Thoughts of Retirement Preparation

It’s not about the house on the hill or the three new cars parked in the driveway. It’s not about a large house filled with the finest of furniture or art. It has nothing to do with a library filled with our favorite books. It’s certainly not about flying to exotic locations to spend time and money away from home. It’s not about any of these things.

It’s no longer about a life filled with the stress of getting up on the alarm clocks warning, shit, shave and shower and run of to drive for 45 minutes through crazy traffic to arrive at a stress filled workday only to get in the car once again and drive 45 minutes through grueling traffic to get home.

Preparing for retirement is the time to reflect on the way we have lived our lives for the past 45 years and finally come to grips with all of the things we thought at the time were so damn important.

We think about those times in our lives that were so filled with joy that it brought tears to our eyes. Times when babies are born, birthday parties and family get togethers. The wedding day and vacations away.

We also think about all of the mistakes we made and the cost associated with those mistakes. This includes financial decisions, but also words we may have said to others that caused distress in relationships.

These reflections, I believe should set the stage to create a new life in retirement. All of the lessons I have learned bring me to a place where the only thing that matters are opportunities to spend as much quality time with loved ones. We pull the memories of the good stuff and leave the rest behind. It’s now about finding a small quiet community where time is shared, stories are told and friends and acquaintances are plenty.

No more alarm clock, driving to work, stressing out all day long, eating unhealthy, mortgage payments, credit cards, car payments, high property taxes, and weekends spent maintaining the property.

And yes, it does take plenty of preparation to choose this new way of life. It takes time and careful planning to make many adjustments in one’s life, even when it is for the better. Where will I live and what will I do with my days? Hey, maybe I will have the time to finally write that book I always wanted to write… Or maybe I can start that small business I have always been dreaming about. Will I play golf? Or maybe just fish all day. Whatever it is that we choose I believe that within 5 years before retirement these thought should play a large roll in future decisions of retirement.

As I carefully go through my house and start downsizing I can’t help to think about my future. Each item we make a decision about keeping or getting rid of things, brings about thoughts like, “Where will I put this item in my new retirement home, and will I really need it after I retire”? Again it brings about reflections of what are the important things in life.

The pictures I hold in my head that pertain to my future are wrapped around getting up out of bed when it feels right. Sitting in my recliner and watching a ball game. Going out for an early morning bike ride or simply taking a long walk. My wife and I working together to prepare a daily meal. Holidays spent with grandchildren and family around the dinner table.

Each morning now I quietly sit and think about all of these things and more. The only worries I suffer are those worries of affordability. I suppose these thoughts haunt most of us who ask the same question… Am I financially ready for retirement. I have summed it up to the fact that any of us can find an affordable retirement somehow. Even those less planned have discovered wonderful retirement lives living in motorhomes. And there are those who will continue to work even after retirement. For me I will need a small home in a retirement village where I can find like minded people to be a part of a small community. I have discovered communities like this all over the country with prices as high as $600,000.00 to as low as $25,000.00 for a home. With continued saving and number crunching soon the vision will become clear.

This stage of life is filled with both joy and fear, but either way preparation is the key to finding the way.

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Cost of life on a Daily basis

Daily Latte: Average cost- $5.00 x 365 days – $1,825.00

Eating lunch out: Average cost $8.00 x 261 working days = $2,088.00

These are just a few of the calculations of habits I have changed throughout the years. When we look at the microcosm of what we spend in a day it doesn’t look like much, but over the span of a whole year, the numbers become clear. By simply making coffee at home and bringing leftovers each day I am able to drop $3,913.00 into savings each year. This is, of course, the less what I spend on purchasing the coffee to make each day.

By simply analyzing what we spend on a daily basis and averaging out to the cost over a 1 year period we quickly learn that there may be other options.

Many of us enjoy going out to restaurants for dinner and especially on the weekends. Many of us shop for no other reason than shopping. We drive our cars each day to and from work when there may be an opportunity of car pooling or public transportation, and some of us even riding a bicycle. We have premium cable TV although we typically only watch several channels. We have premium cell phone accounts when there are cheaper comparable options. We forget to turn lights off when not in a room and keep our homes a little warmer or colder than needed. I could go on and on, but the bottom line is that these little added costs add up big time when their cost is calculated over time.

