December 30, 2011

A Thank You Letter to 2011 as it Retires

A year ago I wrote a thank you letter to 2010 that summarized some of the good and not so good stuff that happened. In re-reading that post I liked the idea, so here is the 2011 version.



Well, 2011, you threw all of us some surprises. The economy didn't recover as much as hoped, leaving lots of us still in deep trouble. But, at least you didn't slip back into a recession. In fact, as this year ends there are signs that corners are finally being turned. Now, if you can talk to 2012 and ask him to do something about the mess in Europe!

Dad continues to do well one year after the love of his life passed away after 63 years together. His family is quite surprised he has found his footing and is happy....lonely, but happy. It is certainly a blessing we get to see him every week and include him in family gatherings when possible.

My son-in-law has completed his work to earn his BA and is flourishing in his new position at work. His back, which had left him virtually crippled, is still responding beautifully to the patches that help his body stay in balance. Thank you for whatever you did.

His wife, my oldest, continues to be the world's best mom, raising some incredible, respectful, loving, brilliant kids. As if that didn't keep her busy she began a Christian day care in her home to help the family's finances. 2011 has been a tiring one for her, but you never hear her complain.

My youngest has moved in with us while she ramps up her career. Even though the world economy has been shaky at best, her dreams of seeing the world as a travel director and freelance operations manager show serious signs of success.

Betty and I finally got back to Maui for a much needed extended vacation in late September into October. It felt like going home. I had a very vivid dream last night of going back.

This blog continues to grow and my first book is selling (slowly but selling) on Amazon. Money Magazine featured a story on our finances and how we  live well on less. It is quite a rush to see yourself on a magazine stand.

The interaction with readers and the joy of writing still feels just as good as it did when this part of my journey began 18 months ago. I don't know how one measures this, but I'd bet I have the best readers in the blogging world.

So, thank you 2011, for a good year. My family is healthy, our finances are OK, my spirits and optimism remain, and my satisfying retirement continues. 2012, you have you work cut out for you to equal the impact on my family that your retiring brother, 2011, had.

Bob


What Others Are Saying

December 29, 2011

A Look Back: Simplicity

This final week of 2011 is a good time for a look back..back over some posts of the past 18 months that you may have missed, or remember wanting to read again. So far I have included lists of posts that deal with relationships, health, and finances. Today's focus is on simplicity and simple living, a subject that is of interest to a lot of us as we build our satisfying retirement. I hope you find something listed you'll enjoy checking out:




*Simple Living: Steps You Can Take Now

*Living a Simpler Life

*Helping You Life a Simpler Life

*Simple Living My Way

*Live Simply in Retirement

*Could I Live Without...?

*Simple Living: One Room At a Time

*Simple Living: What Does It Mean?

*Retirement Frugality


December 28, 2011

A Look Back: Health

This final week of 2011 is a good time for a look back..back over some posts of the past 18 months that you may have missed, or remember wanting to read again. Yesterday was a list of posts that dealt with the critical subject of financial well-being. 

Today's focus is on health, a subject that can make or break our satisfying retirement. I hope you find something listed you'll enjoy checking out:




*Healthy Habits

*5 Keys To a Healthier Life

*7 Steps Toward Better Health

*Are Healthy Eating & Exercise The Evil Twins?

*Retirement at Home: Making It Safe

*How Am I Supposed To Pay For This?

*Healthy Living: Tips & Ideas

*Retirement Travel & Health

*A Real Life Miracle

*Retirement & Health Care Costs

December 26, 2011

A Look Back: Relationships

This final week of 2011 is a good time for a look back..back over some posts of the past 18 months that you may have missed, or remember wanting to read again. For the next four days I will feature a list of satisfying retirement blog posts related to a different subject. Today's focus is on relationships: family, marriage, adult children, aging parents, grandkids. I hope you find something listed you'll enjoy checking out:




*Does Family Matter?

*Who Is That person Sitting Beside me?

*The Benefits of Sharing Household Duties

*Learning About Life From A 3 Year-Old

*A Real Life Love Story: Caring For Your Parents

*Relationship Maintenance: Time For a Tune-up?

*Relationships Between Parents & Adult Children

*Retirement & Sex (that what you think!)

*What Am I Going To Do About Mom?

*How Do I Help My Aging Parents?

*Junior Is Back Home: Now What?

*Mom & Dad Want To Move In: Now What?


Tomorrow, a look back at posts that deal with one of the most important parts of a satisfying retirement: your finances.

