Like many Americans in their 50s, Stephen Tartalia wants to begin a second career. He figures it won't be simple, but it might be a lot less painful.
Tartalia worked as a Hollywood stuntman in film and television franchises such as "Pirates of the Caribbean" and "Buffy the Vampire Slayer." Tartalia's stunt reel shows him jumping from buildings, crashing through windows and embroiled in other mayhem.
Now, rather than taking a fall for Hollywood stars, he'd like to cook for them.
"Like an athlete, you need to get out while you can still walk," Tartalia said.
During a few years in Asia, doing stunts or playing roles in martial arts films, Tartalia learned to cook. He wants to parlay that expertise "into this exotic Indo-Asian chef world of cooking — but I'm a little late in getting there."
Tartalia is contending with more than physical limitations; film and television productions continue to move out of Southern California to take advantage of state and municipal incentives that often require them to tap the local workforce.
Tartalia's income has always fluctuated, from lows in the middle $20,000s to more than $130,000. But last year was a catalyst for change, he said. He made just $16,500 in residuals and unemployment.
"How much squeaky wheeling does a man with a semblance of pride do?" Tartalia said. "They don't call people from Los Angeles to work for them; it's all contingent on them making hires locally, where it's shot."
The scenario is familiar to fee-only financial planner Delia Fernandez, who reviewed Tartalia's finances.
"Steve is facing what has happened to a lot of Angelenos," Fernandez said. "Industries and jobs are moving out of California, and when it happens 10 to 15 years before retirement, it can be devastating."
Clues to Tartalia's future occupation came early.
"When I was a kid, I used to race around the family pool in my red pedal firetruck, fast enough to swing around the rear end on the turns," Tartalia said.
To make the route to school in South Florida more interesting, he and a friend fashioned vines and ropes so that "we could try to swing along without touching the ground."