Saturday, April 9, 2011

Retirement Emotions - Running the Gambit

In the few weeks that I’ve been retired, my emotions have been running the gambit. Relief that it’s finally here. Frustration that I haven’t made more progress on my key goals. Annoyance (with myself) that my professional pride has me spending too many hours a week finishing up loose ends for my old office. Satisfaction that by week three I was sleeping eight to nine hours each night and not getting up until I darn well felt like it.

At the end of March, I filed for Social Security using their on-line process. It was surprisingly user friendly, but it elicited some additional, unexpected emotions. Suspicion that the process was too easy; I must have missed something. Prompted by the question about whether I’ve ever gone by a different name, curiosity about what my former spouse is doing now. I know he remarried and had at least two children. From his Facebook page, it looks like he’s a grandfather. I reached out with a friend request, but it has gone unanswered. All these years I thought we had an amicable split. Color me disillusioned.

This week’s retirement emotions are panic and fear. The panic is because I’m discovering that, in order to keep my house tidy and dust free, I’ll need to spend about half my waking hours cleaning. I’ve never claimed to be a happy homemaker, but once the house is on the market, I’ll have no choice. While I prefer neat and clean, my budget doesn’t allow for outside help (more on budgets below,) and my lower back rebels after forty-five minutes of physical work. This has provided yet another reason to downsize and an urgency to make it happen.

The fear is because the shutdown of the federal government is looming as I write this. By the time you read it, there will likely have been a compromise that keeps the wheels of government creaking along. But for the past few days I’ve worried that I might not get my first Social Security payment when I had planned. If I understand correctly, the processing of new applications will grind to a halt with a shutdown. It seems unlikely that mine was completed in less than a week.

Although I realize this will be a short-term problem, it still worries me. I’m opting to start collecting six months before my “full retirement age.” Every month of delay should mean that my monthly payment would be slightly higher than it would be without a shutdown. You might think that this is good news, but I remind you that I’m a Virgo (or at least I was, before the new Zodiac debacle.) I’ve put together a detailed plan for my retirement. It depends on Social Security beginning in May.

Right now, I empathize with the military families wondering how they’re going to make their mortgage and car payments if the spouse on Uncle Sam’s payroll gets an IOU instead of the usual direct deposit. So there’s a good chance that I’ll spend this weekend tinkering with my budget and spending plans for the rest of this year, just in case. I’ll be looking for ways to save to offset the SS shortfall, and for other potential sources of income. (As if.)

Hmmm… Isn’t that what those folks in Congress were supposed to be doing these past several weeks? Talk about irony.

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