December 24, 2011

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays


Today is the day for a post that is short and to the point:

To everyone who has made 2011 a fantastic experience for me and this blog, thank you. Your support, suggestions, comments, and presence have made this a special holiday season for me. Seeing my first book for sale on Amazon is still a thrill.

I wish for you and your family a Merry Christmas and a very happy holiday season.

God Bless you and yours from my family and me.


Bob

December 21, 2011

Retirement Road Trip: What Can You Learn?

Taking a vacation is one of the real joys of a satisfying retirement. Sometimes that means a night away at a local hotel or resort. It may mean a long weekend when your calendar is amazingly open. Every once in awhile it means something truly out of the ordinary: a cruise through the Caribbean, a week on the beaches in Hawaii or Mexico. No matter how elaborate or inexpensive, a vacation always has the possibility of enriching your life in ways you didn't expect. It becomes more than just a break in your routine.

In the spring of 2010 my wife and I took a driving trip. This wasn't a two hour jaunt to Flagstaff, or 6 hours over the desert and mountains to San Diego. This was a long distance endurance test: 25 days covering 5,000 miles and eight western states. Named The Drive Till You Drop Road Trip we saw the country, experienced bizarre weather, lived together in close quarters for almost a month and not only survived but prospered.  

We even managed to handle a major adjustment without a meltdown. When we were as far away as we could possibly be from Phoenix (Port Townsend, WA) our eldest daughter called to tell us our third grandchild was coming early and asked when would we be home. The answer was "as soon as we can." The return 1,500 miles was covered in less than three days and in time for the birth of Kassidy.   

When we were able to catch our breath, unpack, and download 3,200 photographs, we asked ourselves was it worth it? What did we learn? Quite a lot, actually:


Compromise and patience. For something this involved, we began planning 6 months before leaving in late May. Thank goodness for the Internet and AAA's maps. With a set limit of days away and so many places we could see, there was a lot of compromise involved. After some give and take on both our parts, we developed a viable itinerary.


Even the best-made plans need to be adjusted. Consistently rotten weather for a good portion of the trip forced us to re-route and re-plan on the fly. In late May we didn't expect to encounter snow, hail, sleet, days of heavy rain, fog, and temperatures in the 40's. We certainly didn't pack for it. A laptop and WIFI allowed for last minute reservation changes....along with a little luck and a lot of prayer.


Seeing America up close and personal is a thrill The country looks totally different from the window of a car than from the window of an airplane. Small towns are often interesting, welcoming and attractive. People are generally friendly and helpful. Tell them you are on a long road trip and everyone expresses envy. Little known attractions and historical sites are everywhere. With the freedom of a car, we were able to stop where and when we wanted.


Seeing your traveling partner up close and personal is a delight. There is no better opportunity to learn more about your traveling partner and yourself than being in close proximity for 25 days. My wife and I both came home feeling the time together was a tremendous bonding experience. Even after 34 years of marriage we discovered new things about each other than will help us weather the next 34 years.


Time away from routine is important.  The change in your schedule, the different foods, sights, and sounds can act as a tremendous dash of refreshment. Having someone else do the cooking and cleaning is hard to turn down. I knew there were things happening at home I'd have to deal with upon our return, but while away it seemed like someone else's life.

Creating forever memories is priceless. We finally decided to take the trip because we began to worry we'd run out of the ability or opportunity if we kept delaying. Now, we have the satisfaction of doing what we set out to do, and creating memories that nothing can take away from us. The money we spent was an investment in us and worth every penny (lots of pennies!).


We like small vacations. A weekend away or even two nights at one of the Scottsdale resorts is a tremendously invigorating experience. But, this road trip was unique. No other trip to Europe or Hawaii or wreck-diving in Bermuda came close to being as intense a learning experience. I would heartily recommend one as part of your journey in building a satisfying retirement.


June in West Yellowstone


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Satisfying Lifestyle Newsletter : The latest Addition To Our Services

Satisfying Retirement Companion has become an important daily source of  information and insight to over a thousand readers. Stories from around the world on topics as varied as technology, science, financial planning and travel serve as an up-to-date companion to this blog.


Now, a new, daily newspaper is the latest addition to our range of services: Satisfying Lifestyle Newsletter. With a wider selection of news, stories, and helpful information, Satisfying Lifestyle Newsletter can be part of your satisfying retirement journey.


Check it out today!

