Reflections On My First Year of Retirement

I’ve been retired a year–it’s crazy how fast it has gone!  It makes me better understand a line Gretchen Rubin often quotes “The days are long but the years are short”.

I hope you’re not disappointed but I’m not issuing a report card like I did for my first four months of retirement.

Mainly because my grade would go down and I’m a gold star junkie.

Not because I’m not loving this retirement thing but because retirement has turned into more of a vacation than something I can grade myself on.

I feel like this first year has been a detox.

I’ve allowed myself to be far less productive than I expected I would.

I got my first job when I was 12–yes, 8th grade.  I bussed tables at a Mexican restaurant for five weeks–just enough time for the owner to realize the head bus girl was hiring 12 year olds.

Not sure what my parents were thinking but I learned a lot about how to handle come ons from gross kitchen workers in just five weeks.

I got my first legitimate job at 13 making models of teeth for an orthodontist.  I kept that job all through high school and typically had one or two jobs on top of it.

I wasn’t allowed to work my freshman year of college and couldn’t have worked my first year of law school.  But other than those years, I always had at least one job.

So retiring at 51 may seem early but I had worked almost 40 years.

I thought my job was my life.  I think that tends to happen when you don’t have kids.

I learned my job was not my life.

It’s a long story more appropriately discussed on a therapist’s couch than on this blog but suffice it to say some loyalties were stretched or broken.  I was able to rebuild the relationships but I better understood the difference between colleagues and friends.  I do have a few treasured friends who have bridged this gap but not many.

So it feels like I’ve been on vacation for a year.  Yippee!

I retired for a lot of reasons but the overarching reason was so I could spend the winter in the desert.  21 winters in ski country is enough.  And I’ll tell you, the saving and the sacrifice was worth it.

Sorry mountain friends, but it was especially fun when I received weather and road alerts from our home county.  This winter was a doozie–early season snowfall was record setting.  We enjoyed watching much of this snowfall on our driveway cam, from the desert.  The gal who replaced me at work texted that I picked a great year to retire because my old 25 mile commute sucked.

People who are working often ask me what a typical day is like.  There’s rarely anything super exciting in my days but here goes.

I wake up when my body tells me it’s time to wake up.  I stretch while my latte brews.  I then spend a bit of time working on this blog and reading posts from my favorite bloggers.  After breakfast, we play pickleball, hike, mountain bike or take our cruisers out for a ride.  We get cleaned up, do household chores or shopping.  Then on the best days we get together with friends for cocktails or dinner and cards.  On the other days, Mr. Ms. Liz and I play cards and watch TV or a movie.

I  spend a bit of time on homeowner association matters.  I’m on the Board of my mountain association and help with financial matters for my desert association.  Association management is the business I retired from and this is a way I can give back to the communities I love.

I’ve worked a bit – about a weeks worth in total.  It’s been fun and hasn’t interfered with my important leisure activities too much.  I also received my first gold star in a year . . . literally:  “and a gold star to Liz for” blaah blaah blaah. . .

I’ve informally coached a few people and hopefully helped them make better financial decisions.

I also read and listen a lot–books and podcasts about money and life that teach me and give me ideas for this blog and shit-lit that entertains me.

We’ve done a bit of local traveling–but stay pretty close to home because of our geriatric cat (who knew a cat could live 21 years?!).  Once he’s gone, I suspect we’ll buy a sprinter van RV and travel more extensively.

It may sound like a snore, but I’m doing what I want to be doing.  The mix of physical, social and sedentary activities suits me.

This coming year, I need to work on the technical side of this blog so I can reach more readers.  I really (read: really, really, really) hate messing with the technical side–I tend to screw it up and can’t figure out how to unscrew it.  But, fortunately, I have a friend who is expert in this area and has offered to help.  It sounds like a good winter project to me.  I’m also working on formalizing my coaching process and even have a friend who is willing to work with me while I develop the program.

But this is a blog about money so let’s talk about money.

I thought it would be really hard to spend money when I’m not making any.  I’m shocked, but it isn’t hard at all.  Each month, I get a transfer from my investment account–it feels like I’m getting a paycheck even though it’s just my own money.  If I had to think about where my money was coming from each month, it would be unnerving–automated transfers reduce my stress.

I’m spending more money in retirement because I have more time to fill.  It’s mainly groceries and dining out that have gone up.  But we saved on utilities by avoiding winter and save on vehicle expenses by driving less.  I’m still staying well within my budget–I should probably be spending more but I have and do everything I want.

And I’m making a bit of money too which was not in my plan!  I’ll use the money to maintain my CPA license and fund an IRA.  It’s been fun to contribute to these projects and I’ve kept in touch with my former colleagues.

I thought it would be hard to see my net worth go down.  But it hasn’t gone down, it’s up over $100,000 since I retired thanks to the 16% run up in the S&P 500.  And I’m not even including increases in our real estate values–our mountain community’s real estate market is making a comeback (finally!).

My investments increased more in the first two months of this year than I will spend all year.  I’m incredibly grateful for this–if the market had tanked as I retired, retirement would be way scarier.

So speaking of scary.  What scares me?  Healthcare.

If there is anything that could make one of us go back to work, it is the cost of healthcare.

We are on an HSA eligible Obamacare plan.  We pay $171 a month for coverage for both of us.  It’s absurd but it’s the law.  Because we are (voluntarily) low income, we receive a subsidy for most of our insurance premium.  You don’t want to hear me rant about how foolish this is–the government paying insurance premiums for high net worth individuals–so I won’t start.

If the subsidies go away and premiums stay at the current levels, we’ll feel it.  Fortunately, Mr. Ms. Liz has only five years until he’s eligible for Medicare (one time when it’s good to be old!) but I’m 13 years out and a lot can happen in 13 years.  If you’re in a similar situation, and wanting to read a great write up on the current situation (aka scare yourself!) check out ournextlife.com.

It’s a worry, but it won’t keep me from enjoying this early retirement I worked (and saved!) hard for.

Author: Ms. Liz

A CPA, I retired at 51 and I am helping people create their fantastic futures!

2 thoughts on “Reflections On My First Year of Retirement”

  1. Nice review of your year. I too retired a year ago, also started working young and never stopped. But my retirement year has been different than yours in that I have four paying side gigs and about seven volunteer ones. I only work about two days a week most weeks on the paid ones but that still earns six figures so my health insurance is $1,300 per month. But the rest is very similar. Sleep till I don’t(except on the three mornings we run, then ugh, 4:50am). Lots of tennis with and without wife, fishing with wife and some leisure. We eat out less, cook together more. Life still seems pretty busy. My gigs involve travel and networking in the political world so I still interact with the same people and politicians I did during my business career. I just don’t have the stress and my 60 hour weeks are more like 16 hours now. It is so nice, nicer than I ever imagined and yours seems to share that too! Congratulations to both of us. So far so good.

    1. It sounds like you’ve created a great balance for yourself and congratulations on your high earnings in retirement! Would you ever completely retire if you can command that income two days a week? I intend to explore volunteer opportunities this year but I doubt I’ll ever get to 7! Enjoy!

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