April 16, 2011

Your Questions

A week or so ago I ran a post that asked for help and openness with an experiment. Every so often I would like to have a story about your retirement lifestyle highs and lows. I would like to feature a few readers who are willing to submit brief stories about their retirement or relationship issues, financial struggles, ideas to raise extra money or cut expenses, creative breakthroughs, frustrations and fears, travel stories, questions they are struggling with...anything that helps all of us on this journey to a satisfying retirement.

This was an experiment because I didn't know if I would receive enough feedback for a follow up. Well, thanks to your participation I received plenty. I suspect this article will generate more, so we may have started a regular feature.

But, first things first. I have picked some of the comments left on the original post as well as those submitted by e-mail to get us started. No one asked to be anonymous, so the names used are those as sent to me. I have done some very minor editing to make the reading easier.


Staying in Touch

Several folks wondered about staying in touch with co-workers and friends who are still part of the working world.

Steve noted his problem "stems  from my decision to keep my distance from my old workplace (I was a teacher) because whenever I went back, the stressed-out looks on their faces almost made me feel guilty. All they could really say was how lucky I was (I learned early to stop talking about how great things were for me....). They were all gracious, but the envy was more than palpable - from both the older and younger friends. This was/is pretty frustrating because I had/have such a strong connection and network among still-working friends."


An e-mail said, "Sometimes I miss the everyday contact with my fellow worker bees and the conversation. I probably need to work on this area."

Health Care Issues

As you might imagine this was the subject of several comments.

Pauline presented a common situation and a question: " I'm not yet retired. My husband and I are inching toward it; he's down to four days/week, and I'm down to three. The big glitch, from my perspective, is health insurance... He's already on Medicare, but I'm several years away from that. Otherwise, financially, I think we could make retirement work (in a frugal sort of way). But for me to buy an individual policy in New York would cost over $600/month, and that just feels prohibitive. Even though I'm pretty healthy, I'm uneasy about going without insurance. If you or anyone had any suggestions, I would welcome them."

Unease about the Future

Galen Pearl hit on some of the basic day-to-day problems I had never considered: "I am on countdown now to retirement May 31. As it gets closer, all the emotions are being pushed to the side by practical issues. If I can't buy my work computer, I have to buy a new one and transfer everything. I use my work email as my personal (non-blog) email. I have to transfer to a new email account. I have to buy my own health care, and I can't get one of my kids insured. I have to clean out my office. I have to figure out how to do some things for myself that assistants do for me now (I know--I'm spoiled). And so on. Oh, yes, and I have to keep working until May 31! I know it will all get sorted out, but right now I feel a tad overwhelmed."

Trying Other Things

Retirement can be a time to try on a different lifestyle, or indulge your love of exploration.

Sonia asked, " What is your opinion on doing Peace Corps work for a couple of years? My husband doesn't have a pension, and would like to get away from his stressful job. I think we could rent out our two houses and save money by teaching abroad or doing Peace Corps work, and that would be another wonderful adventure that would teach us to be happy with less, and give us fabulous memories."

Other comments and concerns

"Here's the question....when our dog goes to dog heaven, do we enjoy our less complicated life, or do we continue with the complications a pet brings, and continue to reap the rewards of having a true friend to share our lives? There is no right answer, but I'd like to hear what people say."

One fellow e-mailed: "I have been retired a little more than 4 years at 55. Once I retired it so happened that 2 of my kids became homeowners - which meant helping them get the houses in shape. Then one of my daughters was raising money for a charity so that she could run in a marathon on the west coast. That provided an opportunity for my wife and I to take a 3 week trip to see her running. We had a borrowed laptop from one of our kids and it provided us to learn about the destinations and get a room where we were headed.
 
The only room that we had booked was on the west coast for 3 days (and our 1st night's lodging) with the 2 weeks prior to her running. I had loosely mapped out our route with the cities that we would be visiting and an idea how long we would be staying in each place. We had a cooler that we used for our lunches and then ate at other places for other times that we were hungry. Anyway, it was a good time for us and kinda like it was when we first married - took 2 weeks traveling on the east coast.

Since my wife still works, I am the unappointed Travel Director. Since my retirement we have been on cruises to Panama and Alaska, with road trips to North Carolina and the Daytona 500 with several stops including New Orleans. This period of my life has been enjoyable with occasional jobs, some volunteer work, walking daily, watching grandkids and all of the other little things that come up."


