Sunday, March 19, 2017

Chicken Soup for the Retiree Soul

      It has been a wonderful 4 years to date since retirement, traveling across the country 3 times as well as Alaska and Baja California.  We have seen so much and been able do pretty much exactly as we pleased during this adventure.  We planned for this for many years and have no intention of stopping.  But, there are several lessons both easy and those that can be pretty damned difficult that need to be learned along the way.  These are tasks to improve your mental health through stress relief. 

HAVE A HOBBY:  I have been perfectly happy being retired with no ambition other than to cook for us, hunt, fish, and my blossoming photography.  In fact I often wonder if I have always been a bit ADHD.  I do not often enjoy simply relaxing, but need something to constantly occupy my time.  Something constructive.  Barb is very happy just to sit for hours reading or playing games on her IPhone.  She also dabbles in prospecting, rock hounding, and jewelry making at times.   We both love to Geocache, but don't do it as much as we should; great exercise.

SELF IMPROVEMENT:  I am nearly 64 and retired.  I have a PhD in Educational Psychology and retirements from both the USAF and Kalkaska Public Schools.  It took me awhile to realize, but that is all behind me.  Been there, done that, but it doesn't really count anymore.  It is important to continue your education throughout life, whatever interests you, be it online courses or local opportunities.  Gardening, photography, crafts, and cooking to name a few. 

