September 30, 2012

Book Review: 10 Steps to Finding Your Happy Place


It is always a pleasure to read a well-written book. That enjoyment is doubled when the message is important. This was my reaction as I read 10 Steps to Finding Your Happy Place (and Staying There).

Galen Pearl is a blogger and a friend. I was pleased when she asked me to take a look at her book. I expected it to be interesting. What I didn't expect is something that could be life-changing.

She uses stories of her fascinating, difficult, stimulating, and, at times, scary life journey to weave a narrative that I couldn't put down.

With her blog of the same name as the jumping off point, Galen uses a variety of sources along with her own insight to make finding one's happy place a real possibility. Blending many parts of her own life story, her studies of the major religious traditions, and her time living in Thailand and Africa, Galen presents a detailed, yet very accessible thesis: you can find and inhabit your happy place regardless of the handicaps and obstacles placed in your way, by others, and by yourself.

Yes, she was a hippie wandering through Central and South America. Yes, she was a salmon fisher in Alaska. And, yes, she was a law professor. If that weren't enough she raised five children, two with autism and two adopted from China. Galen has a story to tell. But, importantly, what she has done is taken the good, the bad, and embarrassing to share vital insight with her readers.

Frankly, I have a hard time picking my favorite chapters. Each is loaded with wisdom and tremendous quotes from the famous and infamous to help make her point. As a reviewer I received an e-book version. My reader allows me to highlight important sentences, words, or concepts. I just counted the number of times I used this feature in Galen's book: 131 times. That tells me Galen reached me strongly.

She isn't hesitant to tell you exactly how she has made mistakes and chosen the wrong way before discovering the path to her happy place. But, in the spirit of full disclosure I found the sections on choosing to be right or happy, and not judging others (and myself) to resonate the most strongly in my life.

All the proceeds from the sale of her book go to The Edwards Center in the Portland, Oregon area, a non-profit organization dedicated to enriching the lives of people with developmental disabilities. They provide them with the chance to live, work and socialize like those without disabilities as much possible – and to do so over the course of their lifetime. Galen's two autistic sons live at the Edwards Center and will for the rest of their lives.

I urge you to buy this book to support the Edwards Center's mission. I urge you to buy this book to support Galen Pearl. And, I urge you to buy this book for your own peace and happiness. It is available at Amazon, Barnes & Nobles, and Independent book sellers everywhere.


Disclaimer: I received a special pre-publication e-book for review. I was not compensated.


September 28, 2012

She Made Her Decision..What About You?

Very often some of the best ideas for posts come from the BRITW (best readers in the world). A while back a regular visitor sent me the following e-mail, looking for my feedback. After providing some of my thoughts I asked her permission to share her questions with you, the real experts of a satisfying retirement. Please read what she had to say and then weigh in with your thoughts at the end. I have removed a few specific references to keep her thoughts anonymous.



"This morning I was thinking about our recent downsizing and how at one time we had looked at an "active retirement" village vs. a regular neighborhood. I am so glad we chose to say in an "integrated" neighborhood!

The larger home we just left was in a neighborhood of mostly older folks, many were retired but it was not a retiremenet community.Still, it was darned quiet, the HOA meetings were filled with crochety older folks (sorry), many of the homes were not lived in very often as many of our neighbors who were retired lived elsewherepart of the year. We desperately needed some new viewpoints, and well, it was boring!!

When we visited [ a planned community] a while back  it was BEAUTIFUL but in a disneyland sort of way. My husband was afraid of it!! Also, friends of ours said that there was an ambulance taking someone away almost every day or week!

No kids! No bikes in the street, no basketball hoops..we decided against it.

Now, we're in a nice neighborhood in [a Phoenix suburb] our neighbors are a medley of baby boomer-almost-retirees, a couple of retired singles who have homes here, younger families, and families with teens. My next door neighbor is that throw back to the 50's: a MULTI GENERATION family! My new friend over the fence,[Betsy], is the mother in law, a retired teacher, living with her daughter, son in law and 9 year old.They are a nice happy family!  The youngster has someone waiting for him after school every day in his  own home!! Remember those days?????I grew up with a grandmother in our home and so did my husband. 
 

I enjoy a vibrant neighborhood. I don't like TOO much quiet! I love hearing the kids go off to school in the mornings, some even ride their bikes.I wouldn't mind babysitting for a new Mom once I make more friends in the neighborhood, and the diversity is refreshing..enlivening.  Anyway--I don't  think  we  would enjoy our "almost" retirement in a segregated  retirement community as much as in this vibrant one..

Activities: We have downtown [area towns], the library, the riparian Water Park, the dog park, close-by mountains, and "up north" just a gorgeous 2 hour drive out the Bush Highway. Oh, there's the Saguaro Lake Marina too..  and of course the mall, but I don't shop for a hobby.. but they DO offer FREE CONCERTS in the nice time of year! Plus many city sponsored classes and activities.I also belong to 3 meet up groups to meet people (of all ages) with my interests (Astrology, paper crafts and hiking).

Just a thought for a post.. I would also love to hear from the folks who enjoy their retirement neighborhoods,I love to hear all points of view!"


Obviously, this is a lady who loves where she lives. The idea of a 55+ community is not her cup of tea.The stimulation of a mixed-age neighborhood is important to her.

I know there are just as many folks who want to escape the bicycle-school bus environment. Also, there is the issue of a planned community for seniors that includes different styles of living for different times of our lives (independent, assisted, and nursing center), something rarely found in a "standard" neighborhood.

A third choice is something I wrote about in the post, Retirement Cohousing. This was an entirely new option to me. But, the comments indicated this is a growing trend that offers retirees a legitimate alternative.

OK, your turn. What are you looking for, or what have you chosen to be part of your satisfying retirement? There are advantages and drawbacks to all choices. One of the way we can make the best choice is by considering the experiences of others.

