August 24, 2012

3 Life-Altering Risky Choices

My satisfying retirement is settling into an end-of-summer slower routine. We have finished moving my dad into his assisted living apartment. My daughter, son-in-law and grandkids move into their new home over Labor Day weekend which will take some help from us, but no big deal. They have several friends to help. Betty and I are starting to get organized for our first ever RV trip in a little over a week. We will pick up the RV in Flagstaff and spend 9 days in the much cooler White Mountains, while Bailey the dog stays home with our other daughter.

Having a little extra time to think, I came up with an idea for this post that sounded like fun. I asked myself what are three big risks or life changes I could take in the near future. The answers had to be practical and possible; swimming across the English Channel was right out. I wanted to think of three things I could do that would really shake up my routine and life. Here is what I came up with:

1) Live in an RV for part of each year while traveling the country. Of course, if our time in Flagstaff isn't terribly enjoyable then this will drop from my list. But, in concept, what would my life be like if I was on the road for part of each year? What would it be like to travel back roads, stopping in small town or state parks for days or weeks at a time? Would we miss the familiarity of home, friends, family, and our daily schedule? Or would we find the uncertainty of what's around the next corner exciting and liberating?

Betty and I have talked about this very thing and think we'd like to try it for awhile. We listen to the stories that friends like Bill and Wendy Birnbaum tell us of their two month coast-to-coast trip in their RV. Tamara and Mike live in their RV for weeks at a time, now that both are retired, and love it. A couple I know lived full time in theirs for years.

2) Build a real business around the Satisfying Retirement brand. Blogging to me is mostly about fun and creativity. More than two years after starting all this I still enjoy the process, though I am giving some thought to taking a blogging sabbatical at some point down the road.

Satisfying Retirement is a phrase that this blog now "owns". A Google search will reference back to this blog almost exclusively.  The blog has been the reason behind my first book (with the second one well underway), magazine articles, the invitation to write for retirement books, being a paid contributor to a major PBS web site, and just recently, being contacted by a TV producer about a possible profile on national television sometime next year.

However I have not done much to turn that brand strength into income. Should I invest some of our savings in marketing, product development and speaking arrangements? Would it be wise to risk some of my retirement money to capitalize on the blog's status?  What would happen if I decided to turn satisfying retirement into a business? Am I ready to take on the full time commitment necessary to build a new business? If I did, my life would change in many ways.

3) Go back to school to get an advanced degree. I love to read and study. I thoroughly enjoy being around a college campus. I have toyed with the idea of going back to school to get a masters degree. What has stopped me are two major factors: cost and time.

The expenses would be substantial. With our close-to-the-vest style of retirement the money outlay would take a major bite out of our savings with no expectation of earning that money back. I would get a degree for the pure joy of study and the satisfaction of accomplishing the goal.

There is also the question of what would I want to study? The only subject that has popped into my head several times over the last few years is something involving religious studies or attending a seminary. Do I want to be a pastor? No. Then, why? I guess because my faith is important to me and the more I know the better I will be able to accept the unexplainable. It is a subject that requires a serious amount of deep thinking and writing. Could I learn Greek at my age? I have no idea. I guess that would be part of the risk.


So, there you have it. Three things I could conceivably do that would certainly alter a part of my satisfying retirement lifestyle. At the moment I am not rushing to any decision. But, it is good to consider possibilities and options, isn't it?

I must say I am having an absolutely fabulous time reading the answers the BRITW (best readers in the world) have submitted for the next book. It is giving me a tremendous insight into the state of retirement today...both the pluses and the drawbacks. Many responses talk about making changes in lifestyle and direction, taking some risks, and not settling.

What about you? What "risks" or changes in how you approach your daily life or retirement direction might be something you'd consider?  Give us your ideas. We are all open to shaking things up every now and then.

37 comments:

  1. All three of your goals sound tremendous, each carrying the potential for real life changes should you wish to proceed on any or all. And of course, you can start with dipping your toe, rather than diving in headfirst on any or all.

    Mike and I are so hoping you and Betty find similar enjoyment from your upcoming RV trip as we do. We leave shortly for two back to back RV beach trips, 8 nights in total, and I'm chomping at the bit to get started.

