December 5, 2016

An Outsider Looks At Social Media

Well, not a true outsider. I do have a Satisfying Retirement and personal Facebook page and a Twitter account. Primarily, I use them to promote this blog. I will comment on someone else's postings if I feel particularly engaged by something, but not very often. I don't use LinkedIn or Pinterest. I have heard of Snapchat but know nothing about it. Instagram is not part of my life. Even Google Plus isn't on my radar. So, compared to a lot of folks I am a low level social media participant. 

Interestingly, the demographic with the largest growth in Internet use over the past half dozen years are those in the 65+ age group. Daily Internet use jumped 71%, with an accompanying 34% increase in the use of social media. 

Staying in touch with family, relatives, or reconnecting with friends are key motivators. Social media can help reduce feelings of isolation or being out of step in a world that is increasingly technological in orientation. Recently, I was contacted about my 50th High School Reunion by someone who tracked me down on Facebook. Twitter is being used to keep up with the topics folks are talking about. Discussion groups and finding others who share opinions and struggles can be empowering. 

I fully support that type of involvement. When its use helps lessen feelings of loneliness or allows someone to connect with others who share concerns and beliefs, social media can be a powerful tool for good. Learning to use a computer and navigate the Internet helps keep an aging mind active and open.

But, with that new world come risks and dangers. A week or so ago I wrote about the malware epidemic. One of the targets that hackers love is social media.  Clicking on a link that seems interesting or going to another site to look at a fascinating video can lead to computer infection. Stealing someone's identity or taking over another's Twitter or Facebook account is a rather common occurrence.

Actually, I have had both my Twitter and Facebook accounts hacked. In each instance someone started sending out spam and dangerous links to those in my on-line "friends.". Luckily, I was notified quickly that I appeared to be sending out odd information. 

Another recent development is the problem of fake news on Facebook and other sites. These legitimate-looking articles contain "news" stories that have little or no truth in them. They are designed to promote a particular point of view, to deceive readers, or to prompt action based on fabrications. I must admit I have clicked on several stories that seemed to be legitimate, but on closer examination, were not.

Social Media can be anonymous. The name chosen to represent someone is usually not the person's real name. Even a picture may be of someone else. With that comes a problem. It is too easy to hide behind a made-up name and spew hate or slurs with impunity.

Though we tend to think of younger folks as the ones using social media to settle scores or degrade someone, I doubt if age is a reliable test. During the last election season, Twitter, Facebook, and I assume other sites, were positively toxic at times and it seemed clear that many of the participants were from our age group.

Even if you'd never consider sending messages like that, just reading them can be upsetting and depressing. It is vital that we steer clear of reading things that are designed to add stress to our lives or cause us to react in a negative way.

Social Media has been a tremendous tool for good. If used responsibly these outlets keep us connected, informed, and entertained. Like almost anything else, if used recklessly or without common sense, there can be serious problems. 

User beware.


December 1, 2016

A Letter To My 40 Year Old Self


If given the chance I am not sure I would want to go back almost 30 years to give pointers to my 40 year old self. The rule of unintended consequences would might make such time travel a disaster. But, for purposes of this post, let's pretend it would be a good thing.

Dear Bob,
Experience is unteachable. It can only be gained by living and learning. If you will allow me to tell you what is to come in the next few decades of your life, I may be able to spare you a lot of wasted time, effort, and heartache. 
I am not going to detail what happens with your career. If I do you might be tempted to change something and therefore miss both the highs and lows you will experience. So, just trust me, you do well and you will overcome some sizable bumps in the road. And, since you are reading this letter you know you won't die young.
I won't tell you what is ahead in America or the world. Nor, will I make you a rich man by alerting you to inventions before they are reality, or tell you if the Cubs ever win the World Series. Those are mysteries that will unfold, in their proper time and sequence.
But, I will tell you four things now, that if you pay attention, will make your life fuller and more satisfying than you might imagine. They are in order or importance, so don't skip to #2 before you deal with the first one.
#1) Nothing is more important than relationships & friends.
There is nothing in life that can make you happier and more joyous, or more depressed and sad than neglecting important relationships. No amount of money, no second home, no possessions, no fame, no power, nothing can fill the void in your life if you allow meaningful relationships to die. 
We are not designed to be alone. We need others to care for, and care for us, to allow us to feel alive. A strong and fulfilling marriage is not required for a satisfying life, but it can make things so much sweeter. Don't put off fixing problems or assume that things will work themselves out. Your marriage will endure (spoiler alert), but you will lose a few decades of true partnership and joy if you place your career and self above your wife's needs.
You need friends, true, deep, share-everything-type friends. Take whatever steps are necessary to keep renewing your roster of friends. It becomes much harder to develop deep relationships the longer you wait.