Another comment noted: "the best gift of retirement has been the gift of time. However, I am learning that I need to use my time with a plan rather than floating through the days as I did in my 'flower child' time of life. I find that having some structure and some flexibility is the best approach. Of course, all of this works only if you have already identified your hopes and dreams and aspirations for retirement."

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Now, it is your turn to weigh in with thoughts, suggestions, or questions. In summary, here were the major issues raised and questions asked:

  • Once you leave work do you leave that work world behind? Should you? How do you deal with jealous friends? How do you simply walk away from what was a big part of your life?

  • With health insurance to the point of being unaffordable for many, what can someone do? If too young for Medicare do you risk everything going without insurance? Are there other lower-cost options?

  • What place do pets have in your life? Should you add that responsibility now? How does it affect your ability to travel? Is it worth it?

  • Have you thought about all the little stuff, like changing e-mail address, getting all your files from one computer to another, or buying a home computer? What other parts of your life have run through your work place that now must be handled in a different way?

  • Volunteering can be a good use of your time. What what about something as radical as 2 years with the Peace Corps? What do you do with all your personal belongings? Can you be away from family and friends for that long? What other considerations are there?

  • How structured are your vacations and travel experiences? Do you just pick up and go, or do you prefer to have everything plotted out? How do you stay in touch, handle bills and mail?

Pick one (or more) or the areas above and share with us your thoughts, experiences, and suggestions. Every person who reacted to the first post is looking for your input.

Feel free to take on a new issue and raise a fresh question about an area that particularly concerns you.


I am very appreciative of your willingness to ask questions, share concerns, and ask for the input of others. It is what makes blogging about a satisfying retirement so rewarding.

27 comments:

  1. Unquestionably, the biggest Issue I encounter talking with people is health care. The gap between 55 and 65, where folks are in a position to downsize, reduce work hours and stress, they keep working full time to retain their health benefits. Even people who are fortunate enough to not have any major health issues, keep working in case a major health issue were to arise, they will have benefits to help cover the cost of treatment.

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  2. I'd agree, Adam. I have faced the issue virtually my entire working life. Being self-employed for 30 out of 35 years I had only one choice: the very expensive individual insurance market. Since retiring 10 years ago I have managed to stay healthy.

    I'm just hoping to hold it together until Medicare gives me at least partial coverage for the first time since my mid 20's.

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  3. I can't wait for retirement and this blog has been extremely helpful in letting me hear about the challenges, hopes, dreams, fears of people already in retirement or getting closer to it like me. A few years back after selling our business I was "unofficially" retired. But then due to the economy it was necessary for me to join the workforce again. I tasted the sweet fruit and now eagerly look forward again to the day of completely changing my lifestyle from a "Have To" to a "Want To" state of mind. Thank you for helping me stay focused on that goal.

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  4. Hi Pascal,

    Thanks for stopping by. Retiring, un-retiring, and retiring again...seems to be the norm for many. When your book goes to #1 on the best seller list, I expect you will achieve your goal!

    Note: Pascal is a good friend of mine whose first fiction mystery novel will be published in early June. He is getting rave reviews. I will feature an interview with him in coming weeks. He has a real life story to tell about working hard for your dream. Click on his name above (in red) to learn more about his novel.

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  5. I'd like to add a few of my own thoughts to some of the questions posed.

    Leaving your friends from work is sometimes a consequence of your retirement. Over time those who are still working are likely to accept your new status and allow you to resume relationships, though you will probably struggle to find subjects to talk about. But, if those old friends and you don't have enough in common anymore you must begin to cultivate new friendships as you begin to become involved in new activities and pursuits.

    Feeling overwhelmed by what is about to occur when you retire is very normal. There are so many things to think about, worry about, and to plan for. My only advice is to set up a checklist of the important stuff you must take care of before you leave for good. Then, relax. The other things will sort themselves out.

    Volunteering is a popular choice when retired. I have found working with just-released prisoners to be an eye-opening and very meaningful part of my life after work. For Sonia, if your family and financial situation permits it, working for the Peace Corps could be a fabulous experience and allow you and your husband to really benefit others. I think it is a great idea.

    For Pauline, the health insurance issue is a problem without an easy answer. Personally, I don't think I could sleep at night if I didn't have at least some form of catastrophic coverage. One car accident or significant illness and everything my wife and I have worked for would be in serious jeopardy. There is no logic to health care costs, but not having some coverage would terrify me. Is $600 a month the cost for bare bones coverage? Can you use the free or inexpensive health screenings often offered by drug store chains? Are your meds available as generics? My wife is hoping to hold on for another 8 years until she is covered by Medicare. It is a scary time.

