Interests keep us engaged and keep our minds active.
I is also for Internet – which means you can still pursue interests and be part of a community even if getting out and about becomes more challenging while aging.
Have you ever met an older person who spends all their time with you going over their past and talking about themselves (and people they know but you don’t) and never once asking about you and your life? And when you do get a chance to talk and update them with what you are doing, they can’t ever get it straight or remember what you told them (because they weren’t really listening, I think). I have met some people like this. I hear the same stories every time I visit. And I smile and nod and listen patiently and plan my escape.
I’m not 100% sure why this happens but I think a lot of it has to do with being housebound and spending too much time watching drivel on TV. We turn inward instead of staying engaged and outward-focused.
I never want to be that old person.
My mother was never that old person. My stepdad is not that old person.
I hope that by pursuing various interests (of which I have an unlimited supply, it seems some days) I can escape that fate.
If not, I hope my kids are around to notice and then kick my ass (or at least get me to shut up).
Health is wealth. The kind of wealth you take for granted if you have been reasonably healthy throughout life. The kind of wealth you didn’t realize you possessed until it is taken away from you.
What is the purpose of scrimping and saving throughout life, of putting off fantastic experiences, of delaying travel and life’s little luxuries, if you finally retire and the state of your health doesn’t allow you to enjoy any of the above?
Most of us no longer physically labour throughout our lives. That can be a good thing as we can arrive at retirement without the damage and aches from a lifetime of punishing our bodies each day. But it is often a bad thing as we enter retirement from a lifetime of being mostly sedentary at work, and then ending our days flopped out on the couch. Our muscles atrophy from lack of use, and our range of motion becomes increasingly limited.
I am fighting this right now. Since February I have been receiving physiotherapy and doing daily homework exercises to regain full use of my left shoulder. I am happy to report, that after much hard work, I have regained what seems to me to be full (albeit still somewhat painful at times) range of motion with my left arm. YES!
I am also working on regaining at least some of my lost youthful flexibility and balance through the practice of yoga and barre exercises. And I am currently training for my fifth (or is it sixth? Jeez, I can’t keep track…) half-marathon event, taking place in June. I plan to mostly walk this one. However, I recently started incorporating some sprinting intervals in my training walks thanks to OKs from my docs (post-TIAs, described here and here) and this article: The Best Exercise for Aging Muscles. So I might be able to break up my 21.1K walk with some periodic running time by the time the Niagara Falls Women’s Half Marathon rolls around.
Cautionary Tale: my maternal grandmother had decided in her 70s, that after a lifetime of raising kids and keeping house, she was now a retired lady of leisure and therefore finished with cooking and house-cleaning. She entered a retirement facility where everything was looked after for her, and guess what happened? In a very short time she was no longer physically capable of doing much of anything. And her mind deteriorated along with her body.
This, my friends, will not be me if I can at all help it.
I’m a goal setter. You might have guessed that by now if you read ye olde blogge regularly. I don’t see me setting less goals once I retire. In fact, I see even more of this happening.
I come by this naturally.
My mother was forever learning new things and setting goals for herself.
Mom had a bad back and went through several surgeries in her 30s and 40s. In her early 50s she was diagnosed with degenerative disc disease and told she’d be in a wheelchair within 5 years. Once the doctor told her she couldn’t injure her back any further (so she might as well do whatever she wanted), Mom trained for and obtained her lifeguard certification (at age 54) and started teaching aqua aerobics. This led to her eventually supervising the pool full-time at a local seniors’ facility. When my dad died suddenly, her back flared up again and she had to leave that job.
Still not in a wheelchair, she started working at my (then) workplace, in a support role. Then her cancer diagnosis put her into an actual retirement.
Even then she was into doing new things. She decided to take up the guitar and taught herself some new crafts. As I mentioned a few days earlier on ye olde blogge, she also took up volunteering at her local cancer clinic and in Emerg.
