At the end of 2006, my husband I retired early - at ages 59 and 57, respectively - so that we'd still be active enough to enjoy our new found freedom from the workplace. In 2007, we visited friends on the West Coast and traveled to airshows [where my husband took photos and I wrote articles for an aviation magazine]. My husband began taking classes at the local community college, working part time in the computer lab and doing volunteer work for NAMI [Nat'l Alliance on Mental Illness]. I focused on the novel I was writing and various community charity programs, such as Elizabeth House and the American Cancer Society's Road to Recovery. In 2008 I drove more than 1,600 miles for charities. In March of 2008, I started my self-publishing company, so that I could produce my novel and have control over its marketing and any future rights that might spin off of it. When the summer of 2008 rolled around, we bought kayaks and practically lived on the local reservoirs; making one trip to kayak on the Broadkill river in Delaware.
Then the "crash" came in October and we saw our comfortable retirement nest egg crack and begin to dribble away. Suddenly, we were faced with the real possibility that not only would we have to trim our spending drastically and live on a frugal budget, but we might have to return to work. Yeah! Right. Return to work with more people every day competing for what jobs still existed. Graying 60-year-olds competing with sharp "youngsters." Fortunately, the time my husband had spent at the computer lab and in class paid off. He had met people who encouraged him to take an adjunct teaching position - something he had always wanted to do; teach college students. Without a Masters degree he couldn't have applied right off the street. But, with the backing of his contacts and a strong work-experience background in the computer language he would be teaching, the school hired him. He's currently teaching an evening course this Spring Semester.
I took this opportunity to form a division within my publishing company that offers virtual assistant services. Though not as successful as my husband's teaching venture, I've had one customer and I've done one free service for a charitable organization. I have a couple potential customers who may call on me when their seasonal workload peaks. It's probably going to be harder for me until I build up a client base, but we seem to be doing alright. We've cut back, but we don't go hungry. We have clean clothes to wear and a roof over our heads. I never was one to chase after a new product or name brand. When asked what I wanted for Christmas, I only wanted to go to a local live theater and see a show. I am happy to get by with less. I treasure what I have and I give what I can to those who have so little. It's amazing how it is still possible to give in the face of scarcity. The hardship of the times has showed us what is really important - our health, our family and friends, strangers in need, a sunset, a quiet moment with a cup of coffee. Life sparkles more.
And in the face of hardship, another positive side about our autumn years seems to be our resilience. Neither of us has become depressed about where we are. We have faith in the advice of our financial advisers, each other and in the qualities within ourselves that keeps moving us forward. We both have a strong spiritual nature, too. Although from Jewish and Christian backgrounds, we follow our hearts. I rely on the Holy Spirit to keep me going in the right direction and for whacking me aside of the head when I venture off the path. Focusing on the present really helps, too. Worrying about an unknown future isn't worth the pain and suffering. When we've been confronted with an obstacle, we look for the best way to move beyond it; even if that leads to retreating to a simpler place and way of life.
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