Betty and I keep going back and forth on what should be our next housing choice: condo, smaller home, retirement community while we are still healthy enough to be admitted, cohousing, full time RV.....? I am anxious to read your thoughts.



September 26, 2012

Someone Explain Medicare to Me

In reviewing the answers submitted for my new book, one query that has popped up several times is a concern about Medicare. The worry is not about the fate of the program or asking for help in determining what the politicians are likely to do (good question!). No, it is much more basic: "Please explain Medicare to me" or  "What decisions do I need to make?"

Disclaimer: I am still about 19 months away from qualifying for Medicare coverage, so I can't speak from experience. However, I'll do my best to summarize what you need to know. I will be covering Medicare, not Medicaid which is an entirely different program. As with most federal programs and health insurance coverage there are enough exemptions and differences to fill 20 posts. I will only attempt to explain the usual, most common situations.

Medicare is a federal program that pays for certain health-related expenses for people 65 and older. While many costs are covered, an individual enrolled in Medicare is responsible for certain deducible and copays. Some services are not covered at all and others for only a limited period of time.

There are four parts of Medicare:

Part A is hospital insurance. Copays, deductibles, or coinsurance will determine what you pay. Usually there is no premium for Part A.

Part B is medical insurance that helps pay for doctor visits, outpatient care, health health care, and equipment. There is a monthly premium for Part B.

Part C is better known as Medicare Advantage. This is coverage provided by Medicare approved private insurance companies.

Part D is prescription drug coverage. This is also run by Medicare-approved private insurance companies.


Most folks get Part A and Part B automatically. If you receive benefits from Social Security you will automatically get Part A & B coverage starting the first day of the month you turn 65.  If you aren't yet receiving Social Security (because you are still working for waiting until your full retirement age of 66) you must sign up 3 months before your 65th birthday to get Medicare coverage.

If you must sign up (as noted above) there is something called the Initial Enrollment Period which is the period from 3 moths before until 3 months after your 65th birthday. If you miss this window your benefits will be delayed.

If you decide to wait until after the Initial Enrollment Period, there is a general Enrollment Period during the first three months of each year. However, if you use this option, realize your part B premiums will be higher.

If you are covered by a group health plan at your place of employment  and then want to start Medicare, there is another time period, called the Special Enrollment Period that generally allows you to avoid the higher premiums for late sign up.

With me so far?


Other Factors to Consider

Medicare does not pay 100% of most services. So-called Obamacare has put in place several free screening tests for those on Medicare, like colonoscopies and mammograms. But, most doctor visits, tests, drugs, and equipment are going to cost you money...usually something approaching 20%. That's where Medigap coverage enters the picture. This is a policy, sold by a private insurance company, that acts as secondary coverage to Medicare and pays what is left over after Medicare pays what it will.

Just like the rest of Medicare there is a specific enrollment period for Medigap coverage. You can buy any policy that is offered for sale in your state, regardless of your health status. The amount of supplemental coverage, the monthly cost, and any deductibles are different for each policy offered. You decide how much supplemental help you want and can afford.

Speaking of costs, Part A Medicare coverage costs you nothing since you already paid into the Medicare fund while you were working. Part B coverage does carry a monthly cost. For 2012 most pay $99.90 per month. There is also a $140 deductible. Part D prescription coverage costs vary depending on the plan you select and the level of drug coverage. Again, Obamacare has lowered the payments you must make when you enter the drug "donut hole."


What is Covered?


There is no simple answer to that question. Medicare publishes a 148 page booklet that still suggests calling for specifics. But, in general, here is what you can expect:


Part A pays part or all of inpatient hospital care, inpatient care at a skilled nursing facility, hospice care services, and home health care services. As you might guess there are all sorts of qualifications and exclusions for this list but this is the primary purpose of Part A coverage.

Part B helps cover medically necessary services like doctor visits, outpatient care, durable medical equipment, and several preventive services and screenings.

Part C is the designation of Medicare-approved private insurance companies that has various coverage options and costs. You still have Part A and Part B coverage, but the specifics are likely to be different from original Medicare. Generally, coverage is more complete but the costs are higher.

Part D covers some of your presecition drug costs. If you don't need a lot of drugs now, it still may be wise to take this coverage because of late enrollment penalties. Part D is provided by private insurance companies and varies widely in costs and coverage. There are usually copays and deductibles involved. The "Donut hole" limits coverage on what these plans will pay for your drugs. UNder the new health care plan, that donut hole is shrinking and has a new feature that gives you a 50% discount on covered brand name drugs. 


Importantly, these items are not covered by Medicare (not a complete list):

  • Routine Dental care
  • Dentures
  • Cosmetic surgery
  • Acupunture
  • Hearing Aids
  • Exams for fitting hearing aids
  • Long term care


If you'd like more detailed information or see if specific services are covered,  this government website should be your first stop.

The official government handbook Medicare and You is also a must-have resource.



OK, now the fun part. What have I missed or overlooked that you want to pass along? If you have Medicare what can you tell the rest of us that we should know? Pe3rsonally I have paid for my own health insurance for over 40 years. I am looking forward to getting  a break on at least some medical expenses.

September 24, 2012

Book Review: Freeways to Flip-Flops

Sonia Marsh is a gutsy lady living a satisfying retirement. Taking a cue from her Gutsy Living blog, she has recently published a book that certainly qualifies her for that title. Freeways to Flip-Flops is the true story of Sonia, her husband, Duke, and their three sons moving from suburban Los Angeles to Belize. 

That alone would be worthy of a story or two. But, the reason for the abrupt change of lifestyle makes Sonia's tale truly compelling: to save her marriage and her family.

