My Happy Place

Daylight Saving Time started today, one of the first harbingers of spring. Even before today, the days were getting noticeably longer and the temperatures warmer. I saw gophers on the golf course yesterday (I drove by, I don’t golf) – always the first sign of spring for me. All I need to “bring it home” is to see a robin.

I live in a place that has cold, dark winters for up to 7 months a year. To combat this, I take yearly tropical vacations – usually to Hawai’i – every February. That way, when I return home, winter is mostly behind me.

It was great to be back on Maui after being away for three years. There is *something* about those islands that speaks to me. I can spend hours watching the waves and listening to them crash on the shore. It’s almost hypnotic…meditative.

I also choose February because it’s when the humpback whales are there. The whales, the turtles, the waves – its bliss.

The trip was extra special this time because it was Martin’s first trip to Hawai’i. I loved seeing it through the eyes of someone who hasn’t experienced it. I also loved spending time there with someone who connects with nature. I find Hawai’i to be very spiritual, and to have someone to share that with made it even more so.

I found it interesting to get a text from Vanessa while I was in my happy place, to learn she was going to hers. We both find peace and personal growth in areas filled with natural beauty next to water. We come home rested, relaxed, and rejuvenated.

It’s important to have places that give us space and time. Some might find that in the busyness of a city. Others may find it climbing mountains or hang gliding. We all need a happy place – a place where our spirits sing.

Where is yours?

Retirement Planning

I’m sitting on the lanai of a rented condo in Maui on the eve of my 55th birthday and wondering how I can make it happen so I live here.

It’s funny how retirement planning takes on different meanings throughout our lives. My son will be 20 in a few weeks. I’ve been talking to him about saving money for retirement. His attitude, “Mom, if I haven’t made enough to live on by then, I don’t want to live”. Ah….the arrogance of youth, but I get it. At his age, 30 seems like forever.

When I started my teaching career, I imagined I’d be three years retired at this age, maybe with a grandchild or two to keep me occupied. I’d have a teacher’s pension and would likely do some substitute teaching to keep myself busy.

Little did I know, I’d give up teaching and work through being an educational psychologist before landing in instructional design. I have a small teacher’s pension, but not the one I planned on because I don’t have 30 years in the profession.

I’ve got RRSPs and investments, so I know I’m in good shape for retirement. I won’t be retiring in 4 years as was planned 10 years ago because I’m now on my own. My ex had significantly more RRSP savings, and the agreement was I’d support more of our life while we were working because I made more money, and he’d support more of our retirement. That worked so long as we were married. When your husband realizes he’s gay, that plan changes.

I’ve gone through my travel journals and have noted, many times, “All I want to do is live in a yurt with wifi, indoor plumbing, and volunteer for the Pacific Whale Foundation.” There was a time I looked at purchasing property on this island, but it wasn’t feasible. My financial advisor pointed out that – besides all the taxes, laws, estate issues – I could do a LOT of renting for the same amount of money.

He was right, of course. There’s so much world to see – why limit myself to just one spot? Well, because I love Maui. I feel at home here. I’ve been to the islands 18 times, and every time, I feel inspired, creative, at peace. Until the pandemic hit, I was planning my vacation for the following year as soon as I got home.

My 20 year old self had no idea the dream of living in Hawai’i would be something in my future. My 30 and 40 year old self saw it as something I’d very much like to do, but couldn’t afford. Twice, I’ve been approached by Hawaiian Airlines to interview for a position with them, and twice I had to turn it down. A family of three cannot live on an instructional designer’s salary down here (and truth be told, I much prefer Maui or the Big Island to Oah’u).

My 50-ish year old self now has a boyfriend who said he’d happily come visit me if I chose to be here part of the year, and an adult son who loves it here as much as me. I have a job I can do from anywhere in the world as long as I have a strong wifi connection.

My retirement planning doesn’t look the same as it did 20 or 30 years ago. I have the means to live as I’m currently living until the ripe old age of 98 – at which time I will run out of money and become my son’s problem. 🙂 Given my genetics, that lifespan is very likely. It didn’t factor in a love for travel in general, and a specific love for Maui – which has gotten more expensive to visit year after year.

To those who are just starting out, retirement age will come faster than you think. Plan for what you need, and add more for what you might want but don’t realize yet.

For those who are my age, we can still achieve our dreams. We may have to get creative in how we get to them, but it can happen. Maybe living here full-time isn’t achievable, but maybe 3 months a year is realistic. I don’t want to buy a timeshare, but maybe there’s a way to rent a two bedroom place and sublet the second bedroom for additional income and keep it free when people want to visit. Maybe I can rent out my condo at home for people who want to be close to the mountains for skiing during the winter months to help pay for me wanting to be close to the ocean during winter.

Where there’s a will, there’s a way, right? I’ll be 55 years old tomorrow and I’m still planning my retirement. I guess the take-away is to remain open; you never know what life is going to throw your way, and you need to be ready for all of it.

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