December 31, 2012

Happy New Year 2013




2012 was an event-filled year in the Lowry household. In March we added Bailey,a Cocker Spaniel/King Charles adorable bundle of energy and love to our family. Like all puppies she has been a challenge at times. But, we don't know what we'd do without her.



In July we took a gamble: flying to Oregon to meet people we only knew through blogging. It was one of the best weeks of our life and we fell in love with the people and beauty of Oregon.


Galen Pearl and Betty


Earl and Barbara Torris


Wendy & Bill Birnbaum with us

In September R.T. the RV joined our life. After talking about getting one for years but always delaying because of the costs, we finally decided to "just do it."





I have no idea what 2013 will hold. But, I approach it with eyes wide open and a firm belief that my satisfying retirement will continue.

Stay safe over the next few days, reflect and rejoice on your blessings.

I'll have a fresh post on Wednesday for 2013.

Happy New Year.



Bob









December 28, 2012

Retired and Alone


This blog is focused on helping you have a satisfying retirement. In one particular regard, however, I can be of little help with direct experience: being retired and single. Being retired and unmarried, either due to never being married, divorce, or widowhood is becoming an increasingly common phenomenon. I believe this is an issue that I have overlooked for too long.

The Internet has lots of information and insight that I have been reading. There are all sorts of sites loaded with suggestions on how to live a full and active life as a single. What I found rather interesting is that most of the suggestions are very similar to those for retired folks who are married or in a long term relationship. The basic steps to stay involved and connected aren't very different.


An Important Difference


But, there is an important distinction to be made. Being alone, either by choice or fate, does affect someone differently than being part of a couple. Being alone is not the same as loneliness, but there can be a strong link. Some people relish solitude. Their basic personality is such that they function best without having to interact with someone else on a regular basis. That doesn't mean someone who enjoys solitude doesn't enjoy being with others, having friends or joining groups. Rather, it seems to be a state of mind that says I do not need another person to feel complete.

Others find solitude to be debilitating. A major cause of depression in older people is the loneliness that can overwhelm someone after the death of a spouse or having to confront a life crisis alone. Richard Norgaard wrote in an article that says what tends to happen is these people become isolated, afraid to change, or maybe don't know how to change anymore. Learning something new and engaging with other people takes too much energy and dedication. The world keeps shrinking as friends and relationships slowly slip away.

In April 2012, blogger Carolyne Marshall said, " Loneliness is more of an emotional state consisting of a hollow emptiness and profound unhappiness. It is not a voluntary condition like solitude might be. Loneliness can affect us all at different times, in different ways – whether it’s a fleeting feeling or a constant state of disconnection or isolation." Blogger Dave Bernard asked an important question in one of his posts: ""How many relationships exist where couples stay together out of a fear of being alone when they would really be better apart? How many people rush into a new relationship because they do not want to go through life alone, preferring a bad match versus no match at all?"

Sex Plays A Major Role



Women live, on average, seven years longer than men. Therefore, being alone at some stage of life is more likely to be a problem for women.  Of the nearly 14 million widows in the United States, over 11 million are female. Estimates are that  25% of all married women in the United States will be widowed by age 65, and that 50% of the remaining women will have lost their husbands by their 75th birthday. Coupled with the statistics that shows divorce is growing fastest among those 55+ and being retired and single will become more of an issue.


As I noted the suggestions for those who find themselves retired and alone are not unique. Getting a job or volunteering so you interact with people is suggested by many. Staying fresh by learning new things, taking classes, reading non-fiction to stay up-to-date on important issues, attending plays and concerts....all good ideas but maybe they miss something important that someone who is retired and alone can add to this discussion.

I am a person who enjoys solitude. I need "me" time and a clean and clutter-free space on a regular basis. But, I have been happily married for 36 years, retired for 11, and expect my wife to be by my side as we age together. I really can't place myself in the shoes of someone who is on the retirement journey alone.


Interestingly, the PBS web site, Next Avenue, had an article a few days ago on the perils of aging alone. I guess we both arrived at the same conclusion: this is an important topic.

Retired and Alone: Can You Help Us?



So, this is where I need you. If you are retired and single for any reason I would really appreciate your insight. If you have friends who are single and retired and would consider adding their thoughts, please ask them to visit here.

How does being alone affect you, your lifestyle and your choices during retirement? Is it nice to be able to do what you want when you want without meshing schedules with someone else? Have you always been single and can't imagine any other way?

Or, is your aloneness in retirement something that you didn't plan for or think might happen to you? How are you handling this life change? What suggestions do you have for others in the same situation? What makes it better?

This is an important subject and one that I can't believe I have overlooked for so long. A satisfying retirement is our goal. How does our relational state affect it?

December 26, 2012

Five Motivational Ways to Age Backwards


What follows is a guest post from Rob White, author and motivational coach. His latest book is A Second Chance at Success (Mind Adventure, Inc.). All of us can use a dose of fresh motivation as the new year approaches. Enjoy!

 

You’ve probably heard expressions like “60 is the new 40.” The truth is actually that anyone can be 68 going on 50. All you need is a motivational mindset. Then you, too, can start counting the calendar backward at each birthday.

