We read a lot about downsizing these days as Baby Boomers are actively pursuing new ways of life as they consider retirement. “Rightsizing” is a process that implies a less than cutthroat approach to restructuring than downsizing.
I have been following Kathy’s blog SMARTLiving365.com and recently had the opportunity to write this guest post while she was enjoying some travel. Kathy and I met in person at the BAM 2016 conference in Las Vegas. We found each other to be kindred spirits as well as neighbors living in California!
After reading Kathy’s book Rightsizing: A SMART Living 365 Guide To Reinventing Retirement, I also identified the ways I have rightsized my life. A big key for my semi-retirement was being able to retire from my day job of 32 years at the relatively young age of 55. After paying into the CalPERS (public employees retirement system) for years, I now receive 65% of my income as a pension.
Three other reasons factored into my semi-retirement decision:
1. Dissatisfaction at work. The economic downturn of 2008-2012, which acutely affected California, caused many folks to retire “early” (read: younger than if they had waited until traditional retirement age of 62-65) from the public parks and recreation organization for which I worked. As a result, too many new people started making swift (and poor) decisions that affected best practices which became too much to bear. When I was passed over for promotion for the third time over a 10-year period, I knew it was time to go.
2. Being able to teach part-time. The ability to retire hinged upon the continuation of my teaching job at a university, where I am a part-time lecturer enjoying sharing my 35+ years of experience in the field with parks and rec majors. As a lecturer (and now “Retired Annuitant” I am able to teach 15 units per year). The money is GOOD and nicely supplements my pension.
3. My husband got hired with my former organization in facility maintenance. He now carries the health benefits and he has potential for moving up in the organization while still experiencing job satisfaction.
All those added up to my semi-retirement.
Best. Decision. Ever
These are the three areas where I rightsized my life:
Unfortunately, in 2014, my husband and I were hit with a big tax bill. Paying that off dug an unwanted hole into our savings. Fortunately, we handled it with my hubby’s promotion, my pension and part-time work. Now with the advice of our tax accountant, that problem won’t happen again in the future.
When we got hit with a big tax bill for 2014, paying that off dug an unwanted hole into our savings. With my hubby’s promotion, my pension and part-time work, our tax accountant advised us so that we would be taxed appropriately in the future.
I have lived in the same small house for 29 years! Bought during my first marriage, it was all I could afford during our divorce 15 years later. I always wanted a second bathroom, so for years, I dreamed of adding on to the master bedroom. Once my new master-carpenter hubby entered the picture a few years ago, this dream became a reality in two ways.
- We refinanced for a lower rate. This process saved us $150 on an already low mortgage payment.
- Shortly thereafter we obtained a low interest rate home equity loan and used it to expand the existing mistress bedroom. Our combined mortgage and loan monthly payments are lower than most people’s mortgage payments! And I have a magnificent bedroom with a home office corner, walk-in closet and huge master bath, with a lot of backyard leftover.
Paying Off Debts and Credit Cards
My hubby is a miser and makes me watch the bills. Since we have been together, I have paid off 5 credit cards. We also cut back on eating out and entertainment, preferring to utilize Netflix rather than see a movie, and eat at home (my hubby is a fantastic cook!).
Are we saving tons of money? Not quite yet, but we have gotten much smarter about spending.
Another perk we now enjoy is our empty nest! My youngest daughter finished college, moved 300 miles away and got a state job that pays almost as much as my job did when I left after 32 years. Needless to say, we love having two guest bedrooms. Part of our money-saving strategies involves having friends visit that are also on budgets, so we take turns having movie nights at each other’s’ homes that involves cooking and friendly socializing.
Rightsizing Travel and Leisure Time
I grew up in a family where my father’s job was the only source of income. My parents knew how to pinch a penny. Most of our vacation travel was in-state (California), and this is where I grew to love camping on a shoe-string. Small tent? No problem. I can still scare away bears by banging pots and pans.
I have always insisted on owning a good car. I don’t care if I have to make a monthly payment. I USE my car for driving! It will be great to pay off my 2010 Toyota Rav4 in two years, and I know that this car will last a long time. My hubby owns two used vehicles: a truck and a Toyota Corolla for commuting. Again, when it comes to certain things, he is the rightsizer in this family.
Having a great car insures that we will be able to visit our extended family who live mainly on the west coast. Most trips are a day’s drive and we can stay with family free! Trips to San Diego, San Francisco Bay area, Central coast, Portland, and Washington State offer beautiful scenery and are known tourist destinations visited by people from all over the world.
