One of the many new dimensions of our midlife, The Back Forty, is the necessity to parent differently. I’ve practiced this a great deal over the last several years, as my son went from 17, with an appropriately growing voice in how his life goes, to now being 22.
I was an “involved” parent all through his growing up. Following a divorce when he was 2½, I focused my half-time custody on all the typical things a dad and son would do as he grew: YMCA Indian Guides, AYSO soccer, YMCA swimming (first Guppy, then Minnows, then Sharks), Tai Kwon Do (first Tiny Tigers, then…)…moving as he got older into Cub and Boy Scouts, geckos, rats, fencing, and persistent video game systems (Gameboy, Nintendo, X-Box). Not to mention church on Sundays where he took classes over the course of 12 years. My involvement and guiding direction of my son’s life was strong.
From age 2½ to 7 or so, my parenting was pretty default: play, learn, discipline with timeouts when necessary…but all fairly easy and without thought. Around that time, however, I went through a custody suit lasting a couple years. One of the many blessings that came out of that whole process (from a Back Forty INFUSE Program perspective) was a more conscious study of parenting.
Parenting was different now than in the days of my simple, country upbringing. Plus, I lived in California, in many ways a far-cry skewed mentality than that of my Texas roots. Having come to California specifically for consciousness reasons, I was always on the touchy-feely side of most things anyway. Still, when California new-age consciousness and attitudes about the raising of indigo/millennial/Gen Z individuals come together, parenting looked a lot like coddling to my tainted eyes.
Upon moving out of the parents’ house, however, parental views about how to relate to “adult” kids differ… especially among divorced parents. My own (right or wrong) basic stance was “If you’re going to school, I’m supporting you (financially). If you’re not, I’m assuming you want/need to learn about life…so I’ll support you in that too by letting you support yourself.”
I’ll relieve you of the litany of differences of opinions and challenging interactions a stance like that can take – both with adult child and ex – and yet something became very clear: I needed to find a new way to relate to my son…
To be continued…
Read Part 2 here.
If I am going to use my calories on ice-cream, it’s got to be worth it. Vanilla, Strawberry, Eggplant Madness or Garlic Jalapeño is not worth it. Thrifty’s Rocky Road is worth it.
We recently moved to the sweetest little gem of a micro-town-within-a-metropolis by the sea: the Belmont Shore area of Long Beach, CA. One recent evening, while walking on the happening 2nd street with Darrell, we visited our local Rite Aid for some Thrifty ice cream. I asked for not just my favorite, but my one and only, and the friendly ice-cream clerk, Bill, said they were totally, completely, and utterly out of Rocky Road. The refrigerator was being serviced, and their ice-cream selection was cut in half. Rocky Road was one of the casualties.
While I was recovering from the shock, my dream of a Rocky Road cone fading into abyss, Darrell chose his flavor of the moment. He’s far more flexible on some things than me. And he isn’t thinking calories either.
The ever-helpful Bill tried to tempt me with tastes of other options, but I wouldn’t budge; I was absolutely clear that I was not going to settle for “second best,” and if I couldn’t get the ice cream I wanted, I would have none.
Petulant child? Stubborn adult? Or a woman unwilling to settle for less than what she wants?
As we started to leave, with Darrell busy at work on his cone du jour, Bill asked us to wait for a few minutes, excused himself to “check something” and walked towards the back of the store. He was gone for a while.
This was getting interesting. I hadn’t put up a fuss, or (despite my words here) even copped an attitude. What was he up to?
“Wouldn’t it be wild if he came back with a fresh bin of Rocky Road?” I thought out loud. Darrell raised an eyebrow… “If he does,” I added, “it will be my sign from the Universe to never, ever, settle for anything less than what I really want.”
W. Somerset Maugham said:
“It’s a funny thing about life; if you refuse to accept anything but the best, you very often get it.”
And yes, you guessed it. Bill came back with a fresh, brand new bin of Rocky Road.