Beyond good diet and exercise – which are critical for anyone at any age – getting motivated is the key to aging well. Here are five ways to adopt a motivational mindset, launch your own age rollback, and engage the world at any age:

1. Change your WOE to WOW ratio. There’s nothing more de-motivating than living in a world of WOE (which is an acronym that stands for What On Earth). The world of WOE is dark and consists largely of finding fault and blame. WOE is like a leech that sucks the life spirit out of you. Its opposite, WOW (which means Wonderfully Obsessed with Winning) infuses every moment with excitement about the world. WOW is that frame of mind that motivates you to fully embrace whatever you’re doing. No, you can’t get rid of WOE—it’s part of the human condition. But you can choose to minimize the presence of WOE and focus on WOW; the key is to become more aware of WOE’s presence and to consciously opt for WOW. Try it. Keep a notebook of how much time you spend in a WOE state versus a WOW state. Then set a goal to focus on WOW for 15 minutes as you start your day. Soon, it will become a habit, and you won’t even have to think about it.

2. Get curious. Many studies have shown that the more you flex your mind as you age, the healthier your mind will be. In addition to engaging in brain-cell building activities like puzzles, ask questions about how things work and why things are. Nothing motivates like a good question. Find a headline story each day that you want to learn more about. Find a topic each week that you want to research through books or using on line resources. Adopt the curiosity of a child. The more new things you learn, the more you’ll be motivated to discover new areas of interest.

3. Invest in the moment. It’s so easy to look back with regrets or nostalgia that we forget to see the joy of what’s happening in the present. Ditto for spending time gazing into the future with apprehension or fear. Try an experiment: every day, spend 5 minutes focusing on the here and now, and allow yourself to feel totally invested in whatever you’re doing, whether it’s work or play. Be conscious that you’re in the moment. When you get comfortable with that notion, expand the time you spend in the here and now each day.

4. Let go and take a higher perspective. When you were younger, you were probably in the mode of striving for more -- more money, more status, more security, or more attention. More anything. As you age, that pressure starts to diminish. But if you’re like most of us, you still likely cling to the notion that you’re in some kind of a race that you must win. Let it go! When you stop competing against others you’ll be motivated to appreciate those things that really matter and you probably already have.

5. Do things that put you in a good mood. Good moods don’t just happen. They come about from doing things that make us feel happy, things that we enjoy. When we were younger, it was easy to feel good because we weren’t shy about letting our hair down and having fun. You can recapture that habit now. Incorporate at least one thing a day into your routine that puts you in a good mood whether it’s taking a walk, completing a puzzle, or pulling out a board game or a deck of cards with friends.. When you’re feeling good, you’ll likely be more motivated to try new things. And you can almost hear the clock ticking backward.

Be aware that a motivational mindset doesn’t come overnight. But the more receptive you are to it, the more you’ll enjoy waking up every morning – and flipping another page back on your internal calendar!





Rob White is an author, motivational coach and story-teller.

Visit him on line at www.robwhitemedia.com.   








 Satisfying Retirement received no compensation for this post or promotion.

December 24, 2012

Merry Christmas - Happy Holidays

This isn't the time to spend reading a long blog post so I'll keep this short.

It is time to be with friends, family, those less fortunate than you...anyone in any situation that allows you to spread joy and love.

Thank God for your blessings. In my case I thank Him for the birth of His son and his grace and mercy in my life.

Whatever your religious persuasion or belief system, I wish for you and yours peace and happiness, an internal joy that can't be extinguished, and an appreciation for the blessings of being alive.

Peace on Earth and Goodwill to everyone.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all.

A fresh post will be available Wednesday.



Bob



December 21, 2012

Real Retirement: An Inside Glimpse




There has been so many scary articles and blog posts written about having a satisfying retirement I am kind of surprised it is even a topic anyone reads about
anymore. After all, if the brightest and best experts say we will all work until we are 80, or that the majority will never be able to retire, then why read the thoughts of someone like me who is apparently swimming upstream against the current of history?


The answer is simple: the "experts" have been consistently wrong for quite awhile.  Let's start with the dot.com bust. Companies with no profits, no marketing, and hardly any employees were worth more than the GNP of most countries. Wrong. How about that huge Y2K scare? Did the computer age come to an end? Hardly. Or, how about the investment gurus who claimed housing and stock prices were on a perpetual upward trend with the Dow hitting 30,000 soon. Not so much.

I could cite many more obvious examples when the common wisdom and the expert opinions were dead wrong. I can also apply the last eleven years of retirement, 31 months of experience in writing this blog, almost 7,000 comments and well over 420,000 views to the same question and get a very different answer.

About 16 months ago I wrote Retirement living: What is the real truth that attempted to dispel some of the myths and half-truths surrounding retirement. Since then, some things have changed enough to revisit that post and see if I need to freshen some of the ideas.


...If you believe all that is written I think you will come to the conclusion that living a retirement lifestyle that is happy and fulfilling takes some planning, some adjustments, and some creativity on your part. But, doesn't life before retirement require the same stuff? Too many web sites, blogs, and magazines attempt to tell you this part of your life is fraught with troubles and pitfalls. You are facing a daunting journey that only the strong survive. The message is almost: Retirement, only the beginning of your problems.

  • Still the message we get too often. And, still not true.


Let me give you a few glimpses of what retirement is really like. I've been on this journey for over 11 years so I have probably faced several of the questions and issues that concern you. I have gone through the death of a parent. I have survived the collapse of my business. I have downsized, then downsized again. I am being screwed on a regular basis by our health care system to the tune of 33% of my yearly income going to insurance companies, labs, doctors, and big pharma.

