"You've earned it, you deserve it!"
Meet Yvonne- Physical Therapist, long-time resident of the Bronx, proud grandmother, and budding retiree. Yvonne sat down with 3rd Wind Network to chat about what life is like only a few days into her experience and how she's using her changed finances to prioritize what matters most.
[3WN] How long have you been retired?
[Yvonne] My official retirement started February 6th, so it's been 4 days.
4 days in?
4 days and 3 hours [laughs]. I've been preparing for it, because I recently used up some time that I had saved for the past 3 weeks. So technically, it feels like a month.
When did you decide to retire?
I started thinking about it last year simply because of my physical condition. I started having back pain and it was impacting my ability to work. Not enough to stop me from working completely, but enough to have side effects at the end of the day. So I started contemplating retirement.
What has been noteworthy in your few days of retirement so far?
My alarm is still on! So, I still wake up to turn it off. But, unlike before when I used to hit snooze, now I just turn it OFF! I find myself waking up at the same time and preparing my coffee. But after I have my coffee I can lay down, go back to bed or just relax for a few minutes.
Have you encountered anything that you had not anticipated facing in retirement? Any surprises so far?
Yes, I didn't realize how long the day was. Before, I would get ready to go to work and the day would pretty much fly by. Now, I have a whole day to try to plan and structure. So, that's been a change and a surprise for me. It's one thing to do it for a couple of days, but to do it day after day, that was the surprising part. I wouldn't say that I get bored, but it's a different feel to your day. All of a sudden it's like a newfound freedom. I'm still out in wonderland, 'oh boy' I really have all this time to do what I need to do!
Let me give you an example: my car inspection was due in the month of February. Whereas, when I was working I would have to figure out my days, figure out when I had the most amount of time to take it to a mechanic to get it inspected. I was able to just say 'ok, I want to take it in Wednesday' and the mechanic was able to accommodate my time, because it was during off peak hours. So I have much more flexibility to do what I want to do.
What have you done with your free time so far?
I did some minor home renovations. Certain things in my apartment that I wanted to spruce up but never had the time to do, but now I can do them at my leisure. I'm starting to love my home more. I also find that now I'm able to contact friends and actually have a conversation on the phone instead of maybe sending a text, because I do have time to talk.
It's strange because I've always been a go, go, go person, my life has always been very structured. So it's refreshing; retirement has been a stop and smell the roses experience. I talk to people now. People that I see in my building they've known me for many years, we pass each other all the time. Whereas before we used to exchange the nice formalities, the 'hi, how are you?,' now I stop and we have a conversation.
So quality of exchanges with others has been enhanced?
Tell me about your granddaughter
My darling granddaughter, Kaylin, is 6 years old. Now that I'm retired I'm more available for her. I would see her often when I was working, but it was different because I was more rushed. Now when I pick her up from school I'm more patient, I'm not tired. Our interactions and engagements are more rewarding for both of us now.
I enjoy this time, but there are also things I look forward to doing for myself. Before, I had to work, take care of the grandmotherly duties, I still had more work to finish up when I got home. By the time I finished up I was tired, I was beat. So, I have more leisure time to do things at my pace.
If you had to give someone advice in terms of planning for retirement what would that be? What have been your takeaways so far?
Well, it's still early for me so I'm learning as I go along. But, one of the things that did concern me was finances. When you retire your income bracket changes and it is less than when you were employed. We're still part of the generation that will collect Social Security but it doesn't compare to your regular salary. And I also learned that even though your job might give a pension, it looks good on paper, but it can be shocking to find out what the monthly take-home amount is. So for any young person, start planning for and saving towards your retirement. Stop looking at it as if money is being taken out of your check, but look at it in terms of money you're preparing for your future with. The financial part of retirement is something that I suggest folks look at way in advance.
However, as part of my planning process, I've started looking at my finances in terms of what's really necessary and meaningful, so I'm directing my money in a different vain based on my goals. For instance traveling. Instead of buying those cute shoes that I will wear twice and leave in the closet, I'm earmarking a lot of my expenses towards my goals. I find that I need less, I can prepare my own meals during the day so I buy less food outdoors, so my meals are healthier and more cost effective. I don't drive as much so the wear and tear on my car is much less. So, I'm finding that I don't need as much money as I did before. It balances itself out. But the biggest shock was making a financial adjustment.
What are some things you'd like to accomplish during this first year of retirement?
Get my health back on track. I've been suffering from back pain, partially related to the physicality of my work and lack of adequate exercise. I want to start getting my body to feel stronger with less pain. That will give me the energy to do the things I'd like to do such as explore, travel, share time with my granddaughter so she can learn about the world.
My father will be ninety years old this year, and I thought it was very important in addition with the time I have to be able to spend time with him. I've been able to spend more quality bonding time with him, sit down and talk with him, even accompany him to doctor appointments. This makes a difference and now I have a better understanding of what's going on with him and I can also be an advocate for him with his doctor. Sometimes we don't realize how important that is for our parents to make sure that we have an available person to advocate so this has allowed me to do that.
Any final words?
Retirement can be a scary thing for someone who's worked, had structure and a timeline of things to do all their life. The newfound freedom can be so alien that you're almost caught dead in your tracks when you finally have the opportunity to embrace it but I say, you've earned it, you deserve it.