Posts Tagged With: retirement

It’s later than you think

It happened again. Somebody in my life dropped dead yesterday. Unexpectedly. At 59 years of age.

Gayle was a hair stylist, and he had my wife, my mother in law, and me as clients. Stereotypes are often based in truth, and yes, this man was gay. He was actually one of the handful of gay men that I’ve had lengthy conversations with. That I knew well. I really liked this man, and the shock of his sudden passing has me really upset.

I found out about this on Facebook. All of a sudden I started seeing condolence messages popping up on my wall. I didn’t get it at first. I thought that one of Gayle’s friends had passed, and it was his friends sending condolence messages for his loss. I was interested to find out who this was, so I went to his wall. The reality of what happened smacked me. Hard. I told my wife, and she thought I was misunderstanding something. No. It was true. Our friend was gone.

Gayle was not married, and there is nobody out there to remove his Facebook page, so of course it has turned into pages and pages of condolence messages and tributes and shock and hurt. And pictures. So many pictures, with his smiling face, surrounded by his friends. This is good. Another friend (Anne) passed a few years ago, and I also saw it on Facebook. In this case, Anne was survived by a spouse, and he shut down the Facebook page almost immediately. That left a hole. It was harder than this.

Gayle had asked my wife to remind me to bring my iPAD to my last appointment, so he could see pictures of our new RV. I did that, and before he got started working on my hair, we looked at the pictures. He was so excited for us. After that, we had conversation about all kinds of things, for the whole time I was there. We talked of volunteer work he was doing at the YWCA, the upcoming Long Beach Grand Prix, movies, a musical I was playing in, and many other things.

So what does this have to do with the RV lifestyle, and Retirement? Why am I putting this on The Two Who Wander?

Gayle is the latest in a growing number of people I know who have passed much earlier than expected. It serves as a reminder that life is fragile, and none of us know how much more time we have.

Laura and I are looking forward to adventures in our RV. If we are lucky, we will be healthy enough to enjoy this lifestyle for 10 to 15 years. A lot of people aren’t that lucky. A lot of people don’t make it to retirement. This gave Laura and I a feeling of urgency. We knew that the clock was running, and if we were going to do this lifestyle, we had to jump in. Now.

Both of us had reservations about doing this. Getting into the RV lifestyle is a big outlay of resources – both time and money resources. We’ve had negative feedback. I’ve been on forum threads where people ridiculed others for borrowing money to buy an RV, saying that smart people will save their money until they can afford to pay cash. We’ve had people poke at our good fortune of having a sound retirement that provides enough resources to get into the RV lifestyle. It’s just not fair, they tell us, because everybody isn’t that lucky. Maybe not, but there was a lot of hard work involved to earn this….with many 60-70 hour weeks worked over the years. We even have a family member calling us “selfish” because we don’t use our resources and time purely for elder and offspring support.

I’ve worked through all of this in my mind. I’ve rejected the negative feedback. All of it.

We have responsibilities to our family, and we will fulfill those as needed, no matter what. We won’t take away the very real value to our children of making their own way in life – we won’t use our remaining resources to make it overly easy. If my parents would have done that, I would not have tried as hard, and I would not have achieved as much. I would not have what I have now. If and when any of our children get into real trouble, we will be there. I mean real trouble. We have done that before.

I’m not worried about borrowing money to buy an RV. With money as cheap as it is now, and the tax advantage available on the interest, it doesn’t make sense to avoid a loan. And of course there is always the possibility that you’re gone before you have saved enough to avoid a loan. Is that a good thing?

Laura and I made choices during our working lives that resulted in us having good pensions and savings. This involved a lot of hard work, some smarts, and some luck. Going back to school to get additional education while working full time is something that both of us did. We both worked a lot of overtime, either for pay or just for career advancement. Do I feel guilty about what we have achieved? Not one bit, but I do feel blessed and humbled and fortunate and thankful. A lot of people helped. Parents, family, friends, co-workers.

I feel just terrible that Gayle died before he got to take a rest and enjoy retirement. I feel the same way for Beth, who died at just 55, and our friend Monica, and our friend Anne, and my cousin Roger, and my brother Lew, who died at only 25.

These are wake up calls for those who live on.

Wake up and live life while you can. Don’t take what you have for granted. Do what makes you happy. Use your time and resources for what you want. Cherish the time you have left.

It’s later than you think.

 

Categories: Retirement | Tags: , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Fridays are still good

Dining room or workspace? Or BOTH!

Dining room or workspace? Or BOTH!

Fridays.

Man, how I used to love Fridays when I was working. Light work days, with many of the more demanding people off. A day to catch up and actually get something done. Less meetings. Less fighting. More relaxed atmosphere. The excitement of a couple of days off in front of me. The relief. The anticipation of late nights watching movies, not worried about getting up the next day. Lazy Saturdays and Sundays. Fishing on the beach. Beers on the balcony, with the stereo going. Parties with family and friends.

