I’m semi-retired and my mate Alan is completely retired. I’ve never really believed in the idea of sacrificing now to plan ahead so I could retire. I thought I would just work until the day I died. I’ve always practiced “live for today,” while Alan did some of that, but he, a stockbroker, practiced what he preached, and prepared for retirement. It all seemed too “normal” to me to get married, have kids, then become empty nesters and retire. Alan and I have been in a committed relationship for 28 years now, but never married, and we’ve kept our money separate for 25 of the 28 years. He has a grown daughter from a previous marriage while I have no children, and we’ve been living a fun, somewhat extravagant life with a city home (his) and a mountain home (mine), and now here we were looking and retirement. The retirement thing brought up many new issues for us, especially my spending habits, giving up my Denver psychotherapy office, and where we were going to live in the winters now that we didn’t have to be in Denver full-time.
Alan and I have always had different belief systems about money, but since we didn’t ever join our money together, we never fought about these issues. I always paid my own expenses plus my half (my idea, not his) when we went out together. This was true until we started talking about his retirement, and his desire for me to go to a warmer climate with him in the winters. Even though I was tired of the winters in Colorado, I fought him at first, especially since I had very little money saved and couldn’t figure out how we were going to pull it off. Since we hardly ever spoke about money, you can imagine my surprise when he told me that he had saved money for our retirement and that I wouldn’t have to worry. He made me an offer I couldn’t refuse: If I would close my counseling office in Denver, he would start covering all the bills for both of us. As exciting as it seemed, I was terrified. I had always been independent and had vowed to never be dependent on a man like my mother was. Part of the agreement was also that I had to curtail my credit card use and pay off my credit card debt before the retirement actually happened. Since I had little money to do this with, I stopped using the cards and negotiated with the credit card companies, threatening to go bankrupt if they didn’t work with me. They worked with me and I was able to pay the credit cards off. I now have one credit card with a $500 limit.
I am still working part-time as a marriage counselor, dating coach, and therapist, mostly by phone in both cities, so I still have money of my own. However, like I had feared, we still had money issues when I wanted to travel or make a large purchase and he would say we couldn’t afford it. I felt like I had become a child again asking for money. I told him how I felt and we have worked it out by creating a small family account that he deposits money into and I use it only for larger purchases, using my own income for most other things.
Where to Retire
We had visited friends in Tucson and Alan had fallen in love with it. I had not. I don’t really like the desert. Being a gardener, I’m into green grass and tons of flowers. I thought maybe we could retire in California or Florida. California of course is too expensive and Alan reminded me that it would be very difficult to drive my 6 cats to Florida. So we began to look in Tucson, but I did not yet fully agree. The first homes we looked at were beautiful on the inside because they were brand new, but only had desert landscape on the outside. I hated them and said I could not and would not live in any of them. We looked at about 40 homes and finally found one I loved with beautiful gardens and palm trees, but the inside had blue tubs and sinks, etc. We made a low offer and it was rejected. We finally found one that was built in 1997, but completely remodeled inside in 2009 (looked like an HGTV remodel). I walked in the house and looked through the back glass door to green grass, a gorgeous pool, three palm trees, lots of regular trees, great plants, and room to put in tons of flowers, which I have done. There is also acreage with a desert landscape (which he loves) with 40 saguaros beyond the backyard fence and a view of the Catalina Mountains. Alan sold his city townhouse and bought the house in Tucson that we both fell in love with.
We had both lived in the Denver area for more than 25 years, so we were leaving many friends (& my clients), at least for the winter. We basically had no friends in Tucson — our original friends there had moved. I hated the first winter in 2012 (it even snowed that year for the nationally televised golf tournament). It was so much colder than I had expected (so gardening was out), Alan just wanted to sit around and enjoy his retirement, we didn’t know the area at all, and we had no friends to do anything with. I was bored, lonely, restless, and even somewhat depressed. I was used to being active and busy and it had all come to a screeching halt. I was eager to come back to Colorado by the spring. But I am a therapist, so before I left Tucson, I sat down and had a chat with myself. I asked myself what I would tell a client to do under these circumstances. I made a list of 10 things to try when I came back the next winter like join a zumba class, try to find women who are smart to connect to, teach a class at the college, have a neighborhood party, join a singing group, etc. When I got back, I started down the list and joined a gym for zumba (enjoyed it, but didn’t really make any new friends), had a neighborhood party (very few showed up), went to the internet to find women in business and found meetup.com. I joined meetups for ladies who lunch, ladies who like to glitz up, hiking groups, wine clubs, dining out, etc. I hit the jackpot with the meetup groups. I’ve met wonderful women and Alan has met their husbands and they now play golf together and we now have quite a few friends and lots of options of things to do. I also now have several girlfriends that sing karaoke with me at least once a week (in both cities).
We are now officially Snowbirds splitting our time between the mountain house outside of Denver and our Tucson house. Alan and I have worked out our financial issues, as I no longer overspend and he is comfortable sharing money with me. I have a fabulous garden and can’t believe what I can grow there that I can’t grow in Colorado. And we now have quite a few friends and plenty of activities that Alan and I both enjoy. See, opposites really can work through their issues and have a great life, even in retirement.
See article on Alan and Carolyn that appeared in Forbes May 23, 2015: How a Spender and a Saver Found Retirement Bliss.
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