February 29, 2012

Leap Year: So What's The Deal? - Plus Info On My Newest Book

I'm sure you know February 29th makes this a leap year...the once every four year addition of an extra day to poor little February to make the calendar stay on track....sort of like finding the cash drawer short at the end of your shift and adding a $20 to make everything balance out.


But, that isn't quite true. Over a 400 year period of leap years, we'd end up with a year that is 3 days too long. Eventually, after thousands of years, winter would happen in June in the Northern Hemisphere.

So, leap years only occur in years easily divided by 400. Actually, to get completely technical: a leap year is any year whose date is exactly divisible by 4 except those which are divisible by 100 but not 400. Confused? You may consider the approach most of us take. If there are 29 days in February on next year's calendar, then it is a leap year. Actually, Leap Year has a rather strange series of traditions and beliefs. The web site Ask.com has a section of urban legends. David Emery writes that:

"Persons born on leap day, February 29, are called "leaplings" or "leapers. It was once thought that leapling babies would inevitably prove sickly and hard to raise." Continuing, he notes that " It used to be said, that beans and peas planted during a leap year "grow the wrong way" — whatever that means — and, in the words of the Scots, "Leap year was never a good sheep year."

Most of us have heard that leap year confers upon women the "privilege" of proposing marriage to men. The convention was that any man who refused such a proposal owed his spurned suitor a silk gown and a kiss — provided she was wearing a red petticoat at the moment she popped the question. Seems like there were enough exceptions to keep this from from happening very often.

There is a Greek superstition that claims couples have bad luck if they marry during a leap year. Apparently one in five engaged couples in Greece will avoid planning their wedding during a leap year. An actual law once existed in Scotland forbidding a man to refuse a proposal made to him on February 29th. Punishment for such an offense was a large fine.

So much for Leap Year....an odd adjustment to the calendar that happens for all sorts of important reasons...that we can safely ignore.


Now, two announcements for February 29th:


I am privileged to be included in a new book that is available in bookstores and on-line. From what I understand the first printing has already been sold out to the book sellers, with a second printing underway.


The book is 65 Things to Do When You Retire. This fun, and inspiring guide features 65 essays with advice from noted authors, retirement experts, and yours truly,....people who have used their satisfying retirement as an opportunity to turn their personal dreams into a reality.


I am honored to be included with other contributors that include former president Jimmy Carter, Gloria Steinem, John E. Nelson (author of What Color is Your Parachute? For Retirement), and Liz Pryor (“life advice guru” for Good Morning America).


All royalties from the sale of the book are donated to non profit organizations dedicated to preventing and curing cancer. My understanding is that over $100,000 has been donated so far from several previous projects.

As soon as I receive my copy I will give you more information. I am excited and honored to be including with these 65 retirement pros and national figures.


Secondly, to celebrate the publishing of this new book as well as a thank you for your support and readership, I have permanently dropped the price of my e-book, Building a Satisfying Retirement to just $.99. Now you have no excuse for not downloading a copy by clicking on this link. After you download it, I'd really appreciate your adding a review to the Amazon page (if it is a good one. Otherwise, e-mail me about what you didn't like and I'll fix any problems in future additions!).


So, Leap Year 2012 turns out to be kind of a big day after all.

February 26, 2012

I've Been Twacked! (My Twitter Account Was hacked)

from Google images
Well, I guess it had to happen: my Twitter Account was hacked into about a week ago, ruining the beginning of my satisfying retirement week. I opened a Direct Message from a blogger I am friends with just before going to sleep, and all heck broke loose while I slept. I woke up to all sorts of Tweets from followers accusing me of being a robot, an idiot, or other charming names. Others were kind enough to suggest my account had been compromised.

I opened my Direct Messages and saw hundreds of bogus messages sent out in my name. As fast as I deleted them more kept coming. They all said the same thing: Did you see what this Tweet said about you? This was followed by a shortened link. Clicking that link took someone to a Romanian web site that promptly stole that person's password and sent the same message to everyone of their followers.

A nightmare!

The account had been so screwed up I couldn't even sign in to change my password. Apparently, the phishers had changed my password blocking me from my own account. Eventually, I managed to get to a Twitter help screen to submit a form to change my password. Of course, that meant changing it for several other sites, too. And, just to be safe I changed the password on my Google account so this blog couldn't be hijacked or spammed. Next, after about half a dozen attempts I managed to deactivate my Twitter account. The hope is by changing passwords and closing down the account for awhile, the computer that was flooding the world with my name would go somewhere else. I also deactivated all third party apps that interacted with Twitter.

Perhaps you are wondering why don't I just move on and forget Twitter? Simple: promotion. Twitter is an important source of traffic to satisfying retirement blog. I use it to promote new and old posts on this blog. I take interesting articles from my two daily e-newspapers and provide links. I exchange tweets with followers. So, while I can live without it, losing Twitter would hurt my blog's growth.

Update: After waiting several days, I reactivated my account. So far, so good. But, I will never again click on a link that appears in a direct message...too much spam and too easy to compromise my account.


What to do if this happens to you:

  1. Change your twitter password
  2. Revoke all third party apps
  3. Tweet apologies to all followers
  4. Tweet specific message to be on lookout for
  5. If this doesn't send the spammer packing, deactivate your account (have up to 30 days to restart without losing followers and Twitter name)
  6. Wish the spammer a painful and near-fatal skin condition

How about you? Ever been hacked, or password stolen? Ever had anyone mess with your on-line bill paying? Share your experiences and what the outcome was. We can all learn from each other.