December 19, 2011

Women & Retirement Finances: It is Not a Pretty Picture

A comment left on a post a week or so ago asked if I'd explore the important subject of women and retirement finances. Since I am not a financial planner or expert, I have included some links at the end of this post to sites that you might find helpful. But the topic is important enough for me to do some basic research and pass along what I have learned. 

Building a financially satisfying retirement is more difficult for the average older woman for many reasons. Gender roles, lack of training in basics of investing, and a lack of confidence are all contributing factors. A depressing fact is that one in five women will live in poverty during her retirement. Also true:

*While working women earn less. Obviously that affects the amount available to save and invest, the size of any company pension, and the amount of a monthly Social Security check. So, what is to be done? How can women prepare for and thrive during retirement, married or single, widowed, or divorced?

*Women spend less time in the workforce. On average, females spend 10 years out of the workforce while raising children. Men average less than one year. There is a direct correlation to lifetime income.

*Women are less likely to have retirement plans. Again, because of less time in the workforce, or primarily involved in part-time work fewer have actual retirement plans from their employers.

*Women have lower Social Security benefits. The average social security check for a woman is $800.00 per month and for a man it is $1,200.

*Women live longer. The typical woman will live an average of 6 years longer than a man. That puts additional pressure on her retirement savings and investments to fund several more years. 40% of women living alone depend on Social Security of all their income.

*Divorce can have a devastating effect on retirement. Because of the over-reliance on the husband's pensions and Social Security checks, divorce can leave a woman in a serious financial bind.


So, what is to done? What can a woman (or a man) do to improve the odds that a financial crisis isn't part of her or his future? Here are some common sense suggestions for you to consider:


  • Become educated on financial basics. The good news is that once comfortable with the hows and whys of various investment options, women tend to be better investors than men. They make less risky choices, are more likely to admit a mistake and move on, and tend to know what they don't know. Resolve to learn one new financial fact every week.


  • Train yourself to be financially independent. Be aware of the finances. Even if your husband or partner is handling the money know what is happening. Stay involved. .


  • Fund your retirement account regardless of Your age. For younger women, retirement seems eons away. Put in as much as you can, especially if your company matches funds. Otherwise you are leaving "free" money on the table.


  • Don't fear  reasonable risk. If all you do is protect your capital instead of making it grow, inflation will put you farther and farther behind. Liz Perle, author of Money, a Memoir put it well when she said women perceive their investments like a lake, that is a finite resource. Men tend to look look at it as a river that is constantly renewing itself. Liz says consequently, "women are afraid to risk."


  • You don't have to do all this alone. There are plenty of investment groups and clubs that will help you learn and share ideas with others. The local library and the Internet contain a wealth of information and resources. Here are a handful of web sites that provide an excellent overview along with specific steps anyone can take to become more comfortable in managing finances.


Doing the background work for this post helped open my eyes to the unique challenges many women face in protecting themselves financially. Like so many parts of building a satisfying retirement it boils down to taking charge of this part of your life. Learn what you need to know, have faith in your abilities and abilities, and constantly adjust and improve your financial plan.


Related Posts

December 17, 2011

Fed-Up Customers Finding Unique Ways to Get A Company's Attention

Last month I wrote about customers starting to strike back at businesses or organizations that treated them poorly. Bank of America's fiasco with the debit card charge and Netflix attempting to destroy years of good will and positive imaging with two stupid moves were the focus. We are trying to build a satisfying retirement and don't have the time or money to give to companies that don't seem to care.

In doing a little more research about consumers saying "enough is enough" at impersonal  and insensitive policies. I found a treasure trove of stories and web sites. As if we need any more encouragement to protest poor service with our wallets and feet, here are some examples of folks who took their protest to a higher level.

Dave Carroll is a musician. In 2009 he was flying to a show on United Airlines. He checked his guitar as baggage. Upon arrival he discovered the instrument's neck had been broken. After countless phone calls, messages, and refusals by United to compensate him for the ruined guitar, he took his revenge. He wrote a song about the incident and posted it on YouTube.That video was viewed 11 million times! Realizing they had a public relations nightmare on their hands the airline did what it should have done initially and accepted responsibility for the guitar.

Too late. 11 million times too late. Dave went on to form a business around that incident. He gives speeches all over the country about the dangers of rotten customer service. He has written books and of course, plays the United Broke my Guitar song wherever he appears. He had enough and found a unique way to make the "bad guys" pay.

Here's a decision that the HP probably wishes that they could have a "do-over." A soldier in Iraq had a problem with his printer. HP "customer service" wanted to charge him to tell him how to fix it. Feeling that the company was acting poorly toward a man risking his life in a war zone, he decided to make his point rather forcefully....with a gun. His video on YouTube  made it clear that he felt Hewlett Packard was more interested in a few dollars profit than supporting our troops.

