Failed retirement creates book for Shelby County native

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By Beth Herrinton-Hodge

There you are: 55 or 65 or whatever and about to retire. You’ve worked your whole life. day in, day out. You’re standing on the threshold of a new life. One that you author. One that you’ve awaited.


Your day has arrived. Now what?

Simpsonville native Mike Shouse found stepping into retirement was not as easy as he had hoped. “I wasn’t very good at it,” he said. “In fact, I failed the first time. I just wasn’t ready for the emotional changes.”

Shouse’s failed attempt at retirement gave rise to his first book, Boomer Bungle, a humor-filled collection of 52 stories from his own experiences that provide both wit and insight for negotiating the perils of retirement.

“I knew when I was starting out in life that I’d be taking a journey,” he said. “After graduating from Shelby County High School in 1973, I headed west to WKU. The university wasn’t a good fit, so I kept heading west, eventually landing in Davenport, Iowa.”

Iowa isn’t the first place you would expect a native of Simpsonville to land. But Shouse’s father, Bill, and brothers, Tony and Scott, still reside in Shelby County, and, as he explains it, “They’ve got Kentucky covered.”

Thus, Iowa became the place he has called home for more than 30 years.

“Thirty years,” he said. “I never thought I’d do anything for thirty years. In the early eighties, I fell into the restaurant business and fell in love with it. It kept me busy through long days, weekends and holidays. When you have a passion for something, you don’t mind spending long hours. It just felt right.”

He and his wife, Pat, bought an Irish pub along the way, and in 2004, a buyer came around and offered to buy it, creating their first shot at retirement. They moved to Florida and thought they were ready to put up their feet.

But Florida wasn’t for them.

Retirement came as an unexpected journey. They felt a certain “root-lessness” in it. After two years, they moved to Arizona, another retirement mecca. They built a house, played golf, tried to settle in. It still didn’t fit.

“Life was okay, but we were not very purpose-driven,” he said. “We weren’t prepared for the boredom, the inactivity, the uncertainty of what we were going to do the next day.”

In 2009, the Shouses had their restaurant handed back to them, so they closed up their Arizona home, returned to Iowa and went back to work. Things felt right again.

This is when Shouse said he realized that he had a story to tell, insights to share, advice to give about preparing for retirement.

“We were ready, financially, to retire,” he said. “But what we didn’t plan for was the anxiety and emotional challenges of stepping away from a lifetime of work. In talking with others, we realized that we weren’t alone. It’s a common phenomenon – to find yourself rudderless after so many years of living into responsibilities and expectations.

“I think people can enjoy retirement more if they prepare themselves for what happens in this next phase in life. Stopping work is the initial phase. Figuring out what to do without work is the next step. The key is to put life in balance: to make room for enjoyment, while still living a life that’s purposeful.”

This advice sums up the message of Boomer Bungle. Along the way, you read episodes from about Shouse’s life as he fumbles, missteps, triumphs and develops a balance for retirement living.

This is not a self-help book. Rather, it’s part memoir, part how-to, wrapped up in Shouse’s sense of humor. He pokes fun at himself and the predicaments he stumbles upon.

The book also serves another mission.

Purchasing it will help wounded warriors through David Feherty’s Troops First Foundation. Shouse has linked his Amazon.com sales with the foundation so that $2 from each book purchased will be donated to the group.

For more information about Shouse and his book, go to shousebooks.com. You can order a copy of Boomer Bunglethrough Amazon.com/BoomerBungle.