My Twenty-Three Years of Retirement--So Far, So Good!
by Tom Damron
Nothing can stop the man with the right mental attitude from achieving his goal; nothing on earth can help the man with the wrong mental attitude. ~~
What you get by achieving your goals is not as important as what you become by achieving your goals. ~~
Henry David Thoreau
I start my story of retirement with those quotes for one reason and one reason only---I based my entire retirement plan on the premise that I would adhere to those philosophical statements throughout my working career to the exclusion of any distracting outside forces.
At the end of my military assignment in Little Rock, Arkansas, I made decisions at age twenty-five that some called delusional for such a young pup. Those delusions, to me, were the first outside distractions that I discarded. When I viewed my plan, Number One on the list was the retirement age I had selected as the date I would walk away from whatever I was doing and do my thing, whatever my thing would be thirty years in the future. That date was the same date as my fifty-fifth birthday, November 7, 1989.
The job I accepted after my discharge on April 1, 1960 was in the financial services field. The company was a large International player in the game and I became a small cog in its Little Rock office on May 31, 1960. Back then, that was Memorial Day so my luck started that day because my first day of work was actually a holiday back then so I had it off even before I had begun the job.
Some may have called it fate, some would say it was destiny, yet others would say it was pure luck, but I stuck with the business because I maintained the first element---the right mental attitude. I rose gradually to higher levels within the company until at age forty, I found myself being elected to an Officer level in the home office of the still growing giant. Now here's where the fate or destiny becomes reality in my career as my work expertise was focused on retirement planning.
My domain in the home office was as the national director of retirement plan marketing and administration. I was responsible for dealing with the Internal Revenue Service during the ERISA implementation and was a member of the American Society of Pension Actuaries, the Northeast Pension Directors Association, and author of nine technical books on selected retirement plan models. I left the home office to return to my first love, working directly with the customer. I spent the next ten years doing client contact, developing a continuing clientele of some one-hundred-fifty loyal followers that served as my base. At the advice of a close friend, I remained on the job for six months longer than planned to take advantage of a company reorganization that proved extremely valuable in retirement. I had become a Certified Financial Planner (CFP) by that time and was a registered investment broker in order to deal with the investments of not only my clients, but for my own account.
Once I had officially retired, my wife, Janet, and I lived the good life of our planning. To achieve that goal, we had lived frugally over our years of married life. We bought our cars from Hertz and Budget, bought smaller houses with lower mortgage rates, dressed ourselves from Penney's and Foley's as we used the savings to invest for growth. It had paid-off very well.
We traveled extensively, all domestic ,as I refused to go to Europe using the excuse--'I haven't been to Boise yet, so why should I go where they fled to come here to get away from Europe.'--to fend off the pressure of friends and relatives. Instead of foreign direct travel, we used cruises to visit ports of other countries, taking local tours while docked in the harbor. We did travel in the early retirement years to a number of sites in Mexico, but we stopped traveling to Mexico in 2008 following a Mexican Rivera cruise. Too dangerous for my taste of high adventure.
In 2003, while touring Palm Springs, we bit the bullet and bought a condo in Rancho Mirage, one in the string of towns in the Coachella Valley, a great place for golf, sunshine, and if you prefer, heat. We have used the condo to host our son and family, other relatives, and we have traded it on several occasions to vacation in Scottsdale, Myrtle Beach, and Avon, Colorado. If all works well, this June will find us in Orlando with our son and family where our grandson, age 8, will have his first visit to Disney World and Universal City. I have the camera ready for that event.
Unfortunately, after a fantastic twenty-three years of free-wheeling travel and plenty of time for nothing, Janet has been diagnosed with her maternal family curse, Alzheimer's disease. Our travel at the moment is limited to two trips weekly to her Alzheimer's Day Care Center in a neighboring city. I am the Care Giver for her and her identical twin, Janice, who is already confined to an Alzheimer's nursing facility.
Regrets? Like Frank Sinatra, I have few and I face this adversity with optimism and energy. It has been said that activity keeps you young and at age 79, my Care Giving activity has me planning which color of tux I will wear to the spring prom I'm now so young.
If you look up the word 'Retire' in the Webster's, it will tell you it means---"To withdraw, as for rest, seclusion, or shelter." I won't argue with Webster, but I'll add that it also means freedom, fun, and a good life.
I'll leave you with this advice---retirement is only a concept that someone years ago made up. It's only one option to the possible ending of your life story. Be creative and rewrite the retirement script to suit your own purpose.