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?
We recently returned from a trip to the Oregon coast. We love the ocean and in an ideal world we would retire in the NW or the NE walking distance to the ocean. This trip was part vacation and part retirement exploration. It was the first time in nearly 35 years that we went on a true vacation. By true vacation I mean a trip away from home that we were not planning on visiting friends or family. We were taking time away just for ourselves, and think about what might be next for us.
It was a relaxing time. We had no work pulling at us. We took no computers and set our smart phones to take no business calls or download any work emails. We were off line. There was no one we had to see or place we had to be. It was vacation time no excuses made.
I woke everyday mountain time and was the first one on the beach with the dog. It was solitude at its best. The two of us started every day walking miles along the surf. Each day RangerSir and I would have breakfast at the little house we rented and decided what we wanted to do that day. The weather was iffy and so it was a day by day event. We spent part of each day out exploring the area and eating lunch somewhere differently each day. In five days we had five different chowders. We poked around towns along the Oregon coast looking at what they had to offer and how they might fit with our retirement plans. We always found ourselves back at the beach two or three more times daily besides my morning walk. We planned our days around the tides. We could not get enough time seaside.
One of the things we did was kite flying. Neither of us had done it since we were kids. The kinds of kites we flew were the paper kites with the wooden crosses and tails made of rags. The area of Oregon we were at has lots of coastal winds. We splurged and bought a kite at the local kite store, nothing fancy, mind you. We had no idea what to expect, so we did not go crazy, though the store had hundreds to choose from of many colors and designs. Our new kite was a modern contraption made with ripstop nylon and a built in tail. Our modern-style kite far exceeded our expectations. Kite flying was one of those things that we only give ourselves permission to do when on holiday. We live in an area of Montana with plenty of winds and even more open spaces, so you will likely find us flying our Oregon coast kite again in Montana. We won’t wait so long to fly a kite again.
I work for a small nonprofit and their finances are an open book. The writing has been on the wall for some time, that it was highly likely that my hours would be cut. This week it happened. I am now working three-quarter time. In spite of it all when it finally happened it sucked, at least it did for a bit. I am the age where I am working for retirement and loosing 25% of your income, well that isn’t good.
Now none of this was under my control. Life was happening this way and nothing I was going to do could change this. After sleeping on this for a couple of days I found one of my driving principles in life that I had somehow lost during all of this again. Here it is: You can not change much of what happens in your life. You can’t make someone like you, give you a job, buy your stuff or be happy. The only thing you can control is how you react to life.
I like who I work for and I find my job/work interesting and satisfying. I am lucky that even working 3/4 time I can meet all my financial obligations. So bottom line unless I want to I don’t have to go out and find another job. This change did mean though that I am going to likely need to postpone my target retirement date. Woe is me. Or maybe not.
Here lies my moment of enlightenment. I was not suffering from a work cutback; I retired early. Ok, the caveat is that I am a part-time retiree, not full-time. That may not sound so good, but listen to this and tell me if it does not sound pretty darn good. I no longer work eight-hour days. I work 7.5 hour days. I no longer work five days a week. I have every Friday off. I have time for the lunch-time yoga on Monday. I can take off on Friday and get things done that used take up my weekend. I have time to cultivate friendships that I put on the back burner. I have more time to cook because I love to. I have time to volunteer more. I have time to spend being creative in my studio space. I have time to make gifts for Christmas. I feel like blogging, because I am no longer mentally spent at the end of the day. I have more time to bike, hike, read and anything else I decide to do. I gained time every day and have a day just to myself every seven days. This is the first of many retiree Fridays.
Now what was that about a job cutback?
We have traveled all over with the Forest Service. We have been some pretty amazing places. Just recently one of our most coveted places, Grand Marais, MN, had an opening for exactly what my husband does here in Montana. It would have been a lateral move, not all bad. Unfortunately when you are in high gear for those last ten years before retirement, your dream location takes a back seat to smart financial moves. Together we looked at all the pros and cons of taking this move.
The lighthouse at Grand Marais.
Reasons for Going to Grand Marais
- At the end of the Gunflint Trail, need I say more
- Mr Ranger would have to to spend time in the BWCA as part of his job. The BWCA inspired him to have the job he has today.
- Being right on Lake Superior, my favorite Great lake
- Being back in the hardwood forests. If you’ve been there you know there is no place like the Northshore.
- They have an established art colony to nurture my creative soul. It started back in 1947, so they have a long history of supporting folks teaching and exploring all sorts of creative mediums.
- We would be less than 4 hours from Mr. Ranger’s family, both his & my best friends and only 12 hours from my family.
- Over 100 inches of snow!
- Lots of cross country at our back door.
- BWCA at our “backdoor” so we could access it during the shoulder season when “everyone” has gone home.
- It has a longer growing season, but then almost every place could say that.
- Access to lots and lots of hiking and biking trails.
- Voyaguers National park and Quetico Provincial Park are just a short jaunt away.
You never get too old to cross country sky. You just need snow.
Reasons for not throwing our name in the hat to go to Grand Marais.
- Retirement – It is much less expensive to live here, so we are mega saving for retirement.
- Our house payment is tiny and we can see the end of our mortgage
- Limited amount of affordable housing in Grand Marais, and we would have to start over with a mortgage.
- Few job opportunities for me, even fewer that would replace my current salary.
- An economy skewed by tourists and second homes.
- No mountains
I’ve been to New England in the fall and it has nothing on the Northshore.
There are no better sunsets or sun rises than those on a lake, big or little.
We spent hours talking about it. Our wants, dreams, wishes and what retirement meant to both of us together and individually. When it was all said and done we without a doubt knew this was a matter of timing being everything. Something is perfect only if the timing is right. It must be a balance of financial and emotional desires. This was not that. So we passed. We know when it is the right move the stars will align it will feel right in every way. Enough said time to let it go, but it was sure fun to play with the idea.