Smiling on a Monday morning

Smiling on a Monday Morning: A Recap of Week 1 of Semi-Retirement

One week ago, I was fired. Sixteen-plus years of building a highly successful career had come to an abrupt end. Bitterness is wasted energy, so instead, I’m using this moment as an opportunity to create the life I write about – a life centered on the five journeys (financial independence, healthy lifestyle, happiness, inner peace, community). I don’t know where the road ahead leads, and really, do any of us? And there will definitely be potholes on my journey. But I’m going to make it! Here’s a recap of my first week.

Shock and Disbelief

Even when the signs are on the wall, it’s still rather traumatic to be called into HR and be told to pack up and leave. Part of me felt relief – good riddance to the colorless bland office. But it was a sad day for sure. I had a lot of good friends at the office and I didn’t get to say goodbye to many of them. When I left the office for the last time, I noticed that spring had finally arrived. Heck, I’d be able to enjoy spring from the comfort of my gazebo. What a great time of the year in which to be fired!

I knew exactly what I needed to do after driving away from the office – visit a dear friend.  She had been fired from the same organization years earlier and had been in much worse shape than me financially. We spent the night talking and drinking. It was the start of several days of visiting with friends, who plied me with wine, beer, and margaritas. And of course, good advice.

“Give yourself time,” was the message repeated over and over. Unexpectedly, grief is part of the equation and that’s a process. After all, I had just lost a big part of my identity and relationships that took me decades to build. So I am taking it easy on myself, just riding the emotions as they arise.

Crunching the Numbers (aka “Freak Out Day”)

Once I recovered from my evenings with friends, I hit the spreadsheets. The immediate tasks at hand: halting automatic transactions, projecting my zero-income finances, and making decisions about health insurance coverage. I ended up with an unplanned “freak out day”! Walk me off the ledge, please!

Halting Automatic Withdrawals

The very first thing I did was stop most of the automatic withdrawals from my checking account. I stopped the transfers to Betterment, Computershare, and Capital One, which is where I hold my savings and investments. But the most difficult transactions to halt were the monthly contributions to my two favorite local charities. You can bet I’ll resume those charitable donations once I get in a more comfortable financial situation.

Zero-Income Projections

I use an Excel checkbook register to project my income and expenses for the year ahead. It’s a budgeting tool and it works fabulously! It took only a few minutes to delete my previously anticipated paycheck deposits and see what adjustments I might need to make in terms of my discretionary expenses. I have a major loose end – the payout of my accumulated leave – before I finalize the budget. But at this point, I should be okay even if I don’t pick up another dime in 2018. I can take my time with my next move!

The Pain of Health Insurance in America

The biggest challenge for so many people is the high cost of health insurance – and high deductibles that often don’t cover outrageous medical expenses. I am now a member of this unhappy club. Once I received my COBRA information, I did some research and made the following moves.

  • Removed my 20-year old daughter from my policy and bought her gap coverage for one month. In June she will receive health insurance from her new employer at the Grand Canyon. I went with a cheap plan ($40) from United Healthcare.
  • Visited my dentist’s office to move up my daughter’s hygiene visit and discuss alternatives to insurance. They provided me with a brochure for Vantage One Dental Plan.  I made the switch, which will save me $234 annually over the COBRA dental insurance.
  • Completed the COBRA paperwork. It turns out COBRA coverage is superior and more affordable than even the bronze package offered on the exchange, so I’ll be enduring monthly payments of $789 ($9,468 annually).

Fighting my Paranoia

I survived some unbelievably difficult years in my early 30s that left me penniless and a notch away from homelessness. That experience has driven me to be a saver and to hate debt, which has served me well. But it also means I suffer from 3:00 a.m. “monkey mind,” in which every worst case scenario enters my consciousness! This calls for some serious meditation exercises. And how appropriate that I am working on next month’s 30-Day Sleep Challenge! So to conquer my worries, I’ve started a “worry journal” before bedtime. The journal is spawning lots of ideas on how to produce income. I’m gradually replacing my 3:00 a.m. “bag lady” nightmares with 3:00 a.m. entrepreneurial dreams.

Taking Care of Myself

So far, semi-retirement doesn’t sound like a lot of fun, does it? The first week has been an emotional rollercoaster. And I expect to be on this ride for quite some time. But here’s my resolution: I am going to TRANSFORM my life.

Ouch! It’s Back to the Gym

I had long neglected my physical health, so my first job is to get in shape. I joined a 28-day group fitness program that is already kicking my butt! Every part of my body is sore. The introductory program was $70 and it’s an excellent way to jump start my fitness level. Once the program ends, I can focus on walking, biking, swimming, and exercising on my own.

I’m also addressing my nutritional needs – dinners at the 7-Eleven will never happen again! I have the time to prepare healthy meals and I’m back to my version of healthy eating.  I’m going to finally drop these extra pounds and prioritize my health!

Hello Bluebird Trails!

I spent my mornings walking in my neighborhood and the local park, which happens to be named Freedom Park! On Monday morning, I was greeted to a blustery grey sky, a remnant of the previous evening’s thunderstorm. As I walked, the sky gradually drifted to a blue canopy and the birds were singing gloriously. I paused to realize that I was smiling. Actually smiling on a Monday morning! When’s the last time that happened?

Nature is my therapy and I plan to spend as much time outdoors as I can. One of the best things I ever did was become a certified Virginia master naturalist and I love my chapter! Now I can join my friends in the middle of the week on the bluebird trail, and I can devote my energy to bring our acoustic bat monitoring project to fruition. What a great combination of people, nature, and free activities!

Next Step: Creating Income

While I’ve done a great job building a high net worth, I need to bring in some income. So I’m going to turn this blog into an income-producer and pick up some consulting work in my professional area of expertise. The Five Journeys has been a lifesaver for me this last six months, and I’ve really enjoyed exercising the creative side of the brain. But I’m also passionate about my area of expertise, so I’ll be connecting with my former professional circle to bring in some consulting work. I’ll be just fine!

To read more of the Freedom in Your Fifties series, visit the Freedom Library.

About the Author Brenda

Dr. Brenda is a sociologist, educator, blogger, motivator, and financial coach. In addition to blogging at The Five Journeys, she writes 30-day challenges at BetterLifeChallenges.com. Her passion is guiding people on their journey to financial freedom through coaching at DrBrendaMoneyCoach and online courses at EarlyExitAcademy.com.

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