I decided one day to start carrying a small notebook and writing down everything I spent on a daily basis. For the first 30 days I didn’t change any habits at all. I just went through my typical day and wrote everything down. After 30 days I started to crunch those numbers and vowed I would come up with solutions to either stop or reduce my spending habits. After 30 days my little notebook took on a new name, “The Conscience Notebook”. Every time I opened it I had to reflect on the thoughts of what I am spending based on what I had learned.

After doing this for a year and making progress in reduced spending I learned that by simply changing a few small spending habits I was able to reduce my overall spending by 12%. I know 12% doesn’t sound like much, but ask yourself… When was the last time you received a 12% raise at your job? I am now contributing a little more towards retirement and even have enough to pay for a fantastic family vacation each year.

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Cooking is Caring

One of the skills I learned at an early age that will certainly fuel my life in retirement is cooking. Today, not only do we cook most of our meals but actually eating more than going out. Growing up there just wasn’t too many options for eating out. I remember occasionally we would order a pizza on a Sunday night, but even that was rare. McDonalds was just being invented and the only other places were Chinese restaurants, diners and greasy spoons. As I entered my teenage years the fast food boom had started. I remember Jack in the Box and White Castle were a couple of the go to’s but these too were on rare occasions.

I started working in the food industry at 17 like most and quickly learned all the skills needed to make pizza and cook fine Italian food. I sort of fell in love with it and loved watching the food that I prepared.

As time went by I tried my hand at so many other cultural dishes and learned to perfect each. I learned that cooking many favorite dishes wasn’t that difficult of time consuming at all. I have managed to take most of our favorite recipes and create a cookbook where we can turn to quickly and find our favorites all in one place.

Another hidden gem is marrying someone who also grew up the same way and has her own unique set of cooking skills. My wife is also a master in the kitchen and yes, sometimes we do get in each others way, but most of the time we work together like a fine tuned machine. Sharon’s motto is “Cooking is Caring”, and I couldn’t agree with her more.

We love to cook a nice meal and compare the cost of putting it together with the cost of going out to a restaurant. Restaurant prices are close to insane these days. A few months ago I decided to go to a Shari’s Diner and pick up breakfast. 2 eggs, 1 piece of sausage, some potatoes and 2 slices of buttered toast cost close to $14.00. The same plate of food would have cost me less than $4.00 to make at home.

The money we save on cooking at home is money we save overall to fuel our futures and for us it is not an annoyance. I see so many senior citizens going out to eat all 3 meals each day and I wonder why. Even the younger generations eat most of their meals out or just throw some prepared, frozen meal in the microwave that they purchased from the supermarket. What ever happened to good old meal preparation and the Joy of Cooking?

Another benefit we find is that we get to choose the ingredients that go into our foods. We love organic vegetables, high quality meats from a butcher and freshly caught seafood. We agree to pay a premium price for these foods because we know that when we compare the price to the same dishes at a restaurant for foods that are much less in quality, there just is no comparison.

Some people shop for quantity, but for us it is all about quality. A good healthy dinner doesn’t just pay off at dinner time, it pays off doubly as we always take the left overs for lunch the next day. The only meal I need to be concerned with is breakfast which is simple a bowl of oatmeal with a granola mix and some berries and a banana. So basically were are spending our energy on creating just one meal per day.

As I am getting older and my body is changing I have noticed that when we do go out to eat with family sometimes the food causes issues in my lower intestinal tract (trying to be polite). Within an hour I find myself running to the nearest bathroom. This makes me wonder exactly what ingredients the restaurant is using to prepare certain meals. Profits are important in any industry but at what price does it pay when customers do not return.

Another benefit to cooking at home is many times, especially in the winter months we prepare meals that we get multiple meals from. A pot of chili, stews and soups have taken us into the realm of three meals at times. Much of these dishes can be frozen and saved for future meals and they are just as delicious the second and third time around. There are days where we may have had a hard day at work and we just don’t feel like cooking. It doesn’t take much effort to heat up a meal that has been pre-prepared and makes life much easier to destress from a busy day.

