September 30, 2011

I Don't Want to Retire Now...But I Want to Get Ready

The post from two days ago was written for those ready to take the big step now ( or soon). You've been contemplating this life change long enough. You want action. You want a satisfying retirement to start.

But, what if you eventually want to retire, just not now. You are not there yet. Maybe it is a savings and money issue. Maybe you enjoy your job and the stimulation it gives you. Maybe your responsibilities with your family must be front and center for now. Maybe retirement scares you a bit. That just makes you normal. For whatever reason, you want to remain in the workforce, but would like some suggestions on how to prepare for the day when you are ready.


There are two broad areas to explore. As a shameless plug, my e-book, Building a Satisfying Retirement, has information that applies equally well to you, as well as a new retiree. But, before you download it (please?), here are some important concerns:


A) Make Your Financial Projections: Get a paper and pencil, spreadsheet program on your computer, or anything that will help you with the following:

  • What is your projected income from now until you retire. Obviously, this is a guess. Your job might disappear tomorrow. But, based on your past situation, you should be able to make an educated guess of what you expect to make from now until you do retire. 

  • What do you expect to receive from Social Security? Avoid the "it won't be there for me" panic attack. We don't know the future, but we know the present. If Social Security undergoes revisions, then you will adjust your other projections. But, for now, use what is real today. You get a yearly report that tells you what you can expect based on your past earnings. Do you think you will have to take your payments as early as allowed, or will you be able to wait? There are logical reasons for both courses of action that are based on your status. Add that monthly amount to your projections.

  • What is the current status of your retirement savings and investments? You can't predict what the market will do. You can project how much you plan on saving and investing in the years ahead. Using a conservative growth projection, what should you have when you are ready to retire? What do you need to have available when you retire?

  • Here's a biggie: what about health care costs? None of us knows what the future holds in this area. Personally, the only thing I expect are prices to rise 15-20% a year until the majority of Americans have no coverage. Then, something will change. But, until then, plan on a 20% increase every year until you are eligible for Medicare (or its successor). Then add another 20% to that number.

OK, now with those figures available to you, can you live on that for 30 years? People in good health today who are in their 40s or 50's can expect to live into their late 80s or mid 90s. If you retire sometime around 65, you will have to take care of yourself for another 30 years. Can you?


B) Make Your Lifestyle projections: Your financial situation will determine the overall structure of the life you will lead in retirement. Lifestyle issues will determine the quality: whether it is enjoyable and satisfying. Are you ready?

  • Where will you live? Many folks want to escape weather they don't like and use retirement as the motivation to move somewhere more to their liking. Or, their family lives somewhere else in the country and moving closer would make them happier.

  • Others like the roots they have established where they are, have family and friends nearby, and don't want to go anywhere. Moving to a retirement community on the other side of the country would never cross their mind.

  • Do you envision yourself in an "active adult" community, an age-restricted setup, an urban or rural environment, or selling everything and becoming a nomad in an RV?

  • What about the complications that arise when one or both spouses are with each other 24/7? Trust me, this is a a major adjustment for both partners. No matter how much Dr. Phil you have watched, how many books on relationship building you've checked out of the library, and how much you love your partner, being together all the time is tough without some planning.

  • Do you have something besides work that you love to do? If work is your vocation and avocation what will you do when you don't have that anymore? Do you have any interest, passions, or hobbies you'd love to explore? It is best to figure that out before you walk in the door of your house, retired, with no idea what to do next.

I've made the point many times in multiple posts that retirement is a huge adjustment for anyone. I don't care how well prepared you think you are, there are things you have not forseen that will happen. Such uncertainty shouldn't freeze you in place. Life is all about change. There is no way to cover all your bases ahead of time.

So, what to do? Plan, plan, plan. Then plan some more. Consider everything you know and things you know you don't know. Then, when the time is right for you, just do it. You will learn to adjust. You will struggle, grow, panic, and thrive. That is life whether you are retired or not.


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September 28, 2011

I Want to Retire Now!

Your voice and your mind scream: "I am tired of working. I am tired of the commute. I am tired of waking up each morning wondering if I still have a job. I am tired of watching the stock market bounce around like a crazed kangaroo. I want to retire NOW!" 

To quote a former president, I feel your pain. I know what it is like to be more than ready to start a new stage of your life, a stage that promises the possibility of a re-birth and a renewed joy in living. I know what it is like to really, really want a satisfying retirement.

Of course, if you read almost anything related to retirement in your daily paper or on the Internet, you are probably scared...scared that you will never be able to retire. Retirement is a concept that doesn't make sense anymore, according to many. I am in the "not true" camp. Read on.

Did you read the post, How do You Know When to Retire? from a few weeks ago? I summarized some of those triggers that tell you when to seriously consider the move.

So, let's pick up from there. You have answered the questions from that post. You have talked with your spouse or significant other about what you are contemplating. You have read this blog for awhile and feel comfortable in your decision. The final straw was the article in Money Magazine and on CNNMoney.com. You are absolutely convinced if that guy in Arizona could build a satisfying retirement so can you. 

I am that guy and I am here to tell you to go for it. As a final review, let's look together at a few of the last minute questions my experience suggest you ask:

1) Can you sleep at night with your financial resources and plan? There is no such thing as a perfect financial plan. There will never be a time when something doesn't throw a wrench into your carefully crafted budget. The last few years have confounded even those who make a living from this stuff. But, you must feel confident that you have anticipated most situations. You have what you need, plus. You have worked the figures under different scenarios and you are still OK. Maybe not flush, but OK.

If that is where you are, you should be good to go. Could a world-wide crash put all of us in deep trouble? Sure. But, if that happens your job would disappear along with everything else so it wouldn't matter if you had retired. If you believe you have done the best you can do to anticipate your future demands on your resources, then you can sleep soundly.


2) Do you have a budget that takes into account inflation and unexpected emergencies? Retirement doesn't end the basic laws of economics. Inflation will continue and emergencies will arise. No one comes home from a day at the park and expects to find 4 inches of water on the floor from a broken pipe. But, it happens. Would such an occurrence render you homeless or could you handle a biggie like that? Do you have enough liquid assets to stay afloat (pun intended)?

