Sunday, June 7, 2009

The Future?

I have always looked forward to retiring. I think this is rooted in a number of things. My father, the family breadwinner, looked forward to his retirement. He had a good job, but he wasn't passionate about it. His job interfered with all the stuff he really loved to do, such as garden (his was about an acre in size), be active in church and local town government, and volunteer for various philanthropic organizations. So, when young, I got the impression that retirement was a desirable state. Then, when he did retire, retirement as modeled by my mom and dad looked really great. Both were incredibly active in their community with friends and volunteer activities combined with travels around the world. They did a lot more than Skip and I did while being 30 years older.

I see now I believed the same future was in store for me. I have a good job, I'm good at it, but not excited about it. I feel reasonably rewarded by it, both financially and mentally. I also know I could do it better, but that would require a level of effort and engagement that I can't give without some costly tradeoffs elsewhere in my life. Bottom line: I don't work at something I'm passionate about. I figured I'd accumulate resources to finance retirement as early in life as possible and have more time to follow my passions at that point in my life. A la my father.

On the way to following in my dad's footsteps, reality happened.

  • Reality number 1: Skip has MS. Who knows what we'll have to deal with in the coming years. Would we better off if I worked as long as possible so we could afford aides? How long can I be the caregiver, as I age and the possibility of further progression exists for Skip? Will we need to live in an assisted living setting rather than our home of 20 years? If so, when?
  • Reality number 2: The market melted down. With my 401k taking a body blow, the ability to support us in retirement is now postponed for years.
  • Reality number 3: I honestly don't know what I'd do with myself in retirement. The only thing I can come up to keep me from being a couch potato is a part-time job. Is that retirement? I still have work to do to find my post-employment "passion," the thing or things that engage me enough to pull me out into the greater world.
The realization that my "retirement" would look different than the game plan I had in my head has been rolling around in my brain, but it hasn't jelled until now. What this means is that I now have the chance to figure out what, among all the possibilities that exist, is the retirement that Skip and I would like to work towards?

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Post-script: this post is a good example of why blogging is such a useful process for me, personally. The content came out much differently that my prep notes had planned out (yes, I sometimes make notes before writing a post). The exercise of writing this out in logical fashion helped me finally put all the thoughts/clues together and realize, "Aha, that version of retirement I've been carrying around in my head just doesn't make sense for my reality!"

6 comments:

Herrad said...

Hi Cranky,

Shame about your pension plans.
Hope it all works out.
Take it easy.

Love,
Herrad

Cranky said...

Herrad - thanks! Yeah - the markets really did a number on those of us who were within 10 years of retirement.

Have a great Sunday.

awb said...

Good luck figuring out how you want to do retirement, sometimes the figuring out is the toughest part. 401 K's weren't kind for anyone, sure hope something rebounds soon.

Andy

Rain said...

Hi Cranky! Wanted to visit you as well today. I cannot in anyway relate to you situation with Skip having MS and how your future will span out before you. But I can tell you that I had the same feelings of retirement. I hated my job so much and I idealized retirement, dreams of travel and leisure...well, I'm only 41 and have been in forced retirement since age 35 because of my burnout. I've never been so miserably bored in my life and if it weren't for blogging this year, I'd never have come this much further in my recovery. I've tried part-time jobs, volunteer work...I can't handle them. Sure if I had millions, it would be a different scenario!

But now, in "retirement" I've realized it's not for me. I need to be doing something to contribute to the world, I need structure and a "job" to go to every day...this is what will make me happy. Right now, my daily post is my "job". Soon it will be going back to school and eventually (hopefully) going back to work.

Gosh I really REALLY relate to this post, I'm glad I stopped by!!!

xx
Rain

Herrad said...

Hi Cranky,

Please pass by my blog and pick up your award.

Love,

Herrad

Cranky said...

Andy - thanks for your note. I agree, that's the trick, figuring it out.

Rain - glad the post struck a chord for you. Structure is something I need too, otherwise I can fritter away my time uselessly.

Herrad - thanks!