October 18, 2017

Retirement: Feeling Fulfilled Is a Personal Path

A month ago I had a post about working after retirement.  Then, there was one about volunteering. There have been posts about financial investing after retirement, moving, developing your passions....kind of a laundry list of topics that retirees have said are important.

But, still stuck in my mind was a comment from earlier in the summer from a reader that took me to task for what may have been a bit of a contrarian view. He wrote that being busy, traveling, volunteering, or engaging with others isn't really the only way to took at retirement. His point was that not everyone wants to do those things to feel fulfilled. Not every satisfying retirement journey involves all sorts of activities. 

His comment wasn't health-related. It was not that he can't do these things, it's that he chooses not to. His view is that he worked hard all his life to get to a point where he could stop, disengage, unconnect. Being alone with his thoughts, reading when he wanted to, sitting on a park bench, watching TV that entertained him...whatever made him happy was how he chooses to go through his retirement journey.

While I would not be happy that way, if it were the same every day,  that doesn't make me right and him wrong. It makes us different. Fulfillment is a very personal path, and in retirement even more so. Most of the distractions that come with work and extra responsibilities are gone. The path forward is of your making.

I have some close friends who preach the importance of mindfulness. Focusing on what is happening in the present and being very aware of your surroundings is the core of this way of living. While not necessary, meditation or yoga are often cited as examples of engaging in mindfulness. Trying to quiet and focus our minds on the now is the goal. I assume this approach would urge a simpler lifestyle, one that isn't packed with activities and commitments.

Another path to retirement fulfillment could be the concept of minimalism. This doesn't have mean minimal belongings and living in a tiny house, though it could. At its heart, minimalism requires each possession we have and each life decision we make work to improve how we define a quality life. We attempt to minimize distractions caused by things and maintaining those things. 

Some of my friends are snowbirds. Others travel more than I would want, but that choice satisfies them. Another couple just fulfilled a twenty year dream to live within sight of the ocean. I know some folks who are fighting constant health problems. They are happy to make it through each day without a doctor's appointment and be able to function.

The bottom line is the fellow who left the comment was right: our fulfillment is something each of us sees through a different lens. The only person we should judge in this regard is ourselves. If we are feeling good about our retirement, happy with where we are, and not hurting others, that should be enough. If that means being involved, active, and busy, then great. If it means stepping back from the world and all its noise, then OK.

How do you feel? How much activity and involvement do you require to feel satisfied? Has that changed over the years? Does a porch swing and a good book sound just about perfect nowadays?



October 15, 2017

A Wife's Perspective: Betty's View of Retirement

Over the past few months I have received several requests to share some of my wife's thoughts about retirement. This post was written about almost 5 years ago but not much that is important has changed,except we have been retired for that much longer. I have left it the way she answered the questions in January 2013. I will plan on a full update sometime in the coming months.



Over the past 30 months of writing for Satisfying Retirement  there have been lots of posts that have included information about my wife, Betty, and our journey together. Probably two or three dozen e-mails over that time have asked to hear more from her and what she thinks about the retirement from her perspective.


So, I took the bait and posed some questions for her to answer. Wow! Her insight and responses were so interesting and important that I am turning this into a two part post. This time, you can read her answers to the first four questions. Next week I'll have part two with her answers to the last three questions.





…What have been the biggest changes in your life over the past 11 years of retirement?

"First of all...Are you kidding? I get a whole blog post on my opinion about everything!"

Before Bob retired he worked 5 days and nights a week in other states. I worked as a pre-school teacher while raising our two daughters. Our family had two schedules. The girls and I lived a rather unstructured life (except for school work and extracurricular activities) when Bob was on the road. When he was home on weekends the girls and I “switched gears” and led a structured life with planned family fun time.

Bob has always had this marvelous way of finding fun things to do either as a couple or a family. It sounds as if it was hard for the girls and me to “flip” into another schedule but it really wasn’t at all. We had the best of both worlds. My Bohemian way of living (Eating when we’re hungry, dropping everything and veering off or doing messy projects all over the house and staying up late to finish projects) enabled the girls and me to be at our creative best during the week. It also taught the girls to be more disciplined on the weekends. The difference was we were scheduled and disciplined on the weekends and more laid back on the weekdays. Most families are the exact opposite.

The big change is having Bob here all of the time. He’s not used to seeing messes everywhere. (The girls and I would clean everything up on Fridays before he got home) He also was used to all of these projects being done every week before he got back. He never experienced the processes of our creations.

My spiritual life is deeper, more fulfilling and in turn, my friendships have become much more satisfying and more meaningful. My relationship with Bob is on a higher level, too. We have grown much closer.


What have been your biggest surprises about retirement?

That I can deal with a lot of change. Bob and I retired and I got another full time job, We downsized into a house half the size and retired about the same time the girls left for college. My doctor of 12 years moved away, my health insurance company pulled out of state, our beloved dog Muffin died, we started going to another Church after 20 years. Then the tragic events 9/11 happened which meant we cancelled our 25th anniversary trip to Europe which was to leave on 9/14. This was just the first year of our retirement!

I didn’t completely fall apart when we experienced a completely empty nest, but I loved it when one of our daughters temporarily moved back home.

I'm surprised we are still living in Arizona. But, with whole extended family living within 40 minutes of each other, moving wasn't really an option.

We own an RV! I never, ever dreamed that would be part of our life.


….What have been your biggest disappointments about retirement?

I still cannot find enough time for myself each day. I find myself comparing myself with Bob. He seems to be able to get all of his chores done and have lots of time for all of his hobbies. It’s been almost 12 years and I still can’t find the time!

My health is not where I thought it would be at this stage of my life. I have had lots of problems earlier than most people. Health is a huge factor when planning retirement. Do everything possible while you can because no one knows when you can lose your health.