Duke was a stressed out, over-worked, over-committed lawyer who had little time for his family. The three boys were becoming products of an Orange County culture that stressed acting privileged, experimenting with drugs and teenage sex, and weakened family ties. 

After serious warning signals that all was not well in the Marsh household, Sonia and Duke took the radical step of selling all their possessions and moving to a hut in the jungle over 2,000 miles away.

Freeways to Flip-Flops is the story of one year in their lives. It is the story of their struggles to adapt to a completely foreign culture and environment. There were moments of pure terror during storms. The frustration of having extremely limited food choices took its toll. Living conditions were primitive. At times fleas were washed off that evening's pasta so dinner could be served. 

Attempts to earn extra money for the family were thwarted by the locals. Duke lost his telecommuting lawyer job due to poor Internet service and the constant hassles of just getting through the day. A move from their first house (a shack, really) to better conditions came with unexpected hurdles and costs.


Through it all, the family not only survived, but began to grow closer. Their self-centered, indulgent lifestyle was slowly replaced with one of concern for each other. Rebellion against the limits placed on life in a third world country evolved into acceptance and then preference for a simpler lifestyle.

A year later the Marsh family returned to California, changed and matured in a very fundamental way. The search for paradise became not so much a place but a state of mind and an appreciation of the beauty of simple things.

Sonia is a blogging friend who has worked hard on this book and establishing herself as a gutsy lady. She was born in Denmark, lived in West Africa and Paris, and attended college in England. She has lived a fascinating life, but nothing could have prepared her for a year in Belize. I highly recommend this book. It is available at Amazon.com.



Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book for review purposes.


September 21, 2012

How Should I Respond To a Failure?

My latest mentee in the prison ministry program has blown it, big time. There are indications he has started up with drugs again, moved out of the ministry's halfway house training center, and is probably on his way back to prison when the parole officers catch up with him.

Regular readers of this blog know I invest a lot of my volunteer time and effort into prison ministry. I believe quiet strongly that a faith-based transitional program is one of the few ways for an just-released inmate to have even a fighting chance of making it on the outside. These men and women have made serious mistakes, paid the price, and are committed to turning their lives around. Even though society makes it as difficult as possible for them to succeed, I have seen the good this program can accomplish. I have also seen what happens when someone just can't control his internal demons.

There is really no way to predict who will make a go of it and who will be back wearing orange behind bars. We can conduct all the one-on-one meetings in the world, work through books designed to strengthen someone's faith, offer unconditional love and support, and surround them with all the tools needed to start anew. But, if there are issues and personality traits that can't be tamed or controlled, then that person will fail.

This is not the first time I have "lost" one of the men I work with. But, a few months ago when I picked this fellow up as he walked out of prison, I was feeling good about his chances. He gave every indication he wasn't going to follow the same path of failure. He had children he adored and wanted to be part of their lives again. His marriage was on life support but he seemed ready to put that behind him and focus on what he must do to stay strong and free.

Over the last few weeks I had begun to notice problems. His temper would flare and he'd have a hard time controlling it. His attitude toward others was often rude and aggressive. When confronted with a situation that required him to step back, he'd take a giant step forward and make things worse. He understood that this program was his best chance to get back into his kids' lives and be a positive influence for them. But,  he simply couldn't keep from making bad choices that made that outcome impossible.

His spiritual life was becoming non-existent. He didn't exhibit a truly changed heart or an understanding that God had a plan for him. Instead, he willfully insisted on his way to satisfy his desires. There was no conception of the long term consequences of his actions and decisions. 

His phone calls became sporadic. His response to e-mails and tests became non existent. I was scheduled to go see him a few nights ago but was notified he hadn't come home for two nights (and counting) so there was no point in driving to the center to meet with him. He had vanished.

Eventually he called the director to tell him he was back on drugs and wasn't returning. The parole officer was notified and the wheels started to turn. Even then, the ministry offered him one final chance to stop his fall before it was too late. He rejected the offer and was officially in violation of his parole.

I was angry, upset, disappointed, and frustrated. His failure reflected poorly on me and the ministry. We know not everyone will take the opportunity offered them. Ultimately the individual makes the choices that determine his fate. But, we'd be less than human if something like this didn't bother all of us involved with this man and his future and cause us to wonder if we could have done things differently to help him.

Now what? I'll lick my wounds and jump back into the battle. I'll start again to travel to the prison in northeast Arizona once a month to meet with other men who say they want the same chance this fellow had. Eventually, one of these men will become my next mentee and I'll try again.

Whether it is working as a volunteer, being a parent or grandparent, teaching others, starting or running a business, writing a book, or simply being a member of the human race, a failure cannot be allowed to be more than a temporary setback.

Sure, it hurts. Yes, I wish this guy had been part of my life for another 5 months until he had succeeded in re-launching his life. But, I will not let his decision affect my decision to be part of this prison ministry organization. If I did, his bad choices would have even greater negative consequences than they already have. I won't give failure that kind of power.

September 19, 2012

Fall Cleaning...But Not What You Think

No, this post has nothing to do with cleaning out closets, garages, and storage areas, though all those are good things to do as cooler days arrive. This is a more subtle kind of fall cleaning, but still very important to your satisfying retirement. This is the time of year when we usually face a busier schedule, more calls for our help, and more demands on our energy. So, I am suggesting this is the perfect time to fall clean yourself. After my just-completed RV vacation I am especially sensitive to the issue of life clutter.

Just like a closet in your home can easily reach a cluttered, disorganized stage, so can our minds. Both require regular thinning out, re-prioritizing, and replacing wornout stuff with something newer and better suited to our needs.

I have written before about dumping personal habits that no longer serve their purpose. Rather than revisit that topic, I'd like to explore a different kind of mind-cleaning: the buildup over time of commitments, must-dos, should-dos, and want-to-dos. Most of us hold onto a self-image that says we can do anything we set our mind to. When a friend calls we respond. When an interesting new volunteer opportunity arises we squeeze it in. When a friend recommmends a new book to read, we get it and put it on the teetering stack by the bed.

