"I don't know of any finance professional leaving corporate life before 55. The environment can be addictive and people tend to hit their stride during 40-50. What made you decide to retire early versus taking a long break and then finding a new job?"It's a good question, and one that I had to think about.
Whether you like Hillary Clinton or not, you have to admit, her candidacy has sure opened a lot of old wounds for women of this country. This article in today's New York Times reminds me that we are not quite "there" yet.
The "Iron my shirts" heckling, the "Stop running for president and go make me a sandwich" website, and the "How do we beat the bitch?" question at a McCain campaign event, illustrate that women are still caught between a rock and a hard place.
"Mrs. Clinton's campaign, many women say with regret, did not inspire a deep or nuanced conversation between men and women, only familiar gender-war battles consisting of male gibes and her supporters' angry responses."
In addition to the valid debates between the candidates, we went one step further with Hillary:
"the fixation on her clothes, even her cleavage; chronic criticism that her voice is shrill; calls for her to exit the race; and most of all, the male commentators in the news media who, they argue, were consistently tougher on her than Mr. Obama."
(There was a very funny Saturday Night Live skit about this last point where they asked Obama during a mock televised debate "are you comfortable, can we get you a pillow?")
The article, peppered with examples of sexism in in the workplace, reminded me of one of my own experiences early in my career. The head of the tax department at my "Big 8" accounting firm took me out for a mentoring lunch. This should have been a big windfall for me, receiving the guidance of the head of the tax division.
His advice? "Maybe if you didn't smile so much, that might help."
It sure seems simple. Consume fewer calories than you burn. This is the secret to losing unwanted pounds.
Then why is it so hard? It seems easier to follow the law of the calorie when you have no especially fun plans. When I was working, most weeknights fell into this category, a night with no especially fun plans.
But now, almost every night is filled with especially fun plans. Last night we had friends over for homemade pizza under the stars. We enjoyed the unseasonably hot weather, the homegrown lettuce, and would have enjoyed the homegrown strawberries if the birds didn't get to them first! I, of course, overindulged in food and wine--consuming way more calories than I burned.
The night before we went to dinner with some friends at a brewpub to hear some live music. I volunteered for designated driver status, so I didn't drink, but I still managed to consume way more calories than I burned.
And the night before that we went out for dinner and a movie. That's the problem with retirement; too many fun nights, too many calories.
Well, it's been awhile since I've had a library card. Things have sure changed.
I applied for the card on-line so that it would be waiting for me upon my first visit; there was no such thing as on-line when I last used the public library system. When I entered the library, I saw three people at computer terminals at desks near the exit and mistakenly assumed they worked there. I made a complete fool of myself and asked the closest one, "Excuse me, where do I pick up my library card?"
The look on his face said "I'm not the hired help"; out loud he said, "Well, I would imagine with that lady over there?" The one that actually works here, yeah, I get it. The people standing at these terminals were library patrons checking out their own books. In the old days, you handed your stack of books to the librarian to check you out. She stamped a little card on the inside jacket with the date that you had to return the book. Now it's self serve!
I picked up my library card from a woman that actually worked at the library and went in search for my first library book in 20 years. I got completely sidetracked by the huge reading room filled with new releases. All these wonderful books and TOTALLY FREE! It's a million times better than that feeling I get in a bookstore.
On my way to the older books, I stumbled upon a rack where you could purchase three paperbacks for one dollar. I almost immersed myself in this section when I remembered; there are FREE books here! I found the book I was looking for, a Steven King memoir about the craft of writing.
On my way out, I drifted through the thousands of magazines--but I only had five minutes left on my parking meter, so needed to high-tail it to check out. I didn't want to embarrass myself again, so I carefully scoped out another actual library employee. She showed me how to scan my library card so that my name pops up on the check-out terminal. Now, I simply had to enter the last four digits of my phone number. The last four digits of my phone number--what are the last four digits of my phone number? There goes my attempt at avoiding embarrassing myself again.
I kept saying my area code and the first three digits out loud, but the next four digits would not follow. Nothing I could do could bring them out of my memory bank. She sympathized that this happens to a lot of people. That helped, I remembered. She showed me how to scan the book, and out came the receipt with my due date. She told me that I could renew it on my home computer from the comfort of my own home.
The other book I wanted wasn't at this branch, but through the miracle that is the modern library system, it will be waiting for me at my branch when I return this one.
Why does anyone go to the bookstore?
I don't know if this just sounded so brilliant because I drank one Manhattan and two glasses of Sangria, but my dad made an observation over dinner on Friday night that I thought was spot on.
We were discussing the latest hoopla over Obama's ex-preacher. The talking heads were calling for Obama to more strongly denounce his church's ex-leader for his most recent comments as well as for decades of other comments.
What my dad wanted to know was why isn't John McCain being called out to denounce his leader, the current leader of this nation? John McCain honorably served his country in combat and was even subject to torture in a POW camp. At the same time, our current president was doing his best to avoid active military duty and currently does his best to allow torture while denying that he condones it.
Shouldn't the talking heads be angrily calling for McCain to vehemently denounce his "preacher" and protest by leaving his "church" (the senate) in an angry huff? I would argue that who's someone's preacher is far less important than whom one currently supports as leader, when they themselves claim to operate by different ideals.
Isn't McCain sitting silently in the pews of congress by allowing our current administration to torture POW's (excuse me, "enemy combatants")? Shouldn't he be called upon to stand up and denounce the leader that is not leading the way he says he himself would lead?
