“I had the career my fourteen-year-old self always wanted,” said Pete Kerzel, 62. Pete had a long career as a journalist and spent the last 12 years as the managing editor for MASNsports.com, covering the Baltimore Orioles and Washington Nationals.
He was paid to watch baseball games and go down to spring training. He was there the night Cal Ripken Jr. beat the streak and met many of his childhood heroes, including Brooks Robinson. “How many people get to live their dream?“ Pete said.
When Pete began to think of retirement, he still loved his job, but he began to notice a change. “The written word is being minimized,” he said. “And I’m a written word guy.”
He added, “I could see what was coming down the pike. They didn’t want to hire more writers.” He saw a shift away from writing and more toward videos, social media and TikTok.
In addition, the demands of the job began to wear on him. Pete was always on call in case someone signed a contract or a team made a trade or some other story. “I would have to bring my computer with me when I went out to dinner with friends,” Pete said. “It just wasn’t as much fun anymore.”
The real turning point came when Pete met with Chip Herring, his Ameriprise financial advisor, in the Spring of 2020, almost a year after the death of his mother. His advisor said, “Just so you know, you can retire now.” Pete said he remembers thinking “What?!” He was surprised that at the age of 60, spending a lifetime in a profession known for lower salaries, that he was able to retire.
Where to retire was easy. Ocean City, Md., had always held a special place in Pete’s heart. Being in OC evokes memories of spending time “down the ocean” with his parents and friends. “I’ve been coming to Ocean City since I’ve been six years old,” Pete said
He started looking for property in August 2020. At that point, he saw it as a place he would be able to use when he wasn’t working and eventually retire to. By the time he bought in December 2020, he knew that he would be moving there sooner than he thought.
Pete knew exactly what he was looking for and how much he wanted to spend. He said he and his real estate agent, Terry Miler, looked at 40 or 50 condos. He bought right as the market was beginning to tick up with people relocating due to COVID.
He began living down there part-time while he working remotely due to COVID. As he began living in Ocean City for weeks at a time, it became increasingly difficult for him to drive back home over the Bay Bridge to the Western Shore. “Then, when I would reverse that and come to the beach, I would think everything felt right again.”
In October 2021, Pete spoke to his supervisor to let him know he would be leaving the following April. When he told his boss he was ready to retire, his boss said. “I’m so happy for you.” He knew the toll the 80-hour weeks were taking on Pete.
“The timing was right. I got out on my terms when I wanted to,” Pete said.
On April 20,, 2022 Pete moved to Ocean City, got himself settled, and was able to finish out the month virtually before retiring on April 30, 2022.
Upon retiring, Pete received some advice from a friend. “Don’t do anything for six months.” Pete took that advice to heart. His six months was up the Thursday after we spoke.
Life Down the Ocean
But Pete didn’t exactly spend all his time sitting in his condo reading, although he did that, too. He began writing for the Delmarva Shorebirds game program. “I put the ‘free’ in freelance, “ Pete said – and he couldn’t be happier. He’s already looking forward to next season.
He also did two important things that any senior who retires to OC should do: get a pass to Assateague Island National Seashore and get a OC bus pass.
The lifetime senior pass to Assateague Island costs $85. With that pass, Pete can go to the Island to watch the ponies or just enjoy the beach whenever he wants. He can also take a friend for free.
The senior bus pass gives free bus rides to people over 60 and free tram rides before 4 p.m. After 4 p.m., Pete gets a dollar off tram rides “They aren’t making any money on me,” he said.
Pete loves to ride the tram. ”The smell of the caramel popcorn or the sound of a kid squealing in the arcade because he won a prize can take me back 50 years.”
Pete also thinks of his friend, Barry Diffendal, when he rides the tram. Barry passed away suddenly in 2012 after only one year in retirement. Barry and Pete often joked about retiring to OC and Barry would say, “You drive the tram and I’ll be the conductor in the back.”
Transitioning into Retirement
Pete said it took a good 6 to 8 weeks for him to get used to being retired. “It was a huge thing to get used to. I can go shopping when I want to go shopping. I don’t have to wedge it in,” he said.
“I hadn’t had a normal day in years,” Pete said. In his previous life, he had an erratic sleep schedule as he was required to work whenever the teams were playing. If there was a West Coast game, Pete would often have to stay up until 2 or 3 a.m. after the game finished so he could edit online stories.
