For many years, I did not consider retiring because I really loved working. Without work, it was a mystery how I would fill my time. But I gave it serious thought as I approached sixty-six, full retirement age for Social Security. That rather big number gets you thinking about how many healthy years you may have left. My husband was totally on board with retirement and preceded me by four months. I retired on December 31, 2016.
My plan for retirement was to continue ballroom dancing, which we have done for several years, and to travel while still healthy enough to enjoy it. The problem with travel, as we have done in the past, is that it is quite expensive. We could take a few trips during the year, but there would be lots of down time at home. When we discovered that we liked teardrop camping, it enabled us to fill the time with a cool activity. As an inexpensive way to travel, it would allow us to go as much as we wanted. I was actually excited about taking the retirement plunge.
This first year of retirement has gone by quickly. I feared that I would be bored and I have been at times. I have certainly not felt as productive as when I was working, but overall, it has been good for me.
My Greatest Fear
I love my husband dearly, but must confess: I had concerns about us being together 24/7. When we first married, we got along great until it was time to take a vacation. For the first few years, we had a lot of arguments while vacationing. That leveled out after a few years and we usually had great vacations. Being together all the time, though, was a little scary.
Now that we have a year under our belt, I can honestly say that it was much easier than expected. We do annoy each other occasionally, but I can’t think of anyone with whom I would rather spend time. I think our success comes from my need to express my irritation as it arises and his willingness to hear it. Can’t you imagine what a joy it is being married to me?
A Change in Income
I believe all who think about retirement worry about whether they will have enough money. My first employer had a retirement plan in place and it provided a beginning of retirement funding at a young age. As I changed employers (a few times in my career), I saved a significant portion of my salary in the retirement plans offered. I was fortunate to work for organizations that also made generous contributions to their plans. Still, you worry about abandoning that steady paycheck. I have been relieved to see that we have been financially comfortable this year. We were able to do everything we wanted without having to worry about money. It helps that we have a relatively simple lifestyle and have always preferred to live below our means.
We did spend a good bit more than anticipated on healthcare. My husband and I had much more illness this year than ever before. An October 2017 post, “Retirement: in Sickness and in Health” describes some of our challenges.
My concern going forward is the financial stability of our current sources of income. The stock market has been good for us for several years now, but that is certainly no guarantee for the future. Social Security and Medicare are also important to our financial stability they are to all Americans.
Time with Family
Retirement has enabled us to have more time available to be with family, which is important to us. We feel that we can be there as much as they need or want us to be. We have a son who lives several hundred miles away that we were able to see more because we have more time to travel. We attended a grandchild’s soccer events that we likely would have attended anyway, but it would have been more challenging while working. Our daughter had surgery. We would have been there anyway, but not working made it easier.
We have always strived to make time for family, so we have not greatly exceeded the amount of time that has occurred in the past. Our children love us, but they don’t want or need to spend a ton of time with us because they have busy lives of their own. I think they like that we are keeping busy and not just sitting home waiting for them to visit. My hope is that we can stay healthy and not be a burden to them.
My much younger sister passed away suddenly this year. She had lupus for many years, but it was still a shock. We were not as close as I would have liked. There was a large difference in age and we had different mothers, but I wish I had made more of an effort. It does give me some comfort that we got together for a family lunch not long before she died. It saddens me that she left a husband and two sons who are young adults. Her passing is a stark reminder of how fragile our lives are.
Recreation—Our Dance Groups
Ballroom dance is well represented in our area and we are members of a dance club, and two dance groups. This has given us abundant opportunities to dance to live bands and associate with wonderful people. We have been dancing for approximately five years but, I am sad to say, our skills have been declining. My husband has a bad knee, which limits our activity. We also may go several weeks with no dancing and what you don’t use, you lose. I think that goes double for dancing! It is still fun to dress up and spend an evening with great friends dancing—as best we can.
We were blessed with an abundance of wonderful trips this first year. We took a cruise with friends to the Western Caribbean in January. What a great way to begin retirement in that cold, dreary month!
Most of our travel was in our tiny trailer and each trip was special in its own way. The teardrop camping was more than just travel though. It challenged us to adapt to new circumstances and ways of doing things. It offered us a way to actively work toward the common goals of figuring out how to do this type of camping and to have good trips.
For me, the planner in our family, time was spent researching where to go and what to do when we got there. Blogging about our adventures offered technology challenges and a creative outlet. There is also a bit of work before and after each trip.
Road trips were also a part of our year with trips to Houston, Texas; Redington Shores, Florida; and Monroeville, Alabama. They were great fun as well.
Healthy Lifestyle Efforts
One thing that I adore about retirement is the ability to get enough sleep. I believe I was sleep deprived for most of my working years and to be able to sleep as long as I want is such a luxury.
We go to the gym most weekdays and it sets a bit of a routine for us. I have been doing Body Pump and Spin classes for many years and have been able to add a session or two a week in retirement. The exercise helps so much to keep my back from hurting and my energy level up. Also, exercise is a great stress reliever, which I think has helped to make us both easier to live with.
We try to eat healthy and succeed a good bit of the time, but significant weight loss eludes me. Perhaps next year.
Our yard was devastated last year by poor weed control by our lawn service and drought. We must have pulled a million weeds! There has also been a lot of soil erosion because of flooding from neighboring yards. Though mostly ignorant to gardening methods, I designed and we installed a rain garden. It was moderately successful. I have a post prepared, but have not yet published it. I was definitely out of my element!
We also had our family room painted and replaced some of the furnishings. Though we are Maw Maw and Paw Paw, we don’t want our house to look the part.
A Missing Piece
I would like to find some way to do something on a routine basis to help others. I do not want a job that would limit our flexibility to travel, but it would be nice to find a way to use my skills and abilities in a way that benefits others. I know there are many ways a person can volunteer, but I would love to find something for which I could feel passion. I worked for years and felt I was really making a difference in my small piece of the world and want to feel that same sense of fit in my retirement efforts. I will have to search for that answer.
Wishing Everyone a Wonderful 2018!