Retirement Plans

Decades ago, when Florida first got a lottery, Larry would joke that his retirement plan had nothing to do with working at Martin Marietta, he just needed six numbers.

We trotted that out for years. Every time we bought lottery tickets, we called them our retirement plan. Every time someone mentioned a retirement plan, one of us would pipe up with, “All you need is six numbers.”

Unlike those who think they have a lock on the winning combination, and use the same set of birthdays and anniversary dates to get their weekly tickets, we were a bit random. We didn’t buy tickets often, and were as likely to grab a ‘Quick Pick’ from the cashier, as anything else. It didn’t matter what the numbers were: the fun was in six numbers being our retirement plan.

I was shopping in a catalog this week, and stumbled across a gift package. It was for a pair of personalized bracelets, commemorating anything you please – a wedding, special trip, birth of a child, graduation… retirement. And all you needed to personalize it was six numbers.

I about dropped the catalog. I stood there stunned, all those moments of six number silliness running through my head. Six numbers for retirement. It took a moment to regain my focus and astonishingly, the six numbers were not as I suspected. They didn’t form a date. No, the six numbers were for a location. Latitude and Longitude. Degrees, Minutes, Seconds, for each.

And it hit me. This. THIS is my retirement plan. Because I’ve been on the move as long as I can remember. That’s the thing – to keep moving. To travel. To see, to experience, to go and do. Changing latitude. Changing longitude. Gathering all those numbers, six new ones every time. And since retirement, heaven knows, I’ve accumulated an impressive collection of six numbers! I’ve cruised the Mediterranean and been to Spain and Malta and sailed across the Atlantic and hiked the volcanic ridge in the Azores and had Turkish coffee in the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul and made pasta in Florence and eaten fresh sardines on the coast of Portugal. I’ve tasted grapes from the vines in California and remembered the Alamo and played hide and seek with the prairie dogs at Devil’s Tower and watched the mist rise off the lake so far north in Minnesota that even the fish are Canadian. I’ve danced in biker bars and shopped in the bookstore that inspired the moving Hogwarts stairs in the Harry Potter novels and stayed in a palace and a monastery and a spa and a 17th century inn and a teepee. I’ve made friends all over the world, and even revisited a few. I’ve learned to order beer in five languages and can lie in four of them. And there is so, so much more ahead. In truth, changing latitude and longitude, travel and collecting those six numbers from so many unique and diverse places, really is a fabulous retirement.

So if you ask me, the result is just the same. Having all those experiences? It is exactly like winning the lottery.