Big Retirement Decisions: Changes Ahead!

Retirement is just around the corner! And now come all the big retirement decisions.

Change is good and change is scary.

2022 is the year my husband will retire, we’ll move for the second time in a year, remodel our new home, and close a 45-year-old family engineering and surveying business.

Yes, it’s overwhelming! I’m stressed, but also excited to start our next chapter.

Why We Want to Retire

As I wrote in a previous blog, the announcement that hubby wanted to retire caught me off guard since he’s always loved surveying. But I understand his reasons for taking this big step and am on board.

We want more time:

  • for spiritual matters and volunteer work
  • to take care of our health and well-being
  • for each other
  • for my writing career
  • to travel
  • and yes, to simply relax, sleep in, sail, and take long strolls on the beach

Unlike my 50th birthday, when I was shocked to be getting old and lamented that more years were behind me than in front of me, turning 60 was different. I’ve accepted that I’m getting older and appreciate there are blessings that come with aging. But there was a renewed sense that my husband and I need to make these last decades count.

So, we’ve been steadily working toward the goal of retiring. Aside from the financial aspect, there are so many other decisions to make – and so many changes in store.

Where To Live?

We sold our 3,000-square-foot family home at the peak of the real estate market last November and have been renting a house while debating where we want to spend our retirement years.

Even though we’ve lived here in the California desert near Palm Springs for 40-plus years, this is not where we want to settle. Some people love it here but, while I realize it has advantages, the desert has never been my cup of tea. Personally, my husband and I prefer more greenery, a change of seasons (as they say, we have two seasons here, perfect and hot), and cooler climates.

We’re SO over the 120-plus degree days you sometimes experience here during scorching summers that can last several months, not to mention endless sand storms that make my allergies crazy.

But where will we move? There was so much to consider.

In order to make retirement work, we needed to purchase a home for cash with the funds we had from selling our house. No more mortgage payments – in fact, we are completely debt-free. Our social security income will be about half of what we earn now. That meant downsizing, but not to a condo with high HOA fees. We also needed to find a place with low utilities.

We’ve always assumed when the time came to retire, we would move to the beach. But when I started looking at house prices, California beach towns seemed too expensive and out of reach for us. That made us start considering other places.

The freedom of it went to our heads. So many options!

Washington State, where we lived previously and loved, was a strong contender. That beautiful state will always hold a special place in my heart. However, since we wanted an active lifestyle that allows us to be outdoors most the year, we reluctantly crossed it off our list. We reasoned we could visit  Washington often with our camping trailer, enjoying the best of what the state has to offer.

We looked at other states like Tennessee and South Carolina where home prices are more reasonable. Previously, I had researched the subject when writing a blog about the best and worst 10 states to retire, which I re-read along with some additional research. We consider ourselves adventurous and even tossed around the idea of retiring in another country.

But then, we came back to reality. Our children, grandchildren, and family are all here in California and we didn’t want to be that far away from them.

So, here’s the big ANNOUNCMENT. The decision has been made and we purchased a new home.

Big Retirement Decisions

In front of our new home.

Where? We ended up going with our first choice, a beach town in Southern California. How did we afford it?

By buying a 40-year-old, 900-square-foot duplex – that definitely needs some work – in a 55-plus community.

We lived in a 400-square-foot casita for a couple of years while renting our 3000-square-foot house to our son and his three kids, so downsizing didn’t bother us. True, our new home is a third of the size of the house we sold, but unlike the casita, it has a full kitchen with a dishwasher and oven. Plus two bedrooms, two bathrooms, and a sunroom.

However, the thought of buying a duplex (we’ve always lived in single family homes), a fixer-upper, and living in a senior community was not appealing to me at first.

Everyone is so old here, I thought. Then, I remembered. I’m in my 60s. I always forget, I’m getting old too.

I’ve always enjoyed the happy sound of children playing nearby. But, of course, my husband reminded me, we’ll have grandchildren visiting us often.

Our “twin home,” which is a fancy name for a duplex, is actually quiet and private since the houses are attached by garages.

The lovely rear yard, filled with abundant plants and an apple tree, offers the greenery we desire and even more privacy. A big bonus: The lot even has space to park our travel trailer and a work shed for hubby.

Our new home needs updating, so I had to use my imagination and vision to see its potential. We have a lot of work ahead of us. We’re tearing the wall down between the kitchen and living room for an open concept floor plan. Plus, we’re replacing the flooring (out with the yucky carpet!), removing the popcorn ceiling, painting the walls and cabinets, changing the kitchen counters, tiling the showers, and buying new appliances. Stay tuned and later I’ll share before and after pictures with you in a future blog.

In the end, we couldn’t be happier and more excited with our decision.

Living at the beach has been a lifetime dream of mine. You can’t beat the year-round weather. We’ll be about 10 minutes from the ocean and harbor where we share a sailboat with my Dad. Walks and bike rides on the beach and spectacular sunsets will be a short drive away.

And we’ll be within hours of our children, grandchildren, aging fathers (my Dad turns 90 this year), and other family members.

Saying Good-Bye to the Family Business 

In the meantime, as mentioned earlier, we’re closing a 45-year-old family business and moving out of our office, which feels like the end of an era.

We are a well-respected, well-oiled machine, and have worked hard over the years to make our business a success. My siblings will continue to work, but under their own businesses.