I am taking W. Somerset Maugham’s words into my Back Forty. I am excited for an “un-settling” second half of life.
Who is with me?
Call it what you like – phased retirement, gradual retirement, or flexible retirement – but this craze is only just beginning!
In one of my previous posts I talked about the trend of staying in the workforce longer (Read it here). Basically, I explain that the historical concepts of retirement are becoming more and more out of date. The most obvious reason is the fact that, in the past few generations, the average life expectancy has increased by almost 30 years!
With people living longer, healthier lives, it’s no wonder why they are choosing to stay in the workforce longer. Since we are living longer, the money we save for retirement has to last longer. This causes two effects. One, we need to save more money. Two, we need to work longer. Usually, our solution includes a mixture of those two options.
This is what leads us to the new craze in retirement.
Let me walk you through this relatively new concept that is changing how people, companies, and our government is thinking about retirement.
There is currently a process that people go through when they choose traditional retirement, or “cliff retirement”.
For about 3 years before retiring, you are extremely excited about the concept (especially if your current job is stressful). The first year of retirement is extremely stressful. Once you make the plunge you realize that your new schedule lacks in some key areas. Your built in social network from your job is now gone, your previous identity tied to your career is also gone, not to mention that you often feel as if your new life lacks structure and purpose.
However, the next few years of retirement get better. You find yourself in the “honeymoon phase” of retirement when you find new activities and social groups to become a part of. After the honeymoon phase wears off, you will begin feeling like your routine is boring. Finally, after your discontent wears off, you become content with your retired life.
If this doesn’t sound ideal to you, you’re not alone!
This is why phased retirement is becoming so popular. Very few people want to sit around and watch TV all day after they retire, it’s partially what is pushing so many people to continue working long after the standard retirement age.
Phased retirement gives you the ability to relieve some of the financial burden of retirement, reduce the stress of retirement, enhance your personal fulfillment, and keep ties with your social network through your job, while still giving you time for retirement activities like traveling and spending time with family. Ultimately, phased retirement gives you the time you need to prepare for retirement both financially and emotionally.
At this point you might be thinking, “this is sounding like a great idea, but how do I even start?” Well that’s the thing. While phased retirement also helps employers combat the shortage of employees once boomers start to retire and while the IRS is considering regulations to establish guidelines for creating and administering phased retirement programs, only 6% of companies currently have formal phased retirement systems in place.
However, don’t fear, because I have some tips and tricks for negotiating a phased retirement with your company regardless of if they have any systems in place.
By phasing out of your company, you are giving your supervisor plenty of time to find needed replacements. You are also helping your company cut costs while keeping your unique knowledge at their disposal. Here are a few tips for negotiating a new phased retirement schedule with your supervisor:
Offer to work during busy times for your company or when the workload is heavy. Depending on your job, this might be seasonal, during peak hours each day, or on certain days of the week.
Offer to mentor younger employees. The last thing your company wants is to lose all of the knowledge you have gained over the years working for them. By mentoring a younger employee (potentially to take your place) your company can be ensured that your eventual retirement will be a smooth transition.
Don’t run into your supervisor’s office before doing your research. Look into the topics below so that you can come up with a solidified plan before reaching out to your supervisor.
Watch out for pension/retirement fund problems. Make sure that decreasing your salary won’t adversely effect your pension. If your pension is based on your income over your last five years of work, cutting your salary isn’t the best idea. If this is how your pension is set up, consider “retiring” from your current job on schedule and picking up a new part-time job to transition into retirement.
Check the minimum requirements for full health coverage for your company. If you are under the age of 65 (aka, you don’t qualify for medicare) you want to make sure that you will still be working enough hours to receive your full benefits.