    We have two changes we plan to bring into our lives in the next 12 months - we will be embarking on our first ever overnight backpacking trip and our first ever Metric Century (a 62 mile bicycling event). We also have biking the Oregon Coast and doing the "famous" bike ride across Iowa in mind for 2014.

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    1. Readers, I'll share a little from my upcoming book: Tamara and Mike have the most amazingly full and active retirement life. If I ever run out of motivation all I have to do is ask Tamara what her schedule is for the next few months. I'll have a lifetime of ideas!

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  2. All three choices are interesting.
    Could you simply contact community centers in places you would like to visit to see if you can give a talk and pitch your next book?

    As for returning to school....contact the university/ seminary and see if they offer senior classes.... The community college system in AZ is one of the best in the nation for other subjects...

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    1. Good idea, Janette, about giving talks at RV parks or other places we visit to see if they'd like a short presentation. I could develop a small press release and handout to develop some interest.

      We live close to two community college campus locations, plus ASU West which has developed into a major center. ASU's main campus is only 30 minutes away. Grand Canyon University has almost doubled in size over the last few years and offers a lot. So....all I have to do is decide.

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  3. Great post. I think it is important to at least consider shaking up one's lifestyle. By the way, where I live if you are 65+ tuition to state college is waived. Might be the same for your state.

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    1. I am more in your camp than the comment just below. Sure there are risks in anything...life is a continuous risk. Carefully weighs the risks versus the rewards before doing anything. But to be terrified of any change is not really living. I'll stick with the Jimmy Buffett line, "I'd rather die while I am living, than live while I'm dead."

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  4. I took risks and challenges my whole entire life. After 2 failed businesses, bankruptcy and becoming completely broke two times in my life, I am DONE. I'm 62 years old. I wouldn't take another risk if you paid me to. My mantra was to take all the risks while I was younger and able to work to recover my losses. You can't do that when you are older. Do yo have any idea what it is like to lose money, your savings, your business, etc? It's not a walk in the park, that's for sure. Plus, you get a lot of admonishment from friends and family who will NOT bail you out.
    Yahoo is profiling 4 couples and all their financial problems. One of the couples is 60+ and the husband lost his job at 58. So, he took the couple's retirement fund and opened a hardware store. Then slightly afterwards, he suffered a heart attack. That wasn't in their plan. To get to the end of the story....the couple lost everything...home, business, health etc. What an idiot. Wife is devastated. She cries all the time. They had a full wonderful life ahead of them but the husband was obstinate.
    Think long and hard before you do anything Bob. Be prepared to lose everything. One lawsuit and you are out of luck. Think you can't be sued? Ha! Plus your health.......and so on and so on.
    I have a great life now. Two times out. The third time and I'll be completely out. No siree. Risk taking is for the young. Something we older people must learn.

    Good luck in whatever you do.

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    1. I don't believe I should stop growing and changing just because I am above a certain age. I also don't believe in risking my family's financial security without serious backup plans.

      I am overly cautious by nature but refuse to act dead before my time. Taking guitar lessons is a risk. Camping in an RV is a risk. Heavens...going to Oregon to spend time with people I had never met was a big risk...but it turned into one of the greatest experiences of my life. We made tremendous new friends and found a place we want to spend some time each year.

      Putting $300,000 into a new business...never going to happen. Investing 20 or $30,000...maybe.

      Thanks for your good wishes. Don't worry....I never rush into something without analyzing it to death.

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    2. Right you are, Bob. This person is talking extremes and I'm quite sure that this is very far from what you were driving at. RV'ing for a few months? Why not? I don't think you'll lose everything over that.

      Life is greatly enhanced by taking reasonable risks. Don't be reckless but take a chance sometime. It's incredibly exhilarating.

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  5. Let's see what three things would I list.

    1. Going back to school, but that had to be eliminted due to the cost vs. ROI.
    2. Cutting a year off my retirement schedule from 7 to 6 years. I'd have to either work part time or make up the difference with savings :(
    3. Get married again. This one is planned to take place in the next two years, and while I'm happy about the idea, I'm also uneasy too. I've been single since 1986. I wonder if I can make room for someone else.

