NOT QUITE THERE YET
When Donna asked me if I’d like to contribute a guest post for her Retirement Reflection Sunday Series, I was pleased, but I had to check with her whether I’d be the right fit because I don’t qualify as “retired.” I’m 55 and still working – retirement is like an alluring siren beckoning to me from afar – probably ten years away at my latest count. I must say that I’ve considered retirement on and off over the last few years, especially when I was stuck in a job I hated and could see no future with.
The term I use to describe where I’m at now is “Transitioning to Retirement.” I reached this stage by pulling myself up by the bootstraps a few years ago and asking myself the hard questions about what I wanted to do and what the future held for us. There’s just my husband and me nowadays. Both our children are grown and flown and self-sufficient. We aren’t supporting them anymore – but we still like to eat regularly!
TO RETIRE OR NOT TO RETIRE? THAT IS THE QUESTION
A few years ago, I was sitting in a job where I was feeling under-appreciated and underpaid. I knew I needed to do something, but the question was “what?” I’d been there for eight years. I was 52, and I was scared to leave because I saw myself as too old to be considered by any new potential employers. I slogged away four days a week feeling miserable and I could feel the unhappiness pervading the rest of my life. I wasn’t fun to be around and it was made worse because my husband had returned to full-time study and I was our breadwinner.
To escape from that job, I had the magic “retirement” word floating around in my head. The temptation was there just to pull the plug and leave the 9 -5 daily grind behind. I could head into a lovely sunset of late morning sleep-ins and a lifelong twilight of endless leisure…… sheer bliss! Then reality raised its not too pretty head and I realized that we would actually need to be able to fund the next 30-40 years of no longer being gainfully employed and that would be a major issue with no income from work.
THE WORKING CLASS POOR
The trouble for Midlifers like me is that most of us aren’t independently wealthy and we don’t have the financial reserves to quit work in our 50’s and start living a life of unending ease. (I know there are some lucky souls who can do that and I envy them beyond words!) But for us, when I looked at our savings and started calculating how long they’d last for, the answer wasn’t very inspiring. We’re debt-free, but we still needed to eat and pay those pesky bills that rolled in with relentless regularity. What happens when the savings are gone and there are a couple of decades still left to live?
The idea of spending my twilight years living under a bridge in a sleeping bag and eating cat food was not hugely appealing. So, for this Midlifer, retirement wasn’t an immediate option. It lies in the future tantalizingly beckoning me, but unfortunately, it really wasn’t an option available to me at 52 with a mature-aged student husband.
WHAT IS THE SOLUTION?
For us, the secret is to transition into that glorious time of retirement. For me to stay on the work treadmill meant being brave enough to leave that miserable job and putting myself out there to look for something more suitable. I needed to find a job I liked and one that fitted in with the lifestyle I wanted to achieve. It meant finding a job that was part-time, so I could enjoy some of those retirement delights without losing my income in its entirety.
The amazing thing I found was that I am still very employable. I didn’t get the first job I applied for – it only took a month or so of serious job seeking to find one where I’m so much happier. Where I work now, I feel appreciated. I feel like I’m making a difference. I’m actually paid what I’m worth, and I know I give them value for the pay cheque I earn each fortnight.
THREE YEARS LATER
Almost three years have passed since I put in my resignation and moved on. My husband finished his studies and we both now work part-time in jobs we enjoy. We have the flexibility to fit in some hobbies. I have a little volunteer position. I blog three times a week. My husband works from home, and we fill our week without any trouble at all. It’s not a rush and it’s not living from vacation to vacation. We won’t be retiring with millions in the bank, but that’s not what’s important to us.
We want to be living life now – transitioning and preparing for retirement. We want to be ready for the time when we won’t be going to work anymore. I can already think of dozens of extra things I could fill my spare time with if I had more available. That pipedream of retirement is still there – we’re just sliding towards it with a smile on our faces rather than a weary acceptance of our lot in life.
Meet Leanne:Hi, I’m Leanne. My blog is Cresting The Hill. This is where I write about how great midlife is. I’m a huge fan of the empty nest, and I love where I am in life at this moment in time. I share the lessons I’ve learned and my journey towards this point – because I want everyone to find the happiness that I’m experiencing. I’d love you to visit and leave a comment – let’s get to know each other because connection is what it’s all about!
From Retirement Reflections:
Thank you to Leanne for providing such an open, honest and thought-provoking post. I love how she has so effectively modeled making a much desired job change, regardless of age. Stay tuned next Sunday for ‘Retire From Work But Not From Life — The Art of Positive Aging’ by Sue from Sizzling Toward Sixty. Once again, you won’t want to miss it!