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At 71, man lives out a new kind of ‘retirement dream’

Posted at 12:49 PM, Jan 29, 2019
and last updated 2019-01-29 16:18:13-05

Retirement life for Bill Strough seems simple.

He's a man on an envious mission. At 71, he's trying to visit every National Park in the country, and he's only got three more to go.

But under the surface, Strough is a survivor, fighting for his financial goals that seemed impossible when the economy collapsed.

"I lost my home in 2007 and pretty much everything with it,” he says.

For a while, he bummed around with friends and even worked overseas. But his obsession with our nations "greatest treasure" called him back.

"I was basically starting all over with nothing, and it turned out not to be so bad," Strough says.

Strough heard about seasonal work at America’s most valuable company, Amazon. It isn't your usual part-time job. In four months, Strough can stockpile enough money to live out his retirement dreams in the other eight months of the year.

Strough got hired in October for the holiday rush as part of the Camper Force Program, which was set up for people willing to live nearby and work their tails off through the return season that's still going on.

For 10 hours a day, six days a week, Strough grabs his scanner and pulls merchandise off shelves to get it ready to ship to customers. Strough says the money is good.

Every one of Amazon's employees starts off at $15 an hour. In a month, Strough can save $3,200, and even more when you consider Amazon pays for his RV space, a savings of nearly $1,000. After 90 days, there's health insurance.

"It will definitely pay for my new radiator,” he says. “That's right under there. And I had to put new suspension in before I went to Alaska."

But the work is hard, and so is the schedule.

"Our normal shift is 6 until 4:30 in the morning, and we're tacked on ‘til 5:30, so last night we went 'til 5:30."

But along the way, friends have made it fun. Stops at the local waffle house before work with coworkers are now the norm for Strough.

Amazon has fulfilment centers all over the country. The company is always hiring whether you're an RV traveler or moving nearby fulltime.

"We have folks in the Camper Force that are former police officers, firefighters who worked for the government," says Jason Wheeler, who works at Amazon in Hebron, Kentucky.

When Strough’s done with the job, he’ll have earned enough money to start his next year of adventure. He's already eyeing this job again next year, and by then, he hopes to have reached his goal.

"I’m going to get to these National Parks," he says.