Thursday, May 19, 2011

3 Years into Retirement

I realized the other day that we had passed our 3 year anniversary of retirement from Hilton. It’s amazing how quickly the time has passed, and how much we have done. Time to look briefly look back and share some thoughts.

Immediately after our last day at work, it felt like a huge load had been lifted from our shoulders. It was a very hectic time, with the Memphis house already sold and our preparations to vacate it and move to Chicago (just 2 weeks after our last workday). But we had already achieved a new sense of peace and calm.

As new Chicago residents, we settled into an urban lifestyle in downsized living space – from a 3200 sq ft home to a 1500 sq ft condo (+ a 500 sq ft Man Cave in the basement). Our one remaining car was used infrequently, as we walked everywhere we could, or used public transportation for more distant jaunts. We started losing weight gained over time from stress and being sedentary. Working out is part of our routine, and golf is a new passion.

Of course, just as we began to enjoy our life of leisure, disaster struck the stock market. Our plan was conservative and rock solid, but the recession shook the foundation we had laid. We saw our net worth (temporarily) plummet. Fortunately, we had some cash and some guaranteed income from deferred compensation and an annuity we had purchased at the urging of our financial advisor. We got through the recession OK, and are now back on plan. It was a bit scary for a while.

The other unexpected development was finding our next home in Prescott, Arizona last year. We hadn’t planned to buy until 2012 or 2013, but… Talking Rock Ranch is the perfect community for us, and we love the ranch cottage we found there, and are enjoying new friendships with our neighbors. Due to the real estate disaster in Arizona, we bought our beautiful home from a bank, at a ridiculous discount. We hope to make our full time transition to Arizona next spring. (Anyone in the market for a condo in Chicago?)

We’ve learned a few things as retirement newbies, and had some surprises:

• Our long-tended corporate identities were easily shed. They were unceremoniously left on the floor like discarded snake skins.
• As well as you plan, some bumps in the road will catch you by surprise. Build as much flexibility into your plans as possible.
• After planning for many years, the transition to execution of the plan (living off your savings and investments) is a scary phase and requires a leap of faith.
• Your health is your most precious asset. In order to enjoy retirement, you must be fit and able. It takes a lot of energy to keep up with our retired friends.

Retiring early is the best thing we could ever have done. We enjoy every day, and are looking forward to what the future holds.

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