Jonal entry 1125 | September 2 2010
I think that from young boyhood I had dreams of
being a man of leisure, so the only fears of retirement I ever
had was that I might not live long enough to have one or that
I might be unable to afford to live on whatever retirement income
I might have. Now that I have two full years of retirement living
behind me, I can be grateful that neither of those scenarios have
been played out. I remember both of my grandfathers (having been
widowed before their own deaths) living in what were little more
than shanties in their declining years and if they were getting
any Social Security funds in the late '40s/early '50s, they were
probably a pittance, so their lot was a scary prospect.
Though the "financial advisors" advise
people facing retirement to make preparations so that they can
continue the lifestyle they're used to and virtually all government
employees are able to do that and many even "double dip,"
I knew that was not feasible in my case. I did very well in my
final decade of work, which padded my Social Security payments
considerably (as they are based on your "best" years'
income), but only the final four of those years were as an actual
employee of a large company. I spent most of my working years
as self-employed, freelancing, and contracting.
That meant that although I had been able to start
an IRA (independent retirement account) at a job prior to that
decade, the balance in it was small, so my best chance of having
any supplemental income for my retirement would come through a
401k plan started and built up entirely in those final four years.
Knowing that I was approaching Social Security eligibility and
hoping to maximize my retirement time as much as possible,
I put half of my gross income for those four years into my 401k
and IRA accounts. That added up to nothing close to the million
dollars 30-year-olds are told they can expect to accumulate in
their 401k's if they begin at that age, but it was much better
than whatever I might have had if I'd not been employed in those
years and eligible for supplemental contributions to my 401k by
the employer, and discounted prices on the company's stock (which
still remains fairly stable).
I was fairly sure I could "survive" on
my Social Security income alone (as there's always the possibility
that all invested money will disappear through market downturns,
as many Americans' retirement funds did in this timeframe), as
I've lived in poverty before, so my main concerns were whether
I would be able to support my church at the same rate I had while
employed, and also continue my gym membership. In my physical
shape, giving that up might be tantamount to a death sentence,
at least years earlier than if I were able to continue my workouts.
On both of those countspraise beso far so good.
I would also like to do some more traveling, but
as I'd made six visits to Europe in the decade after my parents
passed away and one trip around the world, I figured that if I
could not afford that I had at least had my "day." And
now, though my house needs new carpeting and other maintenance
I've not gotten around to, if I have to choose between another
trip to Ireland and better carpets, Ireland wins hands down. And
I'm still hoping to visit the Holy Land, but don't want to do
so alone. I am not, of course, sharing my life or home with a
woman or anyone else (my daughter and her family having moved
out a year ago), which would no doubt complicate matters in every
Though my life contains much more leisure now that
I'm retired than before, my definition of being a "man of
leisure" is probably not most other people's definition.
The main difference seems to be that whereas I had to stop at
the gym on my way home from work before, I can do that in the
middle of the day now. I'm about to begin the final chapter of
the third nonfiction book I've written in these two retirement
years, and have another book idea waiting in the wings for beginning
as soon of this one is done. I've been keeping a diary most of
this time (knowing that despite how boring it would be to anyone
reading now, the Historical Society will be glad to have it 50
years from now) and I have also worked on several other less pressing
"book projects" as well as the three virtually done
ones. And as I had always wanted much more time to write, I love
this facet of my life now.
Webmaster Jon Kennedy