January 31, 2011

My Retirement: What Should I Expect?

Retirement is about movement. Movement from employed to unemployed. Movement from restrictions imposed by others to restrictions imposed by you. Retirement is about change. Change in how your day is structured. Change in your relationships.

If you are getting close to retirement, or have recently taken the big step, it is natural to wonder "What have I gotten myself into? What happens now?"  Some of my earliest posts on Satisfying Retirement dealt with the Three Phases of retirement and some answers to those questions. I have reworked the original material a bit and present again for your review.

When I stopped working in June 2001 little did I know that just a few months later the events of September 11 would make what I had done for a living very difficult. While air travel had become increasingly unpleasant over the previous decade, 9/11 would make that unpleasantness close to unbearable. Those of us who flew for a living were suddenly faced with tremendous time and logistics hurdles that made conducting business a major hassle. So, when I decided to stop propping up a failing business the additional burdens created after the terrorist attacks had yet to happen. It is quite possible that the first stage of my retirement life might have been quite different if my stop date had been later.


What Happened First?

My First Phase of retirement began with an incredible sense of freedom. The fear of making a wrong choice, or wondering how I would fill my days lay in the future. Waking up knowing I didn't have to pack a bag and go to the airport was exhilarating. Waking up knowing I didn't have to leave my family for several days or a week at a time was a blessing. All I perceived was endless enjoyment stretching out as far as I could see. Coffee on the back patio with the morning paper, tending my garden, going to a movie in the middle of the day, spending more time reading and listening to music...I had the world on a string. My lifestyle had altered for the better, immediately.

Did I miss the contact with clients or others I worked with? Not really. My client roster had been diminishing for the previous 4-5 years at a rather steady clip. And, as anyone who is in contact with customers knows, a few of my clients were not my favorite people. I dealt with them because they supported my family and me. But, not having to deal with those abrasive or arrogant personalities was like a breath of fresh air.

One thing my first stage of retirement didn't experience was the loss of office interaction. For most of my consulting career I worked alone. There were a few clients and industry friends who I talked with several times a week. And, I will admit that not having the phone ring or the e-mail in box full everyday did bother me a bit at first. But, the "water cooler" type of relationship was one I didn't miss because it wasn't part of my experience.

It is very possible that your experience in this regard was very different. If you had a work environment that included co-workers you enjoyed, clients or customers who were a pleasure to deal with, even a boss who treated you well and rewarded you fairly, missing that human interaction might be a large part of your first phase of a satisfying retirement.


First Phase Discoveries

During this First Phase of developing a new satisfying retirement lifestyle I did quickly discover a few things that became important:

· Time becomes a friend. Initially time is seen as a tremendous ally. Suddenly you have control of the clock. You determine how your day is to be structured. Of course, commitments to a spouse or other relationships don't stop. But, the blessings of a day and evening that lack the rigidity of your former workday fills you with a real sense of freedom.


· Self discovery is a journey that begins anew. You learn things about yourself and spouse that you never knew while working 8 or more hours a day. We've all read about the adjustments that a spouse has to make when the husband or wife is suddenly "underfoot" 24/7. It is true, even if you worked from home for all or part of your career. Unless you are single, that other human being is not used to your charming presence all the time. If you approach the process as a positive, the personality traits, thoughts, and interests of the other person gives you a chance to expand and grow yourself.


· Your "possibles" list has fewer restraints. Books you want to read, trips you want to take, projects around the house, changing a spare bedroom into den space, taking on a new hobby that has always intrigued you, involvement in volunteer work, the chance to more fully develop your spiritual side if that is your thing...the list of "possibles" can be endless. Of course, financial, family, and health care issues impose certain limits. But, those boundaries are quite a bit farther apart when you are enjoying a satisfying retirement lifestyle.


Second Phase: Reality Raises Its Head

The first "honeymoon" phase is when time stretches forever toward the horizon. You see all the possibilities of an active, productive, exciting decades-long part of your life. That euphoria can last a few weeks, a few months, even a year or more. But, at some point, virtually everyone leaves the first stage of retirement and gets a slap in the face: this is the Second Phase.

I am not a mental health professional so I can't tell you why this happens. Nor, would I even pretend to tell you how to "fix" a severe problem. Hopefully, knowing that you are not alone and that these feelings come to most everyone might make the process easier to bear.


·As you make the transition into this new phase of retirement, there is a growing sense of unease, even panic. "What did I do? Am I crazy? I'll be broke in a year! What if I get really sick?" The reality of being without the safety net that a job provided suddenly strikes you. You are the Master and Commander of your fate and that is scary. What looked so good a few months ago now looks like a shipwreck about to happen.


·Loneliness often rises to the forefront. Even if you are married and your non-working spouse is home most of the time with you, feelings of isolation from what is going on out in the world will build. You have no idea how you are going to fill all the time each day. If you are single, widowed, or your spouse continues to work that void can be even stronger.

·The benefits you took for granted while working are either gone, or curtailed. Medical coverage usually suffers. Paid vacations? No more. Pension contributions? No way. Gaining weight and losing physical and mental sharpness? Yes.

What you must keep in mind is that, this too shall pass. If you suffer a bout of moderate to severe depression that lasts for more than a month, I urge you to seek professional help. Doctors can help you get control of these serious side effects of not working. But, if you have thoughts about any of the question above and are not clinically depressed, breathe easier. The Third Phase will definitely follow.


Third Phase: Stability Returns and Real Growth Begins

Luckily for most retirees, Phase Three of your retirement arrives and can become the most satisfying. This is when you achieve a healthy balance between euphoria, panic, and reality. It is when you realize that you have the ability to make it all work for you. A happy, satisfying lifestyle is very possible. This isn't a period of Pollyanna-like thinking. It is a time when you can more calmly look at your current position, your options, and your dreamed-about future and decide what you can accomplish. It is a time of possible personal growth and development like you haven't experienced since you were in your 20's. Emotional and intellectual growth opportunities abound. Time really is your ally.


Personally, I originally thought my wife and I would take a long cruise at least once a year, spend the hot Arizona summers someplace else, like Hawaii, and maybe buy an RV and explore the country. Almost ten years later little of that has happened. Why? We retired before our financial resources were sufficient to turn those dreams into fact. But, that was a deliberate choice on our part. To continue working would not be worth the cost to our relationship or our health just so we could make those "dreams" happen. Also, we discovered the absolute joy of spending much more time with family and friends and deepening our spiritual life. We had always built our married life on experiences over things and that wasn't about to change.

Did I go through the anguish of Phase Two? Absolutely, and I still do every once in awhile during the nasty economic conditions of the last few years. But, I have developed the insight of what was really important to me so I can weather the storm, and so can you.

Questions for you: what phase are you in? How has your experience differed or matched mine? What advice can you share?