I’ve been retired for around 7 months now. More than half a year, but sometimes it seems like I just walked out of work a couple of weeks ago.

My first post on this blog was about stepping into retirement. I felt like I was in the starting gate, and I didn’t have a good idea of what would follow or how I would like it. I was concerned with big household jobs I had coming up, and how to live my life without the structure of work. I yearned to live more in the now. Take time to smell the flowers, enjoy the quiet times, and just relax.

Am I still drifting around, wondering what to do?

Most of the jobs I was so worried about early in my retirement are out of the way now. There is always more to do, but life goes on and I’ll get to it. No, I’m not really living in the now much more than I did before. I still make lists in my head of things that are stacking up on my to-do list, and find myself feeling pressure. I’m OK with that. It’s my personality, and I really wouldn’t be happy if I changed. I watch my dog living in the now. I don’t think I could take the rapid ups and downs that I watch her go through. To me, thinking about the broad future – planned and unplanned – is more of a comfort than a worry most of the time. I can visualize a future that I want, and then do things to make it so. This won’t always work out, but at least I have a fighting chance. My dog can’t do that. She is always at the mercy of everything around her, being lifted and dropped by the rolling waves of a life she can’t control.

I’m going to be somebody who will always need his work, and I need some structure to stay on track. I’ve found that structure, and it’s working fairly well so far. It’s keeping me from sitting on the couch watching TV all day, which I think would be the death of me.

What am I doing?

I have a routine to start my day, and that keeps me from sitting around trying to decide what I want to do for hours on end. I have interests to fit into that starting routine, and once I’m running, it’s easy to transition to another interest from there after a while. I still sit around some and watch TV, but more often than not, it’s off until late afternoon or early evening.

There are two main interests that are part of my day to day life, and the structure of my day is built around them. I’m continuing on with the main interest that I kept up with while I was working, and I’ve gone back to an old interest that life as a working stiff and dad prevented me from enjoying to the fullest.

The ongoing interest is music. I’ve been playing ‘cello for most of my life, mainly in symphony orchestras, and in the orchestra pits for stage musicals. My pursuit of this interest hasn’t really changed very much since I retired. I practice more now, but that’s about it. I’ve always thought that I would pursue more playing opportunities when I retired, but I haven’t done that so far. Adding another orchestra is a possibility, and there is a local one that would like me to play, but two things are holding me back….freedom to travel at the drop of a hat, and aging hands that limit the number of hours I can practice in a given week. I plan to continue to play as long as my hands and mind hold up, but don’t plan to ramp that up too much.

The old interest that I’ve gone back to is writing. Fiction writing. In my earlier days, I did quite a bit of that. Short stories, partially completed novels, scraps of good and bad stuff. The time that I was most prolific was during the mid 1980s, after I had finished my BS in Business. I was working full time while attending college, and when I was done, I had to have something to help me slow the flywheel that was driving me. I would go out to the little room inside the garage that I did homework in, and hammer away on my Commodore 64.

I slowed down and stopped the writing after a year or so. There were some good reasons for this. The most important one was my family…..my first two sons were growing up rapidly, and I needed to spend more and more time with them. My wife, who was losing patience with my alone time, needed more from me as well. And finally, I ended up with two more kids on the way (twins)…..so my focus had to change quickly. This was in no way a bad thing. Many of the happiest memories of my life were from this time. Watching the boys grow and explore life. Indian Guides, Little League, AYSO Soccer, Roller Hockey, family camp outs, boating, trips to Bullhead City, and more. I miss all of that, and wouldn’t trade those memories for anything.

The structure I’ve set up for myself is pretty simple. I get up in the morning, feed the dog and cats, and then come down to the room I’m sitting in now. I start writing. Sometimes it takes me a little while to get going, but generally I’m into it after 15-20 minutes of checking various sites on the internet and looking at e-mail. I usually write from about 9:00 am to about noon, unless I’m really rolling, in which case I can go until 1:00 or 2:00. Laura is generally writing at the same time as well, so it’s pretty quiet in the house at this time. I’m really enjoying this right now…..in fact it’s usually the highlight of my day.

After the writing session is done, I’ll have some lunch, take the dog for a walk, and then practice ‘cello for a little while. After that, the day is pretty open….Laura and I figure out what we want to do. Several days a week we go to the gym. Other days we run errands. Sometimes we just kick back and talk, and every once in a while we watch TV.

It doesn’t make too much difference to me if we are at home or in the RV….this structure basically works. I enjoy writing time in the RV, and I think Laura does too.

