Facing Adversity In Early Retirement

Facing Adversity in Early RetirementThis one is going to be a little darker than usual. I’m an upbeat guy and I tend to write positive uplifting blog posts. For example, I recently asked Can You Become A Millionaire? The answer is, of course you can. You just need to have a positive mindset and work persistently to achieve it. However, life isn’t positive all the time. Adversity is inevitable. I’ve been extremely lucky and had a smooth early retirement so far. Life has been amazingly good after I retired from my engineering career 6 years ago. Unfortunately, all good streaks come to an end. Today, I’ll share my first big adversity in early retirement. This feels like airing dirty laundry, but I’m obligated to share the bad as well as the good in my life. Early retirement isn’t all sunshine and rainbow.

Everyone has a plan

Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.

I’ve always like this quote from Mike Tyson. Everyone has a plan until something goes wrong, as most plans will. There are unforeseen circumstances and random variables in life. You can’t predict everything and it won’t always work out in your favor. When you get punched in the mouth, you’ll have to make some adjustments. You can’t stick with the same plan rigidly when something goes wrong because it won’t work.

Anyway, my lucky streak has ended and there is a big kink in my early retirement plan. This year, my mom is starting to struggle with dementia. She had some problems in previous years, but it wasn’t too bad. She could do most things herself and only needed help occasionally. Her neurologist diagnosed her with Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI) last year. MCI is the stage between normal aging and the more serious decline of dementia. However, her condition has worsened considerably this year and she is edging closer to dementia.

Dementia is a big problem

This all started in July after we came back from our CA road trip. My mom stayed at my brother’s house this summer and I drove down to bring her back to Portland. The road trip back took 3 days and she got more and more confused as the drive went on. When we got back to Portland, she was hearing voices and couldn’t think clearly. She occasionally stayed up all night because she thought there were people in our home, bugs going in her ears, or some other paranoia. It’s been a tough couple of months for us. We had to move RB40Jr into our bedroom because she kept bothering him at night. They shared a bedroom previously and didn’t have any problems before this.

We are adjusting to her dementia problem, but it has been stressful. In particular, I am in a foul mood when I don’t get a good night of sleep. The next time we see her doctor, I’ll ask for some kind of sleep aid for those nights.

The bigger problem is how we’ll deal with long-term care in the future. My mom is losing her English and she occasionally speaks to RB40Jr and Mrs. RB40 in Thai. They don’t understand Thai and don’t know how to respond when this happens. My mom used to speak and understand English pretty well, but losing language ability is part of dementia. This is really bad because there are very few Thai people in Portland. Down the road, we’ll need help and it’ll be near impossible to hire a caretaker who speaks Thai. A long-term care facility probably wouldn’t work either if they can’t communicate. I’m trying to work out a plan, but this is a big adjustment to my original early retirement plan. Let’s go over that quickly and see how it evolved over the years.

Original early retirement plan

My original early retirement plan is relatively simple.

  • I retired in 2012 to become a SAHD/blogger.
  • Mrs. RB40 liked her job and plan to work until her 50s.
  • My mom stayed with us 50% of the year and with my brothers when it’s cold and rainy in Portland.
  • We planned to live in Portland until RB40Jr finishes high school. Once he goes to college, we’ll sell off everything and go live in Asia part-time for 3 to 4 years.
  • You can read more about our early retirement withdrawal strategy Finance wasn’t a big concern because we had passive income, online income, and my wife’s income.

Minor change to the early retirement plan

By 2016, the plan has changed a bit. Mrs. RB40 started to become disillusioned with her job. She still wanted to work, but her retirement target date moved up.

  • RB40Jr started going to school and my life became much easier. I had a routine and I could work on my blog regularly.
  • Mrs. RB40 now planned to retire in 2020.
  • My mom lived with us for 9 months/year. That was just easier because all her doctors are in Portland. She can also walk to the senior center, library, and other places in Portland. My brothers live in San Jose, CA and you need some kind of personal transportation to go anywhere.