Think of the messiest place in your home. Let's assume it is a hall closet: try to jam too much in and it becomes useless. You can't open the door without the risk of something falling on your head. When you need an item in the back of the closet you must take time to remove things that are blocking your way. The more we try to squeeze into that space the less it can perform its intended function. Finally, we are forced to take drastic action: take everything out and put back only the stuff that belongs there.

Our minds can become just like that closet. We try to pack in so much that we actually end up harming our productivity and happiness. Year after year we fill our schedule with meetings, events, and activities that no longer satisfy us or fit our lifestyle. Our mental closet has no space left to actually enjoy what we are doing. We go through the motions because we always have.

Fall is a good time to:



Stop doing what you do every fall and take the time to decide if everything continues to fit your life. Does that organization you belong to still meet your needs? What about the three time a week exercise class at 6:00 AM that leaves you dragging for the rest of the day? Is meeting friends at the coffee shop every Friday still a joy? Do I really have to dust every other day? Could I save a lot of money if I cooked at home more often?

Look at your options. The great thing about retirement is you have the freedom to look at how your life is going and make changes if you want to. Look at all the options you have for social interaction, hobbies, strenghtening your body and health through new exercise routines, or going back to college to get that long-delayed degree. Think about your important realtionships...is there something I can do to make things nicer around the house? If I hire a cleaning service I can start those night classes I've always wanted. Can I squeeze that into my budget?

Listen to your heart. Too often I think we discount the importance of our emotions when we make decisions. During our working lives, usually thinking with your heart as well as your head can get you into trouble. Rare is the job where logical thought, an ordered system, and performance-based evaluations are balanced against how all of it makes you feel. But, now, you can listen to what your heart is telling you. Does this feel right? Am I more content if I do this instead of that? Is it less "productive" but makes me smile? Your heart can't always overrule your head, but at least give it a chance to be heard.

We all learned to Stop, Look & Listen near train tracks. That continues to be good advice. A satisfying retirement requires that you keep a balance between your head and your heart. If something you are doing doesn't bring you joy or satisfaction and you can choose to do something else, then do so. The person best able to judge your performance is you.

September 17, 2012

RV Travel: What It Taught Me About Myself

My first RV trip is over. We are back to the normal routine. The normal pattern of daily life has begun again. But, what did Betty and  I get for our $2,200 and nine days? Were there any lasting impressions or lessons learned that will help our satisfying retirement?

Absolutely. One of the most important happened on the very last afternoon. We had discovered a beautiful state park less than 10 minutes from the RV park in Show Low. It has a large lake, hiking trails, enough picnic tables for a small army, and a stunning RV campground. As I sat on a bench by the shore, watching the clouds march across the sky, a bird dive-bombing the lake to grab a fish, and Betty snapping pictures of even more wildflowers, I suddenly realized a part of a satisfying retirement that I had not fully grasped.

I have been retired for over 11 years. I have vacationed in Europe twice, Hawaii, the Pacific Nothwest, California more times than I can count, and taken a 5,000 mile driving trip. But not until last Thursday afternoon by a lake just 5 hours from home did I fully grasp the gift of feeling free. I felt like I had stepped off the merry-go-round.

This RV trip has given me an important look into how I structure my time. It has re-taught me the critical importance of maintaining a balance in my life between obligations and pleasures, to-do lists and want-to-do lists. It has proven to me (again) that I am happiest with simple things like an afternoon in natural surroundings, a quiet morning, reading, being alone with Betty without outside distractions, and no list to check or cross off.

Obviously, I can't live the rest of my life off the grid like the last nine days. I have family I love and obligations to them. I have church groups that I enjoy attending. I have a house to maintain, cars to service, finances to manage, and bills to pay. But, an RV trip seems to give me a respite from reality, a simplified version of my life, and a chance to reconnect with the quiet part of me.

Next? We need to see how Bailey, our cocker spaniel, will do on the road.  I've survived draining black water, using the stove top to make toast, remembering to take off my shoes before going inside, and mastering the furnace so we wake up warm instead of frigid. But, if the dog in our life can't adapt to traveling inside a car or trailer, not barking at every living thing, or sleeping in a more confined space we have a problem. The next trip will determine when (or even if) we get our own RV in the near future.

My parting words: even if RV travel isn't something you think you might enjoy, take one form of travel or life change and try it. You just might discover that makes your satisfying retirement truly come alive.


A grand time and the Grand Canyon

September 14, 2012

How To Retire

That seems like an odd title, doesn't it? How to retire is simple: stop working. Well, no, that isn't quite the case. If almost 400 satisfying retirement blog posts have taught me anything, it is that this is a complicated journey. It seems to be unique to each of us. Sure, there are general guidelines and certain steps to take to improve your odds of retiring well. But, as I read through the responses to the questionnaires that will form the core of my new book, I am struck by how each person answers many of the questions in a slightly different way.

Retiring cannot be reduced to a series of specific steps. Yet, How to Retire is one of the most Googled terms in the area of retirement information. It only lags a little behind retirement financial calculators and retirement pensions in the total number of hits. So, there is a real hunger for help, a desire to find some guidance. Not being one to shy away from a challenge, let me try to summarize in a way that anyone will find something to work with.

1. Why do you want to retire? You've had a bad week, or month at work. Your boss or customers are annoying. You are tired of the daily commute. None of these should be enough to make you decide to retire. Trust me: retirement carries the same bad days, the same annoyances, the same routine. That is what living includes.

To really want to retire voluntarily the reason has to be two-fold: you have reached the end of the line in terms of enjoyment or satisfaction with your work. You dread getting up every morning and facing the same old things. Your dissatisfaction has been building for quite some time, not just because of a rough patch.

