I EXPECTED TO SPEND early 2017 blogging about my fourth round-the-world trip, which I’d just completed, and planning my next journey. Instead, I spent much of the year on the couch with a heating pad, in between assorted medical appointments, everything from acupuncture to meeting with an infectious disease specialist.
Eventually, I got a definitive diagnosis—I had a form of rheumatoid arthritis—and, in early 2018, an effective medication. But I had been forcibly reminded of something I’d first learned 10 years earlier,
I RECENTLY DISCUSSED Social Security with a friend. After trying to explain the program’s funding, I gave up when his reply was, “The facts are that the Social Security money was misappropriated and there’s no way it can be tracked after all these years. People die before they collect one Social Security check, and others get very few checks. You will never convince me otherwise.”
Yes, that’s the one thing we do agree on: I will indeed never change his mind.
WHEN I RETIRED, I thought a successful retirement was primarily about money—about making sure I had enough income to fund daily expenses for 30 or more years. But now that I’m in my 70s, my investments don’t seem quite so important to me.
Indeed, other things in my life strike me as just as crucial as my investment portfolio’s size. Some say retirement is like a three-legged stool. No, not the traditional three-legged stool of personal savings,
WHEN I FOUND myself unexpectedly packaged off by the bank, I was initially very happy. I was planning to leave anyway because the stress was getting to me. When the bank gave me a severance check at age 59, I felt like I’d won the lottery.
Life was pretty good for a while, but then I was hit by a bad case of retirement shock. I lost my mojo, and had a constant feeling of being incredibly lost and vulnerable.
THE BEST DESCRIPTION for my career would be “corporate vagabond.” I moved the family six times to five different states over 42 years.
Because we never settled down in one place, my wife and I spent 15 years visiting potential retirement locations. We visited sprawling metropolitan areas, small towns, retirement communities and the town where we both grew up. We also considered the areas where we’d lived, but nothing appealed to us.
RUNNING OUT OF MONEY is retirement’s biggest financial risk—though this, of course, never actually happens. Thanks to Social Security, almost all retirees will have some monthly income, no matter how long they live.
Still, Social Security alone probably won’t make for a comfortable retirement, though it is the financial cornerstone for many. In fact, Social Security accounts for at least 50% of income for half of retirees. That includes a quarter of those age 65 and up for whom their monthly benefit is at least 90% of their income—a statistic I find shocking.
AT A DINNER THAT I attended recently, someone pointed out that a high percentage of us were newly retired. That included me, as well as a couple who were just reaching age 60. After the dinner, the wife of the couple told me she was offended by being called retired. She’s writing fiction every day and her husband does some consulting work.
The work they’re doing pays, but it’s not by itself enough for them to live their comfortable,
WE LIKE TO ESCAPE the Northeast’s cold each winter, so we just spent 10 days in Sarasota, Florida. Like many others when they’re on vacation, we found our noses pressed against the windows of real-estate offices, perusing the listings and musing about whether we’d want to live there.
Fantasizing about the future is fun and free, but it can also be dangerous. It’s how folks end up buying timeshares and second homes during wonderfully relaxing vacations.
I JUST GOT A RAISE from Uncle Sam—and relief from one of early retirement’s biggest unknowns.
In December, when I turned age 65, I swapped my bronze-level Affordable Care Act policy for Medicare plus a Medigap policy. My wife was already on Medicare. Compared to 2020, when neither of us had Medicare coverage, our monthly cost today for health insurance is $684 lower.
My calculated risk has paid off. As a young adult, I set my sights on early retirement.
I JUST READ THAT the 4% rule is making a comeback. From where, I thought?
Under the 4% rule, you withdraw 4% of your nest egg in the first year of retirement. If you had $1 million, you’d take 4%, or $40,000. In year two, you’d add inflation to your previous year’s withdrawal. Say inflation ran at 6%. You’d multiply $40,000 by that 6% to get the second-year adjustment of $2,400. Add that to the prior year’s $40,000,
WHEN I LOOK BACK at 2022, my wife and I had a good year. We avoided COVID-19 even as we did things we’d been yearning to do for a long time. We enjoyed our time traveling, and visiting family and friends. Even doing the little things that we take for granted was a pleasure. Indeed, this year felt like a return to normal.
Of course, everything hasn’t come up roses. Our investment portfolio is down 12.6% as I write this article.
SEVEN MONTHS AGO—on my 55th birthday—I walked away from a job I’d held for 24 years. That day, I got in my car, left Portland, Oregon, and began a two-day roadtrip to Arizona.
My husband, who retired in 2018, was already living in our Phoenix-area home. I was looking forward to joining him, but I questioned how well I’d adapt to my new life as a retiree.
During my 1,300-mile journey south, I had plenty of time to ponder my future.
I INVESTED A GOOD chunk of 2022 getting ready for the Ironman triathlon on Nov. 20 in Cozumel, Mexico. A lot of people have asked me why I would even attempt an Ironman at age 68. I tell them I’m investing in my future self.
I know what I want my future to look like, and I’m focused on putting the pieces in place to get me there. My good health is a big piece of that picture.
I REACHED AGE 79 in November. No matter how you slice it, I’m now a senior citizen or, as I prefer to call myself, a seasoned citizen. That became obvious during a recent trip to the supermarket. As I leaned over to check the price of a case of water, a fellow in his 40s asked if he could lift it into my cart.
It was a nice gesture with good intentions, but I silently resented it.
THEY SAY TIMING IS everything. That’s something I should know—because I’ve never been very good at it. The motto of Scotland’s Kerr clan is Sero Sed Serio, or Late, but in Earnest. That’s been my reputation since I was young.
In high school, my basketball game blossomed at the end of my senior year, just in time to have one good game of double-digit scoring before I graduated.