Thursday, July 24, 2014 - 64°F

[photo: professor with students]

American Families

Paying it Forward

Vincent Hayes
Seattle

While the closest many retirees get to the study of behavioral psychology is watching reruns of Murder, She Wrote, 67-year-old Vincent Hayes is teaching it.

"When I had the opportunity to retire, I said, ‘this is my opportunity to go off and do things that I want to do,'" Hayes said.

After a 22-year career with the Social Security Administration that took him all over the country, the Seattle-native returned home ten years ago to complete work for a master’s degree in social work – a mission he’d started 30 years earlier.

The self-described "life long learner" then used his degree and experience to land the position of counseling director at Seattle Vocational Institute. It's there that he splits 20 hours a week between director duties, counseling, and instructing students in behavioral psychology – a juggling act that Hayes said he loves.

"I think the trend these days is to retire early and go off and do something you really want to do," he said.

It's a trend Hayes' colleague Nancy Verhayden hopes other seniors follow. As the Dean of Instruction at Seattle Vocation Institute, she singled out Hayes for the counseling director position.

"Vince comes with a lifetime of experience. He's a compassionate counselor and a talented teacher," Verhayden said. "I hope that more Vince’s will step up to the plate."

Hayes' zest for a robust retirement was driven in part by memories of his father's experience. Not long after ending a career with Boeing, Hayes' father suffered a heart attack and stroke.

"He was laid up for about five or six years after that, and then he died. He didn't have an opportunity to enjoy being retired."

Conscious of his father's fate, Hayes made a lifetime of savvy career and benefit decisions that prepared him for a retirement he could enjoy.

"I have the crème de la crème of retirement packages from the Federal government," said the 22-year Social Security Administration veteran. "When I went to work for the Federal government, I said, 'this could be a good deal later on down the road,' and so I decided that I would try and take advantage of those financial opportunities that came along."

Taking advantage of those financial opportunities has been rewarding for Hayes, who collects up to $4550 a month from federal and state retirement benefit pay-outs. Those sources of income combined with his salary allow Hayes to devote himself to raising his teenage daughter and another passion – volunteering.

"I have a strong sense of community because when I was growing up here in Seattle, there were some social workers who helped focus me in terms of the kind of life I should live and lead. I was very fortunate to have those people there." About volunteering, Hayes continued, "I just feel that it’s an obligation I want to do, not have to do."

Serving on the boards of three community organizations, Hayes lives out his philosophy that volunteerism is the "rent" you pay to your community. And he hopes other retirees follow suit.

"I believe that more senior citizens should give back to the communities in which they live." Hayes emphasized, "We have to give back. We just can't keep all of the knowledge to ourselves!"

But Hayes doesn't look down on other retirees relaxing in their recliners or putting on the links. It's just that for him, retirement was designed to be a second take on life.

"I have a pair of brown and white golf shoes," Hayes laughed. But, he joked, "I couldn't make the senior tour. And so, I had to do something, work in the community. Do something."

No doubt, the Seattle community is thankful Vincent Hayes is no Tiger Woods.

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