The last few years, we’ve been overwhelmed with work as the housing market exploded. My husband works long hours and his phone rings constantly. The stress level is awful. The engineering business tends to be either a feast or famine situation. Although it’s been a “feast” for several years, we have a feeling a severe slowdown is ahead with talk of a recession. That may make this a good time to bow out. I won’t miss the rollercoaster aspect of a business connected with construction.

On the other hand, I appreciate what the business has offered to us over the years. When I was raising my kids, it allowed me to work during school hours. Whenever I needed a break from my writing career or a steady paycheck, the business was there for me to fall back on. And with the latest housing boom, it has helped us save up for retirement.

Saying good-bye to the business sets us free, but it’s also a bit nostalgic.

Two of our loyal surveyors, who are not family members, have been with us for over 20 years. They are now in their late 60s and 70s, ready for retirement themselves. We made a good team while it lasted.

Our clients, many of whom have been with us for decades, are still in shock. Some are asking how we can leave them in the lurch after they’ve been with us so long. Can’t we do just one more job for them? While it’s flattering they want us to stay, our decision has been made.

My husband and I plan on working part-time after retirement, but hubby wants to find work that is less stressful with flexible hours. Whether that means taking on occasional survey work or something else is up for debate.

Of course, I’ll keep writing. I’ve been helping out with the family business part-time the last few years and caring for grandchildren when they’re not in school, but am happy I’ll have more time for my craft now. Already, I’m envisioning setting up my writing space in a corner of the sunroom with tons of bookshelves around me.

Will Retirement Make Us Happy?

Some experts say skimpy savings combined with a decline in health and the emotional changes that come with leaving the workforce could make for some pretty dismal golden years for us boomers.

People have warned us that retiring too soon can be a strain financially. Wives have told me having hubby home all the time is a hard adjustment.  Other retirees say they were soon bored and went back to work.

On the other hand, as I pointed out in a previous blog, many studies have found that retirees experience an immediate boost in happiness and their health improves. And some research suggests you don’t need a huge nest egg to be happy. That’s good news for us, since we won’t have that million dollar nest egg some experts say you need.

So, we are taking a leap of faith to accomplish this goal. In the end, only time will tell if we’re making the right decision, but I feel hopeful. I’ll be sure to write all about our experience in future blogs.

So, if you’re retired, are you happy with your decision? Do you have any advice for me? If you’re not retired, what are you doing now to plan for retirement? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.



Julie A. Gorges is the author of two young adult novels, Just Call Me Goody Two Shoes and Time to Cast Away and co-author of Residential Steel Design and Construction published by McGraw Hill. In addition, hundreds of her articles and short stories have been published in national and regional magazines, and she received three journalism awards from the Washington Newspaper Publishers Association while working as a newspaper reporter. Julie currently lives in southern California with her husband, Scott, and has two grown children and three grandchildren.

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13 Responses

  1. Tamara Cole says:

    Wahoo! I love the way you have made this dream come together, one thoughtful decision at a time. Congratulations!

  2. That sounds like a terrific decision. Getting used to living in a small home will take same time but I bet you’ll learn to love living with less stuff. I’m curious to know where you ended up. We currently live in San Diego and have thought about downsizing. After considering various alternatives (including another country), we’ve decided that we love California – and its weather – too much to leave. I’ve heard good (and bad) things about 55+ communities and the idea is intriguing to me.

    • juliegorges says:

      Thanks! We lived in a small casita for a couple of years, so I know we’ll enjoy the smaller digs. I sent you an email giving you more details about the home we bought. I’ll probably write about living in a 55-plus community in a future blog – this is a new experience for us – to let everyone know the pros and cons. Hope you find your perfect home here in California!

  3. Cat Michaels says:

    Wow, so many changes and new directions, Julie. It’s scary good-exciting! I don’t envy your popcorn ceiling project, but that and the new open spaces and carpets will modernize your twin space.

    I am quasi-retired, working 20-30 hours weekly as an author (although way more during lockdown). Hardest for me was losing my social connections from the workplace. Thinking your new community, family and beach time will fill such gaps for you -:D. All th best in your new adventure!

  4. Barry Silverstein says:

    Thanks for sharing your journey to retirement in such detail, Julie. I’m sure the thought process you went through will be helpful to others going down that path. My wife and I started a business together in “early” semi-retirement at the same time as relocating and then sold it after seven years. Now she mostly volunteers and I mostly write (more for pleasure than for income) as well as volunteer. Giving up busy professional lives was challenging at first but after adjusting we couldn’t be happier!

  5. Good for you on reaching this momentous decision. Retirement is great, definitely more relaxing and so much more time for family and yourselves. Just be wary of maintaining time for yourself to write. Now I have hubby retired, I spent so much time doing things with him which is great, but I am not writing as much as I would like.

  6. So happy to hear all this good news for you and your husband, Julie.
    Saying goodbye to your family business has to be hard, but I hope you all will have less stress.
    Your weather will be so much more comfortable than the dessert, I’m sure.
    Take care and enjoy!

  7. Rebecca Lyndsey says:

    Sounds like you are making some wonderful changes, even as scary as change can be. Wishing you all the best. Enjoy!

  8. Carmela says:

    I love how you took everything one step at a time and made your dreams come true. I’m excited for you and this next chapter of your life.

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