Friday, February 26, 2016

A half-year of retirement, update

My husband's job ended last June, partly because of his own design and partly because of timing issues from his employers' side.  What has retirement looked like for my husband so far?

I already wrote about the unexpected benefits of getting enough sleep; that by itself has showered manifold blessings on our family.  But have there been downsides to retiring?  A year ago, before he retired, he had a few areas of worry about what stepping away from his job might mean.

He worried a bit about money (in particular, if we had to survive on my salary alone, would he be forced to become as miserly as me?  And if he didn't become as miserly as me, would I resent him? 
The answer seems, at least so far, to be "no" on both counts.  Even though money is extra tight this year because of my lower sabbatical pay, we seem to be adjusting okay. There have been times when I've asked him to tighten the old money belt a tad, but that happened when we were both fully employed, too. 
For this, I credit the joys of having paid off or saved up for so many of our obligations.  The mortgage is paid (woo-hoo); future college expenses are squirreled away and past college expenses were paid long ago; we haven't had any credit card debt since I took over the family finances almost two decades ago.  The only large looming expense is next years' tuition to the Quaker Local School, and we should be able to swing that with a combination of savings, tax refund, and my salary bumping back up. 
I also credit the years of frugal living that have eventually become a happy habit.  My husband spends way the heck more that I do, it's true, but he's learned to search for bargains and to appreciate (some of/most of) the aspects of the MiserMom life.  Compared to the way he lived when we first got married, he's grown accustomed to living a simple, not-very-spendy life, and this makes the transition to our reduced income almost like no transition at all, at least financially speaking.

He worried about professional identity.  As a PR guy, he's spent huge swaths of his life engaged in professional gossip -- my daughters used to tell their friends, "Dad's job is to eat dinner and talk on the phone."  Would giving up his job mean surrendering those connections and all that they meant to his life? 
Again, the answer seems to be no.  In fact, because he doesn't have all the administrivia that goes with his job, he seems to enjoy the gossip/eating aspect of his life even more.  He still takes the train back to his former place of work about once a week, but now it's just to schmooze and trade stories.  People there still seem to be thrilled to see him -- he's even  been asked to represent a related organization at conferences far away (with travel expenses covered).  He enjoys trading stories even more now that he doesn't have to worry about meeting deadlines or proofreading press releases.

He was worried that caring for our sons would torpedo his bicycle racing.  (It's true that retiring wouldn't make this worse, but the irony of having extra personal time at the same time that his bike career was about to tank was really gnawing at him). 
For the third time, no --- but with a twist.  It's true that the boys have had their ups and downs (mostly ups lately, thank goodness!).  It's also true that my husband hasn't been spending as much time as he used to training on the bike.  But the bike reduction is not the boys' fault:  instead, my husband has fallen in love with foreign languages. 
My guy has been auditing classes at my college in Modern Russian, Russian literature, and Ancient Greek. He keeps signing up for classes that meet at the same times as his favorite training ride, and so he keeps skipping his favorite training ride.  For the first time in our married life, he's found something even more compelling than hurtling down steep hills at 85 km/hr.  With summer just around the corner, he's going to try to find a way to increase his mileage so that he can race with his fellow cycle-chums, but he's not feeling like circumstances are thwarting him.  
What he never worried about was being bored, and sure enough, he's not.  He's got a lot of stuff to do, and again, I think that's partly because of him and partly because of how we designed our life to be close to many of the things we love -- my college, our church, a nifty city, rolling farmlands.

And what I looked forward to all these years -- getting to spend time with my guy, and having him spend serious time with his kids -- is just as wonderful I always thought it would be.  So I think I'm going to declare this retirement experiment a success all around.   (woo-hoo!)

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