May 30, 2012

Light Up Your Life With The Little Things

Under a slightly different title this post originally ran in the fall of 2010, not long after I started this blog, and well before there were many readers. As we enter the summer season when most of us have the chance to take life a little easier, get outdoors more often, and simply slow down, I thought the words and the thoughts were worth running again in case you didn't see it the first time or need a reminder that life is to be lived.


The sky was beginning to cloud over, kids were playing, ducks were looking for bread crumbs, bikers rolled by while teens on skateboards defied gravity. Sitting in a folding chair and watching the scene my eyes were drawn to the surface of the lake. The sun was at just the right angle to cover the water with sparkles. It was beautiful. I was enjoying a satisfying retirement day. Within a few minutes the sun's angle had changed and the sparkles were gone. Or, were they? From someone else's viewpoint they probably were just as fabulous. They were simply gone from my view.

Isn't life kind of like that? There are brief moments that sparkle and shimmer. We look upon them with wonder. We remember them. We talk about them. But, real life takes place in between the sparkles. It is how we fill the space between them that matters.

Relationships are certainly made up off sparkles and spaces. There are the everyday moments in relationships which occupy most of your life. Those are the large spaces filled with chores and responsibilities, some arguments, making tough decisions, cooking, cleaning, and shopping. These don't sparkle at all. They are the mundane activities that fill your day when you have other people in your life. They are what we call living.

Then there are those times when you and your spouse or significant other are exactly on the same page. Everything is going according to plan. You are communicating well and any disagreements are minor. Your love life is on track. If you have children or grandkids there are times when things just sparkle: a vacation by the lake, a great day at the zoo, a family night watching a favorite movie.

As a retired person, you have control over most of your day. At least you think you do. But, when you must wait for a repair person, or your car is in the shop you are the mercy of others. When you spend a few hours waiting for an overworked doctor you are reminded you are not in control quite as much as you thought. Menus must be planned, food must be bought, bills must be paid, gardens must be tended, the bike should be ridden. The days and weeks pass by so quickly you wonder where the time went.


Then, there are those moments when you grab a little time and sit down to read that new novel you've been aching to open. Your hobby bench invites you to build that project or fix the broken lamp you want back in the living room. You find some time to write, and out flows everything you have bottled up while the spaces of life are filled with everyday stuff.


You remember you have time with the school kids tomorrow night to tutor them in math or English. As they grasp the concepts you are explaining their smiling faces sparkle and shine. Maybe you sit in the sun at the coffee shop sipping you latte, reading the paper, and people-watching the afternoon away. These precious times make you feel alive and vibrant. They are the sparkle that make a day special and memorable.

John Lennon once said, "Life is what happens while you're making other plans." That is the human condition. We want a life that we control. We would like a day with nothing but sparkles. No chores, no irritations, to disappointments, no hassles. A day that goes according to our plans.

But, that isn't how things work. We can be much happier and much more satisfied when we learn to accept the large spaces into which we put our everyday life, while being on the lookout for those sparkles of pure joy and beauty that brighten and enlighten. After all, if every meal was nothing but desserts, then desserts would not be so special and delightful, would they!


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May 28, 2012

Satisfying Retirement's Next Book: You Picked it

A month ago I asked for ideas on what the follow up to Building a Satisfying Retirement should be. I was contemplating a couple of different directions, but unsure which way to turn. So, having the BRITW (best readers in the world) I decided to simply ask for your feedback.

Bingo! Problem solved. The consistency in your suggestions have given me the direction I needed. Nor surprisingly, it will involve your active participation.

While I don't have a title yet, the new book will feature interviews with folks who have retired or are close to that stage of life. The book will feature the good, bad, and everyday nature of what makes up this journey we call a satisfying retirement

I will develop a series of questions that take a look at what prompted the person to leave full time work, how the transition has gone, and what struggles have been faced. We'll probe the highs and lows and what the person would have done differently. Relationship issues, managing free time, financial problems, and developing one's passions after work will be dealt with.

The goal is to give those moving toward retirement an idea of what to expect, not from a textbook, but from those who live retirement every day. For folks already retired, I hope the stories will help you look at your own life and decide if there are some adjustments you'd like to make on your journey.

Your part?  I will be contacting some of the bloggers who have become an important part of this blog and ask for their help. I will also solicit any reader who would like to take part to contact me when the time is right, as well as search out others for input. Obviously, I won't be able to include everyone but I am hoping to get the full range of experiences to profile. Anyone who participates and has a blog will receive a link from their interview directly to their web site. All interviewees will receive a free copy of the e-book.

The timetable is not yet firm, but my goal is to have the book ready by late fall. As the days go by look for additional posts that will let you know how things are going and when I'd like you to contact me if you are interested in participating.

A deep appreciation for your thoughts and suggestions that have taken me this far. Together we should be able to produce something we all can be proud of.

May 26, 2012

Retirees and Financial Planning: Our Top Worries

Last month I wrote an article for the web site stockmarkettoday.com. If you didn't have a chance to read it there, I have reproduced it here. Please feel free to click on the link to the site. It specializes in updated financial information every day that you may find valuable.


I receive lots of comments on posts and in e-mails about financial planning and decision-making. Preparing to live without a regular paycheck is a critical part of the preparation for retirement that every one of us encounters. It is a stage of life that most of us enter with more than a little fear. Over time readers have helped me develop a list of the top financial concerns that folks getting ready to retire, or who have just taken that step, are most worried about. What exactly are these investors looking for? There are six basic concerns that are addressed most often.

Understand our tolerance for risk and respect it: This is probably the most frustrating problem my readers continually bring to my attention. An investment or financial advisor who presents options that are simply not appropriate to the retiree creates tension and uneasiness. Even if an opportunity for a nice return may be missed, as retirees we have fewer opportunities to replace money that is lost. Accept what makes us comfortable and work within those parameters. Understand that a client will sometimes pass on what you believe to be a great deal. He isn’t rejecting your judgment; rather he is staying within his comfort zone.