    The pet question hits home. My wife and I are debating the addition of a dog back into our lives. The complication comes as we begin to travel more. Long weekend trips aren't a problem. But what about our 3 weeks in Hawaii this fall, or a long road trip planned for next year? A kennel would be extremely expensive and rough on a dog for that long. Family members couldn't take on such a long commitment either. Taking a dog along adds a whole new set of factors and restrictions.

    I think our answer will be that as long as we are actively traveling having a dog would be unfair to the animal and difficult for us. Once we have decided to stop taking extensive trips, I am sure a dog will be part of our family again.

    There are some of my thoughts to some of the above situations. Please add yours.

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  6. Regarding the pet situation, it might work out if you would be willing to care for a neighbor's pet while they travel and they will care for your pet in return. I have friends who do this and it works for them

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  7. Hi Donna,

    That's a good suggestion. Any pet would be happier in his own home for an extended period. We'll give that some thought.

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  8. Love the new layout. I am way to unfocused to have loads of junk on both sides of a column.

    As for the dog. My suggestion is to leave the dog out of your life for another year. Our dogs prevent us from traveling any significant amount of time at a time we should be able to pack our suitcases (backpacks) and go! I would love to train travel in Europe for a month or two. We can afford it. BUT what would we do with the dogs? You certainly cannot take them to Hawaii. The quarantine is very long- on either end!

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  9. Janette,

    Thanks for the feedback on the change I made to the layout. Besides eliminating the left sidebar I have narrowed the whole thing a bit, based on a suggestion from Sandra Lee. I changed the background color from white to a light gray.I also made a slight change in the font for post titles. So far, I like the new look.

    I am leaning in your direction regarding a pet. I think we'd be happier if we waited for a few years. Besides Hawaii in the fall, in 2012 we plan on a 3 week driving trip. In 2013 we are looking at a month back east. So, a dog probably should wait.

    For the person who posed the original question, I would think the same answer applies if he is a traveler.

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  10. Some pretty weighty questions there - I will go for the place for pets in retired life. We have two cats about 10 years old each. We love them in spite of their shedding! But as they get older we know the time will come. We don;t plan on immediately replacing them but instead to take advantage of traveling with no concerns for the furry beasts at home. However, when we slow down and get the travel thing out of our system, we are contemplating perhaps a mid-sized dog to join the family. We will see but that is how we are thinking today.

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  11. Hi Dave,

    Interesting on how the pet question has generated the most response. Maybe because the pet is quite personal and they are often treated like part of the family.

    Your answer fits with the trend so far: avoid adding a per until the travel phase of your retirement has begun to wind down. Then, by all means!

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  12. Re Pauline's health insurance situation-has she tried healthyny.com. I think she might find something cheaper.

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  13. Donna,

    Thank you for the info for Pauline. I don't think I have her e-mail so I hope she checks back to see your suggestion. The healthyny.com site does appear to hold out hope!

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  14. My employer health care will stop in a few weeks when I retire. I have an appointment tomorrow to speak with someone about buying private insurance, so yes, that is very much on my mind.

    The question about pets is interesting. I have always had a dog, but it is getting very expensive. My current canine buddy is almost 13. For the first time ever, I am considering the cost of getting a new dog when the time comes. I also like birds and just brought home 4 new finches yesterday. Not as expensive but they also don't cuddle up with me on the couch.

    Oh yes, and that technology thing. I'm have gotten a new email address for personal email, but haven't started using it yet. And my lobbying to be able to buy my work laptop seems to have met with success. I was very agitated about having to get a new computer--now it looks like I won't have to.

    Cleaning out an office after 20 years...not really dealing with that yet.

    What seemed like a long way off last fall when I gave my notice to retire is now coming up so fast. I'm encouraged by those who have gone before and give me pep talks!

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  15. Hi Galen,

    Thanks for the update. You have a lot to take care of, but it appears you are making good progress. Great news in getting to keep the work computer. That is a major hassle you can skip.

    I don't envy you the shift to private insurance. I've been in that situation for 30 years so I know how poor the coverage is compared to what most people get through work.

    It is amazing how quickly time passes, isn't it! The end of May is coming up quickly. Quite soon you will be officially one of the leisure class (just kidding!).

