April 28, 2011

The Best Made Plans.....Are Changeable

As part of our satisfying retirement lifestyle last year Betty and I took a 5,000 mile driving trip around the Northwest. We started in Phoenix, went to Zions National Park, Jackson Hole, Yellowstone, parts of Montana and Idaho, and ended at Olympic National Forest in Washington state, before heading back through Oregon and California. Even though tiring and plagued with terrible weather most of the time, it remains one of our favorite vacations. The trip was almost a year ago and I don't think I have yet to make it through all 3,000 pictures we took.

This year's goals included another driving trip. We wanted a totally different "look" to the trip so visits to Santa Fe and Albuquerque, San Antonio and Austin were penciled in. Being an obsessive planner I began to explore routes, collect brochures, and build a budget for the trip. Family was alerted to our date of departure. 
Our two girls are now in their 30's....where did all that time go?

Then, about a month ago something happened. I woke up one morning with a tremendously powerful urge...an urge to re-visit Hawaii. Together and separately, Betty and I have been to the islands a dozen times. We celebrated Christmas on Maui twice with the family and again on the Big Island. The whole family became certified scuba divers during one of our stays. I had business clients in Honolulu, Kona, and Hilo that allowed me several trips. We were on Kauai just 3 months before the massive hurricane, Iniki, leveled the resort where we stayed.

 
We have a real connection to our 50th state. Hawaii feels like our second home. The minute we step off the plane, the scents and the trade winds cause instant relaxation. If it wasn't for family, I think both of us would have figured out how to live there, at least part of the year.

So, that morning when I felt this tug toward the islands, it wasn't the first time. But what struck me with the power of a tsunami was that I hadn't been back in 10 years. That was a startling revelation. It was a rude reminder of the passage of time. How could I have stayed away from a place that is so important to me for a decade?

That afternoon, after about 60 seconds of contemplation, Betty and I decided to scrap the driving trip and plan to head west across the Pacific. By dinner time I had plane flights booked, had a car reserved and a condo lined up. For several days less than the driving trip, the cost is likely to be almost $1,000 more. But, as someone who preaches the importance of memories over things, it seems like a worthwhile investment.

Camera-fanatic Betty is already insisting we stop at every waterfall on the drive to Hana so she can snap away. That may be impossible (there are hundreds) but I'm sure she'll fill at least two memory cards with beauty. With 600 curves and 54 one-lane bridges the drive to Hana is unique in all of America and worth the white knuckles.

One of the best things about a satisfying retirement is this ability to change plans in an instant. Albuquerque and San Antonio will still be there when we finally take that trip. But, we had a severe Hawaii itch and just had to scratch it.


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April 25, 2011

You Collect What?

After a few rather weighty subjects over the last few weeks, I thought I'd take a look at something fun today: unusual hobbies. One of the joys of blogging is the time spent on the Internet researching various retirement lifestyle topics. Part of what I am learning is that humans have the ability to entertain themselves in an infinite number of ways.

Most of us have a hobby or two, something we like to indulge in during free time.  As a youngster I was a stamp and coin collector. For a few years I had a growing collection of antique table radios. Most recently, my interest has been ham (or amateur) radio. Part of my office is filled with various transmitters, receivers, scanners, and things with dials all over them. The roof of my home is crowded with half a dozen different antennas , allowing me to  talk to other amateurs all over the world, or listen to programming from hundreds of other countries.

Those outlets and use of my free time (and money) are quite mainstream. I am a hobby straight arrow compared to some of the stuff I found with little effort on the Internet. Just to prove my point that we are a rather diverse life form, here is a small sampling of actual hobbies and collections that exit:


Collections:
I'm Back!
  • real war tanks (Arnold Schwarzenegger, apparently) 
  • accordions 
  • McDonald Tray liners
  • colors (I gather paint chips from Home Depot)
  • toasters
  • air sickness bags (there is a museum for this one)
  • carved egg shells
  • snow globes
  • cigar bands
  • swizzle sticks (my father-in-law did this)
  • sugar packets
  • Zippo lighters
  • Swingline staplers
  • handcuffs (don't ask)
  • cookie jars
  • barbed wire
  • soap bars
  • decorated toilet seats

If you want to make something a little out of the ordinary and are feeling medieval, there are over 600,000 sites to tell you all about making chain maille.

Friends of our family were fascinated by mead, a drink of the same time period. They made it, consumed it, and served it at parties. No one else I know found the stuff very drinkable.

