For the past five years, i’ve had a spreadsheet (compliments of the ever-enterprising Excel-pert, Studley). A spreadsheet that can be poked, prodded and tweaked in all sorts of ways, playing with expenses and income. It was my retirement planning tool.
Through a combination of planning, luck, early breeding and conservative financial management, i was surprised to find myself in a position to comfortably retire with a pension, after working for the same entity from the age of 19. i just had to wait until my 55th birthday to pull the chain.
i didn’t believe it. i worked and re-worked those numbers. Studley included important expense categories such as “entertainment” and “booze”* and most importantly travel. Even throwing in a ridiculous budget for such luxuries, it was still manageable.
i turned 55 in early June. i cleaned out my office and walked out the door and have no intention of ever working again.
Just like that, i was no longer employed. From the age of 16, i’ve always had a job with income. Self-sufficiency required that, and i worked my way through university through a combination of a co-operative engineering job, and admin/teaching assistant positions. i have always worked – driven by the need to be self-sufficient.
And now that comes without the need to work.
Turns out, this is a pretty serious transition – even though i absolutely recognize the privilege that comes with this particular transition. Unlike divorce, a cancer diagnosis or becoming an empty-nester, this one is without question a GOOD TRANSITION. Not only that, i had ample time to prepare for this one.
i’ve been asking retired people the same question for the past few years – “what was your biggest surprise after retirement?” The answers were all over the map… “How expensive health care costs are” to “How busy I am! How did I ever manage to do all this with a full time job?” One response that stuck with me was “How important the calendar becomes.”
i’ve always been pretty tight with my work calendar. It also had personal appointments and extracurricular activities on it, but the work day was the foundation. When every day feels like Saturday how do you know what day it is? How do you know that the Tuesday night patio party at your favorite venue is happening if you don’t realize it’s Tuesday?
Only two months in, here are a few other observations –
Getting dressed? Different. i don’t put on make up in the morning. Morning lingers longer than it used to. One day i had a volunteer meeting at 0800. The dog even glared at me as i walked him at 0700 – “what is this shit? why are we out of bed? why are you dressed?” Clothes off of a hangar, not out of the laundry bin after a sniff. Hair brushed, and not stuffed under a baseball cap…
Speaking of hair…
i’ve been having mine painted for 20 years. Thanks to genetics, my hair would have turned shock white by the time i was forty without chemical intervention. A couple of years ago, i started playing with that white – i let a chunk underneath go white, then hit it with some funky color. It’s been blue for about a year, and while i like it, i don’t like the maintenance. So i’m working through a process to let my hair revert to its natural color.
Brain function? A bit befuddled – more forgetful than usual, not able to find words, and carrying a general fog every now and then. Still carrying five different volunteer jobs, i have responsibilities that require thought. We are continuing to push the envelope on life skills and experiences, in part to keep the brains working…
But those are details for a future post… i’ve exceeded my word count for today! Time to go pack a suitcase!
* i like to throw parties. My friends appreciate good food and good booze, as do i. That shit ain’t cheap…
Hey! I had a packer like that.yeah, fell asleep on the job.
Huey just likes to make sure that whatever i’m wearing, wherever i go, reminds me of him. That fluff is EVERYWHERE!
We also have a packer like that. Mind you, he resented being left and from time to time piddled copiously in suitcases. We often wondered what the sniffer dogs at the airport thought.
My retirement (medical grounds) was forced on me. I have to admit (many years later) it was the right thing.
Have yet to have a piddle in the suitcase, but i’ve learned to travel with a lint roller to make sure i can de-fluff my clothing whenever i land…
Voluntary retirement is a good thing, and i know i’m lucky. A volunteer board member i’ve worked with for a few years had retired in 2015, and his wife was planning her retirement last year. Fourteen weeks from her diagnosis with pancreatic cancer, he held her funeral. Fourteen weeks. And sometimes it’s quicker than that. i did not want to postpone joy… and i know i’m lucky that i had the option.