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  16. One thing I'd like to find out more about is the medical "tourist" insurance. I heard on NPR, that Americans can sign up for "tourist" insurance and the link is: http://tinyurl.com/aq9p6w, and have surgeries abroad, combined with a vacation. If you or anyone else would do the research and let us know how much for a couple and what is covered, e.g. a heart attack in the U.S, and cancer treatment in Thailand, or Singapore, I'd love to know. Sorry but I'm too busy with my book proposal to research it this minute.

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  17. Hi Sonia,

    Interesting question. I'm aware of Americans going oversees for cheaper medical care, but not combined with a vacation.

    Let's see if this generates someone's inquisitive impulses.

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  18. Pet friendly or pet free?

    Sounds like something to consider when looking for a house to rent. We are empty nesters and pet free. Our kids are adults and out. Several pets have lived their lives and said their goodbyes.

    Actually would not take a million dollars for any one of our kids or past pets -- but would not give a plug nickel for any more of either

    !!

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  19. Hi QwkDrw,

    I think this is the first time I've seen your name in the comment section...welcome!

    Priorities shift and needs change. That I agree with. But, we had one dog that I would have taken a lot less than a million dollars to give to someone else. He was possessed!

    Now, off to visit your blog!

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  20. Some people I know have been looking forward to retiring since they turned 40. This group of people does not include me.

    In 1986, at the age of 45, I purchased an electrical distribution business in Phoenix. I knew a little about the industry and the running of such a wholesale business, but had never worked in the industry. And “work” is a significant word. I was one that by necessity worked from dawn to dusk, six days a week, and I loved it.

    Three years ago I started working with a financial planning company to determine how to assure the continuation of the Company and the well-being of my family. I remember clearly the planner telling me, after looking at our financial situation, that I had done well as a steady plodder. Being conservative in nature, I had managed the Company in such a way that we didn’t have any big “home runs”, but over the years had accumulated far more than I realized.

    In 2003 I developed some health problems that made me think that planning for retirement was not going to be necessary. So I didn't. But lo and behold, these health problems did not “get me”. They are still there, but are not debilitating and I’m still kicking at 70 years of age.

    Last December I sold the majority of the stock in our Company to my son who loves the business and is dedicated to continuing to run it. I still go to the office most every day, but work much shorter hours. I have responsibility in limited areas, but those could be reassigned to others on the management team, and probably should be. Some days I feel like my being in my office is inhibiting my son, but he never acts like that is the case.

    So, at 70 I am faced with building retirement from the ground up. I gave up playing golf with my health problems. My wife, God love her, is frightened to death that traveling outside the United States would result in me being in a hospital in some remote area of the world and being flown home in a medical airplane. I have several areas that I think would be interesting to explore such as photography and fly fishing; more work in our church or other volunteer situations would be fulfilling; taking college courses in some area of study would be fun, but probably not in Greek as was suggested by a seminary president I know. Not when I can’t remember words in the English language that a few years ago just rolled off of my tongue.

    Satisfying Retirement has been the source of a lot of good input, as have some of the books and articles I have had more time to read lately. I have had significant changes in my life and career at 45 and so now I am looking optimistically at the future at 70.

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  21. Hey Jim,

    You have mentioned several key areas of concern that are shared by many. When is it time to walk away completely from a business you have built? Can you ever stop thinking about it as your baby and your concern? In my case my business went out of business so I never had to worry about who would continue it!

    If your son is as dedicated as you obviously were, you are better off than most in this regard. He will probably let you know, gently but firmly, when it is time to turn over your remaining responsibilities.

    Being faced with questions of how to fill your time and feel productive and energized can occur at any age, so starting at 70 isn't an issue. I'll let you in on a little secret: figuring out how to be fulfilled never stops. It is a moving target that changes and evolves as you do. I have been at it for 10 years and I have modified my approach several times, the most recent being last June when I started this blog.

    Everything you listed as an interest is quite doable. How about taking photographs of beautiful scenery at fly-fishing locations...you could combine a few interests!

    Your goal should be to try various things, discard the ones that don't ignite a spark, and feed the ones that do. You won't discover the right mix until you risk doing the "wrong" stuff first.

