July 17, 2018

What Don't You Miss From Your Youth?

There was a tremendous response to What Do You Miss From Your Youth?  It seems everyone had a lot of fun bringing back memories of all sorts from more carefree times. I enjoyed  the comments because they stimulated all sorts of memories for me, too. If you haven't taken the time to read all the comments, do yourself a favor and click the link above. What fun.

Several readers suggested the flipside of that post: What Don't You Miss From Your Youth? What happened when you were younger that you are glad is over and done with? What was in your past and should stay there? 

Again, like the previous post, let's keep things more fun or silly than serious. I will start with some of mine:

1. Junior High dances. Boys on one side, girls on the other. Awkward and terrifying. 

2. Piano Lessons. I did play the clarinet for 10 years and enjoyed that instrument. But, the piano lessons with a woman who was unhappy most of the time....not so much.

3. The day each fall that Daylight Savings Time ended. That was the saddest day of the year for me. Cold, snow, darkness at 4:30 in the afternoon, no playing outside. I hated what that day signified.

4. The parental rule about only one Coke per week. Oddly, today I rarely have a soft drink. But, then, it was a hated restriction. 

5. Having to wait for my parents to take me to the library. 

6. Summers were too long...I liked school and looked forward to the new year right after Labor Day. 

7. Living in houses with no air conditioning and sharing one bathroom with 5 people. Ugh! 

8. Tent Camping. I enjoyed everything about Boy Scouts, except camping. It was always cold or wet, the ground was hard and bumpy, and of course, I always had to go to the bathroom multiple times overnight which meant, leaving the wam sleeping bag, getting dressed and walking into the woods!

9. My afternoon paper route when it was snowing. We lived up a hill and about a mile from where my first customer lived. Pulling a wagon through snow, fully loaded with newspapers, was not my thing.

10. Dating (very much like point #1). I was scared of talking to girls, didn't have much social confidence, was in the geek group at school. Dating was painful and therefore very infrequent.

OK, your turn. What are you glad is a fading memory?

July 14, 2018

What Do You Miss From Your Youth?

This might be kind of fun, thinking about what was memorable or important while growing up, but is no longer part of your life. Let's keep our responses more fun than serious!

To get things started, here are some of the things I miss from my childhood:

1) Sunday nights with Ed Sullivan. Beatles and Topo Gigio..need I say more?

2) Store not open on Sunday. Family drives, picnics, church.

3) No cellphones. No spam calls, no interruptions 24/7.

4) Howdy Doody, Captain Kangaroo, and Leave It To Beaver

5) Winnie the Pooh and his friends. 

6) More bikes, fewer cars.

7) Lionel model train sets. Then, HO gauge. Not as impressive, but a layout could fit on a normal piece of plywood. 

8) Allowed one soft drink a week, but my brothers and I got to pick the day. My parents had a thing about soft drinks and our teeth.

9) My weight and physical fitness were of little concern. No matter what I ate I remained thin and never ran out of energy.

10) Home delivery
 of the mail. What's junk mail?

11) Taking the train somewhere. Or, piling in the family station wagon for an 8 hour drive to the grandparents' home.

OK, your turn. What made your childhood memorable?

July 12, 2018

Is Your Retirement an End or a Beginning?

That is a good question with an important answer. Retirement is both an end and a beginning. It is a transition between two phases of life. Whether that is a positive or negative change is really one of attitude and expectations.

For many of us, our job, our career, the time we spent earning a living came to define us. The people we worked with may have been the core of our social structure. If married, our family's life revolved around work commitments. Vacations happened when there was a lull in the schedule. Weekends may have been at the mercy of mandatory staff and management meetings. For those of us who traveled a lot, being home was more about catch up than relaxation and family. Hobbies or passions? No time.

When someone asked what we "do," we had a ready answer: a description of our place in a company or industry. Raising a few children, being married or engaged, working on a novel....that wasn't implied in the question. The "correct" answer was always related to our income.

For us, the start of retirement was the end of something: an easily defined, socially acceptable place in the scheme of things. For a period of time, we may have struggled to figure out who we were without the title. The answer to what we "do" became hesitant and poorly defined. 

For others, retirement was a beginning, the conclusion to a life of work,
a clean break between two stages of life: one externally focused, the other internally. What had paid the bills and produced enough investments to  stop was enjoyable and fulfilling. We liked our work. But, we knew life held something different for us. We were created for more. We embraced the break.

Maybe we worked at something because it was required to support us and others. The job was a slog to be endured. Nights and weekends meant a small taste of freedom. We wondered what else might satisfy us. When a chance to retire became more than a dream, we jumped across the break between the two ways of living, sure that something good lay before us.

How we mentally approached retirement was quite different but the final result was the same: another way of life. A poll on this blog asked "if knowing what you know now, would you have retired sooner than you did?"  62% responded that, 'No, I retired at just the right time." 

To me, that is a good measurement of satisfaction. Whether the respondents initially saw retirement as an end or a new beginning, more than 6 out of 10 are happy with the timing. Add the 15% who wished they had begun their satisfying retirement earlier and there is an obvious conclusion: retirement could be both an end or a beginning, but however it was approached it is a welcome stage of life.

"Officially," I am now into my 18th year of this part of my life.  I loved my career and have tremendous memories. I entered retirement with some fear and uncertainty. It took a few years to find my stride. Now, I am exploring all I can be. Each part of life was quite different from the other, but I needed the first stage to realize the blessings of the second.

If you'd like to read more, here are a few articles to inspire you:

Is Retirement an Ending or a New Beginning?

Life After Retirement: What Do I Do Now?