Avoid Complicated Explanations: For most of us, the world of finance has become something akin to a foreign language. We grew up with some simple concepts: certificates of deposit and savings bonds. We understand the basics of stocks and bonds, mutual funds, maybe even ETF’s. But, when explaining a more complicated investment opportunity it is important to speak in a way that we don’t feel stupid or agree to something because we don’t want to ask too many questions. If an investment option is too complex to explain in simple terms, there may be problems.

How do we not outlive our money: Our biggest fear as retirees is that we will last longer than our money. Now matter how prepared we think we are, another major recession or serious health calamity is all that stands between us and a big problem. We are looking to for a plan that will do everything possible to protect our assets, while not violating our tolerance for risk.

Help us budget and simplify our lives: Understanding how to budget and save has allowed us to retire. But, now, what do we have to do? Do we live on 80% of our work income or is that more than we need to spend? What about expenses? What should we budget for after retirement? What categories are likely to increase and which ones fall? We’d like to simplify our lives by downsizing our housing, but is it best to rent or buy from this point forward? Leaving an estate for the children may be important. If so, what is the best way to set aside part of our money? Retirees want some input.

Bring us options and allow us to make the final decisions: Retirees often suffer from a feeling of loss of control and influence after leaving the workplace. It becomes quite important to these folks that they have the final say in how their money is invested. Bringing a client a few legitimate options and letting him make the final choice is a good idea.

Create a feeling that you care as much about our well being as we do: Everyone understands how business works: without a profit there is no business. But, some of the folks that contact me complain that the company they have put their trust in treats them like a number. Contact usually occurs only when a fee is being added or the government requires a privacy notice. These retirees are aware that they are not the firm’s only client, and most likely not the one that produces the most profit. But, in their mind their financial future has been put in the hands of a company or person. There is a definite need for a feeling that the individual matters, that his or her financial well-being is important.


Disclaimer: I was paid a fee to write this article for stockmarkettoday.com

May 24, 2012

PBS Launches New Retirement Web Site - And Has Asked Me to Be A Part of It

After three years of research, planning, and development, PBS has launched a new web site targeted at Baby Boomers and retirees. But, this is unlike any other web site or effort I am aware of in the area of satisfying retirement information.

NextAvenue.org was launched last week to very positive press and with serious financial backing. It is striving to become much more than just a web site with useful information. Here is a portion of the press release that describes what we have to look forward to:

We are designing Next Avenue to be a virtual ‘life coach' for Baby Boomers, informing, inspiring, engaging and connecting the nation's largest segment of the adult population. It will also challenge them to see the opportunities life holds after 45,” said Next Avenue CEO Jim Pagliarini. “We intend for Next Avenue to be a truly interactive venture, designed not merely to entertain and inform but to provoke thought and action. And we plan to provide a rich arena for user-generated content, feedback and interaction.” Pagliarini is also president and CEO of Twin Cities Public Television, which is leading the initiative in collaboration with American Public Television (APT) and PBS (Public Broadcasting Service), among others.


“Next Avenue is designed to be the most comprehensive content initiative ever to target this audience:

  • Online through an enormous web content hub of video, information, targeted e-newsletters, customized tools for better living, original content, user-generated content and a huge, aggregated and vetted database of content contributed by public media and such organizations as the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, the National Institutes of Health, the Office of Public Health and Science, and Civic Ventures, a think tank on Boomers, work and social purpose; mobile device apps will also be developed for Next Avenue's content.
  • On air through multiple public television series, specials and interstitials, many of which will capitalize on well-known and well-regarded public television personalities and brands; and
  • On the ground with relevant, regularly scheduled events coordinated through local stations across the country.

Now the exciting disclaimer: PBS has hired me to be a contributor to this project. I am under contract to write original content for the site on a regular basis. The first article deals with my experiences in prison ministry and can be found here: Finding My Retirement Passion Landed Me In Prison.

Yes, I am being paid by PBS to be part of this project. But, that is secondary to my excitement and pride at being associated with something of this magnitude and professionalism. I hope you will take the time to visit Next Avenue and look around. 

I'd also deeply appreciate your taking a look at my first contribution and, if you like it, clicking the various sharing and tweeting buttons at the top of the article.

The resources of Public Broadcasting and all of the top flight experts that are part of this effort should guarantee us an unlimited stream of valuable information and insight as we journey together on our satisfying retirement.

May 22, 2012

Retirement & Guilt: Do You feel Any? Should You?

A comment left on an earlier post prompted me to do some serious thinking about the issue discussed by the reader. Steve wondered how much a part guilt plays in one's satisfying retirement. Frankly, I have never thought about it in those terms. 

Yes, the way our most disadvantaged citizens are treated bothers me tremendously. It is hard to fathom some of the "bumper sticker" hate talk I hear about folks who are homeless or forced to fight to survive on not enough food and minimal health care. The approach of some in government to make up the deficit by cutting the bare necessities even further for these people because they have no political "value" doesn't line up at all with my religious beliefs. When children are involved I feel ill.


But, as the reader noted, for most of us, that is not our situation. We have some type of roof over our heads, enough food and medical care to be as healthy as our bodies allow us. We have heat in the winter and cooling in the summer. There is likely at least one car in the garage unless we have chosen to to without. When we compare our lifestyle with so many others we are blessed. Does that ever raise a feeling of guilt? In part, here is his comment:


"Feelings of guilt at being able to retire when so many others are likely to have no opportunity. We are able to retire due to thoughtful (or lucky?) strategies of investment and/or frugal lifestyle. Or due to the good fortune of being born into an advantaged/educated household. Still, when I see so many hardworking people - and there ARE many hardworking poor people - who have no real hopes of retiring, I have to accept that the world is indeed not fair. Still, it rankles me that working hard does not guarantee some kind of retirement opportunity (Social Security alone, though helpful, is not enough).


