Retirement Plans

So forget everything that I wrote in my last blog post about loving work. I’ve been working my ass off for the past week on two projects, and now I’m reaching burn out levels of exhaustion. Twelve hour days in front of a computer are taking their toll.

So, let’s talk about fun stuff.

For most of our married life, Steve and I have responded to various crises – a crappy academic market, young kids, school loans, house purchases, job changes, college decisions, teenagers with teenager problems, autism — as they’ve come up. Life happened to us, and we dealt with it.

For the first time ever, we are on a steady course. Careers are developing, kids are growing, bill are being paid. We have stability for the first time in twenty years. And we’re looking around us asking, “is this my beautiful house? Is this my beautiful wife? How did I get here?”

With apologizes to the Talking Heads, we’re trying to figure out whether we actually like the status quo, and whether we should make some big changes.

If money was no object, where you like to live and what would you like to do with your time?

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26 thoughts on “Retirement Plans

  1. It’s fabulous that life is steady and moving forward right now (though that is a time to be thinking about whether the comfort is only that, or what one wants).

    Someone asked me your question in graduate school, while we were in the middle of an experiment. I remember answering that I would need 10 billion dollars, because the only thing I’ve wanted to do that I haven’t gotten to do is to be a player in the serious philanthropy market. And, since Anand Giridharadas, “Winners Take All” and knowing something of the lifestyles of that particular group of people, I’m not sure I want that any more. There’s a value to having your ideas judged by the people that makes private solutions less appealing to me (and, maybe, 30 years later, I also am less confident that I have all the answers).

    I don’t think I’d do much differently if money was no object and I could live wherever I wanted. Most of my choices are influenced by the others I still want to have in my life (i.e. family). And, if we could all follow the philosophy, I know we would not all chose the same things.

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  2. I would live part of the year in the Blue Ridge Mountains, part in Pittsburgh, and another part in London. I would research and write biographies, volunteer time and money to campaigns to organize labor, run more errands for/with elderly neighbors, and babysit for new parents. Thanks for this post; it gives me some incentive to exercise to try to stay healthy enough to be able to do some of these things when I retire.

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  3. My husband just got re-employed for the first time in almost 2 years, so retirement is not on our minds! But given the choice, money not an issue, I would move to NYC. Closer to my family, closer to the things I like (books, entertainment). Seasons. Airports so I can travel. (I’m such a cliché of a Northeasterner.)

    What would I do?
    Travel. Genealogy. Teach people about stuff (workshops, not involving grading or course outcomes). Be involved with historical stuff. Work on digital archiving of history (broadly defined, probably including pop culture history).

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    1. “My husband just got re-employed for the first time in almost 2 years, so retirement is not on our minds!”

      Very nice.

      “Genealogy. Teach people about stuff (workshops, not involving grading or course outcomes). Be involved with historical stuff. Work on digital archiving of history (broadly defined, probably including pop culture history).”

      I have a couple of amateur historians among my older relatives, and it seems like a very satisfying hobby for an older person.

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    1. Same as he did before. Same place. Different department. Apparently he will be eligible for 24 vacation days instead of the usual 10 for new hires, too. 😀

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      1. Wendy said,

        “Same as he did before. Same place. Different department. Apparently he will be eligible for 24 vacation days instead of the usual 10 for new hires, too. 😀”

        WOW!

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      2. That’s great. Ten days vacation for somebody who has a family and a collection of typical middle-age responsibilities is basically not any time for vacation. It’s just enough time to take care of family stuff.

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  4. If money was no object, I would still live in New York. Our apartment is more than big enough for two people. I expect to quit work in a few years when I’m 65, so maybe I would do that a little sooner if I had a lot more money, although I kind of like my job. Then I will or would probably go back to school, do more genealogical research, and host more dinner parties, and maybe we will buy an apartment in Florida and spend some time there during the winter.

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    1. A friend calls Florida “The Waiting Room.”

      I think we’ll be doing more traveling, the sort of day trips we couldn’t do with all our children’s soccer games and concerts.

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      1. More explicitly, I call it “Death’s Waiting Room.” I would like to travel but I know the locals who move to Florida to retire. I would rather deal with the polar vortex than any place that concentrates well-off elderly people.

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      2. That’s nicer than my way. I don’t suppose Arizona is any better, but I like that kind of scenery more than beaches or swamps.

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      3. Well, many of our friends live in Florida some or all of the time, and we want to spend time with friends. Of course, our friends do tend to be well-off elderly people.

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  5. Anyway, if I had the money, I’d buy some land up in the mountains and build a cob house there. Probably also a condo in the city. Pittsburgh has a couple of grand old buildings that are in Oakland or some newly converted ones in downtown.

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  6. I’ve spent some time over the last few years working with retirees, and have become convinced that pure leisure 24/7 might be a miserable experience and certainly would hasten my death. The ones who volunteer steadily and exercise are really thriving; partly due to activity but mostly thanks to a sense of purpose. We’re reevaluating our ideas in light of this insight, and would probably continue to run our business (or something like it) as long as we are physically and mentally able.

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    1. Ben Brumfield said,

      “I’ve spent some time over the last few years working with retirees, and have become convinced that pure leisure 24/7 might be a miserable experience and certainly would hasten my death. The ones who volunteer steadily and exercise are really thriving; partly due to activity but mostly thanks to a sense of purpose. We’re reevaluating our ideas in light of this insight, and would probably continue to run our business (or something like it) as long as we are physically and mentally able.”

