Retirement means downsizing. You know that, and you look forward to it mostly with trepidation. You’ve gotten used to the empty nest. You’re no longer bursting into tears in the middle of the supermarket because it suddenly hits you that don’t have to figure out how to plan a meal that will satisfy the vegetarian, and the one who won’t eat anything that’s orange, and the one who only wants hot dogs for every meal, and the one who insists on ketchup instead of spaghetti sauce.
So your nest is empty. But it’s still a big nest, with big heating bills and electric bills and repair bills and rooms you haven’t even walked into in the past year.
And still it’s hard to give up. We’ve spent the first two thirds of our lives accumulating. Accumulating furniture. Accumulating art. Accumulating books and records and CDs and knickknacks and Hummel figurines and cars and boats and cottages by the lake. Accumulating lovers and spouses, children and grandchildren, friends and co-workers and partners. It’s mostly all been rewarding, and it’s all given us valuable life lessons. (Obviously, we are not casting off the important people in our lives.)
And it’s a hard habit to stop. But to everything there is a season, turn, turn, turn. A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together. And as we move toward retirement age, which may well be as much as one third of your total life span, it’s time to cast away stones.
Or, to quote from another vinyl LP that’s gathering dust on your shelves, freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose. But more to the point: nothing left to lose is another word for freedom. Freedom to travel. To actually see those far-flung grandchildren, and those places on the map you’ve always wanted to visit. Freedom to make your time your own.
So here’s the goal.
Don’t own anything.
Too much to ask? What about those place settings Aunt Helen left me in her will, that the kids might want some day? That book I read on the beach, that wonderful summer of 1983? That Janis Joplin record on vinyl? I just listened to it…well, five years ago. But I might listen to it again.
You’re like the little boy who cut off his dog’s tail an inch at a time, so it wouldn’t hurt so much.
Don’t own anything.
Sell the house. That not only adds a nice sum to your nest egg, it cuts down your expenses like you wouldn’t believe. (Add up all the ways your house drains the old exchequer, and you’ll start to believe it. And we haven’t even gotten to property taxes yet.) And don’t buy another one. Rent. If you don’t own it, you can move. Remember, nothing left to lose is another word for freedom.
The car? Everyone needs a car. But maybe not as much as you think. How often do you use it? If you live in that quaint farmhouse in the country, you might use it every day, but you’re not buying another house, remember? If you live in a city, you scarcely need it at all. Even in a small town, if you can walk or bicycle to shopping, you might not need it more than once a week. True, a bicycle is bigger than your hat, but not that much bigger, and it will keep you in shape. If you do absolutely need a car, do you really need two? If you and your significant other are both retired, and neither of you are commuting any more, maybe not. And with today’s car-sharing companies like Zipcar ZIP +0%, access to a vehicle can be pretty easy and not all that costly.
Access. Take a tip from your grandchildren’s lifestyle. The millennial generation has learned that ownership isn’t necessary if you have access. The collection of original Beatles recordings on vinyl? The CDs in all those CD towers that you had to have? The stereo system, with wall-mounted speakers and subwoofers? You’re a dinosaur. With your cell phone, and a tiny compact Bluetooth speaker system, you can access Spotify or Rdio for ten dollars a month and listen to virtually any piece of music you can think of. Or you can accessPandora or Slacker for free, and listen to their playlists of any genre you can think of. All those books, going back to your high school days? You can pack ten times as many, and more, into a Kindle or a Nook. With a Kindle app on your cell phone, you can go even smaller.
The stuff you’re saving to leave to your kids? The silverware, the furniture, the art work? Give it to them now. If they don’t want it now, they’re not likely to want it later.
Nothing ain’t worth nothing, but it’s free. And nothing don’t cost nothing, neither, which means more money in your pocket for more choices.
Try this hat on for size!