Retirement in real life

If someone hasn’t yet created a time machine app to take you back to your twenties and thirties, do this:

Stay at your job as long as you’re able. Defer Social Security retirement benefits until full retirement age. Don’t rely on your grown children for financial support. Mind your 401ks and IRAs, and don’t dip into them. Instead, save — no, horde — your money. Talk to your financial person a lot.

I recently retired and unceremoniously flung myself across the finishing line. I made it but limped away. But, while we seniors tiptoe across a minefield of inertia and screw-ups on our journey to retirement in today’s world, we are not helpless.

I was a legal assistant for 35 years and earned a respectable salary. Yet, for most of those years, I was a single mother. I lived paycheck to paycheck, seemingly never able to set anything aside. Dance lessons were expensive; rent was excessive; car repairs were immediate. I was caught up in the whoosh of everyday life, and while I always paid my bills, I was deaf when it came to financial matters.

Of course, I knew money was necessary – planning for retirement – I just didn’t do it. Buried somewhere in the wrinkles of my brain were two unacknowledged prayers: my kids would rescue me, and my simple lifestyle would require little. So, no. No safety net.

A year ago, I transitioned to part-time work so that I could help babysit my new granddaughter. My salary, plus my son sharing the rent, got me through. I retired completely a few weeks ago (after quietly asking my employer to extend my original exit date by thirty days once I realized my first Social Security check wouldn’t come until February).

Why now? Why not wait?

I committed to babysitting my granddaughter three days a week. This is the right decision, and I’d do it again. My daughter is a newly admitted attorney. She makes a shiny salary, but she and her husband need help to care for their toddler. Now. We all wanted the family to pitch in, if possible, to see if we could avoid hiring outside babysitters and daycare to raise our newest addition. My daughter helps me out financially, so it’s a fair exchange.

Still, I would surely go back and try harder to plan ahead; these are lessons I pass on to my kids now. But I can’t change anything now, and I’ve found no time travel app. So regret and worry? Not my friends.

My new friends are at the Fullerton Seniors Club, of which I’m now a member, and I look forward to participating with that group on my days off.

Today, I make monthly Costco runs and avoid in-between trips to Ralphs and Albertsons. I’ve rethought my plan for getting Botox for now (my retirement gift to myself). Charge $600 for something that won’t last anyway? Today, more than ever, I try to stay active and fit. Today, I’m a lucky, healthy grandma with time to spend with her two-year-old cherub.

1 reply »

  1. Keep your mind and body active. Join Osher Life Long Institute (OLLI) at California State University Fullerton. We have a hundred classes from A to Z, especially in the arts.