Look into Social Security withholdings. This is the most complicated step, but don’t worry, I’ve got you covered. First of all, it is important for you to know that you can work and still receive Social Security benefits! That being said, if you are making “too much” for your age bracket things can get a bit more complicated. Before getting into the details, let me give you one extra tip. You will need to know your “full retirement age” according to the Social Security Administration. Click here to calculate your “full retirement age” now. Now that you know your “full retirement age” look below to see where you might fall when you retire and how to best utilize your Social Security Benefits:
If you are shifting to phased retirement between the ages of 62 and your “full retirement age”: you can earn $15,720 in 2016 without being penalized. If you are making more than that, it isn’t necessarily a cause for alarm. For each dollar you make above that maximum, Social Security will withhold 50 cents.
Once you reach your “full retirement age”: you can earn up to $37,680 per year. If you are making more than that, your penalty goes down to 33 cents for each extra dollar earned.
Once you are above your “full retirement age”: you can earn as much as you like with no more penalties or withholding’s.
Now, here is the really good news. If you fall into one of the situations where part of your income is being withheld by the Social Security Administration, you will get it back once you are above your “full retirement age”! Once you reach that age, your social security check will be recalculated to give you credit for all of the previously withheld payments! (If you have any more questions about how your Social Security is effected when you start to retire, their website is full of useful information!)
Now that you have done your research, you are ready to talk to your supervisor.
Choose your responsibilities carefully. Make sure that you aren’t just “giving up” the responsibilities that you don’t enjoy. Think about which of your responsibilities are the most important for the company. Also, which responsibilities currently need to be required during times when your new schedule might not have you at the company. Set up a schedule to slowly start giving up responsibilities (starting with the ones that require the least extra training for whoever takes those responsibilities over). This is made easier if you are mentoring your eventual replacement.
Settle on fair pay. Keep in mind that you are working less. You might have to give up some of your full-time perks as well as some of your income. Don’t be shocked if you’re asked to give up your parking spot right in front. Remember that you are trading your extra income and perks for more personal time to do what you enjoy. Think about what perks are the most important to you as well as how much you should be compensated for your new schedule.
Now you are ready to start your phased retirement journey! The only thing left to do is decide how to enjoy your extra time off!
“Oh s**t! You want me to do what????”
Up until the moment the door actually opened at 10,000 feet, I was cool. Then it all turned upside down.
I am a little nervous but excited about our skydiving adventure, which is not even on my bucket list. A year ago, Darrell asked me if I wanted to go skydiving, and I said “yes” – because I have a thing for trying everything at least twice (in case the first time is a fluke) – and I hadn’t even done this once.
The prospect of jumping out of plane was a little scary, which is why I wanted to do it. Doing things I am scared to do is good for me. It expands who I know myself to be. My view of myself becomes bigger. I am learning to be courageous: having the fear and doing it anyway. Plus, I want my second half of life to be radical.
So, there I am, after signing my life (literally) away in the most severe Liability Release I had ever read, about to jump out of a plane nearly two miles up with a dude attached to my back. The dude has a parachute and is a professional. Millions of people skydive. I know it is safe. I am cool.
Until the moment the door of the tiny plane opens and my instructor tells me to put my foot out on the tiny plank outside of the plane…
This is where “Oh s**t!” hits me…
“Is it too late to change my mind??” flashes through.
Meanwhile, my foot goes on the tiny plank, and my body flies out of the open plane door… and I am free-flying… with the dude still attached. The view is magnificent, and what is even more magnificent is that I did it.
The fear is replaced by quiet and beauty. And this is what I learn: behind every fear is a door. When I get past the fear, I open a door to new possibilities, and a new expanded “me.” My world gets bigger, and I know that “If I can do this, I can do anything.”
I am now someone who can jump out of the plane at 10,000 feet. Radical.
Afterwards, a friend asked me if I would do it again. Yes, I would. And the second time will be even better – because I will be past the fear and more present to enjoying the flight. And that’s the real treasure – enjoying our flight.
Sooo… Who wants to go bungee jumping?