About Me

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Recent retiree--35 year's experience teaching reading, English, adult basic education and volunteer leadership skills. Started this blog to exchange ideas and commentary with friends and others having an interest in joining the discussions. Greatest life accomplishments include: 1.organized my 3rd grade class to check out library books for me to get around librarian's weekly limit--Amazon.com, the Mullins Elementary 3rd Grade Class of 1956 is still waiting for "thank you" notes; 2. volunteered in the Peace Corps, island of St. Kitts, West Indies; 3.taught adults to read, earn their GEDs., and speak English as a second language; 4. bought a border collie puppy for $6, got evicted rather than give him up, and began a life-long love affair with all things "Dog"; 5. joined a physical fitness boot camp in my mid-50s--don't mess with someone who's been doing regulation pushups in wet grass at 5:30 a.m.; 6. walked across Northern England with best friend Sally--over 80 miles from the Irish to North Seas; and 7. travelled to many foreign countries for pleasure and work.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Retired in Hard Times

(Dealing with our current economic pits is the topic for this week's Fun Monday. Yes, our host, Sayre, over at Sayre Smiles realizes that there's not much fun to be had out of our current economy, but she figures we're all in this together and may be able to share some strategies for surviving--maybe even thriving--in these challenging times. So, I'll tell you about being retired in a recession.)

I received this message from Kittyhawk, a long time friend, a couple of days before I retired in January 2006 at age 60. Many years ago we had actually shared an office where we worked together at the state department of education. Nanny and Rose hung by the door where we could both see it as we worked. This painting pretty much sums up the good life in my mind--a great dog by my side, peaceful place to read and drink coffee in my jimjams for as long as I please each day.

Like many other major decisions I've made in my life, I didn't do much agonizing--or planning--over the one to retire. Having worked non-stop since I was fifteen years old, I was ready to live differently and get to some things on my "to do" list while I had the health and freedom to do it. Even though I still liked my work and the people whom I worked with, the whole cycle of planning and doing was beginning to grind. So, in July '05, while sitting in the parking lot waiting for a doctor's appointment, I decided that I would retire in January '06. About the same time Justice Sandra Day O'Connor was retiring from the Supreme Court of the United States. I cut her letter out of the newspaper that she wrote informing George W. Bush of her decision and gave the same letter to my boss in October. It was only a few sentences, but got the job done--effective date of retirement, enjoyed the ride but now time to move on. That pretty much summed up my thoughts as well.

A financial planner would probably have advised me to work longer because I didn't have nearly the savings and retirement funds recommended; my home was not paid for; I needed to buy a car since I would have to give up Sienna my company van; I would have to pay part of health care costs, and I had some debt to repay. Still, I knew I could make it. In 40+ years of work I had two retirement pensions, plus would take Social Security at 62. I have always chosen to live simply with a minimum of possessions. That would not change with retirement. I'm now in year three as a retiree and I haven't looked back.

Sayre asked us to share some strategies for managing our family finances. I have two that I'll throw out. Are you familiar with the concept of voluntary simplicity? If not, it's been around for many years and making a resurgence now because of our economy. It's simple really, just a matter of making an individual effort to live well on less. It's not about deprivation, but, rather, valuing. What do you need in the way of material possessions to be happy? This past holiday season I read about the 100 Thing Challenge at Guy Named Dave . A year or so ago a San Diego guy named Dave launched this anti-consumer challenge. Could you live a year with just 100 things? This caught my attention because I have been interested in voluntary simplicity, and tried to practice it somewhat, for many years. So I jotted down a list of things/activities that I'd need or want to see if I used more than 100 things. Started with two most important rooms, kitchen and office, and here's what's on my list.

After finishing the list, I feel that I could live well with just 100 things. Think about how freeing it would be to get rid of the clutter from your life. (Click on the list to embiggen if you're having a hard time reading. Scanner wasn't working great.)

The other strategy I follow is that I like to "wool" my money. I keep this Monthly Spending Plan record and receipts to back it up. You'll see that I've listed about everything that might come up as an expense. I always know what's due and whether I can pay for it. In retirement, I've made decisions about what's important and cut out what isn't. I don't need 21 magazine subscriptions, but I'll try not to give up pilates lessons or buying books. This system works for me. Now I realize that this plan may not be realistic for a family, but Willie the Pit Bull and I do quite well with this approach. Here's what my monthly tracking system looks like, click on to enlarge:

Now be sure to check out all the other Fun Monday recession relief strategies over at Sayre's place. To quote the great Studs Terkel on the lessons of the Great Depression: "Don't blame yourself. Turn to others. Take part in the community. The big boys are not that bright. Hope dies last." I do believe that we'll make it even though too many people still can't see the light at the end of the tunnel.


KittyHawk said...

Well of course I love seeing the pic of Nanny and Rose. The original is quite faded now. Good piece - and good advice. Much better than the drivel I hear on TV. They say really wise things like skip buying new shoes for a while. Talk about consumerism at its worst!

m (the misanthrope) said...