EMPLOYMENT:   This doesn't mean going back to work in the education or postal field, but it is available.  In fact, Barb has been offered employment seasonally each holiday and I have been asked if I was planning on Guest Teaching.  There are plenty of other options available when traveling.  Work camping in parks, state, and national forests including camp hosts.  The work load is minimal (somewhere between 10-24 hours a week and you get your camp spot free)  For example at Lockhart State Park in Texas work camping provides you with a free campsite for at least two months, free golf at their course, and a full time cart at your disposal.  This appeals to us except that we don't want to be tied down in one spot for several months.  There are also availabilities for retirees in resort areas for part time help.  Yeah, I can mow a golf course.  Some feel the need to keep busy via employment and these are some of the options.  For me it has been this blog and photography.  I self published my first photo journal coffee table book last year and am currently working on my second.  This is an individual choice. 
MONIES & BUDGETS:   This has actually been the easy part of us.  Our house was paid off a full year before retirement so our only outstanding bills are taxes and insurance.  All our utilities are turned off and the house winterized when we're on the road.  Barb switched all our account to online banking prior to retirement and although I was always like the 'cat on a hot tin roof' the first year she has done a wonderful job.  We do budget ourselves fairly close and boondock whenever possible.  This saves a tremendous amount of money.  Boondocking alone saves us around $1100 per year.  We do the local coupon thing to save at the stores which are usually Wal Mart and H-E-B (a Texas store I LOVE).  All our bigger purchases or gas we use our Cabelas Card which accrues us a good deal of points redeemable at their store amounting to around $200 a year.  Never fail to save for longer trips, such as Canada, Mexico, or Alaska.  Everything always costs twice as much as you plan.  IMPORTANT:  If at all possible do not use your cards outside of the U.S. as their ATM software is not anywhere as good as ours and you can't believe how many travelers are the victims of identity theft each year, including us our first year.  Thank God for Life Lock.  It really works.  Plan on getting foreign currency before you leave the country at YOUR bank.  YOUR bank usually doesn't charge you for this service, but others do.  Wells Fargo (not our bank) charged us $65 to change $1000 into Canadian.  We already have Canadian money scheduled for pickup with our bank prior to our Alaska run in May.  We'll use this to cover gas and whatever camping costs up and back.  Don't forget your passport & drivers license and be sure to occasionally check the expiration date.
Mail forwarding for us changed this past year.  USPS keeps changing the rules, never making it easier for the consumer.  We finally just got a P.O. Box and gave a key to a friend of ours who forwards our mail when we request.  About every 5 weeks is sufficient unless you're expecting something. 
TAXES:  We are nowhere near home during tax preparation time.  Most of our 1099Rs and 1095s are available online and I print them out when available, usually during February.  If not, then wait for the mail.  Barb maintains contact with our accountant at home so that when everything is ready on our end we send it certified/insured.  Our taxes are submitted online and any refunds transmitted to our accounts.  One particular 'snitch' on our end is the fact that my military retirement doesn't take out any Michigan State taxes and I have not been able to remedy this problem yet.  Michigan only recently began to tax retirees and the government is always a 'bit' slow to catch up.  We remedy this by having extra taken out of Barb's so that it somewhat balances out in the end.  Remember, that if you do work during retirement you'll need to get those forms as well. 
HEALTH CARE:  This may seem a 'no brainer', but on the road adds new challenges.  For us it mandated carrying up to date copies of our entire medical records.  These are easily accumulated if you coordinate with your local health care provider.  These are instrumental if issues arise on the road so everyone is playing on the same field.  Get all your checkups, physicals, and dental cleanings done while home.  Also prescriptions can be a 'snagglewoppy' as well.  You have to keep current with your physician before departure and then manage the constant coordination game between CVS, Rite Aide, Walgreens, and whoever.  SNAFUs here can cause delays when they have to contact your physician for coordination and hopefully, resolution.  None of these franchises are in every state.  A relative of my wife suggested we use WalMart because they are in every state.  This has worked out beautifully for me this winter.  There are NO coordination worries and they even send me a text when it ready for pickup, usually within 15 minutes while I am shopping in the store.  EXERCISE, more important now than ever.  Several times in the past couple of years I have realized that my morning stretching and walking goes a long ways to a happier day.  You'll notice I don't mention mental health, but I figure this entire blog chapter addresses that.   Health Care applies to your 'furbabies' as well.  Plan on checkups and shots while home, get enough meds for 6 months on the road, and take their medical records as well.   Roux is a hunting dog so we carry an extra pack full of all the first aid and necessities while in the field.  If crossing borders into Canada or Mexico be sure to check their requirements for pets as additional veterinary and shot documents are required.
VEHICLE/RV MAINTENANCE:  A stress filled subject often overlooked by new retirees.  After all, our camping/traveling experience was limited to about 30 days a year which didn't require much effort or planning unless something broke.  Plan for it.  It probably will break.  Nothing ever goes as planned and everything costs twice as much on the road.  I keep extra lightbulbs, fuses, extra hose washers (even an extra hose/3 total), water line parts, plumbers tape, trouble light, and all the tools necessary to fix the most important things.  One piece of equipment I have found very handy is a can of Rescue 911 or Flex Seal.  It came in handy for the little leaks resulting from replacing the roof top TV antenna and cabling.   Don't underestimate Duct Tape, rope, 550 cord, or WD-40 as well.  Sometimes you just have to go to a service center, but this can help keep the simpler costs in check.  The vehicle or tow truck is a bit more straight forward.  I carry extra Power Diesel Cetane, windshield wiper solvent, air compressor, jumper cables, two 5 full gallons gas cans (unleaded & diesel), and the myriad of other supplies/tools necessary for boondocking.  More times than not we are farther from service than we want to believe.  If you need to, get that oil change/tire rotation done early.  I carry an extra spare tire and oil/filter for longer trips into Mexico or the Alaskan Highway.  Oh yeah, don't forget the Fabreeze Air Fresheners for your vents........Barb, Me, Roux, and Bones on the road for months.  Yeah, got it? 
MAINTAINING MARITAL BLISS:  Here we go.  After so many years of marriage and work Barb and I both welcomed retirement with open arms, but perhaps for different reasons.  I remember the first year after I retired from the US Air Force we nearly imploded as nobody was used to me being home all the time.  That took some time and compromise on my part to keep things on track.  This retirement has been better, but.....?  I was so very ready to get back to rededicating myself to "Rich n Barb Time" while Barb was very happy to relax, travel, and spend time together....probably in that order.  After many years of marriage NOBODY are the same people anymore.  We have grown as individuals as well as a couple.  After about a year on the road I discovered I was asking "Are you okay, is anything the matter?" about 374 times a week.  Sometimes even the littlest issues caused the most friction.  Travel plans never seemed to be a problem unless it was deciding how much time for the kids or our families and how much time on the road for ourselves......little stuff.  We did have to make it VERY CLEAR that while we are retired and can afford to travel as we see fit, we do not have money to throw around.  We're on the road 6 months a year yet have had to explain to family that we aren't planning to spend 50% of it with them.  We help when we can, but sometimes the word "no" needs to be utilized. Harmony in our home has been improved by realizing that we each need some "ME TIME".  One way we have solved this is CHORE DAY.  I take the laundry/grocery shopping wherever to do, while Barb cleans the RV.  It accomplishes two tasks as well as gives each of us at least a couple of hours.  But, occasionally a different reminder is needed.   Recently I had to make a trip to Cabelas in a town about 30 miles away and just figured Barb would want to come along.  She asked to be taken to the RV instead and when I asked why......her look told me everything I needed to know.  Her internal pressure relief valve had to be placed in the 'solo bleed' position.  Ah yes, ME TIME.  I took my time and even brought back KFC for!  I don't always see it, but Thank God for a woman that will remind me.  Yeah, yeah, I know.....behind every great man is.......We also try to dedicate about 2 days a week with absolutely no plans at all and there won't be.  Do what we each want to do ourselves unless it is an agreed upon shared activity. The last bit of adjustment came in the arena of the kitchen.  I love to cook, but sometimes my meals can border on the extravagant while my wife likes simple.  Additionally, I had to learn to cook smaller meals because an RV refrigerator is not as roomy as the one at home.  I do plan large meals for the day before departure with leftovers for travel days which provides easy meal prep on arrival the first evening.  Our 2 quart Crockpot works very well for this.  We both love to try regional specialties as well as dine out at nearly every destination, but I have scaled back my menu a bit so that she isn't overwhelmed by "Le plus grand repas jamais"  You have to realize, and this is important, that in marraige these adjustments are, and should be, a never ending process. 
LAST BUT NOT LEAST:   DON'T BE IN A HURRY.  You're retired for goodness sake. Don't stress over anything that you can't do NOW, but just plan to do it soon.  Recognize that neither you or your spouse is perfect, but is your soulmate.  We couldn't do any of this without each other.  Tomorrow is promised to no one.  Give thanks everyday for what you are able to enjoy, it won't last forever.    Having a Bucket List is important, but it is so much more fun if most of it is mutual.  Retirement is a change of lifestyle, but it doesn't have to be limiting as long as you plan for it.....both of you, together.  Lessons learned from the road....

"A happy marriage is a long conversation that always seems too short"
                                                                                Andre Maurois

WiFi courtesy of Verizon MiFi

1 comment:

  1. Beautiful! Thank you! Chad and I have often talked that what you and barb are doing is exactly where we want to be in 20! Your explanations and reasons make logical sense. You two are beautiful people, we pray your journey continues for a long time! God Bless!