I have been looking forward to this post for a couple of months.  I’ve, actually been working on it since mid-May.  It’s been a year since I retired from the State of Nevada on July 4th, 2010.  A lot has happened, both good and bad.  I’m a different person in some ways, same ‘ol Dan in many others.  I’ve accomplished some goals, changed or ignored others and added new ones to the list.  Retirement has been everything I expected, yet full of surprises.  This is long post, so grab some coffee, sit back and enjoy!

I re-read my posts from last year leading up to my retirement (they can be found under the category My Journey).  Wow, I had forgotten so much about that time, just a year ago.  It made me thankful that I am retired.  I was a mess, suffering from anxiety, stressed out and, apparently a really bad proofreader, but more on that later.  Reading those posts brought it all back.

It made me appreciate how far I had come and the life I have today.  Even though I have had some really bad stuff happen, being retired made it all easier to deal with.  I don’t even want to think about how I would have dealt with the illness and death of my father-in-law if I was still working.  I had always said I hoped he waits until I am retired before he dies since his house is an eleven hour drive away.  I didn’t know how prophetic that would turn out to be.

I hadn’t been retired six month when we had to travel to Oregon and put him in assisted living.  Within 3 months he had passed and we have made eight trips up there dealing with it all.  Needless to say, this was a major blow.  Emotionally and financially.  I am so glad he waited, so to speak.  If I was working…well let’s not go there.

Lifestyle

On the bright side, before all that, and after, I have done a lot of fly fishing.  One of my passions, to be sure, I had a goal of at least once a week and for a time I did that.  That ceased for a while over the winter and while we dealt with my father-in-law’s situation, but I am trying to get back into the habit.  I am also trying to expand my horizons.  Go new places and learn new techniques.  I have also built a decent following over at Fly Fish Nevada, my other blog, though not quite as large as the crowd that reads this blog on most days.

I also wanted to write a book, actually several books and I’ve done that.  The first is still being edited, but should be ready for publication soon.  I have begun work on a second and I am working on draft outlines for at least three more, including a retirement book based in part on my writings on this blog.  I now consider myself a writer, though if anyone asks, I say I’m retired.  I don’t take my new “career” too seriously.  From reviewing my old posts, my writing and proofreading skills have improved.  This is a blog so the writing is rarely perfect, but my old stuff was pretty bad at times.

However, some of my plans have not turned out like I thought.  I wanted to play more guitar and work on my Jeep project once I retired.  I’ve come to realize that while I enjoy playing the guitar, I’m just not devoted enough to practice on a regular basis.  I go through spurts where I play a lot and then nothing for weeks.  Whatever.  Still I can play a mean Highway to Hell, solo included, among my repertoire.  You try stuff on, but it doesn’t always fit like you’d thought.  I’m not giving up, but I haven’t made it a priority like I thought I would.  Maybe someday.

My Jeep CJ-7 restoration has stalled also.  I discovered it wasn’t just the lack of energy from working and commuting  that made me not want to work on it.  I’ve discovered the idea of wrenching on it is more fun than the actual practice.  I continue to tinker here and there, but its for sale.  I plan to buy a newer running Jeep and I am selling some stuff (boat, commuter car, etc.) to pay for it.  A good deal, really.  Now I’ll have a Jeep to take me fishing like I always wanted.

And that’s typical of how its been.  On my list of activities I worked up before I retired, I maybe do about a third fairly often, a third occasionally and another third I haven’t even gotten around to yet.  A few have been added, like astronomy with my new telescope I got thanks to coming in second in my fantasy football pool.  I’m not worried about the stuff that I haven’t done or don’t feel like doing.  I may get to those or I may not, but I do what makes me happy.

Traveling, Oregon not withstanding, is something Jen and I love to do and we’ve have had the opportunity.  So far I or we have traveled to Elko, Nevada twice, Dunsmuir, California, South Carolina and Jamaica.  It’s so nice not to have to worry about vacation days or coming back to a backlog of work.  This year I am planning a couple of fishing trips, a family trip to Disneyland, a trip to southern California to try surfing,  possibly a trip with some friends in the fall and, of course, our annual trip to Jamaica.

Being retired has also allowed me to spend more time with my boys.  I was able to see most of their games and was able to freely travel to do so.  I have taken them fishing several times and expect to do so more this year.  I feel like I have become a bigger part of their lives, not just a weekend dad, too tired and stressed to do much Monday through Friday.  I know that I will cherish these memories in the future and I suspect my boys will too.

