Day 7 – Phase 2

The first week of retirement has passed so rapidly I can’t believe it. I am amazed by two things. First, I have totally put my old job out of my mind. I think about the people I worked with but not about the work, the stress, the ridiculousness of some of the tasks I had to do. I don’t even remember why I was stressed. I have let go of it all.

Second, and most surprising, I discovered that it is not hard to get up in the morning when I don’t have to. I am awake at the same time I used to have to force myself out of bed. I have started a morning walking program. I no longer have an excuse.

I wonder what revelations Week 2 holds.

Furlough: Dry Run for Retirement?

I woke up this morning and wasn’t sure what day it was. After Day 4 of the 2013 furlough, I seem to have settled in to being at home and not caring if I go back to work. So far I have done a bit of gardening, lots of laundry, had a manicure, and saw my podiatrist. Not exciting but soothing. Reality does set in when I remember I might not be paid for my days of leisure. I should be stressed—I’m not. I’ve decided to view the furlough as my dry run for retirement.

Looking back over my 30+ years working for the federal government, I don’t recall ever voluntarily taking more than one day off at a time to just stay home. When I take vacation, I am going to visit family or friends, exploring new places or attending specific events or classes. If I added up the money I’ve spent on airfare, mileage, hotels, and other travel costs over the last 35 years, I would be a wealthy woman. Not that I regret a single dollar spent. Well, I do regret paying for the night at a Days Inn where the bed was harder than the floor.

Even when my time off was involuntary, I didn’t spend the entire time at home. To be honest, I have no memory of the 21 day furlough in 1995/96. That furlough included Christmas and New Years. I think I was visiting my sister and her family in California. I remember being stressed about being paid because I was living in a high cost city and didn’t have a savings cushion but not much else.

In my 30+ years with the feds, I have been RIFed twice. RIF is lovely way of saying I was made redundant. Not surprisingly, both RIFs occurred during Republican administrations while I was working in programs or positions that assisted low-income or economically disadvantaged areas.  

In the spring of 2002, I lost my job with a federal bank regulatory agency, which no longer exists, when it cut 20 percent of the staff. Luckily for me, I was a couple of years shy of 50 and was eligible for severance pay. With the severance pay, unemployment benefits and an intermittent job as an usher,  I survived for a year while looking for work. It wasn’t voluntary but it wasn’t bad.

After I was separated, I loaded up my car and drove from Seattle to Maine and back. I stopped along the way to visit family and friends and accomplished my goal of seeing all five Great Lakes. I decided to go ahead with a scheduled tour to Carnevale in Venice and frittered away many pleasant hours planning my costumes. The traveling and planning kept me sane during my job search. I learned to be frugal, or at least to spend more prudently. When I finally found another federal job (believe me I looked in the public and private sectors for a year with no results) I took a 60 percent pay cut just to get back into the federal system.  

So, here I sit, pondering life as a federal employee during and after the furlough. The last four days have solidified my plan to retire next August. In fact, the furlough has strengthened my resolve to retire and recharge.

Nose and Toes

I have been feeling very sorry for myself this week, and I had to add a new category to my list: health. Why, because unless I stay in good health I won’t be able to do many of the activities I have planned. I spent most of the week huddled under the covers in my bed with one of the worst colds I’ve had in a long time. I had to take time out from this busy schedule to visit my podiatrist because my big toe joint was so painful I couldn’t sleep Monday night.

The upside, I am finally feeling better. I did make it to work of Friday, but I wasn’t in the best state of mind to provide good customer service when needed.

On the downside, I will probably need to have surgery on my toe sooner rather than later. I had hoped to hold off until next fall, after I retired, but the “junk in the joint” is not cooperating at the moment. The anti-inflammatory injection only worked for about 36 hours and I am hobbling again. Thank goodness for health insurance. Too bad we have not adopted universal health care in this country. I feel for those without insurance.

Then again, if Congress doesn’t group up and start acting like adults rather than spoiled, recalcitrant children, I will have leisure time starting Tuesday to visit my doctor and baby my toe. I wonder if there is a room big enough to give them all a timeout corner. I would expound on the soggy tea bags that are leaving stains on my counter but I think they are best used for compost.


To Move or Not to Move, That is the Question

At some point, I am going to have to decide whether I will stay in Alexandria, Virginia, or move after I retire. Relocating isn’t essential. Moving would mean selling a 1940s era townhouse I love, possibly at a small loss. But my mortgage isn’t cheap, and I could cut my housing expenses. I am considering three factors: family, affordability and taxes. 

As a single person, I would prefer to live closer to one (or more) of my sisters as I age, but they are scattered across the country. It would be comforting to have a local family support system. Hopefully, they feel the same. 🙂

I love where I live and there are financial considerations to any move. With a significant income reduction, I would be looking at a cheaper not more expensive city. State tax rates and treatment of retirement income will be an important consideration.

Virginia does not tax Social Security, but it does tax your entire income, including federal pensions. I could head north to Pennsylvania, which exempts Social Security, pensions and 401(k) distributions. Or, if I jumped to New York State, where two of my sisters live,  Social Security and federal pensions are exempt from taxation. Then again, I could head west to Seattle, Washington, where I lived for many years, and not have to deal with state taxes at all.

Each has other affordability issues. Housing in Seattle is overpriced and sales taxes are high. New York State has one of the highest property tax rates (if I purchased a home). Pennsylvania is a total unknown. Are low taxes enough of a consideration? 

Click on this link for Kiplinger’s excellent State-by-State Guide to Taxes on Retires.

Let the Countdown Begin

One year from today I plan to retire. Or I hope to retire. Or is it I want to retire. All of them. For me, retiring doesn’t mean not working, it means being able to do something different, something new and interesting, knowing I won’t starve. I will be 60 years of age when I retire but I won’t be old.

To honor my countdown to the rest of my life, I am launching a new blog, The New 3rs: Retire, Recharge, Reconnect. That will be my mantra through the next year and beyond. I hope you join me on my journey and share your stories. I plan to post information and links to help anyone who is trying to find their direction into and past retirement. Actually, creating and launching this blog is the first step in my road to retirement.

I am a bit surprised I am not jumping up and down with glee having made this decision. I have a stomach ache. Retiring isn’t as simple as turning in a form and walking away. I know myself too well. I need a road map. I need a destination or two in mind. So, I have already decided what I am giving myself as a retirement present: a trip to Namibia. What a better way to start than a reward.

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