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  22. So, I'm cleaning out my closet because in a few years, I'll quit my job, sell my house and move to anew town. Wow...what do I keep? What do I give away?....WHAT WILL I WEAR?
    Hmmm...I'll keep a tuxedo...and a few good suits. We have weddings coming up....and I like to dress for church, temple, symphony.....also a few sport coats....just the classics. I have dozens of button down shirts.....my daily uniform at work is a button down shirt and a pair of plain khakis. I'll keep 2-3 pairs of khakis...but the shirts?.....eww that's tough. I have a BUNCH of "golf style" polo shirts....nicer than a T-shirt....I'll keep those. Many pairs of jeans.....they fit, they stay....they'll get worn. T-shirts......OMG!!!! I've got dozens....each one seems to be significant...a Clapton concert, a marathon, a climb, a college, a race, how can I get rid of them!!!!! Of course there is the " Special" wardrobe...the high tech climbing gear, skiing gear, surfing gear...bike stuff Help!!! I'm drowning!!! That costly stuff stays!!
    So here is my question: On a day when you don't have anything planned...WHAT DO YOU WEAR?
    Do you just slop around in a T-shirt and sweats? Do you put on a nice pair of jeans and a polo shirt or a button down?? Shoes? slippers? sandals? sneakers?

    Help here folks!!!

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  23. Hi Keith,

    I can only answer for me. On most days jeans and a T-shirt, or shorts once the temp stays above 90. If I have a meeting or am going out to lunch I'll usually wear khakis and a polo shirt. For church, dressier slacks and button down shirt, with a sports coat if cool enough in the winter.

    I have 40 T-shirts of which I wear the same 5-7. Why keep the others? I have no idea.I have 20 sports coats. Each gets worn about once every 2 years.

    I have 20 dress shirts that rarely are used. I have 20 sweaters that get moderate use in the winter months.

    Bottom line: I could get rid of at least 50% of my clothes and never miss them.

    Oh, and sneakers 80% of the time.

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  24. Every time we go on a cruise my wife thinks I need another new wardrobe and off we go to Dillard's at Metro Center to get 2 for one jackets and slacks. Try to tell her that no one on the cruise knows us or will remember who we were after the cruise is over so who are we trying to impress.

    After the cruise is over I might have worn one of the jackets one time in the winter and taking all those cloths was a joke. Two suit cases for what. Barely had room to hang them all up.

    In retirement we are suppose to be simplifying our lives.

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  25. Peter,

    50% of my clothes don't get worn enough to keep but I can't bring myself to dump them. At least I rarely buy new ones. I have set a small clothing budget for the year...both because that is all I need and to force myself to really think before I buy something.

    I am a proponent of simplifying my life where I can.

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  26. A while back you asked about retirement questions and I have one for you. My husband will retire in less than 2 years. I've spent the past 10 years working at home as a freelance writer and I've made a schedule for myself that I really don't want to change just because he retires. What I worry about is how will we adjust to having him home and "under my feet" all day, every day.

    My mom told me that when my dad retired, he suddenly wanted to help with dishes and other things he'd never done before. She considered that an intrusion on her territory. He was only 55 when he retired so she told him to go find a hobby. He'd never had hobbies so he got into local, small town politics and served as mayor, etc for many years.

    I think many men believe that once they can no longer work life is somehow going to be magical each day, and exciting! For me, life will continue as it is now except that I will suddenly have another person's presence constantly, perhaps another person who is looking to ME to provide ideas on how we should spend our time.

    My husband keeps telling me that when he doesn't work anymore, we'll be FREE to make our own schedules, do whatever we want, whenever we want. I'm happy with my day to day life, my schedule, my work and there is no reason to "retire."

    I want my husband to be happy but I'm just not sure how much I'm looking forward to his retirement.

    How do other couples cope with the adjustment?

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  27. Hi Anonymous,

    If there is a universal question about couples and retiring, yours would qualify. The excitement of retiring often makes it difficult for the partner who is now suddenly at home all the time to understand that the other person has a system and routine in place. There is a shortsighted view that "if I'm free, then so is the other person." That is simply not true.

    There are probably a bunch of readers who would welcome extra help from the husband or wife who has just retired. But, you are absolutely right in pointing out such offers must come with a recognition of what works best for the other person, too.

    One of the sections in the Satisfying Retirement e-book deals with this specific problem. Before retirement, it is essential for a couple to discuss the changes in daily schedules that will occur with another person at home. It is vital for that couple to determine which interests they share and want to do together and which interests that are really individual and should say that way.

    Finally, each party must accept that most of us need "alone" time. We have a need for private time and space that doesn't involve the other. That doesn't mean we don't love them and cherish them. it means we aren't joined at the hip and need our space.

    Negotiate these rocky water before you enter them. To suddenly confront them after retirement can cause serious stress to a relationship, particularly if one partner is still working and wants to continue to do so.

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