When I was retiring from my teaching career, so many colleagues said that I certainly "deserved it". Some of being able to retire was due to hard work and strategic living, but much was also due to a small inheritance and the larger inheritance of good health and good education. There are lots of hardworking and less fortunate individuals who are also deserving.

- Also feelings of Guilt from no longer being "productive" in the typical 9 to 5 style. Not necessarily new, I know, but many of us don't feel useful unless we are on that blasted "hamster wheel" of the work world.


All sorts of these feelings of guilt can be turned into appreciation for whatever gifts we have earned or been arbitrarily given, but for me, it has taken some time and processing."


Steve raises some very important points to think about. The common definition of guilt implies that something wrong has been done, or a sin committed. It leaves one with a feeling of self-reproach for some ethical or legal failure. I'm pretty sure Steve isn't implying he "cheated" his way into retirement. 

His "guilt" is one of comparison: comparing his situation with other human beings who are in a much worse state through no fault of their own. In fact, he notes their situation may be in spite of doing things correctly. That prompts the question, "Why me? How can I live the way I live while others suffer without me feeling guilty?"

The feelings that Steve expressed are those of a man with a finely tuned sense of morality and fairness. What he sees is the condition of humanity: there are perceived "winners" and "losers " who may be in those categories through no action of their own. There will always be poor people and always be those who are well-off. But, what he is reacting to are folks who have been "mis-categorized" and can do nothing about it.

Before I get too heavy into philosophy and religion let me stop here and make one point: Steve's comment has brought to light a very important issue - that of fairness in society and what our responsibility is to recognize and react to it.

I must admit I don't feel guilty in the traditional sense about being able to retire early and live decently. I also don't believe I did anything better or different than many of my peers who are still working and might continue to do so for years. Yes, I worked hard, saved a lot and lived within my means. But, the talents and skills I was born with came from God. My educational and economic advantages came from parents. These factors were primarily responsible for who I became. 

I do feel guilty that there isn't more I can do to make things more fair. The best I can do is try to make the little parts of the world I touch a little less unhappy and depressing.

Has Steve's comment caused you to think about your retirement situation? Is feeling bad about what life has given you counter-productive? How do you react when others express jealousy over your situation? These questions can be important to our overall feeling of living a satisfying retirement. I'm interested in your contribution to this discussion.

May 20, 2012

Retirement Volunteering: Your Ideas

About a week ago the Satisfying Retirement post about Retirement Volunteerism produced a tremendous response, as well as an excellent primer on volunteer opportunities for us all, retired or not. The range of ideas and suggestions was so good that it prompted this follow up post. I have taken the ways you have found to serve others and listed them below. Where appropriate I have added a link if you'd like more information.




*Volunteer Match: Find opportunities in your area

*Reading services for the visually impaired:  Master List for every state

*Master Gardener:  Information and state programs

*Friends of the library:  National organization

*Church volunteering: teacher, prepare meals, crafts for others

*Tutor/Mentor young people  (search: tutor mentor youngsters [your state])

*Volunteer at local art center - theaters - Botanical gardens - zoos

*Be a Camp Host/Volunteer:  National organization

*Gather medical surplus for less fortunate: Medical Bridges organization

*Meals on Wheels:  National organization

*Pilot Clubs:  National Web site

*Scout Leader:   Boy Scouts   Girl Scouts

*No-kill animal shelters:  National organization

*Making quilts and blankets for others

*Edwards Center:  http://www.edwardscenter.org/

*After school & summer school programs

*Vacation Bible school programs

*Volunteer Tax Aide:  AARP Program

*Teaching English as second language:  list of resources and links

*Imprinting Braille Bibles:  Story of church workers imprinting Braille Bibles

*Habitat for Humanity:  National Web Site

*Serving Communion to shut-ins

*Prison Ministry: Along Side Ministries of AZ    Prison Fellowship

*National Audubon Society:   National web site

* Volunteering to help veterans: Dept. Veterans Affairs volunteer page

* Softcare for Foster and Kinship Care (Australia- based)


Please feel free to add any additional ideas or ways you have found to serve others. I will update this list on a regular basis. Thank you so much for providing a tremendous stimulus for all of us to find ways to share a bit of ourselves to make our world and local community just a little bit better.

Note: This list will become a permanent resource on satisfying retirement. It will become a link on the sidebar for your use at any time in the future.


If you enjoyed the original post and this list of ideas I'd appreciate your clicking the  g+ button below. It helps spread the word.

May 17, 2012

Making Retirement Satisfying On a Limited Budget

It is easier to lead a satisfying retirement if you have few financial worries. While money certainly doesn't buy happiness, few would argue that your options for living how and where you choose are more likely to happen the fatter your investment portfolio. So, this post isn't for you.

On the other side of the issue, much of the popular press would have us believe we are doomed to a future of diminishing opportunities and darkening skies. I disagree. Yes, way too many seniors have been put in a very tough position by recent events and they will struggle. They may have to choose between buying some medicines and skipping meals. For the richest country in the world to allow that to happen is, in my view, criminal.

So, who am I writing for today? This is for those who have a retirement income that is sufficient for our needs and allows for satisfying an occasional want. The Great Recession affected what we can afford and how we live. We have likely downsized some of our expectations. The way we pictured our retirement may have looked different from our present reality. Still, compared to so many in the world, and even in our own country, we remain blessed. This time of our life continues to have the potential to be the most enjoyable stage of life, free of many of the obligations and restrictions that have filled our youth and working years.

That said, the post title tells it like it is: we probably have a limited budget when it comes to something beyond the necessities. What most of us are going through is an re-alignment of our wants with our available resources. Doing what we want, whenever we want is no longer a logical approach. if nothing else we should have learned that the bills do come due, regardless of how many credit cards and home equity loans we use.

