More than a paycheck

When my husband retired a little over a year ago, he quickly realized that many of the things he took for granted over the 40+ years he was in the corporate world were no longer easily available to him. You might think this realization could probably be placed in the “No Duh” file, but I can imagine, until one actually makes the jump from working full-time one day to not working at all the next, it’s impossible to anticipate all of the changes to come.

In addition to the easy social network that is left behind (several post topics in itself), problem-solving help, IT assistance, data, and other useful information that used to be a stroll to another cubicle or simple phone call away, are no longer as accessible. Because he was employed by a pretty large corporation (where I continue to work), he probably had more resources than many who work in smaller companies – surely more than those who are self-employed. But, I imagine that many new retirees from companies of just about any size not only miss their work friends but also the perks of shared resources.

One of the largest gaps in our knowledge base involves things technological. We own three computers, two smart phones, and one tablet, and, as long as things are working smoothly, we are fine. As soon as we experience a glitch, we are lost (for instance, just recently, the “back” button on my desktop mysteriously stopped working for the most part and I have no idea how to fix it). I am savvy enough to know that I can often find the answer to my latest puzzlement by Googling my problem in the form of a question. Unfortunately, just as often, rather than the simple answer I was hoping for, I find that my limited technological knowledge doesn’t include what is necessary to understand the solution.

As long as I continue to work, I’ll have fairly easy access to people who can help solve whatever IT problem we throw at them. When I join my husband in retirement, we will either need to put the Geek Squad on permanent retainer, or find a bright 15-year-old in the neighborhood that we can bribe with treats in exchange for help.

So, what are you doing?

Reunion Pic1_PS

Last night I attended my 40th high school reunion. It was a little overwhelming to be surrounded by so many classmates that I’ve lost touch with over the years. I can count on two hands (and have a few fingers left over) the number of friends from back then that I still see even on a semi-regular basis. Of course Facebook “friends” add more to that number, but those contacts consist of periodic updates, not what I’d classify as actual relationships.

Although it was tempting – and would have been easier for me, an introvert in intense social situations – to spend most of the evening among friends I am still in contact with, I found myself drawn to those that I didn’t know very well in school. By venturing out of my comfort zone, I discovered quite a few classmates that weren’t in my circle of friends back then, but who I now wish I had known better over the years.

When we were in high school, I’ll wager that most of us wouldn’t have been able to predict what we would be doing 40 years later. Not only were we not fully-formed human beings capable of picking our adult careers, many of the jobs we hold now didn’t even exist then. Hopefully, our definition of a desirable mate has advanced past the low bar many of us set back then. What we did for “fun” back then probably would bore, or in some cases horrify, our adult selves.

I loved hearing about what my former classmates are currently doing. Many of them are working at interesting jobs; several were retired or, like me, close to retirement; some had avocations that were much more interesting and fulfilling than their vocations.

When invariably I was asked “so, what are you doing?” I found myself at a bit of a loss. I have a great job, but it’s hard to describe well in a few sentences. Besides, I won’t be doing it anymore in a few months. I wish I had been able to talk about an exotic trip I had taken recently, a cause I was lending my time to, or maybe an artistic journey I was in the middle of.

So, what am I doing? I’m focused on creating a new life in retirement; a life that is active, interesting, fulfilling, and one that will give me a lot to draw from when someone asks me what I’m doing.

Being “Rich” Then, and Being “Rich” Now

This coming weekend, my high school class will be holding our 40th reunion.  Although I missed our 30th (I was busy getting married that weekend), I have attended the others, including a hastily put together 35th held at a local bar.

Because this is a big one, it is being held at a yacht club located in the same community in which I grew up. I was never a member of this yacht club – or any other yacht club – but I had friends who were.

I grew up smack dab in the middle of the kids who came from very rich families and those whose families were struggling.  Although I remember admiring the beautiful homes and bountiful wardrobes of my better off friends, I don’t remember resenting them for what they had.  Nor do I remember them treating me differently because of my lack of societal status.  I’m sure I didn’t get invited to certain events, but either I didn’t know about them or I didn’t care.

I also had friends from families facing economic challenges, whether they were from struggling single-parent homes (which were much less common in the 70’s), or who had parents (usually just the father back then) that faced unemployment or underemployment.  Just as with my better off friends, as long as we all liked each other and had similar interests, we were pretty agnostic about each other’s social and economic status.

I understand that this was just my experience. I’m sure others experienced hostility, bullying, or the pain of feeling like an outsider.  Maybe because I was lucky enough to have good solid family unit that was neither rich nor poor, my memory of my high school years is, for the most part, positive, and my circle of friends fairly economically diverse.

My expectation is that the forty years since graduation will be a great equalizer.  Certainly many of my financially well-off friends, whether because of their own hard work or the luck of their birth, will still be well off (and probably members of the yacht club). I think, though, that there will be a lot of surprises. As we get older (and, hopefully wiser), being rich, poor, or somewhere in between, may be less a description of the money we have in our bank accounts, and more a description of our health and happiness.  Using this barometer, I hope we are all rich beyond the wildest dreams of our younger selves.

Picking a Date

Unlike many people, I don’t have what I’d call a precipitating event that will set my retirement date in stone; I’m not reaching a magical age, my health is great (thank goodness), my job is as secure as any these days. I am lucky enough to be in the position of choosing to retire, and to retire relatively young. The only problem with this flexibility is that the date is fungible. Setting a timeline that is so far in the future doesn’t feel real. Earlier this year, I identified September as the month. September and October are often two of the nicest months weather-wise where I live. Not too hot, not yet cold and most of the tourists are gone. Yes, September is it!