February 24, 2012

Our Health: The Concerns That Keep Us Awake At Night

As you are well aware, right behind financial concerns and questions, health is something that all of us think about as we attempt to navigate the sometimes choppy waters of a satisfying retirement lifestyle. While a cliché, the statement, "if you don't have your health you don't have anything," is absolutely true. By health I'm not talking about maintaining the energy and flexibility, eye sight and strength that you had at 30 or 40. Rather, in our context being healthy means being able to care for ourselves, enjoy friends and family, engage in physical activities appropriate to our age, and learn to manage the pains and limitations that are part of aging.

Because I am not a doctor (if I were I would have better health care!)  I am not prepared to suggest how you can live well as long as possible. What I am good at is locating web sites that will give you additional information or ways to learn more, if that disease and infirmity is one you want to know more about.

I have found lists of the major health concerns of older folks. They are remarkably similar so I trust they have captured the top-of-mind topics that might be important to you. After each, I will provide some links to web sites that can give more more information. At the end, I will provide some links to previous articles I have written that you may have missed.

I wish God had decided to design our bodies so we stay fit and healthy until the second we drop dead. But, that isn't how it works, so here are our top health worries:

#1 on all lists is heart health. The most common condition for those over 65 is some type of heart problem. We know about the negative effects of smoking, lack of exercise, or being over weight. But, what are some of the signals of problems and what can we do?



Next on the list of concerns is a stroke. According to the National Stroke Association, "A stroke or "brain attack" occurs when a blood clot blocks an artery (a blood vessel that carries blood from the heart to the body) or a blood vessel (a tube through which the blood moves through the body) breaks, interrupting blood flow to an area of the brain. When either of these things happen, brain cells begin to die and brain damage occurs. When brain cells die during a stroke, abilities controlled by that area of the brain are lost. There are different severities of strokes, some leaving no permanent damage, others just some weakness, while major strokes affect one's ability to speak or move.



Cancer is a disease virtually all of us have some personal contact with, either because of family or friends. In particular, female breast cancer is a high profile concern, while males die way too often from prostate cancer. The number of sites that deal with cancer in all its various forms number in the millions. Here are just a few to help you get started in your own investigation.



Pneumonia and Flu are certainly not restricted to older folks. But, the consequences tend to be  more severe. In fact, pneumonia is the fifth highest killer of those over 65. Since seniors tend to have more lung problems it is often hard to diagnose pneumonia until it is advanced.



Falls and accidents around the home. Simple falls or accidents that would have no long term effect on a younger person can prove fatal to someone older. Not only does it take longer for an injury to heal, but too often other complications like pneumonia occur because of the extended time spent lying in a bed. Osteoporosis creates brittle bones that may never heal properly.


Eye issues, like macular degeneration and cataracts. This is an area of health concerns that strikes a real chord with me. My mom began to lose her sight to wet MD about 3 years before her death. Aggressive treatments with shots did not help. Within 18 months she could only tell light from dark.  As a life-long teacher and reader, losing her sight was very difficult for her. It directly contributed to her falling, breaking her leg, and forcing her to spend the last year and a half of her life in a hospital and nursing care center. Personally, I believe Macular Degeneration shortened her life by several years and destroyed the quality of the time she had left.



Unfortunately, I have only begun to scratch the surface of  health issues that affect us. I'll save a similar post for links that deal with Diabetes, Osteoporosis, Dementia and Alzheimer's, and depression. These are not cherry subjects nor ones that most of us want to spend much time with. Unfortunately, that is part of the problem. Education and awareness helps both the senior having issues and the caregivers trying to protect that person's quality of life as much as possible.

Related Posts

February 22, 2012

Adjusting to Retirement: Being Together Full Time

The goal..but it takes work
What is one of the most important questions about a satisfying retirement cannot be answered until it happens? "How will my home life change?" If you are the person leaving work, you are wondering about managing your time and staying busy. If you happen to be the person already at home you are wondering what is going to happen when your partner is around the house 24 hours a day.

Figures that specify the divorce rate among retired folks are a little hard to come by. But, for married people over 50, the divorce rate has more than doubled in the last 20 years. Some lawyers report up to 25% of their clients are men and women over 65. Certainly there are lots of reasons for a marriage to end. But, severe strain on a relationship can occur when at-home routines are disturbed by a newly retired spouse. Also, the reason for retiring can affect what happens at home. Being forced from work leaves a much different taste in one's mouth than voluntarily ending employment at a particular job.

Some of the problems that often arise when a newly-retired spouse is suddenly home full-time are well documented:

  • The retiree has lost a major source of self-identity. Especially for men, so much of who we are is defined by our job. When that ends there is a shock to the ego and we can feel cut off from society. Men have to find a new way to define themselves outside of work or activities.
  • When the blush of sleeping late wears off, there is the realization of diminished income. Suddenly, expenses that were not questioned can become points of argument.
  • Seeing your spouse all day, everyday, can quickly wear thin, if the partners do not have a healthy relationship. . After building parallel lifestyles for decades, their time is suddenly shared with just one other person. Folks discover they have little in common and very little to talk about.

Dr. Larry Anderson wrote a personal look at his impending retirement in the on-line magazine, IMPOWERAGE, and made a point that I discovered in doing some basic research for this post.:"there has been much less investigation of women’s retirement experience. It is reported that, as working couples age, men report greater marital satisfaction than women. Comparing men and women’s retirement is somewhat like comparing apples and oranges. For instance, women are more likely to work part time.  Women may have more interests outside of work and thus have less of an adjustment when retiring."