So, what can we do to enjoy this time of life if cash flow is a problem? Are we doomed to nothing more than trips to the library or window-shopping at the mall? Absolutely not. The number of free or low cost ways to be entertained, stimulated, and renewed in mind and body are plentiful enough, if we just take the time and effort to find them.

From my own life here are a few examples. Then, it will be your turn. Saturday, May 12th was National Railway Day. You didn't know? Me neither until I ran across a press release. There is a tremendous railway museum in the Phoenix area that in 26 years of living here I had never heard of. Dozens of full size railway cars, cabooses, and engines are there waiting to be climbed on and through. Visitors are encouraged to blow whistles, ring bells, hang off the back step and yell "All Aboard."  On National Railway Day, there is no admission.

Suddenly, our family had the chance for a tremendous day together. Since the grandkids love trains the museum was a natural. It is located in a park that has a huge play area, walking paths, and picnic tables. So, to celebrate my birthday and Mother's Day we all met at the park for a day of play, eating, and exploring railroad cars. The cost? About $25 for subs for lunch for all eight of us. The memories? Priceless.

Betty and I enjoy hearing the symphony. With tickets between $35-$50 a person our entertainment budget doesn't allow for that very often. But, there is something called a brown bag lunch series. On selected Fridays at lunchtime, the symphony performs roughly half that night's concert for less than half price. It is a great chance for us to hear the music we like at a substantial discount.

One of the local community colleges has a twice a year film festival. Each series features half a dozen movies of a particular country or culture. These are films mainstream theaters wouldn't show. The college presents them, for free, in a comfortable performing arts center. Usually, the host gives the audience a little background about the movie and why it is worth screening. Betty and I make it a point to go to most of the showings.

While we have never done this, I know some folks who volunteer as ushers at one of the dozens of theaters in the area. For helping to seat people and hand out programs, they receive free admission to all the shows. They enjoy everything from Broadway performances to Shakespeare plays, all for just a few hours work.

Every once in awhile we will pick one of the historic districts in Phoenix and walk through it, snapping pictures of gardens, decorative walls, and interesting homes. Then, a stroll to a nearby park or a small lunch spot makes for an inexpensive, enjoyable afternoon. The trick? Treat your hometown like a tourist. Search out places nearby that you have never been to. Pretend you just moved to town and find hidden corners that delight and enrich you.


Now to the simple free stuff:
  • we live near a park with plenty of space for the dog to romp and us to enjoy a picnic.
  • we are surrounded by hiking trials through the mountain preserves that ring Phoenix. Even in summer if we start early enough it is fine.
  • every Wednesday night the Phoenix Art Museum is free. Once a month the Heard Museum opens it doors for no charge. Once a month our Bank of America Debit card gets us into one of a dozen local museums for no charge.
  • The Phoenix library system hands out free passes five days a week to twenty local museums and attractions. Just stand in line for 10 minutes and take the one you want.
  • Church concerts. Our church has a frequent schedule of free vocal and orchestral concerts. We miss very few.
  • movie night with friends at one of our homes. Except for the cost of popcorn and some soft drinks, a free time with our favorite people.

OK, enough from me. You get the idea. Making a satisfying retirement  is up to our ingenuity and creativeness. There are enough ways for you to be entertained and enriched to last a lifetime.

What have you found to do that fits your budget and is free or inexpensive? What special tricks to you employ to fill your days, nights, and weekend with interesting and enjoyable activities? I can't wait to get some fresh ideas.

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May 16, 2012

Are Your Loved Ones Getting the Best Care Possible?

Following Monday's post about cohousing as a growing choice for retired folks, today I have a guest post from a lady named Nisha. She writes about a vital part of any housing decision for your loved ones or for you: the quality of the care provided.



One comforting thought of placing a loved one in a nursing home or assisted living facility is knowing that you're not alone. Our aging population is turning this type of care into a high-growth industry. However, like any industry, extended-care facilities look for ways to cut costs and maximize profits while abiding by laws and regulations. It's up to us to find the best place for our loved ones (and eventually us) and to avoid common pitfalls and problems that can get in the way of quality care.


One of the best ways to ensure a senior gets the best care is to make the choice of facility a top priority. Am example are the facilities in the country of Wales, Care homes in Wales. It knows there is no substitute for due diligence. They strongly recommend you talk to placement agencies, read reviews, and interview your family member's physician. Doctors, particularly geriatricians,  make regular rounds of several facilities and will know which ones have the best approach in medical procedures and emergencies.


Tour several facilities before making a choice, and be sure they have the services to meet your needs. Assisted living with a long-term care unit may be ideal. The choice depends upon your loved one's current and predicted health. If you can't afford an "all-in-one" home, check out facilities that have a hospital nearby.

When you tour, notice the cleanliness of common areas, rehabilitation rooms and patients' rooms. Don't be afraid to talk to residents and staff to be sure they are engaged and have a positive, helpful, compassionate attitude. All of these factors have an effect on the care the home provides.

Your commitment to quality care doesn't end once the person is safely ensconced in their new home. In fact, that's where it becomes even more important. Many nursing homes are understaffed and financially stressed. It is their mission to provide great care for each patient, but details can slip when too much is asked of too few.

This is where you can have a positive impact.

It's an unspoken rule that seniors who have frequent visitors get better care. When the staff sees that family members and friends are actively engaged and present on a regular basis, they are more likely to know the patient's name, habits, preferences and needs. This, in turn, leads to faster and better responses and higher-quality care.

Additionally, you or a family member can speak for your loved one if he or she cannot speak. A family member may know how to read subtle signals that warn of a problem, while a busy staff member might not notice. This is particularly important for patients suffering from a stroke or dementia.

If possible plan to visit your loved one at least once a week. If your schedule is busy, involve family members and friends on a rotating schedule. Dress neatly when you visit and say hello to residents and staff in hallways and common areas. The more positive attention you attract, the more your loved one will be recognized.