The second reason is you can't wait to tackle a new phase of your life. You have plans and dreams, you itch to try something new, you can't wait to tackle whatever is next. You feel you have talents and energies that must be tapped.

Retirement isn't running from something, it is running to something else. Any other reason is probably not sufficient.

2. Are your prepared financially? Trust me, none of us ever feel we have enough money to retire. The thought of no more regular paychecks is sobering. But, there is a difference between not being ready and being ready but still being concerned or cautious. The average 50 year old American has less than $50,000 saved for retirement. That person is not ready, no matter how much he downsizes and simplifies.

I don't believe in set dollar amounts for retirement. There are too many variables. But, common sense says that even with a decent Social Security check each month you are likely to need quite a bit more to live for another 20 or 30 years. If you live within your budget, understand how to use credit, don't treat your home equity (if you have any) like a piggy bank, and understand the concept of delayed gratification, you are well on your way.


3. Are your prepared emotionally? Do I mean to accept all that free time and lack of deadlines? Am I ready for a stress-free life? No, that's not the issue. Emotional preparation means the loss of your personal identity. Most of us see ourselves as valuable and defined by our jobs. "What do you do?" is the first question asked when you meet someone. Who will you be when the answer is "nothing." Can you find meaning and purpose when you have to create it yourself? Are you mature enough and secure enough in defining your life by who you are instead of what you do?

4. Is your primary relationship strong enough? Being home full time with another person is a major adjustment. I'll say that again: this is a big deal. Retirements end with one or both partners going back to work simply because they can't stand being together full time. Divorce is a growing issues with older, retired folks. In fact, the largest percentage increase in divorce comes from those 50+. The time to work through differences and decide on the balance of we and me time is before work stops.

5. Do you have ideas on how you will use your free time? At first blush, an unstructured day seems like heaven. Each 24 hour period stretches before you with no commitments, no deadlines, no pressure. The reality is very different. After financial worries the biggest fear of those getting close to retirement is how they will use their time. What will they do all day? With 30 years filled with a job or career, there has been little time to develop any outside interests or passions. As point #1 above notes, retiring into nothing means you aren't ready to retire.

The most pleasurable retirement happens when someone has things to retire to: hobbies to pursue, new interests to explore, travel to take, grandkids to visit, books to write, volunteering opportunities to accept......things that bring meaning and purpose to your days. These are the things that cause you to get out of bed full of energy and enthusiasm. For those faced with another day of puttering around the house, reading for hours at a time, and ending the day falling asleep in front of the TV, retirement becomes a type of prison, locked into a behavior whose only goal is to get from morning to night.

6. Are you ready for the time of your life? As someone whose whole existence was defined by his work, who did a poor job of relationship building and who entered retirement unready emotionally and without real goals, I have finally arrived at a place where I can honestly state that this has become the best stage of my life. I stumbled badly for several years. I read too much, watched way too much TV, spent too many hours surfing the Internet, and longed for the security of my former high profile career.

Then, I found my stride. I stopped worrying about finances. I found passions that ignited me. I discovered the thrill of giving back and making a difference through meaningful volunteer work. I allowed my spirituality to blossom and define why I am here on earth. I rediscovered the thrill of a relationship that is growing and respectful.

I wish someone else had written this post 11 years ago. It would have saved me over three years of waste and frustration. My hope is that you find something here that helps you avoid my early mistakes. This blog is not all good news and sunshine. Retirement is just another part of life. It takes work, You will make mistakes. You will occasionally throw up your hands and ask yourself why are you doing this.

But, then, suddenly you will find the correct light switch. You will figure it out. You will have what it takes to live a satisfying retirement.

September 12, 2012

Retirement RV Adventure Part Two



After 6 days in a Flagstaff RV park Betty and I packed up and headed for Show Low, AZ, about 140 miles away. I wanted to see how comfortable I felt in driving a 25 foot long, 12 foot high vehicle over both Interstate and mountain roads. I am happy to report there were no problems. Aside from various rattles, which I gather are common to any RV, the vehicle handled well. It was necessary to stop for a bathroom break at one point but there no need to find a rest stop. I just pulled over and used the on board facilities. I'm sure RVers wouldn't find that unusual, but Betty and I thought it was the ultimate in convenience!

Frankly, I am kicking myself for waiting so long to try RVing as part of my satisfying retirement. For quite some time I had thought this would be a fun experience but had never committed to doing it until last week. Like many things in life, we lose out on great experiences due to simple inertia. I just had to finally take the steps to make it happen.

The first seven days of this trip have been everything I hoped it would be. Using a rental RV to see how Betty and I would react has been the perfect first step. While I have heard horror stories of folks who have had nothing but problems with rentals, our experience has been virtually flawless.We quickly figured out how to drain the gray and black water as required, flush the hose, adapt to a different type of refrigerator and make dinner on a three burner propane stove. Our decision to use the shower facility at the campground meant the waste water tank never became full. I will admit I tried the shower in the RV once, but it is a tight fit for someone 6 feet tall.

We quickly settled into a very nice routine of waking up later than at home, turning on the furnace to warm things up a bit, and heading to the nearby shower room. Breakfast took place at the picnic table outside our RV door followed by some work on the laptop, reading, and talking about our day.

Then, we'd go to one of a dozen nearby trail heads for a easy hike to stretch our legs and allow Betty to indulge in her true passion: photography. At this time of year the fields around Flagstaff are blanketed in yellow and purple wildflowers. As you can see, the sunsets are amazing.

After lunch at the RV afternoons would be spent in walks, reading, a nap (yes!), wine and cheese, and then dinner. Evenings included movies on Netflix or a trip to downtown Flagstaff to window shop, share an ice cream cone, or listen to street musicians.


