Jon Kennedy
Jon Kennedy


      Jon Kennedy's 'Postcards from
  the Nanty Glo in My Mind'

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 counts—praise be—so 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 way.

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





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In a child's view: My grandparents are funny; when they bend over, you hear gas leaks and they blame their dog.

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Of all tyrannies, a tyranny exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive.

C. S. Lewis (1898 - 1963)

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Jon Kennedy's latest published book is The Everything Guide to C.S. Lewis and Narnia, now in stores, from Adams Media, F&W Publications. From May 9, 2007 through July 2, 2008 his blog entries or "Jonals" were articles inspired by readings in Lewis's work that didn't fit into the book. Click here for a list of all articles in the C.S. Lewis Overflow series. The book is available for purchase in support of the Liberty Museum in Nanty Glo and is also available on Amazon.



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