The “R” Word

Yep, R is for retirement. In the Foreign Service, this comes up sooner than you might think.

Because my husband joined the FS in his 20s, he is already eligible to retire in his early 50s. But there is retirement and then there is Retirement. With one kid still in college, and our being quite a ways from being able to withdraw retirement funds, unless we want to live in an RV, we can’t really Retire.

Our Retirement will happen in stages. The first stage, retirement with a little “r,” is quite likely to be leaving the Foreign Service after we return from Warsaw. Or at least leaving the Foreign part of the Service. My husband, company guy and baby boomer that he is, will probably work at State until Retirement. Oh, on some days there are vague threats of opening a winery or working for a think tank, but I’ve heard them all before. It doesn’t really matter anyway. Honestly, as long as he’s happy (and not totally stressed out) I don’t care what he does all day.

Fortunately, we’ve agreed to Retire to the DC area. So, that means we can retire there first. This will give me the number one thing that I want out of both retirement and Retirement. No more moving!

Living in a TDY apartment for several months has clarified a few things. I don’t need all my stuff with me all the time. In fact, I can be happy with a laptop, a Kindle, and my knitting for quite a while. It doesn’t mean that I want to live that way permanently, but I’m thinking that if my husband ends up doing interesting TDYs later on, I wouldn’t mind tagging along. As long as—and this is very important—I don’t have to pack out my house. Once we get settled, I fully intend never to move more than a couple of suitcases for the rest of my life!

The second thing I want out of retirement is a garden. Apartment life is easy, but sterile. Especially at this time of year, I want to work in my garden so bad it isn’t even funny. I want to grow tomatoes. I want a composter and a rain barrel. I want a bird feeder and bird bath too. I miss the birds, bees and squirrels we had all over the place in Reston. I miss sitting on the porch with my coffee and watching the wildlife.

My favorite part of our suburban yard.
My favorite part of our suburban yard. Actually my favorite part of the whole house.

I am hoping that we at least get a garden-able terrace in Warsaw, like I had in Vienna, but I’m not counting on it. So, when we retire, I want a yard to play with. And this time, I’m not leaving it behind.

Along with the garden, I’d like a house to fix up. We’ve been cruising a few open houses while we’re in Arlington and getting an idea what neighborhoods might be do-able when we get back. We loved Reston, but living this close-in has spoiled us. I’ve always been more comfortable in an urban environment, anyway. I didn’t grow up in the suburbs, and cul-de-sacs have never seemed quite right to me. But to buy in Arlington or Alexandria, we’ll need to consider fixer-uppers. I’m fine with that. I’m rested up after the last house now, and ready to take on another!

What will I do with my days? Well, I do like working part-time. I can’t see myself suddenly becoming ambitious or wanting to sit at a desk all day. But I’d like to work outside the house for a change. And hey, maybe with no epic paperwork or security clearances involved. Something hands-on, active, and doing some good would suit me best. There are many options if I don’t care about making a lot of money.

My kids are both grown, and in a few years they will likely have families of their own. They moved around a lot with us, and now we’re moving back overseas without them. They may (or may not) decide to live an internationally mobile life. Whatever they do, I think it will be nice to stay put and let them come to me for a change.

I might be persuaded to visit them as well. As long as I only have to pack one suitcase. 🙂

One comment

  1. My husband’s retirement date is similar (international civil service), before 60. He has this pipe dream that he’s going to be able to retire with a capital R. Or become a park ranger (!!!). I try to let him have his dreams while letting the air out of them slowly….


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