Remember that a senior who is simply "dropped off" can become easy prey for unscrupulous employees and staff. Theft is a common problem in nursing homes, even the good ones, and incidents spike when monthly pension checks are deposited. Worse, these incidents can go unreported because the senior may have a faulty memory, or no memory of it at all. Your presence can reduce the risk of this sort of threat.

Over time, keep track of the person's physical condition and personal hygiene. The aged have delicate skin, and one of the first signs of inadequate care is tenderness and bruising at pressure points where the body rests on a wheelchair seat or mattress. If the patient can't turn or shift their weight, they must be turned regularly by the staff. Tenderness and redness are a sign that this isn't happening. Bedsores may soon develop. Make sure that laundry and bedding are clean and dry. If they're not, insist they be made so.


It's difficult but often necessary to surrender the care of a loved one to others. Make a wise decision based on research and good communication, follow through and keep following up. You'll find the best care for your loved senior, with no regrets.

My name is Nisha, I represent a site called mha.org.

________________________


Thanks to Nisha. Her points about regular visits helping to insure better care and attracting positive attention to help staff remember your family member are ones I hadn't thought of in those terms, but I believe she is absolutely right. When my mom was in the last 18 months of her life, our three times a week visits to the health care center, and the presence of my father in her room every day helped make her the center of a lot of staff attention.


Recently I was alerted to another good site that deals with the major problem of abuse of seniors at care facilities and how important it is to report such problems.

Please click and read: http://www.silverribbonproject.com/legal-requirements-to-report-nursing-home-abuse/

 

May 14, 2012

Retirement Cohousing: Could It be For You?

In an earlier post I mentioned a retirement housing option that is growing in popularity: cohousing. While I knew of its existence I had no idea of the interest in this subject. Comments on that post and private e-mails tell me that cohousing is catching on among all sorts of folks who want a combination of private living space with shared areas like courtyards and a common house which contains a kitchen, a large dining room, club rooms, plus recreational and laundry facilities.

Cohousing is a rather new concept in the U.S. but building rapidly. At last count 38 states have some form of cohousing community either open and operating or under construction. I was surprised to learn that are four such developments already in Arizona, with a fifth forming in the Phoenix area.

There are different types of cohousing communities: some for mixed ages, others for families with young children. Some are designed for strictly for seniors. There are organizations that provide all the information and details you would need if something like this interests you.

Since I know virtually nothing about the pros and cons, or the good and bad of cohousing, I'll let this post be a resource for you. Here are a series of links to sites that will tell you more about this housing choice:

*Cohousing Organization

*Senior Cohousing

*Milagro Cohousing Development in Tucson, AZ

*Cohousing Is Not Just for Boomer Hippies

*Seniors At Home In Cohousing

*Elder Cohousing: A New Choice For Retirement - or Sooner


Last month I received a report on the future of housing for seniors developed by The Center for Housing Policy, which is the research affiliate of the National Housing Conference (NHC). The report confirms what we probably all suspected: the need for housing for seniors will far outstrip the availability within the next 30-40 years, making the development of alternative housing, like cohousing, all that more important. 

Here are some of the more important findings:

*As the U.S. population ages, the share of the population with severe housing cost burdens will likely rise. Older adults are more likely than younger adults to spend more than half their income on housing. In fact, one in four households 85+ spend at least half their income on housing.

*As the overall population ages, the numbers of the most vulnerable will grow as well — people with a disability, women living alone (who account for 40 percent of 65+ women) and minorities. Meanwhile, the Great Recession has eaten into the reserves of many older households, reducing home equity and retirement accounts.

*Even some older homeowners without mortgages face serious housing challenges. While 65+ homeowners are more likely than younger households to have paid off their mortgages, many of these homeowners nevertheless have high housing cost burdens. The incomes of older adults tend to decline with age—as reflected in rising poverty rates. But property taxes, maintenance, and utility costs all tend to rise over time for both older homeowners and renters (as reflected in higher rents). Accumulated savings can help, but these too diminish with age.

*An older population with health issues will drive demand for modified housing and housing with supportive services. Both men and women are living longer, and as a result, more older adults will be living with disabilities. About one quarter of older households aged 65-74 and nearly two thirds of households with a member 85+ include someone with a disability.

*The demand for renovations and retrofits to accommodate disabilities and for moves to housing with supportive services will likely rise. Currently, about one in five 85+ adults are in community housing or a long-term care facility—more than 10 times the share of adults aged 65 to 74. The supply of these types of housing is unlikely to keep pace with burgeoning demand. Many suburban communities, home to half of older adults, continue to limit multifamily or group housing.

*Equally important are policies to expand housing choices for older adults. By adopting more flexible zoning policies, communities can help foster a diverse range of housing types including accessory dwelling units (i.e., granny flats), high-density rental developments, assisted living residences, continuing care retirement communities, and congregate housing. Subsidies will be needed to help ensure that older adults with low and moderate incomes have access to affordable choices. The report also recommends experimenting with more cohousing efforts that promote “active neighboring” and/or allow professional caregivers to live among residents.

As the United Voice for Housing, the nonprofit National Housing Conference (NHC) has been dedicated to helping ensure safe, decent and affordable housing for all in America since 1931. For more information visit their web site: NHC.org


Knowing all this, is cohousing something you might consider? It seems like an interesting way to hold expenses down while still enjoying an active social environment.

If you or someone you know lives in a cohousing situation, your feedback would be very much appreciated. Tell us about what prompted your decision to move to this type of community. What do you enjoy the most, and what are the problems in this type of arrangement? What if you don't like some of your dining mates?
 
Housing is a critical issue. The more information we have, the better.

May 11, 2012

Volunteering During Retirement: What Do You Do?

I have written about my prison ministry volunteer activities several times and how important it is to my satisfying retirement. The response is usually strongly positive, but often comes with lingering questions from those who leave comments: what can I do?  I'd love to volunteer but I don't know where to begin.

