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Farewell Paycheck

Kristine Hayes

I ADMIT I’M ENVIOUS of people who feel passionate about their careers. People who have no desire to stop working. People who can’t imagine how they’ll fill their days when they finally retire.

I spent 37 years in the workforce. My first few years, I held multiple part-time jobs to put myself through college. Once I completed my master’s degree, I began working fulltime. For 30 years, work was just a daily chore.

During three decades of employment, I never took an extended period of time-off. I never went on maternity leave. I didn’t take a sabbatical. The two times I made career changes, I stopped working for my old employer on a Friday and started my new position the following Monday.

I have a file folder filled with glowing recommendations, positive annual reviews and multiple nominations for performance awards. I almost always felt the work I did was appreciated. But I never felt passionate about what I was doing.

For 30 years, I worked five days a week. While my body went through the motions Monday through Friday, my mind was usually focused on the weekend. Saturday and Sunday were the days I could spend time doing what I truly enjoyed.

Every hobby I had, whether it was competitive pistol shooting, training dogs or writing, came with its own set of daydreams. I spent countless hours thinking of ways to turn the activities I loved into a career. I’d fill notebooks with business plans and estimates of potential income. I would research the cost of medical insurance policies. I’d admire people who ran their own businesses and wonder if I could achieve similar success.

Inevitably, I’d give up on my dreams. I was never confident enough in my abilities to take the necessary leap of faith. I was too afraid of giving up the security of a fulltime job for the unknown of self-employment.

Finally, in early 2022, I did what I’d imagined doing for years: I gave notice to my employer. My final day of work coincided with my 55th birthday.

The first two weeks of my retirement were hectic. My husband and I sold our home in Oregon. We packed up our four dogs and moved to Arizona.

Those first days in Arizona felt a lot like work. I spent hours every day unpacking boxes, cleaning and organizing. I felt compelled to be productive for eight hours a day. Instead of compulsively checking my work email account, I began compulsively checking my personal email. The idea of spending an entire day reading a book was incomprehensible.

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My husband, who retired four years ago, encouraged me to slow down. He reminded me the days belonged to us. There were no deadlines. There were no fabricated goals to be met. There was just time.

I gradually began to devote less energy to unpacking boxes. I spent more time training our dogs. I started setting aside at least an hour a day to write. I started playing my clarinet—something I haven’t done since I was in high school.

My husband and I are starting to develop a daily routine that allows both of us the time to do the things we enjoy. We’re both up before the sun rises so we can exercise our dogs before the heat sets in. After that, we plan our activities for the day. Most of the tasks are mundane. But we find pleasure in simple things like riding our bikes to the grocery store.

The most difficult part of retirement for me has nothing to do with time. It has everything to do with money. Not getting a regular paycheck feels odd.

I struggle with the idea that I no longer contribute as much to our household expenses as my husband, who receives a generous pension. Since I was 18 years old, I’ve always paid my own way. I never received an inheritance. I never had a college fund. Every penny I have today is there because I earned it myself.

I’m thankful my husband and I are in a better financial situation than I expected. We sold our house in Oregon for more money than I thought possible. Having a substantial cash reserve in the credit union helps relieve some of the stress I feel.

If the need arises, I’m willing to go back to work. I feel confident I could find a part-time job. But for now, I’m happy spending my days getting caught up on all those things I put off for the past three decades.

As for those boxes that still need unpacking? They’ll still be there next week.

Kristine Hayes Nibler recently retired, and she and her husband now live in Arizona. She enjoys spending her time reading, writing and training their four dogsCheck out Kristine’s earlier articles.

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Kevin Thompson
Kevin Thompson
1 month ago

Congratulations on your retirement. I extensively work with retirees and find most of them did a great job getting to retirement, but did a poor job planning “for” retirement. In my latest blog https://www.9inningscapitalgroup.com/blog/so-you-just-retired-now-what?fs=e&s=cl I discuss just this. Many of my retirees spend their lives saving and investing, but have not done such a great job figuring out what retirement actually looks like on a day-to-day basis.