Related Posts

The Facebook experiment is going well. A link to the still-developing Satisfying Retirement Facebook page is on the right sidebar if you'd like to pay a quick visit while I'm still learning my way.

The book giveaway is now underway. As I promised in an earlier post, as I learn more about Facebook I am giving away copies of books I am using.To help you start your own page in Facebook or develop what you already have just drop me an e-mail with Free Book in the subject line to enter.

January 27, 2011

Live Simply in Retirement - Links Galore

A month or so ago I added a new feature to Satisfying Retirement that contains links to other blogs related to subjects that concern us all. In an experiment, for the next few months link posts will be at the end of the month only instead of twice a month. The links will continue to deal with health or health care, relationships, finances and financial planning, creativity and leisure, travel, simple living, and retirement transitioning.

SIMPLICITY MAY MEAN LEAVING YOUR COMFORT ZONE

This time are more links and ideas for your to simplify your life and your retirement. It is a subject I would think most of us have some interest in. I don't know many folks who ask that their life be made more complicated. The subject is about more than just decluttering or saving money. It also includes the theme of a few of my recent posts about spending more time doing what enriches you and less doing things that just fill your time. A few of these articles or sites haven't been updated in quite a while. But, the information is still very valid. So, click away and enjoy.

Frugal for life: 25 ways I save money 

How I Live My Simple Life

Living less With Only The Best

9 Ways Clutter Costs You

Becoming a Minimalist

Living The Simple Life

Downshift To Simplify Your Life

Simplfy Your Financial Life

65 Ways to Simplify Your Life

We Live Simply

42 Ways to Radically Simplify Your Financial Life

100 Ways to Simplify Your Life and Make You Happier

Retirement & Debt

Tax Implications of Retirement Plans

Retirement Savings vs. Debt Payoff

All about annuities

Fixed versus Variable Annuities




If you found any of these links particularly helpful, please leave me a comment. If you have a favorite I have yet to visit, I'd like to know about it. The next link post will focus on retirement preparation and transitioning. Look for it at the end of February.

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January 26, 2011

Creativity - Photo Magic




In the final post in this series on creativity I'm going to do something I have been waiting almost two months to do: show off some of my wife's abstract art photographs. She had a display at our church last weekend and asked that I not use anything of hers until that was finished.

I am using her photos not just to promote her work, though that is a side benefit. What she has done with creativity fits with the theme of this series: look around you, see something common, and think of a way to make it different.

Betty took several pictures of water falling from our two backyard fountains. She used a simple point and shoot camera, on automatic setting. The original photos were taken at different times of the day to get different light hitting the water. She did use the closeup setting to keep things in focus. So far, nothing different from what anyone does.

Then came the creativity. She took several of the pictures she was most happy with and uploaded them into Corel Photo Shop. For those familiar with digital editing programs, this is one of the more versatile programs which works quite well on a standard home computer with an off-the-shelf printer. She began to warp and re-shape the pictures. She altered the colors and saturations. She adjusted contrasts, brightness, sharpness, and focus. By the time she was done, the photo of water falling from a fountain had become something completely different. She had taken an everyday picture and made it into an expression of her creativity.

Here are some samples (including the one at the top of this post):









I'll admit I am biased, but I am just fascinated by the ability to do what she has done with these photos. One of my goals for 2011 is to help her market her photos. What do you think? Is she on to something that people would want?

Creativity is really about the doing, not the end result, though in Betty's case I'm quite impressed with the end product! Not all of us have her eye. But, that shouldn't matter. Even if something you write, or photograph, or paint, or sculpt out of peanut butter is never seen by another human being, that is not important. The simple act of creating enriches you, broadens you, and gives you pleasure.

Where to get ideas? Go to a museum you have never visited. Maybe you are convinced you wouldn't like it, and you may be right. But, if you approach it with the desire to take something you see and twist it, or change it, or see it in a different way, your visit might be an unqualified success. I go to the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art (SMOCA) occasionally. I am not a fan of most of contemporary art. But, each visit does inspire. It may be a new sensitivity to light and shadow. It might be deciding a certain wooden bowl has a shape I like. I'm still not a fan of the actual art. But, I am an admirer of uniqueness.

How long has it been since you have visited a craft store. I'm not a crafty person, but I really enjoy walking up and down the aisles. I am impressed by the display of ways other people can turn bits and pieces of stuff into something pretty or useful. I am stimulated by all the colors and shapes and textures. I can go home from such a trip and see something completely unrelated to the material  at the store in a new way and think of how to re-purpose it.

The power of curiosity and creativity to enrich your life is real. Until retirement my idea of creativity was pretty much limited to how to increase my frequent flier miles. Over the last five or six years I have found a reservoir of creative ideas and output I had no idea I possessed. There was no magic. I just allowed myself to explore and fail and explore again. You have the same ability. Actor Alan Alda said it well: You have to leave the city of your comfort and go into the wilderness of your intuition. What you’ll discover will be wonderful.  What you’ll discover is yourself.”  Amen. Your satisfying creative retirement awaits. 

Related Posts

The first Facebook book giveaway is now underway. As I promised in an earlier post, as I learn more about FB I am giving away copies of the book I am using to help you start your own Facebook page or develop what you already have.


Just drop me an e-mail with Free Book in the subject line to enter.

January 24, 2011

Don't Die With Your Music Still In You

You are in control of a good part of your life and your destiny. Most of us have a retirement lifestyle that would be unimaginable to the vast majority of the world’s citizens. We can make choices every day that allow us to be satisfied. But, do we? How often do we make the easy choice instead of the right choice?

Let’s assume you currently live comfortably. You have possessions that make your life pleasant, your finances are in order, and things are pretty much running well. Like me, you probably have a car or two, own at least one computer, a flat screen TV or two, some nice clothes, and a home or apartment to store all your stuff. You don’t worry too much about what you buy each week at the grocery store. You have a safe and predictable existence. You are living a satisfying retirement.

But, is that all there is? After all, why are we here? Is it to acquire stuff, or maybe to make our families as comfortable as possible? Regardless of your faith or your belief in what happens after death one thing is clear: we can’t take any of that stuff with us. Our comfortable lifestyle has no power to endure. The statistics are pretty clear: your chance of dying is 100%.

So, what have we chosen? A lifestyle that is safe and predictable but with little real substance to stimulate us. Those who achieve some of the external trappings of success without internal fulfillment are only living on the surface. In many cases that life avoids facing the real fear — that maybe all this stuff isn’t really worth anything compared to what’s being lost… that maybe I should be living more boldly and not be so concerned about what happens to all my stuff. I want my life to have more value. I may die rich, or I may die broke but I won’t die with my music still in me.

