The Uncle

His name is my name, and my name is his.

When I was born, my parents decided to give me the name of my Mom’s brother as my middle name.  We’ve shared the name for 55 years.


Today, my Uncle Carl answers The One Retirement Question: What One Piece Of Advice Would You Give To A New Retiree? Click To Tweet

My relationship with Uncle Carl has always been special, and I’ve often wondered if it’s become we share the same name.  I consider myself fortunate for having him as a part of my life and value our relationship. Since childhood, I’ve been told that we share the same personality, and I’ve come to realize it’s true.

Today, Uncle Carl (aka “The Uncle”) becomes the next victim in The One Retirement Question Project, following the tradition of these other esteemed retirees who have given us retirement advice in the previous recordings of this Series:

I saw Uncle Carl this summer at a family reunion in Illinois and made a recording of his retirement advice at the end of our last evening together.  The two Carl’s are circled in the family photo below:

The Two Carls

The Uncle’s Personality

As I think back over the interactions I’ve had with Uncle Carl over the years, the four attributes of his personality which first came to mind are:

  • Curious
  • Intelligent
  • Humorous
  • Caring

Curious:  Uncle Carl is perpetually exploring new things, new hobbies, new ideas.  I recall one point in my childhood when we were visiting their home in Chicago, and Uncle Carl showed us his new loom.  He was curious about weaving and decided to give it a go, so he bought a loom.  That’s Uncle Carl, and I’ve always admired his innate curiosity.  Fortunately, it’s a trait I seem to have inherited (the curiosity, that is, not the desire to weave.  Haha).  Be curious, and never stop learning.

Intelligent:  Uncle Carl went to graduate school in Geneva, Switzerland.  He’s a man of the world, and he’s brilliant. He’s a great communicator with a quick wit, and an evening spent talking with him in a treasure for all involved (hint: that’s a foreshadowing of what’s to come later in this post). He’s got an amazing intelligence and successfully applied his education in a long business career, from which he retired 14 years ago at the age of 65.  He’s one of those rare breeds with a strong intelligence and a great approach to people.

Humorous:  It’s simply impossible to spend more than a few minutes with Uncle Carl without laughing.  He’s the life of the party and will stop at nothing to make a room laugh.  His horrendous fashion statement at one of our family reunion dinners is just one of many examples (I could also tell the story of both he and I “dropping our pants” in front of the entire family during a little skit, but I’ll forgo that one out of respect for the reader.  We DID make the room laugh, however…).

Uncle Carl, being Uncle Carl.  Pretty cool for a 79-year old, right?

Caring:  Perhaps most importantly, Uncle Carl cares deeply about folks.  Aside from his class clown antics, when you have a serious one-on-one discussion with him his care shows through his eyes.  He’s sincere in asking questions that really matter, and taking the time to truly listen to your response.  He and my Aunt Judy raised four lovely daughters, and he cares deeply about each of them and their families.  He cares about me, and he cares about what’s going on in my family.  It’s a special trait, and the trait I most admire.

The Last Supper

Through an unplanned twist of fate (or, perhaps, it was just meant to be?), only three people from the reunion spent the Sunday night at the State Park where the reunion was held.  While others raced home to face the Monday Morning grind, the three remaining members had a memorable meal together.

I know, because I was one of the three.

My wife and I had decided to camp one extra night at the State Park (ah, retirement!) and were surprised to learn that Uncle Carl had also booked his room until Monday (ah, retirement!).  The three of us shared a special meal together on Sunday night, and the evening is one I’ll treasure for years to come.  The conversation was far-ranging and personal, from the recent loss of his wife (she died, unfortunately, just a few weeks before the reunion), to the importance of friendships and relationships, to retirement housing decisions, to our adjustment in retirement and what we had planned, to our daughter’s pregnancy (yes, we’re going to be Grandparents!).  As I mentioned, he cares and it shows.  It was a special night.

An important sidebar:  one thing special about my relationship with Uncle Carl is the reality that we don’t share common political views (a topic I generally avoid on this blog, since I don’t see it as particularly relevant to creating a Great Retirement).  However, unlike most of society these days, we can comfortably agree to disagree and love each other nonetheless.  We laugh, we smirk, we hug. Society could learn from listening in to our conversation sometimes.  A sidebar, but an important point.