So now, it’s the second week of September and I’m not only still working, I plan on working through December. I don’t remember actually changing my mind about leaving in September, but, as someone once said, “sometimes not to decide is to decide.” I just let enough time slip by so I could no longer give my work the several months notice I want to, and I didn’t do what I needed to do to mentally prepare for such a big change.

I have now identified the end of January as “the date.” Why? Several reasons come to mind. 1) January is my birth month and I can’t think of a better present to give myself; 2) My husband is making noises about wanting to travel (yay!) and I want to go with him; 3) I just found out that a co-worker is pregnant and due in March. When she went out on maternity leave with her first child, my “dream” job became more like a nightmare. I didn’t have the bandwidth to do both of our jobs so I started to stress out and to dread coming in every day. This had never happened to me before in this position and I vowed at the time never to experience it again.

The joy of a new baby has become a huge precipitating event that has pushed me into making a decision… just what I needed! I will be retired by January 31, 2014; well before the baby arrives so I can train my replacement and slip away without guilt.

There, it’s in writing and you are my witness.

What happened in your life to help transition you from the career world to retirement? If you aren’t retired yet, what is going to help you decide when to “pull the cord”?

Finding my Passion(ette)

I am lucky enough to have several women in my life who seem to live with passion. I’m not sure that they’d be able to pick just one thing as their “passion,” but, what they do; they do with an intensity, commitment and joy that is pure magic.

I’m not one of those women.

I have many interests but no real passion that I know of (I guess, by definition, I’d know if I had a passion). I enjoy art, but I’m not a natural artist. I love to get lost in a good book, but can reading really be a passion, or is it more of lovely pastime? I like to ride my bike, but not the way my husband does; I enjoy working up a sweat cruising around the bay… but it’s more the people-watching and scoping out the beautiful homes and scenery that I’m after. I’m happy with 20 – 25 miles; he isn’t satisfied with fewer than 60. We’ve talked about getting kayaks, and I think that would be a fun sport/hobby, but I’m not sure I’ll find my passion there.

I’m pretty sure that actively searching for a passion is a fool’s errand. I think a true passion is something that has been dreamed about and focused on since childhood, or at least well before the age of retirement, or a passion is something that suddenly grabs ahold of someone when they are busy doing something else (such as discovering and getting deeply involved in a cause that speaks to your soul).

So, while I’m waiting and hoping for my passion to grab ahold of my heart and shake up my world, there are many enjoyable “passionettes” out there to explore. Even if nothing ever comes along that I would call a true passion; I’ll still be having a great time and, I hope, finding ways to challenge myself mentally or physically, or both.

Do you have a true passion (or passions)? If so, how do you feel when you can devote all of your energy to it? If not, are you at least making the time to do the things that you love?

Here I go…

In about five months, I will join my husband in retirement. We live in coastal southern California, a place we are lucky to call home already – no need to downsize and move to warmer climes!

Although I’m very excited to enter this new phase of my life, I’d be lying if I said that I not just a little bit apprehensive. I have a really good job, working for a really great company. My one-way commute is less than 4 miles. My co-workers are very nice people and I am a significant part of a well-running team. Unfortunately, working part time at my current job is not an option.

So, why am I retiring? Well, I want to, and fortunately, I can. Over the past year, I have left the house each morning knowing that my husband had a day of unstructured bliss ahead of him. Now, he would argue that all is not bliss and that he does have a schedule (eat breakfast, exercise, projects, lunch, nap, outings on his road bike with his riding buddy, etc.), and I have to agree that he is no sloth. But, I am most envious of all the “me time” he has. And I want it too.

Two days over a weekend are just not enough for me. Some of it is taken up by errands, some with projects, some with house stuff, some with couple stuff. There is not a lot of time left over just for me.

I am starting this blog for several reasons. 1) I had originally declared (to myself, my husband, and my financial planner) that I would be leaving this year… in September… at the end of this month. I chickened out and I’m not sure why, other than it’s very different to say I’m going to do something in abstract versus actually doing it. Stepping off the cliff, even though I might see a lovely deep pool of water below – and I know that many have dived in before and have entered the water safely and happily (and I can see them swimming around contently), is still hard. I hope that putting my intent down on paper, albeit virtual paper will make it more real for me, and therefore more of a commitment. 2) I want to explore the idea of being retired and what that will mean to me. As much as spending my days reading, gardening, and relaxing sounds really great now, I’m pretty sure doing that every day will get old fast. I don’t have an obvious “passion” to pursue like golfing, grandchildren, music, etc., but I do have a lot of things I am interested in. Some of my interests could lead me to joining groups or clubs of like-minded people, some may lead me to taking classes, some to volunteering, some (like focusing on my health) to just getting off my butt and doing what needs to be done. 3) I want to consider what this big change in my life could – and will – affect my relationship with my husband. We approach many things differently. He is an engineer by training, and I have spent most of my working life in marketing. These two careers attract very different people. Now that we won’t be focused on our careers but focused on each other (or, at least existing in close quarters much of every day), will our different personalities meld well? I love him dearly, but his “interest” in what I am doing can feel a lot like supervising to me. My “relaxing” – reading a book, poking around on the computer – probably looks sloth-like and unproductive to him. Should I start saving up for couples counseling just in case?