Boo!

The jack o’ lanterns are grinning maniacally.  The ghosts are keening.  The witches are flying on broomsticks against the harvest moon.  Costumed freeloaders will soon be knocking on our doors demanding candy and threatening mischief if none is forthcoming.  At least that would be happening if we didn’t live in an age restricted community of oldsters in central Florida.  Halloween is just around the corner.  Maybe we should talk about zombies, werewolves, and vampires today.  Or maybe we should talk about something that is really scary…. Five common fears people often face when thinking about retirement.

So…. Turn down the lights and get ready to do some ghost-busting!

  1. I will not have enough money to live as I wish in retirement.

It is difficult not to feel anxious about money when you are facing a rather substantial decrease in income upon retirement.  Most people have a sort of intuitive feeling about how much money they can spend without having to think about it too much.  We live at a certain standard of spending, based on what is often a fairly stable work income.  We buy things we have always bought because we have always been able to afford them.  We have a “set point” in our minds about discretionary spending. We have a sense of some dollar amount at which a non-recurring payment stops being an impulse buy and starts being an expenditure requiring deliberate decision-making.  When we retire and cut our income 30-50%, that “set point” may change.  In fact, our whole intuitive sense of what standard of living we can afford becomes murky.  We don’t have any empirical practice at what living on this lesser income feels like when it comes to buying stuff.

One way to mitigate this dilemma is to “practice” living on a lesser income while still working.  This helps show us that we can live the way we want to, even on a smaller income.  It also helps train our financial muscles to work differently.  It hones that intuitive sense of what we can afford.  For more information on how to “practice” living on retirement income, you can review my blog post, “The Elephant In The Room. http://www.terrilabonte.com/2016/02/the-elephant-in-the-room/ 

It is also important to remember that you don’t have to stop earning income completely when you retire.  Earning doesn’t have to be an all or nothing proposition.  Presumably, you don’t need to earn as much money as you did while working full-time.  Maybe, though, you find you need some amount of additional income to shore up your retirement lifestyle.  You can probably find a part-time job to fill the gap.  You might even decide to start a small business to share your skills.  Maybe you can babysit.  Maybe you can do light caretaking, like running errands or doing housecleaning or laundry for elderly or disabled neighbors.  Maybe you have a skill from your working life or a hobby that you can monetize. It may help you embrace retirement with financial confidence if you know that you have a back-up plan.

  1. I’ll start gaining weight or….

Smoking too much, spending too much money, drinking too much, getting depressed over a failed relationship, or…. insert your bad habit of choice.

When I retired, I was worried about eating too much and gaining weight because I would be home more and have more time to consume food.  When I was working, the amount of time I had available to eat was so restricted, it seemed like it shouldn’t be all that hard to minimize my caloric intake.  Once I could reach for a snack from my own kitchen cabinet or refrigerator any time of the day, I was afraid that there would be no external circumstances to limit my grazing.  I had friends who had the same concerns about being able to smoke without having to wait for a moment to run outside the office for a smoke break.  I am sure it is the same with any unhealthy habit.  It can feel like the freedom retirement brings may also take away the work-related limits on bad habits.

I found that it was actually easier to maintain and even lose weight once I retired.  Yes, I had more time to eat.  Yes, I probably do eat more than I did when I was working.  However, what I eat is very different.  Since I am eating from my own kitchen, my choices are limited to the pretty healthy stuff I’ve put there. I am no longer wolfing down a candy bar at 2:00pm because I could get it at the vending machine and it is the only food I have had time to acquire since I ate breakfast at 5:00am.  I don’t feel as compelled to soothe myself with high fat and high carbohydrate comfort foods because I am not as stressed.  In short, I am eating more, but the more I am eating is higher quality, more nutritionally dense foods.  The other element is exercise.  Because I am retired and have much more flexibility in my schedule, I walk over six miles a day and do water aerobics once or twice a week.  The exercise has many benefits, including helping to manage my weight despite not eating perfectly.