At the center of your financial plan must be a budget that allows for change. What can you cut if need be? What would you like to increase if the circumstances presented themselves? Are you forgetting to budget for expensive things like new cars, hearing aids, large medical cost increases, or assessments on that condo in Palm Springs?  Believe it or not, I completely forgot to budget for travel and new cars. Adjustments were made and we are fine, but it was quite a shock at the time!

3) Does your partner agree with this move? Your being home more will change the dynamics of your relationship. Roles and responsibilities will change. From the voice of experience, trust me. Work out the "ground rules" and expectations before retiring. I urge you to read two earlier posts about the need to think through how your life might change when one half retires: Who is that Person Sitting Beside Me?  and You Owe it to the Person You Love.

If your partner has real problems with your plan to retire my advice is to work it out before making your decision. If his or her resistance is not swayed by your logic and begging, it might be wise to delay your move for awhile. I can't think of anything more fraught with tension than a retired person at home with someone who strongly disagrees with that status. Of course, if you are single, you can skip this worry.


4) Do you have hobbies, passions, and interests outside your job? A lot of us are so wrapped up in what we do for a living, we have no other life to replace that. The first question everyone asks when meeting a new person is, "What do you do?"  They mean how do you earn a living. That is how we define who and what we are.  When you retire, the possibility exists that you will lose your sense of self. Without a job to define you, what will you do to fill your time and satisfy you?

One of the leading causes of dissatisfaction with what should be a satisfying retirement is boredom. Some folks go back to work for the simple reason they don't know what else to do. Don't let that be your fate. If you already have a hobby or two, interests in all sorts of activities, even a passion for something then you will be fine. If you have nothing to turn to, develop at least a few interests before retiring.

It is absolutely true that you are very likely to find all sorts of opportunities and interests open up to you when you are retired. Your creativity can soar. You will discover sides of yourself you never knew existed. But, during the initial phase of a year or two, you will be much happier if you have stuff to do.

5) Are you prepared to battle the health care mess? Besides the budgeting and planning part that I referred to earlier, there are other things for you to face in this area. Paperwork and red tape can overwhelm you. At times you will conclude that no one is listening and no one cares. That isn't true, but, the medical establishment is so stressed that you are really on your own to get much of the medical help you require. Medicare rules are likely to tighten as Washington accepts that we are broke, putting more burdens on the patient. You will have to develop unending patience and a belief that you are your best advocate.


I hope the above 5 points didn't discourage you. They just happen to be reality that all retired people face at one time or another. To know about them ahead of time is your best preparation. If after reviewing your reaction to these cautions your feeling is still, "Yes, I'm ready and I want it now," then take the leap.

The first ten years of my retirement lifestyle have been amazing. There have been down periods and scares that kept me awake at night. But, there have been the highest highs and the biggest personal growth spurts of my life. I have spent the past decade discovering how to make this journey as smooth and productive as possible. I wish you the same.

If you have questions or reactions to what has been written, please leave a comment or send me an e-mail. I figure I have another 20-30 years of a satisfying retirement ahead. It's never too late to learn!


My satisfying retirement is featured in October's Money MagazineAfter you've read that material, I'd be more than happy to talk with you about your situation and how you can achieve your goals. Click the e-mail link above. I'd also very much appreciate your purchase of my e-book. Information is just to the right of this post.

September 26, 2011

Newer Technology & Its Effect On Retirement


A few weeks ago I featured a guest post from Kate Forgach, a senior-consumer expert for Kinoli Inc. She has offered the following piece on technological advances that are likely to play a part in your life. I'd be interested in your feedback on her assessment.


The older I get, the more I appreciate the body of my youth. As a Baby Boomer dealing with hearing loss (too much rock music), memory loss (not enough Gingko), and unbending knees (too much biking), I appreciate every bit of senior assistance. That gratitude extends to manufacturers developing products tailored for those with reduced capacity or not familiar with our rapidly changing tech world. While some of the following examples weren't originally designed with America's Booomers in mind, they still offer great benefits to those who don't want to get totally left behind.

Here are seven changes age hath wrought in today's technological world.


1. Dumb Phones. I was bereft when my ancient Razr phone disappeared as it was so easy to use and is no longer available. In looking for a replacement, I found most phones have tiny black buttons and keyboards designed more for texting and playing online than for making calls. Some manufacturers are listening to these concerns, however, and creating phones specifically for my brethren. According to cnet.com reviews, the Doro PhoneEasy series offers basic, easy-to-use phones with big numerals, a bright screen and few unneeded extras.


2. Intelligent Phones. Intel is working on a phone for those who have memory problems. Using caller ID tech, it'll display a photo of the person calling, the user's relationship to the caller, and information about their last conversation. It would be even more helpful if Intel would create a human-implant screen that would jog my memory upon meeting people I "know."
3. Nana Technology. Companies like Accenture and Intel have teamed up with universities and other researchers in the development of gadgets that make life easier. These include smart walkers that users can retrieve by remote control; pillboxes that remind you to take your pills; and mailboxes that let you know when mail has arrived.


4. Tablet Computers I'd give my AARP membership for an iPad. The screen is a joy, the touchpad keyboard is nice and big, and, most importantly, it's entirely intuitive. Apple's security technology also nearly eliminates spyware and viruses, which are a nightmare to eradicate.


In general, touchscreens are easier for seniors to use. It took me just 30 minutes to get an elderly friend up and running on her new Motorola Xoom tablet. Unable to type anymore due to arthritis, the light touch required for these screens opened a whole new world. We loaded a few useful apps, made Google her home page, set up a gmail account and she was off.


5. E-readers. Few books are printed in large type anymore, but e-readers can make every book easy to read. The Kindle, for example, allows users to boost the font size with a touch of a button and the resolution improves with every release. The Barnes & Noble NOOK boasts a full-color display that makes reading even easier.

6. Durable Tech Cases. 
Otterbox has cornered the market on hardcore cases for phones, e-readers, laptops and just about everything else that can be dropped, smashed or end up in water. They also have a stellar reputation for quality customer service, which means seniors don't have to deal with smarmy, unhelpful responders.


7. Online Shopping. Shopping the e-commerce way is so much faster and easier for those facing diminished capacities. Plus, the selections are much larger, it's often also possible to find better prices, and free shipping deals bring your purchase directly to the door without a delivery fee. Isn't technology wonderful? 