One day we decided to go to the Grand Canyon. It had been probably 15 years since we had been there. Only a two hour drive from our RV park, we simply jumped in the car and heading north. The day was perfect and the park spectacular. Because it was a weekday in September the crowds were almost non-existent.

We noticed tremendous improvements in the visitor center area plus the resort and shopping districts since our last visit. The trails that hug the actual canyon rim had been fully paved with several extra overlook areas added. Of course, we drove through both RV facilities located at the park for future reference!


Last Sunday we stumbled on a Route 66 festival in one of the parks downtown. Dozens of old cars, all restored to mint condition, along with a large farmers' market, and street fair filled our afternoon.

One of the joys of  travel is to find events like this festival and make it a part of your day. It wasn't planned - we weren't even aware it was happening. But, seeing the tents, people, and cars, we just had to stop.

The RV park is Show Low in about 50% larger than the one in Flagstaff and contained many more seasonal or permanent trailers. Some of them had front porches and small storage sheds. We had a spot near the office and shower rooms so our plan to not use the on board shower was still OK.  This park didn't have WiFi available everywhere but luckily we were within range of the system in the office. One thing I have determined: WiFi is a requirement of any parks we frequent in the future, for both blogging and entertainment options.

We will end our adventure this Friday and head home. But, this will not be our final RV trip. Both of us found something that fits us well and gives us pleasure. We are already planning our next trip: California in February, with Bailey our dog. Because of that I will reserve a 30 footer and see if that extra room makes for an even better living arrangement. Adding a dog to the RV we had for this trip would be just a little too snug.

What lessons and insights has this trip given me? Enough to fill another post or two. Look for those thoughts sometime in the next week or so.


Please click the g+ button if you liked this post. That extra step helps me a lot.



September 10, 2012

Are You Fit Eough for Retirement?

While I am on vacation in northern Arizona deciding if an RV lifestyle is right for Betty and me, Stan Cohen from ChiForLiving  has offered this guest post on physical fitness and its role in living a satisfying retirement. After the post of a week or so ago about good health and enough water intake, I think Stan's article make a nice addition.

The issue of staying fit enough to enjoy retirement is an important one. Not all of us can ride a bike 20 miles, hike up and down a mountain, or even swim enough laps to get our heart rate up. But, we can walk a few blocks, or do simple stretching exercises. Maybe we can lift an old milk jug that is half filled with water a few times to keep arm muscles active. There are web sites specializing in simple exercises that only need a chair. It doesn't really matter what you do- just do something. Here are Stan's thoughts:



Aging and retirement go hand in hand. Most of us prepare heavily in the financial planning end of making sure we are financially fit to carry out our plans.

Often overlooked is the physical side of the equation which begs the question: “are you physically fit enough for retirement?” You may have the funds to travel, spend time playing golf or working in your garden, hiking or whatever your picture of a Satisfying Retirement is, but are you fit enough to carry out those plans for the long term?

Have you made plans to keep yourself fit as you continue to age, not only to live out your plans, but for the unexpected as well? Keep in mind that many in retirement end up as the caregiver for their spouse, and in many cases end up caring for their parents with their spouse helping out.

In the last few years working with the senior population I have run across a huge contingent of retirees who are their parents' caregivers. There is also a tremendous number who see it coming as our boomer population ages and we start taking care of our parents who, by the way, are living longer and expect help from us.

A few of the major issues of care giving I hear about are burnout, anger, frustration, exhaustion, boredom, of course love, and loneliness. Most have aches and pains from being constantly on their feet running here and there, lifting, bending, carrying, cleaning and all the other movements associated with the daily grind of assisting an older person. The older and more fragile, the more work involved. My own mother in law for example was dead weight and much heavier for her size then she should have been.

For a current caregiver I would ask you to step back and assess how you approach this. My wife and I tag-teamed her mother’s caregiving quite often. Luckily I was here and able to help with some of the heavy lifting and spot checks. We shared cooking duties and house chores at both homes. I was able to spell my wife for enough time for her to get in some treadmill work to burn off the stress to some degree.
Do you have someone you can ask for help? Remember, although you choose to do this, you should not have to take the full brunt. If at all possible get your family to help and allow you some personal time. Any muscle needs recovery from overuse and most of yours will be beyond overuse.

Now, let me ask; “what do you do to keep yourself in shape for what lies ahead in your retirement years”?

· Do you stretch at night and in the morning to loosen up?

· Do you do any form of exercise to burn off the stress that can wreck havoc with your body?

· Do you eat right to keep your system functioning properly

· Do you remember to drink enough fluids so you don't dehydrate (or do you run on coffee alone to keep going?)


If you already exercise and keep yourself in shape, hats off to you and keep going! If you are overweight and tire easily or have fears of the potential downsides I mentioned, yet still want to care for mom or simply have the Satisfying Retirement lifestyle you wished for, then get busy training for it. Walk more, climb some stairs, do more chores and get busy practicing what you say you "want to do ". You very well may want to consult your physician and see if you should take any special precautions or do some specific exercises before beginning a program.

In any case, I would recommend some Tai Chi, Qigong or Yoga and an occasional massage to help with your overall well being while enjoying your aging and Satisfying Retirement lifestyle.

__________________


Thanks again to Stan for his thoughts. His website is ChiForLiving. He believes you are never too old to start getting fit. Click the link for some practical things you can do.

Stan is also the driving force behind the Modern Maturity Net, which often reruns my posts. He has been a steady supporter of this blog since the beginning.


As a disclaimer, I have not been compensated for this guest post.

September 7, 2012

RV Virgins No More


The fifty giant Motor homes dwarfed our rented 25 foot RV at the park near Flagstaff. Some had TV's set up outside that are bigger than most of us have in our homes. Folding chairs, outdoor rugs, even potted plants said these folks had been here for awhile.

