Wednesday, September 5, 2012

The Accidental Retiree..................

I came to this so called "retirement" indirectly.  I'm sure I'm not unique.  In 2005 and early 2006 I was a fifty-something at home spouse looking to be an empty nester in a year or so. My expectations at that time were five to ten more years of a working life and then a frugal albeit comfortable enough retirement. In fact, my husband and I had discussed retiring in Europe extensively (anything we would have lost through taxes or exchange rate would have been returned in spades because of the medical system and ease of travel).

That is not how things progressed.  This is in no way a complaint, just an observation that I got where I am now through accident of circumstances, rather than planning or conscious decision making. Widowhood and the mandate to change locations quickly required some down and dirty and emotion based decisions.  Follow that by the lack of job opportunities and financial disaster.  Mix in  few other normal life events and there you have it.  I am where I landed but after all this time I'm still not sure if I'm where I'm meant to be planted.

Previously, I've talked about my financial planning and decisions.  In spite of much thought and numbers crunching I've been unable to make financial or housing decisions for my future.  In this past week or so, I have realized that I may be going about this in the wrong way. I believe that I need to figure out what I want my future to hold and the financial situation will follow (one can only hope).

Obviously it's an ongoing process, and I'm still working that process. I have come to some conclusions (I hope) and more will follow. Since I always try to share the reality of frugal retirement on my blog, here are some of my thoughts in no particular order.............and with no conclusions drawn so far.
  • I love my house. I love that I have a single level (no steps, even to the front door) open plan house. I don't need all the space I have, but I love it none the less. There is nothing I don't like about my house.
  • I truly enjoy my small business and income streams. I would NOT want a real job (read, dress up and go to an office and answer to someone else) under any circumstances. I also would not want my hobby/job income to be necessary for life in the long term (but would not object for a year or so if it would bring long term stability)
  • I'm a laid back retiree/person at heart. I need lots of  free time for spur of the moment "stuff". For example, while I've learned that I love learning new things, full time school is no more right for me than a full time job. I need time to read, smell the roses and daydream. If I want to spend the day canning tomorrow, I want to be able to decide that today.
  • I don't love my yard, or my neighborhood. Please understand that I don't hate my neighborhood. People move here because of he gigantic high school and the gigantic football stadium and any retirees are empty nest folks who moved here for that reason. I'm used to an extremely diverse, multicultural and multi age lifestyle. This is the same reason I'm not interested in living in a "retirement" or fifty plus community.
  • In the same vein as the above comment, I'm not used to living in an outer suburb where one has to drive everywhere.
  • Sometimes we live in a catch 22 situation. I have a forty thousand dollar downpayment invested in this house, and with current housing costsi n denver I would reap that if I sold. However, with no savings, I don't have the money to repair the foundation, meaning that I would need to sell it now as is. It's a conundrum.
  • I love my dogs. When these guys leave my house (and I have no idea if they will remain with me or go with my son), I don't know if I will have another furry family member. But any home I have will need to be dog friendly. Letting the dogs go is not an option, for financial or other reasons.
  • Travel is important to me. I don't need to take a cruise, or even fly to Europe. I do need three or four long vacations a year-road trips or otherwise. I also need some day trips and overnights throughout the year.
  • Church and it's attendant social activities are important to me.  More than that, the right church is important to me. I drive over twenty minutes (on the freeway) to get to my current church. In an ideal world I would like to be closer to a progressive church who considers outreach it's primary mission.
  • Being able to volunteer, both in terms of time and finances, are important.
  • In theory I can live in any climate, but the reality is that if I live in Denver or somewhere else, I would be a hermit for a quarter of the year. My knee issues are not cured by surgery, and cold weather makes them more painful.  On the other hand, it would be nice to live where it wasn't triple digits for three months. Since I'm not going to be able to live a snowbird life, per se, this is an ongoing discussion with myself.
  • If I didn't live in Dallas or closer to family, my perfect life would be Texas Hill country in a walkable town, or along the coast.
  • When I hear that my sister went over to my brother and sister in law's for a barbecue or to see a football game, I have to admit I feel a pang. I don't have that kind of relationship with my in laws although we do get together for holidays and special occasions. I would love to be able to visit my sister or brother every week or so.
  • Housing is more expensive in Denver, period. My 2300 square foot house built in 2010 would be $300 thousand in Denver and cost me $180. As for the rest, I don't know.
  • I cannot plan my future based on my children. I can commit to a house with enough space that kids can "come home" and let them know they are always welcome. Other than that, my son has to take responsibility for himself as best he can, with non financial help from me.  The economy is the economy and there is no easy way to deal with that. I can help him in any way but with money, and he will always be welcome to live where I live. I'm not planning my future lifestyle based on his needs, however.
  • Although I need a place to live, a "home" if you will-I see no reason that it has to be this house, or even a house.  For me at least, from my perspective, my home is neither a financial asset nor an investment. Had I lived here for five more years, it might be a different story.
  • Finally (and I've said this before), I want to run my home, not for my home to run me. This means I am unwilling to be house poor in terms of time, money, or effort.  As I mentioned at the top, I love my house. Even so, I'm unwilling to spend every weekend on upkeep and every penny on improvements.  Many folks (including my late husband), would consider that heaven, or at least acceptable. That's not me, and pretending it is simply will not work.
Well, there you have it.  As I said, this self reflection is an ongoing process and any conclusions will come slowly. I hope that my next move or major lifestyle adjustment is well thought out, as it may well be my last. I'm sure more thoughts will follow.

