This weekend we had our annual post-Thanksgiving lunch with our friends down in LA. As usual, the leftovers were great and the wine was fabulous (not to mention the conversation and the company!) We got to talking about my upcoming plans for retirement and they asked me if I'm going to be retired, like never-work-again retired. That is the plan at this point, but as usual, I tell them "unless I find myself getting bored" (which I always say, but I don't really believe possible), or "unless I find that I love money more than I think I do" (which I fear, may actually be possible).
Which brings me to the "B" word: budget. I recently read a fellow retiree's blog in which she talks about how much money one needs to retire (more than you think) and wondered how I will really feel about living on less money. I think to many people, the budget whose confines my husband and I must live within would sound very generous, indeed. But it does take our current level of spending and shave it a fair amount. Some aspects of that don't worry me--we've lived in this house for three years now and so won't have the new house expenses of furniture, landscaping, and artwork. We should be done with all that. I'm also figuring that clothing expenses will go down as I switch from professional clothes (Ann Taylor) to putting-around clothes (Old Navy), not to mention the corresponding dry cleaning bills. We'll (or should I say I'll) be making certain sacrifices--saving on the cost of house cleaning and gardening to do these things myself. While I'm planning on having far more time to read, I'm planning on patronizing the library rather than the bookstore. When I have the time to paint my own walls, I actually enjoy that, hiring a painter was more out of lack of time than my lack of desire to do it myself.
In retirement we will also have more time to travel, which means more trips, but will require less expenditure per trip. We have slowly migrated over the years to nicer and nicer hotels, sometimes splurging on suites and ocean front rooms. The new budget will simply not allow this. Seems a small price to pay for the increased time to travel, but I wonder will I still feel that way after several trips? Will I enjoy road trips or will I be yearning to just jump on a plane to get us there NOW?
I think back to when I first graduated from college and started working. I had a cute little apartment on the top of Nob Hill, for which I paid more than one-half of my take home pay. That left me little more than $500 per month for my car payment ($100), groceries, utilities, clothes, transportation and what little travel and entertainment I could afford. As you might imagine, my credit card balance grew steadily over those first years. I would never have bought a cup of coffee on the way to work, or a magazine to read on the bus ride home, it just wasn't in the budget! But I compare my more free-spending life now with my budget-restrained life back then and find I wasn't any more or less happy than I am now. As I do now, I loved my life back then. Of course I always looked forward to the future when money would not be as tight, but it's not the additional money that made me happy, I was already happy!
When I look back at those days and compare them to the budget I will be required to live on in retirement, I have to laugh. Gosh, if I survived that I can certainly survive a budget that includes wine, travel, fine dining and many other extravagances I didn't have back then. And the biggest difference of all, back then I had a tight budget AND was working; with the retirement budget, it may be tight, but it doesn't including working!