There is enough money in my life. I am surprised by how that affects me. It took a couple of years after my retirement to realize that there is enough. I am okay, I will be okay financially, because the money keeps coming in no matter what.

Yet my retirement income dropped to about 35% of my working income. It is also low enough I get some government supports.

So why the feel-good? 

To backtrack, I retired when I was 60, although I really liked my work, but was no longer able to struggle through it because of longstanding health issues. I had supported myself since I was 17 and not working was unfathomable. So I continued to work until I was hanging on by my fingernails, unable to admit my difficulties, unable to give up on work I liked and felt good about, and unable to figure out where the money would come from to support me. I am single with neither a rich uncle or wealthy children with a big house. Okay, overall, maybe a bit of anxiety about what to do, what to do.

Finally, I had to quit. And gradually I saw something new about my attitude to work all those decades. I loved being a journalist, part-time college English instructor, book editor. All work is honorable, I told my daughter, while in fact I had hid my middle-class feeling (I think I hid it!) that what I did had a little more polish on the honor. So as is common and I had partly anticipated, on retirement I had to redefine who I thought I was. But that was not the surprise.

The unfolding surprise was that underlying all those obvious good things around work had run a constant anxiety about having enough money. Enough to pay the mortgage, look after the car, repair the house, and support myself and my daughter. Or in the decades before and after that, just anxiety about having enough for the basics.

I could not see that anxiety until I retired. “Fixed income” has become a blessing. Worries about being homeless or hungry are gone. Worries I didn’t even know I had. I have no anxiety about financial instability if I can’t work or become too ill to work, because my pensions will continue to slide into my bank account every month. I am so fortunate! Pensions are a wonderful idea and I am grateful to be living where I can benefit from them. 

There are a couple of ways my life is cheaper than for some. I don’t smoke, gamble, or drink to speak of, but while I don’t believe these abstinence are moral virtues on my part, I believe I’ve been fortunate to somehow have escaped their health and financial burdens. I don’t drive a car anymore and live in a city centre where I can walk or take a bus. These help me live comfortably even while under one measure of LICO…the low-income cut-off.

So here are my retirement income surprises: there is enough money in my life, there is less of that formerly unrecognized anxiety, and there is a lot more feel-good and gratitude.

These attitudes are gifts I could well have claimed all those decades of working!