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How making your own rules can change your view of retirement

Business owner changes vision of retirement a... 01:55

As a design director for Macy's Merchandising Group, Maria Gamb had a very specific vision of what her retirement would look like.

"My idea of retirement when I was in corporate was that I could stay at home and do nothing. You know, with all that pressure all I wanted to do was to be able to relax."

But after 20 years in the fashion industry she decided to make a change that would not only redefine her lifestyle, but also her view of retirement.

"The industry I was in was very demanding and I loved it. It afforded me [a] great opportunity my entire life to travel and work all over the world. ... But the schedule was grueling," she said. "So I thought to myself, 'Am I going to spend another 10, 15, 20 years doing this or not?' And when I really thought about it, I thought, 'I just can't.'"

Gamb, 49, quit her job five years ago and started her own leadership consulting company.

Maria Gamb

In leaving Macy's, Gamb was losing a reliable income that had allowed her to invest in a 401(k), stock and real estate holdings and a savings plan.

"I understood that the risk I was taking was stepping away from something that was absolutely sure and I would have X amount of dollars into retirement every single year regardless," Gamb said.

For the first two years after starting her new business, she diverted money normally meant for retirement planning into her company.

Her company is currently profitable enough that she is able to restart contributions to her retirement savings. But even so, she doesn't see herself walking away from work completely.

"For me retirement is getting to do more of what I want to do in the way that I want to do it and enjoying it."

Maria Gamb and husband, Valen Fleming
Part of that freedom comes from her ability to create her own hours, aided greatly by using various communication technology.
Gamb's flexible lifestyle became especially relevant when her husband was diagnosed with cancer and underwent 17 months of chemotherapy.

"I thought 'Well this is why I set this [company] up, so that I could make things that are a priority in my life, a priority,'" said Gamb.

Now that she has time for her personal and professional life, her retirement years look very different than her time in the corporate world.

"I have a much better balance between being of service to people, bringing wisdom into the world and helping other people through my business, and just being a partner, a spouse, an aunt, a daughter in (my) family and my community," said Gamb.

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