Sunday, December 28, 2014

I Admit It – I Am a Nervous Nellie

I’m not sure when my husband began referring to me as a “Nervous Nellie,” but he has been doing so for quite a while now. I mostly ignore him when he does this not allowing him to deflect my anxiousness. That is until my mom got cancer. 

Last March, my mom was diagnosed with clear-cell carcinoma, an aggressive form of uterine cancer. She required in home care after undergoing a radical hysterectomy, so I volunteered to stay with her for a few days post-surgery.  Before sending her home from the hospital, a nurse spent a few minutes with the two of us demonstrating how to change my mom’s catheter, teaching her how to inject a syringe containing blood thinner into her stomach and giving me a breathing tube she was to breath into every hour to alleviate her coughing.

That evening my sister who works in health care pointed out I had not changed my mother’s catheter properly, my mom was refusing to eat and managing all of her medications was turning out to be a more daunting task than I had anticipated.

To say I was nervous when the visiting nurse called to check on us the following morning was probably an understatement. She asked me a few questions, recommended I purchase a probiotic and offered to stop in. After meeting my mom and talking to her, this nurse turned to me and said, “You are a Nervous Nellie aren’t you?” I couldn’t help but be amused, perhaps my husband has been right all along; a fact he enjoyed immensely when I shared her comment with him when I returned home.

The remainder of the year did not ease my Nervous Nellie tendencies. In August my Mom was in a car-accident on her way to a family get-together to celebrate her cancer-free diagnosis. No one was hurt and the accident had not been her fault, but this party may have been the worst family celebration I have ever attended. As the year progressed we learned my mom now has two hernias resulting from her radiation treatments and will most likely have to wear Depends for the rest of her life; apparently the radiation also damaged her bowel. The good news is my mom continues to remain cancer free.

As I re-read my 2014 goals, I realize other than keeping a gratitude journal (the only resolution I managed to stick to) they were all focused on trying to be more perfect – don’t eat sugar, be organized, suffer for 15 minutes, find my Calcutta – no wonder I am so nervous. Perhaps my 2015 resolutions should be to kayak more, spend more time playing with my dogs, going to movies and reading for pleasure.  

Are you a “Nervous Nellie?” If so, what do you do to relax?

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Early Retirement One Year Anniversary

One of my former co-workers had been miserable in his position for several years – actually he had been perfectly happy with his job until our company hired another family member and put this co-worker in charge of him. The new employee was like a bull in a China store and my co-worker was forced to work long hours attempting to control the damage.  

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!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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.
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.

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?