Saturday, December 11, 2010

Retirement Planning – Just Open the Darn Book!

A friend of mine who is about nine months ahead of me on the retirement timeline has been trying to decide when to stop working. He can afford to do it now, but as he told one of his colleagues, he doesn’t know yet what he wants to do with the next phase of his life. (He lost his wife about two years ago, so his long-held plans have changed.)

His feeling was, if he didn’t have a plan, why not keep working? The advice his colleague* gave him was simple, yet profound. He said: “You can’t start writing the next chapter of your life unless you’re willing to open the book.” I decided it would be a good idea to think about some of the headings on the pages of my life’s next chapter.

The first one is easy: Give away all the alarm clocks in the house and sleep in every morning. That would require some planning, though, because Lily would be walking all over me at some point, wanting her breakfast. I started a list: “Things to Buy for Next Chapter of My Life.” Then I wrote “Gravity-feed cat food dispenser.”

Another page should be: Read all the books that I bought and never had time to finish. Or even start. Of course, most of those books will have been sold or donated by the time we downsize for retirement. I add to the list: “Buy a Kindle." Or whatever electronic reading device du jour makes sense for a Mac lover. And then “Find out if Kindle comes with 3.25 magnifier.” I amend that to “Find out maximum Kindle magnifier number” and “Auto upgrades available?” By next year, I might be up to 3.5.

I title a page: Take up scrap-booking, or making greeting cards. (I have lots of supplies that I’ve collected over the years.) Somehow that sounds too crafty, not artsy enough for me. Maybe collage. Or book making. No, not the taking bets kind. The type where you bind your own books with handmade paper; it’s quite popular now. Although setting myself up as a bookie could be a way to supplement my retirement income. Hmmm…

Definitely: Start a vegetable and herb garden. Note to self: Do not plant anything in the catnip family; (that means no mint.) I tried growing catnip once, and the neighbor’s cat (an outdoor scamp) mowed it to ground level. He got so drunk that he trashed the entire herb bed. My own cats never saw so much as a leaf off the nepeta cataria.

This reminds me of how my father planted various fruit trees on our modest sized property in New Jersey. My favorite was the Carpathian walnut tree. (I am not joking.) My mother baked a lot of tea breads as gifts and many of them contained walnuts. Since those were pricey, my father decided to save money by planting the tree. He did not take into account the local squirrel population. Despite various attempts at curtailing their thievery (an entire post in itself), he was never able to harvest enough for more than one batch of bread. He eventually chopped the walnut tree down out of spite.

Perhaps: Volunteer at the Best Friends animal sanctuary in Utah. My friend, Sheryl, named them to receive contributions when she died. Their work is amazing and the DVDs they send tug at your heartstrings even more than that “Arms of an Angel” SPCA commercial. You know, the three-tissue anti-cruelty one with the dogs in cages and the Sarah McLachlan song in the background. If I went to Best Friends, I might never come back. Besides, I doubt I could bring Lily and Luke, and I can’t really picture Jagdish mucking horse stalls…

Suddenly I am inspired. I have the perfect heading for the next chapter of my life. Become a boutique wine maker. It brings together so many aspects of the other ideas. I can save money. I’ll have gifts to give. I’ll be a classic Virgo, working with the earth. And we all know what the best part of making my own wine will be. Santé!

*Credit to Michael Fine, even though he doesn’t know it.

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