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.