Early Retirement during the Pandemic

Three weeks into retirement and I have to admit, it feels like 3 years. 2020 has been an odd year for everyone. Retiring during a pandemic is a bit anticlimatic.

In January I was offered a retirement incentive at work. Being of a certain age I was eligible. My husband of 6 months had retired but I did not feel ready yet, so decided to wait at least one more year and declined the golden handshake.

In March, I left the classroom on a Friday afternoon and never did go back to that classroom to finish the school year. Remote teaching with Google meets and me posting videos of myself reading aloud books to my cell phone became the norm last spring.

Summer was almost normal but then it really wasn’t. People wearing masks in stores, empty restaurants and hotels, orange cones all over the beach parking lots to ensure spacing and limited numbers, and the absence of group barbeques including no community beach camp or even a Lobsterfest last summer was disheartening. I did manage to do lots of outdoor hiking and most of the things on my summer bucket list. Summer lasted a bit longer for me.

The news was forever draining. The death count on COVID cases, the protests that turned into riots around the world and that contentious presidential election with neighbors posting signs and flagpoles to highlight their political affiliation was exhausting – in fact, is that election over yet?

What a year. I chose not to risk my health and return to in person teaching in September. My decision did not go over well at work, so I took that retirement incentive after all and made it official.

Due to restrictions I did not have a big retirement party or even celebrate with an amazing trip. Plans for such things will have to wait until the COVID cases go down and a vaccine is available to people like me.

But there is hope. 2021 is right around the corner!

A little old lady in England got the first vaccine this week to prevent COVID-19.

The schools have been open and children have adjusted well to the masks. In fact the statistics have shown schools are safer than restaurants and other enclosed public places.

In January, there will be an inauguration and new president in the USA. A fresh start we can hope.

Reading blogs about retirees I notice a few important themes. Planning ahead for such a life changing event is great, but it doesn’t always happen that way. I love to read about young adults reaching the goal of retirement. A movement called FIRE (financial independence, retire early) has encouraged workers to discipline their spending, save and have enough to live on comfortably at a younger age than is typical.

My journey into retirement isn’t exactly early but I am curious how others embrace not working. I’ve been working full time my entire adult life. This is definitely a new life chapter and not sure what exactly is written in this one as it’s all uncharted territory, but I am excited.

After sending an assorted batch of old VHS videos and 8mm tapes to iMemories, I finally had the time to download hours and hours of videos from when my boys were little. I love watching those precious moments and hearing not only the boys voices, but my parents and my late husband’s voices as well. Using my new technology skills I learned from teaching remotely, I created family movies for everyone. Now if I can just get someone to sit down and watch them with me!

My cousin has done quite a bit of research on the geneaology of our family tree. I joined Ancestry.com this fall and enjoy learning about all the distant relatives I have discovered. The website has a wealth of information and clues to help you find people. In fact I was so impressed to see photos of a castle in our family tree that was posted to someone else’s tree.

Denbigh Castle, Wales

It doesn’t look like anyone lives there anymore.

Now I have a new perspective on traveling. Wouldn’t it be exciting to visit places where my ancestors lived and learn more about who they were. Many retirees plan to travel, visiting exotic places, learning about different cultures and relaxing on cruise ships that pamper and feed us. I do believe these opportunities will come back so in the meantime I will stash away a separate account for future travel expenses and continue to research and take notes on places to visit.

Of course, the biggest obstacle to travel and a carefree lifestyle may indeed be finances.

My salary won’t be the same and I still have a mortgage. Options are downsizing or cutting spending. Right now I have been making an effort to cut spending. Writing down what I spend money on is a start. I tried selling stuff I found around the house (sorry kids). Eating at home instead of restaurants is cheaper. Thinking twice about spending on new clothes or tattooed eyebrows (a recent whim that I did not follow through with) is a step in the right direction. Renting out a room or working part time in the spring when it is safer are thoughts I have considered as well.

What about health and wellness in retirement? I am fortunate that my retirement package offered a pension that included family health care at the same rate I paid while working. Vision and dental are no longer included but always ended up costing more anyway. At age 65 we will go on Medicare as a secondary insurance and when my son turns 26 he will be on his own.

As we age our bodies change, in case you haven’t noticed. As a kindergarten teacher I was always moving, and bending over. My aching back no longer acts up but I notice my days are more sedentary. I read a great article in the NY Times about how we can counter hours of sitting with just 11 minutes of walking. The recommended amount was 35 minutes but the point was, get up and move to help you live longer. On line exercise classes like yoga have been nice but I look forward to joining in person classes next year.