The additional time you find in retirement can result in the expansion of unhealthy habits, but it all depends on how you look at it and what you decide to do with that time.  That time can also provide you with the opportunity to explore, at your own pace, why you built those unhealthy habits in the first place. Rather than gaining weight (or bankruptcy, lung cancer, liver disease, another dysfunctional relationship, or some other consequence of an unhealthy habit), retirement can be the time when you gain happiness.

  1. I’ll lose my friends.

Most of us have a social network that we establish through our jobs.  Most of my friends were my work colleagues.  Having these wonderful people in my life certainly enriched and sweetened my working years.  I wasn’t sure how I was going to cope if those relationships withered when I left the workplace.  Guess what?  I never had to cope because those relationships never withered.

It is probably naïve to think that all your work friendships will endure after you retire.  It is also counter-productive to think that the relationships that do endure will be exactly the same.  However, it is defeatist thinking to assume you will lose your whole work-related social network.  I found that, for the most part, the people I cherished from my working years are still closely in my heart’s orbit today.  For more information about maintaining friendships after retirement, you can review my blog post, Should Auld Acquaintance Be Forgot. http://www.terrilabonte.com/2016/12/should-auld-acquaintance-be-forgot/

It might also be helpful to “practice” a new social network before retirement.  If you are worried about not being connected to your work friends any more, perhaps it would be good to start expanding your circle of friends to other areas- church groups, civic organizations, neighbors, etc.

  1. People retire and then they die.

Many of us know people who worked their whole lives in relative good health and dropped dead soon after retiring.  There are enough of these stories circulating that we can get a little superstitious about entering the retired ranks. I think the logical fallacy of “because something happens after an event, it must have been caused by the event” is at play in those superstitions.

It is probably true that some people are so connected to their work that they get bored and lose their spark when they retire. I suppose that could contribute to a premature death.  However, I don’t think most people die after retirement because they are so depressed they lose the will to live and just fade away.   There may be a period of confusion and depression, but most of us find our way through that time and find our new lives.  If a person does die shortly after retirement, seemingly for no reason, I think there is likely some reason.  That reason may have actually been present before the retirement, but the person may just not have wanted people to know about it.  The condition may have presented itself after retirement, but would have reared its ugly head at the same time, whether the person was working or retired.

  1. If I retire, I’ll lack purpose in my life.

Most people think that their purpose in life is what they do. In reality, the opposite should be true.  We should do what is our purpose in life.  Unfortunately, for many of us, the work that we do to make our living isn’t what truly makes us feel whole and the best version of ourselves.  We may find it satisfying and interesting and reasonably lucrative in providing for our wants and needs, but it probably isn’t what makes our hearts sing and our souls expand.  Even though what we do for work probably isn’t truly our purpose and driving force, it’s easy to get in the habit of thinking that it is over many years of a career.  Partly this happens because we just don’t have any time for much else while we are working.  Partly it happens because it is much easier for us to measure progress and success towards “purpose” by keeping our focus on a career than it is to explore where our true purpose lies. After all, no one gives you a raise or a promotion for self-actualization.

If you are one of the lucky people whose “career” purpose and “self” purpose intersect, it is likely that you can find a way to live out that purpose passionately in retirement.  You may be able to work part time or volunteer to follow your heart.  If you can’t physically do the work that is your purpose, you can probably still consult, mentor, teach, or write to share your skills with others.

For more information about finding your new life, you can review my post Get a Life. http://www.terrilabonte.com/2016/09/get-a-life/

So maybe the shadows of retirement are not so scary after all.  Now that we’ve pushed these skeletons back into the closet, how about some candy?  Trick or treat, anybody?

Now it’s your turn!  What were your fears about retirement?  Do you think those fears were well-founded? How did you overcome them? Please share your perspective by leaving a comment.  In the alternative, you an email me at terriretirement@gmail.com.

Happy Haunting!

