Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Changing Thoughts on a Full Retirement

In the few years that I have been blogging, it has been an interesting observation that the target age of early retirement hopefuls keep getting younger and younger as I've found myself, the last couple of years, gradually leaning the other way.

I no longer desire to totally leave my work and be at home full time, even though it would potentially open up the option of "unlimited" travel.  The trips I have taken in the last few years have shaped me in ways I had not expected.  And I welcome growth, even if it means not continuing to trace the same paths again.

Early in the life of this blog, I yearned for such a quick departure from the work "grind".  I was feeling discontented with a wide number of things and wanted an escape.  And it felt desperate enough to be willing to consider living extra "small" in order to achieve it. 

What has changed?

  • Four years of working part time.  
  • Getting gradually caught up and rested (key point). 
  • Reacquainting myself with my inner capacity and energy level.
  • Becoming physically stronger and eliminating foods that my body reacts to.
  • Challenging myself to stretch beyond what I believed to be possible or comfortable and succeeding.
  • A feeling of productiveness, linked to increased energy. 
  • Going through the exercise of a relocation which taught us much about work, ambition, purpose. 
  • Not wanting to always live in a secure bubble.
  • Not wanting to necessarily be away all the time either.

The pieces of my life pie are once again re-distributing itself.  It's a "good problem" to have.  It means I'm continuing to develop.  My perception of time is changing as well.  Suddenly becoming acutely aware of both the length of it as well as its finite aspect.

A new found optimism perhaps?  I don't know that it is so simple for me to pin point.  I'm feeling just how long time can feel.  An offshoot could be just how much more I can do with it.  A vast difference from what D used to hear me ask in an exhausted and pent up way -- "If I quit, will we be OK?"

During the 2 weeks I was home in Dec, I was able to rest, sleep, reflect, eat, relax, read, learn, play the piano, practice the violin, do ballet exercises, sketch, work out, walk, bike, row, do errands, connect with friends, journal, cook, do dishes, re-organize, all in one day and still felt like I had time and energy on my hands.

After the first few days, I found I didn't need any extra hours of sleep as I wasn't expending as much energy as I do when I work or travel.  I've never been one to sleep extra, just for the sake of sleeping.  Because of that, I was able to stay up till 3:30 am easily without feeling tired.  And then sleep for maybe 5 - 6 hours before getting up again.

That certainly wasn't the case a few years ago, when I longed for enough time to do even a quarter of the list above and felt like I wanted nothing but the luxury of unlimited time to enjoy all of it.  And assumed I would need at least a decade's worth of it to finally catch up with myself. 

Most important of all, It never entered my consciousness that I wouldn't need to be fully retired to reach this state.  As all I could remember was the overwhelming feeling of being boned tired, upset, weary and fed up.  Being completely out of balance and miserable, even though I was doing good work.

And for sure I'd never thought I would find myself saying now, "I'm sure glad I didn't quit!".  I know I've mentioned in the past that my current schedule could very well be my mid way answer to "retirement".  It was just a thought at that point, something that looked good on paper.  But the difference now, is that I feel it.

Currently I cannot imagine every day of the rest of my life like the 2 weeks described above during Christmas.  It was productive and fulfilling but I need more than just at home reflective and self improvement time as I'm no longer in "recovery".  Since being back to work (remember it is 12 hrs in office + 8 hrs admin a week), it feels more balanced, a large part I feel, because I'm contributing and making a difference.

For sure it would be different if I had parenting roles.  Right now I don't and may never.  And I don't wish to just keep adding new hobbies -- Already have enough of those.  And adrenaline rush experiences aren't really the things that can drive and sustain me for the long term either.

Please note:  I wasn't feeling dissatisfied nor moping around at home during my Dec holidays all grumpy because I wasn't elsewhere.  And I'm definitely not a naturally hyper or agitated person.  I was in good spirits, just a little bored after a couple of weeks.  My mind needed more.  Sure I would have preferred if D wasn't sick and had the same amount of time off so we could have both been able to have fun.  And for sure, I was not suffering.   

No, I'm not aiming to work more.  Not at all.  I like my current schedule and the freedom it affords me time wise at home and financially to save, see the world and give back.  I like how I do not need to burn up savings to realize my ambitions.

