. Some have little money, some have a lot, but they are a fascinating group of people. We can get together on a level that has nothing to do with litigation, and it’s just fun. It amazes me, there isn’t a week that goes by where there aren’t parties. It is literally hard to find time to do it all. So my advice to people that either are retired or thinking about it—stay active. If your health holds, by all means, keep active physically. I don’t think it is a good idea to spend too much time alone. I didn’t do it in the practice and don’t do it now.
Mateer: Do you have any warnings, suggestions or advice for those who might be considering retirement?
Ariano: Actually I do. I can only say, however, what worked for me. If it is possible, leave the area. Let me explain--I think if I were still back in Elgin, and one day stopped going to the office, I’m not sure that would have worked. There would have been a strong temptation to go see the people at the courthouse or to stop in to the firm, for whatever. While that may be fun for some, it would not have been for me. My advice, if you are like me, is to leave. I was very happy moving out of state. If you cannot do it on a full time basis, at least do so part time. If you have a vacation home, that is a great way to break away. Leaving the community you lived in makes the transition easier. The other thing I would recommend is to start a plan. It is not too soon to choose a time frame. As I told you Don, I had a count down. Fortunately in my county the lawyers and judges got a kick out of going along with me. I would often appear in court and the judge would ask me “is this day 264”? I counted down 3 years on the calendar, but I had to add a year, and that was tough. The addition was because of the economy at the time--I needed one more year. But I did it. I kept the countdown, crossing off the numbers on the calendar. When the time came, all was on schedule. That’s my personality, I have to have everything organized. That made it fun and also made it happen. The last thing I would say is “just do it.” It is very easy to come up with a lot of reasons why you can’t or shouldn’t. If you are married and your spouse is on board with it, don’t wait too long. I retired at 58, which some might think is early, but there are a lot of people out here that retired earlier. Time goes by so quickly, don’t put it off too long. Don’t be afraid. I am certainly not a wealthy person, but I can tell you that the cost of my living in retirement, as strange as it might seem, has actually gone down. You should explore it, don’t make assumptions, do your homework like you would do for a client.
Mateer: Why are you still a member of the ISBA and what reasons can you give for retirees to stay members?
Ariano: I would definitely recommend keeping your membership. I remained active, including chairing Bar Services, after retirement. Presently I am only on the Senior Lawyers Section Council. I think it really helped in the transition. I was still able to see the people I knew on a regular basis. I was active on several committees. When I first retired I actually went back to Illinois about every six weeks. I did that not just for ISBA stuff, but I always combined it with visiting my mother who happened to be in a nursing home. I found that the participation on committees and section councils was even better, because now I had the time. I could really think about what I was doing. It made me a better contributor. I enjoyed the social events which were even more fun, after being away. Also, while I think the phrase “to give back” is overused, it is a good way to give back to the profession. I read E-clips and case summaries daily, but now I do it sitting out on my deck. It is a much more enjoyable experience—allowing time to reflect, rather than speeding through trying to get it done. Being an out of state member has not been at all troublesome. I still go to every annual and midyear meeting. Staying a member also helps you deal with the guilt. That may seem silly, but I think almost all retirees have a feeling of guilt. Don, I don’t know about your experience, but I literally have to pinch myself to believe that I am living this dream. I am amazed. Life is great. I love the freedom so much, that I am now even somewhat bothered to have a tee time! I play a lot of golf without a set schedule. That is how far away from the calendar I have gotten--I literally have to think about what day it is.
Mateer: What do you like most about retirement?
Ariano: I personally like the choices, the freedom. I do what I want to do, when I want to do it. Working, of course, did not allow that. I also love Sunday night dinner or other parties where I am not worrying about Monday. In addition, it is so nice to be able to devote time to family that was difficult to do when working—time with your spouse, kids and grandkids, and time for yourself. I remember talking about that before retirement, but you don’t really understand it until you have it. For many, that could be the most compelling reason to “pull the plug.” It goes quickly, you get older, everything hurts more, and travel is more burdensome. We travel often and I suggest you do as much as you can, sooner rather than later, while your health permits.
Mateer: Frank, could you give us some of your background?
Ariano: I graduated from the University of Wisconsin in 1967. I went to IIT Chicago Kent College of Law, graduating in 1970. I was a member of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, and am still a member of the Colorado Bar, life member of the Kane County Bar Association, and, of course, the Illinois State Bar Association. I have two sons who practice law, not together, in the Phoenix area. I have two grandchildren who we see as often as this “busy schedule” allows.
Mateer: Thanks Frank for taking the time to give us your thoughts and insights concerning retirement. It was much appreciated.
Ariano: You are very welcome, Don. It was my pleasure. ■