Kate: I have resisted the pull of a e-reader to this point, but I assume I'll cave in soon. Now that my e-book is available, I guess I need to get with the program. In addition, my public library has a good selection of downloadable books and magazines so my excuses for not having one are crumbling. And, after just half a year or so with a smartphone, I could never go back. Thanks, Kate, for your overview. 

Kate Forgach is a senior-consumer expert for Kinoli Inc.. She has written about senior issues for 11 years as a Cooperative Extension specialist and for a wide variety of newspapers and magazines. She has been featured in USA Today, Detroit News, New Orleans Times-Picayune, New Yorker magazine, "ABC World News," NBC's "TODAY" show and many other media outlets. 

I hope you'll consider supporting your favorite retirement blogger and helping yourself in the process by downloading a copy of Building A Satisfying Retirement. Click the botton at the top right of this page to order. If you don't have a Kindle, there is a link that allows you to download a free reader for your PC.

September 25, 2011

Somewhere Over The Pacific


On Monday Betty and I are off on a much-needed vacation to the incredible island of Maui. Even though we have been to Hawaii many times, almost 10 years have passed since our last visit and that is just too long, especially for someone living a satisfying retirement.

Rest assured: the blog will continue as usual. You will find fresh posts every few days. Assuming the laptop doesn't fail, I will answer e-mails and respond to comments. But, because of the time difference and serious beach time things will happen a little slower than normal.

Look for a fresh post Monday afternoon about the effect of technology on our lives. By then, we should be safely over the ocean and back on land.



Aloha

September 23, 2011

Living Well on Less - Couples tell Their Stories

The article in Money Magazine that featured my family was interesting to me for more than just the obvious reason. I had the chance to see what other folks are doing to cut expenses and make their retirement lifestyle fit their circumstances. Importantly, many of the examples given were steps I have taken, or written about.

One couple underwent a major downsizing of their home. From a 5,000 square foot house, they are now living in a one bedroom loft condo. I thought downsizing from 3300 sq. ft to 1750 sq ft was tough, but these folks did some serious pruning. Home association and maintenance fees are nowhere near what they used to pay in property taxes and upkeep. This steep reduction allows them to vacation in Europe and dine out often.

One topic I have yet to address in a post is the place of automobiles in the satisfying retirement lifestyle. One of the retirees in the magazine article has eliminated her car completely. She has found the $5,000 a year savings in insurance, gas, and maintenance is much more than what public transportation or simply walking where she needs to go costs. Living in a densely populated urban area with decent public transportation would probably be required for being car-less to be practical. I could never pull it off where I live in the suburbs of Phoenix. But, there is a certain attraction.

In a few cities a car-sharing option is available. Like a short term rental but much cheaper, autos are available for running errands or appointments. Then, they are dropped off at a certain location where the next person picks it up. And, of course, if you don't own a car but want to drive somewhere, there are plenty of companies that would love to rent you a car for that purpose.

We own two cars. One is used for less than 5,000 miles a year, while the other goes about 10,000 a year. I think we could make due with one car and save several thousand a year. But, for the time being Betty and I have enough separate appointments and schedules than one car would be a problem. When the 8 year old car dies, it probably won't be replaced. But, in the meantime two cars stay.

Paying off the mortgage and becoming debt free was the path to retirement happiness for at least one of the couples profiled in the article. While not everyone can do this prior to retirement, it should be a goal to accomplish as soon as you can. There will be some financial advisers who will tell you I'm wrong; you should use the mortgage deduction and invest the saved money. In some circumstances they are probably right. But, from personal experience I can tell you having no mortgage, no credit card debt, and no auto loans to worry about is a tremendously liberating feeling. You feel much more secure knowing there isn't a giant sword hanging over your head.

One couple has made it their business to maximize the power of discount coupons, 2 for 1 offers, and finding ways to cut travel expenses. This isn't the extreme couponing you may have read about. That involves getting food almost free by buying only items with coupons in situations where they can be tripled or trigger rebates or free products. It means stocking up when something is available in this way. While there is nothing wrong with this approach, the time commitment is beyond what I would be willing to make.

The couple's use of dining and other discount coupons is a way of life for us, too. Places like Groupon, Deal Chicken, and Living Social fill my inbox every morning with offers for every conceivable service and restaurant, all at least 50% lower than retail. Usually our dining out decision will be determined by which half off coupons we have available.

"I have less money than when I worked but I enjoy my life even more." That quote from one of the folks in the article seems to sum up the attitude of everyone interviewed. I couldn't agree more. Living well on less is doable and enjoyable. I urge you to take the steps that will allow you to find out for yourself.


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September 20, 2011

The Death of a Bookstore...Any Lessons for Us?

For 40 years Borders was a major force in Americans' reading habits. Its big box style stores anchored shopping malls and power centers. Readers, or simply browsers, found comfort in the aisles crowded with books on any subject. Music CDs and DVDs satisfied those looking for music or movies. Often a coffee shop and comfortable chairs offered a none-to-subtle enticement to sit and read a book or scan a magazine while sipping a latte. Buying the reading material became almost secondary to the experience. In fact, picture a library with better lighting, a wider selection, and a coffee shop, and you have a Borders bookstore.

Earlier this year Borders gave up the fight and closed down the final 400 stores while laying off its last 11,000 employees. For book lovers the death of Borders was a sad moment. It seemed to be the clearest signal yet that brick-and-mortar bookstores were not going to be part of our future. After this 1,250 store business disappeared, could Barnes and Noble be far behind?

I am not going to detail the future of book selling in America (and the rest of the world, for that matter).  I'll leave that to others. Rather, I have been wondering if there are larger lessons to be learned from this business failure. Are there a few elemental truths that we can uncover?  Obviously, the answer must be yes, since I am writing this post. Consider the following:

Change is a powerful force.  There is little disputing the fact that Borders was unable to keep up with the transition from printed to electronic distribution for many readers. Figures released by Amazon from earlier this year show that e-book sales are now besting printed versions by 2 to 1. Unable to compete on price and selection with Amazon, Borders steadily lost printed sales. Since 1999 they have suffered a 44% drop in sales, while Amazon has seen Internet sales explode by over 800%.