USA Today had an article last week on Baby Boomers needed to volunteer more often as nonprofit organizations feel the pinch of less government and private support. Again though the question arises, what am I qualified to do? Where do I find out who needs me?

I Need You

Rather than run through some basic steps you can take, I thought it would make sense to turn to the experts: readers. I know many of the folks who visit this blog are active volunteers in all sorts of ways. So, I would deeply appreciate you responding in the comment section below with answers to any of these questions (if they apply to your volunteer situation):

1. What volunteer work do you do?
2. How did you decide this was a good fit?
3. Did try a few different things before you found one that fit you?
4. Have there been any drawbacks?

Like everyone else, I am very interested in learning about the wide variety of volunteer opportunities that exist for us. I bet there will be things I have never thought of that would be a tremendous way to give back to my community while feeling good about myself.

So, please, anything you do to help....let us know. Teaching Sunday school, walking a neighbor's dog because she can't, school crossing guard......it doesn't have to be as dramatic as working with prison inmates, but it might be! Our society has more needs than we have volunteers.

Do you know someone who is an inspiration in this area but he or she doesn't normally read this blog? Could I ask you a favor:  would you ask them to come over this one time and tell us about what they do?

Let's build a list of your ways to give back and inspire someone to put a spark into their satisfying retirement.

May 9, 2012

Electronic Dieting: Is It Possible For A Blogger?

Fellow blogger, Barb, wrote recently about her attempts to get her life back under control by limiting her electronic habits and enjoy her satisfying retirement. Among other things she has stopped checking her e-mail first thing in the morning and using her laptop while watching TV. Apparently we are on the same wave length because I planned on this post about two weeks ago but just finished it up last night.

As someone who is "connected" at least four hours a day by various computers or the smart phone, I have been struggling with the same addiction that Barb wrote about. As blog readership increases I feel more pressure to produce more content that is more engaging. I receive at least half a dozen requests a week for permission to write a guest post for this blog. The number of e-mails has increased to close to 100 a day. I am offered opportunities to write for other blogs or web sites both for free and, increasingly, for a decent fee.

All of this produces an onslaught of electronic interruptions that seem to demand immediate attention. A good example happened just a few days ago. You may have noticed the advertisement for a company wanting to find participants for an on-line survey about flu vaccines. An urgent e-mail arrived just before noon asking if I would sell them some space. The only catch: the ad had to be on-line within an hour or two or it wouldn't be worth the money to the research firm. Obviously, I had to make a decision quickly, firm up details, and get the text and link up over lunch time. If I had not checked the e-mail alert on my phone until later in the day, that opportunity would have been gone. Was it worth it?

At the same time, Betty and I are serious about taking more frequent vacations. While most will be just long weekends, there are two week long trips here and there. If we follow through on our interest in an RV, month long adventures will beckon. If I can't get my electronic use under control, will going on a vacation make much sense? Picking a destination because of its WiFI connections indicates a problem.

I am not prepared to scale back the blog to once or twice a week posting, not answer comments, let e-mail go unchecked for a day or two, and allow phone calls to go into voice mail. So, that leads me to conclude that electronic disconnection or even a digital fast is tough for me at this time.

What can I do to make sure I am using electronic tools to benefit me and my lifestyle, but not allowing them to control me? Not as much as I'd like, but here is my starting point:

1. Sunday has become a no-Tweet day. I do not look at my Twitter feeds or add any new tweets. While not a big deal, it saves about 30-45 minutes and is one less part of my electronic tether.

2. Now I only check e-mail three times a day (unless it is from one of my kids): at breakfast, lunch, and close to bed time. That means someone might wait longer for an answer or a reply to a comment on the blog. But, I have eliminated the almost incessant checking that comes with a smart phone.

3. Instead of having the Google home screen up all the time, now I only check the top news stories on the Internet twice a day: breakfast and bed time. Otherwise, the computer screen has a slide show of our vacation pictures.

4. Because the puppy wants attention in the morning after being away from us all night, I do not turn on the laptop first thing. Instead I give Bailey my attention for at least 20 minutes before booting up to start my "work day."


Not much of a diet is it.... more the elimination of a few snacks. But, I'm not sure what else could go. I truly enjoy the blogging and all that comes with it, but I also enjoy the other parts of my life and need to be sure they don't always get skipped. There are some bloggers with a much bigger readership than Satisfying Retirement who have gone on a week-long digital sabbatical. Frankly, I don't know how they do it. isn't the pile that they come back to so large that it takes a week to catch up?

So, help me. What steps have you taken to not allow your life to be consumed by electronic gadgets and the Internet? Do you see something I am missing that I might try? Where could I cut without harming what I have worked so hard on these past 23 months?

May 7, 2012

My Time, Your Time, Our Time: A Vital Retirement Balancing Act

This is one of the topics that is critical to a satisfying retirement. I can't quote specific figures but there are plenty of indications that one of the major causes of divorce among retired folks is the inability to reach an agreement on time use. I see comments about this problem as well as receive e-mails on a regular basis. While I have addressed this problem before, it is worthy of another look because it is so important.

The Heart of The Problem

The core of the issue is really simple: when two people are together, full time, how is time managed? Unfortunately, the solutions are much more complicated than stating the question. Why? Because there is the need to blend two separate personalities and lifestyles together in a way that each person gets what he and she needs from that situation.

Let's start with a common scenario: a stay-at-home wife is joined, full-time, by a just-retired husband. Of course the reverse can be true, but this arrangement is more likely so permit me to use it as an example. Alright, what is the problem?  Isn't it a good thing to be able to spend more time with a loved one? Haven't both partners looked forward to the day when hubby no longer has to leave each day for a job?

