Sunday, January 31, 2010
Friday, January 29, 2010
Wednesday, January 27, 2010
The Bag Lady is quiet today. She honors Art's career and his readiness to trade in past years of paid service to the local community for upcoming years of volunteer service, traveling, gardening, reading and learning - for whatever sounds like a good idea. And I have a "honey do" list in my head for the upcoming weeks during his recovery from surgery - the only requirement for a task is that Art not need his left hand to do it. For a couple of months, probably.
Our current budget has a line item for the gym ($52 a month for the two of us) and an item for circuit training ($120 a month for the two of us). This morning I checked out Senior Sneakers, a conditioning/fitness/strength training program offered at our local rec center for people over 60. It will be free for Art on Medicare and $3 a session for me. If we do the program three days a week - walking the two miles to the rec center and then back home - we'll be able to maintain and improve our fitness for much less money, and we'll have trainers and instructors who specialize in working with people 60 and over.
A good idea, I think. There was a time when I would have shied away from "senior" activities, but two years ago I ruptured my Achilles tendon working out with a young personal trainer. Maybe it was just a coincidence, but I think he might have overestimated the strength and elasticity of a 59-year-old Achilles tendon doing a lunge. Art and I want to stay active and fit, but using good judgment. So Senior Sneakers may be a good solution for us.
Tuesday, January 26, 2010
In the last week, though, I had a health scare. My vision changed suddenly one evening last week, and the changes lasted for days. I finally got a diagnosis this morning from an opthalmologist: vitreous detachment. It's a very common, normal part of the aging process. But in the days between its onset and today, it was frightening.
So another reason to leave work before I'm 65 is for myself, for my own enjoyment of life and travel. Seeing each day as fresh and full of possibilities. Enjoying whatever might come along.
I wouldn't say I'm glad for this experience, but I am glad for the learning!
Monday, January 25, 2010
Three weeks ago I finally asked HP (Higher Power) to give me insights on what to do. Then, when we were traveling in Turkey, two of my fellow travelers talked about how retirement was for them. And last Monday our financial planner said we're funded for retirement to live about like we do now. Still, I've been so fearful about finances I woke up in the middle of the night and said, "She doesn't know what she's talking about." This financial planner has been working with us for 15 years and she knows us and she knows our numbers. Of course she knows what she's talking about!
Here's a story about fear. I have always been afraid of heights. I knew when we were in Turkey in April on a Rick Steves tour that there would be an opportunity to take a hot air balloon ride. I had no interest in that AT ALL. Then, on the plane between Seattle and Amsterdam, I watched Jim Carrey's movie "Yes Man", about this guy who had a boring life because he always said no. He went to a seminar about saying yes and decided to always say yes. Needless to say, he had funny, crazy things happen, but his life got much better.
So on the first day of the tour, our Turkish guide said, "If you're considering taking the balloon ride, sign up." So I signed up for me and my husband Art. Then, four days later, when we were in Cappadocia, the guide said, "The balloon guy will be downstairs tonight at 5, for those of you who want to sign up." Remembering Jim, I signed us up.
I thought in a hot air balloon you'd go up high and hang there in the sky for an hour, thinking about how far down you'd fall if you fell out, or if the balloon popped and you fell. That didn't appeal to me at all. But that's not how it works. You drift gently, silently up. Then over the countryside. The pilot has a LOT of control over the balloon. We were sometimes ten feet above lovely hillside fields, descended into valleys with fantastic geological formations and old cave houses and lifted quietly out of them. There were a couple of times when we were too high for my comfort, so I looked down at my feet during that time.
What I learned from this experience is that if I leave my job, or if I rely upon HP - in other words, if I say "yes", it's not going to be a high, terrifying flight - it's going to be full of possibilities for new exploration, for spending time on my interests and passions, for being of service. Maybe a part-time job, maybe volunteerism, maybe trading houses with another family for a year, maybe joining Americorps.
If I say "no", I get to stay on the ground and never change how I look at the world.
January 22, 2010
We’re in our second week of a two-week visit to Sedona. We come here every other year in January to get out of the Pacific Northwest weather. In Week One the weather was seasonably comfortable – sunny, with temps in the upper 50s during the day. Art and I took four short hikes in the red rock country. I was gratified to confirm I still love to hike – though I’m still afraid to walk on a trail where there’s a drop-off to one side. Those cliff magnets are alive and well, waiting for their moment to suck me over the edge.