In her “spare time”, she knit and crocheted chemo caps and squares to be sewn into warm blankets for people undergoing their infusions.
Still not in a wheelchair, she and my stepdad enjoyed travelling with their camping group and spending summers down at the lake in their ever-changing lineup of travel trailers. Mom walked or biked around the park every day to keep fit.
She didn’t actually end up in a wheelchair until the last few months of her life, and then only when she became too tired to walk more than a few steps at a time. She was 79 years old and finally in that damn wheelchair, 25 years later.
Even after she refused further treatment and knew she was dying shortly, she was still knitting and crocheting for her first great-grandbaby. To add variety to her day, Mom had also taken up another new hobby to keep her mind busy as her body was failing her – colouring in adult colouring books! My son framed 3 of her coloured-in mandala pages as gift for my stepdad, at her request. She had a goal to complete this before she died so he could have this as a Christmas gift from her. Mom died a week before Christmas 2015 but those mandalas were completed first. Oh, yes!
See what I mean about goals? With an example like that to follow, I can’t NOT have any no matter what age or condition I am in.
Housekeeping AGAIN (sigh): People (not me anymore) are still facing the white screen of death when trying to comment, unfortunately. I will try to figure this out this weekend though I don’t know where to begin. Please bear with me – I love your comments! I’m not even getting spam anymore. Who knew I would ever miss spam?!?!?!?
I have decided to live until at least 90, then re-evaluate my situation every 10 years after that. Of course, this flies in the face of my shitty family genetics, which includes lots of cancer and heart disease. No matter.
So that means I will be retired for a long, long time.
A lot can happen during that amount of time – a lot that I won’t be able to plan for. Think about how much the world has changed in the past 35 years. Try to imagine how much it will change during the next 35 years.
I think it is of the utmost importance to remain flexible at all times, and I ain’t talking about yoga. It’s all well and good to have a plan for retirement but shit will does happen. So contingencies and adaptability are musts.
I usually like to have Plans B, C and maybe even D as backups when enacting a major Plan A scenario. I imagine the worst that could happen if Plan A didn’t work out…can I live with having to enact Plan B instead?
Let’s say for some reason I had lost all of my retirement savings and had to rely only on the Canada Pension. My Plan B would be to liquidate my assets (my home being the major one) to free up some spare cash, find a cheap apartment (or room) to rent and maybe even pick up some work if I wanted some mad money (or the Canada Pension went belly up). I’d scale back my lifestyle as much as I had to…it isn’t grand to begin with, but I could always go back to the way I lived when I was poorer. I know I would survive, and still find life cool and interesting. Because I have done this throughout my life.
I can’t predict the future (damn damn damn) but I predict I can get through life. I’ve managed so far despite abusive relationships, little money, and shouldering most, if not all, of the load. See this post.
I know I have that resilience and flexibility, that adaptability that is needed to weather life’s storms now, at my current age.
I hope I can retain this going forward. Attitude is everything…nay…it’s the ONLY thing that we have total control over.
First – Housekeeping: for the past couple of days myself and some readers have been experiencing trouble making or replying to comments on ye olde blogge. I replied to 2 comments this morning without issue. This is since upgrading to the latest version of WordPress. I hope this means the problem is resolved. If you do get the “white screen of death” when trying to publish a comment, please try again. It has worked for me the second time, each time. I am now in the habit of copying my comment before hitting publish, just in case. But I had no issues this morning and am hopeful this means things are back to normal now.
Retirement is a time for experiencing things you didn’t have time for when working. Like taking a month-long road trip across Canada. Or volunteering your time in a developing nation. Or participating in a 10 day Vipassana retreat. Or going to India to study yoga. Or visiting Australia, New Zealand and Japan – all in one trip.
Or committing to an intense, time-consuming goal. Like training for a full marathon, or committing to do every race in the Rock ‘n Roll Half Marathon series. Or hiking the Bruce Trail in its entirety in one year. Or spending a whole week just drawing and painting. I could go on but I think you get the picture.
