Think you know AARP? What you don't know about us may surprise you. Discover all the 'Real Possibilities'

Contests and

Dream Vacation Sweepstakes

10 weeks. 10 amazing trips. Seize your chance to win!
See official rules. 


most popular



Your Life Calling With Jane Pauley

The Joy of Socks

Betsy Lee McCarthy left a lucrative career as a health care executive so she would have more time to knit socks. Really.

When Betsy Lee McCarthy was five years old, her grandmothers taught her to knit. Five decades later, McCarthy walked away from a more than 20-year career as a sought-after health care administrator so she could devote more time to knitting.

McCarthy, then 57, wasn't having a nervous breakdown. No reputation-sullying skeletons were about to pop out of her closet, nor was she going to be fired. It was just the opposite: McCarthy had been offered a promotion and a significant raise.

"Knitting relaxes me," she says, reflecting on the decision she made 10 years ago. "I wanted to learn more about knitting and become a better knitter, and working the way I was didn't leave me with any extra time or energy." About her Seattle employer's attempts to keep her, McCarthy explains, "I just thought, nope, this is it. It's time to go. I've been working since I was 16, and I'm ready to be myself rather than the person who does my job."

After announcing her plans to leave the company, McCarthy says, "The chief financial officer came up to me, and in a tone that sounded as if he felt embarrassed or sorry for me, said, 'I understand that you are planning to…knit.'"

Too often, says McCarthy, knitters aren't given the respect they're due. "There's a stereotype that knitting is about little old ladies making doilies and baby afghans," observes McCarthy, who focuses her knitting on making socks, a skill she honed while traveling for business. (Sewing and quilting were earlier interests, but knitting socks is a more portable pursuit.) "Most people don't see that knitting is artistically and intellectually challenging," she says. "There's a lot of math and technical skill involved, and it's very creative." (Watch the video at top of Jane Pauley's "Your Life Calling" interview with McCarthy to see the knitter at work.)

When McCarthy's last day as a corporate executive came, her husband, Terry, asked, "How does it feel to have earned your last paycheck?"

"He wasn't being unsupportive," McCarthy, now 67, explains. "I think he was being protective of me, and he was worried. But I wasn't. Some people aren't comfortable going into that 'gray zone,' of not knowing exactly what they're moving toward. But at that point in my life, I had learned that if you're open to something, you can find it."

McCarthy found that something, and then some. Soon after leaving the executive suite in 2000, she took a part-time job at a yarn shop near her home. "I went from making a six-figure income to earning a little more than minimum wage," she says. "But I've always found that any time I do something new, I learn something new, and for me working at a yarn shop was almost like being in a graduate program for knitters."

Topic Alerts

You can get weekly email alerts on the topics below. Just click “Follow.”

Manage Alerts


Please wait...

progress bar, please wait

Tell Us WhatYou Think

Please leave your comment below.

Discounts & Benefits

Norwegian Cruise Lines

Norwegian Cruise Line offers 5% off on select cruises, plus other special offers.

Tanger Outlets

Members receive a free Tanger Coupon Book including up to 20% discount offers.

Life insurance: you are covered rain or shine

Members can convert their assets into guaranteed income for life with AARP Lifetime Income Program from New York Life.

Member Benefits

Members receive exclusive member benefits & affect social change. Join Today


5 Weeks to a New Life

How do you resolve differences in a relationship — without fighting? Share your tips in our online community and be eligible to win prizes. Discuss

The Reinvention Group

The Reinvention Group

Ask questions, find support and share information about changing gears in your 50+ years. Discuss


The Coffee Shop

Kick back and enjoy lighthearted conversation among Online Community locals. Discuss