September 21, 2018

The Empty Nest Isn't So Empty


They have been called boomerang kids, often between 21 and 35...adult children who end up moving back in with mom and dad. Sometimes the return is brief, for others it becomes an extended stay. I was surprised by the statistics: 15% of parents with grown children say one of their adult sons or daughters has moved back home in the past year. During a bad economic period, up to 40% of college grads are back with their folks a full year after graduation. 

Obviously, having an adult child move back home presents both challenges and opportunities to your satisfying retirement lifestyle.  Beyond the basic change an extra person makes to your day-to-day routines, space use, and costs, there are other important issues that need to be addressed.  Consider the following if you have an adult child ready to move "home:"

Protect your retirement assets. The worst thing you could do it tap deeply into what you will need to help your child out. If you are retired, or soon will be, you do not have the time to build those funds back to the level you have determined you will need. While you may feel pressured to bail your son or daughter out with the money you have in your 401 (k)) or IRA, don't do it. That advice comes from every financial source I could find on the Internet and makes complete sense to me.

If you do provide some money, make it a loan, not a gift. If you are able to help your child out while he or she attempts to get back on their feet without tapping your retirement money, then by all means do so. But, the suggestion is to loan the money rather than making it an outright gift. You will feel more like a partner in helping your child. And he or she will feel more like an adult than a child, still getting gifts from mommy and daddy. Establish a regular repayment schedule and charge at least some interest.

Charge room and board. Yes, I know she is your own family member. But, for the same reason you should loan money instead of giving it to her, the fact is she will increase your living costs. Charge a monthly rent that is well below normal market rates. But, the extra money will help you with the increased food and electric bills. Paying something toward those costs will help the child's self-respect, too.

Agree on basic ground rules. The new "tenant" should help with some household chores, handle his own laundry, offer to go food shopping on occasion, and help with the cooking or cleanup. If you prefer a neat home, insist that her living space (and yours) remains that way. What about bringing over dates or friends? 


What about "sleepovers" with members of the opposite sex? Decide well ahead of time the answers to these questions.

Insist that he or she actively look for a job or whatever it takes to become independent again. Lying on the coach while watching 6 hours of TV a day,  playing video games, or sleeping until noon is going to cause problems....quickly. Agree before the child moves in what is a reasonable plan for moving back out again.

Set a timetable. There should be some sort of "finish line" to this arrangement. Set a time-based limit, or when a certain income level has been met. Of course, you may need to be a bit flexible with this requirement. But, a timetable does help motivate the returning child to become creative in solving his problems. That may mean 2 or 3 part time jobs and living with a roommate. It may mean sharing a car or relying on public transportation. If there is a projected end to the boomerang phase, both parents and child have a goal to aim for.

Treat your "child" like you would an adult renter, not as his parent. It is quite likely he or she already feels bad about having to move back with mom and dad. Don't compound that by reminding him whenever possible of that fact. Respect his privacy, opinions, and needs. Realize that while she still wants your respect, she doesn't really need your permission. If he is following the ground rules you have both agreed upon, then take off your parent hat.

On the positive side, if your relationship with the returning child is good, this may be a tremendous time period together. Your "child" is an adult in opinions and actions. You can enjoy him or her for who they have become. The need to "parent" has diminished. The time is there to enjoy his or her uniqueness. It also feels good as a parent to help a child in time of need.

Having an adult child move home when he or she has lost a job, suffered the end of a bad marriage, or is recuperating from a serious illness will change you life, and theirs. By establishing fair and clearly defined rules and obligations it can be a time of discovery and a time of deepening relationships. It could be a tremendous plus for your retirement lifestyle.

If the adult child moving back has a spouse and/or a child, the change is more dramatic and the topic for another post.


Have you experienced the "boomerang" effect? Do you have any ideas or suggestions we can benefit from? Even if an adult child of yours has never returned home, I'll bet you have some opinions about the subject. Here's the place to let it fly!


September 20, 2018

My Summer Goal is Complete

I began the summer with a goal: to produce three booklets that are focused on different aspects of retirement. I wanted them to be shorter than a full length book, so someone could read the material quickly and  begin to implement the suggestions. I wanted to keep the cost under $3.00.