A few years ago, I found and then followed your blog and the more time goes by I realise that we have so many similarities, I am also Blue and Purple haired as I write, I am also 55 and have a semi retirement plan that has been in action for the past few years. My summers are spent working in the UK but are balanced with five months of winter travel, visiting from time to time my Scuba Instructor Boy or my married Girl and grandchild (who I nudged into careers I would enjoy in my later years) in their foreign homes.
I recently became animal free and three years ago made the transition from Motorbikes to a converted Hippy Chick mini bus that I take to Festivals all summer. I now ‘work’ as a Festival Story teller!
Over the years your Blog has inspired me, consoled me, helped me realise I’m not the only one out there with dreams and hang ups and I just wanted to say a HUGE Thank You and to wish you fabulous happiness in this next wonderful stage in your life x x x
If you haven’t grown up by the time you reach 50 …. you don’t have to!!
Love and Hugs
(Writer of ‘The Adventures of Kerriann’ that is usually at least 5 months behind!!)
Well dang, Kerriann… that was a surprise! i’m floored… You’re having a helluva time, i suspect! We’re hanging onto the motorcycles for a few more years, but a travel trailer is on the way to us… very inexpensive way to find adventure! We love festivals, and that’s part of the plan – camping from one place to the next as we explore more of the US than just the national parks and big cities!
Perhaps you’ll also feel inspired to update your blog – i’ll be sure it’s in my reader file! Would enjoy your tales of adventure! Sisters across the sea! ❤
God, how I envy you. I know it’s a challenge but I would love to never, ever work again. As I got older I started to realize that I’d be stuck doing unsatisfying work my whole life. I’m not one of the chosen ones. To ever have to face another work day again would be bliss. I’m sure it’s not perfect and that there are other horrors to face, but I think I’m ready for those horrors. Unfortunately, no end in sight.
I hope your kids are okay. I *do* think about them and where we left off on their story when we last spoke.
Oh, baby, i KNOW i’m lucky! Most of my friends figure they’ll have to work until they die, or can’t function any longer. This is a good gig… i will NEVER understand the old farts i used to work with who COULD retire, had enough money to enjoy a fine lifestyle, and yet felt so deeply defined by their careers that they wouldn’t consider retirement. That’s sad… but different strokes, i guess. i do not mean to complain about this transition – only trying to do the expository stuff since i’ve been gone awhile.
Kids are fine! Amazingly so… There’s a lot more to both of their stories, and i am beyond proud – they are both living lives of deliberate choice, and are thriving. Oh, andi ‘m a motherfucking GRANDMA?!?!? How’d THAT happen?
Shut. Up. For real?
Real. I’ll leave details for a future post… I’m “Gamma Fae”…
Yeah, the calendar. Now I look forward to meet ups, art classes, and therapy appointments. Otherwise my calendar is blank. Glad for electronic calendars that prod you, otherwise I would forget. Do it all now, girl, while you have the body and money for it. Looking forward to more of your adventures.
We are sharing a calendar – figuring if one of us misses something, that the other might see it before it’s too late! Vast majority of things are either fun events, medical appointments, or trips… can’t complain about the calendar content these days. Not putting things off… we have some serious physical adventures ahead of us, if we can get in shape. Turns out, walking is a pretty inexpensive way to travel! While we can… we know it’s only for now.
five different volunteer jobs – that seems like more than enough to occupy your time. For me that feeling of everyday being a free weekend day changed. It’s hard to describe what it changed into. I stay busy with stuff, hobbies, small projects and the grandkids. The biggest change for us (of course two vs. one does have it’s differences) was the tight budget and reducing cost by having one car. I often feel my wife doesn’t share the car very well. Now the strange thing is if the car is available I typically don’t use it. It has been less stressful. I really love slow mornings and not worrying about deadlines or meetings.