 
I would speculate that younger generations will produce more meaningful data in this regard. As women continue to be a significant part (if not the majority) of the work force, there will be instances when the husband has retired and is at home, while his wife continues to remain employed. When she stops working, how will the dynamics change?

What Others Are Saying

The good news is there are definite actions that can be taken before things reach such a critical state. 

Communicate Openly. Communication both before and after retirement is essential. Guys are generally less likely to want to "talk," but in this case self-interest dictates that they do. It is important that couples discuss
their expectations for retirement from a personal perspective, such as interests, goals, even long range goals. In addition, discussions from the couple's point of view are just as critical. What activities will be shared, what goals are the same, even intimacy issues.


Setting Boundaries. We all have different needs for "alone" and "together" time. To ignore that reality is harmful to the relationship. There must be a balance between "separateness" (personal privacy, pursuing individual hobbies, spending time with friends) and "togetherness" (participating in joint activities and socializing as a couple).

Don't forget to discuss time spent with family and friends, both his and hers. Women tend to have a stronger social circle of female friends while guys don't. Men can get jealous if his wife is busy with friend activities while he sits at home.

Obviously, that is his problem to solve by making friends, taking on new activities, and building an interesting life outside the home. But, just because he is the one with the friend deficit doesn't mean both partners shouldn't discuss the issue.

 
Prepare for the loss of how you have defined yourself. The end of work can lead to feelings of depression, or of being worthless. Couples need to recognize this can be a serious problem. Working together to help each other  feel a sense of fulfillment through other activities is important. This is where hobbies, interests outside the home, volunteering, or discovering a new passion become so important.

Designate household tasks. This is one of the biggies. Deciding the role of each partner in keeping a household functioning more important than many couples realize. A common source of conflict for retired couples involves the division of labor in the home. Will the division of chores that existed before retirement still work? Will the retired spouse be expected to divide tasks more equally? This needs to be discussed. Making assumptions can spell big trouble.

The number one complaint from women whose husbands have retired falls into this category. Assuming they operated with a "traditional" division of chores before retirement, the wife gets unhappy very quickly when suddenly she is expected to prepare three meals a day, plus do the shopping, laundry, and housecleaning like she did when he was gone 8 hours a day. Hubby is perceived to be expecting to waited on hand and foot as a just reward for working all those years.

That attitude will not fly. Younger men are much better at handling their fair share of the chores even before retirement. But, for some reason social expectations are that the female continues to be responsible for the "inside" stuff while the man will take care of maintenance and outside chores. The problem is obvious: there isn't nearly as much "outside" work on a daily basis. Plus, as we age we are more likely to hire someone to do repair and maintenance chores, so the husband's responsibilities disappear.

Not me, but you get the idea
Just for full disclosure, I have done my laundry my entire married life. I plan and cook half the dinners each week. My wife and I rotate house cleaning chores every two weeks, as well as who empties the dishwasher and makes the bed. At least in this area, we never have disagreements. Guys...it is worth it.




There is a lot of information and feedback about women and the adjustment to retirement. I'd like to hear from those who are already facing this situation, or have it coming up soon. What are your fears and plans?

Guys, there is very little about all of this from the man's perspective. You could help communication between the sexes tremendously by chiming in. Remain anonymous if you want to, but let us know how you propose to deal with these issues.

February 20, 2012

Senior Security: Protect Yourself and Your Loved Ones With These Simple Hints

Did I forget to cover an important topic? The post of a few days ago, What's Best: Aging in Place or a Retirement Community, provided several links to resources to help you decide what might be best for your satisfying retirement living decision. But one topic that was not addressed is the issue of security for seniors. Home invasions, burglaries, robberies, and other crimes are not restricted to older folks. But, news reports make it clear we are usually easier targets.

We are more likely to open a door when someone rings the bell. We are more trusting of a "repair person" who says he is checking for some type of utility issue in the neighborhood. Often our homes are older, meaning the locks may be less secure and the windows harder to lock. Forgetting to close the garage door is not uncommon.

The bottom line comes down to security for you and your property. Here are a some common sense steps you can take to protect yourself in your home:

*Spend some time walking around your home, both inside and out. Where are places someone could gain access (doors, windows, sliding patio doors). What type of security devices are installed now? What might need to be upgraded?

* Are your front and rear door areas well lit at night? Criminals love dark places.

*If mobility is a problem for you, consider installing exterior cameras so you can see what is going on outside your home or who is at the front door. If your budget is too tight, consider installing a camera that isn't actually hooked up to anything. Bad people don't know that and will shy away from homes with cameras.

*All exterior doors should have strong dead bolt locks. Almost any key lock can be picked, but properly installed dead bolts will keep away all but the most determined thieves.

*If you have a large doggy door you have a large hole in the side of your home. It may not be convenient, but sliding a locking panel down at night is a step you should consider. Also, don't forget to have a good lock on the door into the home from the garage. If you leave the garage door up or someone gains entry, that is an open passage into your house.

* Windows should have solid locks as well. If your windows slide open and closed, simple channel thumb locks are available at any hardware store.

* A peep hole in your front door should be installed if there is no way to see who is at the door. Never, ever open a door if you don't know who is on the other side.

*Have a can of pepper-spray by each door. If you have any question about who you are opening to door to, have the can in your hand for quick use.

* Keep window shades or blinds down at night. Don't keep large quantities of cash at home and store all valuable papers in a safety deposit box at your bank. If you have guns, keep them securely locked and out of sight.