The company was also quite late in deciding to produce an e-book reader. By the time they did, Kindle and Nook owned that category in the consumer's mind. Barnes & Noble was bigger and had more clout in the industry. I have always thought having two major bookstores with similar names was not a recipe for success for one of them. Time has proven which one.

The quip that change is the only constant in life was proven again in this case. To protest against it, deny it, or dig in your heels and be the last man standing is a losing strategy, whether you run a chain of book stores or your life. The old days and old ways are not coming back. You must adapt to changes in technology,  financial planning and expectations,  health care costs and availability, and what your retirement lifestyle will look like. The plans you made may not be viable anymore. You can whine about it, fight it, or change.

Serving Others Serves You.  The Borders store near my house never equaled the close-by Barnes & Nobles in friendliness and having a constant presence of employees to help. That may have not been true in other situations, but I was more comfortable to be in a B&N. With the coffee shops, the huge selection of magazines, and the book, music, and movie sections being almost identical, I usually choose the store with  better service.

Another personal example involves Home Depot and Lowe's. For the longest time I would never go into a Lowe's Home Improvement Center because they had invisible employees. I never could find anyone to help me. On the other hand, Home Depot had folks in virtually every aisle eager to find that sprinkler part or perfect shade of blue for the home project.

A few years ago, Home Depot decided to save money by cutting back on employees, at the same time Lowe's started hiring more. Within a very short time period, my loyalties shifted. Realizing the error of its ways, Home Depot's experiment in poor service ended quickly and once again, service was given a top priority. I'm back to the folks with the orange aprons.

The point is obvious. People respond to other people being helpful. It doesn't matter if you are in the business world, trying to build a happy family, or  volunteering for the local food bank, serving the needs of others provides direct benefits to you. 

The perception of value becomes the value. In most cases the price of a paperback or hardcover book was virtually identical at Borders and Barnes & Noble. Amazon was almost always cheaper, as was Walmart on occasion. But, if you were the type of reader who wanted to hold the book and sample some of it before buying, you were likely to choose one of the "B" stores. As noted earlier, customers may have established a greater value to Barnes & Nobles than they did to Borders on something other than price. Customer service may be one reason. Certainly the number of stores and location had some bearing on the outcome. B&N had a better web site with easier navigation.

But, something else in our collective mind said B&N was better. I contend that "something else" was the wholehearted acceptance of changes in reading habits. Barnes & Noble's rapid deployment of the Nook reader left its direct competitor in the dust. It also helped validate the entire concept of e-readers. If B&N and Borders had both been slow to develop such a device, I wonder if Kindle would have become the force it is today. With two devices on the market, each supported the other to grow the market for downloadable books. That perception of the value of e-books became a self-fulfilling prophesy when they became mainstream.

Early in my radio career I was taught that perception is reality. If the radio station I worked for said it was the #1 choice for the latest hits often enough, then eventually that perception became true, even if another station across town actually played more.

In life you are perceived a certain way. A post from a few weeks ago on your legacy made the point that we want to believe our time on earth means something to someone else. The value you have in your relationship with others is directly affected by the perceived value you bring to that relationship.


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Speaking of electronic e-books, I'd appreciate your consideration of the purchase of my e-book, Building a Satisfying Retirement. It is available by clicking here. 

September 18, 2011

Looking at Some Comments left on CNNMoney.com

In one of my braver moments I decided to look at the comments left on the CNNMoney.com web site about the retirement article that is also available in October's Money Magazine. As I expected, many of the comments were negative, some downright hostile. There is something about the Internet that can bring out less than the best in people. In this case, instead of seeing if there is anything to be learned from the experiences of others, many of those who left their thoughts decided to use rudeness and draw incorrect conclusions.

The good news is, I didn't take any of it personally. Human nature is such that we all like to tear down someone else who does something we can't or haven't. It also gave me some quotes that I can use to try and set the record straight. So, here are a few of the quotes and my responses:

"What are they doing for health care? Obviously none of these people has health insurance or ever goes to the doctor."

 I can't  speak for all the other couples, but our situation was pretty clearly spelled out in the article:  We spend 33% of our total yearly income on health care. Betty and I have been on the individual market virtually our entire married life. Except for 4 years early on, we have never been covered by health insurance through work. We do skip or delay some treatments that aren't essential because of the cost. When safe to do so we usually split pills in half to keep prescriptions costs under control.

We both have regular physicals, see the dermatologist yearly, get new glasses every two years, and see a dentist twice a year. Betty gets new hearing aids as required. We have very high deductible health insurance that keeps premiums under control but that means we pay for most everything out of pocket. Betty has several health challenges that she manages the best she can by knowing as much about her problems and treatments as any doctor she deals with.

Are there people who pay a lot more? Sure there are. The article didn't say everyone in America can be exactly like us. It gave a snapshot of our situation so others could decide if they are better or worse off in certain areas.  But to assume we never go to the doctor and still leave a satisfying retirement is kind of silly.

"You can't use the phrase 'low cost retirement' and Scarsdale, NY in the same sentence."

There was a woman profiled who actually did live in Scarsdale and is living well in retirement on not much money.  Scottsdale isn't exactly low-rent but we are making it work. Of course, some places are more expensive than others but we choose to live here for all the reasons listed in the article. If someone is living in an expensive community then logic dictates that will be part of the financial calculation to develop a plan for retirement. Could we live on less money somewhere else? Probably. But family, church, and friends are too important. It is part of the cost of retirement we are willing to bear.

"How do you save money like that with the average American living paycheck to paycheck?" 

The implication in the question is that you can't. I would respond that the median income for Americans is over $46,000 a year (more than we live on in high-rent Scottsdale). That average American family is carrying a $15,000 credit card debt, at least one car loan, a hefty first mortgage, and very likely a home equity loan. They are living paycheck to paycheck because they are overextended, over their heads in debt, and unwilling to delay gratification.

If your income situation is much more modest, then saving is a real problem. I am not minimizing the mess the economy has made of millions of lives. But, in that situation you are not likely to be anticipating retirement anytime soon which of course,  was the focus of the article. 

"Don't they (the magazine) do articles on folks with a nest egg of $50,000 or less?  

If someone has less than $50,000 in a nest egg and is even thinking about retirement, they are in deep denial. The terrifying fact is the average American at age 50 does have just $50,000 set aside for retirement. That person has no legitimate hope of retiring, unless they want to attempt to survive on a typical monthly social security check of less than $1,200 (before deductions for Medicare).

