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#8 – Motion is Lotion with Nancy Erwin

Motion is lotion. That’s Nancy Erwin’s motto. The laundry list of health problems she’s faced is only outdone by the longer list of solutions she’s found to overcome them. Her spine has a 75 percent curvature—anything above ten is considered scoliosis. But through a dedication to active core pursuits like yoga, strengthening exercises, pickleball, and cycling, she’s carved out a really happy life in retirement.

After a fulfilling career helping refugees and immigrants learn English in Louisville, Kentucky, she now spends six months of the year in the beautiful ski resort town of Vail, Colorado. She’s spunky and fun; she even waited an extra month to retire so she wouldn’t miss the school Halloween party. Talk about starting retirement off with a bang!

Life has thrown Nancy a lot of curves, starting with the shape of her spine. But through passion, dedication, and curiosity about the world, she’s straightened it all out.

Read The Full Transcript From This Episode

(click below to expand and read the full interview)

  • Nancy Erwin [00:00:00]:

    If you’ve had even the slightest thought of trying something, now’s your opportunity. And I wouldn’t wait and try to pick the perfect thing. Go try a bunch of stuff. See what you really enjoy, and then go do it.

    Ryan Doolittle [00:00:14]:

    Motion is lotion. That’s nancy Irwin’s motto. The laundry list of health problems she’s faced is only outdone by the longer list of she’s found to overcome them. Any curvature above 10% is considered scoliosis. Nancy’s spine has a 75% curvature. But through a dedication to active core pursuits like yoga, strengthening and exercises, pickleball and cycling, she’s carved out a really happy life in retirement. After a fulfilling career teaching English to refugees and immigrants in Louisville, Kentucky, she now spends six months of the year in the beautiful ski resort town of Vale, Colorado, like no place on earth. You think Nancy might be a fun person? She waited an extra month to retire just so she wouldn’t miss the Halloween school party.

    Ryan Doolittle [00:01:09]:

    Talk about starting your retirement off with a bang. Listen, life has thrown Nancy a lot of curves, starting with the shape of her spine. But through passion and curiosity about the world, she straightened it all out. Do you ever wonder who you’ll be and what you’ll do after your career is over? Wouldn’t it be nice to hear stories from people who figured it out, who are thriving in retirement? I’m Ryan Doolittle. After working with the Retire Sooner team for years and researching and writing about how they structure their lifestyles, I know there’s more to be learned. So I’m going straight to the source and taking you with me. My mission with the Happiest Retirees Podcast is to inspire 1 million families to find happiness in retirement. I want to learn how to live an exceptional life from people who do it every day.

    Ryan Doolittle [00:02:01]:

    Let’s get started. Nancy Irwin, thanks so much for coming on the Happiest retirees podcast.

    Nancy Erwin [00:02:09]:

    Thank you for having me.

    Ryan Doolittle [00:02:10]:

    Yeah. So tell me a little bit about your story. I mean, you can start wherever you want, but I know you retired on Halloween day, which was a great way.

    Nancy Erwin [00:02:20]:

    To and so we’re celebrating my anniversary, my first day of retirement on this show. How cool is that? Ryan?

    Ryan Doolittle [00:02:29]:

    That’s really cool. Yes. I always think of you now as I’m picking my costume out. Well, I want to hear your story of I guess let’s start with what you were doing before you retirees, and then you can go into how you left.

    Nancy Erwin [00:02:45]:

    Right. I was a teacher for the Jefferson County Public Schools here in Louisville, Kentucky. I taught English as a second language, primarily to refugees and immigrants. Loved my job. I was working in an elementary school the last eleven years of my school career, and it was a performing arts school. It’s the only performing arts school elementary in the state of Kentucky. So very fun place to work. And one of the things they did every Halloween was they would have a vocabulary parade, and kids were not allowed to dress up as witches and ghosts and stuff like that.

    Nancy Erwin [00:03:21]:

    They had to be a vocabulary word in this particular year. So even though I could have retired 30 days earlier by calculations of the mass that I wanted to do, I chose to wait another 30 days because I wanted to retire on October 31 because of this vocabulary parade that we were going to have. I wanted my vocabulary word to be retired. This is an elementary school, so it’s fairly low level vocabulary word. So my word was retired, which I had across my chest. And then I’m a bicyclist, one of my hobbies. So I had old bicycle tires. So anyway, I put one tire over me and said, oh, I’ve been so tired.

    Nancy Erwin [00:04:05]:

    I’m tired now. I’ve decided to retire and retire and retire for sure. And so I’ll put all these bicycle tires over my neck. It was a really fun way to retire. And actually, those bicycle tires have become a tradition with my immediate friends because every time one of them retires and we have a little retirement party, it’s like, Make Nancy, make sure you bring the tires.

    Ryan Doolittle [00:04:31]:

    You started a so, okay, so we’ve established you a really fun person, I think, right off the bat.

    Nancy Erwin [00:04:39]:


    Ryan Doolittle [00:04:39]:

    So you said you were an ESL teacher. English as a second language. I want to know which languages you know, and you mentioned you taught a lot of refugees. What countries were these refugees from?

    Nancy Erwin [00:04:52]:

    They were from all over the world. Jefferson County Public Schools. That Louisville, Kentucky. Services like 135 languages. Ryan because a lot of them are tribal languages from Africa or whatever, and most people will be surprised to know that Louisville has one of the highest influxes of refugees of any place in the United States. That’s because the cost of living is so low here that people can come with nothing and survive. We have two charitable organizations that bring them in here to help them find affordable housing, to help them find jobs where they don’t need English. So in answer to your question, I service way too many languages to even begin to tell you an exact number.

