Spending falls into one of two categories: the unavoidable and the optional. The unavoidable includes the cost of shelter, food and keeping the wolf from the wigwam. The optional falls into two sub-categories: experiences and things.
The major cost component of ‘experiences’ is travel. We go to other places to remove ourselves from our day-to-day existence. We throw ourselves into odd places and odd circumstances, hoping to enjoy ourselves, but also to learn.
By ‘things’ I mean, anything you buy that’s not strictly necessary to your continued forward motion.
Of experiences and things, some people tend towards one rather than the other. Until I retired, I had no interest in things, to speak of, except for books. Living, as I did, in environments hostile to things (including home ownership), I naturally enough spent my discretionary dollars travelling.
Then I retired and an unexpected change came over me. Suddenly, the thought of travelling filled me with disgust. I still like the idea of being somewhere else, but can no longer subject myself to the stress and humiliation of going somewhere else. Travel doesn’t have to be arduous, but a concatenation of clowns has made it so.
Simultaneously, without any desire on my part, I have become attracted to things. Just this week, I bought my first piece of fine art; couldn’t be more excited about it.
I find myself cruising antique shops and spending hours online wondering whether the couch I want should be cerise or crimson. My life strategy of buying the cheapest one that fit has been replaced by the business of shopping, which I still loathe, but now don’t seem to mind doing occasionally.
Mine has perhaps been an extraordinary example, but I suspect that something similar happens to all of us, to a greater or lesser extent. Many of my neighbours travel all the time, it seems, oblivious to the indignities involved. Many of them spent a lifetime trapped in offices, dreaming of the day they could be herded like sheep into an aircraft and forced to sit for hours in cramped, unsavoury and unhealthy conditions. I know how that works: I did it all my life. No more, though.
Just about everything that’s happened to me since retiring has come as a shock. Maybe reading this and other, more worthy contributions on Olderhood will alert you to the changes that retirement brings. Or maybe you’ve been planning for it since you were a child.
Either way, ignore what they say about schooldays being the best years of your life. If you have the three magic ingredients — health, money and time — the retirement years are easily the best, however they come about and whatever you choose to do with them.