Why do we care more about a political candidate's religious leader than their political leaders? If it is supposed to say something about the candidate's character, or the way he will lead, isn't there much more of a correlation between a man and his political leader?
If this isn't sounding as brilliant as it seemed to me on Friday night, go drink a couple shots and read it again.
I hate nature. Don't get me wrong, I love looking at it out the window from the comfort of my couch. I just don't like it when it joins me on the couch, as the tick did last night.
A couple of weeks after I retired, we moved into our vacation home. Our plan is to live here for a few years before selling it to finance our golden years. It's in a beautiful wooded spot, but living here is really going to test the mettle of this bug/rodent/snake skittish girl.
The bugs that call this place home are a varied and ugly bunch. A friend that was living here a couple of years ago found a scorpion in the house, so now I am very vigilant about my surroundings at all times. A midnight trip to the bathroom is not without its anxieties. The decision to just hold it 'till morning often trumps comfort. I am reluctant to risk putting my feet on the floor in the dark--the territory of who knows what creepy-crawly.
I was not one of those children fascinated with bugs and would never have been found actually picking one up. I was the child that ran shrieking the other way (and haven't changed much since growing up).
Our first night after moving up here I had banished Doug to the guest room for snoring infractions. At 2am he was up, all the lights were on, and a look of panic was on his face. "Do you hear that?" I didn't hear that. "I'm not sleeping in that room, there's a NOISE." He came to join me.
I put earplugs in. "Do you hear that?" (He shook me awake since I had earplugs in--so, no, I didn't hear that, but thanks for waking me up AGAIN.) I listened until I heard what he heard--a rodent party of some sort in the attic or below the house. Mickey must have scored some primo nuts because they were really living it up. Party's over now, we've trapped 6 mice under the house since that night.
Now the biggest invader in the house is the Box Elder bug. They are all over the outside of the house and are mating in the landscaping mulch. Many have found their way inside. If you smash them, they leave a red spot, so you really have to pick them up, something that I am unwilling to do. If Doug is not here, I have to get the vacuum hose. Three feet away is about as close as I want to get to most of the creatures sharing my home.
It's a good thing our front door is windowed. Because I think if I had opened the door without looking, the squirrel pictured above would have come right in the house. He sat on the front doorstep for about a half an hour--as if he was actually waiting for someone to open the door for him. I began to wonder if this was my reincarnated Beagle sitting there thinking "what the heck--did they seal up my doggy door?"
I have had one overriding worry since I retired: health insurance. I've read the horror stories about obtaining health insurance and worried that even if we could get coverage, the cost would be bankrupting. I handled this worry the way I handle most of my worries, denial and procrastination.
Well, it's not that bad; here's what I learned:
Do not pass up COBRA coverage when you leave your job. This is pretty much the only guarantee that you will be able to obtain reasonable coverage in the future. When you leave your job, you can elect COBRA coverage to continue the insurance you had while you were employed for an additional 18 months. (Your state may extend this period even longer.) Our monthly premium under COBRA was $600.
Start shopping immediately for an individual policy. I knew I could save on our premium if we could purchase a plan with a higher deductible. I contacted a broker. She told me that because of our health history, we were not insurable and it was not even worth submitting our application to insurers. She recommended that we stay on COBRA for the full COBRA period because at the end of that time we would be guaranteed coverage under HIPAA.
After you exhaust your COBRA coverage, you are guaranteed coverage under HIPAA. In California (very helpful publication here) the rules require that insurers offer their 2 most "representative" policies to those that are eligible for guaranteed issue. The cheapest policy I could find on-line under guaranteed issue would have doubled our premiums to more than $1,200. (It's guaranteed coverage, not guaranteed to be cheap!)
Do not rely exclusively on insurance brokers. When you apply for an individual policy outside of the guaranteed issue provisions, you must go through the insurance company's underwriting process, which includes providing a very detailed health history. At the end of this process, they are not required to offer you insurance.
Before our broker told us we were uninsurable, I had already submitted an application for an individual policy directly with an insurance company. Turns out we are insurable and at a premium half the cost of my COBRA coverage! (I'm not sure why the story was different from a broker--perhaps the commission structure?)
Select your policy carefully; this may be the policy you have for many years. HIPAA insures guaranteed renewability of your individual policy as long as you keep paying the premiums on time (although the cost will surely rise.) If you change your mind down the road, you may not be able to obtain the coverage you want.
Most importantly, do not let coverage lapse. Your options become very limited if you ever let coverage lapse.
I hope we are fortunate enough to enjoy excellent health and that the insurance company makes a fortune off of us as a consequence.
"Life consists of what a man is thinking of all day."
-Ralph Waldo Emerson
I have been retired now for two months. Here is what I have learned. While perceptions of retirement vary, all retirement really means is that you don't go to your job anymore. That is the only universal truth, (well, that and there is no such thing as comfortable thong underwear.)
What will you spend your time doing after you retire? Whatever you spent your time doing before you retired, minus the job. While I'm sure my interests will evolve over the years (just as they did while I was working), I now spend my time doing exactly what I did before I retired, only more of it. (Which reminds me of a wise friend's similar observation after a cocktail one evening, "I feel more like I do now than when I first came in.")
Life consists of what a man is thinking of all day. Being retired just means that what you are thinking of all day is exactly what you want to be thinking about, not what someone else is paying you to think about.