The BIG Decision: Retirement Options

Should I stay or I should I go? — The Clash

For many, the decision of how to handle the freedom from having a specific job in a specific place can be daunting. For one thing, most of us have never faced such freedom. Most of us have lived where our job was for decades and made do. Perhaps we came to love our home, our neighbors or our general situation. Perhaps we dislike major life changes. That wasn’t us. Mike and I had been thinking about getting out of the city for decades when the opportunity arose to do just that.

Home Sweet Home before the move

That is not to say the choice was simple. There are so many factors to consider. Closeness to family and friends, expenses, how much we like or dislike the unhealthy aspects of city life. Besides the unhealthy air for someone with COPD, I discovered as we thought about it, that I did not want to spend another minute sitting at stoplights when I had so little life left. I hate wasting time! Yes, the decision probably won’t be easy, but it must be made either way.

My own uncertainty five years ago at this time, as we prepared our lovely suburban home for sale, did create great stress in my life. About this time the end of May 2014 we had a buyer set up for mid-June, but no place to move to in Walsenburg! Yikes! Remember, once you make that tough decision, you need to accept all the major stressors that come your way after that. And we were also preparing to build a new home in a rural area where good workers are hard to find.

Our view today!

Yes, I remember it all just like it was yesterday. At the time it often felt like too much to bear. And yet, the rewards have been so worth it. Now I’m certain we made the right choice for us, but there were many times I doubted every decision we made. So much easier to stay in the same home and hope for the best, but then you will never know the rewards of moving on and choosing something completely different!

In the summer of 2014, Mike and I sold our nice house in Fort Collins to move temporarily into an old miner’s home in Walsenburg, while constructing a passive solar home near the top of Navajo Ranch Estates west of Walsenburg Colorado. To learn more about downsizing to a tiny town and then living in the Colorado countryside, consider reading my book: A Memoir of Retirement: From Suburbia to Solar in Southern Colorado available from Amazon or directly from me at: MidlifeCrisisQueen@gmail.com

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Is early retirement on your to do list?

They had a thought-provoking lead story on CBS Sunday Morning this week: “I quit! The joys of leaving your job for good” There they said more than half of Americans dream of saying, “Take this job and shove it!” One statement that was made was the realization by so many workers that we are all expendable, so why offer up our loyalty to the place where we work? I learned the hard way how that works in my last position as an academic librarian! But before you quit your job, here are some things to think about. The fantasy of quitting before normal retirement age should include:

  • Don’t have kids
  • Buy a small house or condo
  • No big, expensive vacations or fancy lifestyles
  • The ability to ignore all commercials!

I especially enjoyed a statement by a surgeon who quit her job in her 50s to pursue her love of art. I related to her best. The interviewer ask her how she felt when she left her job for the last time. She said, “They don’t control me anymore!” She had been saving half of her income for years to accomplish her goals. Her mother’s response was even more interesting, reflecting major generational differences. Instead of congratulating her, her mother was embarrassed and told her friends she had to quit because she was sick. The previous generation generally believes that winners don’t quit. I found this true of my parents too. They couldn’t believe we would be able to pull this off.

Mike and I were relieved of the tough decision to quit our last jobs in our 50s. Mike’s job in solar engineering got sent to China and I was fired by Regis University in Denver. I was devastated for less than a year, until I met Mike through my own dating service. We joined forced, determined to prove that those assholes weren’t going to get the best of us! Luckily we had checked all of the boxes above and saved like crazy starting in our early 20s, so we have been able to convert the lack of jobs into our own version of success. Moving to a beautiful, but less expensive area and building a direct gain solar home also helped a lot!

Our view in retirement

We completely agree with the guy in the CBS story who followed his gut and his dreams and said, “I would never go back.” In retrospect, we wouldn’t change a thing either…

It’s not where you start, it’s how you finish…

That is how I like to see my life now. Growing up with a strong German emphasis, I learned to measure myself by my daily productivity. What had I produced today? Being a good girl back then meant never feeling adequate, always trying harder to achieve some illusive sense of “good enough.”