These things are infinitely more do-able with that extra 40 hours per week and unlimited (hehehe) vacation days.
These are just some of the ideas I have rolling around in my brain. I am sure if I gave it some more time and thought I could come up with a list as long as my arm of experiences I would like to commit to. Or at least investigate further.
I plan on being very open to new experiences and to keep on saying yes! to them for as long as I can. This widow has a lot of catching up to do, once she lifts her nose away from the grindstone.
How does one define retirement? If you retire from your job and then pick up some part-time work, are you still retired? If you go back to full-time work for a contract position are you still retired? If you take up other work, or a hobby becomes a paid gig, are you still retired?
This argument discussion is played out brilliantly here, at Our Next Life – a delightful blog I came across recently. Mr. and Ms. Our Next Life are a young couple who are planning on retiring early – later this year in fact, at the tender ages of 38 and 41.
It is definitely worth a read. Go ahead, I’ll be here when you come back:
I like Ms. ONL’s definition of retirement: I define retirement not as playing shuffleboard or any other tired old images, but as leaving your primary career to do the things you’d rather be doing.
And really, why are we arguing about this? Who the hell cares what constitutes retirement, and who are these retirement police anyways?!
I’m retired if and when I say so, no matter what I happen to be doing at the time. So long as it’s not what I have been doing full-time for the past 30+ years for my career. If we don’t agree, what are you gonna do about it? Fire me???
Often when people retire they offer to work for free (volunteer) as a way of staying active and involved and giving back to the community. Volunteering can also be a way to find a “community” of like-minded (or not) souls and there is also the potential for growing your social network. You may even end up with paid work as a result. I know many people that this has happened to.
Regardless, volunteering is as good for the volunteer as the recipient of the free labour, from what I have seen. My dear late mother (and long-departed father too, for that matter) loved to volunteer. Her diagnosis of non-Hodgkins lymphoma meant the end of her working life and the beginning of her volunteering at both the Emergency Department and the Cancer Clinic at her local hospital, when her health allowed.
Mom volunteered a couple of days per week up until the last year of her life, when her own cancer finally got the upper hand for the last time. Because she was dealing with cancer at the same time she was volunteering, she was especially empathetic and effective in helping others navigate their own cancer journey while at the clinic. And I think being needed and appreciated as a volunteer helped Mom stay engaged with life and gave her the purpose she still needed despite no longer having the energy for full-time work. She had a couple of long-lasting and spontaneous remissions during her 15 year battle, which baffled the oncologist and led her to remark: I don’t know what you’re doing, but just keep doing it! I’d like to think her volunteering contributed in some way.
I also have plans to volunteer once retired. Because I’ve experienced so much death during the last 4 years, I’ve come to realize that I am someone who can handle that situation better than others. Somehow I can manage to keep my own emotions on the back burner and focus instead on ensuring the dying person is heard and has their needs met.
I am not afraid of death or dying. I’ve looked into how I could translate this “talent” of mine into a volunteer opportunity, because in our death-phobic society there are not many that want to or are capable of spending time with a dying person. Let’s face it – we are all in the process of dying as long as we are living – just some of us are facing it sooner than others. I believe I will end up volunteering for a local hospice when my working life is over. If I don’t die first (hehehe). And this is how I plan to give back to my community once full-time work life is over.
Ahhhh….the dreaded B word! B is for budget which is also for boring, banal, bothersome.
If you were like the old me, you absolutely recoiled at the idea of a budget. There was never any money left over after paying for necessities anyway! What was the point!? Except to hammer home the message that there wasn’t enough money left over for the things I was supposed to be doing, like putting money into emergency funds, RRSPs, and home renovations!
But that was then and this, delightedly, is now. I love working on my budget. I never got what a budget was about, really, until I had to deal with one for work.
