This past week, several of my co-workers have had to deal with sick children at home. They have had to shuffle daycare, job and marriage responsibilities. As I observed a colleague’s daughter “working” with her in the office because there was no school (her dad was at home with her 3 brothers), I remembered the years Merle and I did that kind of juggling. As I think about it, I am really not sure how we pulled it off. Three kids, school, jobs, unemployment, flu, colds, meningitis, summer vacations, teacher workshops, daycare, babysitters, family members who filled in for caregivers. It is mostly a blur.
We made it.
The kids turned out well despite the craziness.
And the years flew by.
Now retirement is within sight.
Our working years will be coming to an end soon. Our identities, tied into our jobs, will be changing. There are decisions that need to be made, and there are no easy answers to the many questions which arise.
Where will we live?
How much money do we need?
What do we want to do with our time?
When should we “pull the trigger” as one friend called it?
My job has an early retirement option. I could retire now. Merle could have retired several years ago. Many of our friends and relatives have already retired.The list of people we know who live in Florida and Arizona over the winter months grows longer every year. My address book is filled with the snow birds’ double bookings. My calendar is all marked up with the various spring return dates. I’m getting a little jealous.
But Merle loves his job, and I still need a few more years to obtain a retirement amount that is reasonable. Early retirement equals monthly benefits which are substantially reduced…not much of an incentive there. So we are only in the talking stage. But we have been talking about it a lot.
It recently hit me that I have about 20 more years of what I can reasonably expect to be “active” years ahead of me. After that…..well, chances are I won’t be making my own life choices. Twenty more years doesn’t sound like a lot of time to me, so we have been trying to figure out the best way to go forward.
The biggest issue we are discussing right now is “What do we want?”
In fact, to be more accurate, it is really a question of what do I want. Merle is pretty clear as to his wishes. He wants things. He wants a bright yellow sports car and a boat. He wants more cows.
I realized that I cannot think of anything—meaning any thing—that I truly want. When I consider what I want for my retirement years, I think of the type of life I want rather than things I want. This is a major difference between Merle and me which we have struggled with throughout our relationship. Even though I don’t see our retirement with a canary yellow Corvette (I mean how would I get in or out of it? It would not be pretty.), perhaps we can compromise. I am not sure how it will work out in the end, but I decided that I’d better make a list of what I would like when I am retired even if I make the list only for myself.
Here is my list for the next 20 or so years:
1. Live in a smaller space. Yes downsizing is on the top of my list. I could have sold this large house a few years ago and been happy. This would also include getting rid of lawn and home maintenance. Even though he has acknowledged that I am right about this, Merle loves this place and he is not ready to sell it.
2. My children and grandchildren. My life needs to be within a few hours’ drive or plane ride from my family. They may disagree, but my life has to have the option to be with them on a somewhat regular basis.
3. No horrible winters. I can take snow. I can also deal with cold weather. I’ve lived in Minnesota almost my entire life. But I don’t want to deal with snow and cold for 6 months of the year, and not to the point that it is dangerous to be outdoors. My dream is to be able to do a VRBO or something similar to that in a warm place over the winter months.
4. Good health. It is likely that I will need access to health care over the next several years. I hope to be able to be mobile enough to keep up with the grandkids (I’ve had one knee replacement and will soon need another).
5. Friends. I have never had a lot of friends. I’m just not that kind of person. But I have several friends whom I’ve known for many years. I want to be able to continue those relationships. Whether via personal contact, blogging, emails, or whatever new technology options become available, I need to keep these people in my life.
6. Travel. This is on almost everyone’s list, isn’t it? I love to travel. Road trips are my favorite, but if possible, I want to do more travel abroad. I have a plan for several small trips this year, and to travel abroad in 2016. Looking forward to a trip makes me happy. The trip itself is enjoyable. Looking back on a trip is almost the best part. And a trip with those friends or family noted above would make it even better.
7. Work. I know. It is retirement, right? Why would I want to work? I just can’t imagine a life without someplace to go, without something to do on some sort of schedule. A part-time job, or even volunteering with a non-profit or small business would be perfect. I could see myself in a small indie bookstore, or volunteering with teenagers or small children.
Is it too much to hope for all of this? I feel lucky to be in the position of trying to figure out a life in retirement. It is a first world problem.
Now all I have to do is make it through the next few years in order to retire.