RETIREMENT IS SERIOUS BUSINESS

I stopped working more than five years ago. I was too sick to keep going and I was old enough so the market for my services was drying up.

I started getting disability almost 2 years after I was physically unable to work. It turned out my monthly disability check was less than a week’s pay as a working person. I tried intermittently for several years to find part-time work that might bring in a bit of money. So life wouldn’t be so difficult.

Nothing lasted long. More to the point, I didn’t last long. I hurt. I was exhausted. I worked more slowly than I did in the past. Finally, I gave up. I was 61.

96-Rockers-NK

Garry had stopped working too. There were a lots of adjustments to make. On the psychological side, we had to learn to be retired. The world is different when you don’t have a job to define your weeks and days. I had worked at home a lot over the years, so it was not as abrupt a shift for me as it was for Garry. Eventually we slipped comfortably into not-working.

The financial part was — continues to be — challenging. The mortgage had to be lowered or we’d lose the house. Somehow, we got it done. Both of us had no health insurance for more than a year. Me for more than two, during which interval, I nearly died. Because no one would repair me without insurance. Eventually, I lucked into a doctor and a hospital who cared more for my life than my lack of insurance. I’m alive to write this only because of them.

We kept cutting back and cutting back. Last spring, our outgo and income became equal. Exactly. Assuming nothing outside programmed expenses ever occurs, we have the same amount of money as month. Which is absurd. Life is full of expensive surprises. Cars break. Pipes leak. Wells go dry. Appliances wear out. Dogs get sick. Meanwhile, fixed incomes have less and less buying power as inflation eats away at them.

I got sick. A lot. Big time. One nearly dying event was apparently not enough for me. I had to repeat it a couple more times, to make sure I got it right. Then there was breast cancer. Two cancers, one for each breast. I thought, having got through that, I’d earned a reprieve. Sadly, life doesn’t work that way. Life doesn’t let you “pay it forward.”

This year, it was my heart. Five surgeries later, I’m back. Blogging my remodeled, rebuilt heart out.

The other day, I received an invitation from a well-known, quite prestigious website to become a contributing editor. This would require I write two posts a month, minimum. Really, they’d like at least one a week or more.

Serendipity is a personal blog. I write about my life, memories, experiences, thoughts. Occasionally, I put up an issue-oriented piece. The other site is more about issues and news. More impersonal, less anecdotal. A lot of politics. Government. Current events.

The point — for me — of taking on this other writing role would be to have a forum where I could post about different stuff, the stuff I avoid on Serendipity. The thing is, I’m not sure I want another forum. Or need one. Even though I’m flattered. It’s so hard to say “no” when the compliments are flying thick and fast.

Nonetheless, I take retirement seriously. I don’t work, don’t search for work. If I get a nibble (because my résumé is out there and headhunters find it), I have (finally) learned to say “no thank you.” My survival is predicated on not working. Not having deadlines. Keeping my anxiety level low. If I take it easy — low-key, low stress — I can have a pretty pleasant life. No money to spend, but otherwise nice enough. Do I want more responsibility? Can I handle it? I thought I had decided “yes,” but I find myself wavering.

These days, I take retirement seriously. As seriously as I ever took any job at which I worked for pay. It takes dedication to do retirement properly.

Author: Marilyn Armstrong

Writer, photography, blogger. Previously, technical writer. I am retired and delighted to be so. May I live long and write frequently.

41 thoughts on “RETIREMENT IS SERIOUS BUSINESS”

  1. I may throw in the towel at the end of this year and retire. I’m certainly old enough and I probably have enough socked away (as long as the stock market doesn’t crash) to live modestly for a while longer. But I have defined myself by what I do for my job and I am concerned that if I don’t do that any more, I will have lost my identify and I won’t know who I am. That’s the part about retirement that I find truly scary.