Routine

I thought about how I’d like to spend my days, generally, in retirement long before I retired.  I’ve actually pretty much followed that routine.  I usually get up around 7:30 am and shower, then I exercise.  Backwards, I know, but I’m worthless until I’ve had a shower.  After that I usually get a cup of coffee and breakfast, turn on my favorite radio show and do some writing.  Around noon I stop and eat.

In the afternoon I will sometimes pick up writing again or , weather permitting, sit on the porch with Jen and smoke a cigar while we talk.  Around 4 or 5 pm I start making dinner and in the evenings we usually watch some recorded TV or a movie.  We all like the Discovery, Travel and Science channels.  A walk is usually wedged in there somewhere, mornings and evenings in the summer, afternoons in the winter.  In the summer, swimming in the Wal-Mart pool is a must at some point during the day.

Of course, that routine is flexible.  Jen and I try to get away once a week or so and do something.  Some days, I just lounge around and do nothing.  Other days I’m working on a project and busy all day or out fishing.  Depends on how I feel and that’s the key.  I do what I want, when I want to do it.  With the boys at home there are always scheduled activities, games and the like, but other than that, it’s up to me.  It’s pleasant, relaxing and exactly what retirement should be.  At least in my mind.

Retired with Kids and a Working Wife

While most retiree’s kids have long left the nest, I have teenagers at home.  Jen is also working part-time from home still, though I often refer to it as semi-retirement now.  I am not what most folks would call truly retired.  Because of the boys and Jen’s job, I am tied to the house and subjected to scheduled activities.  We can’t just pick up and leave when the mood strikes or sell the house and start living in an RV.

Jen’s job hasn’t caused many issues like I feared.  She admits that sometimes she feels some resentment, but she remembers all the years I worked full-time and commuted two hours a day and most of the time feels it’s a wash.  Plus I’ve taken over some of the household chores, like shopping, she hates.  The fact I make her breakfast and coffee now and then doesn’t hurt either.

But most of the time she’s glad to have me home.  When she’s not working we can spend time together.  I’m generally more pleasant now and I’m around to help raise the boys and she appreciates that.  Overall, she considers my retirement a good thing.  She also supports my writing and figures that I’m working too, if not as hard or as long as she does.

Honestly, I don’t have a job but calling it retired is a stretch.  I can do what I want, when I want, but within a more rigid setting than most retirees.  It’s not bad, but I do long for the day Jen and I can truly retire and enjoy real freedom.  We have a lot of free-time together, and I have a lot of free-time period, but we would love to have more.  Real retirement is still on the horizon, but what I have isn’t too bad either.

Finances

One of the things that makes my retirement possible is being frugal or at least trying to be.  We’re not poor by any means, but we aren’t wealthy either.   We do OK and we know that the more we watch our spending, the easier things are.  I write about it a lot, but I am not what you would call an expert.  We are learning and adjusting to a more frugal life and we blow it as often as we do it right.

I am amazed at our ability to spend too much money, but also at our ability to recover.  It’s these peaks and valleys we want to avoid.  It means spreading out purchases and planning better for larger ones.  We’ve cut as much of the big, obvious stuff as we probably can right now, so I’m working on the smaller stuff.  I am posting about it as I go (You can read those posts under the category LBYM).

Honestly, our McMansion, a 2400 sq foot house on 5 acres, is the biggest expense we have by far.  It doesn’t make sense to get rid of it now since the boys are still at home, so we pay the big mortgage every month.  Without that big payment, we’ll be fine.  We are both sick and tired of all the maintenance and yard work and look forward to the day we can sell the place and live a little more simply.

Our trips to Oregon, have really put a dent in our budget.  On some of the trips we were able to get reimbursed by my father-in-law for our trouble.  Others we were not.  We have had to front a lot of money to pay for funeral and probate costs.  Luckily we had a credit card with a zero balance, the key word being HAD.

We will get paid back by the estate and should have a little left over for our troubles.  Part of that we will enjoy and part we will set aside and invest.  Not the preferred way to get a little economic boost, but appreciated none the least.  Honestly, it’s not nearly enough for the mess my father-in-law left for us to clean up, but it is what it is.  If anything positive has come of his passing it is our determination to downsize and simplify our lives and keep our finances in order for our sake and our kids.

Health

I’m not sure if my health has improved damatically, but I can say my stress level has decreased.  I haven’t lost any weight despite trying last winter, but I do try to exercise more.   I’m slowly trying to add exercise into my day.  Honestly though, the reduction in stress is probably the best thing that could have happened to me, or anyone for that matter.  It takes a toll to be sure.

