June 26, 2016

A Satisfying Retirement Blog: 6 Years and Still Here

Dear Reader,

Today marks the six year anniversary of this blog. Except for a two and a half month sabbatical last year, I have continued to experience an ever-evolving satisfying retirement journey on these pages. 

742 published posts or about 500,000 words, well over 2 million page views, nearly 16,000 published comments (and probably 7,000 that never saw the light of day) - and I still look forward to sitting in front of the keyboard most mornings.

A year ago I began to burn out on writing about the same topic. After all, how many times can the same subjects be covered? Well, the answer seems to be for quite a long time. With a bit of a broader topic focus on my retirement journey, I have been able to continue to find new things to write about, or a fresh perspective on an ever-popular subject. I have found that a lot of my daily reading brings me a new idea for a post that might be interesting to you.

As has been true since day one, the posts I think will generate the most comments often don't. The ones I sort of dash off in 20 minutes, do. All that proves to me your interests are as varied as retirement is exciting and fulfilling. As long as that is true I plan on continuing.

Again, thank you, loyal readers. I write for my creative satisfaction. But, if all these words did not continue to provide a service to others, and generate readership and comments, I would likely take up a new pursuit. 

Since that is not the case, please make time in your day to read and react when you see a new post. If you are so motivated I would appreciate your "like" on the Satisfying Retirement Journey Facebook page and a follow on Twitter. Both tasks can be accomplished by clicking the links found near the top of the right sidebar. They are my only real promotional opportunities that fit a budget of close to zero!

Have a great day. My love and gratitude to you,


June 22, 2016

The Secret To Success: Begin

Famous Graphic Designer, Milton Glaser, once said, "You can't do [something] by simply thinking what you are going to do. So you begin. That's my entire secret: begin."


As someone who will read half a dozen books on a subject before starting anything, his simple statement resonated with me. Not too long ago I wrote about my dislike of being a beginner. Too often that feeling keeps me from following Mr. Glaser's advice - I don't get to the begin stage because I don't like the time I am stuck in the learning phase. Of course, as I noted, that is silly since none of us are good at much of anything without learning about it and then practicing.

Blogger Joel Gascoigne wrote that successful people always start with small projects. They begin at the beginning and then grow. "Try anything" says writer, Andi Cumbo-Floyd. Parenting advisor, Mary Kathryn Johnson, says we all need "Practice, Patience, and Perseverance." Author James Clear says, "Getting started is more important that succeeding."

Does all this advice relate to building a Satisfying Retirement? I'd suggest, "Yes."  In the post, You are doing nothing wrong in your retirement, I argue that your retirement journey is, or will be, unique. Your mix of circumstances, life experiences, trials and troubles, and preparation will be unlike anyone else. 

That really means you began at the beginning. Your whole life has led you to where you are today. You built a foundation and then added to it as you aged and matured. Now, you have constructed a unique path for your retirement journey. You didn't fear beginning because there was no other choice. 

That should be an encouraging thought, even for someone like me who hates not to be good at something from day one. If I look back at what allowed me to retire at 52 and where I have journeyed in the last 15 years, I was constantly starting over, refining and readjusting.

I am beginning some aspect of my life, over and over, rather constantly. I am absolutely not the same person I was years ago. Emotionally, financially, and relationally, Bob Lowry is almost unrecognizable from my days as a DJ, new dad, workaholic-travelling entrepreneur, or new retiree. 

"When there is a hill to climb, don't think that waiting will make it smaller."  Or, from the Sound of Music, " Let's start at the very beginning...a very good place to start."


June 19, 2016

Arrogant Ignorance - A Problem?

A while ago, the president of Arizona State University, Michael Crow, gave a fiery speech to a group of area leaders. As head of the nation's largest public research university he is well aware of the problems facing our society and particularly the educational system. In his speech he did not mince his words. Based on how directly he spoke I think we can assume he isn't running for a political office.

Intrigued by some of what he said, I thought several of his comments were worth repeating, with a thought or two of mine added. My thanks to an article by Sonu Munshi in the Arizona Republic for alerting me to his message.

Mr. Crow said, "A collective arrogant ignorance" holds the nation back. He cited the educational system that's not innovative enough, a lack of awareness or even acknowledgment, of global competition, and a lack of long-term vision. He said we, as a country, are resting on our laurels.  "We don't understand ...the development of the rest of the world as competitors. He went on to say " we are the means by which solutions will be derived."

Turning to the educational system, he noted we should be comparing our educational system not with the schools across town, but "with schools internationally." He accused his fellow university presidents of being too focused on the elite students and not thinking of what's best for educating the entire country.

Wow. I wonder what the reaction was in the meeting hall to those thoughts. He pulled no punches in laying blame where he saw it: the lack of appreciation for how the global economy has changed and a certain smugness on our part, the inability of the educational system to stay competitive, and the focus on just the cream of the crop, not everyone who is required to help us compete.

Personally, I believe he has made some extremely important points that more than just 200 people in a conference in suburban Phoenix needed to hear and think about. I was invited to attend but didn't. That was a mistake.

What is your reaction? Is he addressing critical issues that need to be discussed, or is he making things out to be worse than they actually are? Are we living with our collective heads in the sand about the world changes, or are we positioned to continue to lead the world in innovation and technology?