Bottom Line:  It was a night of real conversation, with a man I’ve long admired.

My Uncle Carl.

Uncle Carl: Words Of Wisdom

The One Retirement Question:  Uncle Carl’s Response

During the course of the dinner, I explained to Uncle Carl my One Retirement Question Project and asked if he’d be willing to participate by giving his retirement advice.  As you’ll hear below, he agreed (to the benefit of all of you who are about to hear his advice firsthand.  BTW, does he have the PERFECT radio voice, or what?):

Uncle Carl’s Recording:

Please take 2 minutes, 7 seconds to listen to Uncle Carl’s response (as a special treat, you’ll get a quick hello from my wife, Jackie, at the 2-minute mark!).  His personality shines through his words, and his advice is worth noting:

“Be Passionate About Something”:  Your work is now being set aside, so you need to find what you’re going to be passionate about in retirement.

“Develop That Passion As Much As You Possibly Can”: Now that you have the time, find something to be consumed by.  It may be something you weren’t even thinking about during your working years.

“Get 2 Or 3 Passions”:  Make sure you pursue them, don’t just think about them, Do Them!  Be Eager, and Teach.

Be Passionate About Something, And Develop That Passion As Much As You Possibly Can. The Uncle. Click To Tweet


The One Retirement Project started when I was photographing a barn, and it’s evolved into my favorite series on this blog.  From the comments I’ve received, it seems to have become a favorite of yours as well, and for good reason.  I’m continuing to hunt for victims, and hope to continue this series as I speak with folks who have valuable retirement advice to share.

We should all take time to listen to folks who have things to teach us.  Folks who have walked the path before us.  Folks who have valuable things to share.  Folks like my Uncle Carl, who encourages folks who are entering retirement to Be Passionate About Something, Develop The Passion, and Do Something with that passion with your newfound freedom.

Take the time to listen, and apply the lessons learned.

Especially if they’re from someone you’re named after.

Like Uncle Carl.


  1. Carl has a stellar voice. Does he sing too? I imagine he sounds like Josh Turner.

    We’re very happy for you and Jackie about becoming grandparents. You’ve got so much to be passionate about!

  2. Thank you, Fritz and Carl, for a terrific reminder about how important it is to have a passion.
    Similar to Carl’s interest in global warming, I want to work to reduce and clean up single use plastics.
    In preparation for my own upcoming retirement, last year I joined the Texas Master Naturalist program—Galveston Bay Area Chapter, and I’m meeting and working with good people who share my concerns about our Texas gulf coast and our planet. I’m really looking forward to the freedom in retirement to continue to contribute and hopefully make a difference.

  3. Uncle Carl sounds like a great family member to have around. Excellent retirement advice too!
    Congratulations on becoming a grandparent soon. I hope it all goes smoothly for you and your family!

    As I wrap up my remote work assignment in a couple more months I’ll be looking to something around here I can get involved in and get passionate about. There are a few irons in the fire, but nothing concrete is standing out yet. We’ll see.

    1. Awesome advice from Uncle Carl – thank you so much for sharing!!
      Fritz – I loved how you just slide that in about your grand baby – congratulations!!!
      Hope to see y’all around Blue Ridge soon – that is, if you ever stay put long enough!!

      1. Christine, how horrible is it that we haven’t gotten together since we all retired? Let’s put an end to that, let us know the next time you’re up, we’ll definitely get together! Hope your retirement is going well, look forward to seeing you soon.

  4. Congrats on the upcoming birth of a grandchild!! I especially liked the comment concerning different
    political views and how little effect the views had on your relationship. That is a lesson to be learned
    for many people. His voice is spectacular and I hope you enjoyed Rend Lake for your reunion. I live a little over an hour from Rend Lake and have golfed there many times. No swims in the Lake for you?

    1. Small world, Dan. Actually, I did get several swims in during our time there. It was windy and rough, but always fun to swim in a new State! I’m hitting Washington this week while we’re visiting our daughter and son-in-law in the Seattle area. I also had a nice jog around the golf course, nice State Park, I can see why you’d drive an hour to golf there.

  5. Great advice from a great Uncle. A powerful voice with a powerful and intelligent message. I’ve been called a cool Uncle by a few nieces and nephews and I love it.