For many folks the wisest course is to install a home security system. These can be basic and effective with alarms rigged to your doors and windows. For more protection, you can add motion detectors and even alarms that tell you if a water heater or clothes washer is spewing water all over the floor. One caution: pick a company with a good reputation that provides constant monitoring. The false security you have from a company that lets you down when you most need it isn't worth saving a few dollars a month.

As we age, health concerns become more important, and potentially more dangerous. An alarm that you wear around your neck or as a watch can be triggered by you if you fall or hurt yourself and can't get to a phone. Much like the home security systems, pushing the button summons help to you when you might need it to save your life. The costs are very reasonable.

As more of us stay in our homes for as long as possible, our safety and security takes on more importance. The hints and ideas presented here are basic steps most anyone can take. Obviously there is no guarantee that you can completely keep yourself from being a victim of a crime no matter how many locks you install. But, being proactive, assessing your situation,  and doing what you can to make your home environment as uncomfortable as possible to criminals, makes it that much more comfortable for those who live inside.


Disclaimer: I was compensated for this post, in part, by the home security company, ADT . I have been a customer of theirs in the past. Luckily, I never had to use the system due to a break-in, but I did feel much safer when I had to be away from my family for business travel over 150 days a year.

Whether you avail yourself of their services or not, security and protection are things that cannot be ignored. Take the time to do something today to protect you and your loved ones. I want you to stay a reader of satisfying retirement for years to come.

February 17, 2012

My Kindle Fire: A Big Blaze or a Small Spark?

The iPad is the 500 pound gorilla when it comes to the explosion of tablet use. Others tried and failed to dent the force of the $500 wonder (more than $800 with extra storage). Last fall, Amazon launched its own tablet: the Fire, while dropping the price of its line of e-readers by more than half. Since Apple rarely engages in price cuts, the tech world waited to see what the impact would be on the Steve Jobs-less company.

Figures from late 2011 don't paint a clear picture. Some sources show a drop of several million units sold below Apple's expectations, while other surveys show no impact by the Kindle Fire, other than a massive increase in the number of users of tablets on a daily basis.

There are plenty of web sites that detail the pros and cons of the Fire, as well as provide a head-to-head comparison with the iPad. Now comes word that Amazon is looking to introduce a Kindle Fire with a substantially bigger screen (9" instead of 7") sometime in the next few months. At the same time rumors continue to swirl that there will be a smaller, cheaper iPad available this year.

I bought a Fire in mid January. I have had it long enough to form some opinions about its usefulness to me. I don't own an iPad so I can't provide you with an unbiased comparison. But, I can share with you how my first 30 days have gone. If you are still debating the wisdom of spending $199 on the Fire, maybe my thoughts will help.

Pros of The Kindle Fire

For the price, I find the Fire to be an excellent buy. With a starting price of $500, or with increased storage options that would inflate the price to over $800, I just couldn't see  using an iPad enough to justify that cost. But at $200 the Fire is worth it to me.

While I still prefer physical books, I am finding that I like reading a book or looking at a magazine on the tablet. The weight is just over 14 ounces so it isn't tiring to hold for longer periods. It also rests comfortably on my lap. The screen is back lit so reading in a dim or dark room is not a problem. If I am sitting outside, however,  I have to be positioned to the sun correctly, or the screen is unreadable. I like the ability to adjust the font size, place a bookmark where I stop reading, even get a word definition or add a personal note as I am reading.

There are thousands of free books and tens of thousands for less than $1, available for download. With WiFi included, it takes about 5 seconds to download a typical full length book. If you don't have WiFi, you would have to download a book to your computer first and then sync it to the Fire. But, again that is quick and easy.

The quality of the free books ranges from horrible to first rate. Because they are free, if you download a stinker all you have wasted is a little time. Delete it and move on. My public library system allows for downloads to the Fire so I don't see myself buying many books. There are lots of free newspapers from all around the world that make fascinating reading, too.


My understanding is the number of applications available for the Fire is substantially less than for the iPad. But, for my purposes there are more than I would ever need. At the moment I have Pandora, Flixster (for movie info & trailers), a chess game, Adobe reader. several magazines the Bible, Huffington Post, Netflix, Wall Street Journal, Mapquest, and a note taking app. 


I haven't used this capability yet, but there is a way to send documents from PDF or Word to the Kindle Fire. I do have all my e-mail appear on the Fire, though I usually use the smart phone to handle incoming and outgoing mail. That may change since the tablet's keyboard is much easier to use than the miniature one on the phone.


Cons of the Kindle Fire


As I have mentioned, the screen is difficult, if not impossible, to read in the sun. While not a major problem for me, if you do want to use the Fire while at the beach or someplace very sunny, this may be an issue.

The device only has 8GB of internal memory. If I wanted to store lots of music and movies that would be unacceptable. The iPad does have versions with up to 32GB. 

The browser used on the web is Amazon's Silk. I haven't found a problem though it doesn't seem to be as fast as Google's Chrome. It has locked up on me a few times.

There are complaints about the temperamental nature of the WiFi connection. I have read of some issues with time-outs and difficulty in establishing a link. To be honest I have yet to try any web connection outside of my house so I have no first hand knowledge of this issue.

I am not a big fan of the Carousel..a display of all the recent apps, books, documents, and e-mails that have been accessed. It gets crowded very quickly and needs to be cleaned up every day or so. I usually just click the section I want rather than scroll through everything.

The sound quality is marginal, though considering the size of the speakers it is about what one would expect. I don't download music to the device so I am not bothered, but listening for awhile would be tiring.