I also like being self sustaining.  The feeling of independence and control.  Being able to do meaningful work is an incredible bonus.  The amount of retirement savings we'd need if it were to incorporate all the extras I want to do now and later would not make sense, nor be fair to D.  Much easier when I can take care of this area on my own.

The ramifications of this realization is wide ranging for us.  For most of our years together, we have talk about and dreamed of an early retirement move somewhere.  My job is very location dependent whereas D can transition to location independent contract work.  With me potentially not seeing a near end to my career, it means we are going to be here for a while, which changes the game for D.  So we've had to talk about how it will affect him and what he had in mind for retirement.

Being stationed in our current home location doesn't disappoint him.  His timing for retirement won't change.  He'll just have more freedom to be more mobile when the time comes.  It'll be my turn to watch him fly off to pursue his goals.  I'm excited for that day to come for him.

The biggest issue D has outside of maintain satisfying work, is re-discovering whether he will be able to participate in his beloved sports to the extent he'd like.  For most of everything else, I wouldn't classify him as an "all in" type of person.  But with respect to sports, he definitely is.  This year will be quite telling as he "cautiously" (my optimistic word, not his)  reintegrates himself into the activities and races he assumed would be an integral part of his free time.  He wants to someday be able to go around the world for a year, chasing the snow.

Our plan was to put the cottage up for sale in the spring, but we're not sure anymore.  If hard core skiing and biking is no longer part of D's future, he doesn't want to be out there (that's what he is emotionally expressing right now) so having access to beach, water and trails might be good.

May even make sense to upgrade to a better place.  However, I still love waking up out west and being high enough to see the peaks poke up above the clouds.  That has not gotten old for me.  The light and air up there is magnificent.


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  2. Its good to hear that you are keep reflecting about your life in order for you to live fruitfully especially for your golden years. For me, retirement means that you have to quit work all the way and just be bummed at home doing your hobbies or whatever activities you like. If you enjoy your work and you don't mind working at all, why quit? You know you will get bored without it. Plus, you have a great working sched. that can accommodate whatever else you desire to do. For me, you can also prepare or plan for something else if you are already contented to what you have had. May I know if you and D already have long term care plans or insurance? based on what you have said, I think long term care insurance is highly recommended especially to D since he is very active outdoors. If you can check,, it says there that we all need long term care sometime in our life, even younger individuals.Hope you will also think about this aspect of retirement, as it is also important. Thanks for letting me share my thoughts.

  3. I have to admit, I didn't know you can even buy long term care insurance -- Suppose I shouldn't be surprised. Even though it made D laugh when I mentioned it, going through the exercise of considering the consequences of our own actions is a good thing.

    As we have seen some elderly relatives through this, we have some good understanding of the mechanisms leading up to someone requiring long term care. It's a complicated issue that depends on the generation we are talking about as well as a person's health mindset, genetics and above all, choices.

    In Canada, we have a health care system that will provide basic in home care when levels of functions fall below a certain point as well as government run nursing facilities funded by our taxes. Whether their standards live up to our own is another issue.

    I would also say that if it can be afforded, most would choose private in home care, rather than a government run facility. That's where D and I are at with that -- Self funding should the need arise.

    Most of us would consider a long term facility as a place for people who no longer can move, cook, clean and care for themselves. From what I've seen, a lot of those people in this category are far from healthy, suffering from chronic culmination of poor lifestyle choices, requiring a slew of medication to keep them going.

    If you remove those people from the equation, you are left with a smaller group who are there not necessarily there because of unhealthy choices but due to mental illnesses, irreversible illnesses (genetic and otherwise), accident related loss of function etc.

    So with respect to buying an insurance policy for long term care, you do need to know yourself. No one can predict accidents or unknown genetic disorders. But you can plan not to acquire Type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, some physical disability etc.

    In cases where one is more proactive towards maintaining a healthy lifestyle, I can maybe see how critical illness insurance might make more sense. But if your mindset is one of allowing "old age" to set in and making a non effort health wise, then as a Canadian, I can see why some might consider extra insuring themselves for long term care. Thanks for your comment.