It’s a good bit of work… i’m officially chairman of a bike/ped advisory committee for my city, and still doing regional advocacy work for cycling. The refugee resettlement work has slowed down – because the refugees are not able to arrive at the rate they used to. Two other gigs are mostly seasonal, so it comes and goes… there’s a lot of fundraising in there, which also means fun events. Not terrible, and helps keep my brain a little less fuzzy!
The budget did tighten, too… we’ve both been saving frequent flier miles and hotel points, so that’ll help. Also doing more camping, as it’s cheaper than hotels! At least that’s the plan… and the cars… i currently have 3 cars and a motorcycle. That’s going to have to change. First to go will be the sportscar… and then i’ll fix up my old jeep and get that to my son in Colorado… but there’s a lot of work to do on that first…. cars are expensive to own and operate!
I turn 55 in a couple of weeks. I’ve not done the planning – I have no idea whether it is even something I could consider. Frankly I’m frightened to look – I always intended to retire in a couple of years time – late 50s seemed a good idea to me. Largely I suspect as my Dad died at 59, and like all my male antecedents (Dad, Uncles, Granddads etc.) that was not unusual – he clocked the most up getting to within a few months of 60 – no male in my family has ever made it to 60. So I’ve always thought I need to get out of work before then to have any retirement – my Dad only got a year or so in that was enforced via a redundancy when the government decided to kick him and 10,000 other buggers out of work from from the Dockyard.
Then I panic- I probably have no decent pension, I’ve moved about in my employment and now I’m only working part time – all will have hit my pension pots I know. I worry I could live to 90 and be in all sorts of financial hassle. If I could guarantee I’d died before 80 I could probably afford to retire now.
Anyway – kudos to you with the foresight to plan for it and trust to it.
i was where you are (in my head), thinking that it couldn’t be possible to just retire. Studley pressed me, and provided that magic planning tool — “you won’t know until you run the numbers”. He was right. Maybe a baby step for you would be to just figure out any possible sources of retirement income for you and Mrs. F and just make that list. You can add the numbers later… The other piece of it is expenses. And i wrangled with that longer… had to think through the costs of living the life i would want in retirement. Travel is important – especially given that between Studley and i, our four children are scattered around the globe.
i urge you not to panic when you haven’t sorted the data… i know it’s hard, but you may be preparing for a worst case scenario that isn’t close to reality!
What’s a job? 😉
My life is a zen exercise… i don’t think of work anymore, i just do things and when i do i like to think about how and the process and how it’s all just play and how play is art and how whatever i’m doing i should be fully vested and aware and enjoying (think cleaning the garage)… and if someday i have to do things that involve foreign concepts like timeclocks and benefits (or lack thereof) or quotas or performance reviews i will go about it the same way which i’ve come to realize i’ve always done, i believe it’s why those higher ups always were fond and confounded by my outlook and lack of ambition… time to pull more tubes.
You had it right from the start. Me? i defined a large part of myself by my career for at least 15 years of the 36 i worked for The Man. i was good at it, ran circles around many others, and delivered what was required. In hindsight, i recognize that as pure fucking ego on my part. It felt good to be a rock star. It felt good to do it without the requisite PhD (just an MS for ol’ daisyfae in the realm of Deep Science). It felt good to do it while married, and raising a family (because they said it couldn’t work). Ego. Nothing more.
i’ve now discarded much of that (there will always be ego). i like waking up, scratching my bits, and trying to be a bit useful to others here and there. i like hiking (a very inexpensive way to travel). i haven’t been home long enough since retirement to tackle those organizing projects (like the garage), but i’m looking forward to it. i have a vision, and it won’t cost much, and it will make the garage a happy place – kayak elevator anyone? Because why not?
GREAT TO SEE YOU BACK !! Your posts are so refreshingly honest.
the older i get, the less effective the filters become… still difficult to find time to write, but i’m at least within a few steps of the saddle, if not actually back in the damn thing!