We were California dreamin’ today…
The husband brilliantly suggested that we jump up and head out to Hennessey’s at the Hermosa Beach pier, to dine and to give thanks for the bounty we’ve been blessed with. From our perfect perch facing West on the second floor, we enjoyed some favorite goodies while overlooking the sea and sand.
As is always the case on weekends, beach goers were out in full force. Bundled up families ventured down to the water’s edge, little ones zoomed around on tiny bikes and Girl Scouts were selling their cookies while a Boy Scout troop enjoyed a field trip to the nearby life guard station. We watched it all from above the fray.
After we finished our food, we meandered down the pier and found an unoccupied bench where we promptly planted ourselves. The sky was clear and the air was crisp but not too cold. We could see the Palos Verdes Peninsula to the South and Catalina Island just beyond it. To our North was the Manhattan Beach Pier, the city of Santa Monica and Malibu in the distance. It was windy and there was a huge red, white and blue kite flying over some houses on the strand–a pretty perfect day.
We listened to surf pounding the sand–a sound we both love and find soothing. We watched as three lonely red heart mylar balloons made their way back to shore from the depths, only to be claimed by delighted little girls ready to seize them.
We talked about the blessings of retirement– about the concerns once raised about whether the time was right, if the finances were adequate and if we might outlast our money. Two and a half years in now, we were in agreement: we did the right thing at the right time and we’re so thankful we did. That job? It was sucking the life out of me.
We talked about all the money one can spend to make work possible. In an age where employers expect far more than the 40 hours of our parent’s generation, time is king. Hence we pay others to manage our lives. We pay gardeners and housekeepers and dry cleaners and child care providers. We over indulge children because we are shrouded in guilt at not having enough time for them. (sometimes grown children) We employ dog walkers and have groceries delivered. We tend to eat out and order-in more often. We order up meal delivery services, complete with recipes and preparation instructions so we don’t even have to look up a recipe. We treat ourselves to occasional lunches with co-workers. We spend on clothing in order to maintain a professional and contemporary look and on hair stylists and manicurists to maintain our appearance. A massage is a must to work out the kinks. Because, we deserve it, right? If we’re really time crunched, we pay someone to choose wardrobe for us and have it delivered to our front door. We spend for gas to get to work and past due fees on books we don’t have time to return to the library, let alone actually read. We pay someone to bathe our pets and shuttle our kids and for gym memberships we don’t have time to use with any regularity. We spend our evenings and weekends preparing for our work week. We’ve got to hit the ground running, right? We drive when we could walk. Because, time.
We did many of the things on the aforementioned list. Some more than others, but, most were a financial drain. Two plus years down the retirement road, life is dramatically different. My wardrobe shrank. We purged our closets of so many clothes that were essential in the work place but unnecessary in our new normal. We rarely have need of new clothing these days. I cook more often, with fresher food, and enjoy the process. I make banana bread every week with the overripe bananas I used to throw away. We eat out far less frequently and instead enjoy our home and its comforts. I bathe our dogs myself and our housekeeper now visits only once a month while we pick up the slack between her visits. The husband maintains the yards and I mop the floors. We walk the dogs together and I walk miles with my grands and with other walking friends. I attend classes regularly at my gym and some of the people there actually know my name and notice if I miss a class. Friendships have grown deeper and richer.
We have travelled more and we pay a king’s ransom for my health insurance. (Who knew I’d be leaning in, not toward promotion and advancement, but, toward 65 and Medicare!) We gather more frequently around our table with friends and family. We serve more and consume less. That said, our standard of living has not changed remarkably. We are not living an austere life, but a contented one. We spend more time with our children and grands. Our guest room is occupied more often. We do more household chores ourselves and take pleasure in most of it. ( Well, maybe not bathing the dogs.) But, our days are full of good things. In the past we payed for things we no longer require. We now work always for love and never for money. Could it change in an instant? Perhaps– but having prepared as best we could with the resources we were given, we walk in confidence that our needs will be met. We made a decision years ago, to live beneath our means, saving and investing when others were spending and splurging, hence we entered this stage of our life debt free. God has been gracious. We continue to invest in relationships that nurture well-being. So, for now, we are harvesting the crops of trees well watered. It was not a hardship but, self-imposed discipline that has yielded sweet fruit. We are blessed, indeed.
We have everything we need and many things we don’t. I repeat: We are filthy rich.