New Year. Clean slate, fresh start, new beginnings. Whatever the start of a new year means to you, it also means saying goodbye to the year now past. The old adage “out with the old, in with the new” applies as always. Although 2012 was a watershed year for me, in retirement I find myself saying goodbye to 2012 in the same way I have said goodbye to many years. Retirement hasn’t changed much where this is concerned. There’s comfort in certain routines, routines which have been followed for so many years, they become tradition. But, there’s also value in following certain steps, not the least of which is the feeling of the just mentioned comfort they offer. There’s also value in the practicality of sticking with that which works for you.

So, the Christmas tree, ornaments and all the holiday decorations have already been taken down, dusted off, boxed up and put away in the attic for another year. You see, I like starting the New Year off by spending New Year’s Day in a de-cluttered house, making an Italian dinner, relaxing with Martin and, on occasion, other family or friends. After a full month or so of enjoying the Christmas spirit, I’m so-o-o-o ready for that clean slate that it just feels natural to me to put my house back in order, so to speak. To this end, yesterday I put my home back to the way it looks 11 months out of the year. Now I feel ready to tackle the other projects I traditionally attend to at year end.

Today I’ll review our 2013 budget. In past years this meant reviewing income and expenses of the past year and projecting what those would look like for the next year. I’d also try to anticipate any large expenditures, bonuses and raises based on old figures and wants and needs. This year is a little different. We’ve been living on our retirement budget for the last 4 months. It works for us. We met with our financial planner in mid-December and reviewed our portfolio so we have a pretty good idea what income that will generate. Our expenses won’t change much. The big unknown is the cost of our health insurance, which will change in March. We made some large purchases prior to retiring, such as a new car for Martin, a necessary purchase since he had a company car while working. We also bought a new mattress to replace our eight year old set. We tried to anticipate and make those types of purchases while still working so our first year in retirement would be without large cash outlays. So, our 2013 budget is really pretty much in place already.

Over the next couple of days I’ll go through our paper files and shred anything which is no longer needed. I keep an income tax file year in and year out, every year, so that’s already underway. But, I’ll also look at what is in that file to be sure I have it as complete as possible. This way, when I receive the missing pieces, I’m ready to turn it over to our CPA. I don’t like surprises. I like having the taxes done way before April 15. That way, if there is something unexpected, and we’ve had somethings in the past, I have time to re-group. I’ve learned over the years that having something unexpected arise at the eleventh hour only adds to the stress. Time affords the luxury of thinking it through and choosing the optimal outcome for your situation.

So, that’s my year end. We don’t go out for New Year’s Eve anymore. We’ve spent many a New Year’s Eve partying to all hours with friends. We’ve even gone the route of spending the night in a hotel, dancing to a live band, toasting way too many toasts and having a late morning brunch on January 1st before going home. The last few years we realized we’d rather hang out at home just the two of us and the cats, of course, watching a rented movie and going to bed at our usual hour. I know…BORING. But, as I mentioned, some routines become traditions, which offer a comfort, a value, a practicality in knowing they are what works for you.