July 2, 2015

A Satisfying Journey: What a Satisfying Retirement Becomes

If you have been one of regular readers of the blog, Satisfying Retirement, you know I decided to stop writing in April. After almost five years I felt as though that well had run dry. I had written about every part of retirement from all sorts of perspectives and directions. 

Readership was at an all time high, comments were insightful and without the abrasive nature of too much of the blogging world today. With 10,000 Baby Boomers retiring every day for the next 14 years there certainly was an audience. My book continues to sell on Amazon and the requests for interviews, book reviews, and guest posts were steady.

Even so, I felt there was little more I could bring to the table on the subject of retirement as a full time topic. Coupled with an emotional and change-filled first 4 months of 2015, the time just felt right to stop.

However, a writer must write. I get a creative high from putting thoughts on paper (or computer screen). I enjoyed the family-like atmosphere that regular readers created for all of us who spent some time at that web address. I made some life-long friends from those interactions that took contact from the virtual world to the real one. 

So, after nearly two months of not thinking about blogging at all, I began to feel a stirring, an awakening that made me wonder what else I might find interesting enough to write about and worthwhile enough for others to read, without dealing with the familiar ground of retirement.

A Satisfying Journey is the result. 

During the last 18 months of Satisfying Retirement I gave myself permission to write more about lifestyle and family issues, health and finances, travel and learning from a perspective that didn't have to tie everything to not working.

If 14 years of retirement taught me one lesson, it is that this time of life can be fulfilling, creative, and energizing, while also being scary, confusing, and unpredictable. In short, it is like any time in one's life. Retirement is just a label. On its own it doesn't clarify or describe anything. It is up to us who have been limited by that word to show the world (and ourselves) that the only limits are the ones we accept.

A Satisfying Journey is going to be about a time of life that can be filled with purpose and joy. Will the word retirement ever be used? Sure. Is this going to be nothing but a rose-colored glasses look at a world that seems to be bouncing from crisis to crisis? Hardly. 

What I would like it to be is a voice of reason, of hope and enthusiasm, a call to rise above the negative, a take on life that says no matter what limitations health, finances, a difficult family situation, or the current political state we find ourselves, each life has the potential for fulfillment and joy that only needs encouragement and support to realize.

I am going to write about my own life and how it is unfolding since my retirement ( see, there it is!) in 2001. I may report on how others have taken something difficult in their life and made it a positive force. I will write about my failures, frustrations, and problems and how I plan to overcome them. I will write about the good times, the day-to-day of a life that tries to make the most of opportunity and options.

Occasionally, I may comment on something political or social in the news, but hopefully not in a way that inflames a difficult situation or upsets anyone. There are certainly plenty of web sites, blogs, and TV channels that do that already. Respect and civility will be the goals.

Blogging about retirement was fun and educational for me. But, it became too restrictive during a time of life when so many of our limits have been removed. 

Please join me as I explore my Satisfying Journey. 

To keep things simple and allow new readers to take a look at older posts in the archives that deal with retirement, I will be staying at the same web address, at least for now. If I do move, I will provide an easy-to-follow link.

And, yes, it feels good to be back at the keyboard.

April 27, 2015

It's Time

In about a week I will be moving to a new house in a new part of the Phoenix area. After thirty years in one zip code, Betty and I are taking my 2015 word, move, quite literally. Everything (almost) is packed and ready for the movers.

We will be living in the RV for the week between leaving the old house and being able to move into in the new one. While not really a vacation, it will be nice to take a break from cleaning and packing.

As April comes to a close, I look back on the past four months of the New Year and must pause. It has been a very eventful time, including the death of my dad, this move, taking Tai Chi lessons, watching over my youngest daughter's new cocker spaniel.....if this pace keeps up I will need to pick the word, nap, for 2016.

In two months we pack up the RV again and head to Portland for the summer. I doubt the new house will even be fully unpacked by then, but we have been planning this trip for 10 months, well before the thought of a move crossed our mind. It will be fun to hit the road again and have new experiences as well as see old friends.