“What’s this? One B along with all of these nice A’s?”

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As strange as it may seem, it was only through a number of difficult crises in my late forties that I found ways to transform myself and my life. Bad marriage, divorce, job and then career loss, you get the picture. I spent some serious time living on severance and unemployment, changing my whole perspective on me. “Good girl” hadn’t worked out. What’s next?

things left unsaidI began a full out rebellion at age 49! I became a writer at age 50, after 25 years of not saying what I needed to and not getting what I wanted as a good girl/ mild-mannered librarian. I stopped saying all the right things while agreeing with everybody. Mostly I stopped apologizing for being me.

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In other words, I started a blog!

I learned to take care of my needs first, with no guilt or shame, and create what I wanted for me. My life has been so much better since I made that decision, and it just keeps getting BETTER!

Today I follow my passions with color, creativity, and nature. We moved to rural Colorado three years ago with no rules about what we have to do today. I live with a man who accepts me exactly the way I am, without conditions, and I find it almost impossible to take crap from just about anybody anymore.

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And people say aging isn’t liberating…

Sedona Sojourn – May 2016

“We travel to seek other places, other lives, other souls.” – Anais Nin

So off we went this past Monday morning to seek warmer climes down south in New Mexico and Arizona…enough snow already! We packed up ourselves, our cat and dog and headed south. Charlie the cat only made it as far as Trinidad, pooping in his box along the way. (Thanks Charlie!) We left him off at our wonderful vet’s place, and were in New Mexico in 20 minutes.

Very Large ArrayWe headed down to Socorro on I-25 and then west past the Very Large Array. Very cool visitor center! It really brought out the space nerd in Mike, and reminds me of the movie Contact from 1997.

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We ended the day at Lyman Lake State Park just across the Arizona border, and were disappointed to learn that this campground appears to be removing all of its camp sites for those not in gigantic RVs. They have expensive, new cabins (without toilets!) and only a few non-electric sites. It seems even in the realm of camping, those with the most money win.

Next morning we enjoyed a delicious breakfast in Show Low, and then continued on to Payson to spend a few hours with Mike’s sister and her family. Then on to Sedona where my brother lives.

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Our arrival in Sedona was breathtakingly beautiful, but pure culture shock for Mike and I. Intense traffic by our standards with lots of confusing roundabouts everywhere. For obvious reasons, this place is tourist heaven!

However, it wasn’t heaven for us. We picked up my brother John and proceeded north of town to Manzanita campground, which was full. We then spent an hour or so finding no place to stay anywhere near Sedona.

IMGP4805Finally a nice guy at the Circle K told us about some Forest Service land west of town where we were allowed to sleep in our van.

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The best part? The beautiful cacti in full bloom everywhere!

For as beautiful as it is, Sedona was not our cup of tea. To us, it seemed like Estes Park (next to Rocky Mountain National Park) on steroids, so noisy, busy and none relaxing! And it really surprised me that my brother, who lives on the land up north in Oak Creek Canyon, likes it there. But the land is beautiful, the weather is nice, and the people we met there were surprisingly helpful and friendly. I guess John has everything he needs there without having to own a car, pay rent, etc.

Our return trip was not so fun. Mike got sick and it was so windy driving across northern New Mexico. We stayed in Gallup. Mike went to bed and I ventured out to find some dinner and a 35-word short story:

A Visit to McDonald’s in Navajo Country

At first glance there was fear. Who was this beige ghost so out of place?                             Then I smiled, and experienced a beautiful show of relief.                                           An angel-like round face framed by dark hair smiled back at me. 

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From my visit with my brother I could only conclude: to each his own. By the time you’re 50 or 60 I guess you know what works best for you. This home in southern Colorado with a tremendous view of the Spanish Peaks is our own version of perfect!

We appreciate it even more now…