A clear majority of our retiring population has not saved enough to live the way they would like in their later years. I then threw out a concept called The Pod. It is an alternative to having to live alone, trying to make ends meet by yourself.
What’s a Pod?
A Pod is a safe place, like peas in a pod -- protected, close to others, warm and cozy.
A Pod is also the collective noun that’s used to describe a group of dolphins – beautiful creatures, free, with the whole ocean to roam in and new horizons to strike out for every day, while at the same time each one knows that she’s not alone. There’s a built-in support group that dolphins have for security and companionship. Dolphins work together to gather food, and they team up for protection. Like us, they’re social.
For Baby Boomers, a Pod means a way to continue our personal sustainability in retirement. It’s not an enclosing, confining structure like a peapod, though it can provide that snugness and comfort. It’s a little more like a pod of dolphins. But basically, it’s not so much a structure as a concept. It can be whatever you make it, if you remember those two goals – financial security and companionship.
A Pod is a design for cooperative living. It’s pooled skills, pooled resources, with lives as separate and individual as you want to make them. It can be a close-knit group of friends – women friends, in the case of my planned Pod, but not necessarily. You can even join, or form, a Pod as a couple.
There are as many designs for Pods, as there are designs for living. You can share a house. You can get adjoining houses in a retirement community, and pool certain essentials. You can do the same thing in your old neighborhood, with the people you grew up with and know well. You can even make a multi-generational family Pod. I didn’t invent this concept; I’m just suggesting that you think about this if you have not financially planned for retirement. All Pod life asks for is the ability to compromise (and a lot of good humor). In return, it can give you the life that you want.
Is Pod Life For You?
At this point, you’re either saying “Hey, that could work…” or “I’m not sure that’s for me.” The first thing is to assess where you are financially. Do you have enough to retire the way you want? What kind of financial shortfall are you talking about here? You need to know.
Take a serious look at your assets and your expenses. It is a good idea to get the help of a professional. How much more would you need to have to spend two weeks, or even one month a year in that little place on the Gulf Coast, painting landscapes? Or, digging for velociraptor bones in Montana? Or, taking the grandkids to Orlando to visit Disney World? Or, holing up by yourself in that little cottage on the coast of Maine, writing that novel that will make you the next Stephen King or Jessica Fletcher. (They both did it in Maine, after all). Or, knowing that as you sit at home on your porch watching a sunset, or in a cozy room watching Netflix, that your bills are paid and you have enough left over for at least a couple of items in a new fall wardrobe?
If the difference is one that you could make up if some of your core expenses were shared, then… perhaps… Hello, Orlando, Hello Mickey!
The Agony Of Downsizing So You Can Move On
If you know you should be downsizing, then you should be. Yes, it’s hard to let go of the roomful of stuffed animals and Katy Perry posters that your daughter is not planning to decorate her new apartment with. Or, the dining room furniture. Or, the books you’ve been buying and putting on shelves for the last 40 years, and my, they do take up a lot of space now, don’t they?
But if you’re going to be a dolphin, swimming wild and free and exploring new oceans, first you must leave the shore.
And this is an area where a Pod can be a surprising help. For one thing, it will focus your thoughts on the space you’ll be moving to, and how much you’ll need to downsize to fit into it. For another, it’s amazing how helpful a good friend can be in reassuring you that you really can live without that stoneware dinner set or those commemorative coins that were supposed to increase in value but never did. Or, sometimes, she can reassure you that you don’t have to jettison something: “Say, those books will look wonderful in our new common room, and I’ve always wanted to read most of them!”
Downsizing is one of the biggest issues confronting empty nesters who are ready – but not quite ready – to move on to the next phase of their lives. 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. It has been rewarding, and it has given us valuable life lessons. The relationships that we have “accumulated” are the precious, immeasurable joys of life beyond tangible value. The value of the “stuff” we have collected can always be counted.
I know that there can be sentimental value to these things, but the act of accumulation must stop. But, to everything, there is a season. 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 lifespan, it’s time to cast away stones.
If you have read this far, Pod life may be something to think about. More articles on this topic will follow