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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What makes us who we are today?

I was struck the other day by this quote from Dr. Phillip McGraw. In my opinion, “Dr. Phil” is a wise man disguised as a TV personality.

“What I’m doing now is a culmination of everything I’ve ever done”

I have been in the midst of a “career” change for the past few years, since moving out into the Colorado countryside. I know, how can you change careers when you are already retired? But in some ways this change is more important to me than anything I did back when I was struggling to make a living.

That quote from Dr. Phil made me start thinking about the lifetime of influences that have brought me to this exact moment in time. I never gave much thought to the major influence my father has had on my interests until now. He has been an influential botanist, president of the National Association of Biology Teachers at one time, and author of some important books like “Trees and Shrubs of Colorado.” So, is that why I love living in nature and gardening at 7,000 feet with native plants now?

My Mom became a master of plant photography and Photoshop to assist my Dad in his book production. They together created “Common Southwestern Native Plants,” a lovely identification guide. Oh, maybe that is why I have recently decided to focus my future energies on photography.

The West Peak from the La Veta Public Library, 4/18/19

I believe we sometimes try to make our lives more complex than they really are. Look around you? What is influencing your world view right now? What is so close you almost don’t see it? Is that what you should turn your attention to right now, while you still can?

The future of elder care in our country

In response to an apparent turn towards meanness in our country, I have heard lately a call for a return to civility and compassion. In addition, I have been studying trends in generational relationships and don’t like what I’m seeing.

In my recent piece on Boomer Cafe I asked, what responsibilities do baby boomers have toward younger generations? Now I begin to wonder, what responsibilities do younger generations have toward their elders who have worked hard and paid their way their whole life? A quick look through the articles in the June 2018 AARP Bulletin is instructional in this regard.

First I came to an article called “Social Security and the Elections” which warns, depending on the makeup of the new U.S. Senate and House, “Congress might look to make cuts to programs such as Social Security and Medicare” to reduce a ballooning deficit caused by Trump’s gigantic corporate tax cuts.

Reality check: The Social Security Administration estimates that 21% of married couples and 43% of single seniors rely on Social Security for 90% or more of their income. According to a 2015 Gallup poll, 36% of near-retirees say they expect Social Security to be a major source of income once they retire.

A few pages later in the new AARP Bulletin I found a lovely article about how the Japanese respect and love their elders, a population where 28% are already over 65, and 30,000 Japanese turn 100 every year. At every bank, post office or hotel counter they provide reading glasses of three strengths for elder customers. With the highest percentage of senior citizens and among the world’s highest life expectancy rates, it seems natural for them to show concern for elders’ special needs. They also provide special buttons for extra walk time at crosswalks for senior pedestrians, and special elevators for those in wheelchairs!

I found a final article from AARP particularly reassuring as it complimented my state, Colorado, for being the first to establish a plan for the needs of an ever growing elder population. Within twelve years, one in five Coloradoans will be 65 or older, so our forward thinking governor recently appointed a Senior Advisor on Aging. The purpose of this position is to “Coordinate policies that affect older residents and work with state and local governments and health care providers on better ways to deal with the needs of an aging population.”

My sister, Diane Carter, who has been active in providing long-term care solutions and is one of our nation’s top advocates for the rights of the elderly, warns of the coming tsunami of needs we will face soon including affordable housing, transportation and access to health care for our seniors.

This is not the time to cut funds to support our aging citizens. It is instead time to prepare for a future with many more of them. Colorado’s new Advisor on Aging, Wade Buchanan warns:

“Most of the structures we have in place now, from our transportation systems to our housing stock to our health care systems, are designed for a society that will never exist again – a society where most of us are under 40.”

What path am I creating that others might follow?

When everything began to change for me in the early 2000s, I was scared. It seemed like all of my previous coping skills weren’t working anymore. Staying in the same career and trying to make a moribund marriage work finally reached a dead end for me. My career no longer interested me, and my marriage was irrevocably broken.

Now I know. If you find your life headed toward dead ends, find the time to focus on who you are now, before you decide what’s next.

After I got myself out of that very bad place, and began to feel like things had truly turned around for me, my greatest desire was to create a better path that others might follow out of midlife misery. Being a psychologist and a scholar, I started studying the history of midlife psychology. There I learned that what I had just experienced was a natural, normal, healthy transformation available to every person who is willing to take advantage of this new rite of passage for the human race! If you have the desire and the courage to take risks, you can change just about everything in your life.

caterpillar butterfly quote

That is what I have been doing ever since, and life just keeps getting better. I became a writer to educate others about the unique opportunities midlife presents to us at just the right time to get it right this time! Yes, there is still plenty of time to find a much better life, but first you must decide your highest priorities and then do everything in your power to reach those goals.