In case you are looking for a hobby, or you have a lot of free time, here is a list of 217 different hobbies and activities for you to consider. Actually, if you have time to read through all these items, you do need a hobby.

As a final treat, here is a video from Youtube of some of Britain's oddest collections. It is less than 3 minutes long, so if you have the time enjoy meeting the man who collect labels from Baked Bean cans, or the lady who saves the little labels from bananas!



I thought I'd be a little silly and trivial with this post. I hope you had a smile or two. After all, a satisfying retirement is about having fun and enjoying yourself. Hobbies are one way we do so.


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April 22, 2011

Universal Truths

Barb, at Frugally Retired in Texas , had a post a week or two ago about her new quilting business. As I read the steps she wants to take to make the idea begin to pay off I thought how closely those steps mirror the process of successful blogging. Taking it a bit further, I thought the steps also match up nicely with how one builds a satisfying retirement lifestyle. Finally, it seemed obvious they really are steps to a happy life, regardless of your work status. See if you agree that Barb is on to something universally important.

• One needs to focus on what people want, rather than what you like to make. Isn't that true of almost everything? If I blogged about something that didn't interest you or fill a need of yours, then you wouldn't stay and you wouldn't come back. If I always do only what I want rather than also doing what my wife wants and needs, how long do you think my marriage would have lasted? Staying focused on others is the quickest way I know to have lots of friends, keep a spouse happy, build a blog or any business, and be considered a success.


In order to be a success, you have to have some kind of schedule and make some kind of time commitment. Isn't this true of all parts of your life?  If you have no plan for how you want to spend your time then you will waste it. Managing the most important resource of your life takes discipline. To accomplish your goals you probably have to dedicate periods of time to each. Rarely does anyone succeed at anything if he simply lets events control his day and is unwilling to commit to the effort involved.


You need to learn to value your time. Often this is a hard lesson for a retired person to learn. If you say "yes" to everyone who wants a piece of you it is likely there will be nothing left of yourself except scraps. If you don't properly value your energy and effort then others won't either. Just because you are not working, or just because you are a volunteer your time is.... priceless. The credit card company was right.

While some income streams such as selling your stuff may bring in instant income, many income streams, even small ones take a while to get off the ground. Though talking about her quilting business, Barb is stating a basic fact of building a satisfying retirement lifestyle. It takes time for anything to develop. Developing patience is one of the most important skills to master. Rushing anything is unsatisfying and unproductive in the long term.

I’ve had to find a way to combine my creativity with good business practices. Expand the definition a bit and her point can cover anything. Whether you are involved in a hobby, a project at church or around the house, blogging or writing a novel, there are efficient ways to do something, and ways that waste your time and resources. Being retired means we have more freedom than most to figure out what works. Unlike running a business, those steps don't have to be formalized or even written down somewhere. But, eventually you learn how to do whatever it is you are doing better than when you first started. Just like Barb has discovered, there is a learning curve that occurs.

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April 19, 2011

What Good is a Commitment?

Last fall I happily agreed to put my writing for Satisfying Retirement on hold for four days to help one of my daughters move back to Phoenix from LA. I pitched in to help with last minute packing and driving the rental truck. She is her father’s daughter. Arrangements had been made well ahead of time for people to load the truck, take a TV and microwave she didn’t want to move, pick up a car she was donating to a charity, disconnect the cable, and do the final walk-through of the apartment. Each of these was reconfirmed one or two days beforehand.

On the day of the move, the packers had dropped her from their schedule. The fellow who was going to pick up the microwave decided after several text messages that he didn’t really want it enough to come get it. For some reason the women who was getting the TV thought she was to pick it up on Sunday, not Friday. The cable company had no record of the pick up of the equipment. The tow truck to pick up the car was late. Even the apartment representative was 45 minutes later than the agreed upon time.

Do you see a pattern? We certainly did. It was the absolute unimportance of of keeping commitments. Not one apologized, except for a few, insincere “Sorry about that.” The insensitivity to the inconvenience, and even the anger shown when we suggested their actions were harmful taught us a very valuable lesson.

Keeping a commitment used to be a rather serious matter. It was understood that a promise had been made. A commitment meant you and I could trust each other to do something at a specific time or in a certain way. Today, it seems more likely that a commitment is considered very flexible. When it suits the person or business that made the promise is when it will be fulfilled. I can’t begin to detail the reasons why commitments are not that important anymore to an increasing segment of society. But, I would like to take a stab at discussing why I believe it is mistake.