Well, yes and no. The stay-at-home partner has established a routine and a system that usually works well for that person. House cleaning and maintenance, shopping, cooking, time to pursue interests and passions, lunches out with friends, even quiet times, happen with some predictability. That person is the master of her (or his) domain.

The Effects On A Relationship

Suddenly, the retiring half of the couple doesn't leave the house or disappear into a home office for 6-8 hours a day. Now, the schedule and predictability that have worked so well are thrown into turmoil. This other person starts making demands on the stay-at-home's time. It is not unusual for a newly retired person (usually a husband!) to try to reorganize the household schedule to make it more "efficient." There is a loss of autonomy and control. Precious private time is suddenly lost or curtailed.

The opposite effect also causes problems. The new retiree spends the day in a chair watching TV or relaxing, using the rational that time to do nothing has been earned from years of employment. Too often there is an expectation that the wife now cook three meals a day and continues with the house cleaning and laundry chores. In essence, her "retirement" never begins.

Full time retirement can also expose weaknesses in a relationship that began well before the last paycheck. Sometimes, after the children leave home there is little to talk about and few shared interests. Other times, a particular personality trait that was almost endearing in small doses becomes a deal breaker when it must be lived with all the time.

Is There A Different Reaction?

On the flip side, for many couples the time together comes as the payoff of too many days and years apart. The ability to be with each other more often, to develop shared or new interests, and to learn more about the other half of your life comes as a tremendous blessing. Couples can become almost inseparable when the pressures of a job or child-rearing are removed.

Even then, there must be some caution applied. Too much of a good thing isn't necessarily a better thing. Each of us still has the need for some private time and separate interests. The happiest couples are those who realize that and work to make it happen.

I have been married almost 36 years (June) and retired for just under 11 years. I worked from home for the last ten years of my career in radio but was traveling half the year so it was almost like I worked away from the house. In these retirement years Betty and I have struggled at times with this issue. Until I discovered a passion (or two) and figured out how best to spend my day I was guilty of too much hanging around. I am a control freak so getting things done efficiently was one of my first "goals."

Over time, I have learned that these shortcomings were not building a satisfying retirement for either of us.  We made some changes. We are still making changes. Betty, in particular, is at the stage where she wants to readjust her time management and spend more time on her needs. I want to shake up our routine a bit with RV travel or cruises.

What To Do About Time Management and Retirement?

So, what words of wisdom can I offer you? Let me list a few.

1) We must have "Me Time." Betty tends to allow her "me" time to be taken over by others. She will tell you she struggles with being a pleaser, often to her own detriment. I tend to dominate, so I will grab her "me" time and add it to my "me" time if there is something I would like to do together. There isn't much of a discussion so "our time" is probably 70-30% made up of things I'd like to do.

This is not a good arrangement. As I noted, Betty is seeing the effects of this time division and is realizing she must be more assertive in protecting what she wants to do. My challenge will be to accept this evolution as important and long overdue.

2) "Our Time" cannot be just watching a movie together or sitting in the same room while we read. It requires a sharing of each other's time, space, and attention. One of the reasons I think we are both becoming increasingly interested in RV travel is the confined space will mean we can't be separate - together. There isn't enough room. RV living requires a more active participation in doing things together.

3) "Your Time" must not be treated as less important than "my time." After all, for the other person that is "my time." Respecting time apart, accepting separate interests, and allowing for different allocations of time and resources are essential commitments you make to a healthy relationship.


Now, all of us would benefit from your feedback. How tough has it been to adjust to full time retirement? What about your partner drives you up the wall? Do you relish when he (or she) leaves the house for a few hours? Have you found being together most of the time is a real treat? Are you excited about what the future holds together?

If you feel open enough to share something on the negative side of this discussion, please feel free to choose the anonymous option instead of using your name if you would rather remain unknown. That is just fine. Of course, if you want your partner to shape up, use you name and show him (or her) this post!


Final thought: I was watching my three grandkids a few days ago as they attempted to figure out sharing things along with separation of needs and interests. It struck me that, as adults, many of us haven't advanced much in these skills since we were four years old. Hopefully, it is never too late to start.

Related Posts

May 5, 2012

Book Giveaway: 65 Things To Do When You Retire

I have learned that 65 Things To Do When You Retire has been a strong success for the publisher. That is important to us all because the authors who contributed, including me, have agreed to donate all royalties to organizations that search for a cure for cancer.

If you haven't done so I personally ask you to purchase a copy for yourself. As I write this Amazon has the book available for under $11. It would also be a real favor to me if you'd add a review to the Amazon page so others may be inclined to buy this tremendous resource. Reviews from people who have purchased and recommend the book are more powerful than you might imagine.

Now, some exciting news: The book company has asked me to be part of the next book in the series. It will focus on the joys and pitfalls of travel for retired folks. No date has been set for publication but, obviously, I immediately agreed to contribute an article for the new book.

Also, I was given some copies of  65 Things To Do When You Retire to give away. It would be great for cancer research if you ordered one from Amazon. But, if you'd like to try to win one first, and then order one as a gift to a friend....that would be absolutely fine with me!

So, to celebrate the success of this book and the invitation to be part of the next one, I'm giving you the present. To win a copy for yourself:

  • Simply send me an e-mail with "65 Things" in the subject line. Include your name. If you are one of the winners I will notify you and ask for a mailing address for your book (see, I even pay the postage!).
  • I will not use your e-mail address to market to you..promise!
  • Winners will be determined by random drawing of all entries received by Tuesday, May 8th at 12 midnight MST.

It couldn't be much simpler. I have found this book to be a priceless resource as my satisfying retirement journey continues. I'd love for you to own one..or win one.

May 9th: Congratulations to Beth, Richard, Ellen, Gary, and Marianne...the winners of the book giveaway, picked at random from the nearly 50 entries.

May 2, 2012

Is There Anything This Woman Won't Tackle?

