A Happy Retirement

Dennis Friedman

AS I MENTIONED IN an earlier article, I’ve been writing for HumbleDollar since 2017. Along the way, I set a personal goal of writing 100 articles, not counting the 36 shorter blog posts I’ve penned. This is my 99th article. I’m almost there.

It may not seem like a lofty goal to many people, but to me it’s been a challenge. After I wrote my first article, it took me a year to write another one. When I did, HumbleDollar’s editor said, “Welcome back.” I actually thought he wouldn’t remember me since it was such a long period between articles.

Sometimes, ideas come in bunches and sometimes they’re far between. What I find most difficult when writing about money is finding something to say that’s personal and has value to the reader, while not sounding too much like a broken record. One result: Many of my articles are about my life experiences.

The goal of writing 100 HumbleDollar articles is really about finding personal satisfaction. With each article’s publication, I have a sense of accomplishment. This feeling of being pleased and satisfied with myself after performing a meaningful task is sometimes hard to find in retirement. That’s one of the biggest things I miss about working. It’s probably why some people never fully retire.

Transitioning to retirement, however, has been relatively easy for me. I credit my relationship with my wife. Since we’re both retired, we spend a lot of time together. It’s important to have a solid relationship with your partner. We have one, especially when it comes to money.

I learned an important lesson many years ago about married couples and money: I had a coworker whose husband surprised her with a Mercedes-Benz for her birthday. She was so angry with him for spending so much money that it almost wrecked their marriage. She stopped talking to him and refused to drive the car. They were able to reconcile, but it took time.

Before I proposed to Rachel a few years ago, I thought about buying her a ring first. But I kept thinking about my coworker and that car, so I decided that it would be best if Rachel and I picked out the ring together. That way, she’d not only get something she liked, but also she would have some input on the cost of the ring. She wound up selecting a small, good-quality diamond at a reasonable price.

That’s the way our marriage has been when it comes to making many financial decisions, especially large expenditures. We treat each other not only as a spouse, but also as a business partner.

When we remodeled our house, we made sure each of us was involved in drawing up the contract. If there were any changes, we both were made aware of them before a decision was made. When Moe, our contractor, called me and thought it would be a good idea to add lighting underneath the kitchen cabinets, I consulted Rachel before giving him the go-ahead.

Surprisingly, we only had one major disagreement in remodeling our home. We have a two-and-a-half bathroom house. We decided to gut and remodel all of the bathrooms. We both agreed to have a walk-in shower in the master bathroom. In the other full-size bathroom, Rachel wanted another walk-in shower. I thought we should keep the same configuration, and simply replace the bathtub and the shower faucet.

My rationale: If we ever sell our house, having a bathtub in one of the bathrooms might make it easier to sell our three-bedroom house to a family with small children. There are also folks who like to wash their dogs in the bathtub. In addition, it might be wise to have that option available if we ever need a tub for ourselves. Rachel agreed.

I don’t always get my way. When we bought our Honda Civic, I wanted a few extras, like SiriusXM radio. She wanted a basic model with no options. Her reasoning: We’re going to eventually buy another vehicle that’s more luxurious for our longer trips. We should wait and get those options on our next car. We’re only going to use this car primarily for short errands around town. It made sense, so I agreed.

We also make each other aware of the details of our own individual investments, such as IRAs and 401(k). This way, we make sure our total allocation is in alignment with our risk tolerance and time horizon. More important, with both of us fully and openly engaged in our finances, it makes it easier for one of us to take over if the other becomes incapacitated or passes away. The key to our financial relationship can be summed up in two words: participation and compromise.

Dennis Friedman retired from Boeing Satellite Systems after a 30-year career in manufacturing. Born in Ohio, Dennis is a California transplant with a bachelor’s degree in history and an MBA. A self-described “humble investor,” he likes reading historical novels and about personal finance. Check out his earlier articles and follow him on Twitter @DMFrie.

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