A Satisfying Retirement is about change and adjustment. I like a certain routine and predictability but I have proven to myself that resisting change is silly - it is going to happen anyway. The best approach is to anticipate what may happen and think through my options. If a change occurs without any lead time I have learned to accept it while I decide how (and if) I need to do anything.
Recently, Betty and I have been talking a lot about our life and it's future course. After 11 years of retirement we have had our share of change. There have been some down times, but things mostly have been quite good. Our finances are stable, our families are close by, our health is good, and we have survived together 36 years and counting.
The trigger for the discussion was the RV trip in September. It seems strange that something that common for so many has become such a focus of our conversations recently. But, what has happened is a reassessment of how we want to live our life over the next decade or so. Obviously, a major health problem for us or anyone in our family could happen at any moment. I think I have our financial future properly in hand but so did the people in Greece or Spain...or in 1928 in America. We accept that what we may want to do may not happen. And we are OK with that.
What we are not OK with is the prospect of delaying a dream until it is too late, or even worse looking back in 10 years and saying, "We wish we had...." Life has no repeat button. We can't grab a remote and push rewind. When a day or week or month passes it passes...forever. So, what are we talking about? What do we want to change?
We want to take a risk. I don't mean to go to Vegas and put everything on 22 Black. I don't mean giving up everything we know in Scottsdale and moving to Oregon or Hawaii or back to Betty's home in West Virginia, though there is nothing wrong with any of those choices. But, for virtually all of our married life we have played it conservatively and pretty safely.
What we do want to do is get a motor home and be on the road for 3 or 4 months a year. We want to visit as many National Parks as we can while we are still healthy enough to enjoy them. We want to wake up by the ocean in Maryland and California and Maine and Key West. We want to sit by a lake in Oregon and Minnesota and North Carolina. We want to walk the River Walk in San Antonio again. I want Betty to see New Orleans.
We are retired and have no real commitments that can't be broken or delayed for awhile. So, what's the problem? Well, simply put, the problem is money, or rather a fear about money. A recreational vehicle is a major expense. Not only is there the purchase price, but the insurance, maintenance, repairs, licensing, storage, and gas add up quickly. Staying at a campground is much cheaper than a decent motel, but averages $40-$50 or more a night.
In order to buy the RV and cover all the projected expenses we would have to dip (more like plunge) into our retirement account. Just to get started would require the amount of money we would live off for at least two years, when coupled with Social Security. Then, to be traveling as much as we'd like to be I'll need to find another $10,000 or more a year.
What we are wrestling with is that hole in our retirement savings. I won't use home equity to pay for it. That would be counter to everything I've done to build us a safety net. Using a home loan for a depreciating asset is a non-starter. We own our home free and clear and I will not risk that. I don't put anything on a credit card I can't pay off at the end of the month.
At some point I will be inheriting a nice sum from my father's estate, so I am confident I will be covered. When we sell this house to downsize to a condo or apartment we will have no mortgage to pay off. All the profits from the sale will be available for another home and to make up a retirement shortfall.
Logically, all of this should ease my mind. I will be able to cover the shortfall before it matters. Betty and I will experience a very different lifestyle for several months each year. We will travel, meet all sorts of people and see all sorts of sights. We will come home with stories to tell, thousands of photos to share (!) and experiences together we can get no other way.
Even so, I am struggling to take that next step. I have spent my life living beneath my means. I have tried to keep my life rather simple, without a lot of the "toys" that those around me have. Now, can I really toss all of that aside for this experience? Am I having a very, very late midlife crisis?
You will be one of the first to know when I finally commit....one way or the other.