    Nancy Erwin [00:05:29]:

    I do speak both French and Spanish. In fact, I taught those languages prior to switching to teaching English to refugee and immigrant children. So that certainly helps in the career, but certainly it’s not necessary. There’s plenty of teachers who did what I did who do not speak a second language at all. It was extremely helpful in my relationships with the know because I had a lot of refugees from the Congo, which is French speaking, and then a lot of refugees from Cuba and Latin American countries. So most ESL teachers have bilingual assistants, but I think it’s really helpful if I can communicate directly comparison to myself rather than having to go through an assistant.

    Ryan Doolittle [00:06:09]:

    Yeah, I didn’t know you didn’t have to know another language. It seems like it would be a huge help in that process.

    Nancy Erwin [00:06:16]:

    Well, you understand better what it takes from the kids, what’s required, and how difficult it is and all that kind of stuff. So you can appreciate maybe more what they’re going through. But because the program in most schools, I think pretty much across the United States in most schools, english is taught to immigrants and refugees through an immersion where they just go into the school building and are expected to pick it up. You’re not taught how to like, if you enter the school system in 9th grade, you’re not taught first grade material because you’re further advanced in your knowledge. You’re just not able to communicate in English.

    Ryan Doolittle [00:06:53]:

    I can just imagine how terrifying it would be if I were in another country and they just said, now you have to learn this in this other language that you don’t know.

    Nancy Erwin [00:07:02]:

    That’s hard. It’s really difficult, especially the older the kids are.

    Ryan Doolittle [00:07:07]:

    Yeah. Oh, my gosh. Well, that sounds amazing that you did that. And how did you learn Spanish and French? Was that in school or you lived somewhere in school?

    Nancy Erwin [00:07:17]:

    I was very fortunate to go to a private girls school where they taught French. They didn’t even offer Spanish. Back in the 60s, we had a French teacher from France. She was excellent. She wouldn’t allow us to speak any English in the classroom. Every time we did, we had to put de su two cent on our front desk, and that might have a party at the end of the school year, but, I mean, she was really strict. By the time I graduated from high school, I was completely fluent in French. So I tested out of all the beginning French classes at the university level and just took literature and linguistics classes, and that’s where I started studying Spanish, was in college.

    Nancy Erwin [00:07:52]:

    And I picked that up pretty quickly because French and Spanish languages are relatively similar. I mean, it’s no big deal in Europe or other countries to speak three, four, five languages, but here people think I’m somebody really special, which know, if you focus on that, it’s not that difficult to do.

    Ryan Doolittle [00:08:10]:

    Yeah. And I think a lot of Americans don’t realize that English is harder to learn than a lot of the other languages. Right.

    Nancy Erwin [00:08:18]:

    A lot harder. It’s kind of too bad we have become the international language, because certainly, honestly, spanish would be a lot easier for the rest of the world to learn.

    Ryan Doolittle [00:08:27]:

    There’s so many exceptions. As a native speaker, I don’t think about it, but when I was learning Spanish, that’s when I went back and looked at English and said, well, that shouldn’t be pronounced that way, but it is, and I just know it. But that would be so confusing. And I should clarify, I don’t know Spanish. I took Spanish. I can say my teacher used to always say in laboka sarada no entran moscas. Which I don’t know if you know that.

    Nancy Erwin [00:08:54]:

    Yeah, with your mouth is closed, no flies can get in.

    Ryan Doolittle [00:08:59]:

    Yeah, I think it’s basically saying don’t gossip.

    Nancy Erwin [00:09:02]:

    She’d probably not want me to talk in class or gossip or whatever, but yeah, it’s just saying if you keep your mouth closed, flies can’t come in.

    Ryan Doolittle [00:09:10]:

    It’s kind of funny, which is funny. And we have a little segment on this show called The Boccinche Report because my wife’s Puerto Rican and Boccinche is like, gossip. So I literally need my mouth open to do that part of the show. So I kind of have to go against the teacher’s advice. So you learned the languages, you’re helping people everywhere, you love your job. What made you decide to retire?

    Nancy Erwin [00:09:38]:

    There were things that I really wanted to do in life that I’d been unable to do. Like snow ski. Snow ski has always been my passion. Always thought about living in Colorado. I never actually made the move and the only time I got to go was on official vacations from school. I just wanted to be able to be out there and ski a lot, which is what I am able to do now. And part of my decision, I did want to keep working until I was 65, so I qualified for Medicare. So I worked to 65 and three months by the time I retired on October 31.

    Nancy Erwin [00:10:13]:

    And part of that was due to the way the school system calculated my hire date versus my retirees date and then also wanting to work the extra 30 days so I could retire on Halloween.

    Ryan Doolittle [00:10:22]:

    So once you retired, did you immediately start doing the things you had been wanting to do?

    Nancy Erwin [00:10:28]:

    Pretty much. So yeah, another thing I wanted to do was travel a lot more, even though I had already traveled a lot. But immediately, like a couple of days later, I left with some friends for Florida. We spent a week there and then a couple of weeks later I went to Colorado and spent the whole winter in oh and also went to Panama during that time. So I did start doing quite a bit of travel and in subsequent years I went to quite a in Europe and Iceland and quite a few places that I hadn’t yet been able to, you know I also love to read a lot and I just didn’t have much time when I was working and staying so busy to read. So I immediately started reading a lot more too. I love historical fiction.

    Ryan Doolittle [00:11:18]:

    You mentioned that you barely had time to read a book a month and now sometimes you read a book in a few days.

    Nancy Erwin [00:11:25]:

    Yeah, it’s kind of amazing.

    Ryan Doolittle [00:11:29]:

    Yeah, it’s amazing. And I think you said that reading is sort of like traveling or I forget how you phrased it.

