Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Long Term Plans- Positioning For Retirement(Part I)

Traditionally, I am not a goals person. Regular readers of this blog know this well. I tend to be a seat of the pants kind of person, making a few loose commitments and playing life by ear. It's not that I don't like to be "doing" or "going", it's just that I don't like to commit to doing so far in advance. This is true whether its creating items to sell, working around the house, even travel.

That said, the time has come for me to make some long term plans.  Time to make a one year plan and a five year plan, if you will.  Why do this, you may ask?  The short answer is, because I am that seat of the pants person much of my life. To borrow an overused phrase, it's time to "position myself" and take the steps to get me there.  I need to know that I can do and have the things that are important to me, without worrying about how I will get there.  I also need a life with more time for me, and less time for house and it's maintenance (physical and financial).

To that end, I have made one major decision, from which all others will lead, if you will.  The bottom line is that it's not reasonable to keep this house in the long term. At this point in my life a "paid off house" is probably not in my future, at least at this location. I love my house. However, the maintenance is too much (both in terms of physical and financial cost). I am not a do it yourselfer, although I am learning new skills all the time. While I love so called traditional home making skills (sewing, canning, many other things), I don't love cleaning my 2400 square foot home or making repairs on it. I don't love (and cannot handle) maintaining the lawn, and eventually my unemployed child will find a job and I will have to pay to have someone else do it. Most importantly, I don't love the fact that my housing costs (mortgage, taxes, homeowners) is between a third and half of my income (without the extra income streams).That's before maintenance, improvements and replacement costs.  This does not mean that I will sell my house tomorrow. It does mean that I am investigating a sale within the next year, and that anything above basic maintenance for said house is not on my radar. Ideally, I would like to clean up my credit and have a years worth of quilting income (as shown on a tax return) before I take the next step. It means that I am concentrating on downsizing, organization and perhaps even placing other bills and debt above the house. Remember, I'm in the first investigational/planning stage here.

While I enjoy the things I do for extra income, and they have in some cases been incorporated into my lifestyle, I don't want to HAVE to do them. I certainly don't want to HAVE to do them until I am 70. At the same time, I want to be comfortable. If I want to take off for a couple weeks, I want to be able to tell myself yes. If my church has a mission to Honduras again (where everyone pays their own travel expenses) I want to say yes.  While I have had financial disaster the past few years, I am blessed to have a regular, guaranteed income each month (pension and social security),  extremely good health care and family and friends. I would prefer to base my life and lifestyle on these givens, rather than maybes.  This does not mean that I want to make my life smaller (as one blogger  once described it). I want to make my life at least as large or larger. To do that may require some shrinkage in some areas.

At this point in my plan I have a lot of questions, a few plans to make and lots of ideas.  Questions such as, is it more important to be close to my siblings at the cost of crippling weather and a higher cost of living, or closer to my children (whom I will see less) at a cheaper cost of living and much, much warmer weather.  How do I reconcile wanting my kids to have home to come home to for holidays with my need to have a lower cost of living?  Rent or buy something smaller (both tough in my financial straits with poor credit). Stay in the Dallas area, or move further south towards the "hill country" of Texas (with warmer weather and out of tornado alley). These are just the beginning of my questions.

In the future, as I work on my plan bit by bit, I will be blogging about these other decisions and plans (and sharing more than a few more questions). I need to research housing and lifestyle options. I'll need to decide what if anything to do to my house in terms of sale value (not much since I have no income).  Assuming the house sells for what it is worth, I'll need to decide what to do with the fifty thousand dollar down payment when it is returned to me after a sale-and what will I do if the house sells for much left.  Will I need to downsize? Am I ready to move to a new location and make new friends all over again?

Hopefully the answers will come, and when they do I will share them with you. Be assured that while I will be blogging about my plans as well as looking for advice, I will continue to blog about regular frugal retirement issues, and retirement issues in general. After all, life changes from day to day, and that's what this blog is all about.


  1. Great post, we too have faced the fact that we can not continue the upkeep on our home many more years but to leave it would be so hard. What to do, what to do, it is hard being a grown up!!

  2. Tough decisions to be sure but I like your attitude of making your life larger instead of smaller. Too often as we age we cling to what we know when instead a major change would open new doors to wonderful life expanding opportunities. Look forward to following your journey!

  3. I know that if my husband should die first, leaving this house will happen shortly after. I cannot keep up with the lawns and hate the amount of dusting needed. The expenses (taxes, insurance and normal bills) would be over my 1/3 of income.
    Thank you for sharing your journey here. It will give me a good idea of the road I may have to travel.

  4. I myself am intrigued by the Tiny House Movement. They are just so darn CUTE! To me that's the great appeal, but tiny houses are also economically AND ecologically smart. Tiny house living can be beautiful, because everything in a tiny house has to be extremely well-thought out and absolutely perfect, because there is not room for anything else.

    Texas actually has a custom tiny-house builder, which is awesome because they are not thick on the ground. They use re-purposed building materials to great effect. Absolutely beautiful! Here is their website: http://tinytexashouses.com/

    Here is one of my fave tiny house blogs (see what I mean about beautiful?!): http://www.320squarefoothome.com/

    I'm constantly working on my husband to give tiny house living a good thinking-about for our retirement. So far, no dice! Heh. Luckily I can be very persuasive (ok, I nag), plus we have a long time 'til retirement. We live in over 4000 sq. ft right now, so downsizing to 500 sq. ft or less would be a challenge. But kind of fun, in a weird masochistic way! (Probably, also, I could almost pay cash for a little tiny house with all the stuff I have here to sell! Wheeeee!) It's fun to dream about.

  5. Tessie, while I find the small hosues cute on some level, I have to say there is absolute NO change, none at all, that I would move into a small house. I NEED my space,and I NEED space for my children to viist. I am a gal who has stuff and wants go keep it.

  6. Janette. when I bought this house, I did so thinking that I had one kid still at home, another living part time, two active dogs and so on. But the truth is my husband was the do it yourself guy, not me. I like having a patio and msall yard, but I dont garden and I only keep up with the inside of the house thanks to my unemployed son who is at my beck and call. If I had to rely on myself or pay someone, I would be in trouble.

    today I have a 400 dollar bill because a toilet pump has stopped working. it never ends, ya know.

  7. Don't you learn a lot when you write a post like this. Putting your thoughts into words is very important.

    We have moved to a different location because the cost of staying in our condo became overwhelming. The association dues were outrageous and we simply decided that we would rather share with our children that have a beautiful pocket park on the corner. We are not feeling any regret at all. In fact we see it as a smart move and not a move downward.

    Hopefully, you will come to that place too.

    Be well,


  8. I like to think of life as proceeding in chapters. We will likely all have many different chapters in our lives, and each one can be tremendously exciting if we allow.

    It all sounds like a grand adventure to me, Barb, and I'm sure you will uncover many wonderful new aspects of life whenever you decide to make this change.

  9. You certainly have a lot on your mind today-all heavy, important stuff. Even if you are not a goal-oriented person, it's always a good idea to make plans. Setting them down on paper (or cyberspace) makes them seem attainable and keeps you focused on what you want to accomplish.

    I look forward to following your progress.

  10. We're thinking about downsizing sometime in the next five years - mostly because we'll want a rambler rather than the split-entry layout we have now, with two sets of stairs.

    I, too, want to be able to say "yes" to whatever comes along. Downsizing may be part of that.

  11. Congratulations on your sound thinking in planning for retirement. The issue of where to live in retirement is key. Bill


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