A commitment kept shows respect for others. When a promise is made to do something, there is another person or business that is counting on you. Mae West once said, “An ounce of performance is worth pounds of promises.” To make a commitment and then treat it as not very important, or flexible in its execution, says the other person isn’t as valuable as you. It says your convenience and your needs must always come first.

A commitment kept shows respect for yourself. You are putting your personal integrity and reputation on the line. You are not willing to fail someone else who is depending on you. You want to be known as someone who delivers what he promises. You believe you are able to take responsibility as it affects others.

A commitment kept shows an understanding of your time and energy. Sometimes I have over-committed myself. I think I can do more than I can. I have promised more than I can deliver based on my available time or abilities. I don’t want to say “No” to someone who asks me for something. But, I have had to learn my limits. The amount of time and energy I have is finite. A commitment that I can’t keep is much worse than no promise at all.

A commitment kept is essential for success. From a business perspective, a company or a salesman that promises something will happen or a product will be delivered on a specified date will soon be out of business if that commitment isn’t kept. Trust and a good reputation are essential in business. They are earned when everyone's interests are considered and respected.

The same premise exists for an individual. My personal reputation, the belief in my trustworthiness and my honesty, must be above question. When I make a promise the other person must believe that I will do everything in my power to keep that promise. Trust is a very fragile thing, and once it has been broken there's a chance it may never be fully repaired. A commitment is a test of that trust.

I’m afraid the experience in Los Angeles wasn’t an isolated instance. Think about your own day-to-day life. Did the doctor really intend on seeing you at the time set for your appointment, or is any time with an hour of that time acceptable? Is the car really going to be repaired for the estimate you received? Will you definitely e-mail the information I need today like you promised?

It doesn’t help to get angry when someone else doesn’t understand all that a commitment implies. You only have the power to not patronize that merchant again or avoid a person who has misled you. You can’t change that person’s understanding of responsibility.

But, each of us has the ability to understand what commitments stands for and to keep them. If a promise is made a promise will be kept. It is that simple. Even if you may be the only person doing so.

Why are commitments seemingly not as important as they once were? Hearing what each of us have experienced as we strive to build a satisfying retirement helps make each of us better equipped to build the retirement lifestyle we crave.

(Note: I wrote this post last year for Pick The Brain. The response was strong enough I thought readers who missed it there would find it interesting. It has been changed a bit from my original article)

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."

_____________________________

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.

April 13, 2011

2011 Goals Update

On December 28th I listed my goals for 2011. Hard to believe, but in less than three weeks the year will already be one-third gone. That is long enough to judge my progress. Let'[s take a look.


Goal #1 was to publish an e-book by March 1st. My reading and study of successful blogs make it clear that just blogging is probably not going to be enough to push any blog to the next level.  Its goal is not to make money, its goal is to increase awareness. So, it must be worthwhile and it must be free.

  • Goal accomplished. Building a Satisfying Retirement  became available  February 27th. As of today over 1,100 copies have been downloaded.

Goal #2 was to start a web site to sell my wife's abstract photographs by May 1st.  I wanted to work toward developing a web site that sells her incredibly inventive abstract photographs. With a digital camera and Photo Shop she produces true works of art.

  • Goal not accomplished. Even though it isn't May 1st yet, this isn't going to happen. A major project for church has occupied all her free (and not so free) time. That wraps up April 22nd. Maybe this summer. We'll see how she feels about the whole thing after a month to decompress.

Goal #3 was to become one of the top 3 blogs in the non-financial retirement lifestyle  niche by my one year anniversary of June 23rd.  I'm not quite sure how I'll measure this. But, it is goal I'd like to set for myself. Why? Personal satisfaction primarily. If I'm involved in something I want to keep growing and developing.

  • Goal  is a work in progress. I'm comfortable with the progress the blog has shown. Whether there is way to quantify this goal is yet to be seen.
Update: As of April 15th, out of 4.9 million results for search term "Satisfying Retirement" on Google, this blog holds the first 3 spots. Maybe I can move this goal into the accomplished column. Thank you readers!

Goal #4 was to take another extensive driving trip like last year's 5,000 mile jaunt. I refuse to wake up some day and be upset that I waited too long to get back on the road.

  • Goal  has been changed.  Instead of a driving trip next fall we have decided to spend 3 weeks on Maui instead. We both love Hawaii and haven't been back for much too long. A driving trip is still going to happen, but maybe not this year.