What a great story and I hope you enjoy every day of your retirement. It is truly a blessing to start living for yourself.

Last edited 1 month ago by Kevin Thompson
Kristine Hayes
Kristine Hayes
1 month ago
Reply to  Kevin Thompson

My experience was kind of the opposite of what you describe. I was a late-in-life saver but I always knew what I wanted my days in retirement to look like!

I suspect that the more people enjoyed their work/career, the harder it is to leave it behind. For me, it was literally like turning off a light switch. One day I was someone who had worked there for 24 years, the next day I was retired and I haven’t looked back.

Thanks for your kind words.

George Counihan
George Counihan
1 month ago

Congrats on your retirement … welcome to the world of occasionally wondering what day of the week it is … wish you could help me potty train my grandpup – quite the challenge so far!

Kristine Hayes
Kristine Hayes
1 month ago

My husband and I joke all the time that neither of us knows what day it is!

Puppies and potty training–it’s a process! Let me know if you need some tips!

Cammer Michael
Cammer Michael
1 month ago

I’ve enjoyed reading your contributions to Humble Dollar. This one hit home because we are the same age and sometimes I fantasize about retiring. I love working in the lab and with scientists on creative projects and think I’ll never want to stop working, but when I have to deal with admin stuff I fantasize about retiring. I can’t imagine what I’d do with the time though. (Based on your article and what one of my kids says, I should try pistol shooting.)
But before I ramble on, I have a specific question. When I look at the economics of retiring, I think it is doable until I look at health insurance. I am underpaid based on nominal salary, but I have a top tier health insurance plan through my employer. I don’t see how I could afford a plan approaching this level of coverage. And I am too young for gov’t underwritten insurance. So the question is, besides having more $$ saved up to cover this specific expense, are there solutions?

Last edited 1 month ago by Cammer Michael
Kristine Hayes
Kristine Hayes
1 month ago
Reply to  Cammer Michael

Thanks for your kind words!

Pistol shooting is a pretty fun hobby. Very nice people as well.

Regarding the health insurance question: I was fortunate enough to work for a college that offered early retiree health insurance coverage. When I started working there in 1998, the only requirements to get coverage starting at age 55 was that you had put in 10 years of work at the college. Shortly after I started, they changed the requirement to 20 years of work at the college. For me, it didn’t matter. I was 31 when I started there so I knew I’d have 24 years in before I turned 55.

About six years after I started, they eliminated the program completely. New employees get some retiree health care benefits, but nothing like what I get. If I hadn’t moved to Arizona, my health care coverage would be completely free. Since we moved, I have to pay $160/month and my (former) employer pays the rest. I’ll get that benefit until I turn 65. Once I’m 65, my (former) employer will pay the cost of a Medicare Supplement plan for me.

Honestly, it was that single benefit that kept me at the job for 24 years. I knew if things went as planned, I’d be able to quit my job at 55 and not have to worry about health care coverage for, hopefully, the rest of my life.

I know the benefit could change, but for now, I’m happy.

I hope that helps!
Best,
Kristine

R Quinn
R Quinn
1 month ago

It’s a bit sad working a lifetime and not enjoying if not being passionate about ones work. Work should not be a daily chore.

I sincerely hope your retirement journey stays a joy and never boring. Guard against the routine taking over.

Kristine Hayes
Kristine Hayes
1 month ago
Reply to  R Quinn

To be clear, there were certain parts of each of my jobs I enjoyed. But did I live to go to work every day? Nope.

The novelty of being retired still hasn’t worn off yet. It’s only been two months–I’ve known people who have taken vacations longer than I’ve been retired. At this point, I can’t imagine getting bored, but only time will tell.

