In retirement, Fran Buie is busier than ever… and having the time of her life.
After a 33-year career working in state government, Fran was ready for a change.
She found fulfillment by embracing lifelong interests and hobbies she had set aside for years… and helping others in her community.
As Fran says, we have limited time on earth, let’s do something worthwhile. We discuss that philosophy and also get into…
How to discover what you really want out of life – now
Ways to stay engaged and active in retirement
The unexpected value of your past experiences
The importance of having a Plan A – and a contingency plan
John Curry: Hey, folks. This is John Curry. Welcome to another episode of John Curry's Secure Retirement podcast. Today I'm sitting across the table from my friend, Fran Buie. I've been excited about interviewing her because she's an interesting lady. She's had a career with the state government and she teaches, she does artwork, she understands project management. Fran, welcome and I'm looking forward to hearing your insights today.
Fran Buie: Good afternoon. Thank you for inviting me.
John Curry: You're welcome. Thanks for coming. Tell our listeners who you are. Who is the real Fran Buie and what makes you tick?
Fran Buie: Oh, dear. I worked for the state government. Department of Revenue was my last state agency that I worked for. I worked for state for 33 years. I retired in 2007 from state government, but I still had interest in doing something besides just sitting on the front porch and rocking my life away, so I had a plan and I had a contingency plan. My plan A was to think about the things that interested me, what I wanted to do as far as hobbies, what I wanted to do to give back to the community that has been very generous in supporting me for many a year, and also what could I do that would be a contribution to the community as well as other people.
When I retired I was looking at project management. That was my last job. I was working with the Department of Revenue on the CAMS project, which was the Child Support Enforcement Management System. It was the first automated system in the United States for child support enforcement. We successfully launched that program and I was very honored and thrilled to be the manager for that when we started launching it. It is in complexity and breadth second only to American Express Worldwide, so it's quite a large program, quite complex, and has been successfully operated for several years now.
I also had been teaching off and on for years at college/university level as well as teaching adults in outside things like the senior center. I work as an art teacher there. I have several galleries and I will teach different kinds of workshops at the art galleries and also volunteer with AARP. We do tax aid, we do income tax filing for senior citizens as well as others who walk in and would like us to do their taxes. I work doing volunteer work. I'm the art curator for the North Florida Fair each year. We just successfully completed that as well.
John Curry: I'm worn out just listening to what you're doing. So much for being retired.
Fran Buie: Well, when you retire I think you need to have a plan and a contingency plan even. My plan A was, I looked at the things that interested me. I had been working in art prior to going to work for the state and I wanted to go back to that. I started taking lessons just to kind of brush up my skills that I had kind of let lay while I was working for the state and I also was thinking of the things that I wanted to do to give back to the community, which is the tax aid program. Giving back to the community through people coming in wanting to have their taxes done as well as teaching.
I worked with Bainbridge State College. I've worked at the College of Pharmacy at FAMU and at the College of Medicine at FSU teaching prerequisite courses and advanced life support systems, things of that nature.
John Curry: What words would you share with people who hear you saying what you've done? 33 years of work. Some people hearing this are thinking, "Wow. You've done enough. Slow down. Just go sit on that front porch and rock." And then others would say, "I would love to be more like Fran to learn what my plan A is." We were talking over lunch, most people don't have a plan A. They don't have a plan, period, much less a contingency plan. That's been my experience of 44 years in business. When it comes to retirement planning, most people don't have a clue. It's kind of like, "I'm going to show up and all of a sudden magically Social Security will come in, my 401k, my pension fund with the state," or whatever. So what would you say to the people, two different groups here. One's saying, "Hey, you've done enough. It's okay to go sit on that porch and rock."
Fran Buie: No, it's not.
John Curry: Why not? Expand on that?
Fran Buie: Why not?
John Curry: I know you enough to know I know the answer, but I want to hear this. I want to hear it out of your mouth.