Now, his time is his own and he is enjoying shopping when he wants, reading by the pool (during the summer time) and walking along the beach and boardwalk. He is also able to watch baseball for the sheer enjoyment of it and can turn off a game if it gets boring or goes into a rain delay.
Socializing with Friends
The other thing that Pete is enjoying is being able to spend time with his friends, “I got a two-bedroom condo so friends could come for a visit,” he said.
Some of his friends even live in OC either full-time or part-time.
Two his friends moved down there a year before he did. “They were a great resource,” he said. Not only does he spend time with them, but they have also introduced him to their friends.
One thing Pete enjoys is going with his friends, Greg and Cindy Cannizaro, to the Elks Club on Thursday nights for the fried chicken finner. Pete said it’s a great deal at just $12.
“Also, I can buy a round drinks for the table for just $6,” he added.
For Pete, retirement has been about seizing opportunities.
He said he loves being available for last minute events. Whether it’s seeing John Fogarty in Selbyville or watching the air show practice from a pontoon boat, Pete is ready for fun.
He is one of the few year-rounders in his community. This winter will be his full winter in OC. “I predict at some time this winter I’m going to bored out of my gourd,” he said. However, there are many things to do even off season and Pete knows many people there.
“I forgot that it was possible to be spontaneous,” Pete said. “It’s been a very long time since I’ve been in an position where I can choose when to do things and it’s been fun.”
For some people the tourist season from May to September/October could be a deterrent from moving down to OC, but Pete takes it all in stride.
“I love the water. I love the salt air,” Pete said. “So, you have to punt June, July and August for April, May, September and October. Sure, the summer months can be crazy, but it’s really fun to see the town so energized.”
There about 7,500 to 8,000 year-round residents in Ocean City. In the summer time, the population swells.
He said, “I enjoyed this spring watching the town gear up and get ready for the invasion of the summer people. It was a kick.”
Of course, he has had to make some concessions during tourist season, like doing his grocery shopping during the week. “You don’t want to go to the grocery store Friday, Saturday, Sunday or Monday.”
Also, there are also some restaurants that he doesn’t go to during season because there just too many people in town and the prices are higher.
But he said OC has changed a lot over the years. “’It’s more of a year-round thing now,” Of course, some places do close, but others offer dinner specials and happy hours to get customers in the door. His favorite pizza place, Pino’s, is closed for the season, but he waits in patient anticipation for it to reopen in May.
Luckily, Happy Jack Pancake House, which Pete calls his second home, is year-round, though only on the weekends in the offseason.
Making Finances Work
Pete was able to retire early because he made savings a priority. He’ll have a small pension from MedStar Health, where he worked in public/media relations for almost a decade, but he’s contributed to 401k plans through other employers and socked away money in his Ameriprise accounts.
When his mother passed away in 2019, he took the proceeds from the sale of his mother’s house plus some other inheritance, and put it into an annuity. He will tap that when he turns 65. For now, he is paying himself a salary out of his savings and will be collecting social security and his pension. This allows him to live the way he wants to live.
He gets his medical insurance through the Affordable Care Act. He said that the insurance is good, but the bureaucracy has been frustrating at times.
Final Words of Advice
“I don’t miss 80-hour weeks. I don’t miss waiting for my expense check,” Pete said. “That stuff, let somebody else do it. I’m so happy to not be dealing with it now.”
For Pete, retirement is a new beginning. “I look at this chapter as a blank slate,” he said.
He remembers a few days after he moved down and settled in thinking, “What do I do now?”
Then he said, a little apparition appeared over his head and said, “You can do whatever you want.”
What Pete wants to do is carve out time for himself and just appreciate his time in Ocean City. His condo backs up to a bayfront marsh and one of his favorite things to do is sit on his screened deck and watch the wildlife including herons, otters and foxes.
“I get these incredible sunsets and it’s as though someone painted the sky,” Pete said.
He is not sure what he is going to do now that his six months are up. He might volunteer or get a part-time job. He is leaving the door open to new opportunities.
Before he moved to he said, “I thought: What’s the worst thing that could happen? If I don’t like it here, I can move back to Baltimore, But I don’t think that’s going to happen. This is home now.”
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