Mike and I are both Baby Boomers. Mike is 10 years older than I. When he decided to retire at the age of 62 and told me he wanted to travel the world now that he could we had to figure out a way to make that work. We mapped out what life would be like for him retired and me still working for another 10 years. Mike hates being alone and he is not one to be off doing one thing while I’m doing another. I am also a workaholic and at every job I had I worked in excess of 40 hours a week. Mike wasn’t going to be happy with me working that hard elsewhere and not enjoying life with him.
Then we looked at life living on his social security. To make that work we knew we would have to sell everything and live in countries where we could live more economically until I can file for social security in 10 years time and we can breathe a little easier. There was no way to live in the US on his $1500 a month social security; this is a sad statement, but true. To family and friends who do not even have a passport option one seemed like the safer bet. And then they realized that I had never lived my life going for the safer bet and we went with option two.
During the time we have been traveling (3 years this coming June) we have both read article after article warning baby boomers that they won’t have enough money to retire; that they need to work until they are in their 70’s and perhaps beyond; how they shouldn’t loan money to their children; how baby boomers are the ones keeping the travel industry afloat since they are the ones paying for family group travel and more stories all with the boogey man standing behind them warning them that retirement in the style they are currently living or want to live is not doable unless they have millions stashed away in the bank.
Enough already! Let’s put some balance into this mix.
While you were building your family and having children you increased the size of your home; some of you to almost 5,000 square feet of living space. This means you also filled a house with all the things that made you comfortable. That was great.
Now it’s most likely just you and your spouse and its time for the tough questions.
How often does anyone come to spend the night? Once a month; once a quarter; ever?
How often are the five bedrooms full? Once a year; never?
Can you make do with a two bedroom place? Be honest. Answers to questions one and two will answer this.
What should you do with all the ‘stuff’ you’ve accumulated during your life? Sell it or give it all away! If your kids want that stuff make them responsible for it now, not later. We did that. More surprising was how much of the stuff we thought so highly of no one else wanted. Do not assume that the stuff you hold dear your kids will want. You might be surprised in what they decide to do with the things you think they will hold on to.
You know what I regret the most now that I look back at my life? I regret all the money I spent in accumulating things. I wish I had known what life could be like and I wouldn’t have lived in a large home with lots of furniture and lots of clothing and other things I really didn’t need. I’m sorry I had a home that slept nine and clothing that filled three closets and a TV in every room. I wish I had some of that money back now so that I could travel to more places and meet more people. I’m sorry I didn’t buy lots of investment property and have lots of tenants to help me keep the money flowing and I’m sorry I didn’t live in a small one room shack someplace with a bed and a table and nothing else because that is all I really needed.
I feel sad when I see articles that say that seniors won’t be retiring until they are in their 70’s, if at all. I mean if you love what you are doing that’s great. If you are working in order to be comfortable in retirement you have the wrong idea of retirement or in my opinion you are listening to the wrong folks. Everyone works to have money for shelter, food and warmth. Nothing else really matters. What is the real magic number of how much money you need to retire? What is the real number you need every month to be comfortable? It might not be as high a number as you think.
Reports say that the Millennials are actually living a minimalist’s life. They aren’t interested in buying the big homes and filling them with stuff. They want a smaller footprint and to do more meaningful things in life and they want to travel more. In this instance perhaps they are the ones who have it right.
We are however the Baby Boomer Generation. We are the generation that demonstrated for change in civil rights, women’s right and gay rights. We are the generation that changed the music scene bringing the sounds of rock and roll, Motown, Disco, pop and rap into the mainstream culture. We did nothing like our parents before us and we have never let others tell us what to think, what to do or what to say. I’m proud to be a Baby Boomer. I’m even happier as a retired Boomer.