On Monday it started to rain and I came down with a bad cold. It is now Friday, the rain alternates with snow, and my cold is coming along as I expected. Arizona has experienced record rainfall this week, plus tornado warnings and, last night, a flood warning in Sedona. We’d been advised by the resort that we might be evacuated to the hotel up the hill. Oak Creek is 20 yards from our back patio. We watched throughout the evening as the water rose. Each of us packed a bag we could take. I was not fearful at all. We had a plan and I knew we could carry it out. In the early morning hours, the flood warning was cancelled, so we never got the knock on the door or the phone call from the authorities.
Why does an actual physical flood warning not bother me? Why do I say, when I catch a cold, “Oh, well, I’ll be uncomfortable for a couple of days and I’ll be fine within a week”? These are real events, and I take them in stride. But when Bag Lady says, “You don’t have enough money to ever retire”, I freeze up in fear. She and the cliff magnets must be buddies.
January 21, 2010
I’m having a bag lady day in my mind.
It’s mostly about money, I’m thinking. Though my friend Sharon says my bag lady is a state of mind, that I’m actually carrying baggage from my past that causes my logical thinking to freeze up from time to time.
My mind’s bag lady wakes up when I have a conversation about finances with retired friends. I’ve tracked every item in our budget for years, so I know where we can cut costs without affecting our lifestyle. For example, I’ve had a triple tall mocha espresso nearly every morning for ten years. At $3.50 a day, that’s an item that can be replaced by a coffeemaker on our kitchen sink. And if we find we don’t use the local gym once we’ve stopped working, we can cancel our membership. As it is now, we keep that membership active because you never know when we might be in the mood to go to the gym. I can pare down our expenses, line item by line item. On the other hand, I buy most of my clothes from Chico’s and LLBean. I know I won’t need as many when I’m no longer working, but I don’t want to switch to shopping at WalMart and Value Village. Embarrassing, but true.
Another piece of my bag lady’s thoughts is my age. At 61, even if I want to return to the work world, I might not be able to find a job - either in my field or elsewhere. Or maybe the only thing I’ll be able to find is work as a receptionist in a hair salon - my nightmare of the worst job in the world.
What if I give up a job I know well, with its attendant good salary and benefits, then find I should have stayed there for another three-plus years until I’m 65 and eligible for full pension benefits and Medicare? It would be safer, for sure. My husband Art and I have decided to live for the next three years on his three pensions and a small percentage of our investments. We haven’t ever lived under these circumstances, or on this amount of money. And I have never been financially dependent on him. What will that look like, and how will it feel?
“The experts” differ on how much of our pre-retirement income we’ll need after we stop working. Estimates I’ve read vary between 70 and 120 percent. I’m hoping it’s closer to 70.
January 20, 2010
I’m afraid of heights - and of being a bag lady.
I’m quitting my job on June 25 of this year, after 20 years with this company and another 10 or so before that working other places. The world of work is familiar – my way of being useful and of bringing home the money for my life. But my work mantra today – and for most days for the past year – is, “I’m done.”
I am so ready for the no-alarm awakenings and open days, for the exploration of new interests. Everyone I know who’s already retired says I’ll love it.
But I am also scared. What if I get bored? Usually, by the end of a two-week vacation, I’m ready to get back to work, to my scheduled days and crammed to-do list. Time on my hands sometimes leads to ponderings about the meaning of life and mortality and a vague wish I’d taken some other road on my life’s journey – without the slightest idea of what that road might have been, and without any significant disenchantment with the path I actually traveled. What if that happens and I have no reassuring morning destination to muffle my mental quests?
It’s like I’m on the precipice of the next part of my life journey. And, as I said, I’m afraid of heights.
This bag lady business is weird. My friends say it’s impossible I could ever become a bag lady. I’ve got too much energy, they say – too many interests, too much enthusiasm. Besides, they remind me, I’ve planned the finances of quitting work so completely - witness innumerable spreadsheet scenarios all attesting to a reasonable degree of financial security. You don’t have to worry about being a bag lady, my friends assure me, chuckling.
Still, I’m afraid of heights. And of being bag lady.
Over the next 365 days I’ll be in exploration mode.