A few weeks ago an article in the Wall Street Journal presented the author's thoughts on why countries that have gotten much richer over the last century have done so. I think she glossed over some of the not-so positive reasons for this massive increase in wealth. But, her central point mirrors what Mr. Crow said: it is ideas and the ability to implement them that propel society forward. 

Personally, I think how we treat and pay teachers is shameful. They have direct, immediate, and a lifelong impact on our children. To pay them as little as we do is indefensible. Plus, all the teacher I know spend hundreds and hundreds of dollars from their own pockets each year for their students because there is not enough money in the budget for supplies.

But, that is probably a subject for another post. For our purposes this time, think about the "charge" that we are complacent and set our country's sights too low. Do ideas drive us? Are we losing the global ideas race?

June 16, 2016

Do You Shop Online or Prefer a Store?

credit: Huffington Post

I read some interesting, though not all that surprising, statistics recently in the Wall Street Journal about our changing shopping habits. In an annual study conducted by UPS, 51% of purchases are made online and 44% of smartphone users use their phones to make purchases. Only one in five say that they continue to make the majority of their purchases in a brick and mortar environment.

As a former market researcher, I must point out the obvious bias inherent in the survey results: all 5,000 of those participating in this survey have made online purchases recently. They are predisposed to be fans of the online shopping experience. So, it is not possible to project these results to the population as a whole.

Even so, other, more independent, studies have shown a strong shift to buying products online. More than half the U.S. population will make at least one purchase on the Internet this year. Quarterly sales results from traditional department stores or narrowly focused retail establishments, like office supply stores, show continued erosion in their ability to fend off competitors like Amazon. 

Importantly, to readers of Satisfying Retirement Journey, the move to online shopping by older adults continues to increase at a rate even higher than those in their 20's and 30's. While fear of credit card fraud or identity theft remain a hindrance to some, comfort in the safety of online shopping, along with the convenience of free, quick shipping, and simplified return policies, has made our age group a vital segment of that shopping experience. Besides, merchants like Target and Home Depot can lose millions of customers' private data to hackers just as easily (apparently) as online shopping stores.

As I write this post, I have just returned from a physical store shopping trip for some new home furnishings and supplies for an upcoming birthday party for my granddaughter. On the two days prior to this, I ordered several things for our dog and future travel supplies online. It was convenient and simple. Besides, with an outside temperature of 110, staying inside was a no-brainer. 

When I shop in a series of brick and mortar stores I tend to spend more because I see something that catches my eye for our house or a family member. When shopping at Amazon or some other online merchant, I am looking for something specific and stop when I have found it. So, the dollar amounts I spend when I physically drive to retail establishments is higher. But, I shop much more frequently online, so the overall expenses for the year are probably quite comparable. 

Regardless, Internet shopping will continue to grab a larger share of our purchasing dollars. I see no logical path back to the days when shopping malls or large department stores controlled the lion's share of purchasing dollars. With Amazon now selling virtually every product imaginable and promising same-day delivery in major metropolitan areas of the country, the trend is undeniable: we are choosing convenience over our physical presence in a retail establishment. 

What about you? 

How have your shopping habits changed over the last few years? Do you prefer to shop in stores for most of what you buy or are you finding the convenience of the Internet too compelling? Like me, do you notice a difference in the amount you spend when shopping in a "real" store versus online? Do you worry about credit card or identity theft when paying for something over the Internet?

I am quite interested in your feedback.

June 14, 2016

Where Is Our Humanness?

I have to write something, something about the unspeakable horror of the killings in Orlando and the political points heartless, moronic people are trying to score with the deaths of 49 innocent people. 

I am not going to point fingers at specific "leaders"  or others in the public sphere, because I believe the problems that are unfolding on an almost daily basis mean the fingers need to point at all of us. We are allowing our moral compass, our humanness, our basic decency, to be debased by those who seem to lack those values. 

If someone allows hate to be spoken often enough, then soon the hate seems normal. The ability of the human mind to become numb to a grotestic level of abuse is why folks were able to emerge alive from Nazi death camps after World War II. It is why people like John McCain were able to survive 6 years of torture with his humanity intact (yes, he was a hero). It is a self defense mechanism that allows humans to survive against unspeakable ills. 

It is also one of the reasons we seem to tolerate things that are so blatantly wrong, evil, and hateful. It must be why we allow people to shrink and poison our humanity without rising up against it, rejecting it fully and completely. We start to shrug at the horrors and retreat into our own space, thus allowing it to continue. 

What someone feels about homosexual people, people of color, people of different religions, people of different cultural heritage, or people who are just, different, is a matter between that person, his conscious, and his or her creator. It has no place being used to destroy or discriminate in public. 

Make beliefs known? Yes. Work to change laws if you disagree? Absolutely. Kill, denigrate, destroy, humiliate or marginalize others. No. Regardless of how much we think of ourselves, we are are not a Supreme Being and have no right to act like one. This applies to Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, follows of Hinduism, Atheists...whatever. We are not in control.

I don't expect these few words to change anyone or anything directly. But, if what I believe is true, then I must take this small, public stand against allowing others to steal my humanness when I stay silent.

I reject the mean-spiritedness that is our current method of public discourse. I reject the people who point their finger at others while ignoring their own part in the problem. 

I reject hate.

I choose tolerance.

I choose love.