What worries me the most about the tone of some of the "comments" left on the web site is the obvious lack of grasp of reality and what needs to be done to achieve one's goals. There is an undercurrent of looking to blame others for a lack of planning, of sacrifice, and of common sense.

The sad, horrible fact is that way too many of our fellow citizens will never be able to experience a truly satisfying retirement. For many, that reality is not due to any failure on their part. They are being passed over and trod underfoot by the way our world operates now. Their future is bleak. It should bother us tremendously.

But, the other side of that coin is that many millions could experience a tremendously gratifying retirement experience. But, they are not willing to take personal responsibility for the choices they make today that directly impact their future tomorrow.

Retirement is all about choices. Make the right ones and a satisfying retirement can be yours.

September 17, 2011

Now Available: Building a Satisfying Retirement, 2nd Edition

Building a Satisfying Retirement is now available as a download to your Kindle or mobile phone. You can also get a free Kindle reader and download the book to your personal computer. The 2nd edition contains new chapters and new information. If you are planning for your retirement or already there but wonder if you are making the most of your opportunities, this is the book for you.

The pages are packed with information and advice on making the most of your financial situation, strengthening your relationships, deciding where to live after you retire, maintaining your health, finding your passion and developing your creativity, even the best choices for working after retirement.

Chapters on simple living and the stages of retirement we all go through will help you save money, declutter your life, and maneuver through the journey that starts the day you leave work.

This is the perfect e-book for you, your spouse, or someone you love who is facing retirement and wants it to be satisfying and fulfilling.

Click on the box on the right side of this page to order now. 

Click here to get your free Kindle reader

September 15, 2011

How Do You Know When to Retire?




"When should I retire" is a question I hear a lot. Comments left on the blog or e-mails filling my inbox ask for help in knowing when it is time to call it quits. The answer I give is usually the same: For your individual situation, I have no idea. Retiring from your present full-time job to begin your satisfying retirement is one of the more important decisions you will make during your lifetime. There are so many factors to consider that you must put in the time and effort to come to the best answer for you.

I wrote the  following post about 6 months ago. In looking it over I think the information is valuable enough to repeat now without many changes. I have a lot of new readers who may not have seen this the first time. If so, I urge you to add your comments at the end. Fresh input is very valuable to all of us. If you remember reading this post when first published, I hope a second time will spark your thinking about one or more of the points raised.

You know it is time to retire when....

You dread going to work everyday. You are tired and dispirited. Everyone has an off day or a few days every now and then. But, if that feeling is present pretty much all the time, you may have reached your limit.


You are being asked to do more work for a less money. This is the hidden message in that last productivity memo you received. To preserve your job you will have to accept a salary cut and pick up the slack of those unfortunate souls who got a pink slip. For the short term it may be in your best interest to accept this. But if the situation begins to look semi-permanent, you may have second thoughts.


You feel the essential "you" is slipping away. There isn't enough time for you to do what satisfies you and makes you happy. You find yourself doing things that make you uncomfortable. Your world has shrunk to work-sleep-work.

You can't wait to get home to work on a project or new passion. Closely tied to the "you" reference above. All your thoughts revolve around after work hours. There never is any time to do that thing you really love.

You complain to anyone who will listen (and even many who will not) about work. Spending your energy and life in a negative place increases your stress and shortens your life. It is also a quick way to get fired.

You have saved enough to live without a regular paycheck. You have run the numbers so often your calculator is melting. There are solid income streams that make you feel you can do this. You have thought through contingencies. You have thought about worst case scenarios. The numbers still work. You feel confident in your financial planning and long term situation.


A loved one is very sick and you'd rather spend your time with that person while you can. Whether a parent, child, relative, or best friend, there is no do-over if that person isn't likely to be with you through your retirement. Do you feel strongly that person needs you right now? 


Your health is beginning to slip and you have things you want to accomplish while you still can. In this case you are on the other side of the fence. You are sure you will not be physically or mentally able to do what you'd like to do if you wait too long to retire. You decide it is more important to enjoy your freedom while you have it, even if it means a more limited lifestyle.


You have affordable alternatives for acceptable health insurance and care. This question is hard to answer at the moment. Everything seems to be in a state of flux. But, if your health coverage through work will continue, or your Medicare and supplemental policy are working well you are better off than many. Plan to spend much more than you think you will. If the budget still works you have dealt with one of the biggest hurdles to a satisfying retirement.



You are excited about making a major change in your life (where you live, how you spend your time) Change is life. A life without change is in a rut. Change can be stimulating, exciting, terrifying, and necessary. Sometimes you just have to shake it up and that thought gets your blood racing.


Your self-identity isn't defined by your job. You have a life and and sense of self worth not dependent on work. This is important. There are few things sadder than someone who retires and discovers he has no life outside of work. If you have at least some friends who are not co-workers, enjoy hobbies or other activities you are much closer to being ready to leave the job.


What do you want to do with the rest of your life? When do you want to do it? Aren't those the most important questions? When you can answer them you may be ready.



Which of these questions and statements fit your situation? If you are retired, which ones were most important to you when you made the decision? Retirement today is quite different from a retirement lifestyle of even 10-15 years ago. You may plan for more work. You may want to stay in your home as long as possible. Sun City holds little appeal. You may be chomping at the bit to spend a few years overseas on mission work. You are ready for a new phase of your life, not for your life to end in a whimper. Your thought: retirement  only the beginning of a new part of my life.


How do you know when to retire? You just do.


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My Satisfying Retirement is being featured this month in Money Magazine and on CNNMoney.com. I'd be happy to discuss your retirement journey with you. Contact me by e-mail for personal  and private attention.

September 13, 2011

Our Satisfying Retirement - Thank you Money Magazine!

Money Magazine has published the story about how my wife and I have built our satisfying retirement lifestyle. It is now available on newsstands.


A version of the story is also available on it's sister web site, CNNMoney.com.


If you are new to this blog, welcome!  On the right sidebar you will find all sorts of links to follow: the most popular post of the last few months, the archives of the blog's entire contents, a list of my favorite blogs, an easy way to contact me, and simple ways to subscribe for complimentary e-mails or RSS feeds whenever a new article is posted.