Yet, even with all that, this phase of my life has been the most fulfilling, exciting, growth-filled, and satisfying of any part of my 63 years on earth so far. I have freedoms I could have only dreamed about while working and traveling 100,000 miles a year. My creative life has caught fire. I have written two books and host this blog. I have a marriage that is so much better than before I retired. I am financially weathering everything the world can throw at me, and still jetting off to Hawaii for a three week vacation. To cap it all off, the October issue of Money Magazine is profiling my retirement in as someone who is leading a satisfying retirement in spite of all the doom and gloom that bombards us every single day.


  • Insurance up 17% again for 2013 but we are still in good shape. We took that Hawaii trip and the Money Magazine article appeared as promised.


Retirement is not what it was for your parents or grandparents. That is absolutely true. The world and how it operates have likely changed forever. But, the exciting news is that so have we. I don't know a single retirement age man or woman who wants to spend 5 hours a day, every day, on a golf course, or sitting in an easy chair watching TV. I don't know anyone anticipating retirement who believe that their welfare is so secured by their former employer or the government that they will have zero financial worries in the future.

Retirement is an outdated word that can't possibly capture all of the opportunities and options you face. It implies you will no longer work. That is probably not true. Many of us want to keep working in some form. Retirement implies your active days are over. Not true, unless you choose to live like that. I contend your most active days, both physically and mentally, can lie ahead.

Retirement implies you will slowly fade away or become a burden to others. That can happen, and it does to too many of us. But, for most, that isn't necessarily your fate. Even if it is, that is years in the future. Why wouldn't you push yourself to live fully until you can't? Why worry about what may happen in the future, or let that worry confine you now? Plan for your future needs and try to lessen the impact on your loved ones. But, for heavens sake, don't let it paralyze you now.

  • If I could come up with a word to accurately replace 'retirement' I would. That word continues to carry negative connotations too often.  This phase of life is not about fading away, it is about expanding and growing.


My health is better today than it was 10 years ago. I weigh less and have more energy. I've dropped a few inches in waist size. I Look forward to the gym instead of fear it. My relationships are much better. The stress my lifestyle imposed on my family when I was traveling continuously for almost 20 years should have been enough to tear my family apart. Due to the patience and forgiveness my wife possessed we made it through that phase. Now, things are so much better because we have time for each other. Sure there are arguments. There are days when each of us would rather the other person took a long walk off a short pier. But, rather than linger and fester like during my working days, we blow up, figure it out, patch it up, and move on. That can't happen when one partner is gone 200 days a year.

  • I don't look forward to the gym. Honestly, I make excuses why I can't go much too often. But, the rest of it is still quite true.


I found my passion. I was a man with no hobbies and no real interests outside of my work. I dabbled in things, but mainly to fill the time. Retirement has given me the time and opportunities to try different things. The pieces finally fell into place about 5 years ago. Writing and volunteering with a prison ministry organization give me what I have been lacking: a passion and a real purpose. The day isn't long enough for all I want to accomplish. I never felt that way (in a positive sense) while working.

  • Still very true. Add to that a strengthening of  my spiritual life and filling my day productively is no problem.

The ending I wrote in September 2011 still applies: Retirement is very much what you make it. Of course your finances, family situation, health, and other factors will impact you. But, again I stress, they affected you before retirement, too. This is your time. This is your opportunity. This is your life. Build it and live it full throttle.

December 19, 2012

How I Start The New Year

For more years than I'd like to count, I tend to start the new year the same way. It is a five step process (I'm very organized!) that has worked for me before and during my satisfying retirement. See how closely this matches your approach.





Develop a budget

This is always first. Without knowing what my income and outgo is likely to be I can't make any plans for vacations, home repairs and new furnishings, charity donations, and all the things that keep the Lowry household functioning. Usually I draw up a rough budget based on the current year's situation by early December. After we get the dreaded health insurance new rate letter for Betty's policy with a 12-17% increase, I start to get serious.

For most years I plan on an overall increase in our total budget of 3-5% and that seems to work well. I know how much I want to withdraw from savings and investments so I simply work backward from that figure. If I reach zero before all categories are taken care of, out comes the red pencil until expenses are slightly below income. Betty and I will get together on New Year's Eve and decide the final look of the new budget...not very exciting but we avoid the craziness of that night.

2013 will have a new wrinkle: starting in May I will receive Social Security checks. That will be a tremendous help to our monthly cash needs and means the outflow from our IRA will slow dramatically. That is a good thing.

Clean out my office

All old receipts and files are boxed up and moved to the backyard storage shed. Since I handle my dad's finances, his stuff must also be sorted and stored. New files and envelopes are begun for 2013. My computer to-do list program has the previous year's information archived and a fresh slate is started.

As one year's worth of receipts and papers go into storage, the oldest box of similar stuff gets taken to a shredder. Everything that is older than 5 years except tax returns, paid up mortgages or other important papers, is destroyed.

I look for books and other items that can be given away or go into recycling so the office is as clean and empty of clutter as I can make it.

Put Away holiday decorations

If I had my way the Christmas stuff would be boxed up and back in the storage shed on December 26th. But, the family likes seeing everything all festive until New Year's Day. So, sometime on January 1st or 2nd we'll take down the lights, decorations, angle tree, and garlands and put the holidays behind us.

Since we had the whole family at our house for both Thanksgiving and Christmas this year there is more than the normal amount of things to clear out. It will take the better part of a day to arrange it all properly in the backyard shed before 2012 will be officially over.


