The Retirement Puzzle: Will We Be Happy?

There are times when I wish I could be like Lorraine and Tabby. They both model love, kindness and happiness to me every day. Even when I don’t deserve it!

I had posted earlier about our retirement puzzle and, now that I have committed to a retirement date, three lingering questions:

  • Will we have enough money?
  • Will we be happy?
  • Will we stay healthy?

I have a truly impressive spreadsheet that contains a detailed budget expense worksheet for the current year. It also contains a summary of the following financial ratios along with specific targets:

  • Gross Debt Service Ratio
  • Total Debt Service Ratio
  • Liquidity Ratio
  • Solvency Ratio
  • Housing Payment Ratio
  • Annual Savings Ratio
  • Debt Payment to Income Ratio
  • Total Savings to Income Ratio
  • Total Debt to Gross Income Ratio
  • Total Debt to After-tax Income Ratio
  • Total Assets to Income Ratio

We carry no debt and all of our ratios look great right now. They did not always look that way though especially in our thirties with kids and mortgages and lots of other expenses.

My spreadsheet contains a worksheet for our net worth, a detailed breakdown of our investment assets and allocation, our passive income from investments, our investment portfolio performance over the past 25 years of investing, pension estimates, income and taxes paid for my entire career, and retirement ratios for Neutral Income Retirement Target and Real Discretionary Income. The latter trying to answer the question: do I have enough for retirement?

This is not just any spreadsheet. Oh no. This spreadsheet is a work of art.

And you can see the trap, can’t you? I have approached retirement largely from the first question, from a financial perspective. I have spent countless hours over the years planning and investing to get us to this point.

But really, with less than 8 months from retirement, we will have whatever we have from a financial perspective. And it is more than enough. My real discretionary income will go up in retirement.

The second question, will we be happy, is a more important question than whether we will have enough money. Well, at least it is now once I had some confidence that we are going to have enough money in retirement!

A few quotes from a fellow Canadian, Ernie Zelinski, author of numerous books including one of my favourites, How To Retire Happy, Wild, And Free.

… many people spend forty years building an impressive retirement nest egg, but no time at all thinking about how they are going to enjoy retirement. Indeed, the biggest mistake you can make with your retirement planning is to concentrate only on the financial aspects.

And,

Freedom and happiness are easier to attain than you think. Take your lesson from children. Don’t fret about the future. Don’t regret the past. Live only in the present. The happiness you have at any moment is the only happiness you can ever experience. Reminisce about your great yesterdays, hope for many interesting tomorrows, but, above all, ensure that you live today.

One more,

All things considered, your retirement reward should be a life that is at least as exciting and interesting as your work life was. In fact, with creative and constructive use of your time, you can be happier than you ever were in the workplace, regardless of how much satisfaction your work provided.

I can learn how to be happy from Lorraine. And from Tabby. That golden retriever of ours is the Zen master of happiness and contentment.

And I need to turn that question around into a statement:

We will be happy.

I know it.

I can feel it.

Home

It has been a couple of weeks since our house closed. The house is no longer our home. We are living downtown and loving it.

The biggest surprise for me? I do not miss the house.

Nobody needs to own a house to have a home.

The process of downsizing was humbling and emotionally draining.

I came across Jonathan Look’s blog, Life Part 2. He has a post on The Luxury of Little:

… like many people in the “developed world,” I had so many possessions that I couldn’t remember where my stuff was, or in many cases even remember that I had it. My junk drawers were expanding. I had “spare” cables, obsolete electronics, redundant tools, more sets of dishes and silverware than I had places for people to sit, and boxes of mementos that “one day” I would get around to going through and sorting.

Our situation was like that. Too many things. Way too many things. And, now that they have been sold, donated and tossed, I don’t seem to care about them.

Why did we fill our lives with so much stuff? Probably because we did not fill our lives with experiences that matter more.

Our transition into retirement is teaching me about many things. And one of the important lessons has been about possessions.

As Jonathan puts it:

… having a lot of “stuff” we don’t see or use doesn’t make us more secure. It drains our finances, limits our options, distracts our attention, diminishes our energies and most importantly, it wastes our time.

Let It Go

Perhaps it was the length of time that it took for us to sell our house. Lulled into a little bit of complacency. Everything seemed to be as it had always been. Life on automatic pilot.

When we sold our house earlier this month, we knew that we would have a lot of work ahead of us to downsize. Part of that work involves a significant change to the amount of stuff that we have been carrying with us through our married lives.

On a deeper level there is much, much more going on.

I have been really struggling with this part of the change. And I know why. I am scared about my mortality.

When I hit 60 years of age earlier this month, I was in a bit of shock. Where did all the time go?

As we begin this process of downsizing, I am asking different questions. Looking at all our stuff, it is easy to get confused about where we are going to next. Was this stuff what my life was all about? How did I get here? Is here where I wanted to be?