A more moderate approach to poor customer service can be found on a growing number of web sites designed for people let off steam (without shooting off an automatic weapon). Complaints.com and  the aptly named ripoffreport.com are filled with complaints about everything from a homeowner who didn't pay the contractor to major automobile companies and lemon cars, from scams to mobile phone bills that are clearly wrong but won't be fixed.

Individual companies are targets of specific sites, too: Starbucked.com and Hel*Mart.com generate all sorts of views and complaints. Airlinecomplaints.org is full of horror stories about the industry most folks love to hate for their "take it or leave it" attitude.

It is important to note that it is very likely a sizable number of the gripes on these sites are not legitimate. Competitors could be bad-mouthing another company. A disgruntled customer may have contributed to his own problem and then tries to get someone else to pay for it. There could be examples of someone hating a company enough to make up a grievance. But, the point remains: the Internet has given the paying customer a new way to complain and seek justice. Ignoring a letter or a phone call is easy for a company that isn't interested in treating folks well. It is much harder to avoid the bad publicity that can come from 11 million You Tube hits.

I looked for a truly horrific story about the worst voice mail system in the world but I found nothing specific, just lots of gripes about the practice. Personally, I hate voice mail when it is designed to either frustrate me enough so I will hang up, or connects me with a person who has no clue what he or she is talking about in a language that barely passes for English.

Recently I had a terrible experience trying to get a straight answer to a simple question and problem with my SiriusXM radio. I invested one hour of my time, initiated three different contacts with them, talked with a service representative and someone in Technical support, and finally was called by a "resolution" person and told my radio didn't receive the channel I was inquiring about. If the first person I contacted had told me that the next three contacts, 60 minutes of my time, and building anger on my part at the company could have been avoided.

Good customer service has pretty much disappeared. I am glad that we are at the point where we are "mad as hell and aren't going to take it anymore."  Maybe the tide will turn when enough people decide that the money we spend buys us more than a product, it should buy us respect and common courtesy.


Late addition: I just ran across this story about airlines charging extra for  families to sit together.  When does it stop?

Even more: 2011 was the year of tack-on hidden fees


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December 14, 2011

Retirement Help and Personalized Advice


The past 18 month of writing Satisfying Retirement has been loads of fun.  Watching the growth in the number of people who stop by to read a post is gratifying. Seeing the number of comments increase is a good sign. The publication of my first e-book, Building a Satisfying Retirement, and seeing its slow but steady sales figures from Amazon along with a few paid links and compensation for writing for web sites has allowed me come close to breaking even.

On occasion e-mails have asked if I am available for private consultation on matters relating to building a happy retirement. Sometimes the person posing the question is looking for help with budgeting or basic financial questions. Twice there has been a question dealing with issues like moving or downsizing. There has been some interest in helping folks develop their creativity and finding a passion after work. A couple of e-mails also wondered if I'd advise a couple before retirement on developing a specific plan to help them get ready for the big step.

Up to this point, I have freely given some ideas and suggestion by return e-mail. But, the trickle of requests for private help has led me to wonder if this is something I could offer as a service to readers and the general public. Rather than a simple one or two e-mails with general hints and tips, is there an interest in a more personalized service that includes phone conversations and specific help for a specific situation?

While this list is certainly not all that I could do to help you, these are the topics that pop up most often in my in box:

  • Budgeting  Building a workable budget before or after retirement.

  • Where to live  This is a major decision that involves lots of possibilities

  • How do I keep my marriage strong after retirement?  Retirement involves more than just the person who stops work. There are issues that should be addressed.

  • Can you help me simplify my life?  Are you struggling with downsizing or getting a daily calendar under control? Do you want ideas to give you more time to enjoy your life?

  • Other than work, I have no hobbies or interests. Help!  This is a very typical problem that will rarely just solve itself. If there is nothing to get your involved and excited, boredom and unhappiness will quickly follow.

  • My adult child needs to move home. What's that going to do to my life? This has become an increasingly common issue in the present economic reality. How it is handled affects both the child and your happiness.

  • My parents need more help than I can give them. What should I do? This problem involves many tough decisions that must be specific to your situation and needs.


This list gives you an idea of what I am proposing. This is my "fishing line in the water, waiting to see if someone bites." Do you think you, or someone you know, would benefit from my individualized consultation? Would you find this a service you might use?

