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.

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

 

 

Jumping Out of Your Comfort Zone

Those of you who follow my blog, know I am at a crossroad, presently being unemployed.    During this time I have been  doing some contract work, and friends have called telling me about jobs out there they feel I would be a good fit for. I am so blessed for their support during this time.   Yet I feel that this situation would be wasted if I did not take time to really reflect on what should be next, instead of immediately  jumping back into what has been a sure thing and comfortable for the last 30 years.  It may be that one moment in time to really start something new or explore things I have always wanted to try, but fear held me back. The fear of the unknown.   The fear of failure.   Fear of how I’d feel not making a regular financial contribution to the household.

RangerSir and I have had many discussions about the idea of a temporary job during this time.   We have weighed the pros and cons.   The pros won.   Since that decision, I have spent time looking at the temporary and seasonal jobs out there.   I have been researching the positions, companies and interviewing.  The good news is I have secured a temporary seasonal job.   It means that this job will have a beginning and an end.   So there is no lock-in for this job if I hate it; I just have to last the season.   If I like it I have just added something to my resume.  It will use many of my skills I already have, but just as importantly it will require skills I don’t have.   This will feed my need for life long learning.  It is an entry-level, worker-bee job.   It means I have a job to do, and I will be responsible for me and my performance, that is it.   I can’t remember the last time this was true.  It feels very good. It is a four-tens, so I will still have three days a week to enjoy summer.    I will be on the road most of the time, again something I have not done for years, but exploring the back roads of Montana sounds fine for the summer.   Finally it will supply me with a regular paycheck, that I discover I need.

I admit the whole prospect of this summer job is almost frightening because it is so far out of my comfort zone.  It could be a colossal failure, in so many different ways.    Yet I find I am really excited to do something different and not to just wonder but actually know what something completely different will feel like. It will provide me with the time and space to really think about what next, while making a financial contribution to household.

Not everyone gets this chance.   Not everyone sees this chance when it happens to them.   I was lucky in that I got the chance and recognized it it.   Thanks to my friends, family and blog followers who have been there with words of encouragement during this time of great unrest.     Now on to the next great adventure.

Photo Challenge Day 2 – Creative December

This challenge is only in its second day and it is much more of a challenge than I had expected.   The list of what I am to photograph still doesn’t look daunting, but somehow it feels like a big challenge every night when I leave work.   Here is today’s photo.   I am working on making my Christmas cards from a single purchased collection of paper.   It is making me reach deep inside because each card is different due to the limited materials and the colors are not traditional.

 

I am trying to make my cards all from a single bundle purchase.   This is a creative challenge because there is not enough of anything to make it more than once.

I am trying to make my cards all from a single bundle purchase. This is a creative challenge because there is not enough of anything to make it more than once.

December’s Challenge

If November was not challenge enough, I am taking on another one in December.   This month I am going to challenge myself to take a photo a day.   I follow a Worqshop, woman’s blog who’s creative work I admire.   On the last day of the November she told of this challenge she was doing for December.    I thought it sounded interesting enough to try it for myself.    I have tried photo challenges before, but failed often because I limit myself to scenic photography.  In my mind that requires you to get out and drive some place to find that shot.    This is further hindered by the fact that I work virtually for my employer from home, so many a  day I never leave home.   There is not even the drive to work  for me.      This challenge is definitely not scenic.  It will not only challenge me each day to take a photo but also will challenge my composition skills in ways I haven’t be challenged in in a long time if ever.      Here is my list of what I am to photograph this month.  Notice the third from last item; how could I not participate in this challenge?

I will be posting those to my Pinterest account at DianaAtLooking and possibly do quick posts here as well.

National Novel Writing Month – Winner

I have just been declared a winner because I just finished certifying my novel for having written at least 50,000 words in November.   I wonder about being a winner because it clearly is not a complete story yet.    On the other hand it has enough words that it could easily turn into a novel if I stick with it.   I have always thought that there is a novel in me and for a host of reasons I have never gotten this far before.   It was a great experience and I plan to stick with this one and finish it up.

At the end of 30 days there is lots I have learned.

  • My writing style is pantser.   I am too analytical and if I plan my book I never get beyond planning the perfect novel.
  • I am more flexible that I thought, because the critical conflict was not anything that was on my radar when I started writing.
  • I can accomplish an ambitious goal without it taking over my life to the exclusion of other things I enjoy.  I managed to make cards, teach a creative class, watch movies, read books, visit friends, x-c ski and other things important to me in the midst of this.
  • Work will always impact your home life.   I was on the road for work and did not write for several days, but it did not prevent me from accomplishing a personal goal.   Don’t let work be an excuse for not accomplishing your personal goals.
  • I like creative writing.   It provides a place for all those voices in my head to find a outlet.
  • Longer stories are much harder than short stories, blogs and other writing I have done.
  • Being a writer made me a much more attentive reader.
  • I like writing dialogue.
  • My business writing skills, as good as they may be, are not sufficient alone to support creative writing.
  • I will be looking to take some creative writing classes.
  • I will be looking for a writer’s group to support and question me as I work through the editing process.

Thanks for those who were along for the ride.  It is only the first time around the track and I can see that there is at least another lap or two to be made before I finish this race.

I love this poster and may have to just get one for myself. It captures so much of what goes on in a writer’s mind, or at least my mind this last month.

Never Give Up

This is just past the half-way mark for National Novel Writing Month. I should have passed the 25,000 word mark this week.   I must say this week has been less than stellar for making progress and I am not where I should be.   I was on the road this week with work.   It was a week fraught with other things pulling at me in all directions none of them giving a rip roar about  this little adventure I was on.   Now it seems that I am coming down with something nasty and my head is not doing a lot of clear thinking.   It sounds like I am going to throw in the towel.

I thought about quitting.    I even stayed in bed late this morning hoping a little more sleep time would make me feel better.   It did not and I considered giving up for this year.  Then I thought about a friend who in just a few minutes will be starting her first half-marathon tonight in LasVegas.   She is doing it with friends, one of whom had this on her life list.   The other five are just there for moral support.   She is busy, with as many things as I have, pulling at her as well.   In the midst of this training she has come down with knee and foot problems.   It would have been easier for her to quit, but she made a commitment not only to her friends but herself to be there for her friends.

I made this commitment to myself, and I plan to keep it.  If you are thinking of quitting, don’t just yet.   Hang in there for yourself, it was important enough for you to start it, don’t let yourself not finish it. If you are not working on some goal right this minute, be there to encourage your family and friends who are.   I curse the lost of anonymity on the internet all the time, but for once I am having fun watching and cheering on my friend who I can’t be  there for virtually.   I  plan to be one of the first to text my friend when the live race reporting shows her bib number has crossed the finish line.   I am proud to be in the company of those who never give up.