    I look forward to your comments Bob. ;)

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    1. Three interesting choices, Gail. I have no advice for options #3. There are certain places a man should not tread.

      #2....I'd do what I had to do to make this happen. Retirement is a tremendous time of your life. Anything you can do to get there sooner is worth the sacrifice and effort.

      #1....understand.

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  6. I like how you think Bob. Exploring new things and continuing to learn is important to staying vital, in my opinion.

    My mantra is...I don't want to outlive my usefulness. If you stop growing mentally what becomes of you? I will always look for new things to learn and challenges to take. Otherwise I may as well just move into the old age home and wait to die. NOT happening!
    b

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    1. The more I learn about you while reading your blog the more impresed I am with your personal courage and never-say-never attitude. Your recent post about abuse was powerful and important.

      Keep reaching for the stars (thank you, Casey Kasem).

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    2. I'm glad you thought that post important Bob, because I truly did. I've always advocated for more compassion and understanding of victims and fewer legal loop holes for the abusers.
      Thanks. b

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  7. Well, after preparing for many years my wife and I committed to having me transition from full time to consultant status at my firm. Doing this at age 53 is non-traditional, and I see some parallels to Bob's own story that he has kindly shared regarding his transition. It seems like a pretty big step to us, especially since I have been with the same firm my entire career (and since, like Bob, we are pretty cautious sorts). Cheers!

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    1. Risky move....but I am sure well thought out. I managed it at 52 and am still happily afloat. Best of luck Rick (and wife!). Let us know how it goes.

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  8. We have two out of three in common big time, Bob. Although I've no interest in starting a business, I'm itching to get on the road in our RV, and I keep a running log of places, people and things of interest for when we can go a wandering.

    If that doesn't happen soon, I'm bit by the seminary bug too. The Graduate Theological Union (GTU) is at Cal Berkeley, just up the road. The Lutheran Seminary (my denomination) offers a one year Certificate of Theology program that just piques my interest. Half the course work is prescribed, and half you get to plan yourself, and you have access to all of the schools in the GTU. Let's see, in addition to the Lutherans, the GTU also has the Episcopalians, the Greek Orthodox, the American Baptists, the Dominicans, the Jesuits (I think), and just to make things really interesting, the Unitarians, and the Buddhists. The Presbyterians are up in San Anselmo, but they cooperate. Oh, and there's also a rabbinical school. I've probably left out a few more. They all share one library, doesn't that sound like fun!

    I also share your dilemma - what use is it?

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    1. That does sound like a dream situation. I should look into a similar program locally. A one year "wet your interest" type of study might be perfect.

      The RV trip will do one of two things: push me into buying an RV and being gone a lot, or curing the itch and saying I glad I finally did it, but it isn't my thing. If I had to guess, I think the reaction will be the former.

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    2. I would LOVE to be near the GTU. You are sooooo fortunate. Yes, it is the Jesuits---but the very liberal side.

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  9. I've toyed with the idea of getting a masters of divinity at a Buddhist college here in Portland, but like you, I'm not sure about the time and the money. Especially the time. My days are so full now, I think that is not high on my list. More realistic is recommitting myself to learning Chinese. My daughter's trip to China this summer, along with meeting several Chinese people lately, got my interest revved up again. Not really lifestyle changes like living in an RV, but as much change as I want.

    Your idea of starting a business would be very successful, I'm sure. With all us baby boomers, you have a ready made audience. Your challenge, I think, would not be how to make it successful, but rather how to keep it fun.

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    1. Keeping a business fun...that's the key, isn't it.

      The nice part is I don't need to do it for the money..that would be a bonus. But, I would tackle it more for the challenge.

      No decisions and no rush to make one: that's the nice part of retirement.

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    2. Yes - the challenge is keeping the business fun. I started a "fun" business a few years back, purchased a laser engraver, put it in my garage, and headed for the Little League baseball fields selling engraved mini-baseball bats. It was fun! Expanded product lines - pens, picture frames, plaques, etc. Morphed it to a website & eBay store too. More fun!

