The quiet alarm wakes me at 5:30. Carefully extracting myself from the bed, I dress and make my way to meet my acquaintances for a 6:45 tee time. Yes, I am retired and this is the only time when the alarm is always set.
This article is in response to a request to highlight what I believe is a successful retirement. However, I have been most fortunate in attaining this status, and this is personally anecdotal.
For statistical starts, I retired from the private practice as a sole practitioner, primarily a divorce lawyer, after 40 years. I’ve been retired, as of the writing of this article, for over 15 years. I felt burned-out, which emphasized my thoughts of retiring. The timing was somewhat coincidental; i.e., our children were in different parts of the country; my lease arrangement at the office was terminating; and my widowed mother died a year earlier and I no longer needed to care for her.
For those who contemplate retirement, there are a few categorical concerns, which I will briefly mention. To start with, answer the question of whether or not this would be a full retirement and, if so, include a move away from your practice jurisdiction. Since I moved out of State, I have little advice for those who will continue a part-time practice. Most of the following is the experience of one who moved away from Illinois.
Two basic and major areas of consideration are the emotional/psychological concerns and the financial concerns.
Are you prepared to leave family, close friends and acquaintances and move to a relatively unknown and unexplored venue? Can you imagine yourself as a senior, starting in a new city and making new friends? When we moved to Las Vegas, my wife found a newcomers organization. Through that group, we’ve formed very close bonds with many people who also moved without close family here. Without that connection, this might not have been a successful retirement.
Are you prepared to abandon the cultural activities that have been a major part of your social and entertainment life? Some of the hardest actions we took on leaving were to give up our season tickets to Lyric Opera (opening night, main floor); Goodman Theater (opening night, 10th row center); Chicago Symphony (1st row, 1st balcony); and Chicago Bears (had since Wrigley Field). We moved to the wasteland of culture as we knew it. We acknowledge that we now live in the “Entertainment Capital of the World”, and we do take advantage of that entertainment. But, frankly, the Las Vegas Philharmonic does not compare to CSO. Of course, if NASCAR and the country/western life is your preference.....
There will be the concern of what will I do with all that free time? We’ve found volunteering is the answer (besides golf, travel and bowling). I have been a mentor in one of our middle schools, a reader for our local NPR station, the president of a local genealogy society and, every four years, politically active. Together with friend activities, our days are full and sometimes even intellectually exciting.
As I indicated, I have been very fortunate through no deliberate action on my part. My wife was a Public Relations/Marketing person, and one of her clients was a financial advisor. We presented him with our asset list, our anticipated cost of living, our income from entitlements (Social Security and military pension), and what we believed inflation would be for the next 35 years (taking me to age 100). We also found an internet program from an investment site where we input the same information. Both sources indicated that, based on our circumstances, we could afford to retire. However, the financial advisor added a caveat on his conclusion, i.e., we would have insufficient income with which to pay a mortgage and would have to pay cash for our residence.
Our situation was such that we could not retire and have sufficient income to stay in Chicago. It was either not retire or move. We then came up with five criteria for the move. These are personal to us but have some relevance to all.
The first: Cost of Living. Not only the price of housing, but the tax structure and the amenities offered senior citizens. Yes, I’m talking about no income tax, a relatively low sales tax and “twofers” from the casinos.
Second: Weather. If you reread the first paragraph, consider that it applies to mid-winter season and that when we finished the round of golf, the temperature was in the low 60s.... and sunny. Summertime is HOT, but everything is air conditioned and we learned to adapt. A great benefit is waking to bright sunlight over 300 days a year (OK, not at 5:30 a.m. in February).
Third: University. A college or university will provide some cultural activities and usually will offer free programs for seniors. I understand that by reading this you’d never know that I attended playwriting classes at UNLV.
Fourth: Major Transportation Hub. Since our family is spread all over the U.S. and we enjoy traveling, we wanted a city from which we could go to any major destination in the world with only one stop.
Fifth: Major Military Installation. Making an arbitrary decision in 1954 to stay in the Army Reserve after completing two years of active duty became a 30-year career that provides me with a pension, free medical benefits and access to the base pharmacy, commissary and exchange system. As we get older, this becomes a major concern.
I am grateful to so many people who have contributed to our successful retirement. The friends in Chicagoland with whom we are still close (thanks to email and SKYPE), our new friends in Las Vegas, our financial advisors from the time we instituted our retirement savings plans, and, last but not least, our families who visit and who we visit at leisure.
Those of you who have read my e-mails on the Family Law chatgroup know that I end with a disclaimer. I do so now. My situation is individual to my wife and myself and may not be applicable to you. Las Vegas, while we enjoy our life here, may not be suitable for you. But, please, if you are tired of a lot of accounts receivable, unappreciative and non-paying clients, and unprofessional colleagues on and in front of the bench, investigate the possibility of living your remaining years in quiet satisfaction away from the maddening crowd. ■