Dennis Delzeit, 62, came of age at a time when many young people embraced a carefree lifestyle, one that was in stark contrast to the pragmatism that had dominated much of American life the generation before.
But as a young husband and father during the 1960s, Delzeit had a singular focus: working to feed his family.
“I was 19 when I got married, and our first child was born when I was 20,’’ he said. “A lot of people in our generation were doing the hippie thing and traveling around the country. It never was an option to us not to work.’’
Delzeit, director of public works/city engineer for Pismo Beach for more than 13 years, retired in late July. And he says his strong work ethic and practical approach to personal and family finances — a trait he picked up from his Eisenhower-era parents — allowed him to do so comfortably.
The Nipomo resident, who plans to consult part-time after leaving his post, said he’s worked continuously since he mowed lawns as a boy in Torrance. He recalls saving the money he earned in a cigar box. Later, he worked his way through junior college and then Cal Poly, where he graduated with a civil engineering degree.
Throughout his career, Delzeit put money away for retirement. He has a combination of private investments — 401k’s, stocks, an IRA, and a vacation house — and a public pension as a city government employee.
Delzeit and his wife, Sherrie, a retired county social worker, also budgeted along the way. They chose not to buy new cars frequently (he still drives a vehicle with 421,000 miles), were selective about borrowing money, paid cash for family vacations, and made it their goal to pay off their mortgage. In retirement, they’re living on about 75 to 80 percent of their pre-retirement income, and paying for everyday expenses and vacations with cash.
“It relieves stress, when you’re not leveraged out so that every dollar is spent before you earn it,’’ Delzeit said of his financial discipline.