Goal #5 was to simplify/downsize one aspect of my life. I want to eliminate cable TV from our house by April 1st.. We watch so little that paying that bill every month is silly.

  • Goal accomplished. Cable TV went away in mid-March when the company wanted to raise my costs by 20%. An antenna now picks up local channels for free and the Internet and Netflix does the rest.

Scorecard:

   2 - Goals accomplished
   1 - Goals not accomplished
   1 - Goals changed
   1 - Goals too early to tell


Since 2 goals were accomplished I should set 2 new ones. Here goes:


New Goal #1:  To produce a 2nd edition of Building a Satisfying Retirement by year's end. Besides fixing a few typos and some sloppy writing, I would like to include some pictures and maybe some graphics to make the book a more enjoyable read. This time, my goal is to sell the book on Amazon, as a e-book download. Price? Probably no more than $5.

New Goal #2: Make the second half of this year more focused on us. Betty has had a massive project at church that has consumed most of her time, energy, and attention since late last year. It ends April 23. I have been spending too much time on the computer working on developing this blog, putting the e-book together, developing a Twitter & Facebook presence, all while working at a part time job.

The concept of "we" has suffered. Time together as a couple has been in short supply. Starting May 1st the emphasis will turn back to why we has lasted 35 years together: spending our time and energies on each other.


What about you? Did you set some goals at the beginning this year? How is your scorecard looking? Time to redouble your efforts, refine your goals, or set some new ones?


Related Posts:

April 10, 2011

The 12" stake

There is a story you may have heard about a giant circus elephant and how it was controlled. The animal was huge and very powerful. It could knock over a brick wall with it's trunk. But, in between performances all the massive beast had to keep it secure was a simple chain around its foot connected to a 12" wooden post hammered into the ground.


Certainly the elephant could have torn the stake from the ground with one tug, but it never did. As a baby it was chained to the same post. Being small, no matter how hard it pulled the youngster could not free itself from the restraint. Obviously, as it grew in strength and size it could have yanked the chain free in an instant. But, the elephant had convinced itself the chain and post were unbreakable so it simply gave up trying.


We all go through life being taught things that can limit our growth. We all are told something that makes us doubt our potential or our abilities. Sometimes it is true. I was never going to be a major league baseball player. The coach that suggested I find another outlet was just being honest. I liked playing the clarinet but it was clear my musical skills were not going to get me first chair with the Boston Pops. That was not one of my gifts. I enjoy playing the guitar (poorly) now for relaxation, but Paul McCartney has nothing to fear.

What we must fight against are those limitations we are taught to believe are true when they are not. Sometimes it is a parent who tells us we aren't good enough to accomplish something. (if you are a parent, please never tell your kids or grandchildren that!). It might be a teacher or a coach. I had a drill instructor in the army who convinced me I was a danger to the entire U.S. military. Even though I actually became the honor graduate from basic training, he was right. I wasn't cut out to be a career soldier.


My wife loved painting when she was young. She would spend hours with a canvas and paints and her amazing imagination creating something that pleased her. But, at some point in college a teacher told her she wasn't good enough to continue. In fact, he suggested she was better suited to be a housewife. It has been 35 years and she still hesitates to pick up a brush.

As we raised our two daughters, Betty and I were very aware of limitations imposed on children by well-meaning but shortsighted parents. We were very careful to teach our girls they could do absolutely anything they set their minds to do. We gave them the freedom and support to become experienced world travelers before many kids their age had left their hometown. It is gratifying to see our grandchildren being given the same support and excelling in just about everything.

In Betty's case, she pulled out her stake by finding another outlet for her artistic impulses. The painting dream had been seriously damaged by that thoughtless professor back in West Virgina. Even though those around her believe she has the talent, the barrier is still too high to overcome. So, she immersed herself in taking ordinary photographs and turning into works of art. Some samples were posted a few months back. If you missed seeing them click here to see what she can do with a simple camera and Photo Shop.

In my case my self-imposed barrier was writing. I had been told all my life that I wrote well. So, I tried over and over to write something of substance. I have started at least half a dozen different books, both fiction and non-fiction. I have been part of a few different writers' groups for brief periods of time. But, each time my 12" stake convinced me whatever I was writing wasn't good enough. I couldn't convince myself to put in the hard work required to learn the craft well enough to develop whatever ability I had. I would write a chapter and stall, then stop.