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    1. I know a lot of retired people and none of us lost our identities when we quit working. Even the workaholics in the group found a whole new world waiting for them, a life where you get to be yourself, not your job. Really, seriously. NO ONE was more identified with his profession than Garry. Or the rest of the old media crowd. But they all love retirement. It takes a few months to figure out that you really ARE retired, figure out where to get those senior discounts. Learning how to live without a schedule takes some adaptation. But you already work at home, so it won’t actually be that big a switch for you. Been there. Done that. And you WRITE. That’s not a job you do. That’s something that IS you. You already do it. I bet you’ll just do more of it. Really, you’ll love it.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. It’s been a year since my mum retired and the biggest problem is that she has no health insurance. Nobody is willing to cover retired people, let alone people with with pre-existing medical conditions. It’s the same case with my dad so every day at work is just another day making sure there’s enough put away in the bank to plan for a “what-if” incident… Retirement is hard work… Wish you all the best! 🙂

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    1. Why doesn’t she have Medicare? It comes automatically with social security and is the best health insurance money can’t buy. Even Obama’s affordable health care will not refuse anyone because of pre-existing medical conditions. So regardless, these days, there’s no reason to not have medical insurance, no matter what age you are. If she is retirement age, she gets Medicare. Period. There’s no if, buts, or maybes. And ALL doctors and ALL hospitals accept it. There’s prescription coverage too.

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      1. We don’t live in the US and not working in our home country so while the government is making healthcare mandatory for everyone, the system just hasn’t caught up yet so a lot of people are falling through the cracks…

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        1. Oh. That’s a whole other thing. She can’t join a local healthcare group? When I lived overseas, that was what I did. I guess it depends on where in the world you are, but most places have some form of universal coverage that you can buy into. I think the US was the LAST country to provide health care to its citizens. The rest of the world already had it.

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  3. Quiet a serious affair. Retirement brings worries no doubt, I would just add the flip side of 61 is 16 so enjoy the second childhood. Working for another website is your call so all the best for future endeavors 🙂

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  4. I’m with you, Marilyn. I started my blog with an eye to eventually finding some paid writing work that would supplement Social Security when I retire (sooner than I want to think about). But the more I think about it, the less I find myself willing to submit to other people’s deadlines and other people’s ideas of what I should write. I’ll just have to wait and see what happens in the next couple of years.

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    1. And they don’t pay you. They give you honor, compliments, an audience, prestige … but no MONEY. If there really were money, I might do some shifting away from here to do it … but honor and compliments don’t pay the bills. Lord knows I wish they did.

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      1. Oh, it wasn’t an offer for paid posts? I’d pass, too. I’m already past the “I’ll do it for the glory” stage of my writing career, although sometimes I’ll do a guest post for someone else just for the fun of it.

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            1. We can try. The problem is that quality is not the primary qualification on the internet. They aren’t looking for terrific writers. They are looking for incendiaries. Gossip mongers. Hackers. And combination of the aforementioned. And that’s why the quality of writing you see online is on the whole, atrocious. There are jobs, but most are freelance and don’t pay much. You have to work constantly to keep even. Journalism has always been cutthroat. It’s just worse now.

              Photography has undergone a similar downward slide. Most people apparently think anyone with a cell phone is a photographer. They can’t tell the difference between art and a snapshot. They don’t know there IS a difference to see.

              Being an artist of any kind has always a hard way to make a living. That’s why I wound up as a technical writer. Because I could be a writer and at least for most of my career, quality writing was valued. Newspapers rarely hire full-time writers these days. Everything is freelance, part time, stringer. Cheaper. They don’t have to pay benefits. I wish you the best of luck, but I’m serious when I suggest you consider authoring a book. It’s easier to sell a book than your soul.

              Liked by 1 person

  5. Turn 62 this year and am facing retirement. I will admit I am scared. Not so much for me, but for the people who depend on me for income, knowledge, strength … I didn’t realize how much of what I do is driving by others and their needs

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    1. We all seem to accumulate dependents even when we don’t realize what’s happening. But. You can’t work forever. You really don’t want to die at the office.A big part of the adaptation to retirement is learning to say “no” to kids, grandkids, and others who have been relying on you for their entire lives. We become everyone’s fallback position … but where is OUR fallback position? The time comes to regretfully inform the world it will have to make its way independently. It’s reality.

