Retirement View: Mike Schwab

Graphic by | Joan McGuire

Former CEO of the Portland Clinic looks back, plans ahead

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Mike Schwab started working for the Portland Clinic as an assistant administrator in 1973. Twelve years later, he was promoted to administrator and, in 1995, became CEO.  Schwab’s 43-year tenure ended with his retirement  on July 1, 2015, at age 69.

The first day
It was about 4:30 p.m. Friday. My replacement came in and said: Mike, you’ve got to go. I didn’t know what was going on. So I grabbed what I could. All the staff was lined up across the street, and they clapped as I walked out. A limo was waiting with my family. They took me to Pittock Mansion. We had a picnic, then dinner at Meriwether’s. The next day I slept in.

Adjusting wrench
For the first six months I’d wake up in the middle of the night thinking I’d have to do something I didn’t. Or I’d wonder how that project we were working on turned out. So I didn’t quite walk away clean.

A Day in the Life
Woodworking. Gardening. Putting in a stone wall. Thinking about refurbishing my ’31 Chevrolet, a deluxe touring sedan. Taking a cruise from London through Scandinavia. Ballroom dancing with the Portland Heights Dance Club. Golfing. On rainy days, we go though the junk we’ve accumulated over the years. The kids used to call me Superman because I used to be flying through the yard getting things done.
Now it takes me a weekend to get done what I used to do on a Saturday.

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Sage advice lilypad
Get out of borrowing on depreciable assets and invest in appreciable assets. The minute you drive your brand new car off the lot, it’s worth $1,000 less. Early on, I bought some cheap rental houses, fixed them up and traded them. That’s how we got our beach house and SunRiver house. We were able to push all that equity over. If you can eat beans and weenies, start now.

Soul searching

I was a workaholic. My wife did a good job raising our kids. I wasn’t totally absent, but I missed a few games, a few things I wished I had been there for. Work will always be there. You’ve got to live in the present but plan for the future.

Money management
I spent the first six months of my retirement researching where to put my money. I ended up going with Vanguard because they were cheaper. I get quarterly phone calls where we go over how it’s gone. I’ve been fortunate enough to not worry. You can make yourself sick worrying about money. As you get older, you want to take less risk. There’s a value in being able to sleep at night.

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My successor (Dick Clark)
He’s apparently doing a good job because he hasn’t been bugging me.


The thing that would be the hardest is if the clinic failed. Because then you feel all your hard work is gone for nothing. The clinic is scheduled to celebrate its 100th birthday in 2021. I was fortunate to be there for almost half of its life. I want to see it to the 100th anniversary and beyond.