Surviving

Survival mode pic

Once we were situated in our new house and city, we were able to take stock of what we had done.

  • Were we happy with our decision to leave our jobs?
  • Did we have any regrets about our decision to relocate?
  • Did we have all of our needs taken care of?
  • Were we comfortable with our financial planning?
  • Did being retired present any challenges or issues?

The decision to leave our jobs was monumental. I had always worked. It was my lifestyle. Both my wife and I were at or near or peak earnings. So why did we do it? First, both my wife and I had set a goal way back when to retire early. Second, when we saw some bad health outcomes occur to some of our friends, it hit us hard. It motivated us to retire sooner to enjoy more free time together while we had our health. Overall, we have no regrets with the timing of our decision to retire early.

Our decision to relocate has actually turned out better than what we hoped. We enjoy outdoor, active Arizona living. Scottsdale is a very livable, well run, clean, safe and vibrant city. I can’t imagine living any place else. So no regrets here.

In terms of our needs – shopping, recreation, social, health, services – every need was fulfilled. One of the things that helped ease our transition was that many of our favorite stores from the Bay Area are also in Scottsdale. In fact, I’ve never seen anyplace quite like Scottsdale when it comes to shopping. The variety of shopping options is stunning! The opportunity for recreation is also tremendous. According to a 2016 survey conducted by Wallethub.com, Scottsdale ranked number 1 for active lifestyle.

When it comes to financial planning, we were fortunate in part to have the tailwind of rising markets behind us. It helps to have investments appreciating when you first start out depleting them to replace earnings. So during this period we were actually able to get ahead of our strategic financial plan. Retiring during a time of a market downturn, can put a retirement plan in jeopardy due to something called sequence risk.

It turned out that retirement presented huge challenges that I was not prepared for and did not understand. I anticipated that it would be difficult to find something to replace work but it turned out to be much harder than I expected. I first tried volunteering. I took on the website development and maintenance for a local history museum (which I am no longer doing). I also became a volunteer reader for Sun Sounds of AZ. I enjoyed both of these but I still felt that something was still missing. (See My Identity Crisis). In fact, I began to have doubts about whether I had made the right decision to retire. It wasn’t until I decided to create Retirement Journeys that I felt that I had found something that I could enjoy and that offered me a new identity! It had taken several years to find activities that sufficiently replaced work.

 

When I look back now, some 5 years into retirement, I no longer view “Surviving” as “Surviving in Retirement”, i.e. the continuation of improving retirement life after the Arrival period. Instead, I view it as “Surviving Retirement”, i.e. working through the disruption that retirement brings.  I’ve learned through my experience with Retirement Journeys that retirement is a major life change event that few of us are truly prepared for. I created several things to help explain what I mean.

Lessons Learned

  • Surviving is about the process of acceptance of one’s decisions, one’s new life and most importantly of oneself.
  • Surviving is also defined by deciding not to give up, to make every effort to make your choices work.
  • Surviving is about establishing a new normal, a new routine and letting go of the past
  • If you are unable to accept your decisions or circumstances, it may affect your enjoyment of being retired.
  • It is much better to retire when markets are in an upswing.
  • Having to work through personal issues may be necessary for retirement survival.