Over 500 pictures taken this morning...for just 1 in Magazine!

The key for us has not been to deprive ourselves of things that make living a joy. Rather we have spent the last 35 years living below our means. This has enabled us to live the lifestyle profiled in the article.



Preparing for Money Magazine Photo Shoot
Also, now available as an e-book download for your Kindle or other device is the 2nd edition of Building a Satisfying Retirement. Click the link at the top right of the blog to buy your copy. Even if you don't own a Kindle, there is a free reader you can load on your computer to read any Kindle book.

I have added a new section about working after retirement and freshened the content since the 1st edition was released and given away last spring.


To my regular readers my deep appreciation for the support you have shown for the past 16 months. Your visits have made this the #1 blog on Google for building a Satisfying Retirement.

For those who have found the blog because of the Money Magazine or CNNMoney.com pieces, thank you. I hope you make this blog one of your regular reads. If you sign up for a subscription, I'll be honored to be sure you receive each new post in your e-mailbox or your RSS reader.

A satisfying retirement is very possible. My wife and I have lived it for over a decade, through several recessions, the collapse of my business, a 50% drop in the value of our home, and assorted other bumps in the retirement road.


Please, feel free to contact me to ask questions, make suggestions...even complain about something I've written (or not written). We are building an active community of retirees, and those looking forward to retirement. I'd love you to become part of our on-line family.

September 12, 2011

I'm Living in a Time Warp

Is it just me, or has time speeded up without telling anyone? Has the government decided to save energy by making each day several hours shorter? Has my calendar shortchanged some of the months so a year isn't as long as it used to be?

I feel like I'm in some sort of "Beam me up, Scottie" time warp. We just celebrated Christmas a little while ago, didn't we? How can the next one be less than 4 months away? How is it possible 2011 is almost 75% over. I'm still writing 2010 on checks. There is no way I'll be 63 in 8 months. That's the age of my parents (25 years ago !).

When I was a younger man time moved at a proper pace. The days spent on the road or between vacations was about right. A year lasted the correct amount of time. Now, just as time becomes more precious  it accelerates. That seems remarkably unfair. Not just days, but whole weeks seem to simply disappear. The trip we took to Tubac, AZ seems like just a few weeks ago, not half a year. Was it really 16 months ago Betty and I took our "Drive Til You Drop" road trip? That can't be.

The advice I read says there is a way to get time to cooperate. If I live in the moment, savor each thing I do, and not look ahead to an event in the future, time was again click by at the regular pace. OK. That works for a little while. Then, we are off to the races again.

I've also read some scientific reasons why time seems to speed up as we get older. It involves something about dense, first memories, and sketchy later memories. Sounds plausible, but not helpful in getting whatever is causing my time loss to stop. The suggestion was to have more first-time, intense experiences that cause fresh dense memories. That was particularly unhelpful advice.

One lady, Merry Walker, posted this on answerbag.com 6 years ago:

"When you're five years old, a year is one fifth of your life. That makes it seem like an impossibly long time, especially if you're five and have to wait until next year for something you really want.

In comparison, when you're 20, a year is only one twentieth of your life, and while the days don't exactly fly by yet, a year doesn't seem like the eternity it was at five.

By the time you're 50 and a year is only one fiftieth of the time you've experienced, a year whips by pretty quickly."

Makes it all sound reasonable and normal. That may be but but my time loss is very personal to me.


Nothing I found on the Internet seems to solve the problem. Since time is really a man-made, artificial system of measurement, you'd think someone would invent a way to have it stop running away from me. 

This post is a bit shorter than what I normally write. But, it seems as though the last half day disappeared while I was on the laptop writing this. Since that proves my point I will quit while there is still part of the day left......oh darn......it's gone.


Related Posts

September 9, 2011

Retirement Living: What is the Real Truth?

You are a "newbie" retiree. Or, you are a few years away from leaving your present job. You have searched the Internet and read countless articles on what to expect. Many advise you to save 50% of your income for the next 5 years..can that be right?. Several experts have told you retiring is no longer possible. A few advise you to move to Costa Rica or Mexico and live on $500 a month.

Untruth Warning!


The reality is that retirement living is not much different from non-retirement living. I have been writing Satisfying Retirement Blog for 15 months and have produced a rather extensive primer on most retirement subjects. If you are a new reader, or new to retirement, please take some time to look at the list of most popular posts, or hunt around in the archives for posts that might help you.

I think you will come to the conclusion that living a retirement lifestyle that is happy and fulfilling takes some planning, some adjustments, and some creativity on your part. But, doesn't life before retirement require the same stuff? Too many web sites, blogs, and magazines attempt to tell you this part of your life is fraught with troubles and pitfalls. You are facing a daunting journey that only the strong survive. The message is almost: Retirement, only the beginning of your problems.


Not True!


Let me give you a few glimpses of what retirement is really like. I've been on this journey for over 10 years so I have probably faced several of the questions and issues that concern you. I have gone through the death of a parent. I have survived the collapse of my business. I have downsized, then downsized again. I am being screwed on a regular basis by our health care system to the tune of 33% of my yearly income going to insurance companies, labs, doctors, and big pharma.

Yet, even with all that, this phase of my life has been the most fulfilling, exciting, growth-filled, and satisfying of any part of my 62 years on earth so far. I have freedoms I could have only dreamed about while working and traveling 100,000 miles a year. My creative life has caught fire. I have written two books and host this blog.  I have a marriage that is so much better than before I retired. I am financially weathering everything the world can throw at me, and still jetting off to Hawaii for a three week vacation at the end of the month.

To cap it all off, the October issue of Money Magazine is profiling my retirement in as someone who is leading a satisfying retirement in spite of all the doom and gloom that bombards us every single day.

Retirement is not what it was for your parents or grandparents. That is absolutely true. The world and how it operates have likely changed forever. But, the exciting news is that so have we. I don't know a single retirement age man or woman who wants to spend 5 hours a day, every day, on a golf course, or sitting in an easy chair watching TV. I don't know anyone anticipating retirement who believe that their welfare is so secured by their former employer or the government that they will have zero financial worries in the future. 

Retirement is an outdated word that can't possibly capture all of the opportunities and options you face. It implies you will no longer work. That is probably not true. Many of us want to keep working in some form. Retirement implies your active days are over. Not true, unless you choose to live like that. I contend your most active days, both physically and mentally, can lie ahead.