Of course, the next question you would ask is about the cost. Because my goal is to help as many folks as possible, charges would be very reasonable and based on both what you wanted and how much involvement you requested.

OK, I'm ready to see if this offer produces any nibbles. E-mail me and describe what you are interesting in. I'll respond with a proposal and costs. At that point you can accept the proposal, modify it, or say "no thanks," and remain friends.

Please give it some thought and let me know if you are interested in learning more. I will put a link on the sidebar of the blog so if you decide at some point in the future you have a need like this, the offer remains open.

Thanks for your support and the opportunity to be of service, both in the blog posts and this additional, personalized service.

December 12, 2011

Frugality and Retirement: How Does It Work?

The post of a few days ago dealt with the pressure on the middle class and its effect on retirement. The obvious follow up to that is what happens when the situation calls for real cutbacks in expenses and life style. Is it still possible to have a satisfying retirement?

Like simple living, frugality is a word that is really open to interpretation. There are folks who think of frugality as being a smart steward of their money. For the most part, wants are replaced by needs in the budget. A free movie from the library replaces the $10 ticket at the local cinema. Dinner out is either the $5 foot long sub at Subway or a home cooked meal instead of the $30 restaurant experience.

For others, the word takes on an almost religious tone. Spending more than is required to stay alive is to be avoided. Living space is cut to the bone. Almost all belongings are given away or sold, leaving a dresser drawer with a few changes of clothes. If possible, a car is replaced by public transportation or walking. Health insurance is dropped, in favor of self-medication and an occasional trip to the emergency room or free clinic.

This second interpretation is not what I think about when I type the word frugal. The dictionary defines frugal as not wasteful, not spending unnecessarily, being economical and thrifty. How many people would not find those words something to strive for?  The problem comes when each of us puts our own interpretation on those words. To somebody a 60" LCD TV screen is a necessity. Buying a $60,000 car instead of the $75,000 version could be considered thrifty.

Frugality, like simplicity, is in the eyes of the beholder. Living on $100,00 before retirement and $70,000 after is certainly more frugal. But, for many of us the numbers may be more like $50,000 before retirement and $25,000 after. So, how does a satisfying retirement work when one has to be frugal?

There is no argument that it takes work and a commitment to the goal. It requires reassessing what you need to be happy and content. It demands that you prune those things that no longer fit within your budget. It pushes you to decide what are needs and what are wants.

Of course, a "need" for me could be a "want" for you. I need a high speed Internet connection to be able to blog. Since blogging is my passion and what occupies several hours of a typical day, cutting out the Internet connection isn't an option. I'd give up going out to any movies again if that was the trade off my budget demands.

For you maybe a "need" is a meal out at least once a week at a decent restaurant. Your volunteer work, or babysitting the grandkids, or part time work at the store leaves you drained by Friday. A meal out with spouse, friends, or even alone, is something you look forward to. It is a reward to yourself for the week's efforts. That is a need for you and your budgeting decisions will reflect that.

Frugality may mean that you have to settle for a medical insurance policy that is designed to help you only if hit with huge bills after an emergency or major surgery, but pays nothing for regular Doctor visits or drugs. You do your research and find out the hospital and local Walgreens have regular free clinics for blood pressure checks or diabetes testing. Costco or Walmart will sell you a 90 day supply of the generic version of the expensive brand name prescription for $10.

I could cite examples until the cows come home (there is a cliché I haven't used in 18 months!) but instead I'll summarize what frugality in retirement means to me:

  • Spending time with my grandkids and family. Except for gas = free
  • Watching a movie or documentary at home from either the library or Netflix. Cost is $17/month (less than one movie out for 2 people)
  • Sitting on my back porch, reading and watching birds and clouds = free
  • Cutting my cable TV bill from $70/month to $20
  • Running errands only 2 days/ week. Saves approx. $50/month in gas
  • Cutting meals out to just once a week. Saves $160/month
  • Not buying new books, only used ones or going to library. Saves $50/month
  • Keeping an 8 year old car that squeaks and rattles for another few years
  • Clipping coupons and paying attention to sales on stuff we need thus cutting our monthly food budget by $70.
  • Mothballing a computer than has issues rather than replacing it right now. Making do with one that is even older (Sorry Dell).
  • Only doing laundry and running dishwasher between 9 PM-9AM during the week (rates 66% lower)
  • Going on an expensive trip to Hawaii..important to my mental health and well-being

That last example is important in this discussion of frugal living. For me, that 18 day trip, while quite pricey, was vitally important to me and my wife. It gave us a break from our routine, broke our pattern of stress and over-commitment, and allowed us to add rich memories to our marriage. For me that was a frugal choice because it saved me (and Betty) from problems that were threatening to become disruptive. At that point, it had become a need. It was an investment in ourselves.