Develop our vacation calendar

Betty and I usually discuss the next year's vacation the previous fall. We have a general idea of our budget and where we'd like to go. This year, the new RV has given us an entirely different focus on our travels.

Betty has a major commitment at church that will keep her close to home through late March so the first part of the year will probably have to be short getaways. We are going to Oregon for most of the month of August and want to take a two week trip to California next fall. But, otherwise, plans for R.T. the RV will be discussed on New Year's Day. For this first full year we hope to be on the road for a total of two months in the RV. That will be quite a shift for us.


Purge the house & backyard area

Betty and I are happiest with minimal clutter. I am also am tired of trying to maintain so many flowering plants around our yard so I plan to downsize the number of pots I have in the backyard. With us hoping to be traveling for a few months this year, the fewer plants to water the better.

There are nooks and crannies in the garage and in several closets that need to be thinned out. Before moving decorations back into the house after the Christmas stuff is put away we will decide how much we want bring back inside.

I'll go through the books in my office and bedroom that are no longer needed and donate them to a charity.  Usually at the beginning of the year I review my clothing situation. I get rid of things that are worn out or haven't been used for at least a year and make of list of what I'm likely to need in the coming year. Already I know several of my sports coats are heading for Goodwill.


That is my approach to starting a new year. But, I am always looking for new ideas and suggestions. What do you do to kick off the new year? How do you organize and prepare yourself, your home, and your mind for a fresh start?

 

December 18, 2012

Thoughts on Sandy Hook


This is not my typical type of post.  But, I can't ignore what happened on December 14th.


I have waited until today to add my voice to the discussion of the tragedy at Sandy Hook School. I needed time to process the horror. I needed to try to understand the mindset of people who believe more guns would have made last Friday's events less likely. I needed to understand why our country accepts tens of thousands of deaths each year from guns. I needed to understand why Congress is more afraid of the NRA than the reality of all the dead children and adults killed year after year.

I finally decided I can't understand.

I found this story from  TV commentator, Joe Scarborough, who was strongly in favor of unlimited gun rights........ until last Friday.

As reported on the Huffington Post Joe Scarborough said on Monday "From this day forward, nothing can ever be the same again," he said. "... Let this be our true landmark ... politicians can no longer be allowed to defend the status quo."

He said that he was a "conservative Republican" who had been solidly aligned with the NRA during his time in Congress, and had previously held libertarian views on the Second Amendment. But he added that Friday "changed everything":
"I knew that day that the ideologies of my past career were no longer relevant to the future that I want, that I demand for my children. Friday changed everything. It must change everything. We all must begin anew and demand that Washington's old way of doing business is no longer acceptable. Entertainment moguls don't have an absolute right to glorify murder while spreading mayhem in young minds across America. And our Bill of Rights does not guarantee gun manufacturers the absolute right to sell military-style, high-caliber, semi-automatic combat assault rifles with high-capacity magazines to whoever the hell they want.

It is time for Congress to put children before deadly dogmas. It's time for politicians to start focusing more on protecting our schoolyards than putting together their next fundraiser. It's time for Washington to stop trying to win endless wars overseas when we're losing the war at home ... For the sake of my four children and yours, I choose life and I choose change."
As a father of two grown girls and now grandfather of three grandchildren, I can't accept the reality that going to a school, a church, a mall, or any public space in this country is a decision that could cost anyone his or her life. That is just not acceptable.

For those who say banning assault rifles is just the first step to banning all guns, I suggest you go to Newtown  and talk to a parent of a dead 6 or 7 year old child and tell them exactly why a weapon designed for war has any place in civilized society.

I've heard all the arguments that banning guns won't end killings and the Bill of Rights and the 2nd Amendment gives us the right to bear arms. But, as Mr. Scarborough makes clear, that does not include assault weapons.

Yes, I am aware the killer in Newtown also had pistols. But, he killed the 27 people with a Bushmaster rifle. Would he had killed as many with the two handguns? Who knows. That distinction changes nothing. The Bushmaster has no legitimate purpose in society. It's availability is absurd and obscene.

Will the 27 dead be the last straw that finally forces change?

I pray it will be so. Otherwise, the dead lost their lives for absolutely nothing. And, that is the ultimate waste.


I am open to constructive comments and thoughtful responses. Name-calling will be deleted.

December 17, 2012

Crusing After Retirement: What To Know


This is a guest post by Karolina Shenton from The Cruise Web. Cruising is one of the most popular travel options of those seeking a satisfying retirement trip. But, there are so many options and possibilities it is important to get the right information. Karolina offers an excellent overview.

Cruising the world is a fantastic way to awaken your soul and see some destinations and cultures you’ve always dreamed of seeing. Popularized in the 1970s with “The Love Boat,” cruising has grown significantly since Captain Steubing called it quits. Now there are more than 100 different cruise ships and each one offers something just a little bit different from the next. While the plethora of options is great, it makes it hard to tell which cruise is the cruise for you.

That’s why I've put together a few pieces of valuable advice for you when planning and booking your next cruise vacation. Read on for some tips from inside the industry.