The fiction project I’m working on right now is a novel. It’s about serial killers and those that hunt them, and yes, there are RV’s involved (of course). Is it any good? I don’t know. It might be crap. Either way, I’m enjoying the experience of writing it, so I’ll keep going, and we’ll see what happens.

I take a break from the fiction every so often to write articles like this for The Two Who Wander. I enjoy that too, but I don’t lose myself in the writing like I do with fiction. When I’m writing the fiction, I’m in the story. Some days it’s really hard to drag myself out of that world.

So I’m no longer in the starting gate. I’m off and running. I’ve found what I want to do, for now, and I’m enjoying it. Before I got going, I used to think about work. I still think about friends from work, but the old project and it’s environs are never on my mind. That tells me that I’ve made the transition. I’m retired.

Fridays? Yes, surprisingly, they are still just about my favorite day. There is still the anticipation and excitement. Maybe I’ll stay up later tonight, and watch some movies. Oh yeah, and there’s a party to go to this weekend!

 

 

 

Categories: Retirement | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

The Big Lesson Learned

Travelbyvwbus

I think we learned some things from this January trip:

The biggest one – this would have been a very different trip, perhaps a longer one, were we in a motorhome.

A Bit of Background

Last November we rented a motorhome, a 34 footer, for a short trip.  We took it to an RV park right by Joshua Tree National Park and probably would have taken it into the park had we the confidence to boondock.  But as it was our first time, we felt it was important to have full hookups and a dump station.  Partly to see how it was just being in a motorhome and partly to test out our abilities to drive the beast, do the hookups and dump our tanks.

It was a great learning trip – we cooked, we cleaned; we relaxed, read books (well, I did) and watched movies; took long walks around and watched the sunsets over the desert, and generally had a lovely time.  I did a lot of writing while there and we had time to be both together and companionably apart.  Privacy is important to me, probably a holdover from being an only child.

But renting was not cheap – we knew that going in and would not have chosen to rent for a much longer trip.  We also had one mechanical issue with the coach – the levelers never worked properly even with the rental guys trying to fix this before we left.  Their last minute fixing held us up in leaving the area and we ended up arriving at the RV park at night.  We never were able to lower the levelers properly and, although it didn’t ruin anything, it was a bit odd to be listing to one side for a few days.

So before we took our road trip in January we had the experience of a trip in a motorhome with which to compare, albeit a short trip.

A Matter of Cost

In the past, I have teased Bob a bit by saying, “every time we go on vacation, no matter where we go or how we go, we spend about a grand a week”.  Yes, that’s a lot of money, although maybe not outrageous to some.  I mean, some people can easily spend a grand a DAY and others, just a grand a month.  But over the ten years we’ve been together and vacationed, we have regressed to the mean of a grand a week.  Which, to remind you, is over and above our normal expenses of mortgage, utilities, etc.  (Note:  When we went overseas early in our time together it was more, but I wasn’t keeping track of the money as well in those days.)

Most of the costs are obvious – we need to get where we’re going and when we get there, we have to pay for some sort of lodging.  Then there are costs for tickets, souvenirs, and so on.

On this trip, with the exception of the time at my dad’s house in central Florida, we paid for a relatively modest motel each night, and we ate out at least one meal a day, opting to utilize the free breakfast at the motels we stayed at.  For our lunches, we ate Clif Bars, packets of nuts, and apples or bananas.

We had expenses for the dog, too – most of the Best Westerns charged an additional fee for her (very understandable), although the La Quinta Inns did not (I’m voting for a La Quinta Inn in most cases for this reason alone).

But food costs are a bit tricky.  When we’re home, we eat rather simply and we tend to eat the same stuff over and over.  I remember reading something about how people actually eat and that’s pretty typical.  But when we’re on vacation, we spend more because we’re eating out, and we eat more because restaurant food has that novelty factor and that deliciousness factor and that “what the hell, I’m on vacation” factor working for it. (See my comments below on the “on vacation” mode of being.)

And then there’s liquor.

We keep a fairly well-stocked liquor cabinet at home because we do like our cocktails.  We also keep a fair amount of good beer around as Bob likes his IPAs.

When I buy a bottle of Bombay Sapphire Gin (yes, for martinis), I buy a big 1.75 liter bottle from Total Wine or Costco, so I get a bargain.  But when I buy a drink at a bar or restaurant when we’re on vacation, I pay a huge premium.  Now, we didn’t drink everyday when we were gone (nor do we drink every day when we’re home, either . . . just sayin), but when we did it was expensive.

So it’s obvious that in terms of cost, the cost of motorhome park fees would be less than even modest motels (and way less than the nice hotels that we have occasionally been to), fuel would be necessarily more, though, and eating in the motorhome most days would lower the food and liquor cost quite a bit and still allow for nights out on occasion.