When I discovered blogging I discovered the way to beat my personal restriction: short form writing. I can churn out several hundred words with few problems. Give me a topic and I'll fill a page. I don't have to worry about dialog, character development, extensive research, or all the other parts of long form writing. My self-imposed limitation was gone and I could write to my heart's content.

So, what about you? Did you have certain limitations imposed on you as you grew? Are they still restricting what you believe you can accomplish? Have you been chained to a 12" stake that has kept you moving in a tight circle all your life when what you really want to do is break free and roam?  Is that restriction self-imposed or based on something that is not true? Isn't it time you pulled hard enough to pop that stake out of the ground?

What stake are you ready to pull against?

Related Posts

April 7, 2011

Let's Try an Experiment

The response to Monday's post, I'm Still Confused, was strong and clear. You are interested in reading about personal experiences, problems and successes. You enjoy my suggestions on building a Satisfying Retirement. While an occasional financially-oriented post or one that is more informational than personal is OK, that isn't your primary reason for visiting.

Message received.

Based on that I'd like to try an experiment. It will either fall flat, like one of my omelets, or become a regular part of this blog. As the comments left after each post prove time and time again you have tremendous insight and perspectives to share. You think of things that have not crossed my mind. You have ideas that would make tremendously interesting posts.

So, here is what I would like to try. I am asking for your help and openness. Every so often I would like to post a story about your retirement highs and lows. Each time I would like to feature a few readers who are willing to submit brief stories about their retirement or relationship issues, financial struggles, great ideas to raise extra money, creative breakthroughs, frustrations and fears, travel stories, questions they are struggling with...anything that helps all of us on this journey.

Everyone has something to add to this dialog. Everyone has an experience, concern, or opinion that could benefit others. I would like Satisfying Retirement to be thought of as an open forum for the airing of  different perspectives and insights. I already encourage that by posting comments that disagree with my opinion, or raise important concerns. I would like to take that one step further and see this blog as a community of folks with the same basic concerns, willing to share and learn from each other.

If you would prefer to submit something anonymously that would be perfectly fine. Who you are isn't the key. What you have learned or what your questions are is important. Don't worry about how well you write or whether you can clearly express what you want to say. I'll be your private editor to put a little polish on anything, if required.

Length?  A single sentence may be all you need to make a point or ask a question you'd like feedback on. Maybe your experience is best conveyed in a few paragraphs. The length is not important. In all likelihood I would add a comment or observation after each shared experience.

So, the next step is simple: e-mail me at Satisfying Retirement with anything that will add to our group learning experience. If you prefer, simply leave a comment at the end of this post and I'll incorporate it into the article.

When I have enough I'll put together a post. If you never see this idea referred to again you will know that the interest wasn't there. And, if that happens, that outcome is absolutely fine. I want this blog to reflect what you'd like to read about. If it is all me, all the time, then so be it.

I am looking forward to the outcome of this experiment! Let's see what happens together. I'll go check my e-mail now!

April 3, 2011

I Am Still Confused

I have been blogging for almost 10 months. In that time I have written over 83,000 words, around 145 posts, put together an e-book, guest posted on other blogs, and been interviewed and quoted in various publications. While there are a whole bunch of people who have been doing this much longer than me, you might conclude I am holding my own so far.

I would respond that I still have no firm idea what works and what doesn't. I start each week with no real clue how to craft a few posts that a reader will care enough about to react to or leave a comment. I have written something I could have sworn would generate lots of feedback and strong readership, only to see it bomb. Other times I have slapped something together and been knocked out of my chair by the instant reaction.

Even though finances and financial planning are very important to a satisfying retirement lifestyle, on this blog those topics seem to generate very little interest. There are hundreds of retirement blogs that focus exclusively on financial advice and planning so I have generally steered clear. But, I would have thought an occasional look at a financial subject would make this blog more well-rounded. Readership numbers say, not so much. There is one exception: articles about saving money or cutting out unnecessary expenses do seem to hit a positive chord. But, mention a 401k or long-term investment strategies and I lay a big egg.

There are thousands of excellent places on the Internet that specialize in simple living and downsizing. Yet, the posts I have written about those subjects tend to have a very strong, positive effect on readership. Again, I would never have guessed.

Posts about relationships also seem to be a powerful draw. Posts about losing a close friendship or smoothing over problems with adult children have generated lots of comments. Asking others for help or strengthening a marriage after retirement work well, too.