Choosing a ship/cruise line:

·        Ship size is very important. Some vessels accommodate more than 4,000 passengers, and include a bevy of lounges, bars, restaurants, and activities, as well as other cruisers. Other ships are built for less than 200 passengers, and offer a more personalized and smaller-scale experience.

o   Many retired cruisers find smaller ships to be more attractive. These allow for a more personalized service on board, intensive assistance in finding the right activities onshore, and more peace and serenity.

o   River cruising is a fantastic option for retirees—these all-inclusive options make booking a cruise easy: they usually include dining, excursions, and entertainment. That means less hassle for you. In addition, these exclusive itineraries include ports larger ships can’t reach, providing a one-of-a-kind experience.

o   When planning a cruise on a smaller ship, it is smart to book as early as possible. Prices are almost always at their lowest a year before the sail date, and your choice of cabins will be much greater.

·        Each cruise line focuses on a different on board experience. So although we suggest a smaller cruise ship, for retirees, not every ship will include the on board activities you may be looking for.

o   For the sightseeing vacationer: River Cruise lines such as Avalon Waterways and Uniworld offer regional touches such as local entertainment and regional d├ęcor, in addition to an incredible amount of sightseeing. This is because these smaller ships cruise right up against the banks of some of the most intriguing and seldom visited locations in the world.

o   For the active vacationer: Larger cruise lines such as Carnival, Royal Caribbean, and Norwegian offer all types of fitness classes and sporting events on board, as well as more intense, ‘not-for-the-faint-of-heart,’ onshore excursions.

o   For those with the yearn to learn: Some of the smaller ships offer incredible enrichment classes that will enlighten and inspire you. For example, Oceania Cruises has expert-led cooking classes in state of the art culinary kitchens, and Crystal Cruises offers a comprehensive collection of computer and general technology courses.

Choosing a destination/length:

·        There’s a destination for each and every one of us, depending on who you are and what you expect from your vacation. As a starting point, a cruise to Bermuda, Canada, and Northern Europe are popular destinations for the more experienced traveler. Here are some recommendations for different kinds of travelers.

o   I’ve retired, and I’m ready for my first cruise. First cruise? Make sure you get in touch with a travel agent. You may not know it, but you probably have a very specific set of wants and needs when vacationing, which is why having a consultant to assist you is an absolute must. Many retirees love classy, well-developed destinations such as Quebec, or St. Martin, which offer unique experiences, luxury accommodations, and incredible, upscale dining experiences.  Only an agent who has been there, and done that, can effectively help you sort through the sea of choices.

o   I’ve retired, love cruising, and am ready to see the world. To have the opportunity to see as many ports as possible, and therefore as many destinations as you desire, try a World Cruise. World Cruises are a fantastic choice for retirees, because the time constraint of being on board for so long isn’t as much of an issue. As an alternative, many cruise lines offer segments, which are shorter sections of the world voyages that still see a diverse set of ports-of-call in exotic destinations like Indonesia, Africa, and Eastern Europe, in a fraction of the time.  The best part is that you can choose a itinerary that focuses on parts of the world you haven’t yet seen.

o   I’ve seen the world, but would like to cruise to a unique destination. Such is the problem for many well-traveled retirees, because they have seen many places and are not as easily satisfied.  No problem. For those looking for a tropical experience, Tahiti and the South Pacific is a great option that is less visited than the Caribbean. You can find some of the most exclusive cruise excursions in the world there as you enjoy the wonderful weather. For those looking for an enriching vacation, try a river cruise to Asia. Culture, historical sites, and natural wonders are easy to find in Asia.  (ex: Angkor Wat in Cambodia, Dragon Dance in China)


As you can see, there is a perfect cruise vacation for every type of retiree. That’s why doing your research is key, and using a travel agent is strongly suggested. Who knows, your next vacation could be exploring the ancient temples of Cambodia, or viewing the fall foliage on a a cruise to Canada and New England. Get ahead of the game, find the right cruise line, and choose the best destination for you.


Satisfying Retirement received no compensation for this guest post or its commercial links.

December 14, 2012

Retirement & 2013: What Might Lie Ahead

We are less than 3 weeks from the start of 2013. Was 9/11 really over 11 years ago? Were the early 90's really 20 years ago? I still think of 1993 as quite recent.

Well, no matter how much we might wish that time would move a little more slowly during a satisfying retirement,  a new year will bring new challenges and opportunities, disappointments and joys. Specifically, for those of us retired or soon to be, what are some of the bumps in the road and fresh chances to make a change that might lie ahead of us? I certainly don't have any inside information, but will take a stab:

...Downsizing or moving as housing markets strengthen. One of the goals of many of us is to downsize from our current housing situation. After the kids move out, travel increases, or there is simply a desire to spend less time cleaning and fixing, a smaller home, condo, or apartment beckons us. Unfortunately too many of us have been trapped in place by the real estate collapse of 2008-2010. Our present home won't sell for enough to pay off debts and finance a move to something smaller.

There are finally glimmers of better news. Phoenix, for example, has seen a rebound of almost 20% in prices since hitting rock bottom a few years ago. Other housing markets that took major hits are also reporting a slow but steady climb out of the hole. True, those prices are still well below the boom years just before 2008. But, we know now those astronomical house prices weren't real and couldn't be sustained. 

2013 may see more folks being able to sell what they own and downsize or move.


...Bank fees will increase. Everyone's new favorite villain, mega-banks, are feeling the impact of some recent government regulations designed to reign in some of the worst of the "gambling" that took us all to the brink. While the industry continues to rake in huge sums of money, these new controls mean they are looking for ways to take more from us in the way of new fees and charges.