AKROGER SHOPPER
AKROGER SHOPPER
1 month ago

Kristine Please continue to post for all of us here on HD. There are endless educational opportunites to be had now that your no longer chained to a eight to five chair. I rode the city busses for a couple of weeks after I retired to see who the drivers were, and to slow down. More visits were paid to the farmer’s market in summer to chat with the farmers. Grocery shopping is now a hobby that can provide hours of relaxation. For a couple of months I managed the weekly trash containers for all my neighbors, then I went away on vacation and the neighbors watered my house plants. It’s important to remember there is no hurry any longer, just time to relax and enjoy. No need for any charts, graphs, or any work related items it’s learn as you go time.

Kristine Hayes
Kristine Hayes
1 month ago

Thank you for your kind comments! Yes, I do plan to continue to write for HD as well as for a couple of other blogs/magazines. Writing is one of my passions and I’m thankful I should have more time to pursue it now that I’m not working.

Donny Hrubes
Donny Hrubes
1 month ago

Good going Kristine, You’ve learned a strategy we all should at least think about in retirement, that is adjusting. I was in the workforce over half a century and work was my hobby.
When I left work 19 months ago, it was extremely hard for me. My blood pressure shot way up from not being prepared for the change. All at once, I didn’t have a huge part of my life to lean on. A fellow who left before me coached me to ‘Do one thing a day’ as there’s no rush and about a year later, I finally figured it out. It’s a mind game.
When life changes, we change our minds to adapt and fare better than those who don’t.

It’s good to hear you and hubby are doing well, you’ve made it!

Kristine Hayes
Kristine Hayes
1 month ago
Reply to  Donny Hrubes

Thanks for the kind words. My husband and I are big believers in the ‘one little thing a day’ movement. We each have habit tracking worksheets that we fill out to keep track of our progress towards improving ourselves a little bit every day.

Don Stevenson
Don Stevenson
1 month ago

I enjoyed reading your story. My story is a bit different, but I share the struggle of letting go of the apparent “meaningfulness” of working out in the business world. I also worked for 37 years before calling it quits. Slowly over time I find myself settling into doing things that I just want to do: play my guitar, play golf, home maintenance projects, and I even relish lovingly edging and cutting my carefully manicured lawn. Although I have not yet been willing to just sit down and read a book, I think I would feel so idle doing that. Today I spent the better part of the morning cleaning out the 7000 useless emails in my inbox but preserved all of my unopened HumbleDollar emails. I took the time to read a few stories and will continue to do that. Maybe I’ll contribute someday as well. Best of luck with your transition.

Kristine Hayes
Kristine Hayes
1 month ago
Reply to  Don Stevenson

Thanks for your kind words.

And good for you for cleaning out your email inbox. I wish I could say the same. Mine currently sits at over 9000 emails (!). I could try and justify it by saying that I’ve had the same email account for at least 15 or 20 years, but I’m not sure that really matters. I know I need to delete 99.9% of them but that’s just one of those ‘to do’ projects that never seems to come to fruition.

Have a wonderful day.

MarkT29
MarkT29
2 months ago

The most difficult part of retirement for me has nothing to do with time. It has everything to do with money. Not getting a regular paycheck feels odd.

To me the hardest thing was starting to spend the money I’d been saving in the years I spent working after college (also 37 years). For literally decades I had been socking away money every month thru the 401K plan at work as well as a regular investment account. It felt so strange when I retired a little over a year ago to realize I’d never make another contribution.

Best wishes for your retirement!

R Quinn
R Quinn
1 month ago
Reply to  MarkT29

Perhaps not to a 401k but it’s a good idea to keep saving something to maintain a modest emergency fund and replenish it out side of retirement funds. I would also keep SS isolated from retirement funds.

Kristine Hayes
Kristine Hayes
2 months ago
Reply to  MarkT29

Thank you! I haven’t had to tap into my retirement funds yet. Thankfully my husband and I are able to live comfortably on his retirement income, combined with some of the money we made from the sale of our home. But yes, I think it will be very difficult for me to start to ‘drain’ my retirement funds when the time comes!

