We all count the time until we can retire, cut the cord, turn out the lights or whatever we call the end of a career. We think about it, make some non-binding plans and dream, dream, ’til we finally fall to sleep. Then morning comes with a WTF? How am I gonna do it? Where am I gonna do it? Will I be able to do it? When? All these unanswered questions.
Well, maybe for some its too early to even think about such long distance planning but those of you (I’m excluding myself) in your mid-40s, 50s, and 60s will be celebrating your birthday at a restaurant and its gonna be a big 5-0 or 6-0 birthday party and damn, what happened? That was quick.
We’ve had discussions here about what we want to do at retirement but “Awh, its too early to worry about that” That’s not a helpful attitude so I’m here to help or not. First, answer the questions in the first paragraph. Got that? You’ll be asking yourself these same questions again and again and perhaps the answers will change but that’s OK too.
When do I want to retire? When can I retire? Where do I want to retire?
I decided about my 45th birthday that I wanted out at 55. I started looking towards that day and what I had to do to make it happen. Where? I had grown up in the woods of Minnesota, with the fishing/hunting and liked being outdoors, I still had a few friends there, my folks were buried nearby and a brother lived about 30 miles away so that’s where I thought I wanted to be. I owned a house in Texas but really no friends other than those I worked with and the Texas heat was not something that I enjoyed. Nothing permanent was holding me in Texas.
I was working in the Midwest, living in the Twin Cities and spending time reading the country newspapers and visiting my brother when I could. I found some property that I liked, made a low ball offer that was rejected and kept looking. Found a 40 acre spot, with a terribly run down small house and a yard full of junk that had been on the market for a couple years. Price was high but evaluating the negatives I made an offer of about 1/3 the asking price, keeping in mind those negatives. The owner countered with an offer of about ½, I suggested we split the difference, he bumped me a little and we made a deal.
I cleaned up everything that was burnable, old buildings/sheds/fences and clothes. I spent the winter hauling van load after van load of trash, mostly metal scraps, every week end for 6 months or more. By spring the yard was cleaned and time to tackle the house. The previous owner was a Copenhagen chewing bachelor and his habits were visible. The house was a kit, 18 X 26, costing 1200 dollars plus delivery and was about 30 years old. The sidewalls were 6’4” and I was 6’5” at the time. The roof was sagging badly, hadn’t been painted since the first time 30 years early and needed a total remodel and upgrade. I kept telling Mrs Fourscore that it was beautiful, she kept checking the yellow pages for psychiatric help.
Anyway, I got my best friend to help me, we tore the roof off, raised the walls 20” and put new trusses and plywood on. I spent the rest of the weekend shingling and I was on my way. I took a week’s vacation a few weeks later, put on siding on the newly raised walls, new windows, sliding glass door and lastly primed the outside.
I called my boss that Sunday night, he said, “Good, ’cause I have reservations for tomorrow for you to go to Berkeley, CA, we just bought a store and you ( meaning me) need to complete the deal and stay as long as necessary.” I was there for 5 weeks, remodeling, hiring, training. Fortunately after a couple weeks a good manager arrived.
I then spent about 4-5 months’ worth of week ends gutting and remodeling the inside of the cabin, as we called it . My wife took back some of her doubts of my skills when she stayed in there for the first time and the shower worked and the lights turned on when she threw the switch.
So now, we have a small place to live on weekends, modern, clean and warm but not very big. And still 7-8 years away from the magic 55 year mark. For now, though, a place to use for hunting/fishing and relaxing. Still a few years from retiring at this point though. It was great, nearly every week end and vacations would find me at the cabin, relaxing. Deer season came and I had a super hunting shack with all the amenities.
Then the years rolled on and I explained to my wife that we should build our retirement home, our property was actually in 2 parcels, easy peasey to use the second parcel. It had been an old homestead with a big field and so I chose a spot near the back edge of the field. She was not super excited but after my whining and crying she finally gave in. So I started, two years before the date set for retirement.
I won’t go into detail about the permitting but it wasn’t fun, had to be rezoned, etc. The good part was at that time there was no requirements for inspections other than an electrical. Had to have a well and septic system permitted. I contracted the basement, I had drawn my plan on graft paper, no blue prints since I was going to be flexible.
The missus and I had agreed on 3 premises or requirements.
- It had to be warm (i.e. well insulated)
- The kitchen had to face the east, for harmony with Asian customs
- Every room had to have a window, including the basement.
I contracted the basement block work, went a course higher (13 rather than the usual 12) because I was a pretty tall guy at the time and I wanted all the duct work under the basement ceiling. At that point I started nailing stuff together, every week end, leave work early and put 2 long days in over the weekend. That went on for two years, slowly, slowly a house took shape. I always took my tools with me but left the building supplies and fortunately had no theft.
I pretty much did everything, I contracted the roof/shingles and steel siding but learned as I went for the rest. Retirement day came, I was 55, we were ready but there were still some finishing to do inside but at least we could live there and I was closer to my project. For a couple weeks dishes were washed in the bathtub, cooking was done on a hot plate and counter top oven. Master bath was finished, carpeting was not yet installed and the basement beckoned
I finished out the basement and its sort of a man cave. I had planned on a pool table but that space got filled with an extra refrig and freezer and now the computer. Probably took another year to wind up everything, had to build a garage and then another one.
I made some mistakes that I wished I hadn’t made but not too many. Some things were done twice, some things never have been done.
Besides the what and where of retirement comes the how. In any case, my opinion is that one must have one’s retirement home paid for before retirement, unless you are fortunate to have a good income. House payments, along with taxes/insurance and maintenance will eat up a lot of most people’s monthly retirement income. On the other hand, there are options available to enjoy without the burden of worrying about your abode.
My wife and I are rather frugal but she does like to travel. Living in the country we don’t need a lot of ‘nice’ clothes. I got by for several years wearing out the clothes I had worked in and mostly wear jeans now. We don’t spend a lot of money at restaurants, maybe a couple lunches a month while we’re shopping. We have dinner out with friends for birthdays and anniversaries but all in all mostly we eat at home. A big garden in the summer provides therapy and fresh food. Mrs Fourscore cans and freezes a few things. We enjoy fresh fish but I can’t get her to eat venison, too bad, ’cause she can really cook. More for me is all I can say.
Our friends are similar, old, reclusive and comfortable being left alone. We help one another, drink a little coffee and socialize fairly often, more so in nice weather as opposed to winter. It was an easier transition for us because we moved back to where I had grown up and knew a few of the families. Trying to retire in an unfamiliar rural area would have been more difficult as folks tend to leave one another alone unless there is a commonality such as a church or club. We have great neighbors, in that no one bothers anyone.
A couple of my neighbors shoot a lot. If I don’t hear them shooting I begin to worry that something has happened.
There has been a lot of Glib discussion about retirement. If you have your place picked out and can negotiate a good bargain think about starting your new life. If it happens to have an abandoned old house perhaps the foundation can still be used, or the well, etc. Don’t worry about the grown up brush, 2 weekends and a fire will solve a lot of problems. All that junk on the outside has kept prospective buyers away and can be used to your advantage.
10 years pass quickly. We’ve owned this property 33 years now, been retired 27. We had to say good bye to a lot of friends over the years but way better to have had them along the way than have had to live somewhere else with out them.
The first ten years, 55 to 65, we were pretty much the same, physically. Then some tasks began to take longer, stuff got heavier, places got farther away. If you wait too long you may not be able to do those things you had planned to do when you retired. Good luck to all.