  6. I always enjoy learning from those who have “gone before me” so a big thanks to Uncle Carl for sharing his wisdom. What a great project Fritz, it’s producing some golden nuggets for me to reflect upon. I’ll also be looking into Vanguard this week to see their Educational offerings as well. You keep me informed on a lot of excellent areas. Thanks for all you do!

  7. Ha, couldn’t help but notice the location of the family reunion. Great place. I am about an hour from it, and have fished it many times.

  8. Congrats! Grandparents…looks like a fun part-time gig. Enjoy every minute. I am also super jealous about your cross-country train ride but will be joining you one day. As for us, we will have to get together soon. I will be living in Nashville come January!

    1. NASHVILLE!? Wow, exciting to hear that you’ve finalized your plans, Dad. Hope the rebuilt home sale goes well for you, you’ve been through an amazing challenge this past year, looking forward to seeing you in Nashville in the near future.

      And yes, the cross-country train trip is amazing. We’re only half way done. We’re currently staying in a charming cabin on an island in Puget Sound for the week (AirBnB is awesome), only a short ferry ride away from our daughter and son-in-law. Great visit, and looking forward to the Southern Leg of our train journey.

  9. I love the photograph of Uncle Carl in the overalls. He is clearly a hoot to be around. I’m inspired by his encouragement to be passionate about one, two or more things. As I’ve been retired now going on 8 years, I have experimented in different endeavors, sort of like dipping my toe into different waters. Some passions have developed, others are not my cup of tea, but the variety is the spice of life.

    Keep these coming. The characters you know or meet are so interesting. And congratulations on becoming grandparents soon!

    1. He was in rare form the night of the overalls, Susan. “A hoot” would be an understatement, we all love Carl! Congrats on 8 years of retirement, exciting to hear that the experimentation doesn’t end. Finally, I’m always on the hunt for future victims, I’ll keep you posted. 😉

  10. Fritz, that is quite an inspirational 2 minute response by your Uncle Carl and certainly good advice. We in retirement have the opportunity now to be passionate about certain subjects and with this passion can insure carrying them to a satisfactory conclusion.

    1. Almost as inspirational as yours, Colonel! Thx for stopping by my site, my Uncle Carl’s advice was very similar to yours. I view “Passion Projects” as a way to keep yourself both mentally and physically engaged, and I’ll never forget your advice to pursue both. Thanks again for saying “yes” when I asked you that question on the plane from Paris!

  11. Everyone has an “Uncle Carl” somewhere in their life. They might not even know it. “Uncle Carl” might not even be a relative!
    KEY POINT: Listen to what someone has to say, especially our elders!
    I’m talking to myself as well!
    Great post!

  12. Great question and answer. I no longer have any of my uncles. Perhaps I am the colorful uncle. I am looking for my passion now. 99 days but who is counting. Just celebrated birth of #5 grandchild 2 weeks ago, all live within 30 minutes from me. Perhaps that will be my passion, ensuring they understand the importance of family and caring. With some fishing thrown in. I really enjoy your blog.

  13. I loved this and will be sharing it with others.

    But thanks find it quite odd that you felt you had to preced it with your important side note that you “don’t share common political views.” Why, because he mentioned that one of his current passions is climate change?

    1. Interesting question, Karen. As you likely know, I intentionally avoid political discussion on my blog, since I believe it detracts from my primary focus of Helping People Achieve A Great Retirement. My main point for bringing it up in this post is because this article is about my Uncle, and our political differences is something interesting about our relationship which I think others could learn from. I’m proud of my Uncle and his chosen passion, but to me the much more valuable lesson was the importance of Purpose in retirement.

      1. Great answer. I find I prefer not to know someones political leanings as that can cloud a discussion. I try and stay away from talking politics both in person and virtually. We are so polarized now it has become impossible to have a discussion without igniting hurt feelings. I made the mistake of kidding around with a close relative regarding the last election and caused a continuing fracture when in reality I really didn’t care. Learned my lesson. Keep teaching me about a happy retirement and I will let your political beliefs be your own.

  14. It’s great to see in such a polarized political environment that you can express your love and admiration for Uncle Carl and find common ground on the things you do agree on. Great read!

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