Retirement Reality Check

Muskingum River — from one of my trips to Marietta.

Muskingum River — from one of my trips to Marietta.

Tasted equal amounts of anticipation and frustration today. 

Kind of like the recurring dream I have, preparing for a canoe trip that never happens. Or it does and, once out there, I realize I’ve forgotten my sleeping bag or tent poles or the canoe keeps getting smaller until I’m floating down the river on tongue depressor.

That’s the kind of day it’s been.

I had hoped make contact with the Social Security Administration to find out the earliest time to apply. Also wanted to get some of my stuff organized and work on the chain saw.

All of this plays in to what I imagine retirement will be like — a balance between outdoor adventures and keeping the home fires burning. 

I’d like to get some of the downed trees cut up before spring. The firewood pile is getting low. The chain saw needed sharpened and a new starter cord installed.

That proved to be too much of a challenge. I followed online instructions faithfully, but it didn’t say that the starter cord recoil spring could fly out of the housing with no provocation. If I’m lucky, the dealer will have the tools to rewind and mount it. Otherwise, the whole starter unit might have to be replaced.

As Red Green says, “If the women don’t find you handsome, they should at least find you handy.” 

Unfortunately, Red never mentioned a “Plan C.”

I accomplished my mission with the Social Security Administration. That, too, proved frustrating. I struggled to get info online and spent about 45 minutes on the phone with a very patient bureaucrat, but to no avail. Apparently the government has lost track of me. I tore my office apart — and my scalp — poring over records and trying to figure out when and how I disappeared from Uncle Sam’s radar. Eventually, I figured it out on my own. I can apply as early as mid July to start receiving benefits in October.

Yesterday, I learned that I can apply for medical insurance 75 days before I retire. I found a program for $250 a month. High deductible, but it will do for three years until Medicare kicks in.

Read a lot of interesting stuff on alternative lifestyles for retirees. Including something called “boondocking.” I came across it on a blog written by a guy who lives in a converted box truck — an RV in disguise. He travels around the country and camps for free. He’s schooled in urban camping and the Walmart option (which seems to be drying up). He prefers wide open spaces. There are a lot of places on government land, such as BLM areas, where it’s legal to camp.

I also looked at folding bicycles as an alternative to paying for canoe trip shuttles. The lighter models are too pricy for me. Perhaps I could find something used. Or throw myself on the mercy of strangers and beg for a ride back to my vehicle.

I will have to supplement my income, or lack thereof, so I’m looking at blogging for money. From what I’ve read, you have to find a niche and hammer away at it for several years. Probably the soundest advice I got was from one guy who said it’s by no means passive income.

For me, this would be just another form of freelance writing. Of course, the ideal situation would be to make money writing about the things I enjoy doing. But my main objective of retiring is to do the things I enjoy doing. Even if it means surviving on a diet of sticks and mud.

I also did some more reading today on canoeing the Mississippi. I’ve always been intrigued with the idea, but I’m not sure I’d want to do it. A lot of people have paddled the Mississippi to New Orleans — mostly from the headwaters in Minnesota. Maybe I should ask them all why. What a story that would make.

Having paddled the Muskingum River to Marietta twice and the Scioto River to Portsmouth, I know that paddling big rivers can be tedious. But the challenge is exhilarating. On the other hand, would my time be better spent exploring more pristine rivers?

As in real life, at the end of the day, I have more questions than answers. 

And chain saw parts scattered all over the basement.