What have I got to lose? What am I truly risking if I seriously go after my dreams? If my current lifestyle is unfulfilled, then I’m starting broke, no matter how much money is in the bank. Money and material assets are just resources to use while you’re here. You’re only a temporary steward of the money and possessions that pass through your life. So when you risk money, you don’t risk anything of any enduring value. Earn money, lose money, invest money. But don’t make material objects more important than your own fulfillment and happiness. Life is just too precious to waste. If you are spending your days doing things that just fill the time but aren't deeply fulfilling, what is the value? 

What does it mean to really live? Deep down, you already have a sense of the direction where this answer lies for you. Ultimately, it’s a choice. You’re free to live the kind of life you want. There may be real costs, in terms of comfort, or even relationships. Not everyone will be willing to board your ship before it sails.

Here’s a question: if you knew you only had 18 months left to live, how would you spend your time? What would you immediately stop doing? How would you fill the time you have left?

If you could you would probably live for what is real to you. Live for what truly matters to you. What matters to me — what is real to me — is inspiring and helping people, loving my wife and family, deepening my faith, simplifying my life, and leaving a mark of some kind.

Directly or indirectly what my precious time is spent on should somehow relate to those desires. The fulfillment I get from doing these things should trump all the external stuff. It shoudn’t matter what the state of my finances are. It shouldn’t matter if people reject my ideas or poke fun at what I enjoy doing.

What would I put on a "bucket list?"  Taking an RV trip around America for a few months and going back to England and Ireland would be there. A cruise to Alaska, definitely. I'd continue my volunteer work with just-released prisoners. It is satisfying and meaningful. I'd get good enough to play my guitar in public. I would continue to work on deepening my faith walk. I would take every opportunity to make my wife, daughters, son-in-law, and grandkids happy.

What would not be on the list? Worrying about weeds in the lawn. Having a 30 item to-do list every morning. Weekend chores. A messy house. Worrying about things I can't control, which is virtually everything except my attitude.

How about you? Would your list include composing a new piece of music, writing something inspiring, giving your spouse a massage?  How about playing with your grandkids, cleaning out some clutter? Would you audition for a local play, start your own business, volunteer for a charity or two?

Whatever it is for you and me. all of us need to do something that leaves us feeling at the end of the day that we really contributed the best of ourselves. We need to strive that we not die with our music still in us.


Thanks to blogger Steve Pavlina for a post he wrote several years ago that inspired this article.


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January 21, 2011

I'm A Junkie and I Can't Stop

I'm a junkie. I need at least one fix a day to stay happy. If I don't get what I need from you I might turn to someone else. I've had this need forever and I can't lose it. Frankly, I don't want to lose it.

I've just described me, probably you, and virtually everyone you have ever met. We are all junkies for affirmation. We can't get enough of being told good things about ourself. We need the strokes. We need to be told someone else cares. What we do must be noticed or we'll sulk and pout. I'll freely admit that nice comments left on my blog make my day. The affirmation feels good. It makes me believe the time I put into writing is worth it.

Affirmation means to state that something is true. In this context it means to praise someone for his personality or talent. It means to tell her she is doing a good job, or is important in your life. Affirmation fulfills our basic need to feel relevant, useful, and needed. So, if this is a deep seated need we all have then why is it rare in most of our lives, most of the time? Good question. I've given this topic some extra thought since my small group from our church recently had a lively discussion on the subject. All of us admitted we are quick to receive complements, but much slower to hand them out.

About a year ago I was prompted by something I read somewhere that made a real impact. Frankly, I can't remember what I read or even what it said specifically. All I remember is something struck a chord. The gist of the piece was that during a normal day we all deal with dozens of people who come quickly in and out of our lives. The article was not referring to coworkers or family members, church friends or regular contacts. It was taking about the "invisible people" we interact with every day. In this case "invisible" isn't a value judgment. Rather, it is how we typically see (or don't see) these folks.

The clerk who rings you up at the fast food restaurant or drops off a FedEx package is nameless and faceless to us. The waitress at dinner tells us her name but we forget it before she's even taken our order. The fellow who hands you a prescription at Walgreens doesn't really register (pardon the pun).

See where I'm heading? Every single day we have the opportunity to affirm something about these people and their existence yet we don't, even though each one of them is just as much an affirmation junkie as you or I.

I started a very small social experiment. I tried to remember to make a simple affirming comment whenever I interacted with one of these invisible folks. The result was stunning. Suddenly an unhappy person smiled. A clerk laughed while handing me a package. A delivery person thanked me for my business. The invisible person in front me became instantly real. He had been affirmed. And, he or she started affirming me back. We interacted like two human beings who were willing to give a tiny piece of themselves to someone else.

Personally, I am very sorry I didn't learn this lesson while I was working. I know I treated the invisible people like interruptions or not worthy of my giving them what they craved. I hope it wasn't because I was purposely hurtful, I was just selfish and oblivious. I'm still that way more often than I'd wish, especially with faceless people on the phone.

Retirement has allowed me to find new sides of myself. A satisfying retirement requires learning and growing (maybe growing up). It is a process that won't stop until I take my final breath, hopefully many years from now. There is a lot of affirming I must catch up on. 

January 19, 2011

Facebook and Twitter: Enough Already?

Are you getting a little tired of reading about Facebook? For goodness sakes, Hollywood has already made a movie about it. People are crawling all over each other to invest in it. The estimate of Facebook's value is $35 Billion. What about Twitter? Express yourself in 140 characters? (That's about 70% less than this post so far). 200 million users and a value of $4 Billion say, yes. You can't be on the Internet, reading a newspaper or a magazine, watching television, or talking with a younger person without being exposed to the whole concept of social media.

2009 was the year that social media began to really grab us by the mouse. Of those who use the Internet nearly 47% of all respondents to a recent survey actively maintain a profile on the social web. Just one year earlier only 15% had such a presence. Mirroring the results of a study I quoted last month our age group is most fond of Facebook. 73% of active computer users in that study claim to maintain a Facebook profile. Another sign of the importance of social media? Here's a real stunner: people 74 and older represent the fastest growing demographic on these sites.

What's the Attraction?
Why are Facebook and Twitter or photo sites like Flickr becoming so important in our lives? The primary reason seems to be the ability to extend our socializing. As we get older maintaining connections becomes both increasingly difficult and important. Friends move away, or we do. Adult children live in distant cities. We lose track of college friends. We can't see the grandchildren as often as we'd like. We want to make new friends. We want our voice to be heard.

Other reasons given include learning something new or to promote a new business venture or a blog. I know some folks who have a Facebook page so they have something in common to talk about and share with a grandchild during visits.

On the other hand, many of us are hesitant to enter this world due to very legitimate concerns about privacy. If you are not careful it is quite possible to allow the entire world to see something you wanted to keep between you and your best friend. It can become addictive. It is easy to spend hours a day looking at the constant flow of new information and photos that end up on your Facebook page or Twitter account. Some people collect Facebook "friends" the way others collect quilts or recipes. The number of people listed becomes a status symbol, not real communication.


