Thursday, April 3, 2014

Retirement

My mother died on August 17, 2007, and had accumulated more money than expected. I had been managing all of her assets since 2004, ever since she went into assisted living, and knew exactly what she had and that I would eventually receive one third of it. That plus my own savings, pension, and future Social Security were enough for me to retire. At the time I particularly disliked my job at R.R. Donnelley & Sons Co., and, from a career standpoint, at age 57 in a dying industry, there was little point in continuing to work. After thinking it over, I abruptly retired on September 9, 2007, giving no notice.

I am interested in investing and spent much of my time on that for the first few years. As it happened, the stock market peaked on October 9, 2007, declined throughout 2008, and then crashed precipitously starting in September, 2008, with the collapse of Lehman Brothers. At the lowest point I had lost about 40% of my holdings, but they have more than recovered as of today, and my total assets after almost seven years of retirement haven't changed much. I elected to start receiving Social Security in 2012 at age 62. Though this is negative in that it will reduce the total payments that I'm likely to receive, it provides a significant portion of my annual cash needs and allows me to keep all of my assets permanently invested. If my investments do well, I may even come out better than I would have by taking Social Security later. Either way, I am unlikely to run out of money. I haven't spent much so far, except on telescopes.

Another thing that I did initially was look up old friends. I found and visited an artist friend who became a Hindu monk and lives in Ganges, Michigan. I contacted a former college roommate who is now a lawyer living in Portland, Oregon. I contacted and later was visited by a former college acquaintance who was then a computer science professor at Clemson University and has since retired to Asheville, North Carolina. I contacted an Iranian acquaintance from college who was in Tehran during the 1979 revolution and has lived in England ever since. Also, 2008 was the fortieth anniversary of my high school graduation, and I was in touch with several people from Pelham, New York. One of them got me thinking about Vermont, because she has lived here since the 1970's. She and her husband are like old hippies. They live in Bristol, Vermont, where he is a potter and she spins and weaves wool from sheep that they keep. We visited them when we first came to explore the area but haven't seen much of them since. In case you're interested, here is their website: http://www.robertcomptonpottery.com/.

On the whole, I have found it unrewarding to contact old acquaintances, and probably won't do it any more. At best, you may catch up on a few things, and in my experience not much comes from it. People move on with their lives, and after forty years they're not about to change their habits. Although I have very few friends, I find that I am more interested in people generally than most people are.

Another time consumer for me has been Internet discussion. I put a fair amount of effort into comments that I made at The New York Review of Books, but, as mentioned earlier, I now find that to be an unacceptable organization. I still am looking at other sites and make posts occasionally, but with much lower expectations than previously. I like to write down what I'm thinking mainly as an exercise in clarity, and now have almost given up on the idea that meaningful communication might occur during Internet discussion between strangers.

In full disclosure, I also have to admit that I waste time playing games on my computer. I like bridge, and have been playing a very good computer program, which I think has significantly improved my bridge skills. Recently I tried playing online hearts, which I liked, but I was put off by some of the bad Internet behavior exhibited. It was not uncommon for people to get a losing hand and drop out of a game immediately and disrupt it for everyone else. Some people were rude and insulting, especially when they were losing. I also play off-line games such as chess, which I'm not particularly good at.

I like being outside and doing things outside. The winter limits what you can do here, unless you want to ski, and I don't. During the warmer months I spend time on lawn mowing and gardening. I have done a lot of tree removal, because we had many dead trees blocking views and near power lines when we moved in. I had hoped to do a lot of hiking here, but so far haven't much. The better hikes require ascents of at least a thousand feet and take several hours, and I'm more interested in that than my partner is. We do go on walks together on the dirt road by our house. It dead ends to the south at a farm near our house, and runs to the north for several miles, with good views of the Adirondacks, which are about 30 miles away. The sky conditions have been poor for stargazing over most of the winter, though I left out the telescope all winter and viewed even when it was near zero.  Currently my telescope is in storage until I return from Missouri.

My partner is in charge of our social life, and we are gradually getting to know a few people here. As mentioned earlier, I'm not very interested in routine socializing.

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