Bottom line: I am pleased with my Fire. I don't regret its purchase or not getting an iPad instead. The Fire does what I want it to well and intuitively. Frankly, after 30 days I still have a lot to learn about what it can and can't do. But, I know that on my next vacation the paperbacks will stay home and the Kindle will be packed. 


What Others Are Saying:

February 15, 2012

What's Best: Aging in Place or A Retirement Community?

Last August I wrote  about one of the more important decisions you will make for your retirement: Do you move to a retirement community or is it better to stay in your present home and age in place? That post outlined the advantages and disadvantages of each choice. Because there were lots of  comments it seems appropriate to look at the subject again.

This time I am going to provide links to several web sites. Some are arguing for one choice over another. Other links are more like the first post: providing a comparison and not drawing any conclusions.

After each link I will make a few comments about that link's information and the value of that information to you. I urge you to click on the link, check out the web site, and read my thoughts. Ultimately, the final choice will be one you make based on a whole series of factors that no one article can address. Nor am I able to steer you one way or another for the very same reason: your situation is not the same as mine.

The first site is from Canada.  "Helping Canadians Find the best retirement options." In a free, downloadable book, this site offers different scenarios for a couple in their late 70's. The choices range from staying at home with just community resources, through in-home care, and finally living in a retirement community that provides a full range of services. While the prices and services are somewhat different for those in other countries, the report does a solid job of detailing costs associated with each scenario. The information is very complete. Drop down menus across the top provide lots of resources to help you.  Disclaimer: This site is clearly hoping you choose one of their sponsoring communities.

From the web site, womenbloom, comes another article that stresses the advantages of living in a CCRC (continuing care retirement community). Not nearly as detailed as the previous site but still quite helpful, this article provides a simple overview of the positives of such a living choice. It does not provide any cost comparisons or guidelines. Disclaimer: this article is a reprint from a site that helps provides referral services to nursing homes. assisted living, and retirement communities.

Maturity Matters provides all sorts of articles on virtually every subject of interest to aging folks. The link provided here takes you to a page with over twenty different articles. For our purposes, take a look at the following:
  • What are Care Homes and How Much Should they Cost?,
  • Helping an Aging Parent Adjust to Assisted Living,
  • Top 10 Design Trends for Aging in Place
  • What do you know about home care?
Modern Maturity seems to provide a good balance of various points of view and solid information from experts in their fields. Disclaimer: I provide articles for Modern Maturity (in fact one is on this page). They do not compensate me for reprinting my posts.

Understanding Senior Housing Options  seems to be an excellent site with lots of unbiased information on your various choices. There are also links galore at the bottom of the page to all sorts of additional information. Be sure to click on the "Independent Living for Seniors." What I found particularly helpful were the basic questions and answers section. Many of the concerns we all have are asked and answered.

A more scholarly approach is available at Suburbs, Cities, and Aging in Place. The author uses demographics trends to argue that cities will have to do a better job of caring for seniors as the population ages and more people decide to stay in their home for as long as possible. He describes this as "naturally occurring retirement communities," or places where the aging have lived and continue to reside. Disclaimer: this site is connected to Urban Land magazine, an organization that is concerned about the viability and growth of urban areas.

Clicking on Retirement Homes will take you to the web site, 55communityguide. It is chock-full full of articles and links that tell you all about retirement community living and how to select the best one for you. Disclaimer: this site is a sponsor of this blog.
_________________________

Like the decision when to retire or start taking Social Security checks, the choice of where to age and how to plan for the inevitable is intensely personal. It has a major impact on not only you, but your partner, spouse, and family. It affects the quality of life you will enjoy in your later years. While it isn't a subject that is pleasant, it is a necessity unless you want others to make these important decisions for you.

My wife and I are still at least 10-15 years away from finalizing our decision, but we lean toward aging in place until prudence requires relocating to a CCRC. My dad's living situation (and my mom's before her passing) is likely to be our ultimate choice. Both Betty and I are agreed that we do not want our daughters or grandkids to be burdened with our full time care.

What are you thinking at the moment? Have you made a final choice? Do you have family members who have chosen a particular path that has turned out well, or poorly?  Please leave a comment and help us all learn from your experience or advice.

February 13, 2012

Time Passages

In the 1970's Al Stewart had a hit with the song, Time Passages.  Some of the lyrics so so appropriate as we strive for a satisfying retirement lifestyle. Here are a few samples:

                    Well, I'm not the kind to live in the past
                    the years run too short and the days too fast
                    The things you lean on
                    Are the things that don't last

A common habit among us retired folks is to remember "the good old days." The music was better, people were more polite, our politicians really cared about us, all the women were strong, all the men were good looking, and all the children were above average.

With apologizes to Garrison Keillor, our memories tend to sand off the rough edges, forget the societal faults and shortcomings, and leave an embellished, slightly out-of-focus view of our past.

In a very direct way Al Stewart is suggesting that that we really can't afford to live our lives constantly looking over our shoulders. Time is moving forward, seemingly faster as the years past. As i wrote a while back, We are living in a time warp. We simply don't have the luxury anymore of not making use of the days we have in front of us.

He is also reminding us that the "things we lean on," like our big homes or possessions or even stock portfolios are exactly the type of things that don't last. To spend our precious time accumulating beyond the necessities will eventually let us down.

But, in the core theme of the song, Mr. Stewart does remind us of one part of our past, lost in the passages of time, that is crucial to our happiness:

                    In these time passages
                    I know you're in there
                    You're just out of sight
                    Oh, time passages
                    Buy me a ticket on the last train home tonight

One special relationship, a lover, a friend forgotten and lost over the years. That is the part of the fabric of our lives that time has pushed just out of sight that is worth going back for. Buy me a ticket on the last train back to my home, the place where I feel safe because of the love of that one, special person.