My Attitude is Changing
My position on the place of social media in my life is changing rather rapidly. I didn't see any value to me. I avoided the entire scene until June of last year when I started this blog. Suddenly a Twitter account became a crucial way for me to promote my existence. I added a second account in November. Now I am tweeting with abandon. It was quickly obvious, however, that Twitter is virtually useless for real communication with people. While it started out as a way for people to exchange very short messages with friends and family, those days are over. Today it is almost exclusively a promotional and marketing tool for individuals and businesses.

I admit I have a Facebook account but have done absolutely nothing with it. Frankly, I haven't had the time to become comfortable with how it operates. And, with my daughters and grandkids living in town posting photos and staying in touch is much easier than using Facebook: we get in the car and drive 30 minutes or they drop by our house for a visit and dinner.

Even so the research I read and the requests to become a "friend" on Facebook are changing my attitude. I am beginning to see it as something I should know more about. I can't really call myself a complete blogger for those seeking to build a satisfying retirement if I avoid one of the major tools many of my readers use.

If you read my New Year's post about goals for this year, you are aware I have promised to have an e-book ready by the first of March. That is less than a month and a half from now. Add to that the posting schedule of fresh articles three times a week, working on a site to help sell my wife's artistic photos, a full plate of volunteer activities, and a part time job that can take 10-15 hours a week and I'd be insane to decide to learn Facebook now.

My Plan
I'm insane. I am going to learn about Facebook and start to make my page  something worthy of a visit. Maybe it will be a place where you and I become "friends" and exchange photos, information, and stories. Maybe it will be a place where I make contact with old friends I have lost touch with over the years.

I'm not setting a goal based on a date. But, I am putting Facebook Building into my calendar and to-do list. So, slowly over the next several weeks if you are a Facebook user (and a lot of you are) you should see something begin to blossom. It might be interesting if I report on my progress, the problems I encounter and the things I am learning. If you decide to become a Facebook user maybe my experiences will help you save time and aggravation.

Book Giveaways
As another incentive to check on my progress, I have purchased a few books to help me become Facebook literate. As I move forward in this project I will be giving away copies of these books (new ones, not the ones I've used!). Read about my progress on this blog. When I indicate I am giving away a book or two, respond to the e-mail request. I'll randomly pick one or two and send you the book, free and with no further obligation. This may spur you to enter the exploding world of social media, or help you make the most of what you have already done.


If you are already comfortable with Facebook, I ask a favor: leave a comment here about some things I should be aware of and things I should do and not do. Or, send me an e-mail if your hints and tips are a bit too long for this site. Finally, watch for my Facebook page, become a friend, and help me develop a page I can be proud to point to.


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January 17, 2011

Curiosity and Creativity: Part 2

Last Monday I wrote about the role of curiosity and creativity in helping you develop a satisfying retirement. As I noted, creativity is a word that sometimes scares people. Many of us have this self-limiting view of the subject and believe we aren't gifted in that way. But, that simply isn't true. We use creativity everyday in virtually every aspect of our life, but often simply don't think of it as creativity.

Can your native creativity and curiosity be developed and strengthened? Absolutely. In this post, I want to detail some specific steps you can take to help you free your creativity and begin to find new inspiration.

Creativity Steps You Can Take

We all have had the experience when a great idea has flashed through our mind. It could be a solution for a problem at home or work, a way to make something work better or an idea to save money on a home project. It could be something quite complex or quite simple. The problem is that creative thought comes to us, and usually goes just as quickly. Because our mind is never still, an idea is easily lost.

The solution is just as simple: capture the idea right away. I've mentioned an idea journal before. This is a notebook of some sort where you write down every random idea or flash of insight you have. It can also include a clipping from a magazine, a screen shot of a particular idea from a web page, or a quotation that inspires you.

A small digital recorder is very helpful when you are away from a computer or a pad of paper. See something, hear something, or experience something that intrigues you and make a brief comment into the recorder. Later, transcribe the thought into the idea journal.

If you are stimulated visually, photos, clippings of pictures, videos, scenes in a movie, or even a rough sketch can become the foundation for a creative event. Look at the sketch books of Leonardo Da Vinci if you doubt the creative power of pencil and paper.

Develop a list of what you have tried before to solve a problem or to expand your creative output. After each entry note what you liked about each attempt and what where the pitfalls. Make another list of all the things you have thought about trying and re-read it on a regular basis. I begin playing guitar this way. After deciding I missed making music, I finally was prompted to buy a new guitar after reading that entry in my creativity journal month after month for almost a year. Suddenly something clicked and the time felt right.

At this point in the process do not self-edit. The idea may turn out to be impractical. Then again, it may be the perfect solution for a problem you haven't thought about yet. The idea may sit unused for weeks, months, or even years until there an application becomes apparent.

In addition to these more general approaches let me offer a specific strategy based on one aspect of your life.  The next post in the series will continue with two or three additional areas that you may find helpful in your quest to expand your creativity.


Interacting with Other people

One of the most important sources of creative thoughts can come from others. I am sure you know people who have interests and experiences different from yours. Your job is to talk with those people about what they do and you don't. Take someone out for coffee. Take a walk together in a park. Pack a picnic lunch and talk over a sandwich and chips. In a relaxed setting like these you can get almost anyone to talk about what interests them and why.

You may not be interested in what they are so passionate about. But, your mind might suddenly make a connection between something said and a need you have. Importantly, after talking and listening go find a quiet place. Be alone with your mind. Think about what you heard or felt. Decide if anything you heard is useful to you in any way.

If so, write thoughts into your idea journal. Let them percolate. Do not categorize what you hear. Force your mind to think of extensions of what is talked about. What is the relationship between what that person said and something else you may use? Can you think of a way to do something they have described better, faster, or differently?

Here is a exercise for you to try: look at something in your home, at a store, or even at a friend's home. Now, think of three different things you could do with it, or springboard a new thought from it. You don't actually have to do any of the three ideas. The point is to stimulate the part of your brain that looks for connections and extensions. In the Aha book the author gives this example: a friend saw an illustration on a toy box. Instead of just thinking it was a pretty drawing, he was inspired to create a series of books for children based on the character on the box.  

Ready for another? Think of one thing you have read or done today. Relate it to something else in your life. 90% of the ideas for the satisfying retirement blog happen this way. I'll read an article or see a story in the paper that triggers an idea. I'll be looking at family photos or a movie and suddenly be literally assaulted by one or two blog ideas. I don't actively expect this to happen, it just does.