Yes, it is doggie bathroom
Everyone seemed to have a small dog or two. Maybe it is because this RV park has a pet washing station and leash-free doggie play area. Satellite dishes perch on picnic tables. Every fifth RV has an American flag attached to its front. The smell of cooking meat filled the mountain air as dusk approached. Betty finished heating our dinner just in time to set up at the picnic table right by our door and catch the sunset. We shared a small bottle of wine and toasted our first evening in a fiberglass box on wheels.

Finally our first RV trip is underway. After talking about it for years, we took the plunge. As is my custom I read several books ahead of time, watched a video or two, and talked with friends who have enjoying this lifestyle for years. I was encouraged by the experiences of fellow bloggers of urged me to go for it. The night before we left home I reviewed all the rules about dumping black water and not drinking from the fresh water tank (it is a rental, after all).

Rather than risking problems driving a motor home from Scottsdale up 6,000 feet to Flagstaff, I decided to drive our car up the mountain and pick up the unit there. This also meant we could park the RV and use the car to run errands or go to some hiking trails in the area during our stay.

I passed the first important test. Pulling into our assigned spot I didn't hit anything but was still close enough for all the various plugs and pipes I had to hook up. Betty and I decided we would use the RV park's showers and bathrooms most of the time. But, I still will want to practice draining the tanks and using the miniature shower occasionally. 

There are 2 outlets...is this the right one?

I plugged the power cable into the proper receptacle and felt a surge of satisfaction as the correct lights on the control panel glowed green. The sewer connections could wait until morning but I would figure out the process for black water, then grey water, and then flushing with fresh water.

Our first evening passed without incident. I did learn that RV refrigerators are not like ones we have at home. It uses a different principle to cool food: effective but slow. Along with our food we ended up buying a bag of ice to speed things along and have ice cubes for our drinks. The next morning I found the freezer was freezing and the main part of the refrigerator nicely cooled down. 

After a bit of experimentation Betty and I figured out how to hook up the privacy curtains that cover the front windshield. We found the switch for 2 small night lights that illuminated two step-downs that might have been dangerous in the middle of the night. After watching a movie on Netflix (solid WiFi at this park) and reading a bit, we called it a night.

Thursday morning began bright and sunny. The windows may have blackout curtains, but light still pours through the roof vents. Shortly before 6:00 AM we were wide awake. The unit was a little chilly and I wanted to test the furnace. It worked like a charm, heating everything up nicely in about 15 minutes. The hot water heater also did its job, almost too well. The water was close to scalding. Several hours later the water was still hot, even though I had turned off the heater after only 20 minutes.

As I type this we are about 24 hours into our RV experiment. I can report success. We will be at this park until next Tuesday. Then, it is off to another park in Show Low, about 140 miles away. We agreed we could easily stay where we are, but want the experience of packing things up, driving the vehicle on non freeway roads over a decent distance, and quickly setting up in a new location. Next Wednesday I hope to post about that experience and all about  our new "home" in the White Mountains.



Cruise America didn't pay for this trip..maybe they should have!

September 5, 2012

Working After Retirement: We Are a Good Bet

I am on vacation starting today...our first ever RV trip. I will post reactions and pictures over the next several days. But in the meantime, I received a request from Jay Smith at On Line Business Degree to share the following post with you.

As I continue to go through the responses you have sent me for my next book, I am struck by the number of times folks are talking about going back to work in some form or another after full retirement. This article shares some excellent points about the strengths those of us in our satisfying retirement time of life can bring to a potential employer.


You may be aware of the oncoming “silver tsunami,” which refers to the global aging of the earth’s population. Right now, about 28% of the U.S. population is 50 or older; by 2025, that figure is predicted to increase to more than 35%. By 2030, the global workforce over the age of 55 will rise to 22%. Despite these numbers, it is much harder for an unemployed older worker to get hired than a younger worker. However, over time this could change, as stereotypes about senior citizens are debunked, and more employers come to understand that hiring older workers is actually good for the bottom line. With that in mind, here are six reasons why hiring an older worker is a smart investment.

  1. Punctuality


    Older workers are more likely to show up on time, ready to work. Older workers understand that the work flow of a business, be it small or a huge corporation, relies on employees clocking in and clocking out at prescribed times. Being punctual can serve as an example to younger workers. Many older workers work because they want to, not because they have to, and their enthusiasm for a job that values their skills and helps them remain active means they’re apt to show up on time, ready to go.
  2. Strong communication skills


    Many believe social networking, instant messaging, and email has hurt the communication skills of younger workers and devalued the role that interpersonal skills play in the workplace. Older workers, who came up before the advent of Facebook, can mentor younger workers in the art of face-to-face communication. Older workers also value and expect good customer service, and as an employee, will assume that such service is expected of them.
  3. Employee loyalty and longevity


    Younger 21st century workers are more likely to move from one job to another. Long-term loyalty to a single employer isn’t a part of the world they grew up in; acquisitions, layoffs, and a culture that embraces mobility are the norm. On the other hand, older workers tend to stick with a job, saving the employer the high cost of hiring and training a replacement.
  4. Hiring older workers saves you money


    There’s an assumption among many employers that it is more expensive to employ older as opposed to younger workers. However, the differences in compensation costs are negligible, although an employer should look closely at what their insurance carrier offers in order to determine what those costs will be. Older workers generally have fewer dependents and take fewer sick days, two factors that, along with a commitment to punctuality and job performance, will ultimately save an employer money.
  5. Efficiency


    Older workers will draw upon their years of experience in the work force in order to make their and everyone’s job more efficient. The stereotype that says older workers are “slow” to catch on, especially in the digital age, doesn’t hold up when you consider they have years of technical know-how and experience to bring to the workplace. Getting the job done correctly and efficiently has always been key to being a good employee.
  6. Wisdom:


    There’s really no substitute for life and work experience; the combination of the two is commonly known as wisdom. Thanks to years of accumulated wisdom, older workers are more likely to keep their cool when a customer is freaking out, stay calm when the server crashes and data is lost, and offer support to a co-worker who is caving in under stress. Hiring an older team member or two, or three, or more, is a great way to take advantage of the full range of life experiences that only a diverse group can offer.


