Jim Kincaid:  On Surviving Retirement


Jim KincaidOnce upon a time, when I was a poor but honest anchorman in Hampton Roads, I planned a graceful retirement at Elam, Virginia, in the eighteenth-century log cabin that Catherine and I had been restoring for more than two decades. It sits on a twenty -five acre piece of rolling land a few miles from Farmville, and is the very vision of quiet comfort that most of us have of those “golden years” after a long and stressful career at whatever grindstone we chose in youth.

The trouble is, those visions come to us in our early middle age, such as the thirties, forties, and most of the fifties. A time in life when cutting trees, chopping them into firewood, carrying them a few pieces at a time to five fireplaces, and keeping at least three of those fireplaces burning through the colder nights, appears in those visions to be chores, not full time jobs. Let me assure you, that’s not quite the case. I don’t think I need to go into the matters of raising a large garden, mowing several acres of grass, doing necessary maintenance on a two-hundred- year-old house and several outbuildings.

It took several years, but we eventually located a couple some time away from retirement who still maintained those earlier visions, and the wherewithal to take Elam off our hands; and we moved into a brand new house in Farmville with all the conveniences, climate control, and a lawn that offers no challenge to my new lawn mower. His name is Doyne. Best of all, a cozy fireplace in our living room comes alive with the flip of a switch. THIS is more like it!

The best feature of our new house(after four years it’s still new to us), is that it’s fifteen miles closer to our daughter Carolyn, her husband Rob, and our thoroughly delightful and incredibly talented grand-daughter Tra My. Now I have no more than eight blocks to go to dote on Tra My, get to pick her up at school sometimes, watch “SpongeBob” or other cultural shows with her, and just generally spoil her rotten.

About the name... Tra My translates in Vietnamese to “flower bouquet”. A decade ago when Carolyn and Rob decided they’d waited long enough for children, their only option was to adopt. Having spent the most intense part of my career as a newsman in Vietnam, I strongly encouraged them to try Vietnam first, and Tra My was the result. They brought her home at the ripe old age of five months, and the last eight years have been the fastest and happiest for all of us. The only complaint came from my daughter, who has found herself nudged away slightly from her rightful position as “the center of the universe”.  I may as well warn you, Tra My and her wondrous accomplishments will probably come up from time to time in future editions of “Elder and Wiser”. Those of you who suffered my telling of personal stories on local television for almost two decades are requested to “keep it to yourselves” and give me a fair shot at young and unsuspecting new readers.

Getting back to those blissful visions of retirement Catherine and I maintained during the last and most productive years laboring in the field of journalism, I thought you might be interested in the way we prepared., and we did prepare.

The parent company of the television station where I worked had a generous retirement plan which provided enough income to cover the cost of a comfortable life at the cost of living that prevailed at the time. Of course we realized that the cost of living would inevitably go up, but we had that covered. I contributed as much as the regulations allowed to a sort of nest egg, a 401-K fund, which we were sure would provide the wherewithal for the “extras” we would need. We started early, and happily watched our contributions grow into a substantial amount of money. And then came the first of a whole litany of monetary adjustments, financial crises, fiscal, aberrations, etc, etc, etc. Our Cadillac plan turned into an Edsel. Those among you who share my age and experience need no further explanation.

I was born at the beginning of the “Great Depression” and was old enough toward the end of it to appreciate it. I was of that fortunate age to avoid WW2, though my father and two older brothers got to participate fully. My mother and I had the honor of trying to keep a small farm in Arkansas going until times got better; but, aside from the privilege of milking eight or ten cows a day it wasn’t all that much fun. Anyway, this thing we’re going through right now is not a “Great Depression” though I can understand the feelings of the young and unemployed who are convinced it is.

My happy news is, that retirement is survivable, and, on the whole, worth the effort. The bad news is... it takes some effort.

That’s the news for now... and a note... See you in the next issue of Elder and Wiser.

My Best,

Jim Kincaid


Jim Kincaid joined the Army in 1956 serving 3 years in Germany where he met Edward R. Murrow who helped him break into big time broadcasting after his service. From 1960 Jim had a long and storied career as a network correspondent covering Viet Nam and China. In 1978 Jim became one of the most beloved Hampton Roads news anchors ever, working with WVEC TV 13 for 20 years. Jim has written four books and lives with his beautiful wife Catherine in a little town called Farmville near his beloved Elam.