Beth Meadows

Money, Part 2: Retirement Living

Beth MeadowsComment

I will never retire.

Well, maybe...

We all daydream about what life will be like "on down the road," but I realized something a little surprising recently.

When I envision my future, I always see myself working in some capacity. Read in between the lines and what this means is that I don't see myself ever really retiring. 

THE VISION: One day, I shall have long gray hair, be dressed very smartly, working around younger, kind and talented people. I think of Grace Coddington or Iris Apfel as my older female role models.

I will own a business (or two) and make artwork, jewelry, and design clothes. I will sew impeccably, and the spaces in which I live and work will be bright, white, and clean, the atmosphere calm.

I'll probably wear a lot of Eileen Fisher.

Not only is it fun to imagine what the future will be like, it's also really valuable in terms of right now.

If you really believe you'll never retire, it motivates you to think about life right now more day-to-day. This is a good thing for my anxious heart that resides in our fear-mongering society. Just think about all of the insurance packages one person needs to buy (so they say). Health, car, house, flood, earthquake, business, general liability, business, phone, computer... Geez, Louise!

Don't get me wrong. It's very wise to plan for the future, but the fear of the unknown can really suck the joy out of today for most people. And for me (Artist on Tight Budget), it only incites terror because I'm not able to save as much as I "should." 

I subconsciously decided a long time ago that instead of working non-stop to save up or putting things off until "life slows down," I live today, right now, doing and supporting as many of the things (people, places) that I value. How I live today is how I want to live when I'm old. There's nothing virtuous about this- and I'm not saying it's for everyone- but it helps a person with sensibilities such as myself sleep better at night. 

And really when I say day-to-day, I mean week-to-week. I've learned it's more manageable to view doing all you want seven days at a time. So on top of paying bills and surviving as an adult, which is a full-time job in and of itself, here are a few things I make a point to accomplish or do each week, if not everyday:

  • cook meals for myself
  • talk to my family on the phone (because they are far away)
  • make plans with friends that don't just involve going to a bar or eating (two things I LOVE with all my heart BUT typically aren't memorable)
  • exercise outside: walk, hike, run 
  • write
  • make artwork
  • spend time on a hobby (currently sewing)
  • plan small trips and vacations
  • read
  • sit still
  • do nothing
  • stare into space
  • hold and pet cat (all day, every day)

This way of life changes everything. It transforms "what we are supposed to do" on its head. Retirement then is no longer this big thing that we wait for, that takes away from living a fulfilling life right now. It's also not something we need to stress out about if we're unable to save a lot right now.

If I'm saving a little each month and living each week well (working, playing, resting), I can live this way until I die, right? 

It may not be a full proof plan. Life is full of unknowns and I really know nothing about how adulthood works (so maybe don't listen to me), but this realization does at the very least help me worry less, which is good when your main pursuit in life is as fickle as Art, God bless it.

I don't know if things will pan out how I'd like them to, but I now view the time and energy I spend in my studio as an investment toward that long gray haired vision I wrote about above. This helps me worry less about living unconventionally- the up and down life of an artist with no benefits package protecting me from all of life's potential harms.

While we wait to see if the visions of our future selves pan out, let us retire to our porch swings, drink in hand, to stare at the light through the leaves, the fluffy neighborhood cats playing/fighting, the people passing by. Make your future old lady or man self proud. Cheers.