He began talking regularly about retiring early and asking questions about finances related to retirement. My post, "Should I pay off my house with 401(k) monies?" was for him. He did end up using his 401(k) money to pay off his home. His wife had retired at age 58. I am not sure, but think she receives a pension from the hospital where she worked for 30-years as a nurse. She also has a part-time job working one day a week for her church. There would be no pension for my co-worker, just his 401(k). My co-worker’s biggest retirement concern was the cost of their health care. He went over and over the numbers eventually concluding he couldn’t afford to retire early.
Then a good friend of his died at 61 from cancer and his 90-year old mother in-law stopped recognizing him when he visited her in the nursing home. He began not caring if he ran out of money; he surmised from his mother-in-law’s experience that when he is 90 he probably won't know if he is living in a dump eating cat food (his exact words) or in a nice home receiving expert care. He retired on his 62nd birthday not even taking my advice to work until the end of December to receive his holiday pay.
I thought of him on his birthday a few weeks ago and sent an email congratulating him on first retirement anniversary. I also asked if there had been any financial surprises he had incurred or words of wisdom he could give me since my husband plans to join him in retirement at the end of the year and I still plan to retire early. Here is his response:
THANK YOU for remembering my retirement anniversary. Retirement is one word: AWESOME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!Notice he doesn’t even acknowledge the financial aspects of retirement. As my husband’s benefits come to an end, I am forced to enroll in my company’s inferior and more expensive benefit plans. Add in the $800 I just spent to replace my two-year old computer that crashed and my nervous Nellie tendencies are operating at full capacity.
Between kids, grandkids, remodeling, gardening, dogs, travel and sleep there is not enough time in the day for everything. I can honestly say I have yet to have a boring minute, hour or day. I think one of the biggest differences between work and retirement is stress. For "me" retirement equals ZERO stress. Physically and mentally I feel twenty years younger. During the first couple of months I would feel "kinda" guilty when I would encounter people that were still working. No more. I paid my dues and have arrived. I used to look at retirement as winning the "race". Now I look at it as just "finishing" the race.
Then I look at how stressful my husband has been in his job this past year, the long hours he worked including Saturdays and the occasional Sunday. How much I enjoyed him being laid-off last winter. How far behind we've gotten on basic home maintenance and cleaning. A real vacation; what is that? Then I think of my co-worker and how awesome his year has been. I want that for my husband and eventually for myself. My co-worker is right in that we don’t know what the future holds – whether we will be blessed with a long healthy life or succumb too early to a horrible disease or that we will end up penniless in a nursing home. As to our finances, I will never be able to control everything; appliances will need replacing, medical premiums will increase and I will need procedures like gum recession surgery. We have our 401(k) plans and we are maximizing his social security benefits by waiting until next year when he is 66 to begin collecting. If our finances become unmanageable we can always sell our home which is paid off. It is time for my husband to cross the finish line.
Are you retired? Do you have any words of wisdom?