Watch children whenever possible, either your own or grandkids or even children at a mall or in a park. See how they take something common and use it in a dozen uncommon ways. Just because the toy blocks are designed by an adult to be put in order to spell a word doesn't mean they can't be stacked on top of each other to make a tower. Why can't they be used as supports for a piece of railroad track for the Thomas the Train set? As adults we have a basis of knowledge about how to use or do something. Kids don't. Follow their lead.

Embrace ambiguity. Great ideas come when you aren't sure about something. Suspend judgment, be open-ended in what you allow yourself to imagine. Listen to complaints. They are often a tremendous source of opportunities to solve a problem or develop something new. Don't be sure of the answer all the time. Pretend you have to solve a problem differently from the way you usually do.

 I'll stop here before this post becomes too long . I hope you can see the unlimited opportunity in growing your creative muscles when interacting with others. Instead of listing of few of my earlier Related Posts, I want to give you a list of some of the books I consulted to develop these posts. I have read each several times and find they are invaluable to me when I start to get into a rut.

Aha                    by Jordan Ayan
The Artist's Way   by Julia Cameron and Mark Bryan
The Creative Age  by Gene Cohen
Creating Minds     by Howard Gardner


The third in this series will outline two more areas in which creativity can be developed and nurtured. Look for Part 3 on Wednesday, January 26th.

Your turn to be creative: What ideas does this post give you to expand your creative universe? What roadblocks to creativity do you face? What hints can you give me to help me in my journey down the creative highway?

January 14, 2011

Travel and Vacation Links: Plan Your Getaway

I have added a regular feature to Satisfying Retirement. On the second and forth Friday of each month you will find a link post. This type of post is a collection of links to specific articles on other blogs or web sites that I hope you will find helpful or useful. Each time the focus of the links will be on one of the major concerns for most of us: health or health care, relationships, finances and financial planning, creativity and leisure, travel, simple living, and retirement transitioning.


Two weeks ago the links related to retirement financial planning. If you missed it, you'll find it listed below under Related Posts. We are one month into what has been a rough winter for many. Spring still seems a lifetime away. Even here in the desert southwest we've had a wet and cold season that can't end soon enough for me. So, this link post concentrates on great sites to help you plan a trip or vacation. Just thinking about a getaway can make the winter blahs more bearable.

Here are links to sites designed to ignite your travel bug, to get you ready to plan and pack, and hit the road, airport, boat dock, or hiking trail. I have avoided listing the common, big names like Expedia or Priceline. Instead these are sites you've probably never heard of.  Either I have personal experience with the site or it looked interesting enough to list.

I have not included any site that requires you to register or leave an e-mail address. Also not on the list are sites overwhelmed with pop up ads and other distractions. Fordor's has more ads than any other site, but the information is worth the minor inconveniences of closing the pop ups.


http://www.tripadvisor.com/   The best part of this site is the section of reviews written by travelers. There are links for booking all parts of your travel and a tab for ideas on where to go, but the feedback from people is the reason I have used this site several times. I have found the reviews accurate and very helpful.

http://www.bootsnall.com/ A full-featured site with a focus on independent travel. If you prefer to not travel as part of a group, check this one out.

http://www.planetware.com/ This site specializes in foreign travel information. While the U.S. and Canada are included, I'd come here if South America, Asia, or Europe interested me. There is a great collection of photos and detailed walking and hiking information.

http://realtravel.com/  This site specializes in reviews from social media-active travelers. Information comes from Facebook and other sources. The reviews appear to be helpful in making a decision.

http://www.licketytrip.com/ This is a place to go if you decide on a vacation or trip at the last minute. It lists availabilities all over the world for the next two weeks.

http://www.fodors.com/ My biggest complaint is with the number of pop up advertisements. At times it becomes a real challenge to navigate from page to page. If you can stand the interruptions, Fodor's is the gold standard of travel and lodging information.

http://wejustgotback.com/ Another site with an annoying number of ads. The focus is on travel with kids. For most of us, that would probably make this site better if you were taking a trip with grandkids. But, the information appears solid.

Senior Friendly Vacations  For balance, here's a link to several different sites that specialize in senior-oriented travel and services.

http://www.roadtripamerica.com/ This one really caught my eye. It features routes, planning, and ideas for a road trip anywhere in North America. There are interactive maps and enough information to keep you motoring for weeks.

Iglu cruises - Family cruises A site that offers information on cruises anywhere in the world. This would be a great place to start if you are ready to experience the joys of cruising from family friendly operators.


I stumbled across many other fascinating travel and vacation-oriented sites that I will detail in the next semi-monthly link posting that is dedicated to travel.

If you have a personal favorite, please let us know. If you know of a site that we should steer clear of, that would be very helpful, too. There are so many good (and bad) resources in the Internet it takes all of us to find the best.

Related Posts
On January 28th I can do a link post on one of two subject: simple living and frugality, or relationship strengthening. Which one would you rather see next? I will cover both in the weeks ahead, but what would you, dear reader, prefer I tackle in two weeks?

Leave comment about the above post and/or vote for what should be next. The majority wins!

January 12, 2011

Finding Simplicity In a Complicated World

News Flash: We are facing a loss of predictability in a world with constant and accelerating change. I'm being just a bit sarcastic. These changes are not a news flash for any of us. It is a description of what we deal with every day. It would be difficult to live in the 21st century and not have to cope with this.

In many cases we have become immune to the constant shifting of what we take for granted and what we believe to be true. I read a term last week that actually made me laugh: The New Normal. This is the new found belief in austerity and economical living. In reality, it is just a return to the normal way we used to behave with our money and our investments: don't spend more than you make. 

The shift under your feet isn't just an earthquake, it is a societal shift. Consider a handful of examples:


  • For the first time, more holiday shopping took place on line than in physical stores. A few years ago this would be have been unthinkable. Not only were there substantially fewer on line choices, but how many were comfortable using a credit card on line? Would we ever be willing to order things without first touching or seeing them? The answer is, Yes.

  • Have you tried to find a cell phone recently whose primary function is a phone? It is becoming more difficult. Smart phones (which can make you feel stupid) are rapidly becoming the only real choice. E-mails, voice mail, and actual phone conversations are losing the battle to texting.

  • Desktop computers will be an endangered species within the next few years. Even laptops may be going away. Increasingly smart phones and devices like the iPad can do everything the bigger, bulky computer on your desk can do, but are lightweight and hand sized. An article in the Wall Street Journal last week quotes a study that predicts the number of smart phones will surpass the number of personal computers within 2 years.

  • The promise of a pension or 401k being there when you need it is  not necessarily true anymore. As companies, governments, and unions try to handle future obligations they are finding the only answer is to cut benefits and payouts. No matter what you were told, that retirement financial nest egg may look more like an omelet. Social Security and Medicare...who knows?