A budget is simply a forecast of where the money will be going in a given time period. That’s all. It’s not set in stone. It’s not to the penny – that’s too much math, even for me. It’s not the law. It’s what you see happening with your money over X months (or a year). You da boss. You set the budget based on what you want to do with your money (after necessities are covered, of course). You change it as you see fit. Duh. Why did I not get this before?
About a year ago I found a great budget worksheet online (available in various formats such as Excel and Open Office) that I use to create that picture of what is going on with my hard-earned dough. Here’s where I found it:
I love this spreadsheet because it does all the thinking (and math) for you. Not only that – it tells you how you compare to other Canadians in terms of percentages you are spending on housing, food, transportation etc.
The first time I used it – once the dust had settled (literally and figuratively) from my widowhood and major renovation projects – when I got to the end of the sheet it told me that I had leftover $$ “that needed a job”! That, my friends, was thrilling! I immediately set up a monthly automatic savings plan to transfer the excess bucks from my regular chequing account into my Tangerine account. Not as much as the spreadsheet was telling me, in case I had missed or understated some expenses, but enough to feel good about finally being able to set up that emergency savings account. Since then I have finished some recurring payments (car loan, I am looking at you!) and now that money “needed a job” too – I have also set up a travel account and a tax free savings account – both of which get regular deposits from my chequing account. Painless saving and oh-so-satisfying to watch those balances grow.*
So what has this got to do with planning retirement you might be asking at this point? Well, it’s never too late to start understanding your money situation and there is no better way to do it than with a budget. Knowledge is power, and having a budget gives me the power to make the right decisions (for me) about my spending leading up to retirement. It also is giving me great data on what exactly I need to live on in my current situation and that’s good intel for the future!
*What about your RRSP, WB? (You might be asking.) Well, the small widow’s pension I started receiving since JD died I have transferred automatically into an RRSP account each month. I don’t miss it because I never had it to use, before. This combined with my employer matching my deductions from my paycheque into my work-held RRSP means I am saving almost the max allowable each year for me. And I recently instructed my financial planner at my bank to up that amount to make sure I am hitting that max. Better late than never, sez I.
From what I have gathered from a brief search on Ye Olde Interwebs, the idea of retirement is relatively new to human history. Our great-great grandparents knew of no such thing. You either worked till you died or had to stop working due to physical limitations. There was no monthly government cheque as a reward for life of working. You had either saved for this during your working life or you had to keep working so you could keep on eating.
I feel unbelievably fortunate to even have the luxury of worrying about contemplating a retirement date and what to do/how to live after my full-time work life voluntarily ends. There are many today that don’t have that luxury even yet. I am grateful to have this sort of problem to work through.
When most people think about retirement the first and foremost thoughts revolve around finances, as in: Can we/I afford to retire “early” (then how early, or even at all)? Then the next question is: what will this look like for me/us?
I am starting out by assessing how I actually feel about retiring. In this A-Z Challenge, I’ve got 25 more letters to cover finances and what to do with time and what retirement could/should/will look like, and believe me, these things will get covered! Probably more than once and from more than one direction.
I’ve been observing others around me as they transition into retirement or begin contemplating it. By far the most astonishing thing to me is the depth of the fear, followed by the lack of planning exhibited by some of them. I have met several people now who are actually terrified by the thought of retiring. Whether they say it out loud or not, the fear is there and it is real. These people are defined mainly by their work, and are scared shitless of no longer having that role or title or purpose once work life is over.
Sometimes they don’t acknowledge the fear but instead bury themselves in work to avoid this fear or other issues in their lives that need addressing – issues that will undoubtably surface when work no longer consumes them. And because of the fear, they do nothing for retirement planning except maybe to ensure they have the funds in place to have a comfortable retirement while secretly (or not) dreading all those upcoming free days and hours to fill.
Is this any way to address what can be/is supposed to be a wonderful reward at the end of working life? I think not!
