We all want to enjoy life, but as the end of it draws nearer, that desire takes on more urgency. What will it take to create a satisfying future?
Even though we are in our early 60s, my wife and I have been thinking about our vision for retirement for about a decade. Our ideas evolved and slowly gelled as we kept asking ourselves what we would need to really enjoy the final act in our lives’ play.
The list of things I don’t want to do was long, so I concentrated on those that I love. What floated to the top was performing. I love to act. However, performing opportunities don’t come around regularly.
I enjoy reading. I am rarely without a book (on my iPhone or iPad) in my hand.
Finally, I am easily bored, so I never plan to voluntarily stop working.
This introspection eventually led to an epiphany. Why not create a podcast in which I both read and perform short stories? So, in October, I began my retirement avocation: a podcast called Litreading (litreading.com). This soon led to another short story podcast—for kids—called Readastorus (as in “read a story to us”). Now I have something that I will likely relish doing until I am no longer able to utter coherent sentences.
However, I would not have been able to embark upon this new endeavor without one crucial thing: money. A studio costs money (luckily, I already had one). There is a monthly cost for hosting the podcasts. Then there is the added expense of editing (which I could do myself, but it’s a time-consuming process). Thankfully, the costs haven’t been excessive, but for many, paying the monthly bills could be a challenge.
Next came the matter of where to live. There are myriad “best places to retire” lists, but we wanted a place that was right for us. A community for my wife, some arts for both of us, affordability for me (there’s that money issue again).
We love the place we live now for several reasons, but it is missing a few of our smaller wants and it’s definitely not affordable. I believe it’s foolish to live somewhere that might cause future financial stress when there are so many incredible places to live that cost so little.
The last thing we need as we grow older—and, inevitably, frailer—is fiscal anxiety. So, part of the search had to involve affordability. To determine our financial comfort zone required a little thought and a bit of guesswork.
We wanted to find a home that will allow us to survive on our Social Security payments (starting at age 70, when they will be dramatically higher). In that way, we could use the income from our investments to thrive—and, if need be, protect against unexpected expenses.
I’m happy to report that we recently managed to find what we believe is just the right place to live our third act (or fourth quarter). On a recent trip, we ran across a beautiful house in a small, arts-oriented town for less than the equity in our current home (although we will likely make payments on our new 3.625 percent mortgage and invest the gain from our old house to try and make a bit more).
Again, money drove much of our quest for an enjoyable future as we asked ourselves these critical questions: How much do we have now? How much income will we have when we are no longer earning? What will it cost to live out the rest of our lives securely? After that, will we have enough left over to pursue those things that give us joy?
After answering all of those questions, I am more confident than ever before that a fantastic future awaits.
The host of the nationally syndicated Don McDonald Show for over 20 years, Don now co-hosts Talking Real Money with Tom Cock on Seattle’s KOMO radio Saturdays at noon (talkingrealmoney.com). Don also publishes the investing magazine, real investing journal (realinvestingjournal.com)