  • Health studies are produced every day that contradict what yesterday's said. Wait long enough and cigarettes and bacon will become health foods. It is becoming increasingly difficult to know what to believe when so many experts have such different opinions.

  • The political climate is unstable. Wild swings in legislation and philosophies make it almost impossible for business or individuals to make long term plans. What was law today may be abolished after the next election. As the horrible shooting in Tucson last weekend showed, we may be entering an even more dangerous period if we aren't careful. Even if the alleged shooter was not politically motivated public figures are going to think twice about similar gatherings.

  • Even something as commonplace as repairing your own car requires specialized computers to diagnose many problems, and then computer-like parts to fix it. Changing your oil is still possible. Figure out what the check engine light means? To the repair shop you go.

  • Newspapers, magazines, network television, even cable television are all going to be in for the fight of their lives. Media streaming directly to your TV, phone, or iPad make every other form of distribution too expensive and too slow. A headline in the January 5th Wall Street Journal said it quite clearly in reference to old vs. new media: Digital or Die.

So, what should our response be to this onslaught?  Can we do anything to get a sense of control back? Simple living or voluntary simplicity is a lifestyle choice that has several attractions. Cutting back on possessions and avoiding much of the material society in which we live have benefits that I have detailed in earlier posts. But, it really has little to do with a response to a complicated and uncertain world. Here are some thoughts to get your own creative juices flowing:

Put more stock in you. Gather all the opinions you want. Do all the research on any subject that helps you get a handle on the issue. But, when it is decision time, trust you. You should not doubt your own abilities. Learn to trust your gut and intuitions. If something doesn't seem quite right to you, then it isn't. Will you make mistakes? Sure you will. But, guess what, you'll make mistakes even if you wait for others to tell you what you should do.

Personal responsibility must make a comeback. The time when we could safely outsource all our decisions to others is ending. Believing the experts almost brought down our economy. It should be obvious by now that promises to you by corporations or government aren't always  binding. You need to take on more of the load of managing and guiding your own life.

Decide what adds clutter to your life and reduce it. It could something as obvious as too much time on the computer or Internet. It could be too many possessions to repair, maintain and insure. It might be a house that is much too big for your needs. Maybe a three car garage doesn't need three cars. Over-commitment is a dangerous form of clutter. Are you the go-to volunteer for everyone? Determine what can be eliminated or cut back and do so.  Less clutter means less stress. Less stress means less complexity.

Learning and changing never stops; don't even try. It is useless to dig in your heels and try to keep things the way they were (or are). Your life will probably be OK for awhile without rushing out for a 4G phone (whatever that is). But, to refuse to consider change is a doomed strategy. Read, study, ponder. Try to understand how a change you've been reading or hearing about about may affect you.

In summary I believe there is one basic truth that gives us hope: the more we learn to handle complexity, the simpler it becomes.


Question: Am I overstating the  problem of complexity and its affect on us? Have I missed a way to find more simplicity? I encourage your feedback.


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January 10, 2011

Curiosity and Creativity: Part 1

This is the first in a series of posts that explores the subject of creativity and its role in experiencing a satisfying retirement. Creativity is a word that sometimes scares people. Many of us have this self-limiting view of the subject and believe we aren't gifted in that way. If that describes you, then it is important to understand what it means to be creative. 

What is Creativity?

It does not have to be anything to do with painting, writing, sculpting, or any of the things we usually think of as being creative. Rather it is seeing the familiar in a different light. It is the desire to work on something because it’s interesting, exciting, satisfying or personally challenging. It is about expressing what is uniquely you. It is being unconventional when needed, or part of a team when that is required. It involves being driven to find a answer. 

We use creativity every day in every aspect of our lives. Our creativity is evident in the clothes we wear or the style of our hair. Creativity is expressed in the way we talk to others or write a report. It is exhibited in our ability to play sports or dance, or perform yoga movements. Creativity is happening when you understand your own feelings or those of others.

One of the problems people have in seeing themselves as creative is the fear of not being perfect, to do something well right from the start. That holds us back and keeps us from expressing ourselves fully.



The Core of All Creativity

The core of creativity is a sense of curiosity. Without wondering about how things work,  how something is made, or how to improve something, creativity isn't needed. Curiosity is what pushes you to learn something new or try a different way of solving a problem. It can be as simple as wondering what would happen if you added rosemary and salsa to the recipe or tried to grow a tomato in a pot on the porch. It could be as as complicated as building a kiln and learning how to fire pottery. It could be as mundane as finding a new way to organize your daily chores so you finish sooner.

The point is, creativity covers virtually every aspect of our life. Only when we construct a comfort zone and place a wall around our ideas does creativity stop. Then you meet no new people, you experience no new sensations, you try no new way to solve a problem. At that point what happens is your life begins to die just a little every day.

Author Jordan Ayan in his book, Aha! uses a strong image to describe the curiosity that is the driving force behind creativity. He says to think of a funnel. Through the hole at the bottom of the funnel flows what you know. The main body of the funnel holds what you know you don't know. Then above the top of the funnel lies what you don't know you don't know. That is what you explore when you become curious.

The Characteristics of Curiosity

There are several characteristics a curious person possesses. The first is openness. This is the willingness to respect something new and accept a different way of doing something. It is being open to new people, thoughts, and things.

Another important characteristic is the ability to accept ambiguity. If an answer to a problem or a fresh idea isn't immediately available, a curious person is OK with that. The lack of certainty is the opening for creativity to begin.

The acceptance of risk is important. This isn't the type of risk involved in betting everything on a spin of the roulette wheel, or jumping out of a third story window to see what happens. It means being OK with failure. It means risking that you might look less than perfect. It also means taking the risk that you will discover something new and exciting.

Another quality of the curious is energy. Mr. Ayan talks about not just the physical energy to work at a task. There is the mental energy to think through a problem or confront something unknown. There is the energy of passion that drives you forward.

Optimism is a characteristic that I believe to be essential. This is the belief that whatever is being done will ultimately pay off. While failure may happen again and again as new ideas are explored, that is OK. Each wrong approach gets you closer to the right one. Even if the entire experience does not end in the result you want the process was still rewarding. That is optimism.

The exciting thing about discovering your own creativity is once you start it is almost impossible to stop. Each new discovery opens up a new inspiration or approach. Each step forward makes it easier to take the step after that. Creativity begins to feed on itself. Sounds great, doesn't it. But, how exactly does one tap into this flow of creativity? If we all have this ability, how do we use it to enhance our life?

I think I can help. The next post in this series will begin to detail exactly how you discover your inherent creativity. I will give you several specific steps you can take to begin to use your curiosity and the talents you may not even know you have.

Part 2 of Curiosity and Creativity will post January 17th.


Questions for you: Tell us about a time when you discovered a creative answer to a problem. Have you been ever startled by an idea that just suddenly popped into your head?