Paula Karabelias
Paula Karabelias
2 months ago

Congratulations on your retirement Kristine. I always enjoy your articles and I hope you continue writing

Kristine Hayes
Kristine Hayes
2 months ago

Thanks Paula. Yes, more writing is in my future. In addition to my HumbleDollar columns, I’m also writing an occasional humor column and some dog training articles as well!

jeff berkowitz
jeff berkowitz
2 months ago

I would love for you to expound on the fact that most people had a different world view – can you be specific, even if you need to get political.
Also, did this fact enter into your decision to relocate at all?

Kristine Hayes
Kristine Hayes
2 months ago
Reply to  jeff berkowitz

I (almost) always avoid talking about politics on the internet :-). It seems like it rarely leads to anything good.

As for relocating, we had a number of reasons for leaving Oregon and moving to Arizona. Weather certainly played a big role. We were both growing increasingly tired of the dreary grey skies that dominate the winter months.

Andrew Forsythe
Andrew Forsythe
2 months ago

Congrats on your retirement, Kristine. I retired 5 years ago at 65, and have never looked back. Haven’t missed work at all, and have really enjoyed having the time to pursue the things I enjoy.

Best of luck with yours!

Kristine Hayes
Kristine Hayes
2 months ago

Thanks Andrew. I really enjoy spending my days doing things I want to do instead of things that I have to do.

Rick Connor
Rick Connor
2 months ago

Kristine,
Congratualtions on retirement. I think you nailed the feeling of not receiving a paycheck – it feels odd. I’ve shared that feeling for the last few years – it feels oddly satisfying when I receive even a modest paycheck for a few hours consulting. It took my wife a few months to get used to not working – now she she describes how she feels as very “at peace”.

My wife recently signed me up for guitar lessons – something I’ve wanted to do in retirement but hesitated during the pandemic. I also fool around on a ukulele. I have no talent but visions of stardom.

I hope you and your husband enjoy your well-earned time. I look forward to hearing about it!

Randy Dobkin
Randy Dobkin
1 month ago
Reply to  Rick Connor

I learned the ukulele before attempting the guitar. I think it’s easier that way. That was 46 years ago, though.

Kristine Hayes
Kristine Hayes
2 months ago
Reply to  Rick Connor

Thanks Rick! Ukuleles and guitars seem to be a common retirement theme around here (see the comment below from TomandDeb).

Not getting a paycheck is a bit distressing for me. I’m still trying to learn to cope with that. I’m in the process of starting a dog training business (one paid client so far!) so I’m hoping that might provide a bit of supplemental income.

Thanks for the well wishes. I plan on writing about many of my retirement ‘adventures’ for HumbleDollar!

AmeliaRose
AmeliaRose
2 months ago

Congratulations on your early retirement.

Kristine Hayes
Kristine Hayes
2 months ago
Reply to  AmeliaRose

Thank you!

Peter Blanchette
Peter Blanchette
2 months ago

I assume both of you have life insurance on the other.

Kristine Hayes
Kristine Hayes
2 months ago

We don’t. We each have our own sources of retirement income.

Stu
Stu
2 months ago
Reply to  Kristine Hayes

Good for you! Do your pensions have survivor benefits?

Kristine Hayes
Kristine Hayes
2 months ago
Reply to  Stu

My pension, when I finally have to tap into it, would hardly be worth having survivor benefits on. My ex-husband took half of it when we divorced so I’ll get a few hundred dollars a month at most.

mytimetotravel
mytimetotravel
2 months ago

Welcome to retirement, and good luck! I spent thirty years working for a megacorp, and unlike you I thoroughly enjoyed the first twenty-five years (although, having grown up in England, I took every day of vacation every year) but the last five years, not so much. Since my pension wasn’t going to increase after thirty years I retired at 53, then reinvented myself as tech writer for few years before retiring for good at 57.