Read all the statements and on line information you receive from your bank. Don't be surprised when something that was free isn't, or something that was low cost is having a hefty increase. Of course, you can always switch banks but most of them will find a way to grab their pound of flesh.

...More will decide to delay retirement or go back to work. Some of this will be because of economic need. The financial damage done to IRA and 401(k) accounts will not be repaired easily. Others will find their company pensions or promised benefits cut or "restructured."

But, a growing trend is for folks to keep working because they enjoy all that comes with employment besides the paycheck: relationships with co-workers, feeling productive and needed, or having no real plan for retirement. While that last reason is one that can be addressed, some are most content at work and will stay employed well past the usual age to hang it up.

...Increased reliance on technology. This will be impossible to escape. Already many airlines charge extra if you want to make a reservation on the phone with a live agent. Banks are considering charges to use a teller instead of on-line banking. Many banks already charge extra if you want your statements mailed to you, and I'm not aware of any banks that will still return cashed checks each month.

Smart phones are becoming a digital wallet. Your credit cards will exist on your phone instead of in your purse or wallet. You will pay for items at the grocery store or the coffee shop by swiping your phone at the register.

Tablets are rapidly replacing laptop computers, which have already made desktops virtually obsolete. Newspapers and magazines are switching to digital platforms as quickly as they can and charging to access information.

Sign up for Social Security or Medicare, renew your driver's license, even pay that speeding ticket on-line. More books are now sold on-line, in digital form, than the printed versions. Amazon will sell you everything from refrigerators to a bag of kitty litter and ship it to your door. Netflix is moving to the elimination of disc through the mail, preferring all customers stream their movies and TV shows directly to the television.

...Entitlements & retirement age may be changing. While seniors have  very loud and persuasive voice in Washington, there will be no choice but to scale back Social Security and Medicare payments and tighten eligibility. The full retirement age, already set at 67 for younger folks, will likely find its way to 70 over the next decade or two. The deficit and the country's demographics leave politicians little choice. No changes will affect anyone over 55, but younger generations will not see programs that look like ours.

The trend toward taking more personal responsibility for your own satisfying retirement will accelerate. Dependence on government or corporate efforts has proven to be shaky at best. Each one of us is ultimately in charge of how happy we are and how we choose to live.

What do you think might happen? What good, bad, and important trends or events might 2013 bring? Look into your version of a crystal ball and tell us what you see.



December 12, 2012

Deciding What Matters: Looking At The Big Picture

The October/November issue of AARP's "The Magazine" had an article that caught my eye: Bette Midler talking about dreams, destiny, and what matters. In addition to her music, she has won honors for her work in movies and on the Broadway stage. As she approaches 70 she isn't slowing down. In fact, her new movie with Billy Crystal opens on Christmas day. I thought several of her comments seem to fit a satisfying retirement well.

*Life is not your personal express lane. For someone in show business I imagine that was a lesson that didn't come easily. Stars of her caliber are used to a lifestyle that we can only imagine. But, most of us do finally grasp the reality of a world filled with 7 billion other people. Regardless of how successful, talented, lucky, or gifted, a large percentage of the rest of the world could care less. 

Our best path lies in balancing our needs and desires with a sensitivity to others. I am living proof that someone who was self-absorbed and rather insensitive  can actually develop a growing sense of empathy and compassion for others. It is a work in progress but has helped me put much of my life past, present, and future into a more realistic perspective. There are other people out there. Who knew?

*The big world is better than your little one. It is very easy for us to get so wrapped up in our problems and day-to-day life that we forget there is a big, fascinating world out there. Shaking up our routine with travel certainly helps. So does exposing ourselves to new ideas and different kinds of people.

I am convinced that many of the problems in this country and around the globe would be much less severe if folks weren't so convinced they have all the answers. There is nothing more dangerous than a mind closed to any new input. 

*You can't always be "on." For us, that means you can't always be available. You can't accept every request for your time. You can't volunteer for everything. You can't be running at full throttle all the time.

There is an absolute need in all of us to turn off every once in awhile. Relax, unplug, un-commit. Be unavailable for a time. Allow yourself to be tired, grumpy, or unsociable occasionally. We all need a time when we are "off."

*It is OK to let go of a dream. In the article Bette says a dream is just that: a dream. There comes a time when reality must take over. Will I ever play guitar with Paul McCartney? Not likely. Will I move to an island in the South Pacific and spend my remaining days writing the great American novel. No.

Dreams and goals are what keep us moving forward. They add spice to our daily existence. But, they are no substitute for dealing with life as it is. If a dream has outlived its usefulness, then dream a new dream. Don't let a missed dream freeze you in place.


I've always enjoyed "The Divine Miss M" for her brassy, take no prisoners attitude. This article seemed perfect for her....and us.

December 10, 2012

Hidden Joys - Right Around The Corner

If you are like most folks, the longer you live in one particular place the less likely you are to explore new things that are close by. It is just human nature to start to take where you live for granted. For example, I know people who have lived in Arizona for thirty years and have never been to the Grand Canyon. I bet there are those who have grown up in Hawaii and spent no time at the beach.

Betty and I have lived in Arizona for 28 years, the last eleven of which we have been enjoying our satisfying retirement. So, it is not because we haven't had the time, it just that we stopped looking for things in the Phoenix area that might be fun and interesting.

But, within the last several months we found two places and events that have existed for years that are within thirty minutes of our home...that we have never experienced before.