#2) Trust your common sense and yourself.
Experts are highly overrated in too many areas of life. A doctor, a good lawyer, a caring spiritual advisor....in these areas pick the best people you can find. But, for many of the decisions you will have to make for the rest of your life, depend on what mom and dad taught you, what you have learned so far, what trusted loved ones tell you, and your moral code. 
Believe in the gifts the Creator gave you to pick the right path, or get back on track if your steps falter. Now and then, self doubt is normal. But, don't let it paralyze you. Any action is better than inaction. Doing nothing is actually a choice. Decide to take a step and see what happens. 

#3) Good comes from every experience, even the ones that seem bad.
You have been raised to believe their is a superior being who has a plan for everything and everyone. Every bad experience you have has an eventual good purpose.
Whether it is to teach you a lesson about pride, or hope, or trust, or perseverance, there will be a reason everything in your life occurs.
Be open to what lies ahead. Don't hide from what life will bring to your doorstep. Trust me, the journey will change you for the better.

#4) Don't be afraid of risk-taking.
Up until this point, you have led a rather conventional life. Yes, you experienced the loss of your job 10 years ago, with two young children and a wife depending on you, but you took a big chance on yourself and it has worked out so far. Generally speaking, though you have played it safe.
I don't mean just in your career, but in how you live. You hate being a beginner so you are loath to try new things. On vacations, you pick safe places and "normal" activities. You rarely push the envelope in much of anything.  
From where I sit now, I wish you (I) had been more willing to stretch myself. I wish I had tried different lifestyles, hobbies, creative outlets, and physical expressions. Over the last few years I have come to appreciate what pushing back a bit can mean to the fullness of life. Get a jump start. Take more risks now, when you are still healthy and young enough to do so.


         Love you,
Your older self

November 28, 2016

Top 7 Retirement FAQs

On Web sites FAQs are Frequently Asked Questions. They are the inquires that occur often enough to be predictable. The questions are followed by short, to-the-point answers that sometimes actually answers the questions. Here are my responses to the most common satisfying retirement FAQ over the past 6+ years. Each also has a link to a post that deals with that subject in more detail:

1) How much money do I need to retire? Enough to live comfortably and handle most emergencies. You will probably end up needing more than you think. If you live in Scottsdale, La Jolla, or West Palm Beach, a lot more. Don't believe all the "rules" about how much you have to save or how little you can withdraw each year and not risk running out of money. Life is a constant adjustment to situations. No one can predict what the future will be like or how you will want to live. Stay flexible. But, I will say that the oft-used $1 million figure isn't necessary. 
 Link:  How Much Money Do I need To Retire?

2) Won't I become bored? Maybe. But, don't you become bored now? Boredom is easily solved. Find something interesting to occupy your mind and time. Retirement is all about trying on a new you. If you become bored it is because you aren't looking hard enough for alternatives. Besides, there are worse fates in life than being bored for awhile. 
Link:  Do You Ever Get Bored?

 3) H
ow do I fill all that time? You will be amazed at how quickly all that time fills up. Your real problem will be finding enough time to do all you want to do. Learning to manage the only resource you have that can never be replaced is a skill that will, in large part, determine how satisfying your retirement becomes. What to do after retirement? Your choices are limited only by you. 
Link: My First Few years of Retirement: Time Management

4) My spouse doesn't want me around the house all day..what do I do? Go somewhere else for a while. Take long walks, go to the library, volunteer a few times a week. Do things around the house that make him or her want you around. Part of the time do what your spouse wants to do. Part of the time do what you want to do. The rest of the time do things together.
Link:  Adjusting To Time Together

