Let’s start by setting the scene. How did your retirement come about?
I was working as a parking officer when I injured my foot and couldn’t work that job anymore. I went back to school, but after the economic crisis I struggled to find work. So, I took a marketing job for about a year before deciding to go into business for myself selling insurance. Then Covid hit, and it wasn’t worth keeping my insurance license and I gave up the health side of sales. Now I’m semi-retired and self-employed, still advising from time to time. If I totally retired, I’d have nothing to do. This way I’m forced to continue being social. Plus, it allows for a side income here and there.
What does retirement look like for you these days? Is it different from what you might have expected?
I’m more available to my friends. Just before Christmas I helped a friend move his son’s stuff. On the way out we drove to Texas in the car my friend was giving to his son, traveling through the Rockies and across Las Vegas. That’s sort of the way it’s gone. I’m on call with some friends. I continue to do some of my gig work. I play on the computer. Do a little bit of yard work. I play water volleyball three days a week, which is with a large group that keeps me social. My wife and I will head up the coast occasionally or drive to Vegas once in a while. Occasionally we’ll fly to California. I take care of some of my neighbors’ yards. I just try to stay active as much as possible.
How did you prepare to cover your expenses in retirement?
I took a government job with the city and put what I could into my pension. I just did my own research and took early retirement when I thought it was smart to do so because my commissions sales weren’t going to be enough. I’m 67 now, and my father lived to be 80, so if I live longer than I expect to, I probably won’t have as much money.
What has surprised you most about retirement, whether money-related or otherwise?
Covid changed retirement for a lot of people. Afterwards, you had to get out of your isolation mode and make sure you contacted friends, kept their and your spirits going. My daily goal is to get 1,000 smiles. I never reach it, but that’s a good daily goal. It’s a way to know that at some point you’ve impacted somebody’s life. Maybe they really needed that smile. My attitude is that laughter and smiles are the best medicine.
What would you have told your younger self about life in retirement?
I could have put more money into my pension before retirement — I probably should have. But I was putting more effort into the things around me as opposed to putting money in the bank. In the end, that was quite rewarding. I’ve volunteered at the high school. I was the neighborhood association chair. I was one of the top volunteers for the music program at the high school and was then loaned out to other programs because I’m considered Master Cook for the barbeque.
What advice would you give others who are currently preparing for retirement?
In preparing for retirement, you have to decide what your plan is. And part of preparing is also to be physically in decent shape. My injury put me in a position where I was out of shape and have been struggling since to get to peak condition. I go up and down, depending on different factors. Financially you can only do so much, but it won’t help the mental health if you don’t have a plan. My plan was geared more towards trying to survive until my body said, “that’s it.” I had my pension and Social Security, and I was much better prepared for my retirement because I took care of my in-laws and learned quickly about Medicare and Medicaid. The whole thing comes to down to the fact that preparation is different than what people might think. There’s all this stress on the financial, but if you haven’t taken care of the emotional and physical, then you’re in trouble.
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