Tag Archives: retirement

Finding Time for Adventure

Jebel Shams, Oman

For many of us who are old enough to consider retirement, the scarcest resource in our lives is probably not money, but time.

Life, they say, is what happens while you are busy making plans. Time is ticking away, life is short. These days, everyone is saying how busy we are.  But, as we all know, we all have the same 24 hours as everyone else, and it is up to us to prioritize how we want to spend our time doing the things that we want to do.

When we were younger, we only had a few weeks of vacation each year to plan for vacation and/or trips, typically 2-4 weeks at a time. Now, once we retire, we can choose to go on super long trips such as 2 months, 6 months, or even years at a time.

Many people delay their retirement for a variety of reasons.  They want to be conservative in their finances to ensure that money will never run out, or that they think they enjoy their work as compared to no specific plans, hobbies, activities or adventures after retirement.  They like their status quo. This sentiment is easy to understand, but whenever I hear about some friends developing critical illnesses or some famous people who just died on the news, it makes me want to take action for some big adventures.  Here is an interesting grave stone marking that speaks to this (Brandon Lee’s grave in Seattle):

“Because we don’t know when we will die, we get to think of life as an inexhaustible well. And yet everything happens only a certain number of times, and a very small number really. How many more times will you remember a certain afternoon of your childhood, an afternoon that is so deeply a part of your being that you can’t even conceive of your life without it? Perhaps four, or five times more? Perhaps not even that. How many more times will you watch the full moon rise? Perhaps twenty. And yet it all seems limitless.”

And here is a website that calculates when you are likely to die, based on various parameters about our life (age, weight, gender, whether you smoke) – www.deathclock.com.   A big, unstoppable clock counts down the remaining seconds of our life.

This type of thinking is morbid, but it takes deadlines to spur most of us into action.  This non-extendable deadline is scary, as there is still so much I want to do before September 14, 2042.

There is no solution to make more time.  Money cannot buy more time.  But learning about my “Expire Before” date will help me decide not to waste any more time on unimportant things, and to take action on some new possible adventures.  We need to begin the conversations with the people in our lives – our family, our boss, ourselves – about ways in which it might be possible to pause the daily rhythm of lives long enough to do something different and really memorable.

One of reason why I like traveling to new places is that it makes me more aware of how much time I have.  I really don’t have any more time, but I have just freed it up to spend it on the things that I truly feel is important to me. I wake up excited, as the day is available to explore and experience something new.  And the day stretches long into the night.  I might meet some new people along the way, learn about new cultures and world heritage sites, visit some world wonders, or hike a mountain to see some wonderful vistas.

When I am away on trips, I do not feel busy, but my days are full and fulfilling.  I cherish spending that time.  At home my days feel short, hurried, and too routine.  At the end of most of those days, I feel I have not accomplished much that is really memorable.

I hope this post will urge you to fill your days with what feels important and worthwhile to you, not with the stuff that conventional society deems us to be doing, or with stuff that might be easy and uncomplicated but is not meaningful and rewarding in the long run.

Housing Decisions

One of the big decisions when contemplating retirement is deciding where to live after retirement.  There are many options: 1) stay in the present home, 2) downsize and buy a smaller house/townhouse/condo, or 3) rent a house/townhouse/condo. With 2 of the 3 options above, one can also choose to move to a different city, or to a different area within the same city.

There is an article in today’s Vancouver Sun that talks about the rising demand for high-end seniors housing among Chinese-Canadians and Chinese-Americans, which is breaking the stereotype that Asian seniors want to live with their children. Traditionally, “multiple generations living under the same roof is supposed to be ultimate symbol of the Confucianist ideal of filial piety”, but nowadays, they prefer to live, eat, and shop close to one another instead.  Those who stay together in one house is doing it because of cost and shared resources.  Development companies are now building more upscale senior homes and marketing them as lifestyle experiences.

Our family have never considered to live together under one roof. Our son, like us when we graduated from university, wanted to experience living in a different city (he is actually experiencing living in a different country).  Our daughter also wanted freedom away from her parents.  For us, we like the idea of renting a strata home so that we don’t have maintenance issues.  We also calculated that it is more cost effective to rent than to own based on the high real estate prices of Vancouver.  There are lot less taxes, utilities and expenses with renting, and we feel that we can do better investing in financial assets than sitting on a large equity on a house. Renting also allow us the flexibility to try living in another area of Vancouver, or store our belongings to travel for a year or two.  So, renting turned out to be our decision for now.




