Get to Retire Isn’t Easy

Thanks to everyone who has stopped by to read and/or comment on my return to blogging.   I am hoping to move over to some of the fun things about retirement, but comments and emails have let me know folks have some questions and concerns about how we did it.   Here are some of my thoughts on what got us to the point we could retire.

retirement

First and foremost it started with saving.   I wish it had been as easy as putting money in a savings account that paid 5% interest.   If you are olden enough you may remember those days when a standard passbook paid that rate.   You may have read about a janitor who saved big sums of money doing just that.   Unfortunately, those days are gone, I suspect forever.   Our history of saving started when I  went to work for a company that had a 401k when they started in 1978.   RangerSir and I  started saving then and have not looked back.   No matter who we worked for, we have always  participated in the 401k, always making sure to saved enough to get the match even if it meant we had to cut out other things.

You can not have it all, and many things really aren’t necessary. We lived in apartments in fringy neighborhoods.  I never had a car until after we were married for nearly five years.   I took the bus to work, grocery shopping and everywhere else I needed to go because it was much cheaper.   Everyone has guilty pleasures.   I  was willing to cut out things or work a second job to be able to afford my wants that were not necessary.    I will freely admit I have a love affair with good shoes.   I have been known to visit the Hostess stale bread shop regularly to save for that magical pair of hunter green leather shoes  I still remember 30+ years later.    When Ranger Sir and I built our home we wanted new furniture because it was about 2.5 times the size of our prior home.  We did not need a second table for the formal dining room, our old one was in the kitchen and perfectly functional, but we wanted it and so much more.    I went to work for a store that carried furniture and he went to work for a home store that had appliances and hardware.   We both had good white-collar jobs at the time, but we did not want to save for a year or more to get what we wanted and so second jobs made it possible much sooner.

My parents never owned a home, and RangerSir’s parents did not have their own home for many years.  We felt that our parents not owning their home was one of the things that made retirement for them near impossible.  We were convinced that we would not only own a home, but it would be paid for before retirement.   I will say the downpayment was one of the hardest things we ever had to come up with.   It was one of two times we dipped into our 401k  (paid the penalty and the taxes.)   Our first home was not as nice as our prior rental, but it was that foot in the door.  We constantly were putting extra money on our mortgage all the time.   On our first home, every Friday we would round down our checking account and take the excess to the savings & loan who held our mortgage and put it on the principle.   Sometimes it is the little things that make a difference.   In the end, we met our goal of having our home paid for before we retired.

Another thing I think made a difference for us was every promotion and raise was split with us and our 401K.   Even if it meant we lost ground.   What I mean here is when you get a raise of $50, and your health insurance premium went an additional  $50, we still split the raise $25 more to the 401k and $25 to us.   I can say there were many times we felt like we were losing ground, and on paper we were, but knew we wanted to retire someday and so we realigned our spending.  Sometimes it was very hard.  I feel it is getting harder and harder to be middle class.

Lastly, the thing we did that I think was the hardest was we took control of our 401k as we changed jobs.  We never took the money we saved and spent it.   We generally rolled it from the 401k to an IRA.  I honestly would have been happy if it was as simple as that and letting it compound interest like the old fashing savings account but it wasn’t. I am sure we could have done different things and made more with our IRA/401k money.   We have had five, if my memory serves me correct, financial advisors.  We have asked each of them how they make money on us point-blank. If we didn’t like the answer they weren’t for us.  We have told them how we feel about risk in real terms i.e. if my IRA lost $2000 how would we feel.   Not some imaginary “how risk receptive are you?” question.   There is nothing real about that; it is all relative to each, the person asking the question and the person answering the question.    As we approached retirement our financial planner said we should take our money from our house when we sell it, put it into the market where we would make more money than the new house mortgage payment each month.   My  risk tolerance said, “are you smoking crack?” We remember market corrections before and we are due in our minds for another one.    One of our retirement goals we have always shared is to be mortgage-free. To have an advisor we had been working with for nearly ten years suggest that said he wasn’t listening to us and we sought out someone else.   We have found that as we have gotten closer to retirement our risk tolerance has gotten less and less.   Managing your money is hard.   I sure think that the idea of having no 401k and instead some business with all their smart accounting types setting up and managing a defined retirement plan would have been much nicer, easier and less stressful.   But those days are gone.  Businesses models have changed and it isn’t going to happen for most of us.   Our retirement is going to be at least partially sponsored by how we save and what we do with our savings.