The Japanese Friendship Gardens just celebrated its tenth anniversary last month. Named Ro Ho En, this is an authentic 3 1/2 acre Japanese Garden featuring a tea house with monthly tea ceremonies. Over 300 Koi fish populate a a large pond in the center of the gardens. Located just a few blocks from the center of Phoenix, and built over part of the I-10 freeway, this nearly 4 acre joy is serene and beautiful. Landscape architects from sister city, Himeji, Japan, made 60 trips to Phoenix and City of Phoenix delegations made five trips to Himeji since 1987 when the idea for the gardens was first hatched.

You can probably guess that Betty took her camera and took hundreds of photos. Here are just a few to give you a visual treat:










A few months ago  we went to something quite a bit more lively than the Friendship Gardens: The Burning Bush Drum Circle. The first Friday of each month, a group of drummers gather in a parking lot in a Phoenix neighborhood and pound away for the next two hours.

Actually, the sound is much more than just the rhythmic beating of drums. All sorts of hand percussion instruments are brought. It is not unusual to hear flutes, a didgeridoo, shakers, bells, and tambourines play together. Add to that a belly dancer or two, a young lady playing finger cymbals, a few brave young men twirling flaming sticks, a bon fire and a special evening takes place.

On some nights up to sixty drummers appear, some as young as twelve, others probably in their late 70's. The clothing styles range from 60's tie-dyed T-shirts and dreadlocks, to Docker pants and polo shirts. Most bring folding chairs or stools as they hover over beautifully decorated African drums.

This past Friday night we discovered that this monthly event was moving to a downtown art gallery now open in an old ice house building. We decided to experience the drum circle again in this new location. While the crowds were smaller, the drummers were just as enthusiastic.

Frankly, this type of event is not what one normally expects to find in Phoenix. Known more for its expensive resorts and 300 golf courses, the metropolitan area has not been particularly diverse in its cultural offerings. Over the last few years that has begun to change as entrepreneurs take over old warehouses or industrial buildings and convert them into artist lofts, galleries, and small restaurants. Once almost a ghost town at night, downtown Phoenix has become much more urban in its feel. Adding the Burnish Bush Drum Circle is one small step in the right direction.

Again, here are some photos from Friday night to help you get a sense for the Burning Bush Drum Circle and art show:


Betty becomes part of the show!






A video sample from last May. Not the best quality but you get the idea.










Inside the gallery




More from inside the art exhibit

I am sure there are dozens of other hidden joys that are waiting for us to discover them. Last year Betty and I found a free, weekly, open mic music night at the Tempe Art Museum. Who knew?


December 7, 2012

A Fresh Persepctive

Last week I wrote, I don't want the old model of retirement, a post that generated a healthy number of comments. All of the feedback gave me a fresh perspective on something that has been bothering me for the last few years: my dad's apparently boring and inactive approach to his life after mom's death, two years ago this Sunday.

In that post I expressed frustration that he seemed content to spend the last phase of his life sitting in a chair and reading rather than meeting new people and becoming involved in the activities of his retirement community. I just couldn't accept that he was happy and content, that this was an acceptable satisfying retirement.

Up stepped the BRITW (best readers in the world) to set me straight. In summary, the errors of my ways were gently, but clearly, pointed out. His choices were his choices. My judgment of those choices was not really the issue. Due to his basic personality type, severe hearing loss, the death of his life-long partner, and back pains, he has determined what works best for him. My attempts to change him failed. So, I needed to stop.

I will continue to see him for lunch every week, take him to doctor's appointments and shopping trips, bring him to our house for holiday meals, and handle all his taxes, finances and investments. But, if he is happy reading and napping, then I must be happy, too.

All that being said, the various responses got me to thinking back to when my two brothers and I were growing up. Was there much of a difference between then and now? What can I remember of how he used to be? Several strong memories have helped me to remember some sides of him that I have given short shift in recent years.

Game Playing


"Beat Dad" was one of the most common expressions in our home. No, we weren't involved in any type of physical activity; we were playing games. Dad loved playing any game with the three boys and mom. But, he would always win. Whether it was Monopoly, Risk, Parcheesi, Crazy Eights, Hearts, or even Ping Pong he never lost. So, our battle cry was to "Beat Dad." I do remember sometime around 13 years of age I did win a card game. I celebrated the big moment by dancing around the table, while everyone else started chanting, "Beat Bob."

Dad was not an outdoors man. Except for a little golf later in life, sports or doing things outside wasn't his thing. But, when I was 12 and living in Cambridge, Ohio, he did decide that all fathers are supposed to take their son fishing. There was a small urban lake not far from our home that may or may not have contained any fish. But, Dad bought me a fishing rod and reel, a few sinker weights, a bobber, and a bag of rubber worms.

For two hours we sat on the bank of this little lake, sharing our one fishing rod, casting a large rubber worm in the murky water over and over. No surprise, we caught nothing. I never went fishing again. But, he had done what he felt was one of his important tasks as a dad. It was nothing he cared about, but because he cared so much for me he wanted to be sure I had that experience.

Map reading and manhood


Very early in life I became a map reader. For whatever reason I loved geography and finding places on a globe and in the World Almanac. When I was old enough I was given a road atlas of all the states and spent many a happy hour studying major highways and important routes that bisected each state.