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January 7, 2011

Adding Adventure to Your Life

Generally, I play it safe. You aren't going to to find me bungee-jumping, sky-diving, rock-climbing, even riding a big, fast roller coaster. Financially, my wife and I are conservative. Our possessions are quite mainstream. When we vacation we make standard choices like Italy or England or Hawaii. Going to Tibet or the rain forest of the Amazon aren't really on our radar.

So, why a post about adding adventure to your life? There are two primary reasons: I need to listen to the message and attempt a bit of a change in 2011. And, because adventure has a much broader definition than is usually assigned to the word. It doesn't have to just involve physical activities. Of course within the past two weeks I cut my hand deeply on Christmas Day and slipped on ice New Year's morning spraining my wrist. Maybe I should be writing about safety instead. But, no, that would be counter-productive. Adventure is what being alive is about.

Why Be Adventurous?

What are the possible gains if you decide to embrace a more adventurous life this year? Self-confidence and belief in yourself with be strengthened. You could discover abilities you think you lack. You might learn to overcome some fears that have been holding you back from a truly satisfying retirement.  Of course, fear is a good thing. It can keep you from physical harm. But, fear of things that aren't likely to hurt you can limit your life experiences.

Trying new things might help you understand  more about your strengths and weaknesses. If your limits are not tested how can you know what those limits are? Henry David Thoreau said it best: "Most men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them. "  We can't know what music is still in us if we have no idea what we are capable of.

What Does Adding Adventure Look Like?

Adding adventure to your life can come in several forms. No matter what I write here, I'm still not jumping out of a plane or exploring deep, dark caves. It just isn't going to happen. But, that doesn't mean I can't discover what would work with my personality and temperament. One idea is to look at friends and acquaintances who are higher up the adventure-meter than I and see if there is something I can adapt to my life.

I have a friend who loves to mountain bike. He thinks nothing of hurling down a hill, full bore, with just his skill and a dash of luck to keep him from a serious spill. OK, not my style. Not gong to happen. But, I've toyed with the idea of getting a trail bike and starting to pedal my way through desert trails in the Phoenix area. There is still some danger from rocks, loose sand, even an occasional rattlesnake. But, that level of danger I believe I am able to tolerate. It sounds like fun, it is something I can handle physically, and would expand my horizons. I wouldn't shatter my comfort zone, just push the edge back a bit. It doesn’t matter how wild or daring this adventure is. What matters is trying something new.

I read somewhere a definition of adventure that includes anything that makes your heart race or your pulse quicken. Thus almost any experience in life qualifies. For example, what if you went to a restaurant that serves food you normally don't eat? What if you order something from the menu you can't even pronounce? Would that qualify as an adventure? Absolutely. You are allowing yourself to fail in an adventurous attempt to succeed. The only real risks are wasted money, you go home hungry, or you missed the chance to discover a whole new cuisine you enjoy.

Are these adventurous: talking to a stranger at a social or community event, painting your living room a bold shade of red, or going to the opera when you are sure you hate it? Absolutely. Each of those is every bit as much an adventure as rafting down the Colorado. How about trying a new flavor of coffee? Buy three magazines in subjects you don't know or understand. Read them.

Life is An Adventure, isn't it?

Adding adventure really just means that you choose to become a lover of life. Decide to say, "Yes," when your comfortable self wants to say, "No."  There be will  mistakes, there might be some embarrassment. Heavens, you may fall flat on your face, both literally and figuratively. If this happens get up, learn from you mistakes and give it another shot.

Choose to say, “Yes.” Do what have you always wanted but never dared try. Don’t fear risks. Take measured risks. Know that you are grabbing onto what life has to offer.

Question: What one thing have you done that surprised even you? What would qualify as an adventure in your life?

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January 5, 2011

5 Important Stories for Retirees

Time for one last look back at last year. CBS Moneywatch.com posted a story last week that caught my eye. It was a list of the top 5 news stories from 2010 that had to do with retirement. I thought you would find their selection interesting. I have added some comments and thoughts of my own. You may disagree with some of what I have to say. In that case, I certainly hope you will comment at the end of this article to add your voice to a debate that is crucial to us all.


The Passage of Health Care Reform topped their list of the stories that could have the biggest impact on retirees going forward. The potential positives and negatives have been debated to death so I'm not going there. The change to a Republican-controlled house could very well make a lot of what happened last year moot. If money for various parts of the law isn't provided, not much will happen. If various state efforts to not participate are allowed to proceed the law will not be able to function. If some court rulings stand the central part of the law will be eliminated making the rest of it not affordable. The fate of 30 million uninsured citizens, the size of our federal deficit, and the affordability of insurance through private insurers are all directly affected.


So, what do we do while we wait?  Take more responsibility for your own health maintenance. Eat better, exercise more, understand the cost-savings of preventive care, buy generic drugs when possible, and question the need for tests and procedures that seem designed to simply protect doctors or rack up extra charges. In the highly unlikely event that the Health Care Bill ends up exactly as passed costs and personal responsibility will shift. Get used to it.


The Release of the Deficit Commission Report. Not surprisingly, the suggestions included in this report brought forth howls of protest from those supporting programs suggested for cutbacks. While everyone demands deficits be cut, absolutely no one wants anything that affects them to be part of the cuts. Obviously, such a selfish stance cannot work. It is impossible to spend more than we make as a country, yet continue to ask government to pay for things we think are our right.


There will be cuts in Social Security and the retirement age will go up (not in our lifetime), Medicare's waste will be attacked (a bit), and the Pentagon will no longer have access to unlimited funds. Why? Because we will have no choice, unless it is the loss the the country's entire middle class, hyper-inflation, and the purchase of most of our assets by foreigners. But, it is going to make the yelling and partisanship of the last  few years seem mild in comparison. The real losers will be the poorest, sickest, and most vulnerable of our citizens. They are most likely to suffer the most severe cutbacks.


Higher Retirement ages in France and Greece trigger protests . This was an interesting choice for the third most important retirement story of the year, but the author is probably correct. The riots in France over the increase in retirement age from 60 to 62 and protests in Greece over a similar change from 61 to 63 were hardly unnoticed by the rest of the world. Most Americans, with the choice to retire as early as 62 or receive full benefits at 65 or 66 probably have a hard time sympathizing. Meanwhile Bolivia, decided to turn common sense upside down and reduced the full retirement age to 58.

These events are the outcome of debt-ridden governments trying to rein in entitlement spending, and keep pension systems from going broke (I have no idea what Bolivia was thinking !). The debt commission's suggestion that U.S. full retirement increase over the next 50 years or so seems extremely cautious by comparison, but does reflect the reality of people living longer and the system being broke.