The first in a series of three new booklet-length resources is now available. Preparing For Your Financial Future after Retirement is a guide to the most exciting journey of your life, the one that takes place after retirement.

Whether you are still working toward this new phase of your life, or already there, Preparing For Your Financial Future should be one of the resources you consult.

July 9, 2018

What if Your Retirement Life Was Reviewed Like a Movie?

What if our satisfying retirement was like a movie review? Others watched your life unfold and gave you two thumbs up, or down. Rotten Tomatoes gave you a 65 or 95 or .....45% approval rating. You were open to constant retirement advice.

Actually, in a sense, this happens everyday. You are on stage, in all sorts of public settings where others are observing you: the coffee shop, grocery store, auto repair shop, or drug store. OK, in most cases people are not "reviewing" you. Actually, most of the time, they are so focused on themselves they are ignoring you.

But, if we can imagine for just a few moments, what would a "person reviewer" say about your life after retirement? Let's take a few of the normal ways a critic judges a movie and apply it to our life.

Originalityin a movie it is usually important that there be something original about the plot or the characters. The director has found some different way to tell a familiar story that the audience finds memorable. Sure, there are sequels that work well, but even they need a fresh twist on the original story.

A retired life well lived is very similar. If we try to copy someone else, live someone else's life, or just follow the standard path even if it doesn't suit us, we will miss what being truly alive is all about. Each one of us has a unique set of skills, gifts, and personality. Our lives must reflect that to be truly alive.

Character Development: I am sure we have all seen movies where the characters never come alive. Either the words they speak are wooden and unnatural, or the plot never forces them to change. The movie is no more than a still photo repeated for two hours.

One definition of character I found says it is the mental and moral qualities distinctive to an individual. As we age, we change. We gather life experiences. It would be unusual for someone to be exactly the same at 20 or 30 as he is at 60 or 70. Life has its effect on us, both for good and bad.  And, like a well-written movie script, we deepen and grow because of what happens. The key question becomes whether your character is developing in a way that represents the core of who you are. 

Musical Score: Music and sound can really enhance a movie. In some cases a certain musical presentation is what is most memorable. If I mention the movie, Jaws, don't you think of that sound when the great white is getting closer to the swimmer? Or, how about the theme from Star Wars? For many of us those notes are filled with memories.

Most of our lives aren't quite as dramatic as those two examples. But, think of a musical score as that part of your life that enhances the main story. Maybe it is a beautiful smile that lights up a room. It could be you are always there when a friend needs help or comfort. You can tell a joke at just the right time to defuse a tense or uncomfortable situation. These attributes aren't all your life is about, but they certainly add color and meaning to your life story.

Comparison to others in the same genre: Movie critics will often compare a particular type of movie to one that came before. Romantic dramas may be compared to Casablanca. A new tough-guy male actor has the performances of Clint Eastwood or Sylvester Stallone lurking in the shadows. A jilted fiancee might be seen through a comparison to Meg Ryan in French Kiss.  While sometimes unfair, it is inevitable that a new movie will have to compete with the past.

In human terms, we are always being compared to others. What type of career did we have, how big is our home, what do we drive? Our consumer-driven economy is based on creating desires for things we don't have. However, a satisfying retirement is very often built around a rejection of that mindset. As we mature and realize what really makes us happy, things we buy or possess often retreat into the background. Experiences, contentment, a more simplified lifestyle, or stronger relationships with others become the "things" we care more about.

Ultimately, we may see a movie even if a critic give it two thumbs down. Personally, I tend to disagree with the "experts" most of the time. Movies that score poorly I like while blockbusters often leave me cold.

Should I (or you) care what type of "review" others may give my life? No, not really. I am confident enough in my own decisions and self awareness to not worry too much about a less than blockbuster review. Importantly, though, I try to listen whenever an opinion or suggestion is offered.

Improvement in all areas of my life is my goal. I may not agree with it, but I will take retirement advice from all sources and then decide. I must be open enough to a script suggestion or a new way to enhance the music score that enriches my life. 

Lights - camera - action! 

July 6, 2018

An Important Lesson About Life: From My Granddaughter

I had my 69th birthday about two months ago. When the first number in my age is still a six I can think of myself as older middle age. But, next year when that six is replaced with a seven, I am officially in the old category.

I mentioned to my granddaughter that 70 would feel like I had reached the top of the roller coaster track and what lay ahead was a fast, scary, downhill run to the bottom. 

She quickly told me my concern was misplaced. Amazingly perceptive for a nine year old she said, "Granddad, the fun part of the ride is when you go down! That's when it gets really exciting!"

Wow. That immediately stopped me in my tracks. She was absolutely right, not only about roller coasters but about what is to come. The exhilarating part of the experience can still be ahead. Her one, heartfelt comment summarized everything I have been writing about for over eight years: that we choose how we approach this stage of our life. As long as we can, we explore, grow, engage and stimulate all our senses. 

Obviously, just like a roller coaster, our ride comes to an end. We may have all sorts of technological wonders and amazing medical care (if we can afford it), but we still have an expiration date waiting for us.

We can dwell on that end and some of the unpleasant things that may lie ahead, or we can throw our arms up into the air, screaming with excitement and feeling the rush of life through our veins as we grab all the joy we can.

I can't think of a better analogy than the roller coaster's plunge down the hill. Thank you, granddaughter, for giving me a fresh look at what lies ahead.

The first in a series of three new booklet-length resources is now available. Preparing For Your Financial Future after Retirement is a guide to the most exciting journey of your life, the one that takes place after retirement.

Whether you are still working toward this new phase of your life, or already there, Preparing For Your Financial Future should be one of the resources you consult.