Retirement implies you will slowly fade away or become a burden to others. That can happen, and it does to too many of us. But, for most, that isn't necessarily your fate. Even if it is, that is years in the future. Why wouldn't you push yourself to live fully until you can't? Why worry about what may happen in the future, or let that worry confine you now? Plan for your future needs and try to lessen the impact on your loved ones. But, for heavens sake, don't let it paralyze you now.

My health is better today than it was 10 years ago. I weigh less and have more energy. I've dropped a few inches in waist size. I Look forward to the gym instead of fear it.

My relationships are much better. The stress my lifestyle imposed on my family when I was traveling continuously for almost 20 years should have been enough to tear my family apart. Due to the patience and forgiveness my wife possessed we made it through that phase. Now, things are so much better because we have time for each other. Sure there are arguments. There are days when each of us would rather the other person took a long walk off a short pier. But, rather than linger and fester like during my working days, we blow up, figure it out, patch it up, and move on. That can't happen when one partner is gone 200 days a year.

I found my passion. I was a man with no hobbies and no real interests outside of my work. I dabbled in things, but mainly to fill the time. Retirement has given me the time and opportunities to try different things. The pieces finally fell into place about 5 years ago. Writing and volunteering with a prison ministry organization give me what I have been lacking: a passion and a real purpose. The day isn't long enough for all I want to accomplish. I never felt that way (in a positive sense) while working.

Retirement is very much what you make it. Of course your finances, family situation, health, and other factors will impact you. But, again I stress, they  affected you before retirement, too. This is your time. This is your opportunity. This is your life. Build it and live it full throttle.


Related Posts

September 6, 2011

Unintended Consequences...For the Better

Labor Day weekend marked the unofficial end of summer. Of course, here in Phoenix it will stay above 100 for several more weeks, but now we have hope. Still, it is a time when change is in the air. With many activities starting up again after a few months break, there is a feeling of a fresh start. Looking at my calendar for this week was enough to tire me out before it even began: moving furniture, two church meetings, a luncheon meeting, a dinner party, and packing for our upcoming trip to Hawaii. A satisfying retirement is not dull.

My wife and I are both happier when we are busy...not overloaded and stressed...but busy and feeling involved. So, this week's list of things we must do is actually no problem. But, we have become so used to sleeping in late and taking it easier over the summer months that we'll have some adjusting to do when the alarm clock starts ringing at 6:00 AM again.

The past few weeks have involved a series of decisions to make room for our  daughter to move back home temporarily. That meant converting an office back into a bedroom. It meant turning a closet that had been used for storage back into one suitable for clothes.

Amidst the adjustments several changes occured. We had wanted to get rid of the big, heavy, 1970's entertainment unit in the living room for quite some time. Two gigantic floor speakers I had since college days needed to go to audio heaven. The furniture simply overwhelmed the smallish room. 


In order to make the office back into a bedroom, Betty's computer desk and files had to move into our master bedroom. But, that meant the entertainment stand and bookshelves in the master bedroom had to go somewhere else.

Guess what? They fit our needs in the living room perfectly. So, the old entertainment unit and speakers were manhandled into the garage for an upcoming sale. The bedroom unit & shelving came downstairs into the living room. Finally, the computer stuff moved down the hall into our bedroom where it fit into the space left by the just-departed bookshelves. The bedroom is back in business and we didn't have to buy a new entertainment unit for the living room. 

We have a large roll-top desk in the family room. It has been used for storing stuff that didn't go anywhere else: wrapping paper, out-of-date files, odds and ends of this and that, and the family junk drawers. Daughter needed the desk for her business papers. So, for the first time in at least 10 years the roll top desk was emptied of stuff and suddenly was re-born as a ....desk! In the process we got rid of all sorts of trash that was only taking up space and cluttering up our retirement lifestyle.

Next came the pantry. Since some of the stuff in the desk really belonged in the pantry, that space had to be decluttered and rearranged. Half a dozen empty recipe boxes, cookbooks we never look at, two sets of salad bowls we didn't even know we owned, and assorted junk went into the garage sale pile.

Finally, we discovered we had three DVD/VHS players that were not needed and had been stored for who knows what reason. Guess what their fate is...garage sale.


So, what started as a must-do process ended up affecting major living and storage areas in a very positive way. The rule of unintended consequences came into play. When faced with changing one thing, the string of adjustments that followed worked very much to everyone's benefit.


Now, we await a garage sale that will move our junk into someone else's house and give us half the garage back. Isn't the end of summer grand!

See anything you like?

September 4, 2011

Delayed maintenance

Several months ago a news story probably caught your eye: a hole opened in a jet while flying from Phoenix to Sacramento. Luckily, skilled pilots and the closeness of a nearby airport averted what could have been a disaster. Follow up checks revealed problems with other planes of the same style resulting in  flight disruptions and enhanced maintenance procedures being put into effect.


It got me to thinking about maintenance in our lives. The type that might have caused the airplane's problem is delayed maintenance. We know that something will require fixing but decide it can wait a while longer. That toilet is more difficult to flush, but it still works. The front door is showing wear and the wood is starting to crack. But, hey, there's no budget right now for a new $2,000 door. The roof should last another few years, I hope. I know the car battery is pretty old but it still works. Let's wait until fall.

My experience with delayed maintenance is that the eventual cost is always higher than when the problem is first recognized. I have always wondered why I wait until it is time to move or until something stops working completely before I repaint, repair, or replace. The hassle is always worse than if I had simply taken care of it when I should have.

When building a satisfying retirement, delayed maintenance can describe similar behavior. One example might be our investment plan isn't really working well for us anymore. With the upheaval of the last few years we know we should spend time reviewing our approach. But, that is a lot of work and it might force us to admit we are not in the type of financial shape we thought we were. Things will turn around, they always do. We'll just wait awhile and see how it goes.

Another type of delayed maintenance might involve a business venture of yours. I have personal experience with this type of delayed maintenance. For at least 4 years before my consulting business declined to the point I decided to shut it down and retire, there were plenty of signals that things weren't going as well as they once did. The industry had changed dramatically a few years before that, resulting in a drop in demand for what I offered. The number of clients had grown regularly every year for the previous decade. Then, the growth stopped. I decided that was fine with me. I was overextended and tired.