I wanted to live in a small town where everyone has a huge front porch and you can walk to the downtown area or ride your bike around a nice lake. I wanted a place where the weather has mild seasons with green trees and grass that turn all different colors in the fall and all of the family is within walking distance of each other.

I live (and have lived for 28 years in a place where every house has a walled backyard, you have to drive a car to get to everything, the heat is in the triple digits for 5 months of the year, (you have to drive your dog to a grassy park because the sidewalks will burn the pads of their feet) most of our trees are 4 feet tall and prickly, and our front yards consist of rocks and not grass.

But… and this is a BIG but… My loving family is close by, we go to a church that we love, we can have lunch outside in short sleeved shirts in December, and most people have wonderful grassy backyards with swimming pools! You just have to put things in perspective!

My retirement has been wonderful in every sense and I couldn’t be happier with Bob and my family!


…How do you spend your days?


I would say that for the last year, two thirds of my day is spent taking care of our new pup! She has some emotional issues that have taken a lot of extra training and TLC.

I am just the opposite of my husband when it comes to planning anything. He will have lists of things that need to be accomplished every day, week, year. He will plan these things out on his smart phone and or his “Weekend List.” He then tells me what needs to be accomplished, we do it then if there is any time left I will do my list.

Unfortunately I never seem to have any time left in the day. I realize what a blessing this is for me knowing that he is taking care of me even beyond the grave. It is quite comforting to know that if Bob dies tomorrow I will know exactly what day to start compiling our tax information or his Father’s quarterly taxes, take out the recycling or the trash or our families’ Birthdays, until the day I die.

The thing that bothers me is that Bob seems to have plenty of time for reading and studying the Bible, pleasure reading, guitar practicing, e-mailing, reading blogs and writing his own blog; napping, etc…I can’t even find time to take a nap! We both watch the same amount of TV each day and he does 1/3 of the housework (We cut everything into 3rds with my grown daughter) and he does all of the finances plus all his own laundry etc….

Note…I think I have found out how I spend a huge amount of time around the house. I am the one in our household who does all of the seasonal changes to the house. I have “displays” that I set out for spring, summer, fall, winter, and all of the major holidays. I put up, take down, pack, unpack, buy new things, and creatively arrange them. I’m also constantly re-arranging the storage shed for all of these boxes. I also do all of the major projects around the house. Painting all of the walls, furniture, paintings, photography etc… Sanding and painting doors, replacing floor tiles, bathroom tiles grouting, and caulking and then cleaning the grout and re caulking the baths! I also dig holes and make waterfalls and ponds and such. Whew! It makes me tired just thinking about it!

October 12, 2017

Knowing Your Family History: Is It Important To You?



I will admit that I am not terribly interested in my family's history. I come from a small family, not a lot of nieces and nephews, aunts, or uncles. I'm not excited about tracing my family tree back through many generations. Even when we lived in Salt Lake City, home of the nation's largest genealogical research library, I wasn't moved. 

My wife is more involved than I. Her family is large, with lots of branches on her family tree. A few notebooks are crammed with the kinds of details that serious seekers of family history love. At one point, I remember a distant relative did visit us to share letters, birth certificates, and other official-looking pieces of paper with Betty. She joined one of the on-line sites to help her with her explorations. While the interest is still there, her family searches have been relegated to a back burner for now.

In doing a little research for this post, I ran across Genealogy In Time Magazine. One of its articles presented answers as to why someone would find all of this interesting or important. If you want to read the full article, click this link.   In summary, some of the reasons include validating family stories, tracing medical  conditions or land ownership, finding birth parents and any links to famous people or historical events.

Frankly, I hadn't considered some of these reasons for engaging in family research. Since I like exploring things on the Internet and am naturally somewhat curious about things I don't understand, I see this whole area in a somewhat different light. I have been told there is a connection somehow in my family to Daniel Boone but have never validated it. 

I remember reading at one time that Barack Obama was related to Dick Cheney. Now, there is an odd couple. Mr. Obama was also linked with George Washington and Rush Limbaugh. See, it gets stranger by the minute! 

Maybe that's the trigger for people to get hooked by family history research. Besides Daniel Boone, maybe I share some blood with Abe Lincoln or Al Capone. Maybe I don't want to know that.

What about you? Are you interested in all the twists and turns of your family's past? Do you have old documents that trace your ancestors back to some historical event? Or, like me, do you prefer to let sleeping dogs lie. You aren't particularly motivated to learn about all that?

I am quite interested in what you have to say. Maybe the challenge of using the Internet to trace my side of the family back a few hundred years would be fun. Maybe not. What you have to say may inspire me, or help solidify my current status of someone not all that fascinated.

Frankly, I will be paying very close attention to your thoughts. 


October 9, 2017

Retirement & Volunteering Our Time

When this post was first written almost six years ago, it generated a lot of comments and follow up emails. The subject of volunteering is an important one for many retirees.  I thought it was worth a revisit, with some fresh thoughts from me. 

As the triple digit temperatures slowly leave Phoenix, my thoughts turn to more outside activities and involvement. Long time readers know I was involved with prison ministry for several years. It was challenging and satisfying work. I have worked as a tour guide at Frank Lloyd Wight's Arizona home, Taliesin West. For the last two years I have spent time on a United Way Steering Committee attempting to find new ways to help retirees find a good match volunteer opportunities.

Starting in two weeks I will begin teaching a Junior Achievement class to a group of 5th graders. I must have some of my mom's genes since teaching seems to agree with me.


I Need You

I know many of you are active volunteers in all sorts of ways. So, I would deeply appreciate you responding in the comment section below with answers to any of these questions (if they apply to your volunteer situation):

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

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

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

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

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