What worked for us will not work for others, because each of us is different in our wishes and what we are willing to sacrifice to get there.   Our goal was to save like crazy, pay off our home and retire at age 55.  We were willing to work more than one job at times, forego vacations, and purchases to make it work for us. We missed that age goal, but the rest of it we managed to do and it all made retirement possible. We plan to travel some and have budgeted for it.  My wish and statement to others thinking about retirement is to make a goal and then move toward it every day.     Know you can not have it all ever.   There is a cost to everything and sometimes you have delay what you want because the time is not right.  There is a give and take to everything in life. Make the decisions that will allow you to control as much as possible of that given and take and when and how you do it.

Wishing you much success.

Who Is That Person in the Mirror

The two things we do most in our adult life are sleep and work.  It should come as no surprise that when you retire a big part of your identity is suddenly in question.

Cartoon of Man Looking at Yourself in Mirror and Unsure About Yourself

Yesterday, you were a worker bee who folks depended on to turn up and make a contribution.    You had some kind of job title no matter what kind of job.   You were a cog in the wheel of some kind of grander scheme of the workforce.

When you retire suddenly you are just you again.  You look in the mirror and you don’t see the same person you saw before.   No one notices if you sleep in late.   No one misses you because you don’t show up.   You have no guidance from your employer on what you are expected to accomplish each day.   You make all the rules for your time, who you interact with, and even in some cases what you wear.

RangerSir is making the transition into retirement living.   He is a little lost and feeling his way around.   He is exploring who else is retired and has time to “play” with him.   He is remembering things he liked to do when he was younger and once again trying his hand at them.  He is checking out things that folks have been telling him about to see if he is interested.  He is dragging his feet on somethings and embracing others.

He watches me get up and buzz around with deliberate purpose each morning.  It is a bit mystifying to him.  Having retired before him I have already made my transition into managing my life for me.   I have a list of daily chores I need to do.   I did this because I never want to spend a single day of my retirement cleaning house, doing bills, laundry or any other mundane chore.   I have it set up so even on my worst day I never spend more than 40 minutes doing my chores.  Once my chores are done I am free for the day.   I can read.   I can spend it with my arty friends.   I can spend time in my studio sewing, painting or anything else that moves me.   I try to get 250 steps in 10 hours of every day.   If my Fitbit tells me that I am in danger of not getting it done.   I hop up and head to the treadmill or outside to get 5 minutes of activity to meet my goal.   He thinks that is plain crazy.   I do yoga in the early morning 4 days a week.   I don’t think he yet knows about that.    It is what I have discovered works for my household, my mental health, and my physical health for me in retirement.

Even though we have been married nearly 40 years and are philosophically and our moral compass is the same, we are different in many other ways.  I am a morning person and like a clean house, but hate to clean.   He, on the other hand, is a night owl and would rather spend a single day—all day–doing things I think of as chores and drudgery.  He likes TV, and I like to read.   I have several hobbies I enjoy but hate exercise.   He likes physical activity but does not have many hobbies.   We are very much opposites in many ways.    He has to figure out what works for him, and what he wants to do. No rush.  He needs to try things.  Explore.   As he finds his groove we will then have to figure out how to mesh our wishes and needs to make both of us happy.

We are already working this out.   I am doing some of my Fitbit time walking with him, a sort of exercise together.  I go meet with my “Art Ladies” when he goes to the gym.   We are making our way through this all.

It is a time of discovery for both of us.  It is a time of change for both us.   It is another season of life and all the changes that come with it.

Next Season of Life

After a long hiatus, I am going to try working on this blog again as we enter a new season of life, retirement.   I will be sharing challenges, things we do,   things we discover and anything else that pops into my mind as I look out the window and enter the next season of our lives.

RangerSir and I attended his retirement party last night.   Life will never be the same, which is good and sad at the same time.    Keep watch as we share more about this new life.

liiof life.  FS - leaving.jpg