September 24, 2017

Hurricanes and Retirement : What Do They Share?


The devastation of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma is very fresh in our minds. The rebuilding of lives and property will continue well into the future; some people and places will never be the same. I feel for these losses and the massive toll on the countries hit and the people fighting to come back. At the same time, floods in Italy, Malaysia, India, just to name a few other locations, have wreaked absolute havoc.

Preparation before disaster strikes is essential in a world where nature seems to be running wild. A "what will be will be" attitude may work when it is time to choose a restaurant for dinner, but not when confronting Mother Nature in all her power.

Since my mind is a little odd, it occurred to me that preparing for an event like a hurricane or typhoon is somewhat akin to we should do before retirement strikes. Of course, a storm usually passes in a few hours though rebuilding may take weeks or months, even years, to repair.  There may be injuries, even deaths. 

Certainly, I don't mean to minimize the seriousness of a major storm. I have lived through a few hurricanes and they are terrifying. But, if you will allow me to extend the metaphor, when retirement hits us we have another 20 or 30 years to adjust to. So, being fully prepared makes tremendous sense.

*Loss of power. In a major storm, we are likely to lose electricity for awhile. Cell phone service, Internet access, all are at risk. During retirement we are threatened with a different type of power loss: loss of energy, drive, and goals that we strive for. No power for a few hours or even days can be quite uncomfortable. No energy or drive during retirement can has longer lasting effects.

*Loss of belongings and stability. Pictures from the hurricanes' aftermaths show the heartbreaking devastation of houses, businesses, property, even the landscapes. Harvey left tens of thousands of cars underwater. Irma flattened some Caribbean islands beyond recognition and forever altered parts of Florida. Puerto Rico may be without dependable utilities well into next year.

Retirement is not that dramatic, but there is a type of loss, a loss of belonging to a group of coworkers or an organization. The stability of a regular paycheck is replaced with the hope your financial walls are strong enough to withstand the wind. 


*Forced change in routine. Think of the pictures of the thousands of people housed in shelters. Think of all the lives that will be on hold for weeks or months. Everyday routines will be upended for the foreseeable future.

Retirement suddenly puts you in charge of 24 hours a day. Almost like a storm survivor, a newly retired person is really starting over in how his day is managed. You must develop new routines and a daily schedule.


*Storm warnings ignored. I guess it is part of human nature, but I always wonder what possesses someone to ride out a hurricane believing it won't be that bad. If you can evacuate but choose not to that is risking your life as well as those who must rescue you.

In retirement, a storm warning can come in various forms: a report from your doctor of health problems, a statement from your financial institution that your withdrawal rate is dangerously high, an argument with a spouse or partner that is more severe than normal. Like a serious hurricane warning, you are putting a lot at risk if you ignore the warnings you receive during retirement.


Hurricanes can change someone's life completely, and rarely in a good way. You have very little control. Retirement will change your life. Whether it is a positive or negative experience is much more in your control. Make the most of it.



September 21, 2017

14 Day Challenge: Examine Your Preconceptions


Today, I am assigning you a task. It will not be particularly easy because it requires you to look at some of your preconceptions and decide if each is still valid. To keep things moving I am asking you to complete this challenge in the next two weeks, give or take. In 14 days, give or take, I will ask you to report on your progress. And, yes, I will participate fully. To begin, let's think about what types of preconceptions might qualify for examination. 


How we think about aging


This is a biggie. I would guess all of us have certain images in our mind of what getting older means. Physical decline, financial struggles, moving out of our home, or the loss of a partner can certainly part of that preconception.

Hopefully, the last 7 years of this blog have added notions like freedom to change and grow or learning to say, "No," and controlling our commitments. Realizing that plans change, life unfolds in ways we never expected, or that the decades we may spent in retirement are ours to shape. Maybe we firmly believe our physical and mental decline can be slowed and altered to a degree. Does your conception of what it means to age well need adjusting?

What are your preconceptions about death? As we get closer to the finish line than the beginning of our journey do we need to adjust how we think about this final step? 

How we think about people not like us


The last election and its aftermath have brought this set of preconceptions into sharper focus. For Americans, Charlottesville may come to mind first. But, it is certainly not the only case of serious problems when people of different beliefs, politics, races, and religions come into contact, and conflict. London, Barcelona, Paris, Mumbai, Madrid, Quebec City....these place and many others have suffered as well.

As humans we tend to want to cluster with people like us.  Problems arise when we treat "the others" as inferior, wrong, or dangerous simply because they are not us. Of course, since there are over 7 billion people in the world, only a very small percentage of the total are just like us.  

Obviously, there are those who are dangerous, harmful, hateful, and out to do you and me harm. But, there are unnecessary problems when we begin to assume that everyone who is a member of a group that is not like us falls into that same dangerous category. This is not an easy set of  preconceptions to think about. It is even tougher to change them.  Do you have any goals in this area?

How we define success


During my business career, success was easy to define: more business, more money, bigger house, more industry accolades. After retirement, every single thing that I thought of as being successful was not. Isn't that amazing: retirement forced a total reversal of a notion I had held since my teens.

Now that you are retired, what is success to you? How you define it will impact much of what you do and own. I will guess that success means something very different now than it did earlier in your life.


How we interact with other family members


Some of us have convoluted, messy relationships with family members. It may be that brother or sister who you stopped talking to twenty years ago, for reasons you can't quite remember. It may be a grown child who seems to turned his back on everything you tried to teach him. Or, It may be a strong, interconnected family makeup: you spend time together, really enjoying each others' company. You may not communicate often with your siblings but you know each will be available for the other in times of family crisis. Now that you think about it, reaching out to them is past due.