And there is sadness. Even to the point of tears.

I did not expect this part of the journey to be so challenging.

Peter Walsh wrote a book called Let It Go, Downsizing Your Way to a Richer, Happier Life. I picked it up last week and read it cover to cover in one sitting. Recommended if you are going through downsizing or know someone who might be starting to downsize.

Too many people sleepwalk through their days, worrying about the future and regretting the past. As they fantasize and catastrophize, they’re missing vast swaths of their real lives, which are going on without them. Surrounding yourself with meaningless clutter further blocks out the real world and further impedes you from being in your life.

You now have a marker that serves as a starting point of a new life… pack up the possessions that are meaningful to you, and go have an adventure!

The Waterfall

waterfall

I am an optimistic chap, and you should be, too. Much the best approach to life. But let us have another candid moment. Turning sixty can be awful damn bad if you don’t watch out. And even if you do. Think about it. Some people actually die in their sixties. Not hit by cars or fallen off their bikes. Just die, of semi-natural causes. Like heart failure and cancer-of-the-this-and-that. It is highly unlikely that you will die, of course; I understand that… But death is out there somewhere, and it can make you moody. You keep hearing the waterfall in the distance, and you wonder all the time, What’s that noise? As if you didn’t know. Scary. Very, very scary.

Younger Next Year, by Chris Crowley and Henry Lodge.

As I think about our 30 goals for retirement, the sound of the waterfall keeps getting a bit louder.

Turning sixty can be bad. A friend that should be enjoying life in his sixties is now enduring the final stages of terminal cancer. He is only a few years older than me.

There is a fear. Not so much of death itself, although I hope that it won’t be a long, painful, drawn out affair. The fear? Time.

Not enough time to achieve the goals that we will set for ourselves during our retirement years.

One of the most important goals for me will be focused on physical fitness, and not the generic “I will be a healthy person” type of goal.

I love cycling and my hope is to ride as much as I can during most of my retirement years. I started into my winter training program a few weeks ago, spinning about 7 – 10 hours a week. Intense spinning. Hard, painful workouts.

But the goal is not to complete the winter training program. The goal is to prepare for specific rides and events.

In retirement, one of my goals will be to participate in no less than one Gran Fondo a month for the first year.

I will use this calendar to plan for the Gran Fondo nearest wherever Lorraine and I happen to be.

And, whenever I find myself thinking too much about the sound of the waterfall, I will think about why I need to keep pushing myself on a bike.

Riding gives me life and it keeps me living well.

Goal one down.

29 more to go.

An Outpost

Outpost

We are working through our retirement plans, anxious to make our way on the road with our coach. There are stunning places to visit in the United States and, as future snowbirds, we have no concerns about finding the types of parks where we would like to stay during the fall and winter seasons of Canada.

Canada, though, is proving to be challenging. We are required to live at least 153 days in Ontario if we want to continue to be covered by our healthcare system. The question is: where would we stay during that time? Most of the parks that I have researched in Ontario are, well, not quite what we would be looking for as part of our stay. Not bad for a night or two but not something we would want to use for a week, a month or a season or two.

When Lorraine and I went to visit Hearthside Grove Motorcoach Resort in Michigan, we really loved the place. And touring the sites gave us an idea.

Our current house is way too large for the two of us. Our first thought was to sell the house and travel full-time. Now we are thinking that we may want an outpost in Ontario, our own tiny house with our RV, as a base from which we can travel and return. It would provide a permanent residence, a potential site for when we come off the road, and it would be expressly built for our lifestyle and our coach.

All of the photographs on this site are taken by me. Except for the two that follow. They are from the Hearthside Grove Motorcoach Resort website. It was seeing this site, Lot 148, that gave us the idea.

Hearthside1

Hearthside2

Once we have sold our current home, what would prevent us from finding a suitable lot in the country, not that far from where we are now, and transform it into a small oasis with a tiny house and a nice area for our coach?

The house pictured above is roughly 600 square feet. And it has a small storage building along with some nice landscaping and a paved drive. Looks just perfect for a couple of castaways to spend a bit of time when landed in Ontario.

We actually have a much larger version of this arrangement right now. Our coach is parked alongside our home and we have been basically living out of the coach during the summer. We do make some use of the house but really all of that space seems quite excessive now. Our current house has about 6,000 square feet of space. And we have almost 7 acres of land to maintain.

With an outpost, we would still have the flexibility to travel whenever we might wish. We could close up the outpost and reopen it whenever we made our way back.

Still dreaming a bit I suppose. But I think a project like this — I would do as much of the building and landscaping as possible — would be fun to do over the next few years during the spring and summer months in Ontario. And we would have our adventures in the south as we follow the nice weather in the fall and winter.