Retiring early is more than a dream for some folks

My sister sipped champagne in a limousine Monday.

She made it. She did it. She’s good to go, and go she did.

Vicki Loiseau retired Monday after 30 years with the same company, one day after she turned 55. Her husband, Leri, picked her up in style. As they popped the cork in the back seat, Vicki toasted her exit from the building.

They set a retirement goal and made it to the day. Their Seattle home went on the market two weeks ago, and they are debating moving to Ellensburg, Walla Walla or Timbuktu, Nev.

The world is their oyster. For probably the next eight or 10 years, I’ll have to use vacation days from my job to visit them. From a retirement standpoint, I haven’t made it.

I’m sharing her story to give folks faith that you can stay with the same company for 30 years, save enough money and get out of the job market while you are still young enough to appreciate not setting the alarm clock. She will never have to work again, Vicki said.

I am jealous and proud.

Nineteen years ago, Vicki met the love of her life.

“We planned for the time that we could be together each day,” Vicki said. “We are best friends so it will be an easy transition for us.”

They experienced a key event nine years ago when Leri had to retire medically as a police officer, a job he loved.

“That was a wake-up call,” Vicki said. “Since then, we’ve focused on retirement, we’ve talked retirement, and it’s funny that now that it’s here, so many people are saying, ‘You’re doing what?’ Was anyone listening? Or did they just think we wouldn’t make it?”

Retiring early was hard work, she said.

“Did we go on that cruise with buddies from the police department? No,” Vicki said. “Did we buy all new furniture for our 15th wedding anniversary? No. Did we save our money? Yes.”

On Monday, she said goodbye to PACCAR, a great company, she said. She had opportunities to work in several divisions of the company, so grass never had time to grow under her feet. During her tenure there, she spent four years traveling to 47 states installing computer systems.

“I’ve seen the company ups and downs,” she said. “I’ve seen divisions open and close. I helped close one of them, and I helped open another. I sit next to a ‘kid’ that I hired 15 years ago. I sit next to another ‘kid’ who was born three years after I started working here. I’ve seen company officers come and go, but the company has remained strong in good times and in bad.”

Does she feel old?

No, she said, she feels like she is starting the next third of her life.

“We will get a new house, have lots of property and experience new surroundings. We’ll make a fresh start in some town other than Seattle – something rural. We want to go back to the basics, like cooking together, doing yard work, bicycling.

“Maybe we’ll get back into boating. Maybe we’ll buy a convertible so we can drive the back roads late at night and admire the stars. How fun it will be to get up together and read the paper from front to back, then plan our day. Will we clip coupons? Shall we do a movie? Do the bicycle tires have air? We’ll get used to getting paid once a month.”

Those are life changes that are easy to make, she added.

Offering words of wisdom, Vicki said first find your perfect mate. Then set a retirement date and go for it.

“We have nothing but great adventures ahead of us,” she said. “What town will we live in? We’ll find our dream house and get up in the morning together.”

In the limo Monday, my sister toasted colleagues at her former office. Gosh, she said, she’ll never have to get up and go to work again. She laughed about how maybe they’ll just start driving until they find the right place to live.

In her exciting new life, I hope my sister doesn’t drive too far away.

Columnist Kristi O’Harran: 425-339-3451 or oharran@heraldnet.com.

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