5) Can I spend all day in sweats? Sure. But, a word of advice...don't. There is no need to dress up as if you are still going to work. However, lounging around all day in a bathrobe or an old sweatshirt will affect your energy and desire to make something of the day. Develop a morning routine that includes dressing well enough to leave the house, even if you don't plan to. It really does make a difference.
Link:  My Time, Your Time, Our Time

6) Can I unretire? Absolutely. That is one of the best parts of retirement, there are no firm rules. In fact you can retire, unretire, and retire again as many times as you want. Maybe you'll find that financially you could use the extra income. Maybe you like interacting with different people each day and miss the stimulation of an office or factory floor. A part time job may be perfect for you. What if you've always wanted to have your own business or turn a hobby into income? No problem. Retirement is as much about attitude and freedom as it is about your state of employment.
Link: Going Back To Work After Retirement

7) What will happen to my health and health insurance? If I had the answer to that after the recent election results I wouldn't be writing FAQs.


Did I miss an FAQ you want answered?  Comment away!

November 25, 2016

Online Thieves Are Looking For You


The holiday shopping season has begun in earnest. Projections are a 10% increase in online sales over last year, which already set records. Unfortunately, that means a growing opportunity for those who want to separate you from your money, your online identity, or plant an infected piece of software on your computer.

I received information from Enigma Software Group, a company that markets anti-malware software. There were sobering statistics on the spike in growth of this dangerous phenomenon.  The company also gave me some tips to pass along to help keep you safe. Be on high alert for:

1) Spam emails and links promising great deals. Malware makers know that people will be on the lookout for great prices on everything from Xboxes to phones. They'll send bogus emails promising super low prices.

And those emails will contain links that can install malware if they are clicked. The bad guys will also post bad links in Facebook and Twitter accounts that they hijack.

2) Fake emails that look like they are from real online retailers. Bad guys know it's likely you've bought something online from Amazon or Toys R Us. So they send fake emails that tell you there was a problem with your recent order, hoping you'll click on a link that will install malware.

3) Poisoned search results. Sophisticated cyber crooks can create fake web pages promising to sell hot holiday items at very low prices. 
They can even work to make those pages show up in Google searches for particular products. If someone clicks over to the bogus page, an infection is just a few seconds away. 

Some of the more common infections today can steal personal information, access your contacts and important files, and in some cases literally hold your computer hostage until you pay a ransom to unlock it. In fact, the percentage of overall infections made up of “ransomware” has doubled from 2015 to today. 

To protect yourself, the company suggests:

Never click on links in social media messages. This includes Twitter direct messages and messages sent to you via Facebook. They may look like they are coming from your friends, but there's a good chance their account has been compromised and cybercrooks are trying to trick you.

Be wary of unfamiliar web sites that ask you to install software before continuing with your shopping. Most of the time that software has malware embedded in it.

Always have reliable anti-spyware and anti-malware software installed  and make sure to run frequent scans and updates.

If you are trying to check on the status of an online order, type the web site of the retailer into your address bar manually to log in and check. Don't trust a link sent in an email.

Other important reminders include:

A) Be careful with unsecured WiFi connections, like those found at coffee shops, shopping malls, maybe even your own home. Cyber-thieves have become quite adept at stealing information from an open WiFi link.

B) Become sensitive to phishing (fishing) scams. Emails designed to look like a legitimate business hope to entice you to click on a link or respond to an "urgent" request for more information. Do so, and you have been compromised.

C) Social media oversharing can be a problem. Too many details about yourself, like birth date, previous locations of where you lived, your mom's maiden name (as part of a family site), or too low a privacy setting can equal a golden opportunity for ID theft.

D) "12345" or "password" are open doors to thieves. Use strong passwords that combine symbols, upper and lower case letters, and numbers in a string that is meaningless. Hard to remember? Sure. Hard to steal? Absolutely.

E) If a store or business you do business with has a data breach where millions of customer records are stolen or accessed, become very vigilant in checking your bank, credit union, and credit card accounts for unexpected activity. Within a few months, take advance of the free credit check offered at Annual Credit Report to look for suspicious activity or charges. 


With the convenience of our online life comes the necessity to realize that bad people want to take advantage of that technology. Each of us is ultimately responsible for our cyber well-being. Sad, but true.