Thom and I are off enjoying some “rightsized travel” so I invited another blogger friend who is living a rightsized life to share her ideas. Terri Webster Schrandt lives in Sacramento, CA and like all rightsizers, offers a unique perspective on what the lifestyle looks like in a person’s life. Thanks Terri for sharing another version of rightsizing with all of us!
Kathy and I originally met in person at the BAM (Bloggers At Midlife) 2016 conference in Las Vegas. We found each other to be kindred spirits as well as neighbors living in California!
After reading Kathy’s book Rightsizing: A SMART Living 365 Guide To Reinventing Retirement I easily identified the ways I have also rightsized my life. A big key for my semi-retirement was being able to retire from my day job of 32 years at the relatively young age of 55. After paying into the CalPERS (public employees retirement system) for years, I now receive 65% of my income as a pension.
Three other reasons factored into my semi-retirement decision:
- Dissatisfaction at work. The economic downturn of 2008-20012, which acutely affected California, caused many folks to retire “early” from the public parks and recreation organization. After my former boss retired and I was passed over for promotion for the third time during a 10-year period, I knew it was time to go.
- Being able to teach part-time. The ability to retire hinged upon the continuation of my teaching job at a university, where I am a part-time lecturer enjoying sharing my 35+ years of experience in the field with parks and rec majors. As a lecturer (and now “Retired Annuitant” I am able to teach 15 units per year). The money is GOOD and nicely supplements my pension.
- My husband got hired with my organization in facility maintenance. He now carries the health benefits and he has potential for moving up in the organization while still experiencing job satisfaction.
All those added up to my semi-retirement.
Best. Decision. Ever
Beyond that, here are three areas where I rightsize my life.
Unfortunately, in 2014, my husband and I were hit with a big tax bill. Paying that off dug an unwanted hole into our savings. Fortunately we handled it with my hubby’s promotion, my pension and part-time work. Now with the advice of our tax accountant, that problem won’t happen again in the future.
I have lived in the same small house for 28 years! I bought during my first marriage and it was all I could afford during our divorce 15 years later. I always wanted a second bathroom, so for years, I dreamed of adding on to the master bedroom (or mistress in this case). Once my new master-carpenter hubby entered the picture a few years ago, this dream became a reality in two ways.
- We refinanced for a lower rate. This process saved us $150 on an already low mortgage payment.
- Shortly thereafter we obtained a low interest rate home equity loan (HELOC) and used it to expand the existing mistress bedroom. Our combined mortgage and HELOC monthly payments are lower than most people’s mortgage payments! And I have a magnificent bedroom with a home office corner, walk-in closet and huge master bath, with a lot of backyard leftover.
Paying Off Debts and Credit Cards
My hubby is a miser and makes me watch the bills. Since we have been together, I have paid off 5 credit cards. We also cut back on eating out and entertainment, preferring to utilize Netflix rather than see a movie, and eat at home (my hubby is a fantastic cook!).
Are we saving tons of money? Not quite yet, but we have gotten much smarter about spending.
Another perk we now enjoy is our empty nest! My youngest daughter finished college, moved 300 miles away and got a state job that pays almost as much as my former job. Needless to say, we love having two guest bedrooms. Part of our money-saving strategies involves having friends visit that are also on budgets, so we take turns having movie nights at each other’s’ homes that involves cooking and friendly socializing.
Rightsizing Travel and Leisure Time
I grew up in a family where my father’s job was the only source of income. My parents knew how to pinch a penny. Most of our vacation travel was in-state (California), and this is where I grew to love camping on a shoe-string. Small tent? No problem. I can still scare away bears by banging pots and pans.
I have always insisted on owning a good car. I don’t care if I have to make a monthly payment. I USE my car for driving! It will be great to pay off my 2010 Toyota Rav4 in two years, and I know that this car will last a long time. My hubby owns two used vehicles: a truck and a Toyota Corolla for commuting. Again, when it comes to certain things, he is the rightsizer in this family.
Having a great car insures that we will be able to visit our extended family who live mainly on the west coast. Most trips are a day’s drive and we can stay with family for free! Trips to San Diego, San Francisco Bay area, Central coast, Portland, and Washington State offer beautiful scenery and are known tourist destinations visited by people from all over the world.
When we do travel on longer trips, I plan way ahead and secure flights much cheaper than waiting until the last minute.
Kathy recently wrote about the benefit of renting versus owning RVs. I too know lots of folks who purchase expensive RVs and travel trailers and then have them languish in storage areas waiting for their owners to take them out. While many others buy RVs with all the bells and whistles, my husband and I are all about the cheap, gently-used travel trailer. In our case, we belong to a windsurfing club where we can park our trailer all summer. We paid cash for ours four years ago and it only sits in storage for a few months, happily holding our windsurf gear until April when we go get him and pull him out to be our summer weekend home!
Certainly if you are going to camp in a trailer for weeks or months on end, then by all means invest! But for four weekends a month over five months, an older trailer works just fine!
I believe it is vitally important to have a meaningful hobby or pastime in retirement. Exploring a hobby before that happens while keeping an open mind is important. Many folks don’t think about this as they begin their retirement journey, believing they will have plenty to do, including extensive travel and visiting family.
One of the keys in retirement is to stay social with friends and family. Sadly, I know some retired folks who spend a lot of time at home in front of the TV. They likely never had much of a leisure lifestyle to begin with and now that they are retired, they have no idea how to even begin to pursue meaningful leisure.
At the university where I am a lecturer, I happily teach a course on “Leisure Lifestyle Development.” The “a-ha” moments I see on my students’ faces (and read in their papers) are gratification that I have actually taught them something of value!
Regardless of your retirement goals and bucket lists, be sure to take care of your own needs. Too many folks give up their own time to help family (which is great), but family needs can be overwhelming. My own parents (and my hubby’s) never had the means to help either of us when our kids were young. For example, when our kids were sick or were on their summer vacations from school, our parents couldn’t help and yet we still managed to survive.
Today I see some of my peers rushing off to stay long periods of time caregiving for their grandchildren, oftentimes giving up their own plans and hobbies. While I agree that family should come first, making time for yourself in retirement is a must! Once the grandkids don’t need the extra caregiving, you may have lost this precious time to begin a meaningful leisure lifestyle that should keep you engaged for the rest of your life!
Remember, a leisure lifestyle is yours for the taking. And it can be experienced at any income level.
Rightsizing my Body
Or should I say “downsizing” here? I have always been active. I played sports in high school and college. I also enjoyed jogging and swimming on my lunch hours from my early 30s, then played recreational sports until my late 40s until a sports injury sidelined me. I then joined a gym where I could recover and inevitably hung up my softball cleats and glove. My go-to sports now are stand-up paddling (SUP) and windsurfing. I also have a work out/fitness regimen that includes the gym, cycling, walking and other cardio activities.
All that activity still did not prevent me from steadily gaining weight over the last five years. Plus, trying to learn windsurfing at age 49, and experiencing countless minor injuries these last few years, all inhibited my plans for weight loss.
Then at 50, the Big M (menopause) reared its ugly head. Taking prescription hormones to counteract the symptoms increased my weight to 30 pounds heavier. Even worse, a recent knee (re-) injury last year REALLY took its toll. I couldn’t walk down stairs and was very close to knee surgery. On top of that, I began to experience arthritis and plantar fasciitis in both feet as the weight settled in.
That’s when I knew the weight HAD to come off.
I can proudly say that I have lost almost 30 pounds! Using Weight Watchers with their revamped Smart Points program, I’m proof that if I can lose menopause weight, any midlife person can too. The tech tools available now make it much easier than before!
The point of this section is to simply say: “Get your body healthy” no matter what you need to do, whether it is losing weight or adding to your fitness regimen, or both. Your knees will thank you.
Bonus Rightsizing Tip
Because of the weight loss, I need to buy almost all new clothes. Oh darn. I had saved boxes of clothes for when I would lose weight again. Unfortunately over 90% of them no longer fit.
I’m here to tell you…let them go! Donate them!
Chico’s, here I come.
I hope you enjoyed my guest post and invite you to visit my blog, Second Wind Leisure Perspectives http://secondwindleisure.com/
What methods have you used to rightsize YOUR life? Please share in the comments.
Terri Webster Schrandt is a self-published indie author and blogger. She is also a university educator and retired recreation and parks practitioner living in Northern California. Her blog Second Wind Leisure Perspectives is about living a leisure lifestyle.
mary in maryland says
I enjoy your blog. Rightsizing isn’t always an easy step to take. One frugal retirement blogger I follow found herself house poor and stuck. She needed to sell her house but couldn’t until building permits were closed, and a job loss has eaten her savings so she can’t get the work done. Her sad story spurred us on to attack the deferred maintenance in our own house.
Kathy Gottberg says
Hi Mary! Welcome to SMART Living and I’m glad you found this helpful. I agree rightsizing isn’t easy–especially in the beginning–because we are sort of “trained” to do the opposite. If we are reaching for more, bigger, better at all times it almost seems like we are doing something wrong. I’m so sorry to hear your friend is stuck in a difficult situation with her home. It’s definitely better to take steps while you still can than wait until you have reduced your options. Good for you for taking those steps now. I’m convinced you’ll be happier in the future because of it! Thanks for your comment! ~Kathy
Tom Sightings says
Congrats on your great lifestyle (and the weight loss). You are lucky to have a pension … and a husband who cooks!
Corinne Rodrigues says
Lovely to see you here, Terri and read about your journey. It makes so much sense to pull out of a job that you don’t enjoy any more and that’s no going anywhere. I did the same thing a couple of times.
Incomes and taxes are quite different here in India, but while neither my husband and I enjoy a pension, we do enjoy regular incomes from his investing, my freelancing and to a lesser extent from my blog.
We don’t have RVs here yet. We have invested in a holiday plan that allows us to have the use of 5 star resorts for a minimum amount. And we do plan our holidays well in advance to get the best rates.
Life is good when you keep the essentials in mind, is it not?
Terri Webster Schrandt says
Hi Corinne! Thanks for your reply! I like your idea of the holiday plan! Sounds intriguing!
Hi Terri! So nice to see you here on Smart Living! I think you have highlighted the importance of making smart, well-thought-out decisions all along the line, not just when retirement is right in front of you. You set yourself up nicely on your own and then chose a partner who shares your values and dreams. It’s never too late to make adjustments (and we should be doing that all along), but the earlier you get yourself on the right path, the better the results. Living within our means is the key… then maybe when we retire, we can branch out a bit and comfortably spend our time and money on some “wants” as well as “needs.”
Terri Webster Schrandt says
Good to see you here, Janis! I consider you and Kathy to be experts in this retirement and right sizing journey. A windsurfing couple who just retired are about to hit the road in their new 27-foot trailer! They had been renting their home for 20+ years, so they had few expenses. Talk about smart rightsizing! Always great to hear these stories!
These are all excellent tips. You and Kathy are truly on the same page! I love to cook and garden as does my husband so when we eat out it has to be something we don’t do well at home and fun! Dim Sum or sushi fit easily!
Terri Webster Schrandt says
Thank you, Haralee! I love dim sum and sushi!
Some great tips and a great story. Thanks for sharing, and Happy vacation to Cathy and Thom.
Hi Terri, I had to laugh picturing you scaring away a bear with pots and pans! There is so much wisdom here about living your right sized life. I wish I had known all of this five years ago, not because I haven’t done it right, but because I was nervous that if I left my job we wouldn’t make it and that we would be miserable and poor. Now having successfully made the transition, I can look back and tell others to go for it! Life is richer if you do it right!
Terri Webster Schrandt says
Thank you so much, Michele, you have to know that it was a calculated leap of faith. I had even tidied up my resume and applied for a couple of part time jobs because I was so nervous about not working (and not being able to teach for 6 months due to the retirement rules). From what I know of you, you DID do something right (and you just came back from a vacation in Ireland)! Life is indeed richer!
Terri I love how you’ve incorporated all the ideas Kathy has with a twist to fit your life. We are right sizers too and always have been – if you start early you set yourself up for a much easier time in midlife. We’ll never be millionaires, but it’s nice to live within our means and not feel like we’re missing out on much (some luxury travel would be the only thing we aren’t indulging in at present – you can’t have it all!)
Thanks for your comment Leanne! There is something so freeing about living within our own means. I hope my adult children learned these concepts!