Kathy Kraft is my life-long mentor. We met at Carmel Presbyterian Church in 1984 when she befriended me. I cannot remember our age difference but I had just graduated from University and she had children approaching middle school. She was further down life's road, but not so far that we could not relate to one another. She has always inspired me. Her life has never been dull. She told me once that I should always have an older friend to show me the way, friends my own age to share life, and a younger friend to extend a hand to and help on her way. I am blessed from following this advice.
In the last few years Kathy and I have exchanged Christmas letters and emails and I knew that she and Tedd had retired to Bainbridge Island. Recently I had the opportunity to reconnect with Kathy and Tedd at their new home. I did not know what to expect. I figured it had to be pretty great to entice them away from their idyllic home in Carmel, California. Wow. It is as close to "as good as New Zealand" as I have seen in the states. (Granted it was an unusually sunny day.)
Kathy and Tedd have created a life full of volunteerism, sailing round the San Juan Islands, time with children and grandchildren, and enjoying life. They made retirement look so attractive.
I have not spent much time looking forward to retirement, in part because of a doubt that I will be able to afford to stop working until I am 70ish. And because I thought I would be bored. I have to rethink both of those assumptions. Tedd and Kathy have worked very hard their whole lives, and invested their shekels wisely. Yet I do not think it is the boat or the house that makes their retirement days so rich. It is living in a place near family, with lots of positive activities to fill their days and with interesting people to befriend. And their shekels apparently stretch further in Washington than in California.
Mom's friend Lisa went even farther. She moved to Ohio near her children. Her cost of living is much lower than Hawaii. Not sure if her quality of life is higher in winter, but she is happy.
Since I returned from Seattle I have been paying attention to tweets about planning for retirement. I have yet to use one of those calculators to figure out how much moolah I need in the bank. Instead I have been thinking about how I want to live, where I want to live, and who I want to have nearby. I am socking money away, but more importantly I am thinking about what I want my retirement to be. Once I have that picture in my head I will find my way there. I learned this from Kathy too.