    Nancy Erwin [00:11:36]:

    Well, I really enjoy historical fiction, especially things that have been written in other countries that have had to been translated into English even. And because it just gives me it is like traveling. You just get a bigger perspective of other parts of the world.

    Ryan Doolittle [00:11:49]:

    I love what’s that you had a quote from Mark Twain about what travel means for oh gosh, if I can.

    Nancy Erwin [00:11:58]:

    Find where I wrote it down because I don’t remember it off the top of my head. Here it is. Travel is fatal to bigotry, prejudice and narrow mindedness. And I feel that’s really true. I mean, so many people just kind of stay in the same part of the United States where they were born all their lives and that’s why they’re scared of other places, other people, other cultures, other mean, because they’ve just never had other experiences. So I think it’s really if we’re ever going to have some kind of peace on this earth and not all these constant wars, people have to understand each other better. And the only way to do that, honestly, is through travel. And that’s why I love this Sarah Boss International because I’ve lived in people’s homes in these other countries, they give me experiences that far exceed what I would ever have been able to have experienced had I taken some kind of tour with a bunch of it’s just it’s amazing some of the experiences I’ve had.

    Ryan Doolittle [00:12:58]:

    Yeah, I remember the first time I traveled abroad. When I think about it now, I was so ignorant to anything and it opened my eyes to so many things that it’s really hard to do unless you actually go places.

    Nancy Erwin [00:13:14]:


    Ryan Doolittle [00:13:14]:

    Tell me a little bit. So you have mentioned. Is it pronounced Servas International Server? Okay. So tell me a doolittle bit about what it is or what you did there.

    Nancy Erwin [00:13:27]:

    I discovered it about 25 years ago in reading the book Tales of a Female Nomad by Rita Gelsman. She was an attorney from California. She wasn’t an attorney. Her husband was an attorney in California and she divorced him or they got a divorce and she really wanted to travel but she didn’t have much money. Somehow she discovered Saravas and it’s in this book of hers of how to be a female Nomad and travel the world on very little money. She mentioned it in the book and as soon as I read it I thought, oh my God, I need to find out about this place, this organization. And so the Internet had already come into existence then and so I immediately Googled it and checked it out and thought, wow, I’ve got to join this. I think I just joined it immediately.

    Nancy Erwin [00:14:11]:

    And I just couldn’t wait for my first trip where I could go stay in somebody’s house. The first trip I took was to Cuba when it was completely prohibited for us to go there. That’s a whole other story on how I got in and out of that country. But anyway, I did go there and I did stay in some Cuban’s homes and talk about opening my mind. That was mind blowing. Mind blowing. I mean, you become so appreciative of living in this country when you go to some of these other countries. It’s just unbelievable.

    Nancy Erwin [00:14:41]:

    The majority of people on this planet have to live. We are so fortunate.

    Ryan Doolittle [00:14:47]:

    Yeah, absolutely. It’s incredible what we kind of take it for granted, I think what we have you have friends on six continents. Is that because of your work with Cervas?

    Nancy Erwin [00:14:58]:

    Part of it. I mean, a lot of it is because yeah, I’ve traveled every continent except Antarctica. I’ve stayed with Cervas members on every continent except Africa. And some of these people have one. One gal I stayed with in Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam. A couple of years after that, she moved to the country of Panama. I’ve been back to visit her in Panama twice. We’re Facebook friends.

    Nancy Erwin [00:15:20]:

    We communicate through WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger all the time. And I do that with people in Africa. I do with people in Europe. And, I mean, it’s really cool. It makes the world a lot smaller, and you feel like you’re so in touch with other people. There’s two people that I communicate really regularly from India, one of them usually with a phone call, even. So yeah. WhatsApp has made it so cool to be able to do that? So, yeah, it’s an amazing organization.

    Nancy Erwin [00:15:50]:

    And I just had a visitor here who stayed with me last weekend from Paris, France. And she was young. She’s only 49. And she said that I worry about Servos because it tends to have older members and we really need to bring younger people in. Part of the reason we need younger people is because they’re all going to couch surfing, it seems like. So I talked to her about that, and she said she’d had really bad experiences with couchsurfing and that she likes Servos so much better because the reason Servos people are members is because they really do want to improve international communication relationships. Understanding people, that’s a mission. And with couch surfing, it’s more about the three bed.

    Ryan Doolittle [00:16:34]:

    Okay. Yeah. Because you had mentioned service is a way to make travel affordable both within the US. And abroad. Do you think retirees that’s a way they could travel more if they’re on a fixed income?

    Nancy Erwin [00:16:48]:

    Absolutely. And honestly, retirees would probably like it really well because a lot of the members, the huge majority, are, unfortunately, retirees. I wish we could get some more young blood and yeah. So most of the people I’ve stayed with have been older. Some of them have been younger. But that organization is seriously lacking in another generation’s participation.

    Ryan Doolittle [00:17:11]:

    Oh, got you. Okay. You’ve mentioned some core pursuits, which that’s the term we use for the Hobbies you’re really passionate about. You mentioned travel, reading, skiing. You have some others that we talked about earlier that I don’t know if I’ve seen anyone else do them before. Snowshoeing is that just walking through the snow, I’m guessing.

    Nancy Erwin [00:17:33]:

    Yeah, I do some snowshoeing. I’m more into this microspike hiking, which I only got into since I retired, because I have more time to do more things where we actually I don’t like to ski on the weekends because the ski resorts get way too crowded. It’s too dangerous, I feel. So on the weekends, I might Scott the spike hike, which is climbing up a mountain with spikes on your boots and with poles. But it’s a really good aerobic. It’s the most serious aerobic activity I do.