When we do travel on longer trips, I plan way ahead and secure flights much cheaper than waiting until the last minute.
Kathy recently wrote about the benefit of renting versus owning RVs. I know lots of folks who purchase expensive RVs and travel trailers. It is sad to see hopeful trailers and RVs languishing in their storage areas patiently waiting for their owners to take them out for some fun.
While many others buy RVs with all the bells and whistles, my husband and I are all about the inexpensive, gently-used travel trailer. In our case, we belong to a windsurfing club where we can park our trailer all summer. We paid cash for ours four years ago and it only sits in storage for a few months, happily holding our windsurf gear until April when we go get him and pull him out to be our summer weekend home!
If you are going to camp in a trailer for weeks or months on end, then certainly invest! But for four weekends a month over five months, an older trailer works just fine!
I believe it is vitally important to have a meaningful hobby or pastime in retirement.
Exploring a hobby before that happens while keeping an open mind is important. Many folks don’t think about this as they begin their retirement journey, believing they will have plenty to do, including extensive travel and visiting family.
My parents valued our leisure time and taught us a lifelong leisure ethic on a tight budget, so living rightsized leisure lifestyle is a no-brainer for me. It also helped that I grew up living in Southern California where there were lots of sights to see and things to do.
One of the keys in retirement is to stay social with friends and family. Sadly, I know some retired folks who spend a lot of time at home in front of the TV. They likely never had much of a leisure lifestyle to begin with and now that they are retired, they have no idea how to even begin to pursue meaningful leisure.
At the university where I am a lecturer, I teach a course on “Leisure Lifestyle Development.” The “a-ha” moments I see on my students’ faces (and read in their papers) are gratification that I have actually taught them something!
It is a little sad that we need college courses to teach us how to have leisure time, and it is OKAY to live a life with leisure! No worries, because it is job security for me!
Regardless of your retirement goals and bucket lists, be sure to take care of your own needs. Too many folks give up their own time to help family (which is great), but family needs can be overwhelming. My own parents (and my hubby’s) never had the means to help each of us when our kids were young. For example, when our kids were sick or were on their summer vacations from school, our parents couldn’t help and yet we still managed to survive.
Today I see some of my peers rushing off to stay long periods care-giving for their grandchildren, oftentimes giving up their own plans and hobbies. While I agree that family should come first, making time for yourself in retirement is a must! Once the grandkids don’t need the extra care-giving, you may have lost this time to have started a meaningful leisure lifestyle that should keep you engaged for the rest of your life!
Remember, a leisure lifestyle is yours for the taking. It can be experienced at any income level.
Rightsizing My Body
Or should I say “downsizing” here? I have always been active. I played sports in high school and college. I also enjoyed jogging and swimming on my lunch hours from my early 30s, then played recreational sports until my late 40s until a sports injury sidelined me. I joined a gym where I could recover and inevitably hung up my softball cleats and glove.
All that activity still did not prevent me from steadily gaining weight over the last five years. Plus, trying to learn windsurfing at age 49, and experiencing countless minor injuries these last few years, all inhibited my plans for weight loss.
Then at 50, the Big M (menopause) reared its ugly head. Taking prescription hormones to counteract the symptoms increased my weight to 30 pounds heavier. A knee (re-) injury last year REALLY took its toll. I couldn’t walk down stairs and was thisclose to knee surgery. On top of that, I began to experience arthritis and plantar fasciitis in both feet as the weight settled in.
That’s when I knew the weight HAD to come off.
I made a commitment to join Weight Watchers again. Although I had been successful on the program before in 2003 (losing 30 pounds) and reaching the coveted “lifetime” goal, little by little, I gained weight back once I hit my mid-40s. The effects of peri-menopause were not kind, although I managed some yo-yo weight loss.
I can proudly say that I have lost over 30 pounds! Weight Watchers revamped the Smart Points program and if I can lose menopause weight, any midlife person can, too. The tech tools available now make it much easier than before!
The point of this section is to simply say: “Get your body healthy” no matter what you need to do, whether it is losing weight or adding to your fitness regimen, or both. Your knees will thank you.
Bonus Rightsizing Tip
Because of the weight loss, I’ve had to buy almost all new clothes. Oh darn. I had saved boxes of clothes for when I would lose weight again. Unfortunately…(?) over 90% of them no longer fit.
If you are like me and it has been a number of years, those clothes are hopelessly out of style and may not fit due to body changes.
I’m here to tell you…let them go! Donate them!
Chico’s, here I come.
What methods have you used to rightsize YOUR life? Please share in the comments.