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.