Now is the time to question all those relationships. Are preconceived notions of a sister or aunt keeping you from adding them back into to your life? Did some family member hurt you years ago, and that slight has kept you apart far too long? Maybe you continue to interact with someone in your family who is toxic for you: you dread your visits together. That person makes you feel bad about yourself, yet you feel a sense of obligation to keep up those familial ties.

If certain relationships are strong and nurturing are you doing the work needed to keep them that way? Do you assume things will always go well so extra efforts aren't needed?


How we want to be remembered


While I was working, I liked the ego satisfaction of seeing my name and picture in one of my industry trade publications. I loved being quoted or interviewed. I felt good when someone approached me about retaining my services. I figured I would be remembered as an influential person in my career field. Well, no big surprise, within a year or so I was forgotten. The industry had moved on and others had become the hot new topics. Old clients remembered my name and occasionally made contact, but even that stopped within 2 years of retirement. Thirty five years of work had vanished.

Now, that "success" is the farthest thing from my mind. I don't want to be remembered for my radio shows or the music formats I developed. I have no interest in being remembered for any of those things. That chapter of my life is over and the book has been closed. What I had perceived as the essential Bob Lowry turned out to be temporary and fleeting. 

So, what are my measure of success? Is the word, success, even a good fit for what I want to accomplish?


What about you? Give yourself some time to think about these preconceptions. Feel free to comment on where you are at the moment. Make a public declaration of your preconceptions as of today in one or more of these areas. 

Then, look for a follow up post in a few weeks so we can discuss our changes, if any!

This could be an interesting experiment.


September 19, 2017

Are We Building a Community Together?


Over the past year or so something has begun to happen on Satisfying Retirement: people are leaving comments not only for me, but for others. A comment on a post triggers a reaction from another reader who wants to share his or her thoughts with the original commenter. Suddenly, a conversation begins. A shared community begins to develop.

I couldn't be more pleased. This development is something not all blogs encounter. It only happens when readers sense a shared set of experiences with others. It only happens when there is a trust that comments will be treated with respect. And, it only happens when readers have been visiting the blog on a regular basis over many months, or even years.

This short post is really just a way of saying thank you. Thank you for caring enough to interact with not only me, but others. Thank you for being constructive, supportive, and educational. Thank you for helping to encourage a sense of community, of conversations that add something to all of our lives.

A blog has the potential for being a modern day equivalent of a conversation over a back fence, or on a shared bench in the town square, neighborhood park, or over a cup of coffee. It has the opportunity to become a collection of not only readers, but also friends who genuinely care about each other. 

The majority of readers will never comment; the national average is about 95%. But, even for all those folks, when someone else expands on an exchange and a conversation built around a particular post, everyone benefits. Everyone feels more comfortable spending time here.

So, I want you to know I notice the back-and-forth in the comment sections. I encourage that growth in our journey together. I deeply appreciate the trust you exhibit in your fellow readers by doing so.

A community of us, building a satisfying retirement journey together, is fabulous to watch develop.

If you have friends who you think might like what is happening on these pages, I do ask one favor: invite them to try this blog for a few weeks. See what is happening here, add their own thoughts if they feel comfortable in doing so. Expanding our community would add to our shared experiences.

Again, Thank you.

Bob


September 16, 2017

Should You Continue To Invest After Retirement?


I am not sure I have ever written about this subject before. Satisfying Retirement is not a financial blog, but our monetary resources are an important part of how well we live, so it is not a subject I ignore. If you search the archives there are plenty of blog posts about preparing yourself for retirement, managing your money, budgeting, and all the basic steps that help keep us financially afloat.

But, what about after retirement...are we done investing new money? Do we take what we have and figure that is what has to last for the rest of our lives? I can only speak for me, but, yes, that has been my assumption. After all, I don't work anymore. I have no "extra" income do I? What would I use to invest?

Actually,  the more I thought about it, the more obvious became the fact that I do have money to invest. Maybe my days of making fresh financial decisions are not over. Here are some of my thoughts:

1) In an earlier post I mentioned that my wife will begin receiving spousal benefits from Social Security early in 2019. Our first thought was to just toss that extra income in our travel and vacation fund, and that still might happen. But, we could put it into one of our investment accounts and let it grow. If we don't need it down the road, the kids' inheritance would be a bit larger.

2) While not everyone's case, I have yet to start taking money from my IRA. In less than two years that will change. I will have to start withdrawing money.   The Required Minimum Distribution is the government's way to insure it begins to get some taxes from the money that has been safely tucked away and growing the last 30+ years.

Like the spousal benefits, I have been living without IRA money for the past few years, I don't see that changing anytime soon. So, that forced withdrawal can be invested. I will have to check on the tax ramifications; it would be counterproductive for that money to be taxed twice. But, it is possible.

3) The inheritance I received from my parents generates money. Because we live a modest lifestyle most of the time that inheritance generates more money than we spend each year. Our financial advisor automatically reinvests whatever there is. If I don't see the extra, I am not tempted to spend it.

4) At the end of some years there is leftover cash. Expenses were lower than we had budgeted for. This post that has forced me to consider alternatives. We have just rolled that money over into the next year allowing for more money in certain budget categories for the new year. But, we could take the unspent funds and plug it back into investment accounts.


I guess all this begs the question: why would I want to keep investing? For me, there are two answers: I am naturally conservative and I don't know what the future holds. Honestly, I don't know which, if any, of these ideas I will follow. But, just knowing that investing after retirement is not such a far-fetched idea has been helpful.