My interest when I retired was travel, and I had fifteen good years of extensive travel (and blogging) before coming down with a variant of rheumatoid arthritis – and Covid has grounded me completely. I am now looking forward to moving to a CCRC next year, and getting involved in some new activities. (And no children or grandchildren, other than ex-step-children.)

Kristine Hayes
Kristine Hayes
2 months ago
Reply to  mytimetotravel

Thank you. I did enjoy certain aspects of each job I had. My first job (working in a diagnostic clinical laboratory) was probably the most rewarding. I felt like I had a purpose and that I was making a difference in people’s lives.

The last five years I spent working were among the worst. I began to realize how different my world views were from almost everyone I worked with and, when the pandemic hit, it made working pretty much intolerable for me.

Good luck with your move and the new activities. My husband and I moved into a 55+ community that not only offers numerous recreational activities, it also has over 100 clubs. I can’t imagine ever getting bored around here.

Linda Grady
Linda Grady
2 months ago

So happy to hear of your wise decision to retire early, Kristine. As most of us fellow retirees learn, it can take a while to adjust and to find a new routine, but it sounds like you are well on your way. Somehow, I don’t think you will abandon all of us who look forward to your articles! Enjoy your day …and all those to come. 😊

Kristine Hayes
Kristine Hayes
2 months ago
Reply to  Linda Grady

Thank you for the kind comments Linda. My husband and I are developing a good routine although I think it’s funny that I feel busier now than I did when I was working.

Contributing more articles to HumbleDollar will always be near the top of my priority list!

Have a wonderful day!

Jerry Pinkard
Jerry Pinkard
2 months ago

Very nice article Kristine. I can relate to your retirement challenges.

I retired at 66 after a 44 year IT career, mostly in senior IT management positions. I had a lot of pressure in my job, and my work week was usually 50 to 60 hours, and more if we had major issues. Free time was a luxury. Transitioning to retirement was somewhat of a shock as I had to deal with lots of free time for the first time in 35 years.

I serve on the board of 2 non-profits and do volunteer work at my church. I stay busy but I can walk away if I want to.

I was not wired to lead a solely leisure life style. To me life needs purpose and I try to fulfill mine through these activities, church, time with family and bucket list items.

Enjoy your retirement!

Kristine Hayes
Kristine Hayes
2 months ago
Reply to  Jerry Pinkard

Thanks Jerry. Of all the pieces I have written for HD, this one was probably my favorite.

In the community we live in there are so many volunteer (and paid) opportunities available to the residents. It’s nice to know there are so many options available if I find myself needing more money or less free time :-).

Have a great day!

TomandDeb Leigl
TomandDeb Leigl
2 months ago

Hi Kristine: Congratulations on your retirement……glad you are starting to find a comfortable routine. I have to comment on your comment I started playing my clarinet—something I haven’t done since I was in high school”.

I had to chuckle when I read that. My wife retired two years ago and one of her long….. yearning desires was to…. once again…. play her clarinet. I read your article to her, and she had the cutes smile…. like wow….so cool.

So…. a final word on her clarinet. After she retired, we went on a “leave no stone unturned” search throughout the house looking for her clarinet. To her disappointment…. the where-abouts of her clarinet remain a mystery. She thinks perhaps she borrowed it to someone, and it never got returned……or it got lost during our recent move to a new house. So, to satisfy her musical impulse……she purchased a ukulele. Boy…those little suckers can really let out an ear-piercing screech! So…. when I see that little noise maker come out of the case, I grab my golf clubs and head to the driving range!

Kristine Hayes
Kristine Hayes
2 months ago

Thank you for the kind words. It sounds like your wife and I lead parallel lives!

Before I decided to play the clarinet again, I purchased a guitar. I spent a few weeks starting to learn how to play it before we moved, but it hasn’t been off its stand since we moved to Arizona. I hadn’t realized quite how difficult it would be to learn a completely new instrument that had absolutely nothing in common with a woodwind!