Fran Buie: I want to be active. I want to be able to contribute. Sitting on the front porch and rocking your life away, to me it's time wasted. We have such a limited amount of time on this earth, let's do something that is worthwhile that gives us some kind of value to ourselves.
John Curry: Significance.
Fran Buie: So that whenever we're not here anymore, at least we have left some kind of legacy. That's pretty much it in a nutshell. I can't see not doing something that contributes to society and it helps yourself. It keeps your mind sharp, keeps your body in tune, keeps you active and viable, and gives you pleasure in living. What kind of pleasure can you derive from just rocking your life away?
John Curry: All right, let's take it to the extreme now. If the other person who's listening who says, "Wow. I like that. I like the fact that you're doing so many things where you're bringing value to yourself as well as community. How do I get started?" If you were sitting in front of 50 people who are thinking that way, what would be some of the things you would encourage them to do, their own little project management if you would, to start working on finding these interests like you did? How do they discover what they really want and who they are?
Fran Buie: What are you interested in? Are you interested in reading? Are you interested in photography? If you're interested in photography, can you take classes or have you developed that skill well enough that you could share it with other people? Are you interested in music? What are your interests and then find the community of other people that have the same interests and get involved.
Are you interested in healthcare? Hospitals and healthcare facilities are begging for volunteers to come in and just be there to help people who come in who need a kind word, somebody to pay attention.
John Curry: A smile.
Fran Buie: Somebody to look at them. Yes, say hello. If you're interested in teaching, there's numerous agencies out there that are looking for people who have experience, life experiences. I can go to a college or I can even go to an adult education class and if they want to talk about business management, how to be a supervisor, some of the criteria that's needed so that you can get credentials to teach. You can go there and provide that kind of a service. It is asked, it's sought after all the time.
Senior center, you can go into there. They have a whole array of different kinds of classes. Long-term learning opportunities that you can go in, and in fact, you can go into things like the senior center and other like-minded facilities and do long-term learning classes and sometimes you can find out, "Oh, well, I would like to pursue that particular realm of information or do that kind of activity." There's art classes, there's different kinds of crafts, there's photography. There's travel. Get in a group and go traveling if you want to see the world or see other states, other pieces of the country. That's always available to you.
There's different associations. There's the AARP. Red Cross loves to have people come. Recent hurricane, the Red Cross was seeking volunteers. You could go out and help provide care for those victims of the hurricane. There's things like that that's always available and you come to these agencies and these opportunities with a world of experience because you have been in the work world and you can provide that to the agencies. You can continue to contribute. You'd be valuable.
John Curry: I remember a trip I was on. I was riding with two people that are like a brother and a sister to me and I made this comment that I've never fully retired because I don't have enough other interests outside of my work. It's Steve and Marjorie and they were there with me when I had my heart attack and had heart surgery back in 2008. They shuttled me around, picked me up, and we'd drive and have lunch and talk, and I've never heard her be so harsh, but she just screamed at me. She says, "Are you kidding me? You like martial arts, you like to work out, you like the time with your grandson. You like to fish, you enjoy hunting, you enjoy just sitting around reading a good book. Are you kidding me? You've got plenty of things to do. All you've got to do is be willing to do it."
Fran Buie: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
John Curry: There are other interests that I have, but for me, I don't want to ever fully retire. I'm in a business where nobody can force me to retire. They can't say, "Okay, you're 66 now, you've got to retire." They can't do that. I can work ‘til I'm 86 or 106 if I want to, as long as clients want me. But I am to the point where I'm pursuing other things. We were talking about this morning, as we're getting this time of year, taking more time off to go hunting and fishing and things like that with my son and grandson and my brother.
I sometimes struggle with, okay, I do what I do for a living, but what are the things I really want to do? I have no desire to travel a lot anymore. I hate getting on airplanes now. I will take a trip to conferences, but for me to get on a plane and fly to Europe again, I have no desire to go to Europe. I'm trying to reevaluate what I want. I'm working on my plan A, so I'm getting just as much value from this as other people.