At 60, It is Time to Take “Carpe Diem” Seriously

An article published by Fred Vettese (Chief Actuary of Mornell Shepell) on the National Post yesterday talked about the high probability of a healthy 60-year old man suffering a critical illness or die before they turn 70.  As per the table below, the probability of this happening to a man between 50-60 years old is only 18%, but for a 60-70 year old, it climbs to 36%.  For 70-80 years old, it is 56%, and for 80-90 years old, it becomes 82%.

Risk of Illness or DeathThe critical illness may be life-threatening cancers, heart disease, stroke, kidney failure, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease or loss of independent existence.  So, even though that a healthy 60-year old man is expected to live to about 85, the disability-free life expectancy (DFLE) is a lot lower.  And supposedly, the number of unhealthy years is increasing, mostly due to the poor North American life style decisions that we are making.

This article should make us think about eating better, exercising regularly, and minimizing stress.  Furthermore, we should re-evaluate our retirement plans on the basis of our disability-free life expectancy rather than our total life expectancy.  If we think our DFLE is low, then perhaps retiring earlier and spending our money in our 60’s while we have our health should be a priority.  The article’s conclusion: “The words carp diem apply at any age, but never more so than when we turn 60.” is a good one.


How to Know When to Retire?

Floreana Island, Galapagos
Floreana Island, Galapagos

At times when I chat to my wife about how I can’t wait to retire so that we have more free time, play more badminton or do more traveling, she would say that I am wishing my life away.  She says we already have lots of free time, and that we play badminton 3 times a week, and we travel 3 to 4 times a year.

Not that she would get bored after retirement, but she feels that she still enjoys her work at the office, the social interactions with her co-workers, the recognition she gets from doing a good job, and the vibrant atmosphere of working downtown. I guess I cannot argue with that.  I feel the same most times at work, but there are times when I day-dream about spending more time outdoors (especially during sunny days), more badminton (to improve after entering a competition), or more travels (when I look at my travel wish lists).

When receiving a paycheque is no longer the prime motive for working, then one must decide whether the time spent at the office is better off in spending on pursing our passions. Perhaps your major passion is work, then there is no need to think about retirement.  To most people though, it is a trade-off of how best to spend the remaining time we have on this earth.

I just finished watching a TED talk about “Want to be happy? Be grateful” by Brother David Steindl-Rast. He talks about how every moment given to us is a “gift”.  He says: “By experiencing, by becoming aware that every moment is a given moment, as we say. It’s a gift. You haven’t earned it. You haven’t brought it about in any way. You have no way of assuring that there will be another moment given to you, and yet, that’s the most valuable thing that can ever be given to us, this moment, with all the opportunity that it contains. If we didn’t have this present moment, we wouldn’t have any opportunity to do anything or experience anything, and this moment is a gift. It’s a given moment, as we say.”

So, it is probably time to retire when your job is no longer bringing you happiness, or if you think pursuing something else will bring you more happiness.  Is spending 8 to 9 hours a day at the office the best use of our given moments?

One Year Countdown

Sunset in Fira
Sunset in Fira

Ever since watching the movie the “Bucket List”, I have always wondered what it feels like to countdown your days (or the minutes in the movie) until you leave your office for the last time.

So here I am, roughly one year before I walk out of my office for the last time.  I had calculated to the exact date that I can retire and start to collect my company pension without any penalty and to maximize my vacation payouts.
It is interesting how our perspective change over time though, as many years ago, I thought I would retire as soon as I turn 55 (the first date that I can receive my company pension, albeit with a huge penalty).
Month after month, year after year, we just keep trotting to our daily routine, and really not acting on our big dreams and goals.  We read many other blogs on retirements, lifestyle changes, travels, etc, but it is so easy to just keep doing what we are good at.  Inertia, as we learned in our early Physics class, is not easy to move.
Hopefully, with this blog, we will write down some of our feelings as we journey towards a new chapter in our lives with confidence.