The best part of getting my clarinet out was discovering just how much of it I remembered. The fingerings and music reading skills I developed over 40 years ago came back almost immediately. It was very satisfying to be able to play some simple songs right away!

I hope you and your wife have a lovely (and harmonious) day!

Luckless Pedestrian
Luckless Pedestrian
2 months ago
Reply to  Kristine Hayes

“Stranger on the Shore”?

Randy Dobkin
Randy Dobkin
1 month ago

I chuckle at the Steely Dan references “learn to work the saxophone” and “luckless pedestrian.”

CJ
CJ
2 months ago

Kristine: I always enjoy your posts very much – I do hope you’ll continue to contribute articles.

It’s a real treat to hear from any child-free retirees, as that’s relatively rare, despite all the websites and forums I frequent. Most talk at length about kids/grandkids as their top retirement fulfillment. For me, that message doesn’t resonate at all and it sometimes feels isolating when that’s all you hear.

Like you, everything I have I worked for myself, from earning college tuition to retirement savings.

It’s wonderful that you were able to retire at such a young age, with so many good healthy years hopefully ahead and such interesting hobbies.

Please let us know if you ever start a blog we can subscribe to. Your posts are a pleasure to read!

Last edited 2 months ago by CJ
Kristine Hayes
Kristine Hayes
2 months ago
Reply to  CJ

CJ. I’m very flattered! I will definitely continue to contribute to HumbleDollar.

I agree that child-free retirees seem to be quite rare. And yes, it can feel a bit isolating when so much talk revolves around family. My late Grandmother (who was very active and mentally sharp at the age of 100), would often comment about how she really didn’t like talking to many of the people at the senior home where she lived. She said they only wanted to talk about their children and grandchildren. She yearned to discuss politics and world events instead!

I feel very lucky to have been able to leave full-time work behind at age 55. My husband and I are attempting to start a dog-training business, so my work days may not be behind me completely. That said, working with dogs is what I love to do so I feel confident it won’t feel too much like work.

I really appreciate your kind comments. Have a wonderful day!

R H
R H
2 months ago

Congratulations on your retirement Kristine. You have certainly earned it. Time to relax and enjoy life the other 5 days a week!

Kristine Hayes
Kristine Hayes
2 months ago
Reply to  R H

Thank you! Relaxing isn’t really something that is very easy for me to do. I’m one of those people who likes to be busy at all times. That said, I am gradually adapting to the idea I can just ‘chill out’ sometimes. Baby steps…

Chazooo
Chazooo
2 months ago

Saw no mention of children, so I recommend setting all those unpacked boxes, along with your fretting about them, on the curb.

Kristine Hayes
Kristine Hayes
2 months ago
Reply to  Chazooo

Keeping clutter to a minimum is definitely something my husband and I try to do. With four dogs, it is sometimes a losing battle. We have a ridiculous number of dog toys, dog beds, dog crates, dog collars and leashes, etc. The list goes on and on and on.

Ted Tompkins
Ted Tompkins
2 months ago

I retired four years ago and felt much like you did. Our lives parallel each other in many ways. In 50 years of working, I never took a break. In fact, a career in newspapers was sandwiched around a 10-year “experiment” to work for myself, never taking more than two weeks off at a time for vacation. When I retired I had a lengthy list of daily “to-dos” I felt I HAD to accomplish. Slowly, with the help of my wife, I learned that if I didn’t complete all of them, “there was always tomorrow. I’m retired, after all.” It was a difficult transition, but I’m guessing it’s typical for many of us. Best of luck with your continued successful transition. P.S. I’m even learning to work the saxophone!

Kristine Hayes
Kristine Hayes
2 months ago
Reply to  Ted Tompkins

I definitely understand the never-ending, “to-do” list! Mine is really more of a book than a list.

Good luck with the saxophone. Even though I took a 35 year break from playing the clarinet, I was amazed with how much I remembered.

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