I turned 65 on Saturday, March 18, during this year's Arizona Renaissance Festival run. It turns out that there’s a birthday tradition among Rennies (i.e., RenFaire workers) that someone gives you a couple of dollars to pin to your garb so everyone knows it’s your birthday and maybe gives you a little more of the good green stuff.
I was excited to be working at the Faire on my birthday, and I was bound to flaunt it. I bought myself a “Birthday Girl” pin and made a little hat that said “Birthday Girl” around the top. After all, this is an important birthday.
Last year, I told everyone that it was my “Beatles Birthday.” You know, turning 64 and being positive my beloved still loved me and needed me, even though I was getting old. This year, it was my “Medicare Birthday.”
For those outside the United States, we pay into a system that is meant to provide us with medical coverage once we reach retirement age. We enroll in Medicare in the last months of our 64th year, and the coverage starts the first day of our birth month. They take the premium out of our Social Security payments.
Social Security is the program we pay into throughout our working years with the expectation that we will have a monthly stipend for the rest of our lives once we retire.
Don’t let those who call this an “entitlement” or “extra spending” fool you. This is money we have been earning on the job since we first started working. It’s our money in the first place.
It is taken out of our paychecks along with our income tax and payment toward our Medicare coverage. It’s supposed to be like putting money in the bank. Like a bank, the government uses our money to run the country, but when we are of age to withdraw our funds, we’re supposed to get it.
The age at which we receive our full payment upon retirement gets later every year, it seems. When I semi-retired from working my regular job at 62, I started getting a payment that is about $100 less per month than I would have received if I waited until I was 66 1/2.
I decided it wasn’t worth it to me to wait that long for just $100 per month. I had no prospects for increasing that amount, and I really wanted to get on with pursuing my dream jobs.
When you retire before the full age, you are only able to earn a certain amount of money through working. If you earn more than that amount, they take back money and redeposit it in your Social Security account.
I had to pay back quite a bit when my part-time job ran into more hours than I expected, as well as paying rather generous bonuses. It creates a strange kind of budgetary dance because it’s easy to see that “extra” money and use it for things like house repairs or a special treat instead of putting it into savings.
Now that I’ve had my Medicare Birthday, I’ve got just another year and a half of dancing that dance. Of course, now that I have left the company and am earning my own income through writing, selling art and books, and working the seasonal weekend job at the Renaissance Festival, it’s not too hard to stay below that income limit. Far below, in fact.
I think my Medicare Birthday has been my best birthday ever. Not only am I closer to being able to earn however much I’m able to earn and keep my Social Security income, but I’ve reached a point in my life where it doesn’t take as much to have fun as it used to.
I had a great time working at RenFaire on that Saturday. I got lots of birthday wishes, some extra tips, and good conversations with others who had a birthday either that same day or the day before. Not only that, but I got to do it dressed up in my Blue Bardess garb. I received tons of compliments on my makeup, which made me particularly happy because I’m constantly trying to improve my technique.
I didn’t get a lot of extra dollars to pin to my garb, but as a whole, the chocolate shop servers earned the highest tips ever. It was Celtic weekend, so there were more kilts and tartans than usual (and there are usually a lot anyway). I had a chance to walk down the lane and listen to Tartanic. Pipes and drums can really heighten my mood, and I was already feeling pretty good.
Sixty-five years seems like a long time, but from this perspective, it’s nowhere near long enough. I’ve got far too many things on my to-do list. I don’t mean a “bucket list,” either. I mean stuff I want to do that I’ve just never had time to do before. To me, a bucket list is for those things you want to do when time and money are no object.
Unless I win the lottery, have a sudden best-seller, or some relative I’ve never heard of leaves me a fortune, I’ll not bother with bucket lists.
Just give me time to see my kids succeed in their chosen ways, watch my grandkids grow up, make a ton of art, and take a few day trips here and there. Let me work a few RenFaires, keep making new friends, and read most of the books I have on my shelves (plus the new ones I keep adding).
Give me time to write everything I’ve got in me. That ought to keep me going for decades.
This story first appeared in Bouncin and Behavin Blogs on Medium