Life After Retirement

What are your plans for spending your time after retirement? The author tells his story of how he became a published author after his federal career.


n advice I would give to anyone after retirement is 1) find some interests and 2) stay active. You don’t have to go kayaking, parasailing, or do triathlons, but find some new interests or rekindle some old ones. You have all kinds of free time that you did not have in the past while you were employed, but you don’t want to become a couch potato with all that free time.

In my case, I actually had two retirements, because I took an early retirement and buyout in 1994 from the Federal government, but then worked for two consulting organizations – FPMI and GRA – before finally calling it quits in 2012 at age 65.

Finding Things to Do

In our case, finding things to do was easy. My wife and I live in an active adult community in the Chicago area for six months each year, and in another active community, The Villages, in Central Florida, for the other six months. The Villages is the largest active adult community in the world – with 125,000 people and growing – and there are lots and lots of things to do here.

Just as examples, my wife and I – either together or individually – enjoy walking, bicycle riding, golf (I am lousy, but that is OK), Walking with Leslie (definitely my wife) line dancing, book club, and bocce ball. I helped start a Chicago Cubs fan club in The Villages, which has been in existence for less than a year but already has almost 400 members. Up North, I do pursue some of the same activities, plus run the small library in our clubhouse and volunteer at a food pantry once a week.

As far as less physical activities, I am a member of several classic film clubs, an early American history club, and we attend concerts on an occasional basis. We just saw The Association at a local venue. Yes, they are still alive – at least two of the original members are still alive.

Becoming a Writer

I have always wanted to be a writer, but really never knew what to write about. They say you should write about things you enjoy and know something about. So that made it an easy choice for me.

There are only two topics that I really know anything about – classic films from the 1930s through 1950s, and the Chicago Cubs. If you asked me to write a book about fixing cars, for example, it would be one sentence long – “I don’t know anything about how to fix a car.”

Around 2008, I decided I wanted to write a book about old movies, but could not decide what would be the angle; after all, there are lots and lots of books about old movies. So I happened to be listening to the all-sports-talk radio station in Chicago early one morning. It was the day after classic film star Glenn Ford died. The host of the show was a huge Glenn Ford fan, and he invited people to call up and talk about their favorite Glenn Ford films. Guys 55 and older – remember, this is an all-sports show – called up and mentioned their favorite Ford films, like 3:10 to Yuma, The Blackboard Jungle, Gilda, The Man from Colorado, Jubal, and The Man from the Alamo. After a while, he started getting calls from younger men with the same message – “I thought this was supposed to be a sports talk show, and who the Hell is Glenn Ford?”

Now I had my angle – movie stars from that era, who were not the big stars of the time – not John Wayne, Jimmy Stewart, Cary Grant, Humphrey Bogart, Bette Davis, Katharine Hepburn, Marilyn Monroe, or perhaps 20 others that are still pretty well know today – but those second-tier stars who were big in their day, but hardly anyone under 50 has heard of any of them. So I titled my first book Forgotten Movie Stars of the 30s, 40s, and 50s. It took me over a year to write my first book – I was still working at the time – and that was the easy part.

Getting Published

Finding a publisher was the hard part. No publisher wants to publish a book from an author who has never published anything. But a new author can’t find a publisher unless she or he has published something. Huh??

Eventually I found a company called CreateSpace, which is a self-publishing company that I recommend highly. They format the book for you and put it on (CreateSpace is owned by Amazon, so that makes for a very smooth process), and act as an online warehouse for books. The only disadvantage of self-publishing companies is that you have to do your own marketing. In my case, that is not a problem. I am not looking to become a millionaire from writing books, just have people read them.

My first book was published in 2013 and has sold almost 2,500 copies – not great but not bad for a self published author. Since then, I have written four additional books, two about old movies and two about the Chicago Cubs. And I am starting another one about more forgotten movie stars.

I guess the message in retirement is to find things you enjoy or that you want to try for the first time. I like some outdoor activities but am never going to take up marathons or anything like that. But you don’t have to. And don’t forget about volunteer activities – these organizations are always looking for retirees to help out.

In case you are interested, here are the titles of the five books I have authored. All are available through

  1. Forgotten Movie Stars of the 30s, 40s, and 50s
  2. Great Chicago Cub Baseball Players Since 1876
  3. Good Guys, Bad Guys, and Sidekicks in Western Movies: from the 1930s through the 1960s
  4. The 2016 Chicago Cubs: A Magical Baseball Season
  5. Good and Bad Sci-Fi/Horror Movies of the 1950s: And the Stars Who Made Them

Gary Koca has had a love of old movies and baseball for as far back as he can remember. Professionally, he worked in human resources management as a Federal employee or contractor for 42 years until retiring in 2012.

Do you have your own story you’d like to share about how you are spending retirement after federal service? Share it with FedSmith to be considered for posting.