I’ve had lots of time to decorate the house for Christmas and it looks beautiful thus bringing me joy. I have some shopping to do as we will be celebrating early with one son and his girlfriend next weekend. Son number two will be staying in Colorado this winter so I need to get a package together ASAP for him.

2020 Christmas

Not being one to “waste my retirement” I make an effort everyday to get in a good walk or use the exercise equipment in the house. To keep the mind alert, I do a daily crossword puzzle and read books; some for my book club and then some other high interest topics (scrolling endlessly on Facebook, does that count as reading?) Although I do miss socially getting together with friends, I try to keep in touch with loved ones on social media and Facetime calls.

Hopes of heading to Manhattan for day trips to museums and Broadway shows are on hold this year. We newlyweds are happy to snuggle on the couch and binge watch Netflix shows or the occasional Holiday special as the dark evenings come earlier this time of year.

Relaxing in my newly renovated home has been nice. We have plans for a road trip next month and I am hoping to do some skiing this winter as well.

Just wanted to catch up on writing my blog. Thank you for reading. Wishing you all peace and good health this season and in the new year.


At the age of 51 I unexpectedly became a widow. For the first 6 months after my husband died, I was in shock and numb. I journaled and with the help of friends, family and therapists was able to get back to living my old life, even if it is now very different. Before I was married, I had spent a semester in England and backpacked around Europe. My husband and I moved from New York to California for 8 years and started a family. Travelling took a back seat to raising a family and going to work everyday. Since the loss of my husband I have visited a lot of places with family and friends and took a solo trip to Thailand. I am enjoying sharing my stories and adventures as well as some of my insights to how I am traveling the path of being a widow. I hope to share my stories and adventures as well as some thoughts on being a middle aged widow. While I have some great experiences traveling to Thailand and cruising to Central America, some of my adventures involve a trip to see a Broadway show in nearby Manhattan and a shopping trip at Bed, Bath and Beyond. If I can inspire anyone to go out and continue to live a good life that would be my greatest accomplishment.

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15 Responses

  1. I am also a kindergarten teacher but in Australia. I have decided to take 2 years off teaching to have a new adventure. I have leased out my farm, sold the machinery and fly to Las Vegas 22nd December 2020. 7 months ago I met a guy on a zoom course we were doing. Many emails, zoom meetings and whatsapp messages later, I am making the move to Las Vegas to see what the next chapter in my life might look like. I have followed your blog for almost 3 years?? and love the honesty and connectons with my life. Your blog encouraged me to set higher goals and push myself to be involved and active in my growth. I have plans to do many courses in US and take programs back to Australia to provide support for the widows and widowers there. I wish you all the best in your retirement and keep posting.

    • runawaywidow says:

      Thank you so much for your comment. That is so nice to hear. Best of luck with your move to the US and your new chapter. Moving forward is definitely a process and an adventure ❤️

  2. Sheree says:

    Enjoy retirement

  3. Vanessa says:

    Hi Kris
    Stumbled on your blog, while looking up how soon after the death of a spouse should you get a puppy.

    I find it so serendipitous that I would find this blog, in my search.
    I’m 35 years old and 2 months ago I lost my husband of 10 years, we were high school sweethearts living out our dreams. We had a 7 year old son together. All through the funeral and his memorial service I was the epitome of strength but now, 2 months later I literally don’t know my elbows from my eyebrows at this point. My son and I are currently on holiday cause we couldn’t bear to be home and deal with family and Christmas trees and all the festivities. my son and I were discussing a puppy and I was so unsure, till I read your blog.
    Thank you for being an open book, for speaking your truth and in doing so, you help so many people like myself.

    I will continue to read. And look out for the advises that will me in the future.

    • runawaywidow says:

      Hi Vanessa thank you so much for reading and your comment. I did the same thing my first Christmas as a widow. Took my boys on away on a cruise to get away. Dogs are definitely a commitment but in my opinion so worth it for that unconditional love. Hugs to you and good wishes in the new year!

  4. Brava! So enjoying discovering your blog. Your courage in the face of losing your spouse is inspiring.
    And as a new retiree, you and your “waste my retirement” phrase perfectly describe how I felt if I wasn’t “doing” something. But after nearly two years as a retired teacher (2nd grade), I’ve realized doing nothing is sometimes just the something I need.

    • runawaywidow says:

      Yes. I agree. That feeling of pressure to “do retirement “ right is ridiculous but still there. I too am beginning to be more comfortable in a slower pace and learning to be more present and just “be”. Thanks for reading.

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