Long ago I realized that my life, unfortunately, has always been controlled by my emotions and not always for the betterment of my being. Retirement was not something I planned. I wanted to wait until I was at least 65 if not older as benefits would be better. However, one of the emotions that I have always had difficulty with changed those plans – anger.
A co-worker was let go unexpectedly, a situation I did not agree with. This coupled with a growing unrest in myself regarding my place of employment pushed me in this very unexpected direction. It took me 24 hours thinking and talking with my sons to make the decision to retire, set the date and set the retirement wheels in motion. I had approximately 6 months to make decisions about my pension, 401K, PSP, health insurance plus pass on to my co-workers all that I knew and did for my area. It was strange because suddenly I was being told how important and indispensable I was to the unit (something I would have liked to have heard without the looming retirement that was panicking my boss) making me question my decision and making me feel a bit guilty. Strangely enough, I slowly became comfortable with the actual decision – it was the emotion that triggered that decision that haunted me. Anger had controlled so much of my life and had cost me much – was this one more thing I was going to add to my “anger regret” list?
While I struggled making peace with the way I had made this decision, another emotion – anxiety- reared its ugly head. What in heaven’s name did I do? How was I going to live on a fixed income? How was I going to afford health insurance? I wasn’t 65 yet so no Medicare to fall back on. What was I thinking? All these and many more questions kept me up at night. I had to start gaining control of the anxiety. After all I was a mature adult!
First decision – sell large condo for smaller condo hopefully paying for it completely thus eliminating one expense – the mortgage. Relying heavily on my realtor, I moved on to the next area of anxiety – finances. There were meetings with my Financial Advisor (I had set up an IRA account years before) to arrange the transfer of the 401K and PSP into an account I could have access to if needed while it grew through investments. Next up – work with HR to move the accounts but also set up my monthly pension. I was so anxious about the finances, that when someone asked me if I was excited about retirement, I couldn’t answer with an uplifting, positive “yes”. Health insurance became another nightmare. To continue the coverage I had meant turning to COBRA – talk about expensive. So I started looking for a new plan but that meant filling out forms, revealing health issues and being rejected. I remained anxious about health insurance months after I actually retired. Anxiety (fueled by rejection from insurance companies) pushed me into making a bad choice of coverage. It was affordable, but slowly during the first 3 months of retirement, I realized that my doctors had not even heard of the plan let alone cover any visits. I cancelled planned preventive care and began the search anew. Many sleepless nights….
Then a strange thing happened. Things began to fall into place. My son purchased my large condo enabling me to buy a smaller condo outright releasing me from mortgage payments and lowering the monthly assessment fee. My pension amount was set and an account had been set up to receive the 401K and PSP funds. My accountant moved some of my IRA money into my checking account so I could survive until the pension and social security payments began. I had chosen to start drawing on social security instead of tapping my investments just yet – a challenge to live within my means. The health insurance I had started paying for turned out to be an indemnity plan – not what I needed. So after a deep breath and accepting I had made a bad decision in my anxiety ridden state, I found a local insurance agent who was able to find me a reasonably priced plan that would carry me until medicare kicked in.
I am 6 months into retirement and now filled with anticipation, an emotion that has a hopeful side. I am barely living within my means, but I am not on the street. Anger still rears its ugly head – mostly towards inanimate objects (phone, computer, cable). I would love to say that I’m not anxious about anything, but that would be a lie. That destructive and distracting emotion still threads itself through my very being. I don’t think I will ever be rid of it, but I recognize when it’s trying to control me. That’s where breathing and talking with family or friends keeps anxiety from spinning out of control. I have done it – I’m retired and in control. I want to anticipate each day’s possibilities. That’s an emotion that I don’t ever want to let go of.