Terri 🙂

 

 

Happy Birthday To Me

A few weeks after my mother died, I had a birthday.  Birthdays have always been special to me.  My birthday is the only day in the whole year that I allow everything to be all about me.  Long ago, I stopped looking at my birthday as a commemoration of another year passing. Instead,  I look at it as a kind of holiday. It’s  Terri Day- the day the world (or at least any portion of the world that so desires) celebrates the unique wonder that is me!  That may sound conceited, but it isn’t really. I don’t limit my birthday philosophy to myself.  I think everybody’s birthday should be about celebrating that person’s individual, special awesomeness. What difference does it really make if you are another year older, when all is said and done?  On the other hand, what a wonderful difference it truly does make that the world is filled with awesome people who are amazing for so many different reasons!

I wasn’t sure how I was going to feel celebratory when, for the first time in my life, I wasn’t sharing my birthday with the woman who birthed me. I say that my birthday has always been “all about me.”  That isn’t entirely accurate.  Part of that “all” has been all about my mother and me.  That very first birthday was the beginning of the very special bond we’ve shared over the past 58 years. I’ve always bought my mother a present on my birthday. After all, my mother was the one who did all the work the day I was born.  All I did was show up.

I almost felt like skipping my birthday this year, but my current obsession with busy-ness and distraction forced me to find something special to do that day.  Max and I returned from a trip to Las Vegas on September 28 and we visited Disney Springs to celebrate my birthday on September 30.   Now, normally, I would not visit Disney Springs on a Saturday when hordes of people walk the earth, but I was pretty committed to celebrating on the actual anniversary of my birth.  Max made a few half-hearted attempts to convince me to juggle my birthday celebration to another, non-weekend day.  He soon realized that idea was a total non-starter.  He ultimately embraced the idea and set out to ensure I enjoyed a special birthday- different from all previous birthdays because my mother wasn’t with us, but special in a new way.

For several days before, during, and after my birthday, Max walked around calling me the “birt-day girl.”  He greeted me every morning by calling out, “Happy Birthday.” He sang to me on the gondola at the Venetian Casino during our vacation, which was amazing.  Max doesn’t really sing and lives in terror of standing out of the crowd in public. Yet, there he was, singing to me.  Without benefit of alcohol, even. The fact that he was singing to me in front of a gondolier and a couple of strangers and anyone who happened to be able to hear him in the fake Piazza San Marco truly demonstrated the extent of his effort to delight me.  It touched me deeply and I think I found a way, after knowing him for almost 22 years, to fall even more in love with him.

A few months ago, part of me realized that my mother was likely not going to be alive when my birthday came.  I purchased a necklace and paid for it from one of her accounts.  I gave it to Max to save so I’d have one last birthday present from my mother.  The morning of my birthday, he brought it out and fastened it around my neck.  The necklace is a diamond and silver butterfly.  The body of the butterfly consists of two interwoven open-heart designs.  I chose the butterfly motif because it reminds me that my mother, like a butterfly, is reborn to live in beauty and joy in Heaven. I chose the double open heart design because my mother is the one who taught me to live my life striving to love and to be loved. 

When we got to Disney Springs, we went to Starbucks and had a beverage accompanied by a pumpkin scone.  As we walked around the shops, I found a pair of earrings that fascinated me. Max surprised me by buying them for me.  We had a late lunch at a restaurant I’ve been wanting to try. My mother used to keep a stash of what she called her “hidey hole” money- about $400 in cash that she kept at home in case of emergency.  I took some of that money to pay for my birthday meal and the Sprinkles cupcake I bought to take home.  Later that evening at home, I put a candle in the cupcake and Max sang “Happy Birthday” to me. 

I also received beautiful cards, texts, and gifts from my brother and from friends all around the world.  It was as if the Universe knew that this was going to be a tough birthday for me and wanted to provide a little additional emotional padding against the buffeting my heart was likely to take.

You can see I ended up having a lovely birthday, even though I was kind of dreading it.  It was a special day, even if my mother wasn’t there to share it with me.  Then again, maybe she was.  And maybe she always will be.

How do you like to celebrate your birthday?  Please share your perspective by leaving a comment.  In the alternative, you can email me at terriretirement@gmail.com. 

Have an extra special day, whether it happens to be your birthday or not!

Terri 🙂