I do generally feel better though.  I had an attack of diverticulitis four years back and had 10 inches of my colon removed.  Since then I have been relatively well.  No more intestinal problems and I rarely get sick.  Even so, over the last year I’ve been nothing but well, knock on wood.  Sure, I feel under the weather now and then, but no colds, no flu, nothing major.

The best part is I don’t worry about it anymore.  I used to worry if I felt like I was getting sick.  Would I miss an important meeting or deadline?  How long would it last?  What would my boss think?  Now I don’t even care.  I even looked forward, sort of, to getting ill once I retired just so I could recuperate without worrying about my job.  Its a little ironic that I haven’t gotten sick since.

I attribute all that to a lack of stress and anxiety, or simply a lack of work.  If I feel tired, have  a headache or my allergies are bothering me, I take it easy.  I can put stuff off and do it another day.  I can stay in bed or just watch TV, read a book or relax.  I can take care of myself and coupled with the reduction in stress, I think that makes the difference.

Lessons

So, I suppose a retrospective post like this wouldn’t be complete without some lessons learned.  I have learned a lot in the last year and I will probably continue to learn lessons about being retired and myself as I go forward.  I think the most important thing I have learned is that I love retirement.  Its easy to take it for granted, but being able to do what I want, when I want is all I’ve ever wanted.  Now I can.  I am master of my own destiny and it is grand.

I have also learned to slow down.  I have slowly shed the feelings of having to be somewhere or having to do something.  I no longer feeling guilty about taking it easy. I no longer have to worry about having only so much free time and needing to maximize it.  I find myself enjoying the little things more.  I guess you could say I just enjoy being alive.  It’s still an evolving attitude, but I’m headed in the right direction.  Best part is I’m dragging Jen along with me.  Even though she’s working part-time, she spends time with me rather than being cooped in her office when things are slow or the work has run out.  She’s learning too.

Probably one of the most important things I have learned is that I value my time much more than money.  I think about working and, I won’t lie, the prospect of having more money is appealing.  Then I realize that I would have to work to get it.  No thanks!  That doesn’t mean I won’t ever work, but it will be on my terms and be something I can enjoy.  I just don’t need money that badly right now.  I’d rather use my time to figure out how to avoid work than to trade it for money.

Another thing all this has taught me is that retirement isn’t going to fix your life.  You’ll still have problems, worries, stress and anxiety.  It’s not all peaches and cream.  If you’re depressed, you’ll likely still be depressed.  If you’re fat, hello, you’re not going to magically get skinny.  Life is still life and it’s hard sometimes.  However, retirement does make dealing with all of life’s curve balls a little easier.

Finally, I’m discovering me.  I am learning about myself, maybe becoming reacquainted with myself.  As I shed the years of built up stress and anxiety, most of which came from my job, I am finding the old me.  The care-free 20-something I used to be.  But I am also finding a new me.  I am the same, but different.  My priorities are shifting, my attitudes changing.  I am on a journey and I don’t know exactly where I will end up, but I am excited to find out.

The Future

As for the near future, I plan to keep this up.  I’ll keep writing and actually write more.  Continue fishing and spending time with my family.  Continue exploring and adding to and working on my list of things to do and my bucket list.  Hopefully, as the situation with my father-in-law normalizes, I can really start exploring my retirement.  Start planning long range, getting serious about travel and really begin the next stage of my life.

I really haven’t done that yet.  We have some long range plans after the kids are out of the house to travel around in an RV for a few years.  We talk about moving to a new city at some point.  But from now until then my plans are really kind of sparse.  I’ve been doing a lot and also a lot of nothing, but with no real direction.  I plan to start developing some concrete ideas about the next 5 years or so.  I’ve got some really neat, creative ideas and I look forward to seeing where those go.

I still have lingering ghosts from my work life, but they are fading.  I feel retired.  I feel like I’ve turned a corner and I’m heading in a new direction, a good direction.  I’ve taken some time to adjust, to learn to slow down and to rediscover myself.  Now I’m ready for the next stage.  I guess what I’m saying is I’m ready for Being Retired.

Kind of sounds like the end doesn’t it?  Well, it’s not.  I have lots more to write about.  And no, I didn’t name the blog Being Retired just so I could use that line above, though it is kind of clever.  I look forward to sharing my experiences and the things I learn along the way.  Thank you for reading!

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