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Career makeover: Boomers and more seek something completely different

Do you ever dream of making a living by living your dream? Millions of baby boomers are doing just that. According to AARP's TV program, Inside E Street, 9 million boomers have jumped into new livelihoods, and 30 million more say they would like to. Many people in their middle years also are doing the same thing. Some credit the economic downturn and others just want to make money doing something completely different. Here are profiles on three local people and their "encore" careers.

He spiced up his work after 34 years in finance

After 26 years as a banker, then eight more as the chief financial officer for a construction firm, how did 58-year-old Paul Bailey end up peddling spices on a tricycle through the streets of St. Petersburg?

Bailey and his wife, Joan, own Savory Spice Shop at the Shoppes at 400 Beach Drive NE in St. Petersburg. While he spends most of his time in the store, he also delivers spices to local restaurants and even tourists staying in downtown hotels. "I'm still in the currency business — spice is one of the oldest currencies in the world," he added.

"When the economy took a downturn and the construction firm I was working for closed, I decided it was time to think about another career," Bailey said. "We were in Denver and found a spice shop there. My wife and I thought it would be a great fit here in St. Petersburg so we bought a franchise."

His background prepared him for small business ownership. "During my banking career I had worked with over 200 companies/startups, growing companies, and companies that were closing. I thought it was my turn," he said. "Yes, I work harder and get paid less, but it's worthwhile. It's mine."

Bailey added that he loves to cook and that he enjoys seeing his customers — many of them young — experimenting with his products. "Young people have no fear," he laughed. "They blend stuff that a traditional chef would never try."

But his favorite story is about a woman who came to the store after hours looking for spices. "I had already closed up, but I reopened for her. She said that her daughter was anorexic and that our spices were the only thing that made her want to eat."

Third career a charm? She now practices family law

Robyn Featherston is already in her third career. "I worked at a bank through high school and college. That background helped me choose my major: business administration," she said. "Next I worked for a credit union. I was a teller, opened new accounts, processed loans and did just about everything in the operations side of the industry."

But then the road of Featherston's life took an unusual turn. "One day I read an article about truck driving," she said. Her father had told her that truckers were like one big family taking care of and looking out for one another. "So, I decided to get a commercial license and give it a try.

"Back then it was hard to break in, especially as a woman," Featherston said. But she made it, and soon she was trucking all over the United States, hauling everything from produce to hazardous materials.

"I liked the freedom and the challenge," she said. "Yes, there were some harassing comments, but I never had any real problems. I met some very good people and, yes, for the most part, they did look out for me."

Once at a Pennsylvania truck stop, she had parked on the back row where finding a space was easier. "I met some fellow truckers who insisted I move. They said the back row wasn't that safe and made me park my rig in the front row."

Her truck driving career came to an end after a close call in Michigan and being cut off by an impaired driver in Indiana. "That helped make my decision to leave trucking," she said.

By that time, Featherston was about 30 and ready for another career challenge. "I was living in my truck and decided to look into law school," she said. She began to study on her own, and took time off to take the Law School Administration Test. She was accepted at Stetson which worked out well since she has family in St. Petersburg.

"I graduated in 2006. I took the Bar Exam in 2007, and worked for a local firm, but decided to go out on my own in 2012. Now I practice in the areas of family law, trust and probate litigation and business law. I get to use both my degrees," she said.

Robyn's motto?

"I've adopted the philosophy I heard from another trucker on the radio. He said, 'If there's ever a day that you don't learn something, it's time to change.' "

She lives dream of having own business

Caregiver Support and Resources in St. Petersburg is Maureen Rulison's dream come true. It hasn't been easily achieved. "I worked for the state of Florida in what is now called the Department of Children and Families," she said. "I started out as a food stamp worker determining eligibility for food stamps. But I was a single mother and I wasn't making enough to support myself and two children. I actually ended up on the welfare rolls for six months."

Ever resourceful, Rulison opened a daycare center so she could care for her own children while taking care of others. Later, she went back to work for the state as an adult payment supervisor.

"At this point, I became aware of the plight of the middle-class elderly in our state. There was a twofold problem. People who were impoverished could get help, but many people who had a moderate nest egg couldn't get the help they needed," she said. Medicaid says that a person in care cannot have more than $2,000 in countable assets. Homesteads aren't considered "countable assets." This applies to people getting care at home, in an assisted living facility or a nursing home.

"I wanted to expand the options for these people and I could see the various ways that was possible. So I left the state and went to work for a private Medicaid planning company for about four years." she said.

Then, Rulison decided to launch her own firm. She started A Guiding Light, which helps seniors with eligibility issues qualify for Medicaid and VA Aid and Attendance. "Soon we were also helping vets and caregivers. So I began Caregiver Support and Resources LLC in 2012."

Today, Caregiver Support and Resources is a multidisciplinary company devoted to the coordination of support and services for both caregivers and those who need care. It specializes in a spectrum of services including life-care planning, and, under the direction of an attorney, Medicaid and VA Aid and Attendance. The company also helps with living options, asset protection, VA benefits and insurance and funeral options.

"It's a full-time job," said Rulison, 53. "I don't own this company; it owns me. I even handed out cards during a recent vacation. My greatest challenge is learning to delegate. But I have a great team of self-starters working with me.

"Sometimes I think they do better when I'm not around," she laughed.

"This isn't a job — it's a passion, she said. "As more and more people over 65 need care or are facing care needs for loved ones, our ability to empower and educate is more and more important. At Caregiver Support and Resources we have a motto: We turn crisis into calm, fear into focus, and powerlessness into empowerment."

Marie Stempinski is president and founder of Strategic Communication in St. Petersburg. She specializes in Public Relations, Marketing, and Business Development. She can be reached at

Career makeover: Boomers and more seek something completely different 11/22/13 [Last modified: Friday, November 22, 2013 5:53pm]
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