First major adversity

Today, I’m facing my biggest adversity in early retirement so far and it’s a big one. I’m trying to learn as much as I can about dementia. The problem with dementia is that you don’t get better. It’ll only worsen as you age. With the language problem in mind, we will need to make some big changes to accommodate my mom. Currently, we are taking care of my mom in our home, but that will change in the future.

After talking to my brothers and our relatives in Thailand, I think the best thing for everyone is to move my mom to Thailand. It’ll be much easier to hire a caretaker there. She’ll be able to spend time with her siblings and become part of the community in Thailand. Of course, there is a big downside, too. Her sons and their families are all here in the US. I plan to spend more time in Thailand, but I’m not sure if it will work out as I envision.

Related topic: Retirement Options for Foreigners in Thailand. I visited a retirement resort in Chiang Mai a couple of years ago.

Moving to Thailand plan

My mom’s siblings live in Thailand so it shouldn’t be too hard for her to adjust. We Skyped with them recently and that was the most animated she had been in months. She can live in one of her siblings’ home and we can hire a caretaker to help out. Her siblings prefer that option while she is still doing relatively well. Eventually, she’ll probably have to go to a dementia care facility. None of us like that idea so we’ll have to see how it goes. Culturally, Asian people take care of their elder at home. Here is the tentative plan year by year.

2018 – We’ll accommodate my mom the best we can in our home.

2019 – Once RB40Jr finishes 2nd grade, we’ll all go to Thailand. Mrs. RB40 will come back after a few weeks to go back to work. RB40Jr and I will stay in Thailand for 3 months to help my mom adjust. RB40Jr and I will come back before school starts in September.

2020 – If Mrs. RB40 quits working in 2020, then we’ll be free to travel more extensively. We’ll wait until RB40Jr finishes 3rd grade, and then we’ll go live in Thailand for a year and explore SE Asia. Before we go, we’ll sell our rentals and consolidate down to just one property. While we’re in Asia, a property manager will deal with our home.

2021 – It’s too hazy at the moment to see what we’ll do in 2021. We could come back to Portland or we could extend our stay in Thailand for another year. This is too far out. We’ll figure it out when we get there.

Uncertainties – Mrs. RB40 parents are also getting older. They probably will need help at some point as well. They live in Southern California. My dad lives in Thailand. He’s going strong and probably won’t need any help for a long time.

Money – Finances aren’t the biggest consideration for this move. Although, it will be much more affordable to care for a dementia patient in Thailand than in the US. It costs less than $2,000/month for a nice dementia facility.  Hiring a caretaker to help out at home is much less expensive than that. My mom doesn’t have any retirement savings. The cost of her care will be divided 3 ways between my brothers and me.

Be flexible

My mom’s dementia problem really was unexpected. Her family did not have any history of this disease. She seems healthy physically and doesn’t have any cardiovascular problems. It was a big surprise for us all. Actually, it’s fortunate that I’m already retired so I can take care of her. If I was working full-time, we’d need to deal with the caretaker issue already.

Adversity is part of life. Every one of us will face adversity someday. The important thing is to keep a positive attitude, learn from it, and grow. Dementia is a huge problem, but at least we’re learning about it in our 40s. Now we know the typical American lifestyle is conducive to the development of dementia. We need to eat much better, exercise more, challenge our brain, and stay socially engaged as we age. Dementia needs to be actively prevented because you can’t wait until you get it. It’s a progressive disease that has no cure and no treatment. Dementia is very scary.

Alright, thanks for listening. This is one good thing about having a blog. I can write about my adversity rather than talking to a psychologist about it. We’ll try to stay positive and adjust our plan to make the best of it. I don’t mind living in Thailand for a few years. It’ll be an adventure. RB40Jr will complain a ton, but I’m sure he’ll adjust.

Have you faced adversity lately? DO you have any tips for when things don’t work out as planned?

Starting a blog is a great way to save money on your therapy bill, build your brand, and generate some extra income. Check out my tutorial if you’re thinking about blogging – How to Start A Blog and Why You Should 

Photo by Charlotte Karlsen

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