A while back I referred to retirement as a journey. This journey will last the rest of your life. Since nobody knows how long that is, let’s say 30 years. Retirement won’t likely be the same for you 10 years from now, regardless of where you are in your journey. There will be phases that arise from your circumstances. One plan won’t do it all.
Retirement’s first step
A journey of 30 years still begins with one step. Your retirement from work is the first step into the initial phase. The memories of your career go into a box. You might even get a party. A lot of paper-signing goes with leaving the workforce, rearranging your finances and saying goodbye to most of your associates at the job.
Once that’s done, you’re retired. You have passed a big milestone, a life-changing event. And now the process of being retired begins with a lot of learning and rearranging yourself. Retiring is ranked right up there with moving, losing a loved one, and major illness as a possible source of stress.
When the job goes, it leaves a lot of possibilities in its place. You’re no longer tied down to your location due to a job. You have 40 hours plus commuting time every weekday to fill with other activities. You are no longer supposed to be somewhere. People who relied on you are relying on someone else now. This can get disconcerting quickly.
Look around at where you are
Sitting here at R-minus-19 months, I realized recently that although a lot will change when my job ends, a lot won’t. We will still be living where we live, at least for now. I will still be a member of various organizations that help fill my time. And I’ll have time to just be myself and not have to consider 20 other people’s lives and arrangements any more.
And yet, my income will come from Social Security and savings, not a paycheck. To cushion that shock, I have started this blog. It’s not only to stay busy with, but will also need to generate some income. Although I have to admit, with a blog to take care of, I have very little time or inclination to shop!
For my part, I think I will need to get used to the idea of being retired for a while before trying anything too fancy. Then I will see where I am on my journey and do a plan or two that fits. But for now I have some ideas.
Traveling in retirement
A lot of people like to travel when they first retire, if they have the money. A cousin of mine makes the rounds among her kids and some friends every year and occasionally she and her husband go on a special trip. Last year they cruised Norway.
Another relative and her husband went Airstreaming. They bought an Airstream trailer and joined a club whose members traveled the country and met up every so often in various locations. At these meetings they had parties, photography contests and cookouts. They lived happily in the Airstream till they got too tired to keep up.
My husband and I met in Europe, in the service. We got a lot of travel in when we were younger. Now that the arthritis is setting in, we’d rather minimize the traveling. I still fly some places to visit the few remaining relatives; we drive to see his. That seems to be enough for us.
Moving in retirement
As for deciding where to live, if you have a place to live when you retire, you don’t have to move right away if you don’t want to. My grandparents lived in their family home till shortly before my grandfather died. Cleaning that place out and downsizing Grandpa into an assisted living studio apartment turned into quite the rodeo.
So if you are downsizing and moving, good for you! I expect our downsizing to begin when I am no longer working and spread out over a couple of years. I want not to be levering 40-year-old paperwork out of desk drawers with a knife when I hit 80 and realize the house is too big to keep.
One intriguing idea, that of living abroad, keeps coming back to tease me. A friend and her husband have had enough travel in the States. The grandchildren grew up and the winters here got too cold, so now my friend and her husband put their house up for sale. When they sell they are going to Mexico to live for a while. They’ve rented down there and have a good idea what they want.
It’s said that places exist where Americans of modest means can live well on what they have. It seems, however, that these places are hot. To this former resident of Florida, that means roaches you can saddle and ride. Humidity that will rust a coffee grinder dead in its tracks. Allergens out the wazoo. In short, no place to have a hobby based on making things of animal fibers. And no place for an allergic Yankee whose top comfortable temperature is 68F.
Let’s not worry too much.
Fortunately, everyone is different. Choices abound. And we don’t have to decide everything at once. It’s a little like graduating from high school. Everyone wanted to know what you were going to do with your life then. As if you knew.
Remember how you were supposed to have a plan? You had to tell the world what college major you would pursue in order to become whatever. Or have a job waiting, or vocational training lined up. If you did and it worked, good for you! Some of us went from one thing to another instead, and had some interesting times.
Retirement planning nowadays generally means putting together one’s finances in order to fund the next 30 or so years of life. And we all can’t have a cool million stashed away. So maybe some flexibility and creativity will be needed. We may not know exactly how we are to proceed. We certainly don’t have a crystal ball.
There’s nothing wrong with not knowing exactly what comes next right away. It’s better if you have a clear idea of what you consider important in life and use that in your plans. If you are guided by what’s important to you, you will find your way through the various phases that develop in your retired life. And if you can be reasonably happy with that, then that is success.
What is important to you as you retire? Do you have a plan sketched out as to what to include in your life now?