I am also approaching the 5 year mark for this blog. It is time for the word, move to apply to these pages. It is time for me to move on to something else. It is time for Satisfying Retirement to retire.

Two books, contributions to three others, national magazine articles, 660 posts, 50,000 views per month, and over 1.7 million page views since the beginning: I feel good about what has happened here. I feel especially good, and eternally grateful, to those readers who have helped me make this blog a pleasure to write and so much fun to read and respond to the incredible comments (over 14,000 at last count). 

There has been a real community built here, folks with all sorts of opinions, ideas and insights. The quality and level of discourse has always been a positive. Unlike too many other blogs, we have always been respectful and supportive of each other, even when we disagree. That is too rare in today's world; the fact that it was alive on these pages is very satisfying.

I have no idea what I will be doing next. With settling into a new house and a new neighborhood, and then being gone until early September, I won't even have time to give it much thought until after Labor Day. Then, we will see.

I will leave the blog right here for the foreseeable future. Feel free to come back and re-read old favorites or spend some time reading posts you might have missed over the past 5 years.

Please feel free to leave a comment or your thoughts on this post. With my Internet link being disconnected this weekend I may not be able to respond to each, but know that I will read what you write and treasure your involvement.

My warmest regards, deepest respect, and a heartfelt thanks to you. My Satisfying Retirement would have been much less joyful and rich without these last 5 years of having you be part of my family.

Goodbye, and Godspeed.

April 23, 2015

Is Retirement an Outmoded Concept?

Sometimes I wonder if the whole concept of retirement is destined for the dustbin.The idea of retiring from work is a rather new phenomenon. Some experts see it beginning around the turn of the 20th century, but it didn't become something that most thought about until fifty or sixty years ago, with the beginning of Social Security and strong employer pensions. Certainly my parent's generation welcomed retirement, and the majority of folks my age aspire to that part of life.

But, over the last few years I have watched at least five trends that seem to raise questions about retirement's appeal, or even viability. Consider these circumstances:

1. Savings rates can't possibly support full retirement. For those 45-54, the median amount saved for retirement is $100,000. For 35-44 year olds, the median saved is only $61,000. Even forgetting about retirement savings for a moment, 72 million Americans have no emergency savings at all. That is a whole bunch of folks who are one paycheck away from financial hardship or ruin, much less retirement.

2. The support of company pensions has all but disappeared. The defined benefit type plan is but a fond memory for most. Companies have been cutting the contributions and scope of pension plans for the last few decades. Poorly funded 401(k) accounts, or no pension at all, are more the norm. Future generations will likely never experience the option of a robust pension.

3. The likelihood of cutbacks in Social Security benefits and means testing for payments are virtual certainties in the years to come. There are too many folks retiring and too few workers to fund their Social Security payments to keep the system operating the way it does today. 

4. The amount of money needed to retire continues to rise. Thirty or forty years ago someone with one hundred thousand dollars in savings and investments, a decent pension, medical coverage, and Social Security could look forward to a comfortable retirement. Then, the "magic" figure became $500,000, quickly followed by one million dollars. Today, retirement gurus claim you need 2 million dollars to have a shot at a pleasant time away from work. Needless to say, 2 million is a number very, very few will accumulate; one million is impossible for most. 

5. Maybe just as important, the interest in continuing to work is growing. Due to financial concerns (see #1 above), wanting to continue doing something that is satisfying, fearful of free time with nothing to do, or anxious to start a new business and make a lifelong  dream real, the percentage of those who say they have no plans to stop working, or working well past the typical target of 65, is increasing. Some studies show it is nearly 33% of all workers. 

About a year ago I wrote a post that asked if retirement blogging was still viable. At that point several folks who focused on retirement had decided to close down their blogs, feeling that everything they had to say on the subject had been said. My question wasn't about the future of retirement, but rather the future of retirement as a subject for a several times a week blog.

One year later, I am now wondering about the reality of retirement in the decades to come. Has our world changed to the point where retirement isn't something the majority will ever experience, either by choice, or circumstances? Within the next few generations will retirement be as uncommon as it was 60 years ago?

What do you think?