As an interesting aside CBS reports on the results of a study that correlated early retirement with mental dysfunction. According to the study, countries with the lowest retirement ages, like France, Italy, and Spain scored lowest in cognition tests among their older citizens. What's the connection? I'd suggest this may show that keeping active and engaged in your later years is one of the best ways to reduce the odds of getting dementia or Alzheimer’s.


Generating Adequate Income from Retirement Savings.  With CD rates hovering around 1%, Money Market Accounts paying much less, and Social Security having no monthly increase for the second year in a row, it is easy to see why this has become one of the top stories for retirees this past year. Trying to make ends meet when energy, food, and health costs are rapidly rising just as rates on fixed investments plummet is increasingly difficult. Stocks remain volatile. Experts warn against municipal bonds as cities and states face huge deficits.

There is no simple answer. The quick return of higher interest rates doesn't seem to be in the cards. Cutting expenses can only help so much. At some point the only things left to cut are essentials.  For those on a fixed income that was adequate before, the next few years do not look very encouraging. The hard truth is you’re on your own when it comes to figuring out the best approach for you.

MetLife Halts Sale of New Long-Term Care Insurance. This is a story I read but its importance didn't register. CBS Marketwatch.com is correct in drawing attention to an important issue. Even with adequate health insurance through Medicare and a supplemental policy, the average 55 year old will still spend almost $200,000 on out of pocket medical expenses during the rest of his life. Nursing care expenses average close to $5,000 a month, and Medicare doesn't pay for long term care.

For years we have been advised to consider buying longterm care insurance to help with these overwhelming costs. Now, the 4th largest provider of these policies has stopped selling them. It is a safe bet that other companies will follow. For those still willing to insure someone the premiums and exclusions will certainly increase.


There isn't really a a positive story among these five. Even the potential benefits of health care reform come with added costs and large does of uncertainty. So, what is the underlying lesson? The age of individual responsibility is on us. The time when we could count on the government or social institutions to solve all the problems that come with aging is rapidly drawing to a close.

Another answer? Maybe we will see a resurgence of family taking care of family. Maybe the multi-generational household will become the norm. Maybe that is not such a bad thing.


Your thoughts? Would these stories been in your top 5? Do you have a different thought on any of them? Let me know and we'll talk about it.


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January 3, 2011

Retirement and Sex

Got you to read, didn't I. Sex always grabs attention, especially the concept of retirement and sex. Of course, with a blog title of satisfying retirement you might imagine there is a connection. Well, sorry to disappoint, but this post will not be about what happens between the sheets, though I hope you are happy in that regard.

One of the major stumbling blocks to a successful retirement is how the two sexes react to not working. Previous posts have dealt with some of the adjustments that both partners must make when one or both retire from daily employment. This time around I'd like to focus a bit closer on how men and women differ when each moves toward retirement or officially leaves the working world behind.


Retirement and men:

Various study show that men tend to be overconfident about their investing and retirement planning skills. This helps explain why so many enter the last decade of work with nothing close to what will be needed. In this country the average person within 20 years of a typical retirement age has a only $50,000 in retirement savings. For those in their late 50's and early 60's the average is not much better: $80,000. What are we thinking? There is no retirement tooth fairy that is about to leave hundreds of thousands of dollars under our pillow.  While these figures are not for men only, the investor and saver in the majority of couple or family situations is the male, so he must bear the most responsibility for this problem facing financial reality.

In additional to financial issues, for many men in our culture identity revolves around a number of commonly accepted central roles and skills:


•being a good provider for his family
•being 'useful' to society in general
•being in charge of situations

I might argue that these are more stereotypes than reality in the second decade of the 21st century. But, most men probably believe these three statements are true. That belief, whether based in reality or not, creates problems. In order to adjust successfully to retirement, men have to start redefining the bases of their sense of self. Without the role of breadwinner or leader to rely on, one may ask, who am I? Self-esteem can start to fall and depression can set in.


If prior to retirement your partner stayed at home while you worked, she may resent your intrusion into her areas of control. This is especially true if, in an attempt to direct your urge to do something, you attempt to impose yourself on her well-established routines. Tension can arise out of the increased need for joint decision-making.


Loneliness and isolation are a risk in old age for the simple reason that as people grow older, more and more of their friends tend to die, move away, or lose the mobility needed to keep in touch. This is particularly an issue for men, who tend to emphasize self-reliance and put less effort into maintaining their social networks. Most men have few friends, and often not a single close friend in whom they can confide.


Retirement and women:


Contrary to what some may assume, research indicates women overall bring less emotion to the stock market than men and approach investing more dispassionately. This can make a big difference in the size of one's investment and savings situation. Mistakes are admitted and a women moves on. Men are more likely to hold onto a losing investment longer in hopes it will turn around, thus avoiding having to admit making a mistake in the first place.

This is an important consideration because women, on average, outlive men by about six years. This means women will require extra money for their retirement. According to some studies most baby boomer women who are approaching their retirement age are expected to live well into their nineties. This says that women will have to prepare for emotional and financial security during a retirement that could last more than thirty years.

Another factor typically faced by many women is they spent less time in the work force. On average, men have 44 years of work while women average 32 years. Why? It is the female who usually takes a break from her career to have and then take care of children, and sometimes even to become a full time caregiver for aging parents, both hers and his.

Interruptions in the working life of women have important financial consequences. When women stop working Social Security contributions cease.  Obviously, that means reduced benefits later on.

Women have one major advantage over men during their prime years: diversity. Many women juggle both a job and a household. This situation teaches women to be able to handle a wide range of problems and tasks simultaneously, skills which come in handy during retirement.

A fascinating finding I discovered while preparing this article came from a study conducted at a university in Australia. The researchers looked at the concept of a retirement letdown. This is the period I have referred to as the second stage of retirement. The initial honeymoon period has worn off and the stark reality of not working becomes a major factor. Stress, worry, feeling unfulfilled, and extra strains on a relationship begin to occur.

Men tended to experience this retirement letdown after six months. Women, on the other hand, didn't experience similar problems until five years after retirement. Unfortunately, the study didn't answer the obvious question: why is there such a difference between the sexes in going through this down period?

I could speculate that it comes from points made earlier in this post. Men have so much of their identity wrapped up in their jobs, are so focused on just a handful of things, and have a weaker social support system that the end of work creates a much bigger problem for guys. Interestingly, if this study is repeated in another 5 or 10 years I wonder if the results would be the same. The increased role of women in the business world and the evolution of more shared responsibilities at home might push women closer to the man's timetable of six months before the letdown.


All of this proves a point made may times in Satisfying Retirement: this journey we are on is not easy. Hard work, planning, compromise, sensitivity to others, and personal growth are not just nice attributes to possess: they are requirements. Add to that the differences between men and women and it is a pleasant surprise how many of us are enjoying the ride!


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