Which is why I think assessing one’s thoughts and feelings about retirement is just as important as crunching the numbers to see if/when retirement is feasible. Acknowledging these fears is the first, absolutely necessary step towards addressing them.
When I think of retiring, I admit I feel a bit of fear, currently. My fear is related to finances primarily at this point, and a bit of FOMO (fear of missing out) too. I fear that when I retire (early or not), I will be setting myself up for a more…ahem…thrifty living situation than I would like. I have spent a large portion of my adult life feeling like the wolf was always close to the door and it is only recently that I feel comfortable, financially. I like being able to spend money as I see fit without too much stressing over the bank balance – it’s quite a new experience for me and I like it! I like now being able to say “Yes, I can” instead of my previous default: “Nope, can’t afford it”. And I don’t want to go back to the default in my post-work life, if I can help it.
Conversely, I also fear delaying retirement longer than I need to and then (ironically, having the extra $$ but…) not having the health or years left to enjoy it the way I dream of doing. I have seen people put off retirement only to fall ill and be forced into a sickly, limited version of what could have been a beautiful, fulfilling time of life. If they had known they only had so much time, would they have continued working as long as they did? I know if I had that crystal ball, it would make picking a retirement date very easy. But I don’t have a crystal ball so instead I have this niggling fear.
But are these fears justified? Can they be addressed so as to make decision making and planning easier? This is what I hope to find out as I explore Planning for a Badass Retirement in this blogging challenge. Thanks for reading and joining me on this journey!
We interrupt today’s Grace and Frankie binge-watching session to bring you the following public service musings, sponsored by WB Industries…
I was recently asked if I ever worried about my safety when out on my solo trail walks and I tossed off a quick “Nope, never think about that when heading out the door.”
Later, (on the trail, where I do my best thinking) I thought about that statement and have come to realize it is undeniably true and untrue AT THE SAME TIME. It’s true that I don’t think about personal safety when I head out the door. (Unless weather conditions are poor, but I think we all know that when women talk about personal safety outdoors it is about just one thing 99.99% of the time. We are talking about being assaulted by others men.)
The reason that I don’t think about this is only because my protection mechanisms are so automatic by now that I don’t even realize I am performing them anymore. Like any good little prey animal, they have become instinctive. They no longer register as conscious thought. So you see I am a bit of a liar, liar pants-on-fire.
This week I paid close attention to these “instincts” when I was performing my training walks for my upcoming half-marathon event. What was I doing subconsciously or barely consciously to prepare for and to execute my walks? The answers were enlightening to me.
First, I never wear headphones. I see a lot of people wear them outdoors when exercising but I will never be one of them. I want to be aware of my surroundings at all times. I want to hear traffic when on the streets and other hikers or bikers or walkers when on the trails. Headphones (or earbuds) have their place. On the treadmill. Where you will (almost) never find me because although a prey animal, I am not a hamster.
Second, I don’t take any valuables with me, except my phone.
Thirdly, I walk stride with purpose. I have always been a fast walker. I (think I, hope I) radiate “don’t fuck with me”-ness while out and about. And I make direct eye contact with every other person on the trail and greet them. So they know I see them.
This week I even found myself scanning the ground for a weapon (a rock, a pointy stick, whatevs…) when I saw a couple of males standing around on the trail up ahead. Turns out they were preparing to fish from the riverbank but when I first noticed them I didn’t see the fishing gear lying on the ground, just the unusual sight of 2 men just standing a bit off to the side.
Holy crap, I thought, I was actually looking for a weapon to defend myself with! My mind “went there” as soon as I saw those men. Upon reflection, this is not the first time I have automatically done this. I do it ALL. THE. TIME. when faced with anything “unusual” on the trail (or the street for that matter).
Nope, I am not paranoid or a scaredy-cat. I am just a woman living and trying to enjoy life in a rape culture.
