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Here's why a Utahn retired — all to work again

MIDVALE — Pat Burton turned 60 last August and retired. Turned in his last time card. Told them they could take this job and give it to somebody else.

He left because he could. He’d been careful throughout his career as an engineer. Faithfully contributed to his 401K. Saved more than he spent. Planned ahead. Left nothing to chance.

And now?

Now he’s starting over.

He got out of the saddle so he could get back in the saddle.

Meet the new retirement: still working, but on your terms.

This is not how your father did it. In Burton’s case, quite literally.

He watched his dad, also an engineer, retire from his career when he was also 60.

He moved into a condo, where he didn’t have to do yard work in the summer or plow snow in the winter. Free at last.

“But he just seemed like he was bored to death,” says Burton. “I would see him doing things like labeling everything in the house. He’d go around the condo development and paint the light fixtures just for something to do.”

His father died of a heart attack at 64.

“His health wasn’t good so that was a part of it, but I think part of the reason is he was bored.”

Well before he turned in his notice last summer at the University of Utah — where he was an information technology manager — Burton had already begun plotting his next move.

His future centered on one central theme: He would be his own boss.

Upper management would be him.

He sat in his cubicle and indulged every employee’s daydream: “What if the only person I have to please is me!”

He hired a franchise consultant to investigate businesses he might be able to get into.

“The cool thing about franchise consultants is you don’t pay them anything,” he says. “If you sign on with someone, it’s the franchise that pays them.”

He sorted through a list of about 20 possibilities. He tossed out the food ones first — “seemed like too much stress.” He’d once thought about running a bookstore, since reading and collecting books is a passion, but book-selling isn’t what it once was.

He finally settled on applying for a franchise with Hand & Stone, a massage and facial company.

“Never would have dreamed this is what I’d be doing,” he says, smiling. “What I didn’t know (about the massage and facial business) would fill a book.”

He flew to Hand & Stone’s headquarters in Philadelphia for training, where one of the first lessons he learned was “do not call them massage parlors. They don’t like that.”

Back in Utah, he scouted out a location for his “massage and facial spa” in the Fort Union area, secured construction and business permits, worked with architects and builders and started hiring employees.

Two Mondays ago, he opened for business.

“I unlocked the door and just hoped everybody would show up for work,” he says.

Fortunately, everyone did, and so did a fair number of customers thanks to a grand opening marketing campaign that included giving away a number of free facials and massages.

The starting-up process has been full of stress, Burton freely admits, involving plenty of 18-hour days, a steep learning curve and the abiding fear that if this venture is a disaster the 401K could be gone in no time.

But a good kind of stress.

“I don’t set my alarm anymore,” he says. “I don’t have to get up, I want to get up. I’m not constantly looking at the clock. I feel younger.”

And since opening for business, he’s felt his worry lessen considerably. “Now my attitude is, ‘This is going to work,’” he says, as opposed to fearing that it would not.

His new boss, he’s found, is a pretty reasonable guy.

“He’s making me work too much,” he grins. “But they all do that, right?”

As for boredom, that’s been nonexistent. Ever since he retired, he’s had too much to do.

“I really don’t plan to ever stop,” he says. “As long as I’m healthy and I can do something, I’m going to keep doing it.

“But if I want to take off a little earlier in the afternoon, or take a day off now and then, I want to be able to do that, too.”