There have been many changes for me since August 31, 2017. On that day, I officially retired as partner and Chief Compliance Officer of PDS Planning, Inc. in Columbus. Having worked for a total of almost 50 years (five of those while I was in college), there was more than a bit of trepidation as I neared retirement. Would I really fill my time? Would I find myself longing to be at work again, missing the daily interactions with colleagues and meetings with clients? Would I be able to sit back and not be on top of the financial markets? These were just a few of the thoughts running through my 67 year-old brain as I cleaned out my desk and office.
Notice that I did not include the future of the company I helped build in my concerns. Its success was a foregone conclusion, with second and third-generation owners already continuing the commitment to exceptional service established at the beginning. Multi-generations of clients shared our values of hard work, responsibility, kindness, and joy. It was not a drudge to come to work early in the morning with that kind of atmosphere. I knew PDS would thrive without me, as much as that caused my ego a bit of chagrin.
The first three months of retirement were taken up by a lot of travel, which allowed me to think about something besides being retired from my long career. A river cruise in Portugal, visiting friends in Tucson, a visit with my brother in Florida, and a surprise trip for my wife to New York City in early December kept me occupied. (An aside…if you haven’t been to NYC during the holiday season, it really is wonderful.) Then there was the cleaning out and redecorating of my home office – my goodness, I had accumulated stuff. Add my continuing and growing work time as a musician, time with friends, and other projects, and I was indeed filling my time.
I had expected to work one or two days a week, perhaps at a local wine shop. Fortunately I do not have to work (and I realize many retirees do not have this option). I am still waiting for a part-time, day-time option. In the meantime, I have been able to increase my volunteer work with a local food pantry, collecting meat donations from Kroger and delivering 200-400 pounds of meat to the pantry each week. And I remain on the board of trustees for the Columbus Symphony Orchestra.
My wife and I recently joined a health club no more than one minute from our home. Run by one of the area’s largest healthcare corporations, it has marvelous facilities and more options than we can possibly explore. Some former clients are also members. The annual cost is an investment in our health, somewhat neglected over the last few years. I still have some weight to lose, but I am determined to live as long a life as I am able.
With spring finally coming after a very long, cold and dreary winter here in Ohio, I am eager to be outside, preparing our gardens and yard for summer. As some readers already know, my wife and I have a national display garden for the American Daylily Society, with thousands of blooms during peak visitor season in late June through early August. That means lots of intense, almost-daily exercise – hauling heavy bags of mulch and compost, moving huge ceramic container pots, digging and dividing plants, mowing, trimming, stooping, kneeling, sweating – it is hard but very fulfilling work.
One confession is that I have rarely looked at the value of my portfolio, and I doubt I will increase the time spent watching my investments. My allocation has remained the same despite the ups and downs of the last seven months. I open my Schwab statements each month and find the value is almost unchanged since the end of 2017. I will rely on the investment team at PDS to notify me of any real concerns. In the meantime, I have found being disconnected from the daily thrashings of the financial world reduces my stress levels considerably. I still wonder why so many retirees with investment portfolios spend so many anxious hours worrying, especially those individuals who do not need to take regular distributions. As I suggested for years, find an allocation that lets you sleep at night, and back away. So far, at least, I have been able to do that.
Perhaps the biggest change personally has been my sleep pattern. I used to get up around 5 AM and was in the office shortly after 6 each morning. I cannot tell you how much sleep I got the first few months of retirement. Retired friends told me I would find out how mentally tired I really was, and they were right.
These musings are not meant to be a proscribed retirement life for others. Everyone brings different lifestyle decisions, financial security, personal health status, and time constraints into their retirement reality. This is simply how my life has evolved in recent months. No doubt there will be changes, probably some significant changes. When I decided on a retirement date last spring, it seemed a long ways off. But as most retirees have found, time does indeed seem to move faster the older we get. Fortunately, planning for my retirement (including writing about my thoughts, expectations, and plans) was a wise decision. It forced me to consider many aspects of retirement life. Financially, the biggest relief is not having a mortgage payment. This single-biggest expense for most people is not a factor for us, and I am really glad we made the decision to convert to a 15-year mortgage years ago. As I wrote in my blogs last year, the timing seemed right. It was, indeed.
There have been some surprising aspects of retirement, too, and I will comment on those in future articles.