When I was on the trail this week thinking and noticing all of these things I remembered the first time I really got scared when out walking by myself. I was a young teenager (13-14?) walking from my house on outskirts of town to my girlfriend’s (in closest subdivision) on a quiet weekend afternoon. I had to walk through an open agricultural/industrial area for close to a kilometer. It being a Sunday in the early 1970s, there were not many cars on this stretch of the road nor many (if any) people working in the factories. And certainly no other people out walking.
And then a white van slowed down beside me. The back doors were open and there were 4 men inside. Two in the front seats and two sitting in the open back. They began to catcall me and coax me to respond and get in the van with them. I ignored them and kept up my steady pace but inside I was frightened to death and trying to figure out how to best escape them if they decided to get out and chase me. Then another car drove by and the van sped up and drove out of sight. I felt immense relief until…the van pulled up beside me again and the harassment continued.
When it happened to me this time, my fear turned to rage instead. I had an umbrella in my right hand (forecast called for rain and I was prepared), so without changing pace or looking at those fools I raised the umbrella and slowly and deliberately tapped it into my open left hand.
Tap. Tap. Tap.
You wanna mess with me? Well, I won’t go down without one hell of a fight. Consider yourselves warned.
Then I brought the umbrella back down to my side, all the time keeping up my steady pace and looking straight ahead, chin raised defiantly. Message delivered.
Now, I don’t know if this worked (doubtful) or if it was because I was now quickly approaching “civilization” (the subdivision was just ahead), but the van pulled away again and this time didn’t come back.
I didn’t get a license plate number and I didn’t report it. I already knew, even at my tender age, that somehow this incident would be seen as my fault. (And selfishly I didn’t want my emerging freedoms to be cut off by parents worrying about their daughter being accosted whenever she left the house. )
I had provoked them somehow. How was I dressed? Were my jeans or T-shirt too tight? It was the 70s – everyone wore tight jeans and t-shirts. Maybe there was too much wiggle in my walk. What did I think would happen when out walking by myself? Etc. Etc.
I knew this because these were the thoughts going through my head. Like a good little woman-child of the 1970s, I was trying to figure out what I had done to bring this “attention” on myself.
Thus began my transformation from human being to hyper-aware prey animal (and, let it be said: future badass).
I wonder if men can even begin to comprehend feeling this way when out walking solo, on the trail or anywhere.
Apparently not, because just a couple of days ago I came across a post on Facebook by Backpacker Magazine linking to an article entitled How to Avoid Seeming Creepy to Solo Women Hikers. I made the mistake (I know, I know) of reading the comments section. There were some good comments from men but also a lot of stuff like this gem by a guy named Spear Chucker in response to a woman: If you are getting eaten by a bear, I will keep walking. I won’t even tell anyone.
Yeah, so mature. You hurt my man-baby (thank you Lindy West, for this) feelings so now I am picking up my toys and leaving the sandbox, with a vengeance. WAAAAAH!!!! Take that you woman, you!
Dude, if you are that offended by the article and comments made by a woman, clearly you ARE the target audience.
There were other negative comments and arguments. I’m paraphrasing tremendously of course, but this was the gist:
Women feel scared on the trail when approached by men? Can’t be our fault. What is wrong with these women?
One little rape and they become suspicious, man-hating femi-nazis. LIGHTEN UP, WOMEN.
Get some therapy. The good kind.
And this sparkler: how am I expected to find a date on the trail if I can’t hit on the women I come across there?
The lack of empathy and consideration that someone else’s world-view or experience could not be like yours (and yet strangely enough, VALID) is mind-boggling. Don’t these men have women in their lives? Women that they could ask if this is indeed how they truly feel when alone and outdoors?
I have yet to meet a woman who has not felt anxious or threatened, even for just a few seconds, when outside and alone. The woman who has never rethought a plan to go somewhere because it might not be safe. The woman who has never been catcalled or harassed by men on the street.
If you are that woman, please contact me because I want to know where you have been cloistered all your life. It would make a great retreat, I am thinking.