In Retirement, the Real Work Begins
When we were young(er) and working*, there was always this carrot at the end of the stick called retirement, which kept our noses to the grindstone. Retirement would reward our work with income for which we did not have to work – Social Security at least, and a retirement plan if we were lucky and/or prudent. Our time would be our own, to do with as we pleased – subject, of course, to the amount of that “work-free” income.
The current bulk of retirees are of the Baby Boomer generation. When we entered the workforce, retirement age was 65, and Social Security could provide a moderate standard of living. But somewhere along the way, the carrot stick started getting longer. The retirement age changed for some of us – 66, then 67, now talk of 70 – and Social Security took a lot of hits. For those without a separate retirement plan, part-time work became necessary just to make ends meet. Insurance became a separate carrot: How long could you count on employer support to extend into your retirement? How much would the insurance cost without employer contribution? Suddenly we realized we were not working for the salary, nor for the intangibles of “making a difference” – we were working for insurance. And Medicare? A whole ’nother world to be explored.
But for those of us who really got to retire, life was an empty book to be filled with adventures and memories for the rest of our lives. We could travel to places we’d only read about, pursue the hobby we never had time for before and spend time with family and friends without having to consider workdays and vacation time. Every day would be a vacation!
Reality check: Having time is totally unrelated to using time. Using retirement time requires (A) sufficient income and (B) planning. Assuming A is sufficient, B takes over. And suddenly there are factors that you never thought about before. Will the car get us to our vacation destination and back again, or do we need to consider getting a new car? Oops! There’s A again. Hotels do not cost now what they cost in the 1960s (A again). Okay, a lot of our friends have RVs. Maybe that is the answer – one investment, and then just take your house with you. But campground fees now cost almost as much as a motel room, and I can’t keep up with cleaning the house we already have. Why would I want to add another house to clean?
Maybe more time on the hobby thing. But I can’t even get film for my ’60s camera. A digital camera makes so much more sense. Take all the pictures you want, and no processing cost. Except for the telephoto lens, macro, wide angle, remote trigger and, naturally, a tripod. Back to A again, now with a budget.
Family! We’ll focus on spending more time with the kids and grandkids. Except that the kids are now working for their own carrot, so you schedule around their schedule. Grandkids? We know they exist because we held them after they were born. We do get to see them: recitals, concerts, plays, school programs, 4-H, Scouts, sports events, etc. And don’t forget graduations and weddings. The calendar becomes like a bible – if something isn’t on the calendar, it isn’t real.
Let’s just throw caution to the wind and go on a dream adventure: hiking in the Andes, a trip down the Amazon, a cruise around the world. Then comes the realization that – even if A is sufficient – I am not as young as I was when I first dreamed of this adventure. Plus, getting it onto the calendar will involve changing several doctor’s appointments that are made months in advance, not to mention lining up prescription refills for the time I’d be gone, and finally asking myself, honestly, whose body am I going to use for this trek?
But I am retired! My time is my own – subject, of course, to the schedules of kids, grandkids and doctors that have been tightly interwoven with club meetings, volunteer hours, square dance nights and, of course, my photography outings. The real question here is: How did I ever find time to work?
*Performing labor (physical and/or mental and/or emotional) for money that the IRS terms taxable income, either salaried or hourly, with or without supervision.
About the Author
Mary Ann Claxton retired as a teacher/librarian in 2006, and her hobbies include genealogy and photography. She has lived with her husband of 49 years on his family’s farm in rural northeast Henry County since 1984. They square and round dance every chance they get.