Fran Buie: That's good. For example, the last couple of weeks have been fairly busy because, like I say-
John Curry: You're always busy.
Fran Buie: Well, that's true.
John Curry: Hey, when we first started trying to schedule this thing, we started this back in October. You remember that, right?
Fran Buie: Yeah, it's been a while.
John Curry: Yeah, and you said, "That won't work. That won't work. That won't work. That won't work. This'll work." That's how busy she's been.
Fran Buie: Yeah, this is like in the first part of November, like I say, I did the fine arts division at the North Florida Fair and we took in over 400 pieces of art in two days and those had to be displayed, hung, and everything so that we could prepare for judging to come in. It was a juried show. That kept me fairly busy putting that together. Also, during the time, I am with the Tallahassee Community Chorus and we had our fall concert in November as well. Then we released the art the 19th of November and I went straight in to, I also teach art, continue teaching the art classes and then we just finished the Seasonal Celebration and we had two concerts back to back, one Saturday and one yesterday, down at Ruby Diamond Auditorium there on the FSU campus.
It's a matter of just finding what interests you and pursuing it. It sounds simple, it's not. You have to really think fairly long and carefully as what really interests you. What's your passion? What is it that you always thought? When you were working, "Wow, if I had time I would like to do ... " Fill in the blank. Now you can. You don't have to work anymore, so now you can. Fill in that blank and do it.
John Curry: Let's talk a little bit about your artwork for a minute. You love doing art and you said you went back to school yourself to start taking classes to get better. But you also sell your art now too, so you are doing something you enjoy doing and you make money doing that.
Fran Buie: Yeah, I do.
John Curry: Did you intend to do that or was that just, happened? How did that come about?
Fran Buie: It came about, really I went back to brush up my skills, didn't have any kind of thought about what I was going to do once I started getting a room full of paintings stacked one on top of the other.
John Curry: You had to do something with them, right?
Fran Buie: And started teaching and during the time, I contacted a couple of galleries and they says, "Well, we would like your art." I says, "Great." So I started taking my art to some galleries and I let them sell it, but then I thought, "Hmm." And I will have occasional dues and sell the art myself. It supports my hobby because art, the canvases, the oil paints, can be kind of expensive and by selling my art, I am supporting that habit, if you will.
John Curry: Yeah, but you also get to see your art in other places.
Fran Buie: I do.
John Curry: It's like, I have a piece of your artwork here and every day I see it, especially when I come back from getting water from the kitchen, it's just right there in that hallway, it just stands out. That has to give you a lot of sense of accomplishment and pride, I would think.
Fran Buie: It does.
John Curry: That when you see your work, you say, "Okay, I did that."
Fran Buie: It does.
John Curry: A visible representation of that work.
Fran Buie: In a juried show, I recently submitted some artwork that won second place and I'm really good friends with the person that won the first place. I told her she cheated me out of my first place ribbon, but that's okay. The challenge is on now and the two of us are kind of friendly competition. Let's see who wins first next year.
John Curry: I can see you doing that. "You beat me this year, but I'm coming after you."
Fran Buie: Well, when she brought in her artwork, I looked at her and I says, "Well, there goes my first place. Okay, next year."
John Curry: Talk about the teaching. Is there someone who's listening to this that might go, "Wow. I have a lot of knowledge. There are things that I could ... " Because all of us have acquired knowledge.
Fran Buie: Right.
John Curry: The question comes, how do you teach in today's world with social media and the internet, it is so easy to create information products. Whether you sell on eBay, Amazon. My book was published in 2009. It's also available on Kindle. There's no limit today to being able to teach what you know. Talk a little bit about that.
Fran Buie: No. A lot of people will go back, they'll get their education or teacher's certificate so that they can teach. You don't need to do that. A lot of times you can go to different organizations, the Red Cross, you can go to senior center. There's other agencies where you can teach a class and share your knowledge because a lot of the things that you share, your life experiences cannot be gotten in classroom, cannot be incorporated into textbooks. It's things that you pick up through working and those work experiences can sometimes be way more valuable than that college degree or that credential that you get by taking classes or passing exams.