Now, just as autumn begins that goal has been met. Preparing To Make The Most of Your Free Time After Retirement is now available on Amazon. A look at the Table of Contents shows the focus of this edition:



  • Adjusting to Time Together
  • What Do You Do all Day?
  • Can You Spend Part Of The Year Away From Family?
  • Preparing Your Home For an Extended Absence
  • Retirement Fulfillment: Are There Different Paths?
  • Free Time and Aging Well: Nine Things To Consider
  • Do You Ever Get Bored?
  • Maintaining a Balance In a Retirement Relationship
  • Simple Sizing
  • Easing Into Retirement
  • 5 Things We Can Stop Worrying About
  • Spirituality and Retirement
  • Grandparents and Establishing Limits
  • A Retire Builds His New Life
  • Taking The Time To Live
  • Retirement and Your Social Network
  • Why Spend Your Free Time in Retirement Being Average?

The two other booklets in the series include Preparing For Your Active Life After Retirement




and Preparing For Your Financial Future After Retirement. 


Preview






Each includes information taken from the posts of this blog, are somewhere between 44-55 pages and available as Kindle downloads.

If you enjoy this blog and find the information helpful to you, I ask you for a favor: consider purchasing one or more of these booklets. Besides containing solid advice that I trust you will find useful, you'd be helping to cover some of the costs associated with this blog, now in its 8th year. 

The various ads you see from other companies on the blog generate enough income for copy paper and printer ink! So, booklet sales are important.

If you do decide to buy and read one or more, I'd deeply appreciate a positive review on Amazon. They are very important to long term sales.

As Satisfying Retirement closes in on 3 million views, I am as dedicated today to providing actionable, experience-proven information and advice as when this started in 2010.

Thank you for your interest and support.

Bob




September 17, 2018

Can You Retire With Less Than a Million Dollars? Absolutely!


$1,000,000 is the minimum you need in your investments accounts to have a satisfying retirement, according to many retirement advice sources. Others say you need something north of $2 million to rest easy.

As regular readers know, I tend to push back against such generalizations. How someone can draw a line in the sand and tell you what you must have or must do without knowing you and your situation is silly.  I offer suggestions and advice based on my experiences and feedback from readers, but I hope I am never guilty of telling you "my way or doom."

That being said let me offer some thoughts on how the non-millionaires among us can still retire and enjoy a fulfilling and stimulating life. Again, I will say these are thoughts from me. They may not work for you, or you may have even better ideas which I sincerely hope you will leave as comments below.

In the interest of full disclosure I will state that with all my assets, minus my almost non-existent debt, Betty and I are technically millionaires. But, I have never thought of myself that way, and honestly, I live my life denying that fact. I live my retirement years on a nest egg that I see as several hundred thousand dollars below that figure. Why? To give me a safety net if everything starts to fall apart and to keep me from making the mistakes that I see too many others making: living for wants and instead of a balance of needs and wants.

How to retire without a million dollars is really quite simple: adjust your lifestyle to what you have to work with. That includes any 401(k) or IRA accounts, any other investment accounts, Social Security, the value of your home or other real estate, projected inheritance (if any), and part time or full time income.

Specifically:


1) The vast majority of us can substantially lower our everyday expenses after retirement. The average of those surveyed for one of my books is much closer to folks living on 50% of their pre-retirement income. Betty and I are closer to 40%, even though we live well and are much happier than when my salary was into six figures. Possessions and things don't motivate us nearly as much.


2) For unexpected emergencies and expenses set aside enough to live for 6 months, or pay for a large emergency. Remember, even if you have insurance for whatever the problem, you will probably have to fight for that money and/or wait months or years to be reimbursed. The worst scenario is to max out credit cards or a home equity loan.


3) Simplicity and retirement can often go together. Most of the retirees I come into contact with, both in real life and through the blog, have downsized both possessions and desires. Less really is more: more time, freedom, and flexibility. Keeping up with the Joneses becomes very unimportant.


4) Adjust your expenses based on two things: changes in your investments and changes in your lifestyle. This is rather obvious. When my investments were earning 8-10% my income and spending options were different than they are with something closer to 3%. And, Betty and I are very happy with simple meals, simple pleasures, and simple living.