The vacation budget is depleted, but we did not borrow any money, leave any balance on our credit cards at the end of the month, or in anyway disrupt our retirement budget. We planned for it, saved for it, and made it happen.

Frugality and retirement do work together. It requires being flexible. It means you know yourself well enough to understand what you need and what you can adjust to being without. It doesn't have to mean leading a bare-bones, sterile, hand-to-mouth existence at all. It is about re-balancing what you have and how you will mold it into what you need.

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December 9, 2011

One Year Ago Today

My mother died one year ago today. It is hard to believe she has been gone that long. A friend of mine whose mother died five years ago mentioned recently he was upset because he could no longer remember his mom's voice. I hadn't really thought of the erosion of specific memories and pieces of a person until that comment. I can still remember my mom quite vividly but I wonder when that will start to slip.

What I remember most are the life lessons she taught me:
  •  Be honest and trustworthy
  •  Protect my reputation at all costs
  •  Help the less fortunate 
  •  Reading is a priceless gift. Use it every day
  •  Treat my wife like the jewel she is
  •  Keep smiling no matter what the circumstances. Attitude counts.
  •  Always put family first
  •  Never let your children down..be there for them forever
  •  Stay married (she made 63 years)
  •  If in doubt check the dictionary

Thanks, mom for making me the man I am today. I miss you and your strong presence. I am watching over dad, not as well as you did, but I'm doing my best.

December 7, 2011

Arrogant Ignorance: Are Those Fighting Words?

The president of Arizona State University, Michael Crow, recently gave a fiery speech to a group of area leaders. As head of the nation's largest public research university he is well aware of the problems facing our society and particularly the educational system. In his speech he did not mince his words. Based on how directly he spoke I think we can assume he isn't running for a political office.

Intrigued by some of what he said, I thought several of his comments were worth repeating, with a thought or two of mine added. My thanks to an article by Sonu Munshi in the Arizona Republic for alerting me to his message.

Mr. Crow said, "A collective arrogant ignorance" holds the nation back. He cited the educational system that's not innovative enough, a lack of awareness or even acknowledgment, of global competition, and a lack of long-term vision. He said we, as a country, are resting on our laurels.  "We don't understand ...the development of the rest of the world as competitors. He went on to say " we are the means by which solutions will be derived."

Turning to the educational system, he noted we should be comparing our educational system not with the schools across town, but "with schools internationally." He accused his fellow university presidents of being too focused on the elite students and not thinking of what's best for educating the entire country.

Wow. I wonder what the reaction was in the meeting hall to those thoughts. He pulled no punches in laying blame where he saw it: the lack of appreciation for how the global economy has changed and a certain smugness on our part, the inability of the educational system to stay competitive, and the focus on just the cream of the crop, not everyone who is required to help us compete.

Personally, I believe he has made some extremely important points that more than just 200 people in a conference in suburban Phoenix need to hear and think about. What is your reaction? Is he addressing critical issues that need to be discussed, or is he making things out to be much worse than they actually are? Are we living with our collective heads in the sand about the world changes, or are we positioned to continue to lead the world in innovation and technology?

This post is shorter than normal, but his message speaks volumes. I'd really like your feedback. Let's avoid political shots or name-calling, but otherwise, this is an important issue that can generate both heat and light. The answers we as a society come up with will affect not just those of us striving for a satisfying retirement, but every one of us, regardless of age or status. On this anniversary date of Pearl Harbor it seems appropriate to look at our nation's mindset then, and where we are today. Let's talk about the changes.


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December 5, 2011

Do You "Fit" The Satisfying Retirement Profile: Part 2

Far and away the post from last month about fitting the normal profile of the satisfying retirement regular blog reader generated the greatest number of comments of anything I have written. For the vast majority, the profile of a typical reader did describe folks well. I was also encouraged to learn that many pre-retirees find the information useful.

But, that post only dealt with four basic descriptions: age, education, kids at home, and where the blog was most often read. I know it would be helpful if I have a more complete picture. So, this time, I ask you to respond to four more profile questions. Like the previous post, this will help me better target what I write about to match your needs and interests.