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  6. I didn’t want to retire, at least not when the company wanted it. I still had two years to go, but the economic situation was not so good for the company. As I was a long serving slave, almost 30 years, they carried on paying me for the two years left. Mr. Swiss was retired two years before me due to health problems. I was worried, and so I put away as much as I could in those two years. I wondered would the money be enough when we were both on the scrap heap. Long story cut short, it was. Of course the big spending spree no longer existed, but we realised we did not need it. I am not interested in working again, I prefer to play with my computer at home. Perhaps we are the lucky ones, but we were both working many years and when the kids left we realised that we had enough to go round. We no longer have big wishes and we poodle along somehow. Sickness insurance is well organised in Switzerland. Expensive, but good.

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    1. We manage. We would manage better if cars would stop getting old and needing tune ups and tires and batteries and stuff. And teeth would not need fillings and wells would never run dry. And even better if one could buy a computer and it would last forever. If you only had to buy each thing once and never again, it would work out much better! I don’t want much … but computers and cameras … well … I have an itch where technology is concerned. I don’t need much clothing since we really don’t go a lot of places. We have plenty of furniture and probably more house than we need … Really, we are pretty well set, but pensions are fixed and inflation eats it away and there’s nothing to be done about it. If we had been better money managers when we were young, we would be in better shape now. Garry didn’t want to retire, either. They wanted younger, cheaper people working. If they’d let him work another two years, we would be in MUCH better shape. But we manage. Some months are harder than others, and having the car need so much work and teeth needing repair in the same month is pretty tough on a fixed income. Next month will be better. Or so I fondly believe.

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  7. Well said. It is wiser to take it easy. Moreover, anyone paying even a single Dollar/Euro would end taking up 100% of your life and time. You have had the courage of conviction to refuse and that is what counts. Make the most of what time you have left.

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  8. Can you do it on your own terms? If you did untake this opportunity you’d have to set some very definite limits to your projects. If they would be okay with that it might be worth a try.
    Leslie

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    1. They seem to have a standard arrangement, but I don’t think I can turn out that many more posts. I was thinking of cutting back, even here. To add another layer of work is probably foolish.

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            1. The answer is being shouted my my internal rooftop: I don’t have any money and I can’t buy ANYTHING, no matter how much it’s discounted. Sometimes those inner voices need to be whacked up side the head to get their attention 🙂

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  9. I have a feeling that your “guts” will guide you to make the right decision. I retired a few years ago, although health related and started my own little business(former hobby) in my workroom (a former detached garage). I wanted to stay busy, that was my goal…didn’t expect any money, or not much. I don’t know why, the word spread and I am booked for months. I work now on my own terms, can take breaks when needed. I got lucky I suppose. I can work at my own speed, still have an income and do what I always loved. I am just glad you are here and love your posts. You don’t overpost…sometimes less is more 🙂

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    1. I sometimes have to restrain myself from posting more, but I don’t because I get annoyed when I get too much from one blogger. I don’t have time to read that much stuff, not and write. If they were paying me, I think I’d try it, but it’s just an honor and frankly, I’m past the point where seeing a byline with my name makes me all warm and runny. I don’t think I can write any more than I’m already writing, not and have a life off the computer. I’m glad your retirement turned out to be a second life. I have been too sick to even think about working. What I’m doing is about what I can handle, though maybe that will change. But not yet. Not quite yet.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I don’t post everyday because I felt overwhelmed with some of the blogs posting every day…sometimes even more than one. I can’t (don’t want to) take that much in. Quantity over Quality..doesn’t work for me :-). I hope it will change you you will be able to do more. Just make sure you love what you are doing 🙂

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