    Ryan Doolittle [00:18:01]:

    All so I think you bought a home or condo in Colorado that’s and you’re there five or six per year?

    Nancy Erwin [00:18:11]:


    Ryan Doolittle [00:18:12]:

    You have one place in Louisville and one in Vale.

    Nancy Erwin [00:18:16]:

    Yeah, and I rent the place in Vale out when I’m not there. It’s a really good location. And then sometimes when I don’t have family and friends there, I rent the second bedroom because it’s expensive to have a place in Valent that really helps.

    Ryan Doolittle [00:18:29]:

    Me be able to afford it, I would imagine. And one of the things that our flagship show, it’s called Retirees Sooner. They get more into the weeds on the finances of retirement, but they talk a lot about multiple streams of income for retirees. And it sounds like your condo in Colorado serves as a stream of income for you, especially. I mean, when you’re not it’s not.

    Nancy Erwin [00:18:52]:

    It’S certainly far from being a bunch of additional income that I can live on, but it does cover almost all the expenses, really, on that condo itself. So that’s huge. Yeah.

    Ryan Doolittle [00:19:06]:

    Oh, yeah. So it pretty much pays for itself in that way.

    Nancy Erwin [00:19:10]:

    Yeah. And I’m very fortunate because I have a pension from Kentucky. Teachers retirement mean a lot of people don’t have that benefit. They just had to save all the money and live off what they saved, which would I can understand why that would make people really nervous, because depending on where you have invested, you don’t know if it’s still going to be there if things turn south. So, yeah, having that pension has been huge.

    Ryan Doolittle [00:19:35]:

    Oh, absolutely. And so many people nowadays don’t have pensions.

    Nancy Erwin [00:19:39]:


    Ryan Doolittle [00:19:40]:

    Yeah. So that’s a huge stream. So you got your pension. I guess the condo in Vale is more just to pay for itself so that you can your life there and then do you work part time or do you have any other streams coming in?

    Nancy Erwin [00:19:56]:

    I do have a very part time job for the town of Vale as a tourist information guide. And I do get a 1099. I do have to pay taxes on what the value of the job is. I don’t get paid in money. I get paid with a season pass, which is worth that’s over $900. And then I also get a locker at the base of the mountain, which, if you’re not a skier, you’re not going to understand this, but a locker at the base of Vale Mountain can be like, $3,000 a season. It’s more than the season pass. It’s ridiculous.

    Nancy Erwin [00:20:28]:

    Now, most people will share those lockers with one or two other people, but still, it’s a lot of money. So the value I get by getting a locker at the base of the mountain, the lift ticket, I even get some parking passes. They give us these great parties at the restaurants in Bail has some really nice restaurants. They give us parties in these five star restaurants. So it’s definitely worth what I do. I only work 420 hours shifts a year, so I work, like, from nine to one or whatever on the days that I work. And I just show the tourists around, answer all the tourist questions, take pictures of the families. They don’t have to do selfies, I mean, stuff like that.

    Nancy Erwin [00:21:08]:

    I tell people I’m a street walker dressed in red. I have a big eye on my back for information.

    Ryan Doolittle [00:21:14]:

    I love it. Okay, so a few of your other core pursuits that you’re passionate about. Pickleball, right?

    Nancy Erwin [00:21:25]:

    Yeah, I just started playing that in the last year, and I’ve kind of become addicted to it. I mean, I absolutely love it. I went out to play this morning, and the temperature was only like, 35 degrees here, at least it was sunny, but playing indoors in Colorado quite a bit, the winter. But yeah, it’s fun. It’s just so fast moving. I used to play tennis, and I can’t anymore because I have a bad back. Bad everything else. Yeah, but the pickleball is so much less stressful on the body.

    Nancy Erwin [00:21:51]:

    You don’t have to run as far. The panels are much lighter weight than a tennis racket and stuff like that.

    Ryan Doolittle [00:21:57]:

    Yeah, I haven’t played pickleball, but I play tennis, and a friend was telling me it’s easier on your body and you get more rallies. It’s actually more fun, he was saying. So pickleball is the fastest growing sport, at least in America.

    Nancy Erwin [00:22:15]:

    I think it might be in the world, but definitely in America. Yeah. I can’t believe how I mean, I actually first played maybe ten or 15 years ago for the first time, and then I just didn’t keep playing. Of course, I was still working, didn’t have as much time. But once I started playing again, just last year, I would play on Sundays instead of skiing and microspike hiking, usually down Saturdays. So it’s just a blast. I just love it.

    Ryan Doolittle [00:22:39]:

    Yeah. So another one of your core pursuits is yoga, and I want to hear about that in relation to I know you have some health challenges, and yoga is a huge part of how you deal with that.

    Nancy Erwin [00:22:50]:

    Yeah, I have very significant scoliosis, 76 degree curve in my spine, s curve. I have pain. It’s not totally debilitating, obviously, but it’s pretty significant. And most doctors who look in, healthcare professionals who look at my X rays and my MRIs and stuff are like, oh my gosh, you ski, you bicycle, you do all these things. I said, yeah, but I really believe, I firmly believe this because I do these yoga positions every day. I’ve studied with really, who is probably the most international guru in yoga for Scoliosis. Her name’s Elise Miller. She practices out of Palo Alto, California, but she does stuff on zoom and she travels the world giving seminars and stuff like that.

    Nancy Erwin [00:23:36]:

    And I’ve had private lessons with her as well as done seminars with her. And she knows her stuff because she has Scoliosis herself. So I had one healthcare professional who told me at one time that motion is lotion. And I love that phrase because you’ve just got to keep on moving. I mean, there have been days, usually when I awaken, I’m extremely stiff. It’s very painful to get out of bed. There have been days when I thought, oh my gosh, I get it, why a lot of people just don’t get up. It’s such effort and it’s not easy and it’s not fun.

