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Retirement — one year later

By Jennie L. Phipps ·
Wednesday, August 13, 2014
Posted: 4 pm ET

My husband went to lunch today with his former boss, a man he worked with for nearly 30 years. It's an anniversary of sorts -- both of them retired a year ago, after a decade of particularly intense endeavor.

He got a short haircut and beard trim yesterday, and he left wearing a crisply ironed shirt. He looked dapper and eager. I hope he has a good time.retirement-blog-jim-and-jennie-phipps

I was dubious when my husband hung up his work boots. Work consumed him for so long that I couldn't imagine that he would find enough challenge in a more leisurely life. But after 12 months during which both of us settled in, I've come to the personal conclusion that retirement is worth the investment.

Here are four things I learned during this initial foray.

Keep working if you want. When he first retired, my husband wanted me to retire, too, but I resisted. I'm five years younger and still not ready to quit. A logical man with an accounting and actuarial background, he carefully laid out all the reasons why it didn't make much sense -- financial or otherwise -- for me to work any longer. I listened and finally compromised. I cut back a little to make room for more time to play. At right is a selfie of us at a spring training event in Clearwater, Florida.

I think in the end even he would say that it was a good decision. It made me happy, and it encouraged him to involve himself in things that I'm not part of or interested in, and that has been good for him. Plus, my extra years of work will add to our financial stability.

Make sure both of you understand the finances. My husband is the financial wiz at our house. He has spent a lifetime managing money, and I respect that and trust him. But it still made me nervous when we started living without a big paycheck every month. I didn't think there was any danger of us starving to death, but I really didn't understand how it was going to work. So he patiently showed me every spreadsheet and every investment, and he makes sure that I'm part of the decision making. Being in the loop has reassured me and prepared me for the possibility that I might have to be the primary decision maker some day.

Don't rush into things. Almost immediately after his retirement, we bought a snowbird condo in Florida. We got it at a great price, and I like it. But if I had it all to do over, I might have waited a year so that I would have had a better idea of what life without work was really going to be like. Knowing then what I know now would have definitely influenced my choice of size and location.

Don't put off fun forever. Since retirement, I've spent more time with older people. Several of the couples in our Florida condo have encountered health problems that prevent them from doing very much beyond sitting on the lanai. Watching them has led us to decide that now's the time to enjoy what we have.

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Lynne B
August 15, 2014 at 2:12 pm

I would be interested in reading a follow-up article about the details of retirement. At what point did your husband feel it was safe to take the retirement plunge? Is all your debt paid off? What percentage of pre-retirement income are you living on now? If retiring at less than age 65, were there any surprises for your husband as far as health insurance was concerned?

My financial advisor tells me I can afford to retire now, and even after viewing her detailed spreadsheet showing the funds I'd pull from my retirement accounts I am not comfortable retiring. I still have a mortgage and am now 56 years old, and I felt her 6%-8% projection of retirement account growth was inflated beyond reality. It made for a rosy picture but I fear it is not realistic. One big market downturn as I am pulling enough income out of my accounts to pay mortgage and living expenses, and I fear I would become financially crippled all too fast.

Joe M
August 13, 2014 at 6:28 pm

Good for you; Enjoy!