  • Which social networks do you visit, at least occasionally? By this I mean sites like Facebook, Twitter, Over 50 is Nifty, etc. Which, if any, are part of your experience?

  • Do you ever visit YouTube? This site now features full length movies in addition to millions of videos of people, places, and things. Millions visit every day. Are you one of them?

  • Do you spend any time with on-line forums? These are like chat rooms where folks of similar interest often ask questions and get answers from other forum members, or become involved in an ongoing discussion on a topic that is important to the reader. If you do spend time with forums, which ones?

  • Besides Satisfying Retirement which blogs do you visit regularly? To keep the list manageable, please list the 3 or 4 that are most important to you. They could be on any subject, not just retirement issues.

That's it, four more questions that will help me tremendously as I strive to make this blog as useful, entertaining, and on-target to you as I can.

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December 4, 2011

Traveling abroad..8 Tips for a Safer Trip

Travel is one of many joys of a satisfying retirement. The change in routine and chance to learn something about other cultures and food make travel, especially to international destinations, a dream many of us hope for. But, like anything else, there are some pitfalls to be aware of. Guest author, Isabella Woods, provided me with the following article that highlights important ways to stay safe when traveling abroad. 


With the average life expectancy of a US citizen now reaching almost 84,  there’s more time than ever to enjoy travelling abroad. If you are concerned about health and safety, here are discover 8 tips to help keep you safe wherever your travels take you…


1. If you’re travelling alone, let your family or friends know where you’re going and when. Give them a simple itinerary – it’ll help keep their minds at ease, and if anything does go wrong then they’ll know where you are and who to contact. We understand the whole point of a holiday is getting away from it all, but if you can provide a friend or a family member with details of where you’ll be staying, do so. And we’re sure they won’t bother you unless they need to!


2. Pack a decent first aid kit. Maybe you’re the sort of person who never gets ill, but when you’re travelling abroad in unusual climates, eating food your body isn’t used to, and messing with your internal body clock, it’s much more likely you’ll pick up a bug. Make sure you take these essentials: diarrhea tablets, paracetamol, insect repellent, and bandages. Also, make sure you check with your doctor before travelling in case you need any specific vaccinations – more than half of tetanus cases are in people over the age of 65, so a tetanus booster is sensible pre-vacation practise. However, some vaccines, like the yellow fever vaccine for example, aren’t recommended to people over 60 or if you suffer from a chronic illness. If yellwo fever is a problem at your planned destination that into consideration.


3. So you’ve raided your best savings account and stumped up the cash for a superb holiday and enough spending money so you won’t go short. We’re jealous already! But in terms of that spending money, it’s always best to go for a mixture of cash, travelers’ checks and cards. If you’re going somewhere unusual, make sure you order any currency a few weeks in advance. Also make sure you have some travelers’ checks, too – and write down the numbers of these on a piece of paper and keep that safe – it will help if your checks get stolen. Also, perhaps you’d like to consider pre-paid Canadian credit cards. You basically upload a sum of money to the card and then use it abroad as you would a debit or credit card – withdrawing money at ATMs and using it to pay for your bills. Generally they offer very competitive exchange rates and you won’t feel as vulnerable if you might if you’re carrying a wad of cash around. Also, write down your card number and take down the emergency number just in case you’re unlucky enough to be the victim of theft.


4. Take a bottle of antibacterial hand gel and carry it with you. This little bottle will be a godsend on holiday, as it never means having to find a fresh supply of water and a bar of soap to make sure your hands are clean. Use it before and after a meal to help keep germs at bay and keep your risk of catching a nasty bug to the minimum.


5. Take your cell phone. Or, if you’ve got one that you’d rather not lose or have anything bad happen to, buy a cheap basic model that you can take with you. If you’re staying in one country for a considerable length of time it may prove cheaper to buy a SIM card once you’re out there. However, you can also get SIM cards that you can use internationally. It’s always helpful to know, if you need to, you can get in touch with anyone should something go wrong – and having a cell phone with you is the quickest way of doing this. There are companies that rent cell phones for your use overseas, which may be your best option.


6. It’s highly likely you’ll want to document your holiday. However, it’s advisable to make sure you keep more expensive belongings like cameras out of sight most of the time. Use them only when you need to and make sure you wrap the camera strap around your wrist for added protection from thieves. Once you’ve finished using your camera, pack it away safely and zip up your bag – an open compartment is just asking for someone to dip in and try their luck.


