Wednesday, July 15, 2009

THE ILLUSION OF SECURITY - A guest post from Steph's mom

As promised, a new post from my mom:

STEPH & BOB'S situation has had me think so much about our own situation.

What is it we really want to do with the rest of our lives?
Will I ever be able to retire?

I want adventure and freedom, but now with the economic downturn so many people of retirement age are faced with the fact that they’ll have to work for many more years before they can afford the retirement they’ve dreamed of. Pensions are gone, savings and Sep Ira’s depleted, health insurance is an issue until you reach 65 and Medicare kicks in. How can anyone afford to retire?

I started thinking about my parents and the life they lived in retirement. They moved from Michigan to Florida and bought a modular home in “Barefoot Bay” Florida outside Sebastian. Barefoot Bay is a mobile home community of 5000 people- big enough to have their own post office and zip code. I couldn’t believe my parents had bought a MOBILE HOME! They paid cash for it, never had a mortgage on it, and when they wanted to travel they shut the door and left.

The area is beautiful and provides affordable living in a resort-style community complete with golf courses, swimming pools and an Indian River front fishing pier. Some people refer to Barefoot Bay as Mayberry on the river. My husband, Tom kiddingly says to me “There’s always Barefoot Bay” when I moan about still having to work.

In the hot Florida summers my parents made the drive up Interstate 75 north like so many migrating “Snow Birds” and in their early retirement years they lived aboard their 34 foot 25 year old sailboat in Michigan. So many people have a misconception about boating; it does not have to be expensive. I like to say it takes creativity and imagination more than money.

My parents sold their boat for $20,000 when they became too old to sail her any longer, and each summer they came to our home in Barrington and stayed with us for 3 months. We always had projects for my Dad when they came because he loved to help us around the house. Their visits were enthusiastically anticipated. One of Grandpa’s biggest most unusual projects was at the age of 80 building a skate board ramp for my son Tommy... it was the talk of Lincoln Avenue. They traveled, they played golf, they visited with wonderful friends, they were involved in their church, they volunteered to help others, and they did all of this on their social security income that totaled about $2,000 per month.

I used to tease them about re-using zip-lock bags, and I hysterically laughed when they dried out paper towels on their counter tops. I’m not laughing now!

My Dad never threw anything away, but found a way to fix or re-cycle things. He was the original “Greenie”. My Mom took care of her clothes like newborn chicks, washing them by hand, sewing buttons back on, and being impeccably careful with her things. She still had a sweater I had given her 30 years earlier, and it looked fresh as the day she unwrapped the JL Hudson box it came in. They never complained about not having enough money, time, friends, love, energy or health. They lived in an abundance of riches and did I say they did this on $2,000 a month?

So now my children have lost their home and are re-building their lives. They’ve chosen to get rid of most of their material possessions and start over- free from the constraints of “things”. They’ve learned that life is not about what we acquire, but the experiences we have. So maybe history does repeat and they’ve taken a page out of my parents' book. What is this elusive thing called security after all? Maybe it’s an illusion that handcuffs us to our own familiar routine. If being a Realtor during this crazy economic meltdown hasn’t taught me that security is an illusion, then I’m really a slow learner.


If you enjoyed this post from my mom, good! There will be more. She's a Realtor, you know, with 30+ years in the business. And she spent a year on a boat with her husband Tom which she blogged about here. Check it out. There are some pretty fascinating posts about their year on Cloud Nine (pictured above) doing "The Loop."

I'm so fortunate to have parents who not only taught me that ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE, but have shown me that in their own lives. The year Mom & Tom spent on the boat was the fulfillment of a long dream. And like Mom says in her post, all it takes is creativity and imagination!

What do you think? Could YOU live on a boat?

Cruising the Waterways - Mom's blog about their adventures on The Great Loop

What's The Great Loop?

America's Great Loop Cruiser's Association


Richard Paul said...

And -- since Americans on the whole aren't too up on their history, here's a piece I produced for NPR's "Morning Edition" about what people older than Pam's parents did.


Kim Hooper said...

Great post! I see the writing genes in the family :)
Have you read "An Embarrassment of Mangoes"? It's about a couple who takes off for 2 years to live on a boat. When I read it, I thought about whether or not I could do it. I'm not sure. I get seasick! But, the idea of total freedom is alluring. In the book, the author is most afraid when they have to return home. They have frightening moments out in the ocean, but the real terror is coming back to "things." Read it! I think you'll like it :)

Rob said...

I think that in time you will look back at the great gift you are giving us all by sharing your story and see that you have made a hug difference in helping others face this.

Many thanks and good luck

PrimeTimeMom said...

You mother is a very wise woman. I hope she continues to guest post here. You may be low on money but you are mega rich in family.

Anonymous said...

Wonderful post, Pam! Your stories of your parents remind me so much of my grandparents -- who were definitely influenced by the Depression Era that they lived through. They lived just a mile away from us while I was growing up, on a farm (like we did). Grandpa always had a garden and fruit trees, and Grandma always put up fruit and vegetables, canning and freezing all summer. She liked to sew, he loved to work out in his shop. They went to Grange dances every week, where they saw friends and got good exercise. I remember walking down to their woods with a picnic... I remember Grandpa darning his own socks. Simple, good things. We need to get back to simple, good things. Thank you for bringing back such wonderful memories and sharing such good insights!

~EM Lewis

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