It’s no secret that my retirement planning didn’t work out the way I wanted to. That’s the whole point of this blog. I’m dealing with continuing to live my retirement life NOT according to my lifelong plan.
What was my retirement lifelong plan?
My retirement planning was a two-parter. The first part was to retire young by selling everything and downsizing to a smaller abode and living off my investments plus work part time. That part came true 100% in 2001. The second part was to sell everything again, buy a low cost condo in Florida and invest all my money wisely and retire young with absolutely no working at a job whatsoever. I was in the process of doing this in 2014 when we found out DH was not as healthy as he was supposed to be. I thought that by marrying a younger man than myself (six years younger, to be exact) I’d have someone young and fresh to take care of ME in my old age. That part of my retirement planning didn’t work out either.
So, I had to backtrack, sell the condo and move back into the downsized home. It’s at this point (2016) that my retirement stalled. I had absolutely no idea what to do after this point, except retreat and lay low. DH’s health became the Number One priority. I also had to make a financial adjustment to the fact that I wasn’t living in a $180,000 Florida condo with $500,000 in the bank. I was living in a $500,000 home with only $180,000 in the bank. Instead of living on $50,000 a year, I was going to have to learn how to live on $25,000.
You might think the natural solution here is to sell the $500K home and move. But that’s not so easy. DH now has serious health issues and can NOT move away from his medical team. Also, I’ve been twice burned on real estate. I lost $100,000 after a ten year ownership of a Newport, RI beach house. And I just about broke even selling the Florida condo. That’s two real estate strikes against me. I have no intention of making it three. I think a massive move right now would probably kill DH. I don’t think he could handle the stress. Plus, it only costs us $816 a month to live here. I don’t think we could find any other place else to live as cheaply as we do right here.
Now starts all my midnight financial regrets and angst. Why did I spend so much money? Why did I take so many vacations? Why did I buy so many new cars? Why did I give my kids so much money to buy their own condos and pay off their own student loans? Why did I buy and trade in perfectly good RVs for different models? Why did I spend so much money period? Why? Why? Why?
Why didn’t I know what was going to happen to me? Why didn’t I plan better for the future? These last few years have been nothing but regrets for me. It’s time for me now to brush off my regrets. What was done was done. I made the best decisions I could, at the time, based on the information I had on hand. At that time! What I learned from my new situation, however, in the end, made me a much better person.
I have a much better relationship with my adult children than I ever did before. I see them regularly, am included in many family functions and my grandchildren run to hug me when they see me. I’m more involved in my community. Instead of running away, I’m staying put. I’m embracing the surroundings that have always been here but I kept searching for it somewhere else.
I seem to be managing my money better. I’m more mindful of my financial situation. I feel as if I have finally mastered my money at age 68 than at any other time in my life. I have no qualms cancelling things or going without in order to keep me flush and in the black.
Maybe this was the retirement I was destined for all along? I did dream and imagine myself living in a mortgage free home, free of debt and RVing coast to coast in as many National and State parks as possible. The end goal was when ‘Assisted Living’ or a nursing home rang my doorbell, the goal was to sell and afford an end-of-life lifestyle.
There’s a quote reference I like from Margaret Manning of Sixty And Me on How To Live Without Regret After 50: Don’t get stuck in self-defeating thought loops . Acknowledge what happened and move on. There is a quote that I love from the movie Slumdog Millionaire: “Everything will be OK in the end – and if it’s not OK, it’s not the end.”
I think everything is OK now. I didn’t last week. But today I do. I had to get some toxic things and some toxic people out of my life before I could move forward. I also had to spend a lot of time just thinking. When I came to realize that if nothing had ever happened to me, I’d still would have wound up exactly where I am today. That was a true eye opener.
Lao Tsu said: ‘If you are depressed you are living in the past; if you are anxious you are living in the future; if you are at peace you are living in the present.’ I’m at total peace right now. Everything is fine. We’re living well. Bills are getting paid on time. We have a nice roof over our head, food on the table, friends and family to love and love us back. Thinking about numbers was causing me grief. My life is NOT about numbers. It’s about having ‘enough’. And that is exactly what we have: enough.
More advice: If your regrets feel overwhelming, take steps to reengage with the world. Join an exercise class, establish a daily ritual of walking in the park, take up dancing. Whatever you do – do something! As you develop your body and mind, you will build up the energy to face your regrets without fear.
Finally, remember to give yourself a break. Not everything needs to be rationalized and sorted through. Sometimes the best way to deal with regrets is just to smile at our foolishness and move on. You’re human, so don’t expect yourself to be anything else.
I was a very foolish girl. But I’m a much smarter retiree.
Live well and prosper, my friend. Live well and prosper.