Recent Comments


    Retirement Roller Coaster

    By Dr. Tim Seelig–

    It’s now been almost 8 months since I drove away from San Francisco. That journey is well documented in earlier articles. I think that time frame is long enough to reflect on where I am with all of it. Of course, it will continue to develop and change as the months and years go by, but I certainly have some thoughts. They range from, “What shall I do next?” (meaning this afternoon) to “Medicare costs,” (what the heck!) and the most important, “What did retirees do before Netflix?”

    According to the research, I fall into what they call the “mid-retirement” group. Who knew? Mid-Retirement starts at 70 years old and extends whatever length of time you are still able to safely live independently. This period can vary greatly based largely on health, genes, and lifestyle. (Thanks, Dad, for the nice genes.) This is also the most important time to begin thinking about where you would like to live as you get older, and begin having honest conversations with your family members about what is most important to you, particularly if your health declines. (They are clear on my wishes—when it’s time, it’s time; no hesitation, please.)

    Given that cheery information, I asked the age-old question of basically no one, “How long do I have?”

    When the U.S. Constitution was adopted on September 17, 1787, the average life expectancy in this country was 35. Thank goodness that has more than doubled. According to the American Society on Aging, there has been a steady march toward increased life expectancy in the U.S. We, however, have had “a sustained two-year downward turn for the first time in a century. There is a widening gender gap with women’s life expectancy now 79.1 years compared to men’s life expectancy of 73.2 years.”

    That came as a shock. The clock was ticking faster than I had thought. That would give me exactly one year to go. I’ve always been one to take things as they come, but that was a lot to take in. Then I found a fascinating calculation table through the Social Security website that made me laugh at some of the questions but gave me some very reassuring news. My life expectancy is somewhere between 76 and 89 with 83 as the average guestimate. That’s better! I’m great with the average.Here is the site:

    The form has the usual questions about health, smoking, drinking. But then there are these:

    • “The driver of the automobile which I most frequently travel in is drunk while driving.” Answer options: Sometimes. Don’t know. Never.
    • “How many sex partners do you have per month?” (This struck me as funny considering it is the government asking this to 70+ year-olds!)

    The new information that my life expectancy is between 1 and 18 years, brought the next question: What is it going to cost to retire, after all?

    My Mama said to never discuss money, sex, or politics in public. Religion was on the list, but that was fine if it was hers. Sorry, Mom, gonna talk about money. This is the sticker shock part. This is important information to share. Don’t get me wrong. I am very grateful to be able to retire. This is not complaining or whining. It is a cautionary tale about the huge disconnect in the perception vs. reality about retirement finances.

    ItemMonthly Cost
    Medicare Parts A and B$597.50
    Supplement for Parts C and D, Dental and Vision$174.30
    Coverage gap ($2,740 per year)$228.33
    Total monthly health insurance cost$1000.13

    The next shock: In January, the pharmacy called to let me know my HIV meds cost $10,375.88 for a 90-day supply. My copay was $2,043.21. This threw me into the coverage gap, lovingly known as the donut. It’s complicated, but I pay the actual cost of medications between $4,660 to $7,400. So, I will end up paying $2,700 out of pocket each year for HIV meds.

    If you have not given any thought to your retirement or for those you love, start now. Make sure those folks in Washington (who have pensions) leave their grubby hands off these “entitlements”—which is not what they are at all! And, of course, you pay income tax on your Social Security income.

    I’ll repeat how grateful that I am to be able to begin this new phase called retirement. I’m grateful for the HIV meds that keep me alive. I am very clear that I am one of the lucky ones to be able to do this.

    Final question that has been top of mind for all my friends and family: What will I do to keep busy since I never picked up a golf club in my life? I had been here in Portland no more than two weeks when I started wondering what I would do next. Just sitting around was not going to work for me. Part of it was the good old German work ethic my father passed on. But more of it was because I had spent the last 35 years trying to be an agent of change, moving the needle for human rights where I and my choruses could. That’s the part I couldn’t imagine bringing to a halt.

    Once again, the universe bopped me on the head and put an incredible opportunity in my path. I saw an ad for a company, Thought-Leader, which helps speakers navigate the very complicated, arduous path to a TEDx talk. In August, I engaged them to help. What followed was some of the most challenging work I’ve done. Narrowing a lifetime of experiences and stories down to a 16-minute speech was quite a challenge. The average person submits a minimum of 85 applications before getting a response or invitation to speak. It can take a year or more.

    Enter Tim: “People, I don’t have that much time!” So, I put it on the fast track, finished my intensives, and started applying. I am very happy to say that in November of last year, I got two firm invitations and requests for follow-up interviews from two others. I selected one of the two firm invitations and here we go. It will be March 30 in Fort Collins, CO. The process is daunting. The 16-minute speech is scripted and memorized. No teleprompter or cue cards. I’ve given the talk for wonderful professional coaches, and given versions of it to Bobby, Dan, Judson, and mostly to Tater Tot who sits patiently if I give him a treat. If you can get to Colorado, come on out. The video will be posted about two months after the event.

    There are some other things happening. I am, of course, still doing choral work here and there. Most of all, I am over the moon that I didn’t have to pick up a golf club!

    Dr. Tim Seelig is the Conductor Laureate of the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus.

    TLC: Tears, Laughs and Conversations
    Published on March 9, 2023