Cooking for loves ones is a gift of love. It seems that no matter what dish we cook for family there is a level of love felt throughout the room. Sometimes we cook a bit too much and at these times I love to share a dish with someone at work and watch their reaction. I have even had people ask me to open a restaurant. I tell them, that is not the idea behind cooking at home. LOL

Recently there have been business’s built around delivering meals or selling all of the ingredients to prepare a meal. If there is a growing desire for prepared meals this tells me that, yes, the art of cooking is slowly dying. Both my wife and I have both passed on the tradition of cooking and find that all of our children are cooking both traditional meals and also trying their hands at new dishes. Another tradition that is being passed on is that of gardening. I love to grow the foods we eat and we see our children doing the same.

What about you? Do you or other people you know cook your own dishes? I need to know that I am not an insane foodie.

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Emergency Fund

One of the things I worked diligently on for the past 10 years was building up an emergency fund. Looking back at past memories of stressing over things like getting brakes for my vehicle, or taking care of that transmission problem fueled me into building up this fund. At first it didn’t seem possible as I was also on a mission to pay off all credit, and it was just small amounts here and there I would move into a savings account. As I progressively continued getting all those credit cards paid off and discovered more money at the end of the month because I don’t have to pay credit cards anymore I directed my approach on car payments. It took a long time, but I found myself in a place where I owed nothing except the mortgage. It was at this time I dedicated all extra money at the end of the month towards the goal of a $25,000.00 emergency fund.

With the emergency fund in place I moved towards paying off the mortgage. It took 10 long years to reach this goal, but today I can say that I am 100% debt free. No credit cards, no car payments and no mortgage. At 58 years old I find myself directing most of my earned income towards retirement and saving for a small house in a retirement village.

But, let’s go back to the emergency fund and why it’s so important. Last year our water heater died. The cost of replacement was $1,600.00 because it is situated on the second floor of our home. This cost staggered me at first as memories flooded my mind when I had to figure out how I would pay for it. But, I remembered that the reason I worked so hard at putting together an emergency fund was for reasons like this. I wrote a check and had a brand new water heater and could soon enjoy a nice hot shower. Then I simply started moving a few hundred dollars per month into the emergency fund to make sure it remained at $25,000.00.

It would seem that $25,000.00 is a lot of money to just sit in a savings account, but what this number represents is actually 8 months of lost wages due to losing a job, plus all bills associated to basic living for 8 months. In actuality it is my own personal insurance that provides a peace of mind. It sits there building up a little bit of interest like a good friend ready to take action if an emergency comes about. The funny thing is that those things I used to call emergencies I know call incidents. Life happens, there is no doubt about it and you never know when action must be taken to solve some of life’s problems.

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Playing with Tomatoes

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Lessons from NOW will fuel the FUTURE of Retirement

Carefully planning for a future retirement brings about many thoughts and idea’s moving forward. One of the most important questions I constantly ask myself during the course of the day is, “Do I really need to make this purchase”. Whether it’s on Amazon or just out and about.

A minimalist lifestyle is one where the only purchases that need to be made are made through the desire of obtaining true needs and not so much wants. Usually the lunch I bring to work is the leftovers of a homemade dinner from the night before. On occasions I don’t have those leftovers and I am left with choices to purchase lunch. I am quickly learning that the average cost of a decent meal in the “eating out” world can cost upwards of $10.00. I have even spent close to $14.00 for two eggs, a piece of sausage and some hash browns and they will throw in two pieces of toast. Ridiculous! I have found that just making a few PB&J sandwiches brings out the same level of joy at lunchtime and it is far less costly.

One of the best ways to plan for the future is taking a good look at the past. It’s funny how quickly we learn our mistakes by gathering items for a yard sale. Yes, there are so many purchases that I have made that I thought would bring me value or joy, only to throw it into a box to sell for 10% of what was spent on it. I do like purchasing items on Amazon so it was easy to view my past orders. I was actually shocked when I considered what I could have gained in my savings account by not purchasing those things at all.

Planning for retirement is not just an adventure to reaching a goal, but is also a method of creating a new lifestyle. With an obvious reduction of monthly income there will also be the need for simple reduction. This needs to be put into perspective as I redefine my needs and wants. My needs will be obvious like food, clean water, shelter, healthcare and clothing. The wants will be the furniture for the retirement home, the ability to travel. The quality of life will be built around a social life and spending time with family.

