Retirement: FAQs

What’s retirement like?

I don’t know yet. It’s been three weeks, so I certainly should, but the first two weeks felt a little like a stay-at-home vacation. Because Spouse had an accident in mid-September and needs chauffeuring to various medical appointments, and my mother in law still needs a ride places now and then, it’s felt like free time broken up with commitments to other people.

Here’s what I do know. I get up about seven. I go for a walk in the park, come home, shower, make coffee and breakfast. Then, unless Spouse has a physical therapy appointment or I’m meeting someone for lunch/coffee, that’s it for the structured portion of my day. That’s both good and bad. It means I have all day to spend on silly projects like painting flower pots black for Halloween. It also means… well, a lot of unstructured time.

I hope that will be changing after Thanksgiving, because I plan to put in some time at the local bookstore, maybe one day a week, learning the business. There are some classes I want to take and some events to go to. Maybe I’ll know next month what it’s really like.

So how’s the money?

I won’t know the real answer to that question until the end of January. I will have my first retirement check the end of December, but that check, to use the technical term we learned at the retirement office, will be “crazy.” Here are the reasons it will be crazy; the Retirement Board pays on the last working day of the month. I retired on October 30 but I didn’t authorize my payments (complete the paperwork) until November 13. That was the soonest the Retirement Board could fit me in. My benefits go back to October 30, though. My retiree health benefits also start November 1. Because I am no longer an active employee, my employer cuts the amount it pays towards my health benefits by more than half, so I will pay $1200/month. Usually, premiums are taken out in advance. My December 30 check will be for two months’ worth of payment and they will deduct 3 months’ worth of premiums ($3,600). I’m hoping there will be enough left over for a hamburger and a coffee drink.

The December 30 thing sounds scary but it does not mean I go completely without money for two full months. I got my final paycheck on 11/7. I had the ability to convert some of my unused vacation hours to cash, so I basically got a check for 160 hours of work instead of 80 – a double check, which makes November a “regular” income month except that more taxes were deducted. There is a final “pay-out” check on 11/21, when the county sends me anything it might still owe me. There shouldn’t be much because I am putting all of my vacation pay into my deferred compensation plan. It turns out I will be eligible for a small check, however, from the time when I worked and paid taxes on my pension deduction (yes, I worked for so long that there was a time when my pension deduction was after taxes.) The “safe harbor” program refunds me some of that money. I was not clear on how much.

Still, December is not the best month in the world to choose to have zero money coming in. My original plan was to retire in April, when I would have had a tax return to count on, but plans change. I’m just saying, if you are planning your retirement and there is going to be a gap in payment, adjust for that.

What about Social Security?

I know I’m old, but I’m not there yet!

What are your plans?

I don’t know that yet either. I wanted to travel, particularly two-or-three day trips, mid-week to take advantage of specials. This is not the time of year to do a lot of traveling, and again, Spouse’s injury takes priority right now.

There is the bookstore. I’m looking forward to that. I have already made one pass through the closet and given two big bags of clothes to Goodwill. And there certainly are projects. I keep looking at the mound of books in the living room (which by now probably needs an archeologist’s help to excavate) and thinking, “I really ought to do something about that… maybe I’ll take a nap.”

One thing I know I’ll be doing, and that is taking some classes on how to use my new Samsung smart phone, because it is smarter than me.

Aren’t you going to get a lot of writing done?

Sure, yeah. Maybe. I don’t know. That certainly was the idea before I retired, anyway. It hasn’t been quite so easy in practice. For me, the best to completely freeze the writing muscles is to say, “Good, plenty of time to write! No excuses now!”

Are you going to go back to the county as Extra Help?



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