Suddenly, the number of clients I served began to drop, one this month, two a few fews months later, a couple more at the end of the year. I was concerned, but still convinced things would stabilize at a comfortable level. That was not the case. The loss of business continued and accelerated.

Suddenly I was at the point where my cash flow was dangerously close to my expenses. I knew what I needed to do: increase the marketing and promotion of my business, become much more focused on the clients and their particular needs, and find a way to re-brand myself for the changes the industry was undergoing.

Unfortunately, I had delayed that business maintenance too long. When things were good I didn't spend time looking for cracks in the foundation. I didn't figure out I needed a major overhaul. When I realized things had slipped to a near-fatal level, it was too late.

Your most significant relationship can certainly suffer from delayed maintenance. Last October my post on Relationship Maintenance suggested steps you can take for a relational tuneup. Just like a car that misses regular oil changes, new brakes, or a new set of spark plugs, your marriage or key relationship can't be ignored for too long before trouble will surface.

Health is certainly a key area of delayed maintenance for many of us. We know a diet of fatty foods, a lack of fruits and vegetables, and a sedentary lifestyle will probably end badly for us. We know sun screen is important. We know about checkups and tests that should be conducted.  But, the future is still way out there. We can change later. We can adjust our living habits when we turn 65....or 70...or 75...or.....

Not doing what we know we should will hurt us. Our quality of life will suffer. Our ability to do what we like will be curtailed. Taken to its logical conclusion, our delayed maintenance in taking care of ourselves could end our life early.

What is the answer? Preventive maintenance. This is a proactive, deal-with- a-problem-before-it-gets-out-of-hand type maintenance. I act before something becomes critical or dangerous. Maybe there are no visible signs of a problem today, but I know the consequences of a certain action is likely to cause problems.

Preventive maintenance is the best way to build your satisfying retirement. It may be a tough habit to develop. I think most of us are hard-wired for avoidance. But, waiting until things break or decay or become much too difficult and expensive to repair is the wrong choice.

What in your life requires some preventive maintenance? What delayed maintenance have you put off because the task is too difficult or the answers too unsettling? Share with us, if you dare!


Related Posts

Money Magazine is featuring an article on my family and how we built a satisfying retirement. The October issue is due on newsstands in a week or two. Look for it!

September 1, 2011

Junior is Back Home...Now What?

They have been called bommerang kids...adult children who end up moving back in with mom and dad. Sometimes the return is brief, for others it becomes an extended stay. I was surprised by the statistics: 13% of parents with grown children say one of their adult sons or daughters has moved back home in the past year. During a bad economic period, up to 40% of college grads are back with their folks a full year after graduation. (2009 study)

Obviously, having an adult child move back home presents both challenges and opportunities to your satisfying retirement lifestyle.  Beyond the basic change an extra person makes to your day-to-day routines, space use, and costs, there are other important issues that need to be addressed.  Consider the following if you have an adult child ready to move "home:"

Protect your retirement assets. The worst thing you could do it tap deeply into what you will need to help your child out. If you are retired, or soon to be, you do not have the time to build those funds back up to the level you have determined you will need. While you may feel pressured to bail your son or daughter out with the money you have in your 401 (k)) or IRA, don't do it. That advice comes from every financial source I could find on the Internet and makes complete sense to me.

If you do provide some money, make it a loan, not a gift. If you are able to help your child out while he or she attempts to get back on their feet without tapping your retirement money, then by all means do so. But, the suggestion is to loan the money rather than making it an outright gift. You will feel more like a partner in helping your child. And he will feel more like an adult than a child, still getting gifts from mommy and daddy. Establish a regular repayment schedule and charge at least some interest.

Charge room and board. Yes, I know she is your own family member. But, for the same reason you should loan money instead of giving it to her, the fact is she will increase your living costs. Charge a monthly rent that is well below normal market rates. But, the extra money will help you with the increased food and electric bills. Paying something toward those costs will help the child's self-respect, too.

Agree on basic ground rules. The new "tenant" should help with some household chores, handle his own laundry, offer to go food shopping on occasion, and help with the cooking or cleanup. If you prefer a neat home, insist that his living space (and yours) remains that way. What about bringing over dates or friends? What about "sleepovers" with members of the opposite sex? Decide well ahead of time the answers to these questions.

Insist that he or she actively look for a job or whatever it takes to become independent again. Lying on the coach while watching 6 hours of TV a day,  playing video games, or sleeping until noon is going to cause problems....quickly. Agree before the child moves in what is a reasonable plan for moving back out again.

Set a timetable. There should be some sort of "finish line" to this arrangement. Set a time-based limit, or when a certain income level has been met. Of course, you may need to be a bit flexible with this requirement. But, a timetable does help motivate the returning child to become creative in solving his problems. That may mean 2 or 3 part time jobs and living with a roommate. It may mean sharing a car or relying on public transportation. If there is a projected end to the bommerang phase, both parents and child have a goal to aim for.

Treat your "child" like you would an adult renter, not as his parent. It is quite likely he or she already feels bad about having to move back with mom and dad. Don't compound that by reminding him whenever possible of that fact. Respect his privacy, opinions, and needs. Realize that while he still wants your respect, he doesn't really need your permission. If he is following the ground rules you have both agreed upon, then take off your parent hat.

On the positive side, if your relationship with the returning child is good, this may be a tremendous time period together. Your "child" is an adult in opinions and actions. You can enjoy him or her for who they have become. The need to "parent" has diminished. The time is there to enjoy his or her uniqueness. It also feels good as a parent to help a child in time of need.


Having an adult child move home when he or she has lost a job, suffered the end of a bad marriage, or is recuperating from a serious illness will change you life, and theirs. By establishing fair and clearly defined rules and obligations it can be a time of discovery and a time of deepening relationships. It could be a tremendous plus for your retirement lifestyle.

Have you experienced the "boomerang" effect? Do you have any ideas or suggestions we can benefit from? Even if an adult child of yours has never returned home, I'll bet you have some opinions about the subject. Here's the place to let it fly!


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Alert: Money Magazine will have a feature story in the October issue about how Betty & I have built a satisfying retirement. Look for it in your mailbox, on the newsstands, or right here in a few weeks.