Time Passages is a song that speaks to what is important. The lyrics remind us of what is worth trying to recapture if we have allowed it to slip into the haze of our past.      
 
 
 
 


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February 10, 2012

My Biggest Retirement Surprises (so far)

June will mark 11 years of being without full time work - by choice. My satisfying retirement has been even better than I imagined, but it isn't exactly what I imaged it would be. That shouldn't be a surprise. Life throws constant curve balls at us. Our job is to change our swing and make the best of what comes our way. Like a baseball player, if you can't hit a slider or curve you'd had best learn or down to the minors you go. Retirement isn't all that different: adjust and learn or suffer the consequences.

So, after my journey what are the biggest surprises I have encountered? I don't think I could have predicted any of them ahead of time, which is why they were surprises!

My financial planning has actually worked. I had a double-pronged approach to funding my retirement. I didn't want to start drawing down my IRA account until at least 64. Yes, I could have started earlier but wanted to allow it to compound as long as possible. I also wanted to not take Social Security checks until at least 63 or 64. So far that is on track.

All that meant I had to have a source of money to carry me from when I retired at 52 until 64. For that purpose I had developed a second investment account, consisting primarily of tax-free investments like muni bonds and other tax-exempt options. That money would grow but at the same time be available to fund my retirement mostly tax-free for 12 years. Even with a few recessions in the mix, that account that I started 25 years ago will be empty on my 64th birthday, right on schedule.

So many things could have and did go wrong, but the account designed to carry me from full employment to my IRA account has performed exactly as projected a few decades ago. The most surprised person is me.


I have become deeply involved in something that was quite alien to me. If you remember the post, Pushing Back Against the Box, from just over a year ago, I detailed my involvement in prison ministry. Up until that point I had no contact with prisons, prisoners, parole officers...an entire subsection of society that wasn't part of my life. Like most of us, I had certain preconceived notions of the people and the system, none of which was pleasant. But, starting five years ago through a combination of factors I entered that world, first as a pen pal to incarcerated men, and later as a full time mentor. 


That involvement is about to take another major step forward: I will be going into two state prisons on a regular basis to meet with men and be involved in Bible studies. Taking up a few days a month and involving several hundred miles of driving, this will take a bite out of my schedule. But, it is something I feel driven to do and I will make whatever adjustments are required. If you had told me when my retirement began I'd be so deeply involved in this world I would have scoffed. But, it has happened and I feel my life is richer because of it.


One of my parents died. I know how life works: you are born and eventually die. Of course I knew my mom and dad weren't likely to outlive me. But, when a parent does die, regardless of how ready you may believe you are, it is still a shock to the system. My mom died in December, 2010 after a long and lingering slide that began with a broken leg and macular degeneration 18 months before her passing. So, the death was not a surprise when it finally occurred.

Even so, to not show her my first e-book, or know she'd never read this blog was a shock. To know I couldn't call her when I have a grammar question hit me hard. The permanency of the loss isn't something you can actually prepare yourself for until it happens. Intellectually I was ready for her death. Emotionally, I am still adjusting to her not being around to validate and comfort me.



I have had a harder time with the easier stuff. Why can't I stay on a regular schedule of visiting the gym? Why have I started and stopped and starting again playing the guitar three different times? Why do I still watch too much TV at night when I know it isn't the best use of my time (blaming Netflix is a cop-out!)? Why can't I lose the last 5 pounds I've been promising myself for over a year? Why do I feel guilty if I turn on my ham radios and spend an hour listening and talking to other amateur radio operators?


The big things have happened and I have adjusted. But the little day-to-day stuff of living keeps tripping me up. Is that just the human condition? I don't know, but that is my excuse and I'm sticking with it.


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February 8, 2012

Planning For a Steady Stream of Retirement Income

A few weeks ago a reader of satisfying retirement blog, using the name, KEL, left a comment that voiced the concerns of many. In part she said:


"My husband and I are very close to retiring, this year (2012) and we're finding the necessary downsizing quite difficult. Its good to have your encouraging words. My big question is, so you have this money saved up for retirement. Its all over the place, IRAs, Roth IRAs, investments, annuities, some real estate. How does one intelligently turn this into an income stream for the next 30 years? Its one big giant spreadsheet, I'll tell 'ya!


Also, we're having difficulty budgeting for retirement (subset of above difficulty.) Too many factors are just up in the air. So, I gnaw at this problem like a dog gnaws at a bone."


As I noted in my followup response, those are questions that all of us ask ourselves, both before and during retirement. I know I certainly did. In fact, almost 11 years into retirement, I just had a meeting with my financial advisor last week to ask the same first question: how is my income stream looking for the long haul? The answer was quite reassuring but that doesn't mean I won't ask him again in 12 months.

I make it quite clear I am not a financial expert. My satisfying retirement lifestyle has been the result of several factors that have worked out well for me. However my approach may not be right for you. Risk tolerance, overall income, how early you started saving, family situations...all these variables affect how you answer these two questions.

I can direct you to the following posts if you'd like to review what I did. One is a summary of the article in Money Magazine from last fall. The other three involve financial decisions I made or will face:

*Living Well on Less: Thank You Money Magazine
*Retirement Savings: Why is it So Hard?
*One Financial Decision That Could Change Your Life
*Retirement and Health Care Costs: Brick Wall Ahead


In addition to those, I found the following sites on the Internet that address the questions KEL asked. As a necessary disclaimer, I have no connection or relationship with any of these sites, nor does my listing them endorse what they say. However, I thought each presented some information in a way that you might find some direction.





