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[Hicks on Sticks] When I Grow Up

Butch Hicks is an appraisal veteran that hails from Northern Virginia [1]. I first met him when he was the President of RAC (Relocation Appraisers & Consultants) [2] and was struck by how he got straight to the point, and peppered it with a southern drawl. He is a leader in the appraisal industry and has an affinity for crunching housing market data like I do. In this post for his Hicks on Sticks column in Soapbox, Butch never tires of asking the question: “What Do I Want To Be When I Grow Up?”
…Jonathan Miller

I picked up the phone recently to find a good friend and fellow appraiser on the other end of the line. Calling me from Walter Reed Hospital, a little bored of waiting around (and having already polished off the Washington Post, Washington Times and the Wall Street Journal) after subjecting themselves to various medical tests and waiting on yet others, they had reached out and ‘touched someone’ (I didn’t bother to inquire as to how many numbers they dialed before someone came on the other end of the line).

A little background is in order. My fellow appraiser has been around a long time, has served in almost every position in a number of local professional organizations and a few minor ones in national ones. Like me, they have seen and suffered the tremendous changes in the appraisal business bought about by technological innovations as well as a change in the attitudes of the appraiser’s historic client base. Several years ago, this appraiser’s spouse, also an appraiser, made the decision to exit that part of the real estate business and embark on another career by purchasing an existing real estate brokerage franchise. The timing could not have been more perfect as the change in profession coincided with a historic burst in the local realty market that began in 1999. In short order, the purchased franchise was more than tripled in size (measured by number of licensed agents) and a small building that had served as its headquarters was razed and replaced by a much larger multi-tenant office building as well as the imminent opening of a second building in yet another territory. As a consequence, my appraiser friend found themselves increasingly drawn into the spouse’s ‘brokerage’ end of the real estate business, earning first their sales license and then their brokerage license, all the while picking up more ‘managing’ duties that come with a growing business. As one might expect, my friend’s appraisal business suffered in the interval and they became more discriminating in the type of appraisal assignments that they accepted as their days were increasingly filled with the daily affairs of a realty brokerage office (not to mention their own increasing ‘realty’ business).

After relating the story of from where they were calling from (and why), my friend then started talking about the conflicting emotions they had suffered of late relating the conflicts in their professional life. My friend enjoys certain aspects of their ‘new’ life and not one bit do they miss portions of the old. Certain aspects of their new life on the other hand are ones that they could do without. I find myself increasingly wondering, my friend said, “What do I want to be when I grow up”?

After some 30+ years of professional life this may seem somewhat of an odd question to some. But, if a story in the February 11 issue of the Washington Post is any indication, perhaps not. The story revolved around the issue of a “new retirement”, speaking to recent trends that indicate many potential retirees, as they reach their 60’s in the next couple of decades, are likely to forego the “rec room at Leisure World” and instead opt for a new life combining a mix of work and pleasure. In a recently completed study by the Vanguard Center for Retirement Research, the conclusion was that perhaps this trend wasn’t so new. The report, titled “Six Paths to Retirement”, concluded that many older folks are already engaged in some type of work at traditional retirement ages, that in fact, the baby boom generation will not be introducing new notion, but rather continuing past trends.

I don’t believe it is a surprise to anyone that an older individuals health (mental and physical) is enhanced and life prolonged by the involvement of the mind and body in more challenging settings than some of us like to think of when envisioning the date when we finally put the clipboard down and pass along the tape measure to another generation. The good news, I concluded some time after my phone conversation ended, was that my appraiser friend was well on their way to an even healthier lifestyle because they have already overcome the challenge of not having anything to do after leaving what had been their ‘calling’.

Someone once said, “May you live in interesting times”. In my lifetime, I have seen the computer go from room size to one that fits in the palm. I have seen music storage go from roughly 10-16 songs on a disk about one foot in diameter to the ability to store an entire collection on a device not much larger than a credit card. Such times present us with opportunities that we would have never dreamed of in our youth. The present also allow us, if not compels us, to exercise both our minds and our body in ways that previous generations, at this point in their lives, might have found a littleeccentric. But, as someone else is quoted as saying, “you are only as old as you act”.

I’m making a phone call tomorrow to my friend, telling them how envious I am of their ‘start’. None of us, I suspect, look forward to growing old. But all of us, I hope, plan to make the best of it. And a good start, it seems to me, is to wonder what I want to be doing in ten, twenty years. In short, I hope I never tire of hearing myself ask, What Do I Want To Be When I Grow Up?