You can teach and it can be very rewarding. I love it whenever I am teaching a management class and I see the lights go on and the students start interacting. To me, then I know that I have done what I need to do.
John Curry: I agree. Life experiences are more important than many times what you get in the classroom. You mentioned earlier while we were having lunch leading up to our podcast, talking about teaching a course to help people prepare for a certain exam.
Fran Buie: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
John Curry: Are you studying just to pass an exam, or are you truly acquiring information and knowledge?
Fran Buie: Well, we have a couple of different ways that we go about it. I am the former president of the Tallahassee chapter of PMI, which is the Project Management Institute. What we do is, we teach a P and P prep class and it is simply, and we tell everybody, "You can take this class so that you can sit for the P and P exam," and that's what we're doing. We are teaching them how to pass the P and P exam. Now, my data is somewhat dated, but nationally the P and P exam, people sitting for it, there's a 60% pass rate, which means 40% of the people sitting for that exam are not going to pass the first time. So we're teaching you the skills to pass that exam.
However, a lot of times what you have are people who just want to be able to manage a project or understand the structure of a project and how they can be an asset in that project. And so right now I am developing the curriculum so that our local chapter can teach what we call Project Management Fundamentals. It gives you the structure and codifies the procedures that you go through in order to manage a project and increase the probability of that project completing on time and on budget.
We do that. It is available to anyone interested in project management and how projects work and how you put them together, how you set up the sequencing of a project so that you can go from beginning to end and be successful. What you can do, what your contingency plans are, what your risk exposure is, and how you address these kind of issues whenever you've got a project.
John Curry: Tell people how to learn more about that. So, when a class is available, if they're interested, they can attend it.
Fran Buie: If you're interested, you would go to our website. It's PMITLH, it's the Tallahassee chapter of Project Management Institute, and look at the events calendar. Also, you can contact, there's going to be a listing of the board members with their contact information. You can contact them and you ask about signing up for classes and come in and attend the classes.
John Curry: Tell us what project management is. What is managing a project?
Fran Buie: Project management is, well, let me back up a little bit. The state of Florida as well as approximately 27 or 37 other states in the U.S. have implemented statutory language that provides for projects. Now, a project can be any kind of unique product or service that is offered. For example, if you are wanting to develop a specific kind of system, software system, to monitor some kind of a function or a program, that would be considered a project. If a project is valued over a certain amount, say $1 million or $2 million, statutory language in many of the states in the U.S. require that there be a certified project manager both on the state side and on the vendor side. The P and P credential is quite valuable for that reason because there is a demand for project managers.
However, a lot of people will not necessarily want to sit for that credential. It is a fairly tough test to pass and they may not have the number of hours required as a prerequisite for being able to sit for the exam, or they may just simply not have that kind of an interest. They maybe are an accountant, but they need to work with these project managers and be able to talk their language and so they want to have the project fundamentals. Taking that, they can learn what it is when we talk about risk exposure, what it is when we talk about contingency plans or want to mitigate something. We talk about different project management plans and how we sequence different things and project life cycles.
The fundamentals course gives you all of this, kind of gives you an overview of what a project is, how it is operated by a project manager, what the steps are that they go through, the different things that they contemplate whenever they have situations occur. You go over budget, you go over your schedule, behind schedule, or you have an opportunity that comes in that would be good, but it's going to impact the project. How do the project managers deal with that? The fundamentals or the overview course gives you that kind of an insight as to the thought processes that go on.
John Curry: I want to take that course myself. We say project, but project could be something as simple as, okay, we're going to, as a family, do this project in the backyard. We're going to build a tree house. That's a project. I'm thinking of some projects we've done with Boy Scouts where the adults and the kids go, "We've got this job to do over here," so somebody had to take over and become the leader.
Fran Buie: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
John Curry: Somebody had to take control and our job was to get the boys to do it, not us do it. Get somebody involved and get going and manage this project. That's what becoming an Eagle Scout's all about. They'd have a project and work toward that.