Since we are all learning together, please comment with a site or two, a book, or seminar course that you have found particularly helpful to you in this regard. Trying to figure out how to not outlive our money while still enjoying a satisfying retirement is a constantly changing equation.


Thanks, KEL, for posing the questions.



I have set some aggressive goals for myself and this blog for 2012. One of them is to increase the number of new people leaving comments, and another is asking new folks to subscribe either by e-mail or reader. If either of these situations describe you I'd appreciate your help in reaching my goals.


If you are already a regular reader or commenter bless you! If you know someone who you think might enjoy this blog would consider asking them to try it for a week or two?


Simply click the appropriate link on the right sidebar just above the ad for the Social Security Retirement Guide. I appreciate it.

February 6, 2012

I Am a Dancing Machine

My wife and I have been happily married for over 35 years. We obviously have a lot more in common than not. We are on the same page about finances, raising our daughters, living a simplified life, where to vacation, and what to do to build a satisfying retirement lifestyle.

But in one area we are miles apart. My wife loves to dance and I can't. I don't mean I don't want to. I mean I can't.  I have tried but it is just not meant to be. Here are some examples of efforts made and failures recorded.

Twenty years ago we booked a cruise from Los Angeles down the coast of Mexico. My wife made one request: that we dance in the various clubs that the ship had on board. With half a year before departure we took some swing lessons and went to a local resort that offered weekly opportunities to practice. It didn't work. Yes, I stumbled through one or two dances on the ship but the results weren't pretty.

Living in Arizona means you must own a set of cowboy boots and occasionally go to a western club and two-step. I've tried. The boots never fit and my two-step was closer to six. As folks moved effortlessly around the floor, I drank a beer and enjoyed the music....while sitting down.


Another opportunity presented itself when we planned a 25th wedding anniversary trip to Great Britain. Again, I promised to learn to dance so we could try out our moves in a club or two in London or Dublin. This time I signed up with an Arthur Murray studio, plunked down the money and dutifully went to the lessons every Saturday morning. By the third week I was getting sick to my stomach as the dreaded day approached. Finally, Betty took pity on me and allowed us to skip the last few classes. Except for a few slow dances somewhere overseas, that dancing chance evaporated.


Finally was my gift of dance lessons for a Christmas present a few years ago. Knowing how much she wanted to dance, I gamely agreed to one last shot. Again, Arthur Murray got the money, Betty got her hopes up, and I re-proved I am the owner of two left feet. The last two lessons were left on the floor.

So, what is the problem? I have some musical feel. After all I played piano and then the clarinet for 10 years. I can play the guitar enough to pluck out some Christmas carols. I am not totally without rhythm. It turns out it may be chemicals in my brain. A study released by researchers at the University of Oxford in England claims a tiny amino-type messenger in the brain is partly responsible for those among us who dance like Elaine on Seinfeld. Thank you, Internet. I now have something to blame.




As i approach my 63rd birthday in a few months, I think Betty has finally accepted that my shortcomings on the dance floor are not going to change. Luckily, she claims to have many other reasons, almost as important, to stick with me.

February 3, 2012

Where Are The Good Repair People?

Seriously, have our standards really fallen this low? Have all the people who are good at repairing problems around the home retired? Since there hasn't been much work for the last several years, have all the home contractors forgotten how to do their job? My wife and I have just about given up on finding anybody, at any price, coming from any source, who knows what he is doing, or commits to doing it well. This lack of skilled workers is starting to mess with our satisfying retirement.

Just within the past 10 days we have had a handyman come to the house to repair and re-tile a portion of an upstairs bath. He and his "helper" mis-cut the green board but put it up anyway. Then he proceeded to put so much adhesive on the tiles that they stuck out a good 1/8 of an inch from the undamaged tile. He left enough gaps in the grout and caulking to defeat the purpose of the repair job. To make sure we really appreciated his work, he got the rows of tile crooked. The effort was so poor we had him rip out half the tiles he had just installed. Against our better judgment, he promised to return the next weekend to finish the job. Of course, he never showed up nor did he answer his phone. The only good news? He didn't get paid.

During that same period we decided to install a new toilet in the same bathroom. It was purchased from one of the big box stores, along with an extra fee to have it installed. The day for the installation arrived and the plumber appeared at our door right on time. That was the last good thing that would happen. He took one look at the old toilet and said he couldn't help us. The old toilet had a line of grout between it and the tile. He said he was not allowed to even attempt to cut the grout for fear of damaging the tiles. If we cut the grout ourselves or hired a tile man (see above!) to loosen the toilet he would come back to install the new one.

Even though he was more than 6 feet tall and at least 250 pounds, I suggested in words and tone that were probably not appropriate for a good Christian man that he get out of my house...NOW. After storming up to the store and ranting about the poor quality of "professionals" they used, I got my money back for the installation. The new toilet is still sitting in the upstairs hallway.

About 10 months ago we had a contractor install wooden steps in place of the worn out carpet. Not cheap by any means, his crew was sloppy enough we had to retouch the stain and the paint on virtually every step and support. Half the stairs squeaked because they had been cut incorrectly, so they were taken out, re-cut and reinstalled which resulted in more marred paint. As a final insult, one man cut the carpeting upstairs wrong so there is a nice rip in the rug. You can read the whole story here.

