Some retirees returning to work

Lawton_A lot of folks who had retired are back on the job, and many working far longer than they had anticipated.  It isn't because they didn't plan for their retirement; it's because they have lost a huge percentage of their savings and investments during this recession.  The money they had planned to live on has diminished, and even disappeared in some cases.

Lawton Dentist Gary Gardner says he had been practicing dentistry for more than 40 years when he retired.  He says he retired twice, and for the last three years has devoted his time to his hobby and passion - sculpting.  These days, however, he says he's right back to tending patients - a move he says seems to be the right one.

Three years ago Gardner's practice was booming, with a lot of patients and staff.  Now, he says it's scaled down.  "I do all the work myself," he said.  "I answer the phone.  If there is any trash on the floor, we will tell the janitor to pick it up tonight - and that will be me."

Gardner says he retired for the first time in 2003, and again in 2007, before taking over his current practice after the economy began to nosedive.  "It was a little scary," he said.  "You save what you can save over the years, and you should have enough to live comfortably."

Once the recession began to take its toll on his money for the future, he says he returned to work.  "Since you are working, you do have income.  That kind of gave us a little less fear with the economy."  Gardner says he's convinced the economy will bounce back, though.  "When you are over 70, you don't know how long it is going to take before it comes back, so it has been sort of a nice little security blanket," he said.

He says he uses skills he has honed in dentistry for his hobby, too, as apparent in his sculptures.  Many are displayed in the Lawton area.  "Sculpting and dentistry and dentures are as close to being the same thing as anything you can do," said Gardner.  He says he has the best of both worlds these days, and plans to keep it that way.  "I don't intend to retire unless health gets in the way, or unless I feel completely worn out."

Gardner sees patients four times per week, and has limited his practice to dentures.  He says that gives him enough free time to continue sculpting, or any other hobby he wishes to pursue.  He says that being able to go back into dentistry was the best retirement plan he could ever have.