As these next 44 months pass I am sure that there will be many lessons learned that will be fuel for developing that new lifestyle in retirement.

 

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44 months to retirement.

With just 44 months and counting I am setting up monthly obligations to the preparation of another complicated move. We have decided that before we sell our home we must first purchase our retirement home. It will be an action plan where 6 months prior to retirement we will travel to the area of choice after setting up appointments with a local realtor. The house must be small as we will maintain our minimalist ways and it must be affordable. Depending on the area we will ultimately choose will most likely make the biggest difference in affordability.

I am moving¬†my checking and savings out of a Community Credit Union to a bank that has branches in most area’s of the country where we will retire too. This can be a complicating process and things like Direct Deposits and Auto Bill Payments have to be changed. I will leave the old bank account open until I am sure that I covered everything. Another reason for making this move is to establish a minimum of at least two solid years of business with the new bank as there may be the possibly of having to take out a mortgage on the retirement home. I am saving pretty darn hard and hope it doesn’t come to that, but I want to make sure that If I do, I will be ready.

Other things this month include the reduction of unnecessary items. I built a Google Chrome Box computer last year and I no longer use it. It’s just sitting around and taking up space. I reset the computer to factory settings and will try to sell it this month and put the proceeds in the Savings account.

Each month I will be going room to room and searching out other items that we no longer use or need. I may sell those items online or just save them up for a big yard sale next Spring.

Leaving the work world behind there will be so many items that I just will not need any longer. As we are both working we both have a car. The older vehicle will be sold upon retirement. I have a lot of clothing in my closet that revolves around my career and these items to will be sold or find their way to a non-profit organization.

Our real ambition is basically getting rid of everything we own and starting fresh in retirement. The cost of moving things is just as expensive as replacing them. If it were a local move then it would certainly be worth keeping it all, but moving 3000 miles away cost us well over $10,000.00 back in 2012 and I am sure that it will be even more expensive in 2023. I have the Grand thought of simply getting in our car and driving across the country with nothing. No pressure. We can stop along the way and visit places we always wanted to see. This is the way to start a new chapter in your life.

So, September is a month of change and reduction. Only 44 more months to go.

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Mountains of Tomato’s

The second half of the month of August is always a joy to me. This is the time where my acquired “Square-foot-gardening” skills start to show the rewards of working those raised bed gardens pay off.

The heirloom tomato’s are ripening at a quick pace this year and I am sharing them with family, friends, neighbors and co-workers. I have been yielding about 12 tomato’s per day. Both yellow and green squash has made for some pretty delicious side dishes. Early summer provided for 12 huge broccoli plants that tasted better than candy. This was the first year I grew lemon cucumbers, which purity by accident. My organic supplier mixed up the plants. Lettuce went quick this year even though I replanted twice.

Next years goal is to try to start everything from seed. Without a small greenhouse I will have to try to do this indoors and the difficulty with that is a curious cat. Hmm. I think this was the reason I purchased the plants in the first place from the organic nursery.

Gardening for me is probably one of the simplest joys I find in life. Time spent in the garden is my time to get away from the stresses of life and just focus on nature. That joy also seems to be replicable as it ignites joy in those I share vegetables with.

Posted in america, diet, family, food, frugal, fun, gardening, health, life, mindfulness, minimalist, nature, Oregon, permaculture, primal, simple living, stress, vegan, vegetarian, whole food plant based | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Retirement in 45 months? Ahhhhh

Reaching the grand age of 58 and contemplating my future brings about so many thoughts of the past. I am down to 45 months before I reach the age of 62 and am eligible for Social Security income and can officially leave the workforce behind. Sharon is five years older than me and will be leaving the workforce before me. This is something we didn’t ponder when we fell in love so many years ago, but is more than a reality now.

We have worked hard and continue in this matter and along the way lived a frugal life and played by all of the rules, which I am learning are no so common. Our home is paid in full and we are contributing the maximum allowed into our 401k plans. From the outside it appears that we will be able to have a comfortable retirement, but on the inside I feel an overwhelming fear. Can what we are doing today carry us through years of non-employment tomorrow? I certainly hope so. It is not so much I worry about managing our retirement, but the things I fear are those of the unknown. Should we be in a better position before we step into retirement? How long will we live? Will pensions dry up and leave us broke? Will the stock market crash and empty out our savings? What if? What if? What if?