April 19, 2015

George Harrison and Me

I have seen Paul McCartney live in concert three times and Ringo Starr once. I was at a press conference with John Lennon (and Yoko). George Harrison is the only Beatle who I never was able to see in person. As the "quiet" Beatle he seemed to attract the least attention and made the fewest public appearances after the group officially disbanded in 1970.

I am just finishing a fascinating biography of George that has given me a new insight into the man and his life: his struggles, his demons, his genius and his humanity. It is one of those books that I do not want to end. "Behind The Locked Door" by Graeme Thomson has been tremendous. It has given me a completely new understanding of the Beatles era, what that experience did to George, and how he attempted to cope with being one of the most famous people in the world after the Beatle era had passed and until his death in 2001.

How does his story fit into a satisfying retirement?  I have found two parallels with my life that seem to be worth detailing because you might find they resonate with you, too. I don't think any readers of this blog are in the same famous category as that of a former Beatle. The lifestyle of those four men was beyond belief. The pressures, the inhuman schedules they had to maintain, the insanity of living in a bubble with the whole world watching would have caused long lasting changes to virtually anyone. Even so, as human beings they shared much with all of us.

Right after the Beatles broke up, George had two major successes: the album, All Things Must Pass was a huge hit, and the Concert for Bangladesh was the first worldwide concert with charity as the focus. But, then he started to slip, in both creativity and in public acceptance. 

By the mid 70's his music seemed to be out of step with where music was heading. He began to sound like a curmudgeon, complaining about the state of popular music. By 1980, he was almost completely irrelevant as an artist. As technology and pop music styles evolved, his music remained locked in a time warp. Eventually he would start to make commercially viable music again, but for many years he railed against the changes and continued to record music that had little popular appeal. 

After John Lennon's murder, George Harrison became almost invisible to the outside world for fear of a similar attempt on his life. All the security that surrounded him did not help. He nearly died in 1999 from a horrific attack by a knife-wielding lunatic who stabbed him over 40 times at his home in England. Even though he recovered from those wounds, brain cancer killed him less than two years later.

My tie to this story and his life? For the last 6-8 years of my radio consulting business I did not evolve. I stayed with the same message, the same ideas, and the same approach that had proved so successful for me through the 1980's into the mid 90's. Even though my industry had changed dramatically, I stopped learning and listening. I didn't change my message or my methods. As a result, my business slowly slipped away until, in the same year that George Harrison died, I found myself faced with retirement, several years before I would have felt financially more secure. I had been passed by. I had stopped changing and found my approach irrelevant.

The second part of George Harrison's life that I found relatable was his search for a spiritual answer to life's complexity and difficulties. Famously, George ended up captivated by Indian philosophy and religion. His support of Hare Krsihna, Eastern religions and love of the culture and music of that part of the world were well known and a dominating influence on his life. 

At the same time, his lifestyle was often at complete odds with his professed belief in simplicity, moral boundaries, and the importance of staying centered on God. His use of drugs, casual sex, alcohol, and living in a 122 room mansion indicated a man torn between two worlds: the material world and the spiritual one.

While I lived the lifestyle of a rock and roll DJ in the 1960's for awhile, it was never even remotely like the excesses of a former Beatle. Even so, I was lost spiritually for many years, trying to make my way in a world that kept score with money and possessions. Not until nine years ago (I was a late bloomer!) did I finally figure out what was really important and really deserving of my dedication. My spiritual life became vital to my sense of well-being. My faith became real. The material world became much less important.

If you have any interest in the Beatles, George Harrison, or the story of a man who made it to the absolute pinnacle of success only to find it lacking, I suggest you read this book. But, even if you don't find the details of his life worth following, I think he has left two important lessons:

1. Life never stands still. If you don't evolve you will be left behind and risk becoming bitter, unfulfilled and marginalized. But, there is always a way forward if you open yourself up to new experiences and ideas.

2. Material possessions never can buy happiness. We are part of a much bigger story that has to do with trust and faith in something bigger than ourselves. Living strictly in a material world is a dangerous place to be.

courtesy TM Blog