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The Light at the End of the Tunnel

September 2, 2012

Train TunnelMy father – the eternal pessimist – used to counter any claim about someone seeing ‘a light at the end of the tunnel’ with the query, ‘Are you sure it’s not just an oncoming train?’  Those who were accustomed to his witticisms (family, close friends) would chuckle and then pretty much ignore his negative slant on things; those who didn’t know him (well) would generally stare gape-mouthed for a moment or two before either trying to explain their belief in whatever good fortune they predicted was coming their way (usually without much success) or realizing (often a little late) that Dad was ‘just kidding’ (although I’m not sure he always was – there were many times in my life when he was convinced that the ‘good thing’ I saw coming down the pike would inevitably be followed by some catastrophe; such was my father’s lack of faith in the power of positive thinking).

Retirement LightStill, as September arrives this year (what, already?!?!? Yup – the hummingbirds have disappeared, the hawks have left the area, the squirrels are busy gathering acorns, the mornings are much cooler – particularly given the stifling heat and humidity we’ve experienced all summer – and we’re down to a scant 13 hours of sunlight each day) and everyone is focused on the inevitable ‘back to school’ migration that begins here on Tuesday, my husband and I are peering excitedly at a light that is most definitely shining at the end of our (well, his, actually) workaday tunnel.  It’s the very bright light of retirement, and it’s only five years away!

65Now, as many of you know, I left the teaching profession two years ago to pursue my dream of writing on a full time basis. Because I was on ‘the other side of 55’, I was not allowed to cash out my pension contributions (as I did when I left my previous teaching job in 2002 to run my own business for a couple of years) and so I became ‘an early retiree’ (not a ‘pensioner’, thank-you-very-much) who began collecting a nominal pension each month (I was only with the last college for 5 years, so I hadn’t contributed much to the plan). My husband had always planned to work until he reached 65, but he changed his mind in June when his pension statement arrived in the mail and he discovered that he would be eligible for an unreduced pension as early as September 1, 2017 (he will have reached the magic ‘80 factor’ – age + years of service – by that date).

Happy RetirementSince his pension is based on his pensionable earnings for his top five earning years (as well as number of employment years and a complicated set of mathematical calculations I won’t go into here) – and considering the fact that our provincial government has just mandated a wage freeze for all ‘public servants’, including college teachers, for at least the next two years – the monetary benefit of staying on for an additional 4 years would amount to a few dollars a month – certainly not enough to make it worth the grief (teaching is a stressful profession, let me tell you).  So, despite the fact that I am sure my father would tell us that we can’t possibly afford it (sorry, Dad!) August 31, 2017 will be my husband’s last day of full time employment as a community college professor.

Now, we’ve talked about ‘retirement’ and discussed vague plans for what we would do and where we might live and so forth for quite a few years now.  But the actual ‘event’ has always been a kind of distant, nebulous concept.  No longer! Now we have an actual date that we can actually begin to (and, in fact, already have) eagerly and constructively start planning towards.  It’s very exciting!

Potential Retirement Place

I could live here

We both agree that – while we love our house and its woodland surroundings – we definitely won’t be staying in the city. There is just too much traffic, too many people, too much ‘busyness’ (not to mention some weird / annoying neighbours in too-close proximity).  The plan is to find a nice house (not too big, not too small) with enough space (10+ acres; a mix of trees and open space) for us to stretch our legs, grow some vegetables (and sun-loving plants – I can’t grow anything here except deep shade vegetation), build my husband’s ‘dream shop’, and maybe keep a donkey or two. (Who knows the theme song to the TV show ‘Green Acres’ from the 60s? Come on, sing it with me …)

Paint and Decorate

No amount of painting or decorating will make my front hall looks like this.

With five years to plan, we can visit prospective retirement areas (we began the process this summer by spending a week in Prince Edward County – it’s a truly lovely region but everything’s a bit too remote for what we want) and review properties for sale online (even though we don’t plan to actually move for five or six years, I’ve already gotten a good idea of the kind of properties that are available in various areas we’re thinking about, and the prices we can expect to pay), and gradually whittle down our belongings to what we want to take with us.  And since there’s no real ‘rush’, we can do all the little fix ups and miscellaneous decorating tasks that will be required to make the house highly ‘sell-able’ when the time comes.  It’s like embarking on a five year adventure – one where we know there’s going to be a ‘happily ever after’ ending.

When I was young, I dreaded the idea of ‘getting old’ – now that I’m actually doing it (getting old), I realize it’s not so bad (well, parts of it are, but let’s just forget about those for now) – especially when your dreams are within reach when you get to … the other side of 55.

As One Journey Ends

  1. September 3, 2012 4:10 pm

    Margo, that’s great news! As many of us find out all too suddenly, not everyone gets to enjoy retirement, and I truly believe that a person should retire as soon as humanly possible to take advantage of whatever time is left in our time-bank vault. We’ll all be counting down the months with you and your hubby until the golden day arrives….keep us posted on your plans to move!

    • September 3, 2012 4:59 pm

      Thanks, Sylvia. I’ll definitely be writing about our plans as they unfold.


  2. September 3, 2012 11:39 am

    Having already taken the plunge into retirement about 20 months ago, I can re-affirm for you the enjoyment it brings. Within weeks I was physically feeling much better because there was no constant stress from my job. And, as you already know, it will come much faster than he can imagine. Hope you find that wonderful place to live!

    • September 3, 2012 12:58 pm

      I read a statistic that said retiring at 60 (vs.65) can add 7 years to your life! I certainly feel MUCH better now than when I was working full time. And just having that ‘looming’ deadline of ‘only 5 more years’ has already eased some of the lines of my husband’s face as he prepares to go back to work tomorrow!


  3. September 3, 2012 6:11 am

    Fantastic. I’ll be joining you about 6 months later on March 15, 2018. I have a countdown clock on my blog to remind me as if I’d forget. It isn’t always about the planning, it’s about being in a new stage of life. Happy countdown!

    • September 3, 2012 10:43 am

      Does the countdown clock measure days? Great idea! We’ve always done paper chains for the weeks in a teaching semester (we tear one off every Friday) but I thought one with 250+ rings on it (to retirement day) might be a bit much. Congrats!


  4. September 2, 2012 7:35 pm

    I just love this…I have been trying – unsuccessfully I might add – to engage my other half in retirement planning…after numerous attempts and getting the same response “I might be dead by then” I have given up the retirement as a couple model. I am getting my affairs in order, planning my social life & looking at manageable living spaces for one. When the day arrives (we are only 2 months to the day apart in age) I will give him a look of shock when he wants to tag along. That should get him into planning mode don’t you think?

    • September 2, 2012 7:45 pm

      My husband is 2.5 years younger than me and the idea of ‘retirement’ hadn’t really occurred to him until he saw how much I was enjoying mine. When the package came saying he could retire at 61, he got quite enthused. Now he can’t wait. If your husband doesn’t ‘buy in’, leave him in the dust and enjoy your well-earned ‘time off’. My guess is that he won’t be far behind!


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