I think about the past, those early years when money seemed to come and go as quickly as a glass of sweet tea on a hot August afternoon. How much crap I purchased that today lays in the bottom of a landfill, how much interest I payed for those crappy items I thought I needed so badly. The desires of youth fuel the economies today and unchecked can leave one in a precarious position in the future. Thank God I caught wind of these behaviors years ago and developed a plan to reverse its curses.

Although I still worry I know that we may be in a much better position than many. Recent stats tell me that at least on third of those in America over the age of 65 are living below the poverty level. Most reasons are self inflicted and others caused by outside sources. The loss of a job, medical issues, the 2008 housing crash, mental health, addiction, and other reason’s.

On the upside we don’t mind and actually find great joy in living a frugal lifestyle. Other than planned trips across the country to see family, our spending is surprisingly low in comparison the the average of those our age. We will continue to do the best we can and pray for a healthy future.

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A Talk with my Inner Coach

Based on what my fitbit is telling me I am burning an average of 3000 calories a day, yet my body weight continues to yoyo up and down. I know that weight lifting is building muscle and muscle weighs more than fat, but I still should be on a pattern of dropping a little bit of body weight as I know I am burning fat. So I decided to talk to my inner coach and see if he could give me a little insight on what is going on. Know understand that my inner coach tends to be a little on the rough side and doesn’t take any shit from me.

 

Billy: So I am here because I want to burn more fat while building muscle. I want to continue to reduce my waist size and see my overall body weight start dropping.

Inner Coach: Are you eating correctly?

Billy: Yes, a small bowl of oatmeal with a little granola and a lot of various berries. Lunch a little bit of rice with lentil stew and a lot of vegetables and usually the same for dinner but sometimes with added sweet potatoes.

Inner Coach: Sound like a good balance for a vegan diet. Hmmm…. Is this all you are eating during the course of the day, or is there more I should know about?

Billy: Well, actually during the day I do snack on things like pretzels when I feel hungry. And yea, I do have a couple of beers after work, but that is all. Oh yea, I sometimes reach for potato chips or popcorn after dinner sometimes.

Inner Coach: And you know all of this and you come to me seeking answers? Ok, here’s the ¬†advice I will give you. No more fucking snacks between meals! No more beer after work! and definitely no snacks after dinner! You have to train your body to be satisfied with just those 3 healthy meals. If you are feeling hungry between meals it may simply mean that you are not eating enough during a meal. Reduce the amount of food you eat at dinner by 1/3. Now let’s talk about your exercise routine.

Billy: Oh, that’s an easy one. I am fast walking 3 miles on the treadmill at least 4-5 times per week. On Saturday and Sunday I hit the gym and perform a mixed weight lifting routine that last approximately an hour and a half to two hours.

Inner Coach: If you are doing cardio more than two days in a row, stop it. Allow your body to heal for at least 24 hours before performing the same cardio routine. Your weight lifting sessions and two long and should be reduced to a max time of 45 minutes to 1 hour. You must find a way to create a routine where you spread out your body building routine to more than just two days. Spit up both Saturday and Sunday with Tuesday and Thursday. Too much of anything brings about inflammation which I don’t have to tell you can reap havoc on your body. You need to find balance with both your cardio schedule and body building schedule.

Billy: But it is hard for me to perform a body building routine during the work week as the only time I have is early morning and the gym is closed at that time. This is why I try to make up for it by performing so much cardio during the week.

Inner Coach: What you are doing simply does not work. I don’t care if you have to find another gym that is open in the early morning, or if you have to invest in some equipment to perform body building at home, but either way if you don’t make the change you will not find the results that you seek and may also injure yourself in the process.

Billy: Thanks Inner Coach. I will take your advice with great enthusiasm and find a way to change the path I am currently on.

Posted in aging, body building, cardio, diabesity, diet, fitness, food, health, intermittent fasting, mindfulness, simple living, type II diabetes, vegan, vegetarian, walking, whole food plant based | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments