To quote some neglected poet, “Its funny how things work out. Or don’t work out.” Sometimes, they’re both true.
It was the Florida hurricane season this year that triggered some thoughts.
He remembered how tough it had been a dozen years ago for them to make the decision to retire early. Like everyone making that decision after a life in the workplace, he and his wife had needed to spend considerable time weighing what looked to be the biggest decision of their lives, although maybe that’s making too big a deal of it..
Naturally enough, the financial outlook was the biggest hole in the road. He was working for IBM, a blue chip kind of employer who had paid and treated him well over the years but wasn’t a sugar daddy when it came to retirement. They wouldn’t be guaranteeing him and his wife a life of endless bliss over the next hundred or so years he expected the two of them to live.
But they did have other things going for them that prodded him into looking hard at the possibilities. His wife had been a major contributor to the family’s financial well being over the years, particularly in the yeoman years when they were putting three sons through college. She’d been a very successful professional and manager with the New York Botanical Gardens and was a director of a major program in the Bronx when the retirement possibilities began washing through their house.
Suppose she were to retire, too, hmmm…She would also have some pension dollars although neither would that be enough to kick them over the to. But it was one more arrow in the quiver and stitched together to the other pieces it could make retirement more than pillow talk.
They had a pretty good life plan worked out for their retirement years. For several years they’d rented a villa or a condo on the Caribbean island of Montserrat, one of the smaller islands in the Lesser Antilles a place where they had vacationed for several years. It wasn’t a fancy island but it had a good solid native middle class and of course that wonderful Caribbean climate.
So they worked out this ideal retirement life that would put them in the Caribbean for six months and Connecticut for six months. Still, no matter how much time they spent with a yellow pad and calculator they couldn’t figure a way to swing any more than the month of February there each year.
They had made good friends with a couple in the condo complex where they stayed on vacations and they were being urged to buy. Buy now while it’s still affordable. Good idea, they thought, but still too big a stretch for their pocketbook,
Their friends kept putting forward all the good reasons to buy and they kept resisting.
And then IBM put a pot of money on the table to induce early retirements. He grabbed his share and left. It gave them the wherewithal to purchase a town house they’d had their eye on in the complex where their friends lived. They managed to buy it although it cost them a little more than they’d hoped to pay. Meanwhile, the couple who had been so keen on their buying a place were ecstatic.
His wife went to the condo for a month in the fall, hired local contractors to gut the condo and then refurbished it to their taste from top to bottom. When she was done they had a real Caribbean gem.
Five months later a volcano that had been dormant since Christopher Columbus was plying his trade suddenly blew its top and devastated their end of the island.
So much for the condo .The Caribbean insurance company was settling with the condo association for pennies on the dollar. The trickle down to owners was tiny.
Retirement was starting slowly.
Meantime their friends had moved on and before you could spell pyroclastic flow, they’d bought a condo in Florida. “No volcanoes here” was their cry and this was the gist of their message last year urging them to get with it and buy a condo in their neighborhood near the water in sunny Florida “Get in while it’s still affordable.”.
They turned that one down on the basis of slow recovery from their earlier financial and emotional traumas.
Meanwhile they were waiting to hear from them their friends about the big differences, if any, between hurricanes and volcanoes.