Friday, September 3, 2010

Drawing A Line in the Sand

A big part of the retirement process is deciding exactly when you should retire. Most of the things I’ve seen written about this have to do with finances—figuring out your “number” (how much you’ll need to live on.)

I spent—and continue to spend—a fair amount of time running numbers. What will be my expenses if I do it now, if I live there instead of here. What will be my income, Social Security in particular, if I go on this date vs. that. Figuring out what I’m likely to get for the house when I downsize. Re-figuring what I’ll get for the house as the real estate market goes into the toilet. And re-figuring yet again when someone or something pulls the “flush” handle.

You hear people talk about their “full” retirement age. But I see Social Security as a continuum. Retire a few months early and you get a little less. Hang on a few months longer and you get a little more. You don’t really max out until 70. A few months from “full” one way or the other makes very little difference.

What finally prompted me to draw a line in the sand and pick a date to retire had very little to do with money and very much to do with emotions. One of my closest friends died two years ago of lung cancer. She was a few years younger than I, and far more physically fit. And she’d never smoked a day in her life. By the time the doctors figured out what was wrong, she was stage four. They gave her 5 weeks, but she was with us 5 months.

That was a real wake up call for me. I realized that we never really know how much time we have left. I decided that as soon as I could put the pieces together enough to keep the wolves away from the door, I would retire. I’ll be dragging my husband (who is 11+ years my senior) kicking and screaming from his self-owned place of business. If it were up to him, he’d work forever. I figure I’ll be doing him a favor.

I drew that line in the sand for us at the end of this year (2010.) We have our eyes set on Northern Vermont, where my sister and her family live. Instead of seeing them just once or twice a year, we’ll be close enough to visit regularly. I’ll get to “do lunch” with my sister. I’ll get to go shopping with my niece, who is like the daughter I never had. I’ll get to watch my grandniece, who was a micro-preemie, grow up.

And instead of wishing I had time to write (my secret passion), I’ll be doing it every day, as many hours as I’d like. Speaking of which, today is Day 3 of my blog. I like to think of it as getting in shape for when I retire.

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