But this is also about attitude. Do you believe you can create a much better life for yourself? Why not error on the side of the positive this time?

Abundance is how we live in each moment – the choice to be open, the choice to entertain the possibility that we can have, create, and attract what we truly want.

Open to your own vast spontaneous creativity. Give yourself the freedom to try new things. Let go of your innate fear of failure, and finally feel free to experiment, perhaps for the first time in decades!

  

GIVE YOURSELF A BREAK!

One lesson we can all learn by travelling to other countries is that Americans are awfully busy. I have lived in southeast Asia, China, France and Italy, and can find no other group of people who feel the need to be constantly busy. My favorite country was Italy. They seem to have such a generous sense of time compared to us, and an ability to enjoy the process of living without guilt over stopping to enjoy each moment.

How did we ever get so busy and guilty about simply relaxing?

Freefall for blogI really don’t know how we got so driven as a culture, but I do have a few tips on how to give yourself a break from all of that internalized pressure: Take days off from your ‘normal’ life where you can truly do whatever YOU want to do. No rules. No guilt. Be lazy. Watch trashy TV. Eat mac and cheese. No food shaming either. Try really hard not to judge yourself or others for just a few hours. Celebrate having the time to just be yourself!

Let your mind wonder on a regular basis. Free thought is where all creativity comes from. How could your life be better? Free your mind to consider ALL of your options. What barriers would you need to bridge in your own mind to have a much better life?

What rules do you need to get rid of right now?

For some reason, aging can be quite the catalyst in freeing your mind. Being perfectly clear on the fact that your years are numbered can clear your head! What do you want to do before you die? Stop all the daily busyness long enough to do those things now!

feeling satisfied everyday

Stepping out of the busyness, stopping our endless pursuit of getting somewhere else, is perhaps the most beautiful offering we can make to our spirit.  — TARA BRACH

 

Now that I’ve gotten used to being ‘old’…

An elder friend told me years ago, ‘old’ is always ten years older than you are right now! Actually, I still do struggle with the apparent fact that I am now 63 years old. In my mind people in their sixties are like my grandparents. They are retired, checked out of the work world. I barely remember my grandparents before they retired. I mostly remember them as elderly folks who hung out a lot watching TV. This all reminds me of how different and out of it I must seem to kids today.

I’m beginning to think I’m the last person on planet earth who has never owned a “smart” phone and never really needed one.

I still communicate with my friends through e-mail to set up dates, etc. It works and does not add all those additional monthly expenses for mobile phones. I suppose my thrifty nature has made it possible for us to retire early… But then you do run into the whole, “What do you do with your life now?” question.

First of all, anything would be better than my life back in 2004 when I lost my last job. I was driving a hour each way to Denver to work at Regis University Libraries. I swear I’m still suffering from back and shoulder pain from that daily trek down I-25 to a job I hated, with people who apparently hated me. After six years I got fired in a way that felt like the end of life itself, but turned out to be the best thing ever!  Yes, my life since then has been the perfect example of this Chinese parable from 2,000 years ago:

A Chinese farmer gets a beautiful horse, but it soon runs away. A neighbor says, “That’s bad!” The farmer replies, “Good news, bad news, who can say?”

The horse comes back and brings another horse with him. Good news, you might say. 

The farmer gives the second horse to his son, who rides it, but is then thrown and breaks his leg.

“So sorry for your bad news,” says the concerned neighbor. “Good news, bad news, who can say?” the farmer replies.

In a week or so, the emperor’s men come and take every able-bodied young man to fight in a war. The farmer’s son is spared...

Proving once again that nothing is as it seems at the time. From my first (and ONLY!) firing as a professional librarian at age 49, I learned that it’s best not to get too hung up on what happened today. Even something that seems like the worst EVER can turn out to be a hidden opportunity to improve your life!

320 W. 2nd St. Walsenburg

Our Walsenburg rental, an 100-year-old miner’s home!

My best example of this is four years ago when we moved down here to build solar in the foothills. When we first got here I was not certain this was such a great idea. Moving from an up-and-coming city like Fort Collins to a poor, quiet, rundown town like Walsenburg left me thinking,

“Is this a bad thing? Have I lost my mind?”

Laura and Rasta on insulation 2014 (2)

But resilience and patience got us through the difficult adjustment and building stage, and today I am supremely happy to be here now.

Note to myself: Allow LOTS of time for personal adjustment around major life changes.

IMGP7091

One new hobby I took up after moving here, photography!

And yes, we do find excellent ways to spend our days, even in retirement. We have learned to enjoy a much slower pace with lots of time to just be. I have also learned how to truly live in the present.

If you can find a better way to live your life, go for it!

“There’s nothing sweeter than falling in love with the moment we’re given, the only one we have.”  — Marcia Smalley