5) Accept that the condo on Maui and extended cruises may be out of reach. Rejoice in all you can do. With a nest egg of less than $1,000,000 and upwards of 30 years left to live, your ability to live a very satisfying life is quite likely. Focus on what you do have and what you can do. Even if you live almost solely on Social Security and must count every penny, remember you are still better off than at least 80% of the rest of the people on this planet. We have so many opportunities and blessings we can lose sight of how good we really do have it.


6) Aggressively protect your health. As I age I realize how incredibly crucial this is to the rest of my satisfying retirement. Taking shortcuts now in terms of foods I eat, exercising, and regular health checkups will cost me later, and I don't just mean monetarily. I mean in my mobility and freedom to do what pleases me. I mean in how much of a burden I place on loved ones.



It is hard for me to explain completely how much more fulfilling and satisfying my lifestyle is today on 60% less money than I once earned. As soon as I adjusted my mindset to living and not spending a load was lifted and my life took on a whole new depth and sweetness.

How much do you need to achieve this same state? I have no idea and I'm not going to give you a figure. That is for you to determine. But, I will tell you the experts are wrong: you can be happy and productive without achieving whatever is the latest magic number they are promoting.

September 13, 2018

Work Burnout: Am I Done Yet?


Work Burnout. A while ago ago a reader asked me to address the issue of feeling that work has become a real chore and how that affects the decision to retire. To retire just because you have had a rough stretch at work or you have a strong urge to chuck it all is usually not wise. Launching a satisfying retirement takes planning and is a process that should begin well before you accept your last paycheck.

At the same time, staying employed after your mental and physical well being begin to suffer is not wise either. I found several excellent web sites that might help you take a fresh look at your situation to determine if your problem requires action.

What are some of the signs that help you know it is time? Here is a short list that may help you decide if you are on the road to burnout at work:

  • Every day is a bad day.
  • Caring about your work or seems like a total waste of energy.
  • You’re exhausted all the time.
  • The majority of your day is spent on tasks you find either  dull or overwhelming.
  • You feel like nothing you do makes a difference or is appreciatated


At stress.about.com I found a burnout quiz. Answer the twenty questions and the results are summarized to help you determine if you are at risk for at work burnout. Scientific? No. Something I'd use to decide whether to retire or not? No. Helpful to look at your situation? Yes. Just by answering the questions you have the chance to think through your condition.


At the site, Business Insider you will find a basic description of the 12 stages of burnout. Taken from an article in Scientific American, this strikes me as a good starting point to assess your situation.

The Mayo Clinic web site has an excellent review of the subject. For example, they suggest to ask yourself these questions:




  • Have you become cynical or critical at work?
  • Do you drag yourself to work and have trouble getting started once you arrive?
  • Have you become irritable or impatient with co-workers, customers or clients?
  • Do you lack the energy to be consistently productive?
  • Do you lack satisfaction from your achievements?
  • Do you feel disillusioned about your job?
  • Are you using food, drugs or alcohol to feel better or to simply not feel?
  • Have your sleep habits or appetite changed?
  • Are you troubled by unexplained headaches, backaches or other physical complaints?  


  • The site continues with overviews on what causes job burnout, who is most at risk, the consequences of ignoring the problem, and importantly, how to handle it.

    From personal experience I can say that I did suffer from many of the symptoms of job burnout a few years before I retired. My radio consulting business was in serious decline for a few important reasons: I had stopped trying to learn anything new in my field and was content to just offer the same solutions to client problems that had worked for the previous 15 years. I simply wasn't motivated to put in the effort to "grow" my knowledge, and that meant a slow death for the company.

    Secondly, I was sick of the travel, being away from home all the time, and knowing my marriage and family life were suffering. I saw no reasonable way to continue doing my job while protecting my relationships. So, my wife and I decided it would be best to close the business and take an early retirement.

    It is important to note that this decision was not made hastily. For the better part of a year I struggled with the financial aspects of retiring at least 7-9 years before I thought I should. Betty and I discussed all the pros and cons of my retirement and what affect it had on her work, too. My personal identity was tightly wrapped with the business. I had no hobbies or passions waiting for me. 

    But, the decision was one of the most important I have ever made. I was on the road to ruin and needed to get off before i crashed my life and my marriage. Work burnout is real and powerful. Just be sure you have thought everything through. A satisfying retirement does not follow automatically.