As always, I'm interested in your opinions, thoughts and experiences.  Armchair recommendations, anyone?


  1. Excellent insights on what's important to you. I think many people retire without much thought of priorities. You're ahead of the game that way.

  2. No recommendations. I understand, though, as we're reassessing, too. In our case, that's due to a health situation we didn't anticipate.

  3. We are in the same boat! Kind of accidental retirees with no firm view of the future (I hate planning because NOTHING turns out like we planned!). I think if anything ever happened to the hubby (knock on wood!--I want him around for a long time more) I would move into an RV. I would even try opening my home to visitors ( both of which hubby says a big NO WAY to. After reading your blog for a while you seem to be in a pretty good place overall!

  4. It sounds like you really know what is important to you! Now the fun part - brainstorming how to make it happen. You are a creative person and perhaps you could enlist some of your friends as your advisory board to have a brainstorming session. No need for the ideas to all be ones you can accept as any idea may lead to a great one. Looking forward to hearing how you recreate your life at this point.

  5. Your "self assessment" is exactly what all of us new retirees should do. I retired 2 years ago and it was planned, not accidental. My wife and I made a change (sold our larger older home and bought a newer smaller one 20 miles away). We had a vision of what we thought our retired life would be but it hasn't turned out like that. So now we are doing the deep self reflection part and seeing more clearly what our next phase of retirement will be like. I've come to know that we all keep changing and going through life phases. Retirement doesn't change that. Actually, it is exciting.

  6. It looks like you're in the dreaming/brainstorming/reflection stage and that's a good thing! Ambivalence about various stuff..well, that's what we all go through right? And eventually we hone it all down to a DECISIONS.Housing is such a big issue.I am retired my husband is not, so we have to live in the suburb near his business. I love my house but could also go live in the mountains in the northern part of my state and be happy.
    Figuring out what an "ideal" retirement might look like is hard work.

    Talking and dreaming and experimenting seems to be the only way to figure it all out! And a few mistakes along the way!

    The more we know ourselves the better choices we'll make and you seem to be dong a lot of soul searching and you DO know a LOT about what makes our heart a result I know I will be soon reading posts about great changes you'll be making to make it all come together!

  7. The whole idea of "Plans" takes maximum flexibility. I used to think being a hermit in a little beach town was what I wanted in retirement, but along came a quadruple bypass which made an urban area with good hospitals look much more enticing. I think you're doing a good job of facing the various realities--now you have to prioritize them as to importance. For example, I generally feel I could live in any sort of housing, but certain states (hmm--like Texas which is too hot and too Texan!) are out of the question, as are suburbs. Just keep your options open--as you've discovered with your finances, you can make mistakes and still recover. Life has a way of constantly changing our path.

  8. I can relate to much of what you posted. We are neighbors and a lot of your comments apply to me as well as far as location/activities/etc. I will start drawing my military pension next month so I will have a guaranteed income, but I don't know yet how much it's going to be yet.

    I think you are right to do some soul searching and brainstorming to see what you really want out of this next phase of your life. Nothing is set in stone, the way I look at it, so you make choices along the way, and if they don't work out, you make other decisions. It is interesting to read your thought processes along the way.

  9. Well, a lot of your "thoughts in no particular order ... and with no conclusions" reflect my thinking exactly, esp. the part about your house and yard serving you, rather than the other way around.

    One difference: I'm not into traveling that much (although even as I say this, I'm going away for the weekend), although I do feel the need to get out of the Northeastern cold for 2 - 3 weeks in February. But traveling in general? I have no desire to go on a cruise. I don't like to fly. I don't even like to drive very much.

    Maybe my kids are right ... maybe I AM an old stick-in-the-mud.

  10. Linda, thanks, I think im behind the game but working to get caught up.

  11. Linda P. Thanks for your comment. I probably shouldhave done this earlier but its definitely time.

  12. Cash, If I did not have two active dogs and a kid still at home or I would consider welcoming visitors. open to all ideas

  13. Cari thanbks for stopping by, its good to hear your com?ment-where are you located in Texas

  14. Having read you blog for a few months now, I recognize and respect your continual need to think, plan, and Execute. That last part is what separates you from a lot of folks. If you were a "dreamer" you would not have held my attention, but you, dear lady, are a doer.

    We change, circumstances change, the heart changes. Keep moving forward and eventually it will all make sense.

    P.S. Your longing for family touched a chord. My nearest relative lives 9 hours away and as I get older I realize just how important having them close is.

  15. No matter where you end up your one of those folks who can "Bloom where your planted"

  16. I love reading these types of posts as I learn so much... :) I'm sorry that you're not as close as you'd like with your in-laws... Any way to change that?

  17. Carla, my inlaws and I have a good relationship. We are not mother and father and daughter close. I am fine with that. They have been very supportive. Honestly, we have different views on life in terms of many things-son was odd man out in the family (read they are far to the right and I am far to the left, especialy on social issues). Also, their other children stayed in the same town, while hubby and I traveled around the year and saw them once a year every few years or so. So I dont see things changing in a major way.

  18. Hi, Barb, I'm in Plano, just up/down the road from you.


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