Wonderful post, Faye! And that was a fabulous postcard. I'm already thinking and counting down to retirement. However, I've wondered how folks who are retired now are handling things...because when my retirement comes in (hopefully) about 20 years, what guarantee do I have that there won't be a similar situation?

So, your post was so reassuring for me, thank you! And that "100 Things" was a great idea. Happy FM to you!

Bobbie Leigh said...

I love the 100 Things list! How fantastic is that? I didn't see Sandra's letter to Bush, maybe I can look it up on Google.

Thanks so much for visiting my blog, I really enjoyed yours!

Peter said...

G'day Faye, your post made me realize that I hadn't really given mine enough thought (whats new?) but without thinking about it I do a lot of the good stuff I've read about on FM.

ChrisB said...

You clearly have good strategies Faye. I really like the idea of the *100 Thing Challenge*.

karisma said...

Oooh! I love the 100 things idea! I was thinking much the same way myself a few days ago while looking around this house. When did people get to the stage of accumulating so much crap? People used to live in small houses with 13 kids and have a decent life. These days each kid needs a whole room to keep all their crap and then some.

My pet hate is appliances, my dh always buys them thinking they will help me out! I hate them. Except for my blender which has been most useful over the baby rearing years. Other than that my wooden spoon is my favourite!

Aoj and The Hounds said...

I have so much crap here it's unbelievable.....that 100 things list is looking like a very good idea!

hulagirlatheart said...

Excellent planning skills! I'm impressed. Now, I'm intrigued about the 100 item thing.

Mariposa said...

I love tracking planned versus actual too!

Faye said...

kittyhawk--remember when The Decider advised us to go shopping as the cure for our economic woes?

m(the misanthrope)--understand your concern about stability of retirement pensions/investments 20 years from now. My retirement is from two pretty stodgy organizations that don't take a lot of investment risks.

bobbie leigh--glad you enjoyed this post and welcome to Fun Monday group.

peter--we old coots can't be expected to remember the things we do by rote, right?

chrisb and hulagirl--once a planner always a planner. I was impressed by the everyday steps each of you take to manage your family income.

karisma--I too hate all those gadgets and appliances. It just makes the whole cooking thing too much of a production.

aoj--the 100 things list helps you determine exactly what you need in possessions in order to be happy. The list may change from year to year.

mariposa--agreed. It's good to compare planned to actual spending since most of us have a tendency to kid ourselves about where we spend our income. Keep thinking I need to learn to do all this budgeting and bill paying online, but, for now, pencil and calculator works fine.

Gattina said...

I never was a big spender, I don't like boutiques, shoes or handbags, I love simple healthy food a car with four wheels and have never taken any credit in my whole life besides the one for our house. The only thing I spend money is for travels. So crisis or not, nothing has changed.

laurie said...

one hundred things? that's a tempting list to start.

other dog
winter boots....

Sayre said...

I should make my own 100 things list! The amount of clutter I've got, in spite of my efforts, is rather daunting. My son's room is the worst because he is attached to EVERYTHING!

I need to sit down and make myself a budget. We've been doing pretty basic stuff like paying regular bills and throwing the extra at debt reduction. However, I feel like we need a little extra pad - that throwing all of it at debt reduction might not be the way to go, but to set aside some to go into savings instead.

Retirement seems a far off dream right now. I know it will get here faster than I can imagine (like watching your child grow up) and I want to be prepared for that day!!!

Janis said...

Faye you have a great strategic plan, I love the 100 things. I have been thinking about clearing out alot of stuff I never use. Maybe I will try the 100 things and keep it simple. Happy retirement and FM

Sallymademedoit said...

Organizational Skills: A+

How about packing to move with a limited number of boxes and leaving behind whatever didn't fit? You're the best!

Thanks also for reintroducing me to Nanny and Rose. I remember how taken I was with the original. I just couldn't recall where that was (Boston MFA) and who did it (Scott Prior).

Lane said...

I love the 100 things. I going to have to think about that:-)

Also Faye, I've never seen that painting before. It's beautiful.

Faye said...

sallymademedoit --you're exactly right. Nanny and Rose original is at the Museum of Fine Art Boston. What you may not know is that "Nanny" is the daughter of Kurt Vonnegut. And you remembered the rule about few possessions and moving--own no more than you can get in a 1965 anti-establishmint green Ford Maverick?

gattina--money spent on travel is never wasted, right?

laurie--I was actually thinking Willie belonged at the top of my 100 list, but that's a given.

sayre--yes, I suppose the accepted financial practice would be to work on debt reduction, but I agree with you, for now, better a little more in the emergency fund.

janis--I should know a little bit about strategic planning since that was one of my before retirement jobs. However, in my personal life I could do with a bit more strategic planning!

lane--kittyhawk just sent me a note that the original is at the Museum of Fine Art Boston and they still have posters of the painting for sale. And, did you catch that "Nanny"(the woman!)in Nanny and Rose is Kurt Vonnegut's daughter?