    September 10, 2018

    A Satisfying Retirement with Limited Resources: Can That Work?


    Here are two retirement questions that are asked on a regular basis: 
    "If savings and investments are not sufficient to live the way I hoped to, can retirement still be a happy experience?"
     "If I must depend on Social Security for the bulk of my monthly income, what are my prospects?" 

    I grew up in America. I was taught that continuous consumption is good and essential to our way of life. I learned that money is important and powerful. I believed that more money and possessions equaled more happiness.
    Without questioning the reasons or justification, I bought the "work hard, make lots of money, and you are a success" mantra.

    I was mislead. Not until my retirement did I understand the real correlation between one's financial situation and happiness:

    a) consumption is not always good nor is it connected to a positive way of life.
    b) money is not necessaarily linked to importance or power.
    c) money and possessions do not equal happiness.

    With that foundation, let me answer the two questions:

    Yes, and good.

    I'm not trying to be flippant. Rather, if nothing else after 17 years of retirement, the experience of writing this blog and interacting with tens of thousands of people, I have been allowed to see some serious fallacies behind the assumptions most of us carry with us.

    Sure, having investments or a pension that produce a reliable income and savings that can cover a major crisis, lifestyle changes, monetary help for family members, or a way of satisfying some bucket list wants is nice. All of us would probably prefer that situation. 

    But the reality is, not all of us do. Many of us don't even come close to that dream. Among all retirees, 21% of married couples and 43% of singles rely on just Social Security for 90% of their total income. That equals tens of millions of people. Of course, there are way too many who are desperately poor due to a combination of factors that I can't adequately address in this post. 

    But, for those who might ask the questions that opened this post, what do these folks do? How do they spend their retirement years? Is it possible to be happy and have good prospects?

    My most important suggestion has nothing to do with money. It has to do with accepting adjustments. Maybe you thought your retirement would include travel, maybe even a vacation home, lots of meals out, season tickets to the ballgames or orchestra.....whatever you pictured in your mind.

    That isn't the way things turned out. That is the reality. But, it doesn't have to dictate whether your retirement is happy or not. It shouldn't make you feel like you're "failing" retirement because you can't do what others can. Your financial resources may set boundaries on retirement, but it absolutely doesn't have to determine what happens within those boundaries. That is still within your control.

    Sure, living solely on Social Security or a smaller savings account means you may have to change your living arrangements: living with family, having a roommate, living in a manufactured home instead of your apartment or house. Your food choices will be more limited, but as we age we eat less and require less to maintain a healthy weight.

    The number of free things you have access would overwhelm most people in the world. Libraries, concerts, educational classes, health clinics, meals and activities at the local senior center. Oh, and let's not forget one of the real joys of life: interacting with family and friends doesn't have to cost a penny.

    Discount prescription drugs are increasingly available. Most senior centers schedule low cost day trips to the type of places tourists may spend hundreds of dollars to visit. Need a massage or hair styling? Go to a local barber college or massage school. You are likely to find vastly reduced prices since students have to perfect their skills on someone.

    For many the spiritual side of life provides comfort and a sense of belonging. Churches and other organizations provide friendship and support. Even if you prefer to walk a spiritual path alone, your beliefs provide support and purpose to your life. This fits any budget.

    Access to a computer opens up an endless world of knowledge, games, interactions with others, videos, studying a subject that interests you, and learning a new skill. If your budget doesn't stretch enough to cover an Internet service, every library in the country has computers available for use by anyone. 

    Is your smartphone eating up too much of your budget? Several companies offer a basic talk and text service for a fraction of what the big boys charge. Can't justify the cost of a streaming service like Netflix?  I'll point you back to the library with thousands of DVDs available to take home. 

    In addition to adjustments I will add one more "A" word to this post: Attitude. Being happy and content is an internal function, a decision made by you. It has nothing to do with finances. Sitting in a park on a beautiful day, eating a peanut butter sandwich and washing it down with a bottle of water costs virtually nothing but can add a tremendously positive experience to your day. 

    Financial resources do not have to determine how satisfying a retirement lifestyle is. Too many people don't believe that and end up dispirited and defeated. Don't accept that as your fate. 

    A satisfying retirement and limited resources can work. Trust me.