    Nancy Erwin [00:24:11]:

    But once I do, and I know from experience that that’s what it takes. And I’ve been doing this for decades because I’ve had trouble with my back since I was I didn’t have a lot of trouble when I was twelve. I was diagnosed at twelve. I didn’t really start having issues with my back until I got pregnant, I guess in my 30s. But yeah, if I don’t do these stretches and do these particular things for my spine, I can’t function. And there’s no way I could get up in the morning and run out and play pickleball or get up in the morning and go get the slopes and ski. I mean, I have at least an hour worth of stuff that I do to get my body ready to really do more vigorous exercise. It makes all the difference in the world.

    Ryan Doolittle [00:24:52]:

    Wow, I’m sorry you have to deal with that, but it’s so impressive that you do all those things so that you can keep staying active. Yeah, motion is lotion is such a great tagline. Did you make that up?

    Nancy Erwin [00:25:06]:

    No. Actually was a Rolfer. I don’t know if you know about Rolfing. It’s a little bit like massage, for lack of going into a lengthy explanation about it, but he said that to me a long time ago. And, you know, I have a lot of friends, particularly come out and visit me in Colorado to ski, and I’ll get up every morning, start doing my yoga, and after several days in a row of doing that, they’ll go, I just can’t believe how you are so motivated to do this every morning. I said, well, you know what? Pain is a great motivator. So if I don’t do this, I’m in pain. I don’t want to be in pain.

    Nancy Erwin [00:25:34]:

    I don’t like it.

    Ryan Doolittle [00:25:39]:

    What’s worse, going through all the yoga or being in pain all day? It’s kind of a no brainer. Yeah, really, you have so many core pursuits, and we find that the happiest retirees do, right. The unhappy ones think that retirement is just maybe sitting on the couch and not working, and they don’t normally seem to be as happy. So how have all these corporates made you happier?

    Nancy Erwin [00:26:06]:

    I mean, I’m certainly not sitting around bored and twiddling my thumbs. I have a good friend. Just last week I was spending some time with him who’s 70. He was asking like, when are you going to retire? He’s like, oh, I don’t know. What do you do every day? I just don’t know what I do. And I don’t understand these people who have just made work their entire life. I mean, I kind of worked to be able to do the stuff I like. I mean, I liked my job.

    Nancy Erwin [00:26:35]:

    I’m very fortunate in the fact that I actually loved my job. I can’t say that I didn’t, but I didn’t love it so much that I wanted to keep doing it because I was getting tired. My back was hurting. Dealing with children all day long with no downtime is, like, extremely difficult to alter and get, and I just didn’t have the energy. There were other things I had developed in my lifetime, a lot of other interests I always have. My own parents were an example of that. Ryan I mean, both my parents were extremely active, really, up until practically the day they died. So we were active as a family.

    Nancy Erwin [00:27:14]:

    So it’s just something that I’ve done all my life. I saw it modeled. I became very interested in health and healing in my early, you know, got into all kinds of complementary medicine and of course, nutrition and all that kind of stuff is so important. Exercise, all that is just so important. And so that’s kind of been my focus in life, is to maintain my health. In fact, I was really kind of a health nut, just to tell you a cute, funny story about children. And they were really little like in first grade, didn’t really know what Mama was doing or whatever. Teacher said to him one day, teacher shared this with me.

    Nancy Erwin [00:27:54]:

    She said to him, what does your mommy do? And that odd. One child looked at her and goes, she’s the president of hell. At the time, I had actually started a not for profit that promoted information in complementary medicine and tried to create some legislative change back when it was illegal to do acupuncture and stuff like that. I kind of was the president of this not for profit health organization, but it was just and they told their teacher I was the president of health.

    Ryan Doolittle [00:28:32]:

    I have to say, I don’t disagree. Some of your friends have said that you’re a miracle. Is that true?

    Nancy Erwin [00:28:42]:

    Yeah, just because of my ability to keep on doing all these things. Because, honestly, to look at me. And you can’t tell from this podcast because you can just see me from the shoulders up, but it’s very evident when people meet me that I have a really bad back. I mean, my posture is horrible. As much as I try to concentrate on having a good there’s a big hump in my back. My ribs are displaced, so they kind of stick out one side. Yeah, I look like I shouldn’t be able to do the stuff I do, so they know that it’s kind of a miracle that I’m doing it. I feel like it’s a miracle.

    Nancy Erwin [00:29:19]:

    I feel so fortunate.

    Ryan Doolittle [00:29:20]:

    Yeah, absolutely. In a way, I think you’re inspiring to other people. You mentioned your kids. So how many kids do you have?

    Nancy Erwin [00:29:29]:

    I have two sons right now. They’re 40 and 38, and then I have a two year old grandbaby.

    Ryan Doolittle [00:29:34]:

    Oh, congratulations.

    Nancy Erwin [00:29:36]:

    Yeah, she’s a doll. Yeah. Last night trick or treating weather was wonderful.

    Ryan Doolittle [00:29:42]:

    What was her costume? I’m guessing it wasn’t retired.

    Nancy Erwin [00:29:45]:

    No, her parents actually just moved back here from La after she was born. And I was so thrilled because my kids had lived out there 14 years. I didn’t think they’d ever come back, but they did. So her parents are all into this, getting dressed up and everything. So they did a family thing. They all dressed up like members of Kiss. And in fact, her uncle dressed up, came and did, too. So my two sons and my younger son’s, wife and the child were all dressed up like the band Kiss.

