B.C. women tout benefits of ‘pretirement’

Diana Stirling of Penticton, B.C., is an entrepreneur, but works part-time and spent four months this year in Australia with her husband and their two kids.

KELOWNA, B.C. — Diana Stirling of Penticton, B.C., is an entrepreneur, but works part-time and spent four months this year in Australia with her husband and their two kids.

Her business partner Shannon Ward chose Costa Rica so that she could learn to surf and took her husband and their son along.

These two women are enjoying what they call pretirement — a life combining the freedom of retirement with the necessities of working for a living.

“It’s about maximizing both money and time,” said Ward.

“We coined the word pretirement because it best described how we are living like we are retired, yet we’re enjoying and running businesses on our own terms.”

In fact, these ladies have so defined pretirement that traffic to their pretirementliving.com website is brisk, they are inspiring others to do the pretirement thing and they are sought after guest speakers on the topic.

That’s how Stirling and Ward found themselves recently at the Momcafe Okanagan meeting at Cabana restaurant in Kelowna, B.C.

By the way, the businesses these ladies own that provide all this freedom and money are marketing company On Track Media and corporate perks software firm Insider Trading Group.

“We built those companies up so we had big offices, big staff and worked long hours,” explained Ward.

“But then we started to have kids and found that this model of success doesn’t work for us anymore.”

So the pair basically tore down what they had built to a much smaller entity that they can handle themselves with just one employee.

They kept only the most profitable clients who they enjoyed working with and focused on them.

Part-time hours ensued and the ability to head off to warm climes for those extended stretches over the winter.

“We still have to work when we are in Costa Rica or Australia or wherever,” stressed Ward.

“But with technology you can do it.”

This winter Stirling and her family are headed to the Cook Islands.

Ward hasn’t decided yet.

“Our message of challenging the status quo and defining success on your own terms really resonates with women, especially moms,” said Stirling.

“But the message also works for men. After all, our husbands are able to do this with us.”

Stirling’s husband owns Loco Landing in Penticton — a seasonal waterslide, mini golf and bumper cars business — that allows him to get away in the winter.

Ward’s husband is a web designer who can do work for clients remotely while away.

“Our deal is working less and travelling,” pointed out Stirling.

“But pretirement doesn’t have to be about long periods away from home. It may mean three day weekends every weekend, part-time or projects.”

But there can be sacrifices.

You may have more time, but you may make less money, live in less house or stay in humble digs rather than luxury all-inclusives on those extended holidays.

After attending the meeting, Sarah Simpson Byrne of Kelowna realized she was pursuing pretirement without knowing that’s what it’s called.

“The birth of my son (Cayden, now two-and-a-half) prompted me to do something different,” said Simpson Byrne.

“I started making jewelry when I was on maternity leave and I ended up quitting my 11-year career as a commercial insurance broker and starting my own company (Glass Art by SIMS).”

Simpson Byrne said she’s working more hours now than when she was a broker, but that’s temporary during the crucial start-up phase.

“But it’s flexible, so Cayden only has to go to daycare three days a week,” she pointed out.

“And I should be able to hire someone soon who can help reduce the workload.”

Simpson Byrne’s fashion jewelry is available on line at glassartbysims.com.

It’s Kelowna lawyer Jen Sencar who brought Momcafe to the Okanagan after going to a meeting of the Vancouver branch.

“Moms are powerful people,” she said.

“Quite often they are heads of the household and they work. They need balance and when they get together there’s camaraderie and support and the networking can lead to incredible ideas.”

The monthly meetings include networking, a guest speaker, food and drink and on-site babysitting so women can talk about something besides dirty diapers and car pooling in peace.

Sencar’s balance as a mom to an 11-month-old is to work an average of three and a half days a week in her job with the provincial government.

Momcafe also has chapters in Calgary, Toronto, Ottawa, Prince George and the Fraser Valley.

On the Net: momcafenetwork.com

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