The mark of my advance to manhood might have been when I was promoted to map reader and navigator on a family vacation. I got to sit in the front seat and tell dad where we were every time we passed an exit. As I remember on that particular trip we were driving from Philadelphia to Pittsburgh, a drive we had taken dozens of times before. Most of the trip was spent on the Pennsylvania Turnpike, so there was little actual navigation I had to perform. But, he knew of my love of maps and travel and allowed me to take the seat of honor in the front and help insure my family's safe arrival. 

No Worries


Dad had problems with his job choices. He seemed to always join a company right before it was sold or went out of business. At one point he was set to take a job in San Diego. We had already sold our home in suburban Boston when the offer fell through. In very short order we had to buy a place to live while he scrambled to land another position with another company.

What I remember most about his career was how many times our dining room table would be covered by resumes and envelopes.....and never once did the frustration or worry affect our home. I was too young to really understand what was really going on but I am sure he was deeply concerned about those times when we lived on mom's salary as a teacher.

I am sure he worried about the family's future. But, to his eternal credit, his three sons never knew about any of these struggles. Since we were a frugal family in good times and bad there was never a noticeable change in our routine. Only later in life did I understand what a gift he had give us: the gift of no worries.


Blogging has added many positives to my life. But, one that was unexpected is the insight I have gained by allowing others to give me fresh perspectives on my life's journey. To have "strangers" become part of my life and people I can depend on to be honest and helpful has been a tremendous blessing.  

Thank you for reading, commenting, and caring. Thank you for opening my eyes.

December 5, 2012

Holiday Apps To Make Your Life Easier


What follows is a guest post from Andrea Woroch is a nationally-recognized consumer and money-saving expert. Over the last few years how shopping decisions are made is evolving. One of the biggest changes involves the use of apps (short for applications) on smart phones or tablets.

As we enter the last few weeks of the holiday shopping season, here are some apps that you might consider using to help you organize your life, save money, and enhance your satisfying retirement.


A recent Pricegrabber survey reports 82 percent of online shoppers will use shopping apps to save on holiday gifts this year. With so many apps to choose from, it's difficult to distinguish which ones will save you money or just take up memory. As you start to plan your holiday shopping strategy, download these recommended mobile apps that will make your life much easier and purchases much cheaper.

Gift List App - Apple
Start your holiday shopping on the right financial foot by downloading a holiday gift list app. The Gift List App ($1.99) for Apple devices enables you to organize gift ideas, store recipient information and track your budget. Android owners can use the Free Christmas List for similar capabilities.

Coupon Sherpa App - Apple and Android
Coupon Sherpa was the first-ever mobile coupon app, and features hundreds of digital coupons for popular stores like Kohls and Macy's. As a previous iTunes Staff Favorite and a regular on top-shopping-apps lists, Coupon Sherpa makes it easy to score in-store savings at retailers and restaurants, especially during the holiday season. Simply hand your phone to the cashier and they'll scan the coupon. No clipping required.

Decide App - Apple (iPhone and iPad)
We've all been there: You carefully plan your purchase to procure the best deal, and a few months later you find your coveted item for much less than you paid. Luckily, Decide.com created an app for iPhones and iPads to help you determine the best time to buy everything from cameras to table saws.

RedLaser App - Apple and Android
As retailers amp up their price-matching programs this holiday season, the RedLaser barcode scanning app will be especially handy. Target and Best Buy, for example, will price-match on line retailers including Amazon, making it easier than ever to score the price you want while completing your in-store purchase.

Lookout Mobile Security App - Android
Think about all the personal information your mobile device contains, not to mention the apps and websites you use every day. Couple that with the growing trend of mobile commerce, and your device is a hot commodity for hackers. PCMagazine's Editor's Choice for Android is the Lookout Mobile Security App. It's available for free, or for $2.99 per month for enhanced security.

Like in-laws and baked confections, you'll likely find yourself overrun with receipts this holiday season. Stay organized using the OneReceipt app to digitally store your many proofs of purchase. You can organize e-receipts and on line purchase confirmations, as well as snap photos of hard copy receipts to cut down on paper clutter.

Slice App - Apple and Android
Similar to the OneReceipt app, this one's for the loyal on line shopper. The Slice App organizes all of your e-commerce activity and helps you track on line orders and expenditures. Available for free on both Apple and Android devices, the app also alerts you about price reductions on desired products.

DealBoard App - Apple
Are you struggling with daily deal fatigue? If so, look no further than the DealBoard app to reduce your in box clutter. This handy app aggregates daily deal offers into a single email based on your preferences, eliminating the need for individual subscriptions. Own an Android device? Try the similar Deal Drop app.

BuyOrNot App - Apple
It's easy to evaluate your shopping options when you're surfing the web, but user reviews and other product evaluations are harder to come by in-store. Enter the BuyOrNot App, a barcode-scanning app with access to a jaw-dropping 45 million product reviews.

Car Locator App - Android
With crowded malls come crazy parking lots and when you're in a hurry, it's easy to forget where you parked. If you've ever found yourself wandering endlessly in search of your vehicle, consider downloading the Car Locator app for Android or Honk for Apple. These apps not only lead you to your car, they also feature a special timer that alerts you when the parking meter is about to expire so you avoid tickets.



Andrea Woroch has been featured on top news outlets such as Good Morning America, NBC's Today, MSNBC, New York Times, Kiplinger Personal Finance, CNNMoney and many more. You can email andrea@kinoliinc.com.

Note: I receieved no compensation for any of the products or companies noted in the above guest post.