My wife and I thought we had planned well for retirement. We saved a little money and we bought two houses besides the one we live in. I have authored some books over the years, thinking I would be drawing royalties. We were pretty sure that combination of income would be enough for retirement. Then the housing market dropped and inflation set in.
Can you believe that 20 years ago the price of gas was under a dollar a gallon, and now it is constantly pushing four dollars? The same holds true of many if not most items we buy (except for houses). And that inflation has soared in recent years. As a result our savings has gone way down in value, as have the houses, which we are now collecting monthly payments on that do not amount to near as much as they would have a few years ago. And royalties on my books have dwindled to a few hundred dollars a year.
I had thought Julia and I would be living in contented retirement in our home in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania, spending our days in wedded retirement bliss. I would be pursuing my creative efforts (I have won several awards for screenwriting at film festivals and produced a couple of my films myself on shoe-string budgets, but I have yet to sell a screenplay). We also hoped to be fishing and golfing and traveling (cheaply) to places we hadn’t been before.
Instead, at the age of 71, I have put off retirement and am working two jobs while continuing my creative efforts in my spare time.
Once a week we travel from the Poconos to New York, where I have a psychotherapy practice. My practice has fallen over recent years and as a result I only see patients about three-and-a-half days a week. Insurance company rates for psychotherapy have actually dropped, so I am earning less per patient. The good thing is that by limiting my private practice, I have three-and-a-half day weekends.
In addition, I am also a part-time teacher. For the last twelve years I have been an adjunct professor at the Borough of Manhattan Community College, where I teach two or three courses a semester, usually Introduction to Psychology and Human Development. Fortunately, this teaching for a city college has provided me with free health insurance.
My health insurance has been free as long as I keep teaching. I could get Medicare B to cover out-of-hospital medical expenses by paying the $104 a month, but as long as I can get insurance free by teaching, I’m opting to do that. We’ve had to pay for my wife’s medical insurance ourselves, but that will change next year. Fortunately, our income is low enough so that we qualify for a government subsidy, since my wife hasn’t been able to work due to a back injury. I was able to buy a comprehensive health insurance policy on the health exchange that includes dental coverage, and the government subsidy pays all but $24 a month.
By being very careful about our food, gas and other expenses, we manage to live a fairly contented life. We have found the supermarkets and farmer’s markets with the lowest prices and the gas stations with the best deals on gas. If we play golf we go to the out-of-the way courses that have the lowest fees.
This summer we went on a 9-day vacation that cost under $500. We drove around the East, taking in the Shenandoah National Park, Washington DC, Elk Neck State Park in Maryland (on Chesapeake Bay) and Amish Country in Pennsylvania. Many nights we camped out in parks. In Washington, DC we stayed at a cheap motel on the outskirts of the city for two nights. We bought food for the trip and cooked it on our portable gas grill.
Actually, I don’t feel that bad about working. As a psychoanalyst I have read up on research on stress and retirement, and I have found that people who put off their retirement and continue to work live longer than those who retire. That may be because some people do not know how to handle their retirement time and have conflicted feelings about being out of the work force. Some people get stressed during retirement and sometimes even depressed.
I still enjoy helping people as a psychoanalyst and teacher, and I am using my long weekends to write screenplays and produce video poems, which I upload to youtube.
I work, live, and accept what is. That’s all anybody can do, isn’t it?