RETIREMENT! Freedom and time to do “whatever one wants.” And the money and health to pull it off?!
A goal to strive for. A life to plan for. A financial challenge to save for.
Flash back about 30 years ago and I was 30 something… It was my first week on the job at a famous Silicon Valley tech company and an employee meeting was called. One of the topics was the “early retirement package” being offered to workers meeting age and service criteria. These lucky people could take this package to retire early or they could keep on working. Great subsidized health insurance plan, a lump sum percentage of your salary and retirement plan payout was all part of the retirement deal. Some of the older workers grumbled that they wished they could afford to retire. Some were elated because they could.
I thought, “OH! I hope there’s an offer like this when I’m getting close to retirement age. And I’d better be ready, in case they do!”
But YIKES! How would I EVER attain the ultimate freedom of a comfortable and carefree retirement?! I had just taken a pay cut to join this company, anticipating greater returns in the long run. Soon after I took that job, I found myself divorced and struggling as a single Mom, with two hungry growing boys, along with car and mortgage payments. I was somewhat bitter because I’d never wanted to be a “working Mom” – I had signed up for the “stay at home Mom” package – life can be so unfair! Yeah, right – I was so very fortunate to have such a great job. Youthful naïve bitterness aside, I did decide to at least try and make the most of the choices that were ahead of me. And to never lose sight of the “early retirement” goal – however impossible my financial planner said it was (he did so every time we met.) My Dad’s wisdom resonated with me at that time, “Your money needs to work even harder than you do, sweetie, if you want to be financially successful.”
I won’t bore you with all the gory details about all this stuff that happened the next 20 years: my long work weeks, remarriage, job promotions and relocation, terrific salary increases, times of career disillusionment and despair, working with the most supportive colleagues and bosses you could imagine, significant challenges during the kids’ teen years, my sweet Dad’s health decline and death, financial planning, my husband’s layoff, saving until it hurt, investing until it hurt, years of maxing out my 401k, profitable real estate timing, doing without luxuries, and loads of good old fashioned LUCK.! During all this time, my career challenges sometimes made me wonder if I’d manage the stress well enough to survive for any retirement. I did NOT want to be one of those people you hear about; you know – “oh poor thing, she retired and then died the next month of a heart attack!” Okay, so there were hundreds of hours invested in therapy, too – it wasn’t all a bed of roses! Yet, looking back on it, *mostly* the stars and planets lined up in a way for me that was almost miraculous.
Fast forward about 20 years – I was 53. The *best-ever retirement package* was offered by my company and I was ELIGIBLE and READY!! I thought about it for maybe 10 seconds and said, “I’ll take it!” We had JUST bought an inexpensive fixer-upper vacation home in the San Juan Islands. We sold our beautiful 5 bedroom/3 car garage home in Northern California and made the move to our 2 bedroom/no garage home on Lummi Island. Talk about downsizing!
I was thrilled to be among the first of the baby boomers to make it to retirement! My *careful* planning had worked! And I was still young! That was about 10 years ago…