What does seem to work the best, regardless of the subject, is when I expose something personal about my retirement journey. I have had successes and I have had some colossal failures. It doesn't seem to matter-either one will get a response if I personalize the story.

Honestly, this is not the approach I envisioned when I began last June. I really thought this would be a blog with practical advice about retirement. I would cover the major areas that someone thinks about and provide resources and tips. Personal opinions and my own story would take second place to simply being a non-financially oriented resource. That has not happened. This blog has become much closer to a diary of my experiences, my thoughts, and my advice after a decade of retirement.

So, back to my original point: I struggle each time I sit in front of the keyboard trying to decide what to cover, and how much of me the reader really wants me to reveal.

A saner person might find another way to occupy his time. After all, blogging is time consuming and costs some money. There are literally millions of blogs vying for attention.  Some of the best bloggers have very few readers while many that post stale "eat your vegetables" advice are prospering.

My point in sharing this internal struggle with you is to let you in on a little secret: Each post on this blog will be an adventure for us all. I don't know for sure what to write about but I keep writing. You could help by letting me know, in a gentle way if possible, when a subject is on target and when I've missed by a mile.

In the meantime I'll keep writing and blogging, until something better comes along.


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April 1, 2011

A History Lesson on Green

Simple living, voluntary simplicity, and looking for ways to live a less wasteful life are important topics to readers of Satisfying Retirement. In the past, posts that dealt with these subjects have generated lost of traffic and comments.

This time let's have a little history lesson, a reminder that simple living and "being green"  existed well before now. A few days ago a good friend sent me the following story pulled from somewhere on the Internet. Read it and I'll have a few questions for you at the end.


In the line at the grocery store, the young cashier told the older woman that plastic bags weren't good for the environment. The woman apologized to her and explained, "We didn't have the green thing back in my day...."

That's right, they didn't have the green thing in her day. Back then, they returned their milk bottles, Coke bottles and beer bottles to the store. The store sent them back to the plant to be washed and sterilized and refilled, using the same bottles over and over. So they really were recycled.

But they didn't have the green thing back her day......

In her day, they walked up stairs, because they didn't have an escalator in every store and office building. They walked to the grocery store and didn't climb into a 300-horsepower machine every time they had to go two blocks.

But she's right. They didn't have the green thing in her day......

Back then, they washed the baby's diapers because they didn't have the throw-away kind. They dried clothes on a line, not in an energy gobbling machine burning up 220 volts. "Wind and solar power" really did dry the
clothes. Kids got hand-me-down clothes from their brothers or sisters, not always brand-new clothing.

But that old lady is right, they didn't have the green thing back in her day......

Back then, they had one TV, or radio, in the house not a TV in every room. And the TV had a small screen the size of a pizza dish, not a screen the size of the state of Montana. In the kitchen, they blended and stirred by hand because they didn't have electric machines to do everything for you. When they packaged a fragile item to send in the mail, they used wadded up newspaper to cushion it, not Styrofoam or plastic bubble wrap.....

Back then, they didn't fire up an engine and burn gasoline just to cut the lawn. They used a push mower that ran on human power. They exercised
by working so they didn't need to go to a health club to run on treadmills that operate on electricity.

But she's right, they didn't have the green thing back then......

They drank from a fountain when they were thirsty, instead of using a cup or a plastic bottle every time they had a drink of water. They refilled pens with ink, instead of buying a new pen, and they replaced the razor blades in a razor instead of throwing away the whole razor just because the blade got dull.

But they didn't have the green thing back then......

Back then, people took the streetcar and kids rode their bikes to school or rode the school bus, instead of turning their moms into a 24-hour taxi service. They had one electrical outlet in a room, not an entire bank of sockets to power a dozen appliances. And they didn't need a computerized gadget to receive a signal beamed from satellites 2,000 miles out in space in order to find the nearest pizza joint......

But that old lady is right. They didn't have the green thing back in her day.......


Makes you think doesn't it? What used to be the way we lived now has a name. Today it takes effort and sacrifice to simplify and be aware of our environmental impact. What used to be commonplace could now be considered somewhat extreme if we followed these practices.

We've made tremendous strides in learning how to minimize damage to the planet. But, as I read this story I realized how many of the examples given could easily be replicated today. It isn't that we can't take many of the steps, we just have to be reminded of our past.

Is there anything in this story that might prompt you to make a change in your lifestyle? Did this remind you of something you miss and would like to recapture?