Thank you to Jay and the writers at On line Business Degree.  For full disclaimer purposes I am receiving no compensation for running this article.

September 3, 2012

Your Retirement and Technology

Recently the well-respected Pew Research Center released a study that proves once again how involved with newer technology those of retirement age are. Consider these up-to-date findings:
  • 53% of Americans 65 and older use the Internet or email. This is the first time more than half of this age group are on line. Of those on line, 70% are there every day.
  • 69%  of seniors own a cell phone. That is up over 10% in 2 years.
  • 34% use social networking sites on a regular basis. Facebook and Linkedin are the most popular.
  • 86% use email as their primary on line communication tool. Of course. anyone with children or grandkids know that texting is their preferred way to "reach out and touch." In fact, many in the under 30 age group report very little use anymore of e-mails. But retired folks remain big fans. 

So, with these research results in hand, what does that say to those of us working on our satisfying retirement? It tells me it might be a good time to review some of the benefits of the more common technology tools we have at our disposal. A case in point: one of my blogging friends upgraded to a smartphone within the last month or so after seeing how handy mine is. He had resisted giving up his basic flip phone until he understood some of the real benefits a more full-featured phone offered him.

I will state up front: don't get the latest gadget because others have. Don't leave your technological comfort zone until you see a personal benefit to you. And, truthfully, your life will continue along just fine without anything I am about to list. But, if you see a way to make things easier or better for you, then give it some thought.

Smart Phones. This is the generic term for cell phones that include features like texting, Internet browsing, e-mail sending and receiving, and taking high quality photos. You can listen to on-line music or do many of the things you can do on a home computer, like checking the latest news or weather, listening to audio books or reading printed books, even checking your bank account balance or paying on-line bills.

The learning curve isn't as steep as it may seem. Like anything else, you tackle the basics first..how to make and receive calls, using the calendar or alarm clock, or maybe how to read emails. Later, using your phone to send vacation photos to your grandkids, or posting on your Facebook page will be something you decide to conquer. Don't shy away from a smart phone because of all its capabilities. Consider it when you think there are parts of it that will make your life easier and more enjoyable.

Tablets. This includes devices like the iPad, Nook reader, or Kindle. Primarily used to read books, newer tablets have become mini computers. My Kindle Fire allows me to not only download and read books, but connect to the Internet to check e-mails, keep up on the news, watch movies on Netflix, and respond to comments left on this blog.

As a heavy reader, I find I still prefer "real" books. But there are times, like our RV trip or vacations, when having my reading material on one light weight tablet is much more convenient than lugging around stacks of books. There have been times I have been in a hotel room and watched movies streamed right to the tablet from Netflix. The quality is HD, though the sound is a little too low without ear buds.

Streaming video through a Blu-Ray player or TV. Personally, I don't see enough quality difference between most movies in Blu-Ray or regular DVD format to justify changing machines. But, newer Blu-Ray machines offer a key benefit: the ability to stream programs and music to the TV or sound system. Since we eliminated all but the very basic cable channels, Netflix has become the mainstay entertainment outlet in our home. A Blu-Ray machine will play regular DVDs as well as Blu-Ray versions. It also allows me to easily stream Pandora music through the TV and stereo system.

At least in my house, the WiFi receiver in two different Blu-Ray players was rather poor. Netflix kept dropping out or rebuffering. I finally put in a booster type hookup that wires into the back of the machine and have had no serious problems since.

TV show episodes on-line.  Rarely do we watch regular TV shows, especially when they actually air. Plus, with very basic cable we do not receive channels like Discovery, History, HGTV, or FX. For shows we have some interest in seeing virtually all are now available on-line. By hooking up my laptop to the TV we can watch the shows we missed whenever we want, with very few commercial interruptions.

A laptop in place of a desktop computer. Within the last few years there has been a very definite move away from large desktop computers with the tower unit holding all the components and a separate monitor. These large computers take up space and use more electricity. If you have ever looked inside a computer tower you realize at least half of it is wasted space.

With laptops coming way down in price, increasing in speed, hard drive size, and generous screen sizes, the days of the large desktop computer are numbered. Actually, the number of laptops sold has surpassed desktops for almost 9 years. By 2010, the number of each owned by Americans was split almost 50-50. Now, two years later laptop ownership almost certainly has bypassed the bulky desktop.

If you own a desktop computer that works well for you then there is no reason to change. But, if you are in the market, you might decide a lightweight and very portable laptop is your best choice. Realize change comes quickly in the computer world, though. Some folks are already predicting that tablet computers, like the iPad are starting to replace laptops as the device of choice. With cloud computing, hard drive storage space is no longer critical. And to top it off, Microsoft will be replacing Windows 7 with Windows 8 sometime this fall. Oh boy...a new system to learn!

By no stretch of the imagination am I a "techie."  I was very slow to move from typewriters to computers, a flip phone to a smart phone and using streaming video. I learned from others, decided what made sense for my needs, and took baby steps. It has worked well for me, but technology can still rear back and bite you. Example? My main computer crashed last week taking all data with it. 

Thank goodness for Carbonite and two external hard drives!

Would you like the chance to win an iPad? Would you enjoy taking a brief survey about how tech-savy you are (or are not!). Click this link 

 http://www.castlecover.co.uk/tech-survey-2012/default.aspx


The survey is open to everyone, but only resident of the UK can win the iPad.



note: I am being compensated by the company for running this link.