There is a word that seems to be coming up more frequently around my house...Retirement! Since moving here 10 years ago, I have struggled when I'm asked to check the box for 1) employed 2) unemployed 3) retired. I left my job when we moved here and after a few interviews, we decided that if I started over at a new job here, it would really mess things up for our family. My husband has more vacation time than we use, I wanted to be able to see my daughter first at college and then in Florida and I wanted to be available for my parents if they needed me...which at one point, they did for several months. I couldn't check the "retired" box, because I still feel as if I haven't had my last job and I don't feel old enough to be retired. Unemployed sounded as if I was looking but couldn't find a job. I have had no definition of myself for 10 years!
My husband on the other hand has worked for the same company since he graduated from college. We change towns, he changes positions, but the company has remained the same (sort of, except it was bought out and the name changed). For him, that means 37 years of doing basically different aspects of the same job. When we were young he said he was going to retire at 55. Well, that didn't happen. We didn't even discuss it. At 25, we thought at 55 we would be debt free, own our home free and clear, have our retirement/vacation home purchased and paid for and so on. HaHa. Life happens and none of those things did!
Now, he will be turning 60 in February. Many of the peers that he has worked with for decades have retired, are retiring or are certainly thinking about it. We also have a child we never get to see. Most of you know that my daughter and I have the best relationship and plain and simple, we don't like seeing each other only a couple times of year. The fact that she is starting to talk about children makes me want to be closer to her even more. So, it comes up almost daily around here. My husband seems to be starting conversations with "when I retire..." and I seem to be starting conversations with "how are we going to..."? There is no official date set, but we know that it is coming and I am really struggling with the concept for various reasons, even though the result is exactly what I have wanted for years!
Because I am a woman, I tend to associate events with the wardrobe that goes with them (did I lose you on the subject change...stay with me). When my grandparents retired (at 65), I had never seen my grandmother in a pair of pants. She wore skirts and blouses, hose and pumps...around the house, every day. Sadly, my grandmother died unexpectedly a few months after my grandfather retired and they never really lived their dream retirement, although my grandfather enjoyed 24 years of golf trips and travel.
My grandmother, a few days before she died.
She looks like my image of retirement.
My parents retired at 61 and 63. Picturing my mother at the time of their retirement, it was culotte skirts to the knee with various blouses and t-shirts unless she was in a bathing suit. A successful career, some lucky real estate choices and smart planning let them live their dream on the water in Florida. My dad even got the yacht he had dreamed of. They had 20 great years filled with travel, friends and a life in paradise. Dad is still going strong 24 years after he retired. In fact, he was here last week...and drove about 3000 miles round trip. They loved retirement.
My dad, last week. At 87, he looks many years
younger than my grandmother did at 66.
My in-laws retired a more "traditional" way. They downsized into a small house. They didn't do much traveling, but they stayed busy with church activities and my father-in-law's love of buying and selling antiques. They spent much more time at home in "their chairs" watching television and reading. I picture my mother-in-law in knit pants or jeans with a blouse and sweater. She got her hair done weekly and was active in her church circle. They were generous, but on a fixed income, their retirement was centered around their home. Again, a different kind of retirement, but they seemed content.
So here we are. Talking about retirement. It looks like I will still be in my 50's and still paying on some college expenses of my kid's. I listen to Top 40 music and my wardrobe of choice is jeans and flip-flops. Unlike my father, who retired from the same company my husband works for, we don't get our insurance free after retirement. We will be paying around $700 a month for several years. Unlike the generations before us, our savings will not be making that 10% interest we were led to believe it would. I remember my mom saying once that their interest and dividends was their "fun money". Well at today's interest rates, fun might have to be redefined. There is no vacation home purchased and we will have to sell a house to buy one. The calculators we have started to play around with ask the question, "how long do you plan to live"? Seriously, are we supposed to have the answer to that?
My husband seems to become more relaxed as he considers the fact that this event is on our horizon. I get more tense. I think of my grandmother dying so soon after retirement and that scares me. I think of the rest of our parents living so long (and how blessed we are that they did) that if we live that long we will be homeless and starving in our 80's. As we start to research and see the topics of long-term care insurance, when to take social security, tax rates on retirement income and the prices of financial planners...I am overwhelmed and confused. It all is very complicated and makes me feel so much older than I think I am. I swear what ages people after retirement is worrying about all the aspects of being retired!
All I know is that what I still picture as retired people, isn't us. I still picture gray hair and skirts, rocking chairs and constant talk about medical problems and living on a fixed income. Then I look around at my friends who have done it. I see healthy couples on long bike trips, hiking, traveling, volunteering, starting new businesses, going back to school and having fun together. I don't see anyone sitting in a rocking chair or standing on a street corner asking for food. So, maybe it can be done. Flip-flops, blue jeans, rock & roll and all.
I am accepting any and all advice from those of you who have done it!