But, I hear you saying . . . but there’s the COST of the motorhome to begin with.  That’s true.  They aren’t cheap and they don’t generally appreciate in value.

So why even consider one?

What Price Lifestyle?

I’ve been pondering this for awhile now.  And I think there are a couple of aspects to the lifestyle issue.

First, there’s the pace of life as both a journeyer and a sojourner (a sojourner is one who rests in one spot for awhile) that appeals to both of us.  We have always had that wanderlust and we found ourselves always curious about both the places and people as we traveled through an area.

In the car, the pace felt rushed, even on the trip back home which took about twice as long as the eastward trip.  It was mostly about moving through, or journeying.  In a motorhome, there is this, but often you stop for a few nights or more in one place  before moving on.   So there is that sense of the sojourn as well as the journey.

But there is another issue though that seems a bit, I don’t know . . . strange or unexpected to even me.  And that is the cozy factor of living in a motorhome.  None of them are huge, no matter how large the camera angles make them seem – certainly not as large as the home we currently live in which is about 1900 square feet.  Living sanely and with enough personal privacy in a space of 300-400 square feet (or less) seems counter intuitive, but when we did it, it quickly felt warm, cozy and homey to both Bob and I.  I was surprised and didn’t expect that experience, but it was true.

Lastly, To Be a Journeyer and Sojourner

I mentioned above that the “on vacation” mode was probably one factor in our eating out both more food and not as good food due to the novelty, the deliciousness and the “what the hell, I’m on vacation” mode of being.  I’m not sure that’s how it would be in a motorhome, though.

I posed this on an RV forum and got responses which mostly were in the vein of, “Well, we quickly realized that no matter where we are, we’re home” which I realized I felt when we were renting, too.  Even though we didn’t own that motorhome, I was making dinner in it, and washed dishes and then settled in to read a book or went outside to just enjoy the place we were in.  Yes, I was on vacation but I felt, intensely, like I was also at home.

I don’t know yet how it will be to be in our own motorhome, moving about the country for months at a time.   I think that having our own bed to sleep in nightly, not having to pack up our bags and unpack them over and over, and not having to worry much about check in and check out times will all contribute to this feeling of being home, rather than on vacation.  And having normal routines and rituals will help as well.

Ultimately, what we learned is that this new life in retirement is full of things we have yet to experience and we won’t be able to do all that we want to do or go to all the places we want to go to.  Being together and finding spaces to be apart is important, and finding meaning in our lives will be a challenge always.

I think, for us, life will be in the journeying and the sojourning wherever we are.  And in this, we will always be at home.

Categories: Home Sweet Home, Life on the Road, The Hunt for the Wild RV, Travel Plans | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

The Friendliest Place?

the villages
We’ve just spent a week in The Villages, Florida visiting my dad and his wife, Marian.  They bill themselves as “Florida’s Friendliest Retirement Hometown” and with the disclaimer that they only refer to their fine state and not the other 49, I give you these items:

  • After patiently waiting for a handicapped space to open up, a woman cut off my dad and grabbed it.  My dad walks slowly with a cane and the woman who blithely cut him off moved pretty quickly with no assistance;
  • A very cranky old guy with a distinct New Jersey accent told my husband, “Hey pal, why don’t you walk your dog on your own street?”.  This was said a few mornings ago and might I add, there are plenty of dogs around The Villages;
  • When Marian used a handicapped space in a restroom she was chastised by a woman with a cane and told “you’re not handicapped – I’m going to report you.”  Marian has pretty severe arthritis and qualifies for a handicapped placard, but no, she doesn’t need a cane.

Friendly, huh?

Okay, before you jump on me that there are sour folks everywhere, I know.  And elderly folks are not more sour than younger folks.  But there is something that my dad alluded to and that is a fair number of folks in retirement communities have switched from a “we” orientation to a “me” orientation.

It makes sense – all of their lives they’ve been doing a lot for others – their own parents, their children and spouses and now they are living primarily for themselves.  We went to a financial seminar/luncheon and the presenter said that many more of his clients are deciding to not leave money to their kids, reasoning that they paid for college, grad school and the purchase of a first home and this is . . . enough.

Again, it makes logical sense.  Nobody should be expecting an inheritance to get to the next step in their own lives.  I know people who have done that, and one in particular used to fight with the trustee’s of her dad’s trust for money just to pay her rent.  What?  C’mon, girl, get and keep a job.

But the Me orientation often ends up as a “Me FIRST” orientation and is on display there at The Villages.

One of the cutesy symbols of The Villages is the golf cart – I think to be fair, they should also have a symbol showing a poor shnook being run over by a golf cart – just to put everybody on notice.

Yep – the Friendliest Hometown.

golfcart man

Categories: Life on the Road | Tags: , , , , | 8 Comments

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