Fran Buie: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
John Curry: So that's what went through my mind when you first used the phrase project management, because it could be something as simple as you doing it at home, or it could be a big complex multi-million dollar enterprise in the business world.
Fran Buie: Well, I have a friend who belongs to a group that go camping every year, or glamping they call it because they have these motor homes, gorgeous. She will sit down and map out where they're going to go. One year they decided they were going to tour the west and they had all the states that they were going. It is a project to sit down and figure out where the parks are that will support the particular kind of array of motor homes that they have, and dates, they'll sequence it and you've got to figure out what the cost is going to be for both the maintenance, the gas, the food, the campsites.
John Curry: And then the unplanned things that pop up.
Fran Buie: And the unplanned things that pop up. Every year she's the P and P. I tease her. She says, "I don't want to manage a project." No, you do it every year. Because sometimes it's just nothing more than that tour during the summer, it's a project because you have to plan that. It just doesn't happen. You can't just kind of meander around and think, "Oh, that campsite looks great."
John Curry: Let's just pull in.
Fran Buie: Yeah. Doesn't work that way. And sometimes it could be nothing more than a church bizarre or going to the Alternative Christmas that was held this last weekend. That's got to be planned. It just does not happen. Those are projects.
John Curry: Right. Planning for a seminar, That's a project.
Fran Buie: Planning for a seminar is a project. It has a definite beginning, a definite end, and it's a unique service for that particular thing. That's a project.
John Curry: I like to think in terms of managing your team. What are we trying to accomplish when it comes to anything? Your time, your energy, your attitude, your mission. What's your mission? Sometimes people will come in and say, "What would you like to accomplish?" "I have no idea." "What do you mean you have no idea? You drove across town to be here, you're going to be in an hour and a half meeting with me and my team. So what would you like to accomplish?" "I don't know. I haven't give a thought to my retirement or whatever to plan.
Let's back up, because if we don't know what the mission is, we don't need to waste our time and energy. All it's going to do is screw up your attitude because you're going to get frustrated and I'll get frustrated, so let's work on your mission. Let's focus there. Let's determine what it is you want to accomplish and then we'll work backwards into it and in just a few minutes you can see them, all of a sudden they're like, "Wow. Okay, now that I have some idea of at least where I want to go, now I have a better attitude about it, I'm more open. Now I'm willing to invest the energy and the time to get the result.
Fran Buie: Retirement planning is a project.
John Curry: It's a big time project and it's a never-ending project because just about the time you think you've got it figured out, Congress will change the tax laws or they'll change Social Security or Medicare or Medicaid. So if some law changes that just all of a sudden blindsides all the work you did.
Fran Buie: Or you have some kind of life event that impacts that plan.
John Curry: Right. Unplanned life events we call those.
Fran Buie: Mm-hmm (affirmative). We call them known unknowns.
John Curry: Known unknowns, I like that.
Fran Buie: Or unknown knowns.
John Curry: Unknown knowns. Something's coming that you're not going to like, right?
Fran Buie: Yeah.
John Curry: What advice would you offer people who are still working that are listening to this and they're thinking, "Wow. I'm five, maybe even as far as 10 years, away from retirement." Talk to us a little bit about when did you start thinking about retirement to take on these other activities. You didn't just do it all of sudden when you retired.
Fran Buie: No. I knew that I was going to be retiring at a certain point in time and I had started thinking about what it was that I wanted to do, what kind of goals I wanted to achieve, what was on my bucket list.
John Curry: Wait a minute, goals? What are goals?
Fran Buie: Goals.
John Curry: Why would goals be important, Fran. You're retired. You don't need to worry about goals.
Fran Buie: Of course you do. If you don't have a goal, then what's your purpose? If you don't have any kind of objective, what kind of guidance are you going to give yourself? Again, if you don't have any goals, if you don't have an objective, you don't have what the end is going to be. How much money do I want, how much do I need to retire and be able to do X, Y, and Z, and how do I get there with that?