A few months ago I bemoaned the lack of decent repair people. We had a problem in our upstairs guest bathroom that baffled so-called professionals. The final answer from them was a $5,000 remodel. My wife decided she could fix it for a few hundred dollars and several days of effort. She did. Click the story link above if you missed the details.

Next on the home fix up list was a front door and sidelight panel that showed the effects of 20 years worth of Phoenix sun and heat. The wood was cracking and whatever finish had originally been put on the door had mostly vanished. It had to be replaced or fixed. Again, calls to various folks ended with a cost of almost $3,000 to replace the door and side panel, or $2,600 to refinish what was already there.



Guess who said, I can do that for less than $400, including new hardware? If you guessed wonder woman Betty, you are right. Four days of sanding, using wood putty, more sanding, painting, more painting, installing new hardware, and rehanging the door ended up costing just over $300. And the front door area is finished and looks better than whatever the professionals would have done.




Just so you don't think I'm a total loser, I did take the door off the hinges every day and help carry it to and from the backyard. I also did some of the sanding and managed to install the new hardware on the door, right-side up and lockable. But, my efforts were minimal compared to the human dynamo.



The finished job...Notice a house in Scottsdale that is not stucco and has a front porch..very rare!
Betty agreed to the sharing of these photos only if I added one at the end to show she cleans up pretty well...in fact incredibly well. I think I'll keep her. More importantly, she has indicated she'll keep me around, too...just not for house projects.



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May 1, 2012

The Retirement Risks We Face: A New Study

In late March I was provided with a copy of an 2011 annual survey conducted by Matthew Greenwald and Associates and the Employee Benefit Research Institution on behalf of the Society of Actuaries (there's a mouthful!) This major study of 1,600 individuals between the ages of 45-80 takes a look at the risks many of us see ahead in our satisfying retirement years. If you would like to look at the entire report I have provided a link at the end of this post.

For our purposes, here are some of the key findings:

Sharp Increase in Retirement Concerns

  • Retiree concerns about the various risks associated with retirement, which had remained fairly stable throughout the previous five surveys, increased sharply in 2011. Pre-retiree concern about many risks also increased, approaching or equaling the spike in pre-retiree concern measured in 2003.

  • Retirees and pre-retirees continue to express the highest level of concern about the value of their savings and investments keeping up with inflation (69 percent of retirees and 77 percent of pre-retirees very or somewhat concerned).

  • Retirees and pre-retirees also report high levels of concern about having enough money to pay for adequate health care, having enough money to pay for long-term care in a nursing home or at home, being able to maintain a reasonable standard of living for the rest of their lives, income varying based on changes in interest rates, and depleting all of their savings.

Steps Taken to Improve Retirement Situation

  • Retirees and pre-retirees continue to rely on reducing spending, increasing savings, and debt reduction to manage retirement risks. More than half report they have already cut back on spending and tried to save as much as possible. Approximately half also say they have eliminated all of their consumer debt  (editorial comment from me...Great!).


  • Others use asset management strategies to protect themselves against financial risks. At least half of retirees and pre-retirees report they have already invested money in stocks or stock mutual funds. Many have also moved their assets to less risky investments as they age.

  • Retirees are more likely than in 2009 to report having already implemented several risk management strategies, including saving as much as possible, cutting back on spending, and buying an annuity or choosing an annuity option from an employer plan. Pre-retirees are more likely than in 2009 to indicate they have already bought an annuity or chosen an annuity option from an employer plan.


How Long Will We Live after Retirement?

  • There is a strong tendency toward underestimating average life expectancy. When asked to estimate how long the average person their age and sex can expect to live, more than six in ten retirees and half of pre-retirees provide a response that is below the average. Only about one-quarter overestimate average life expectancy. 

  • Compared to 2005 results, pre-retirees are more likely to overestimate average life expectancy. Retiree estimates of average and personal life expectancy have changed little.

  • Retirees and pre-retirees most often say they would need to reduce their expenditures significantly if they were to live five years longer than expected. Other steps would include dipping into money that might otherwise be left to children or other heirs, depleting all of their savings, and downsizing their housing.

When Will We Retire?

  • More than eight in ten retirees report they retired before the age of 65. However, half of pre-retirees indicating they will retire say they expect to retire at age 65 or later. This difference between expected and actual retirement age has been observed in prior studies in this series.


  • While three-quarters of retirees report they retired by stopping work all at once, only about four in ten pre-retirees plan to retire that way. Instead, pre-retirees plan to gradually reduce the number of hours they work or continue to work part time in retirement. One-third of retirees who stopped work all at once eventually returned to paid employment.

  • Retirees who worked in retirement and pre-retirees who plan to do so say major reasons for working are to stay active and involved and wanting additional income.


  • Two in ten retirees working in retirement and three in ten pre-retirees who plan to work in retirement report they started or plan to start a small business or become self-employed.

Survey differences between men and women
  1.  Among both retirees and pre-retirees, women are more likely than men to express concern about most of the retirement risks mentioned in the study. They are also more likely to have cut back on spending to help manage these risks.
  2. Women tend to provide estimates of population and personal life expectancy that are three to five year higher than the estimates provided by men. They are also more likely to think there would be negative financial consequences if they lived five years longer than expected.
  3. Among retirees, men are more likely than women to report having received money or income from a defined benefit plan and to be currently receiving guaranteed income other than Social Security.
  4. Among pre-retirees, a larger percentage of women than men think they need to save more money and work longer as a result of the changes in the stock market and the economy.
 Lots of information in this report. If your eyes didn't glaze over you may have come to the same conclusion that I did: as Satisfying Retirement has noted for the past two years, retirees are getting smarter about the risks we face  and the aggressive steps that must be taken to deal with the changing landscape.

We know what to do to help ourselves though we don't always follow through. Women tend to be more realistic than men about the problems ahead and what steps they will have to take. If you'd like to read the entire report it is available here:  Full Research Report

Did you learn anything new or have any of your beliefs reaffirmed?