      Somewhere along the way it was no longer fun. Prior to shutting the business down last year, I got to the point where - product was product, it didn't matter that it was a "fun" product anymore. In the end I concluded, if you charge money, it is about the money.

      No regrets doing it though. Learned an incredible amount about business, much more than I thought I knew from my business degree :)
      And it is still a viable opportunity to do something similar when I do retire. But, at the end of the day, it is a business and business is hard.

      Good luck with your decision.

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    3. When I built my first business I was desperate: just fired, young family, little money, new to strange city. I did what I had to do.

      Now, I don't have that very strong motivator or the burning desire. So, the odds of my investment in time, energy, and money would likely not have the same outcome.

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  10. We had an RV 15 years ago. We took several trips - all with six children in tow (though not always the same six) - and then parked the RV in our backyard as a residence for one of our kids while she went to college. We gave it away to a homeless acquaintance.

    Now, I'd like to take a journey in it. But we've found an alternative in road trips where we stay with people we haven't met. Lots of interesting experiences and quite economical.

    I think keeping my mind active is an investment in my older years. Whether it's learning a new skill (like mediation, in my case), or marketing a book, or earning another degree, I think it's about the journey of it, not just the destination.

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    1. You are our resident expert in coach-surfing. From your blog post write ups I gather it has been succesful for you and Art.

      You are so right: keeping my mind (and body) active is what I really care about.

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  11. I am sure that the RV trip will be a great success. I have learned that if you talk about and dream about something long enough you will eventually make it happen.

    As far as additional education - Malcolm considered becoming a Mediator in our area but when he reviewed the costs and time commitment to the process vs the return, he could no longer justify his interest. I think that is the case for a lot of us. Taking an occasional class (just for fun) is enough stimulation for me.

    Expanding your business would be exciting. And you seem to be realistic about the "investment" to do so. But, I agree with Barb; will it still be fun? We have both had opportunities to "work," during retirement but unless it is short term, we agree that it gets in the way of what we would rather be doing.

    As for me, I continue to explore options - we just hosted our first "Evergreen Club" couple for two nights and in the fall I am going to take an organic gardening class where I will plant and tend my own vegetable garden. We are still "training" on our new Hybrid bikes and are now riding 15 miles round trip 2xweek. Maintaining balance while moving forward keeps life exciting for us. Best wishes.

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    1. Retired Syd, another blogger friend, has had that same experience. She went back to a high level CPA job but found the experience got in the way of how she really wanted to live.

      After 11 years of not working at something full time, I don't think I could crank it up enough to re-enter the world of commerce full time. Maybe just baby steps to build the brand bit by bit.

      Tell me a bit more about the bikes: what is the cost, are they the thick tire types, and do they have enough gears to make pedaling easy?

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    2. I'll quickly insert here if I may - we use our skinny tire road bikes for our long distance training rides, generally 35 miles on up, and our fat tire hybrids for running errands around town. I never huff or puff coming back up the hill to our house when on my road bike, but huff and puff like crazy when on my fat tire hybrid. Just saying!

      The hybrids are more stable in low speed situations, what Mike and I call city driving. The road bikes are far superior for efficiency and speed in the bicycling equivalent of freeway driving if you will.

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    3. Bob, I agree with Tamara completely. In fact, I relied on her advice when we bought our Hybrids. We are more the "city driving" kinds of bikers and like the stability of the Hybrids (the tires aren't as big as a beach cruiser but definitely smaller than a racer). Our bikes have upward of 21 gears and I rarely go past 14 or 15. We included a small bridge on our route last week and made it up the grade easily in 5th gear. We are not interested in fast, we just want to ride for 1 to 2 hours and get a decent workout while enjoying our time together - which is why we always include a breakfast break on our 15 mile rides.

      The best advice I can give when choosing your bikes is to know how you want to use them. We're not kids anymore. Well, maybe Tamara still is.

