I was planning on getting back at being a regular blogger this time reflecting on life at the pivotal time of retirement. And then suddenly I disappeared again. It was because I had these great plans sharing what our new life looked like. I had planned to share the fun times, the surprises, and the challenges that came with this new phase. We got challenges and they were nothing like we imagined. As the world was rapidly changing, when I thought about our challenges I felt blessed that my challenges were so small to what some others were facing so I decided to sit it out for a while.Continue reading
Sorry I missed last week. I was under the weather. RangerSir and I hunkered down at home and worked our way through the nasty crude making its way throughout southwest Montana. It was while we were laying low that we were reminded that retirement is in many ways just like life was before retirement.
One of the things that I think people about retirement is that this is some imaginary transformation that takes place in life. You wake up and your life is different in so many amazing ways. That somehow you are a different person in a different life. You are the same person you were the day before you retired. Actually, it is like your pre-retirement life than you’d imagine. Life doesn’t change much when you retire.
In retirement you still have to grocery shop, do laundry, pay the bills, walk the dog, cook dinner, and other tasks that keep your household running. Yes, you suddenly have time to meet friends for a game of racquetball at 10 in the morning three times a week, rather just one night after work. If you did not like to exercise before retirement, you will not likely change your mind just because you are no longer required to show up at work. You might have time to try a class in yoga or tai-chi. You will find time to try new things and discover some you like and some you don’t. If you were not a reader before retirement, you won’t likely become one after. There are exceptions to everything, but I don’t think your likes and dislikes change too much. The choices you have for your free time open up. The excuses you have recited for years suddenly are not bound by lack of time so things can change. You can add some new things to your life, but many of the old things still will need your attention.
Retirement is full of opportunities if you allow yourself to explore them, but your old life and all that goes with it will still need your attention. Enjoy the new, and continue to embrace your old life, because it is what got you to this destination.
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.
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.
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.
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.
This last week RangerSir had surgery and has since been laid up. We have been confined to home while he is healing. It has been difficult for him to be limited in activity while he is in recovery. As anyone who has had a loved one in the household sick or in recovery mode it not only impacts the patient, but everyone in the household.
We were bless by many acts of kindness. Our friends and families called and check on us. It was topped off this week when a friend and her family stopped by with cookies. RangerSir has a sweet tooth and he was thrilled with the gift of food. He was a little tired of the healthy fare I was feeding him. It was wonderful to have someone other than one another to talk to. It came at just the right time as we were both getting a little stir crazy.
It was a reminder to us that simple acts can mean so much to others. Sometimes it is a kind word. It can be taking time out of your day or weekend to visit with a friend who you have not seen in awhile or a shut-in. It can be a call to check on and listen to a friend who needs your ear. If you made a batch of cookies for your family, put a dozen on a plate and share it. They are all simple acts of kindness that will likely mean more to another person than you can know. Let’s all pass on a little kindness.
I just finished an entry for a creative challenge. The challenge required me to complete a project that included one number. I pulled together a little mixed media effort for this. While I was working on this, I was thinking about what numbers to include and what they meant to me. This became more than a challenge of paper, paint and ink, it represented questions and things going on in my life.
RangerSir and I are approaching retirement. We constantly find ourselves thinking about what age is the right age for us to move from the current phase of our lives to the next and close the door on this one. We constantly find ourselves playing with the numbers. Age. Health. Life Expectancy. Family History. Money. In each of these there are so many numbers to extrapolate and hypothesize with. We are constantly playing with our numbers and yet we don’t have a single one that is the answer.
Numbers play factors in so many people’s lives young or old when you think about it. Here are some of the easy ones I came up in just a few minutes. Each of them is based on a number.
- I want to graduate from college by #
- I want to live somewhere where it never gets colder than #
- I want to only borrow # to pay for school.
- My prescription costs this month were #
- If I could save # I could buy a car, house, vacation…..
- I’d like to earn #.
- I’d like to pay off on my credit card in # months.
- I change the oil in my car every # miles.
- I’d like # kids.
- I would like to marry by #.
- I am trying to save #.
- I have # dogs and # cats
- I would like to get # when I sell my…
- I live # miles from work.
- Daycare costs #.
- My wife, mother, child, spouse/partner, father, brother, sister is # old this year.
- My health insurance costs #,
- I run # miles a week.
- I have lived in my home # years.
- I want to loose # pounds.
- My coffee splurge costs #
- I have worked for my employer # years.
What’s your number?
One of the biggest changes for me, now that I am no longer working out of the home is to allow for time to make myself work-ready and to commute to the office. For me the loss is a couple of hours each day. I am not special in this loss of personal time. It is the personal price that millions of people pay as part of being gainfully employed. It is time the working person can never get back.
I use my commuting time to plan my day or decompress and shut down at the end of a day. When I push the button on the garage door, that is the line of demarcation of work time and personal time. I don’t take home paperwork, my computer or say to anyone at work to call me at home. I have traveled that road before of letting work take over my life and have no desire to do it again. When I am on the clock I am 110% in, but when I am off-the-clock I am guard my private time preciously. It isn’t easy and I like so many others have struggled with this situation.
When I accepted this job, RangerSir and I talked about this. We discussed what the realistic expectations were. We discussed what was most likely to suffer and what each of us might do to limit the impact of my new job on personal time.
I have done several things to ensure that I don’t let work creep occur. I am trying to cultivate new habits to ensure I don’t just go to work and come home and veg, because I found I was falling in that pattern. In January I enrolled in a creative class with weekly assignments because I love to learn and I thrive on creativity. With regular assignments I am forced to carve out time for myself. It seems that once I have found the rhythm of making self-time, it seems I have found time for other things as well. I have queued up several books at the public library, because I am back to reading daily. I had wanted to make a baby quilt when my newest Great Nephew was born, but I had never started the project. I felt I had no time. Now the top is pieced and I am busy machine quilting it so I can go to baby Harrison.
Are you caught in the never ending rat race of letting your work encroach on your personal time? Are you not being yourself, but instead using the exhaustion of work preventing you from finding enjoyment in life? If so, I hope you take a little time and think about how you can find some time for you. You are worth it. Maybe you can’t be as lucky as I am, but even if all you get is a few minutes to yourself, it will be worth it. Once you claim those first few minutes hopefully you can claim a few more and a few more.
It is something we all need not just with work and personal time, but holistically more life balance.