Go back 4 months before that and another two men, with good references, did such a crappy job painting the inside of the house that my wife (primarily) and me (a little) spent almost a week afterward applying touch-ups to the places they missed or over-painted. 

You get the picture. No matter how we search and research, what passes for quality work is not. It is average, marginal, or substandard. The people doing the work are always baffled when what they have done doesn't meet our expectations. They truly believe the type of performance cited above is good.

So, what are we to do? As I've noted in other posts, we are in this house for another 5-7 years. Things will need to be repaired, fixed, painted, or replaced. We can't just stop all maintenance. After thoughtful consideration of our options, I have decided to go to a technical college and be trained as an handyman.

No..that isn't the choice we made. I am extremely lucky to be married to a woman who enjoys tackling projects that many people, especially women, wouldn't touch. She may not have ever replaced tile before, but as this picture shows, there she is, in the bathroom repairing the mess made by the handyman and learning as she goes. Guess what...when finished it will be better than anyone else could or would do, because she has pride in her work and will do it until it is perfect.

She has decided we will replace the toilet. Our wooden front door is badly worn and starting to crack. With a replacement door costing almost $3,000 or a refinishing of the current one almost $2,300, Betty has said we will do it ourselves. We will take the door down, sand it, wood putty the cracks, sand it again, and then paint it. The sidelight panel will have similar treatment. Our cost will probably be less than $300.

We have remodeled the powder room downstairs, including ripping out the counter, refinishing the cabinet, repairing tears in the dry wall, and faux-finishing the walls. She has built a three level rock waterfall in the backyard and a brick accent wall in the front yard. I could cite a dozen more examples, but the bottom line is: I trust her to do a better job at virtually anything we need to have done (minus biggies like a new roof or repainting the house) than anyone we could hire.

She shouldn't have to do all this. Yes, on one level she enjoys the hard work. But, it takes away from things she would rather be doing and wastes time spent on cleaning up after others. Unfortunately, with the current state of sloppy, uncaring, or untrained repair people dominating the marketplace we have been burned too many times to trust again.

This post is not a good example of what makes a satisfying retirement lifestyle. But, it is an accurate representation of what homeowners face today. A condo or rental never sounded better!


The last tile fits !

February 1, 2012

What the Recession has Meant to My Retirement Lifestyle

I am the first to admit, I have been relatively lucky in weathering the effects of the recession of the last three years. By having no mortgage I have no fear of foreclosure. By having no credit card debt I have no fear of bankruptcy (unless a major medical problem crops up). By being almost eleven years into my satisfying retirement lifestyle I'm not worried about losing a job. Because I never worked for a company that provided health insurance or a pension I don't have to worry that my source of income will be cut or terminated because of some corporate problem.

So, a legitimate conclusion might be: "Mr. Lowry, you aren't affected at all. Your life is no different before or after the economic mess that started in 2008. You can't relate to our issues."

I strongly disagree. Because I don't live in a bubble my life has been directly affected. Let me count the ways:

Because of  of a massive falloff in business travel and conventions my youngest daughter lost a job she loved in a city she adored, San Diego. After trying all sorts of options for over a year, she landed a job in Phoenix. It paid well and was close to family. After 8 months, that job was eliminated and she was forced to move in with mom and dad. In a household set up for two people, adding a third made some major changes in our lifestyle. Now, 4 months later, she has begun to resurrect her career and is seeing promising progress in stabilizing her income. I would anticipate her moving out of our house and into her own apartment sometime in the next 3-5 months.


A little over 10 years ago we downsized from a 3200 square foot home to just over 1700 square feet. Our original plan was to move from our current two-story home to a single-story condo or town home a few years ago. We were both getting tired of the maintenance and repair issues that come with an older home. The work to maintain the backyard had gotten to the point where I had to hire a yard service. The quality of repair people is so marginal every fix became a major hassle.

The plans came to a screaming halt: the house lost 50% of it's value between 2007-2009. Since we didn't have to move I wasn't prepared to leave a few hundred thousand dollars on the table. So, the repairs continue while the housing market slowly begins to stabilize. I now hope we can move within the next 5-7 years. I don't expect to ever see the peak value of early 2007, but we will be happy to cut that drop in half.

Even though my investments tend to be conservative, that doesn't mean I didn't suffer loses. I have stayed away from any type of risky or single stock strategy since I began saving in my late 20's. Even so, my retirement fund had a 40% paper loss in less than a year. That induces some serious stress, no matter how well your life is going!

Since then, the account totals have built back up to just a bit higher than where they were when things went in the toilet. Of course, that isn't really true. I have lost almost 3 years of growth from the original level so I am really almost 3 years behind where I thought I would be. That means considering starting Social Security checks when I am 64 instead of my full retirement age of 66. That means vacation cutbacks. That means cutbacks in lifestyle, though a more simplified retirement lifestyle have meshed well with our changing desires.


As I detailed in the profile of our family's effort to life well on less in last October's Money Magazine, our budget has been cut by close to 30%. Earlier posts have detailed the elimination of cable and newspaper subscriptions, a tightening of our food and entertainment expenses, the delaying of a new car by several years, and a more significant reliance on free entertainment and the library (sorry Amazon!).

So, yes, the Great Recession has been a pain in the butt for us, not nearly as bad for many, but no walk in the park. However, I will quickly add that Betty and I see the experience as an actual positive. It has allowed us to:
  • Define what is really important to us
  • Eliminate things that weren't adding to the quality of our life
  • Become closer as we shared the problems and fears
  • Reinforced our earlier financial decisions and approach
  • Given me the chance to discover the world of blogging!

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