7. Keep the expensive jewelry at home. Even if you’re planning on going out in the evenings and want to wear a fancy outfit, it’s best to take jewelry that doesn’t have stacks of sentimental value and didn’t cost a small fortune. Stick to costume jewelry or simple basics. Even if you’re staying in an upmarket resort, pickpockets and chancers may well be rife – and if you look like you’re a rich picking you’ll be their first port of call.


8. Finally, if you’re travelling across the pond to the UK you’ll be in good company – as Americans make up the second highest proportion of the annual 5.4 million over 55s to this little isle. But you’ll be in for a long plane journey, so make sure you wear your flight socks, walk up and down the aisle every so often, and perform in-flight exercises to help make sure deep vein thrombosis is kept at bay. If you suffer from varicose veins you’ll be more susceptible so be aware of this and make sure you do your best to move your feet and ankles while onboard the flight.
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Thanks, Isabella. On a personal note I have rented a cell phone before trips abroad and found them a tremendous plus for safety and keeping in touch. The phone is mailed to your home before you go. Upon your return home, you simply send it back in the prepaid envelope. Since most American cell phones don't work in many other countries, this is a very viable option.


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December 2, 2011

Relationship-Building With Your Parents While There is Still Time

A year ago I had a post that offered some ideas on how to make the relationship between you and your adult children better as you journey through your satisfying retirement. If you missed it check it out here. A reader suggested I take a look at the changing relationship between us and our elderly parents. 


Over the past year I have experienced this shift in my dealings with my dad. Mom died just about a year ago, leaving him alone for the first time in over 63 years. The family had real concerns about his ability to adjust to life without her. For over six decades his life had been completely centered on her and her happiness. If I ever needed a model for a loving husband I only had to look at him. But, what would happen after the object of that devotion was no longer there? Would he become depressed, withdrawn, and simply wait to join her?


The answer has shocked us all. He has maintained his lifelong positive attitude. At almost 88 years of age, he continues to live independently, sing in two different choirs, read at least a book a week, participate in family gatherings (like last week's Thanksgiving dinner), maintain a clean home, and develop a routine for shopping and laundry. 

More to the point of this post, his relationship with me and my wife, Betty has deepened. We have become the human anchors in his life. Certainly not in the way he interacted with mom, but he cherishes our visits. When we have lunch with him every Saturday at the retirement community dining room, he always refers us as his "very special friends" to the hostess. He saves newspapers and magazines he thinks we will enjoy.


He has become comfortable with turning over virtually all of his financial matters to me. I always tell him what is going on and what his broker suggests, but he trusts me to handle his estate so the assests will be there for his three sons. While he still likes to write checks to pay the monthly fee to the retirement community, everything else is my responsibility. I had begun to be his financial ears and eyes a few years ago, but the degree to which he has turned control over to me has accelerated since mom's passing.

Never a talkative soul, he has slowly begun to initiate conversations and ask questions about other family members. Trust me, that is a big change. While mom was alive he was perfectly content to simply sit and listen. And, until the last few visits that remained his style. But, suddenly, over the last month or so he has initiated conversations about political and world events, asked how certain family members are doing, and whether I think his beloved Phoenix Suns will play again this season. If I mention something in passing, a week or two later he will ask a logical follow up question.

He has begun to limit some of his activities. Daily walks around his neighborhood are rare due to back pain that was caused by lifting mom in and out of bed and wheelchairs for almost 2 years. Of course, I've asked him to see if a doctor could help, but he has decided not to pursue it. He drives very rarely and has announced that when the car battery dies he will give up driving (no, I'm not planning on leaving the lights on to speed up the process!). He is thinking of dropping out of the choir that is part of the church that he and mom attended. It is almost 15 miles away and the trip is tiring to him.

I do worry that his world is closing in on him. Unless we are visiting or he has choir rehearsal, his days are spent in a lounge chair reading and napping. He watches the news at dinner time and every Phoenix Suns game (when they are playing). Otherwise, he has expressed no interest in watching movies or listening to music. He has steadfastly refused to learn to use a computer but does carry a cell phone I purchased for him whenever he leaves the house. The community in which he lives offers all sorts of social activities, both on campus and off. But, he is uninterested. Even so, he seems happy and content. His short term memory is pretty spotty but he writes everything he must do in a notebook that operates as his calendar. He has yet to forget any appointments or paying he few bills he still likes to handle.

To watch him handle the greatest loss of his life with grace and maturity has been both surprising and gratifying. To have him begin to slowly open up and converse is a treat. Just a few months shy of his 88th birthday, I'd say dad is a blessing in my life that continues to amaze and please me.


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