      That’s wise. People are often lack self-awareness as to what they actually enjoy.

      Years ago, one of my same-generation relatives was talking about his plans for early retirement (retire at 40 and hang out at the beach). The thing is, he’s a workaholic, and his idea of unwinding is coming home from his job and working at his other jobs…

      One of my other same-generation relatives has started cutting down on work commitments and is starting to do a bit more travel. I’m very happy for her–she had been really tied down by her business and family commitments.

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  7. I currently have a fair amount of free time (kids all in school, small part-time job) but not a lot of discretionary spending money with three kids in private school. Things should ease up once our oldest is in college. We have tuition benefits, so college is potentially cheaper for us than K-12.

    Some ideas for if we had more discretionary income:

    1. stop part-time job
    2. spend more time near my extended family (sis has a child two years younger than our youngest and they are buds and one of my older relatives lost her husband this past fall and I need to be there more–this is something I’m starting to do, but with more money, I’d do more)
    3. get personal trainer (it’s fairly obvious that I need to buy some will power and accountability)
    4. join husband for work trips to fun locations (we would be taking kids along for some time)
    5. more fun family travel (90% of our travel as a family has been to visit extended family and our oldest is almost college age, so I hear the clock ticking on being able to do family trips with all three kids)
    6. more travel to see friends/bring people here
    6. fund a scholarship to school/figure out what else school needs

    I have to confess that my ideas for #5 are mostly not very original. I’d like to do an Alaska cruise, Hawaii (I have an old friend in Honolulu and my oldest plays the ukulele), Disneyland (our youngest hasn’t ever been), Universal Studios (once our youngest gets into Harry Potter), a Baltic cruise, Poland, and visit friends around the US. I might want to take some kids on a package tour to Russia (St. Petersburg and Moscow?), but things have been weird lately.

    As I believe I’ve mentioned before, I think I would really enjoy taking our big kids on something like this:

    https://www.princess.com/find/searchResults.do?subTrade=ES,EI

    That’s a Baltic cruise itinerary. Obviously, you don’t do stuff in depth, but it looks like a relatively painless way to cover a lot of ground with kids.

    There’s an old friend from the Russian Far East who hasn’t visited us for a while. It would be nice to put together a visit–she hasn’t visited since we moved to TX.

    For quite a while, I thought that I wanted to do a major renovation, but at this point I’m pretty sure that what I want is for it to be done, not to do it. At the moment, I’m happy to backburner it in favor of travel and family fun and not living in chaos.

    I don’t actually feel crazy enthusiastic about #3, but that’s why I need to do it…

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  8. Well, I’m on the glide path: have gone half time and am in ‘village elder’ mode in my office. Full retirement next year or the year after. We are not going anywhere! We like being near a good hospital, the gun rights line ‘when seconds count, the police are only minutes away’ applies to various sudden health changes. Our chance of being close to our children goes up if we stay in the community where they grew up and are involved (this could, of course, change if somebody falls in love with a Texan and moves there, and maybe makes grandchildren). I’m somewhat involved in civic affairs, and that’s satisfying, my wife’s work community is very centered here. Our basic plan is to be carried out of this house in wooden boxes.

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  9. dave s. said,

    “We like being near a good hospital, the gun rights line ‘when seconds count, the police are only minutes away’ applies to various sudden health changes.”

    Yep.

    That all sounds very nice.

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  10. Speaking of things that require lots of money and death, not so long ago I had occasion to visit a large number of nursing homes, care facilities, and assisted living units. The decor had certain constants, mainly being things that people who grew up in the 1930s and 1940s would recognize plus stuff your grandma’s friends would put on the wall. So, if I ever walk into a building with a Top Gun poster on the wall next to a wooden duck wearing an apron, I hope I have a brief moment to realize my mind has gone so I can say “goodbye.”

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  11. Have you ever come across the book Designing your Life? It was written originally for undergraduates, but it is quite relevant for people facing big changes (I read it because my company had been bought and I had a few work options at the same time as the kids getting close to finishing school). A good read even if you aren’t the kind of person to do the exercises.

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  12. I interviewed for a fairly competitive summer program yesterday. I was thrilled to make the short list. One of the application questions was what do I see myself doing in 5 and 10 years? I liked that. I kind of fudged on the answer though – as in, where in the world will teaching take me? After a Fulbright in Bangladesh and two amazing NEH summer institutes, I feel like I’ve just always got my ears up for ways to invigorate my teaching (and see the world). So during the interview, when they were asking the basic qualifying questions: US citizen, full-time faculty, etc, not planning to retire in the next five years, I was, say what? And I’m pretty sure that even though I tossed it down the road a bit, like 5-10 years, I suspect that I equivocated just because I’m somewhat ambivalent myself.

    I’m looking forward to being done with faculty development part of my job (40%, done in June) and going back to full-time teaching. I’ll be less tethered to campus as I teach fully online. I played with the phased retirement idea, but teaching less would probably just mean spending the same amount of time on fewer classes. And getting paid a lot less as it means taking on the employer part of health insurance (pro-rated).

    What I’d really like to do, and it’s so not about money, is this Remote Year (https://remoteyear.com) while teaching online somewhat less than full-time. But my husband is absolutely not interested, and I’m not sure I’m as willing to go off for 3-6 months without meeting up with him as I was ten years ago (the Fulbright).

    Feels like the time is now though, before my kids have kids, before I might want to be around more.

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