Thursday, May 25, 2017

How to have a happy retirement

We've all seen the commercials, people are challenged to save, save, save for retirement.  There are dire warnings about the failure to do so.  I get it.  Really I do.

I actually did that.  I saved my little heart out.  Late to the saving and investing party, due largely to poverty wages until my middle years, I managed a tidy nest egg.  I even figured I could retire early, at 59 1/2 because my good job would provide a pension at age 62 and my two IRAs could support me until then.  I'd be OK, I thought.

Then the recession hit. I lost my job and much of my savings. What I didn't lose outright I had to live on - and pay taxes and penalties on.  Five long years later, well past my 59 1/2 target I was still working but at a job that paid half what I had made.  The future looked dim.  No pension, low wages, not even any health insurance.  How could I retire?

So I settled for "partial" retirement.  I became a consultant, working part time from home.  It wasn't great but it was a middle ground and kept me afloat.  Then the hours petered out and I began living on less and less.

Now I find myself on the brink of full retirement.  No, I still don't have a pension but what I do have is a measure of contentment.  I have launched two fully successful, independent children into adulthood.  Each has her own family now.  My house is nearly paid off and while I would love to do some renovations, I am happy enough with it as it is.  It is home.

I can sleep in if I want to in the morning, take a bath mid-day if I like. I can run to the store when it's not busy and read a book in the afternoon.  I may not be able to tour the country, go on cruises, or do some of the other things retirees are supposed to do but I can do as I like, within reason.

I've finally written a book and gotten it published.  It was hard work but I did it on my own schedule. Maybe I'll write another. Though I can no longer make pottery on the wheel, I can do a limited amount of hand-building.  I have the option of trying surgery to regain function in my arms but I may be content to leave things as they are.

I make a practice of noting things that make me happy: spending time with my family, accomplishing long-term goals like my book, indulging in reading or a favorite show, curling up inside during bad weather or taking my sandwich to the porch when a cool breeze blows.

I highly recommend starting early and saving that extra 1% but money truly isn't everything. And you can't buy contentment.

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