    Nancy Erwin [00:30:17]:

    That is really great.

    Ryan Doolittle [00:30:20]:

    That’s quite a commitment to the makeup. That probably took a while to apply.

    Nancy Erwin [00:30:25]:

    Yeah, the makeup was amazing. I wish I was more technologically savvy so I could show you a picture of them up on the screen because their costume, it was really amazing.

    Ryan Doolittle [00:30:35]:

    Especially you’re going to have a little.

    Nancy Erwin [00:30:36]:

    Girl with her drumsticks and everything. My son quit being in a rock and roll band, but he was in a rock and roll band for years. That kind of went to the decision, I guess, and giving her the drumsticks and all this.

    Ryan Doolittle [00:30:51]:

    The one. So you live now near both your kids and your grandbaby? I mean, when you’re in Kentucky?

    Nancy Erwin [00:30:58]:

    Yes, they moved back here to Louisville, and honestly, when I first retired and they were living in California, I spent more time in Colorado than I am. Just it’s just hard to leave a grandbaby when she’s two years old and just starting to talk and loves me right now. And both my son and daughter in law work from home, and so I go over there three and four days a week to babysit while they’re working. It’s such an opportunity that in another few years, when she’s at school and gets old enough where she thinks Grandma’s stupid or whatever, I’m not going to have that opportunity. So I got to take the opportunity when I can have it. And it’s so much more fun than having your own children because you just have them for half the day and then you can say bye bye and you don’t have to deal with all the disciplining and all that kind of stuff.

    Ryan Doolittle [00:31:48]:

    Yeah. It’s amazing to see with my parents and my wife’s parents, how sweet grandparents are to the grandbabies. It wasn’t quite like that when we were little.

    Nancy Erwin [00:32:01]:


    Ryan Doolittle [00:32:03]:

    And I don’t think she is going to think grandma is stupid because grandma is always sweet. Right. So what’s not to like?

    Nancy Erwin [00:32:10]:

    Well, hopefully we know how those teenagers can get.

    Ryan Doolittle [00:32:15]:

    That’s true. We find that the Happiest retirees live near at least some of their adult children. So you’re right on track there.

    Nancy Erwin [00:32:25]:


    Ryan Doolittle [00:32:27]:

    Okay. So did you have a plan when you retired? I mean, it sounds like you did, but some people don’t. So I want to hear your plan so that other people can learn from you.

    Nancy Erwin [00:32:38]:

    Well, I certainly didn’t have any kind of plan that was thought out, put down on paper or even up in my head because I did have so many interests, Ryan, that I just wasn’t able to pursue as much as I would have liked when I was working all the time. So basically the day I retired, I was packing up to go on a trip and I was able to go snow ski more, I was able to read more, I was able to do all these things more without feeling so rushed. I mean, the one thing was I think I mentioned to you when you were telling me a little bit about these questions before, that every day when I would wake up, I felt like it was the beginning of the race to run and get to the finish line, which was to get in bed. And only they have to get up out of that bed the next day and run the race again just to try to get everything done and do the things that I thought were fun, like going bicycling or doing my yoga or doing I didn’t play pickleball back then, but just the things that I liked to do. It was just like participating in language groups because there’s no way to keep up French and Spanish if you’re not using them all the time. So I was with different language groups. So every day I would get out of bed, run the race to get to the finish line, which was back in bed again. I don’t feel that rushed anymore.

    Nancy Erwin [00:33:58]:

    I still am a person who crams a lot in a day. Sometimes I can stress myself out by doing that, but it’s not I have to I have more of a choice to put that off till tomorrow or just do it at my own speed. I don’t feel like I’m running a race every day at all. So that’s wonderful.

    Ryan Doolittle [00:34:22]:

    That sounds wonderful. Yeah. I know there’s a lot of times you wake up and it’s on right there’s. No easy I practice meditation. I say practice because I’m definitely not good at it. And a lot of them are like, ease into your day, calm, deep breaths. And I’m thinking, that’s really hard to do.

    Nancy Erwin [00:34:46]:

    Yeah, it is.

    Ryan Doolittle [00:34:48]:

    I have a one year old, so a lot of times I’m not easing out of bed, I’m jumping out of bed.

    Nancy Erwin [00:34:53]:

    Oh, yeah. When you’re tired. I’m sure she does not sleep. I just those days were really difficult. That’s the other good thing about leading my grandbaby over there. I can get sleep, sort of.

    Ryan Doolittle [00:35:05]:


    Nancy Erwin [00:35:05]:

    Old people have a hard time sleeping, but I’m doing better now than I was a year ago. I was taking melatonin, taking valerian root, taking this, taking that, trying to sleep. When I was working, I was so exhausted all the time because I really suffered from insomnia. Part of it was that I had hormonal imbalances that a lot of women do, and some of that helped, doing some natural stuff for that. But I still had insomnia, and they discovered I had sleep apnea, got on a CPAP machine. That helped, but I still had some insomnia. And I finally last about until six months ago, even though it had been prescribed for me in the past by a doctor because he knew I was having trouble sleeping. I started taking Trazodone, which is this antianxiety medicine, only take it at night, but boy, I wish I had done it ten years ago, 15 years ago, because I can’t tell you how exhausted I was when I was working.

    Nancy Erwin [00:36:01]:

    And now most of the time, I get a pretty good night’s sleep. It has made such a difference. Such a difference.

    Ryan Doolittle [00:36:09]:


    Nancy Erwin [00:36:10]:

    That’s the only prescription drug I take. Yeah.

    Ryan Doolittle [00:36:13]:

    So you take it at night and it helps? Well, I don’t know if you have anxiety, but it helps your sleep.