My husband and I started planning our retirement fairly late, I think, because we were almost 40 when we started planning what we wanted to do when we reached 65 or whatever. Then whenever I was about 30 years into state government, I started thinking, well, what do I want to do, because in about three to five years I'm going to be getting out and I don't want to just fade away.
John Curry: Sit on that front porch and rock away.
Fran Buie: Sit on that rocking chair. I literally started making lists. Project managers are really bad about making lists. I started making a list of the things that I wanted to do, the things that I was interested in. I was interested in art. I wanted to take that back up because I kind of let it languish. I have a degree in voice performance in music. I wanted to get back in to that.
I had been teaching classes off and on all through my career because I had started out looking in the medical field, was going to become a surgeon, and there were things that happened in my life that had a pretty big impact on that, but I was already pretty much in to the health field so I wanted to carry on with that, which is partly why I was teaching advanced life support at the different colleges, and I wanted to go back to that.
I had somebody approach me with tax aid because I work with numbers. As a project manager, you've got budgets. I had a lot of numbers and statistical experience and I thought, "Hmm. Well, that could be interesting," and so got added to my list. So whenever I started thinking about what I was going to do when I retired, I went to my list and I says, "Okay, this is what I want to do. Now, how do I go about accomplishing that?"
That's when I started reaching out to the different agencies and I still remained active with the local PMI chapter, so I teach classes there for them. I had, actually, Bainbridge State College reached out to me asking if I would teach a project management class up there, which is why I started teaching that, although I teach life support at FAMU and FSU.
John Curry: Interesting. It's interesting to me that you just said that some things you went looking for and some found you because somebody would say, "Hey, we need help with this. Take a look at it." That would imply you would have to be somewhat open and listen and attentive when things come our way, right?
Fran Buie: We do. Don't shut something down because maybe it's not exactly what you had in mind, but then that may not be the final thing either on a product.
John Curry: True, but do you have trouble saying no to projects you really don't want to spend your time and energy doing? Do you have difficulty saying, "No, thank you. That's not for me"?
Fran Buie: No.
John Curry: Well, I guess not because you're so busy, it's easy for you to say no. But I know a lot of people who have retired and they get caught up in volunteering, doing things that they really don't like doing, but they feel like they can't say no and they can't say, "Excuse me, it's time to settle down."
Fran Buie: No. I mean, yes, I want to contribute, I want to be active, I want to be engaged, but at the same time I recognize that I need downtime too. You have to renew and regenerate yourself, so you have to take care of yourself. Part of taking care of yourself is also recognizing what's available to you, what kind of opportunities there are.
John Curry: I just had a thought pop in my head. I think the title of this podcast is going to be, Don't Sit on the Front Porch and Rock Your Life Away.
Fran Buie: Good.
John Curry: I love that line. That's a great line. Anything you want to share in our final three or four minutes to our audience? Carte blanche, anything you want to share.
Fran Buie: Embrace life. Don't waste it. Your time is precious. Use it the way that makes you happy, but also can give value to those around you, those that you care about, and the community in general.
John Curry: I use to say, life's too short to not do what you want to do. Now I have a different view. Life's too long. I keep that heart-shaped pillow there to remind me of my heart surgery July 10, 2008. It reminds me that any given moment, my heart could stop, your heart could stop sitting here, but the bigger reason it's there is to remind me to have the heart big enough to challenge people and get them to think about some of the things we're talking about now and that's why I want to do the podcast, because we get a lot of good information out there.
I had a lady call me yesterday, she said, "I was just listening to your podcast and it was awesome." It was Dr. Kubiak, Larry Kubiak, and if just one person hears this and they benefit from it, it's worth the time, and more than one will hear it because people, they do tune in and listen to it. I thank you so much for taking your time and sharing with us today and I think we should do this again. Somewhere in the future we'll pick another topic or do an update.
Fran Buie: Well, thank you for inviting me.
John Curry: Thank you, Fran. Thank you so much.
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