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    4. I second the thoughts on the hybrids. That's what I have. Although, I have to throw in that here in NYC I've been renting a "comfort bike". It looks like the old cruisers where you are sitting completely upright but it still has 21 gears and hand brakes (enough to get up those hills). It makes me feel like a kid again to ride that bike. Sure, I don't look like a "real" biker but it really is comfortable!

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  12. Hi Bob. This is a very interesting site. I retired early a little over 4 years ago. I took another route and moved from Boston to Penang, Malaysia to live. I found a lot of information on retiring in Latin America,but very little for Asia. So I decided to wing it alone. Now I am enjoying a lifestyle, that I couldn't have afforded back home. I love the advice you give to people to keep active. In retirement I discovered blogging, which I enjoy very much. My blog Retired in Malaysia (www.ifoundmalaysia.com) tells my story of retiring abroad.
    I also teach a little English to some Japanese expats here. I think there is so much more to do for retirees if they just look out there and expand their horizons.

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    1. Welcome! I'd think most of us would agree that a move from Boston to Malaysia qualifies as risky. But, your experience helps make my point: there is so much to be gained by trying new things and expanding one's horizon. BTW...some great pictures on your blog.

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  13. Steve in Los AngelesSun Aug 26, 01:56:00 AM MST

    My biggest fear is being forced to live frugally during my later years (age 80 and beyond). Age 80, which is 24 years away from my current age of 56, is still quite some time away from my current age, but it is not that far away. Therefore, I must take some calculated risks from now through the rest of my fifties to avoid living frugally during my later years. More specifically, I need to make some financial changes now for the next few years. Fortunately, I do not mind living frugally right now (i.e., at my current age through age 60) too much. First, I may need to change my current health plan provider, which currently is fairly expensive for me on a monthly basis before Medicare goes into effect for me at age 65, to another health plan provider, which will be free on a monthly basis at the beginning of next year as my former employer will pay the entire monthly premium cost. Since I am in excellent health, the proposed health plan provider should be satisfactory. Second, I may need to find another source of income (to supplement my current sources of income) through March 2017. Third, I need to continue to be creative in managing my expenses. Creativity includes walking as often as necessary instead of driving and instead of even utilizing public transportation, shopping frugally for food, and spending money with a monetary frame of mind.

    I am confident that my money-making strategy and my saving-money strategy for the next several years will work out satisfactorily.

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    1. I agree. You are both strongly focused on a specific goal and have the will power to make it happen. If I'm still blogging at 87, I expect you'll report on your continued good health and financial well-being as you reach 80.

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    2. Steve in Los AngelesMon Aug 27, 01:43:00 AM MST

      Thank you, Bob. I want to let you know that, on Sunday, I walked to a town hall meeting sponsored by my United States Congressman at a local high school in the afternoon and to a choir practice in the early evening. I walked approximately six miles on Sunday. After the choir rehearsal, one of my friends wanted to drive me home. It was well into the evening, so I graciously thanked him and he drove me home.

      I certainly plan to report on my continued good health and financial well-being as I approach age 80. I will be celebrating my 60th birthday in less than 3 1/2 years. I have a feeling that the twenty years of my life between age 60 and age 80 will not be as demanding as the decade of my fifties, because I will not have be as frugal during that 20-year period as I am currently. Staying financially fit and especially physically fit takes some effort and quite a bit of work, but the results definitely are worth the effort and work.

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  14. Bob, you have the busiest mind of any person I know. I love all of your ideas and I think YOU should do that stuff. The brand name is wonderful and maybe the RV travel could be a part of that.

    As for the school,I am a true believer in life long learning. Just remember that "formal school" means that you are doing your learning on someone else's timeline. Does that work for you?

    Have fun with the trip...I am looking forward to your thoughts. Give me a ring if you need any unwanted advice. I have lots of it! :)

    Pictures came...love that you thought of us.

    b

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    1. Enjoy the pictures of our time together in July. There are close to 1,000 of them so either clear a few hours or spread it over a few nights!

      Sometimes my mind is too busy. I woke up this morning at 4:30, thinking about taxes, IRA withdrawls, and installing wood floors in our home. No wonder I need naps.

      I'll be posting a few times during the RV trip..stay tuned.

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