    Nancy Erwin [00:36:18]:

    Yeah, it does. It’s something about just kind of relaxes you. And I can see where it would be good and antianxiety medicine, too, but I know a lot of women I don’t know about so many men, but I do know a lot of women my age who take it. Because insomnia doesn’t seem to be a problem as you get older.

    Ryan Doolittle [00:36:36]:

    Yeah, I could definitely see that. Wow. Well, I’m glad you found something that helps, because sleep without sleep, I just know that I’m a shell of a human. It’s so important.

    Nancy Erwin [00:36:47]:

    Yeah. And as a retiree, you could take naps and stuff like that, but, I mean, who wants to spend half the day trying to figure out how they can get some more sleep in? If you’ve got the things that I like to do, I don’t want to spend my day focused on sleep. I’d rather spend my day doing more fun things.

    Ryan Doolittle [00:37:07]:

    Yeah. Now, if you could sleep while you were micro spiking, that might be a good combo. But until that’s figured out, yeah, maybe trazodone is the way. What would you say is the perfect day for you in retirement?

    Nancy Erwin [00:37:20]:

    Getting up at my leisure, spending time doing my yoga stretches and all that kind of stuff. Playing pickleball, going bicycle and going snow skiing, things like that. Eating a lot of vegetables and fruits. I typically like to have a green smoothie in the morning. Spending time with I do have a boyfriend, so spending time with him.

    Ryan Doolittle [00:37:47]:


    Nancy Erwin [00:37:48]:

    Yeah. And we just met the year that I retired, so that’s been really nice. We’ve done a lot of travel together. We’ve gone to India, Ecuador, Dubai, and Panama, a lot of places together. And Europe. Last year we bicycled through the Tulips and then came back through Iceland. That was yeah.

    Ryan Doolittle [00:38:06]:

    Oh, my gosh. How did you two meet?

    Nancy Erwin [00:38:09]:

    On a charity bike ride. On a charity bicycle ride. So if you’re single and retired and you want to get out and meet people, I think that works a lot better than online. Just getting involved, going and participating in as many activities that you can. You’ll meet other people.

    Ryan Doolittle [00:38:27]:

    Now, if you meet a boyfriend at a charity event, can you write off the expenses of dating?

    Nancy Erwin [00:38:34]:

    Not to my knowledge, but if you discover that, I can, be sure to let me know.

    Ryan Doolittle [00:38:39]:

    Ryan I’ll reach out to the IRS about that. Well, congrats. It sounds like you got a lot of romance going. Plus, he sounds like he has some of the same interests as you.

    Nancy Erwin [00:38:51]:

    Oh, yeah. He loves to bicycle and he loves to travel. Yeah, it’s all great.

    Ryan Doolittle [00:38:57]:

    Oh, that’s great. I had someone else I interviewed. Her love life was a challenge because she liked to travel so much, so she was always gone. So it sounds like you figured it out.

    Nancy Erwin [00:39:10]:

    Pretty much.

    Ryan Doolittle [00:39:12]:

    Oh, that’s great. Okay, so what are some of the biggest challenges you faced along this retirement journey?

    Nancy Erwin [00:39:20]:

    Probably my health, because my back it’s not just about the back. Because of my poor posture and my back having such a huge curve. My hips are messed up, my knees are messed up. I even have TMJ jaw issues. So just being able to do the exercises and all that I need to do, I know what to do about it. But I guess it’s my concern as I age that I’m going to not be able to do a lot of these things that I like to do, and I’m sure there will reach a point when I won’t be able to. I just hope I’ll be able to keep reading. My mother started to lose her vision and couldn’t really read, and now there’s all these audiobooks, so hopefully I can at least listen to audiobooks if I can’t actually read the books themselves.

    Nancy Erwin [00:40:04]:

    But yeah, getting old is not fun. When you start losing your ability to do stuff like that, you just have to keep doing it as long as you can find every way you can to keep doing it. Don’t let stuff just don’t just say, oh, I’ve got this pain, I guess I’ll quit. But just keep pushing through the pain. Do what you can to make it less painful and keep on doing things, because by quitting, it’s only going to get worse, probably as far as pain levels go and your mental state.

    Ryan Doolittle [00:40:34]:

    Yeah. It seems like you always find a way to make it through. You’re looking for solutions to these challenges. That’s the vibe I get, right?

    Nancy Erwin [00:40:45]:


    Ryan Doolittle [00:40:46]:

    Also, one of the biggest core pursuits for happy retirees is volunteering, and I think it might actually be number one. And you volunteer, but you also have a challenge because you ended up volunteering with the HOA condo building in colorado, which isn’t exactly as rewarding as working for the kentucky refugee ministries. Talk a little bit about choosing the right type of volunteering to do.

    Nancy Erwin [00:41:12]:

    For one, you if people know you’re retired or just retired, they will bombard you with, hey, we help us with this, we help us with that, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. And I would say hold off on saying yes to anybody until you really figure out how much time you have and where you want to put your time. So wait at least six months or something before you say yes to anything. I got involved. I really would prefer if I had my ideal life right now. I would love to be doing volunteer work for kentucky refugee ministries and helping a lot of these incoming retirees adjust to living in america. And it would be especially I feel like I could be especially helpful with my languages because we do have a lot of refugees from the Congo and French speaking countries and then obviously Latino countries, as I just I got such joy out of actually working with that population when I was working. And to me, that would be so much more meaningful than doing the volunteer job that I’m doing now.

