Winding Down

My thoughts about when to retire have changed many times over the years. Early on, saving for the golden years wasn’t a priority. Retiring before 75 or even 80 seemed unlikely. Saving enough seemed impossible — even after I finally started putting money into retirement accounts.

For the longest time, quarterly statements confirmed I’d indeed be very old before I’d have enough to fund my retirement. Oh well. Better not enough than nothing at all. I kept contributing through several jobs, ending up with 15 to 20 aggressive-growth mutual funds.

Statements from several brokers came at different times without attracting my attention. Then I sat down and added them all up. The grand total made me nervous. I couldn’t stop thinking about the long-term impact of tiny differences in rates of return. The stakes were simply too high. I needed professional help.

Therapy eased my angst somewhat but had no impact on my burgeoning high-risk portfolio. Figuring out the kind of help I needed took a while. I knew what to do: consolidate my holdings and balance for risk. The question, however, was how? I was in way over my head.

A one-time consultation would offer only a temporary solution. More aggressive funds outperform safer options to make re-balancing necessary every year or two. I needed someone to actively manage my portfolio who I could literally trust with my life savings.

Absconding with my money was less a concern than eroding my return with avoidable fees and less-than-optimal investment choices. I met a wealth manager at a social function nearly twenty years ago who told me her firm was exactly what I needed. I laughed. Me, wealthy?

We talked several more times before I finally handed over the reins. Took time to shift things around, but I slept better right away. The reduction in fees more than offset the cost. They’ve managed my portfolio and advised me on other financial matters ever since.

Declining budgets, ever-changing technology and other factors gradualy changed the nature of my work. I kept up until I couldn’t. My ability and/or inclination evaporated somewhere in my early 50s. Retiring ASAP became my goal.

A change in responsibilities for 50% of my time made half my work fun again. Retiring ASAP was still the goal, but new challenges kept me busy and made work fun again. That work had wound down when the opportunity to teach came along.

Retirement became an option shortly after I started teaching. The freedom to quit whenever I wanted was nice. Real nice. Since then, I’ve been having too much fun teaching to quit.

Enter COVID-19. Moving online and to Zoom sucked all the joy out of teaching. When I signed up for this semester, nobody thought the pandemic would still be an issue. Pivoting wore me out. I made it work, but miss “real” teaching.

They say you’ll know when it’s time to retire. I was leaning in that direction when the university tipped the scale. An incentive to anyone eligible to retire sealed the deal. Come January 2021, I’ll be retired.