Retirement is good.

by Annie
(New York)

I really believed that I wanted to retire from the time I was in my middle 30s. Oh, boy, I thought. Only 30 more years until I can retire!

Those 30 years went really fast.

Suddenly, it was only three years until retirement, and it wasn't going to be my choice of a date. My company's policy was mandatory retirement at 66, and I was 63.

Instead of counting down my days to freedom, every day seemed to bring me closer to being broke, isolated, hopeless and helpless.

Those were traits that had not been part of my life. I never had a lot of money, but thought I earned enough to live fairly well, and I was a good saver.

I was counting on a pension and Social Security, but never really did the math until about five years before I was set to retire. I didn't have any inheritances to count on.

My husband had passed away years earlier, and all we had was a small insurance policy that became part of a mutual fund that I had for many years. There weren't any rich relatives to count on either. It was all about me.

When I worked, I always knew I could get another job if I needed to. The thought of not being in charge of my income scared me so much.

The math wasn't terrible. If I lived frugally (no more new cars, a habit I adopted years earlier), vacations closer to home and no unexpected expenses, and I could live comfortably.

I met with a financial consultant who suggested I put a larger portion of my savings in stocks. He warned me to be afraid of inflation, as it could diminish my savings the longer I lived.

That put me into a bigger panic until I realized that I'd have to live an awful long time for inflation to eat away everything and, besides, stocks could sink faster and for a longer time.

At the end of the meeting with the financial advisor, he made a casual remark about a reverse mortgage. He said I probably wouldn't want one, as there were fees and high interest rates, but some "old people" used them.

It turns out that the possibility of a reverse mortgage is what keeps me going and feeling financially secure. I was able to keep my home (long ago paid off) and can use it to get cash if and when I need it. I might do it someday just to get another new car!

I was able to alleviate my concerns about isolation, too. I started joining clubs and organizations.

There had been charities I'd sent contributions to. I signed up to volunteer for three of them (and love every moment). I joined a group of "Red Hats" (what a trip that is!). I work at a local thrift store one day a week.

Retirement is good.

Maybe I knew more in my 30s than I realized.

Now if I can stay healthy and enjoy it, all will be greater than ever.

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