    Nancy Erwin [00:42:13]:

    I’ve said to people, I’m still sick of doing volunteer work for rich people, which is kind of I’m not rich, and not everybody that I’m working for as far as on this HOA are rich, but they’re rich compared to these refugees. And I live in a building that’s 50 years old. We have every kind of issue imaginable. And when I started working on the board, a lot of things had never been done in the 50 years, or things had been needing to have been done for 2010 years, whatever. It was so much deferred maintenance. And now that I’m on the board, I’m realizing why. Because people who were on the board had full time jobs, and it takes a lot of time and a lot of focus and a lot of effort. And I’m just trying to get the major issues with plumbing, electric exterior, remodel of the building, new roof, all that kind of stuff done.

    Nancy Erwin [00:43:07]:

    I’ve already been on the board three years. I’m trying to have it done by this time next year. I’m hoping to retire from that board in November 2024.

    Ryan Doolittle [00:43:15]:

    Yeah, I mean, it’s a lot of work to do yoga on yourself, but to do yoga for an entire bill, you’re basically doing yoga for a whole condo complex, which is kind of the.

    Nancy Erwin [00:43:26]:

    Worse than just owning one it’s worse than owning one home. I was clueless when I agreed to do this. I thought, okay, I’ll spend a little bit of time every day or know, a few hours a month. Oh, my. Much. It’s so much.

    Ryan Doolittle [00:43:42]:

    Yeah. So many retirees or just people in general deal with HOA, and I rarely hear anything. Yeah, so you’re not.

    Nancy Erwin [00:43:55]:

    Yeah. Yeah.

    Ryan Doolittle [00:43:57]:

    Okay. So, Nancy, we’re getting towards the end of here, but I did want to know social groups can be a really important part of the happiness search for retirees. And it sounds like you have a lot of social groups, right?

    Nancy Erwin [00:44:11]:

    Yeah, I told you I didn’t know how to and you asked for the number. I didn’t know how to answer the question because it could have gone anywhere from probably five to actually probably more like ten, depending on how you counted them, because the one group that is totally amazing is I am a member of Vale Club 50 in Vale, Colorado. It’s a retiree group for people over 50, although most of the people are over 65. And that club does everything. So they have all these offshoots, like, we ski, we snowshoe, we microspike hike, we bicycle, we hike, we have dinner parties, we have pop lunch, we have happy hours, we have go to the theater. I mean, there’s so much that that club does. There’s, like, 700 I think there’s about 800 members now. And not all of them live in Vale full time.

    Nancy Erwin [00:44:57]:

    Some of them are only there maybe three or four weeks a year, but they want to have a group to ski with or a group to hike with or whatever, and so they join and then have some people socialize and all that kind of has been. It’s amazing. I know people who tried retiring in Sun Valley, tried retiring in Big Sky, only lived there a few years. They stat when the whole time they had been in those places, they maybe made four or five friends, and they came to Vale, joined Vale Club 50, and they had 100 friends in less than 90 days. I mean, it’s just that there’s so much going on from a retirees. Everybody is so fit and active and doesn’t just do sports. It’s a lot of social stuff too. We’ve got a moonlight one of the best events we have is a moonlight snowshoe where we snowshoe by well, we snowshoe as the sun sets, come back in as the moon’s rising, and then have a dinner dance in this room that has this enormous windows where you can see the moon out the windows and stuff.

    Nancy Erwin [00:45:59]:

    I mean, the club is just totally awesome. Totally awesome. And friends of mine go to some activities out there when they come to visit, and they go, why don’t we start something like this in Louisville? And you really could with meetup something like that could be started in La. And I’m sure there would be tons of members, but it’s just a matter of somebody stepping up like to organize it, I guess, because actually this organization was founded in the it now has what we call legacy members, which are children of the initial founders of Bail club. 50 children members. Yeah.

    Ryan Doolittle [00:46:32]:

    It sounds like you need to organize it for everyone everywhere.

    Nancy Erwin [00:46:38]:

    Yeah, we begin.

    Ryan Doolittle [00:46:40]:

    Do you have time?

    Nancy Erwin [00:46:41]:

    Not right now.

    Ryan Doolittle [00:46:45]:

    Okay. Well, Nancy Irwin, the president of Health, do you have any parting words of wisdom for other happy people searching for happiness in retirement?

    Nancy Erwin [00:46:54]:

    Yeah, I mean, I have a lot of physical infirmities that could keep me from saying, oh, I can’t do that. I don’t want to do that. I don’t feel like doing that. But it’s the motion is load. I got to keep moving. And for those people who where work has been pretty much their whole life and now they don’t know what to do with themselves. I am sure that during their work time during their work life they had thoughts about maybe traveling to this place or maybe trying out this sport or maybe trying to learn a language or maybe learning how to paint, whatever. If you’ve had even the slightest thought of trying something, now’s your opportunity.

    Nancy Erwin [00:47:35]:

    And I wouldn’t wait and try to pick the perfect thing. Go try a bunch of stuff, see what you really enjoy, and then go do it because you’ll make a lot of new friends, too. I know a lot of people, most of their friends have revolved around their work, but you’ll make tons of friends who are retired and have time to go to dinner with you, have lunch with you, or have coffee with you, whatever. And do something fun that you love, whether it’s painting or riding a bicycle, you’ll meet people. So I encourage people to try anything and everything. And don’t just think because you’ve never played a sport that you can’t play pickleball because you can’t. I mean, don’t just think because you’ve never done something that you can’t do it because you can’t. Like you’ve never painted that you thought it would be pretty to paint.

    Nancy Erwin [00:48:19]:

    It will be free to paint. Go do it. Whatever it know. Go try.

    Ryan Doolittle [00:48:25]:

    I love it. Nancy, thank you so much for being on the Happiest retirees podcast.

    Nancy Erwin [00:48:30]:

    Sure. Thank you so much, Ryan, for having me. It was a pleasure.

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