September 24, 2016

I've Changed my opinion about....

......The Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare. Now, before you shoot daggers at me, I will add that the system we had before Obamacare was a dismal failure, too. Sick people were denied coverage. Life-saving tests were unaffordable for many. Insurance companies could decide a treatment was not warranted and people would die. Those without employer-provided policies who didn't have any dreaded "pre-existing conditions"  faced back-breaking premiums, deductibles, and limitations. Bankruptcies happened.

So, where are we? The unfettered for-profit system prior to 2010 was a train wreck. The ACA is headed to a future where premiums are too expensive to pay because competition has disappeared. Health care companies have figured out they are better off walking away from customers if they are too sick. The fines for not have health coverage are so low that many younger people are better off paying the penalty rather than hundreds of dollars a month for coverage with huge deductibles and a tiny network of providers. Some states have only one company in their health exchange. That is a guarantee for failure.

Some will argue the answer is obvious: make Medicare an option for everyone. The system works. There is fraud, sure, but there is fraud in the private model, too. There is fraud in Social Security but I've never met anyone who wants that essential service terminated. Heavens, there are billions of dollars of waste and fraud in the Pentagon, but we must have a defense system.

With tens of millions of additional customers and no more need for subsidies,  the government could afford to increase what is paid to providers. Drug price negotiation would become standard practice. Medicare has few exclusions and even fewer limits on coverage. Those who need it could get it.

I think there would still have to be some form of private option. We are just too independent and fearful of total government control to make Medicare the only health insurer. The insurance companies would be happier because the healthier people would probably choose a private company, allowing for lower premiums and a decent share of the market. Medicare Advantage programs and Medigap policies would still be available.

Obamacare was pushed through a very reluctant Congress. The law was massive, poorly written, and based on conclusions that have not come true. As structured it will not survive much longer. But, if it collapses do all the people who were unable to get insurance before, or excluded from life-saving procedures, get tossed under the bus again?

Like a few other hot button topics in today's America, health care remains a subject whose mere mention can trigger more heat than light. I really hesitated to write this post for fear of a tsunami of "I told you so" or "this political party or that does or does not have any answers."

The point of this post is actually more of admitting that changing one's opinion about something important can be admitted publicly. Humans change their minds and change their opinions on a regular basis. But, I am convinced that too often we refuse to admit those changes for fear of what others may say and think.

So, I am putting myself on the line here by saying I have changed my mind about the Affordable Care Act's ability to solve our healthcare problems.

I trust you to not throw me to the wolves.

Want to learn more?

Top Healthcare Issues This Year

Can Obamacare Survive?

September 21, 2016

An Average Life? Aim Higher

Average means ordinary or usual. Average is what many people aspire to be. Don’t rock the boat, don’t stand out, don’t make waves. I’m guessing you want more. You want each day to be special, to mean something. You’d like your life to follow a path that you create.

Here’s the answer: ignore common wisdom. Just forget it. Common is average. Your life can be more by being different. Here are 4 ways to break from the pack and create a satisfying retirement lifestyle that is under your control.

1) Short cuts usually get you lost. Too many people figure they know how to get something for nothing. Hard work is for suckers. The path to glory and greatness lies through other's efforts or money. Don’t bother perfecting your skills. Don’t waste time learning what you need to know. Look for the easy way. Look for the shortcut. Just don’t be surprised if you find yourself in the forest with no way out.

There are no shortcuts on the road to a non-average life. You have to want it enough to work hard for it. You accept there is no way to bypass the effort involved. You see the sign for the shortcut, and choose the other path.

2) Experts often know less than you. Our society worships experts. If someone is an expert, whatever he or she says must be better than what you think or believe. You would be wise to stop worrying and just do what they say, buy what they recommend, and live how they have determined is best.

Bunk. An expert is often self-declared. He may have no track record or experience to have earned that label. She has no idea what works best for you in your unique set of circumstances. Consider that maybe you are the best expert there is in figuring what is right for you. Stop listening to every talking head. Start listening to yourself.

3) Newer isn’t always better. We upgrade, replace, or redo out of boredom with the old. Commercials have convinced us our life will be a whole lot better with the latest whatever. Newer is always better. Our clothes will be whiter, our teeth brighter, and our home life more pleasant.

Not true. Today’s appliances are made to fail, whereas the stuff from 20 years ago would last forever. Computers will work just fine years after Microsoft wants you to upgrade to a new OS that makes all your drivers obsolete. With decent care, your car can easily go 125,000 or more and be fully paid for. To resist the constant call to buy what is new and improved takes above average will power.

4) You can’t spend your way out of debt. This is not what our consumer society wants you to do. The average American household spends 133% of what it earned. I’d suggest there is a very direct correlation between that fact and the recession of not that many years ago. Our entire way of life is built on credit, for housing, cars, education, giant TVs, vacations…everything. Sometimes credit is helpful and necessary. Few of us can buy a home with cash in our pocket.

The problem arises when we attempt to fund our day-to-day lives with credit we can’t pay back. Your life is out of your control. Decisions you make are predicated on how you can balance this bill against that credit card, against that obligation. Your entire lifestyle can collapse overnight if you lose your job. The solution is so obvious it seems almost silly to say it. But, with the average American household having total credit card debt of $16,000, apparently not.

You were made to be more than average. You have the potential to excel and exceed expectations. It just takes above average will power, determination, and a clear vision of what you want to accomplish. Ban good enough from your vocabulary.

September 18, 2016

Adult Coloring Books

Color me surprised. 

Last year over 12 million adult coloring books were sold in the United States. There are coloring books for adults in bookstores, craft shops, and on-line. There are adult coloring clubs, Facebook groups, and Instagram pages. Groups gather for community and conversation with coloring groups in most cities across the country. If this is a fad, it is a pretty healthy one. 

Frankly, I was completely in the dark about adult coloring books, until a few month ago when my daughters showed me some of the beautiful art work they had created. I was given a few pages to try. While the results don't make me a Van Gogh, I was pleasantly surprised that they didn't look terrible. Of course, like paint-by-numbers, it is pretty hard to make serious mistakes when what you are doing is coloring in open spaces. But, choosing the colors that go together is, well, artistic! I did find it enjoyable to focus on the page and shut off all other thoughts for awhile. 

So, I started to do some research. Google responded with almost two million search results. Heavens, this is a big deal! I am learning that all sorts of people color and for a whole range of reasons: relaxation, meditation-like calmness, or following a long suppressed artistic urge.

Serious medical folks claim coloring can have therapeutic potential to reduce anxiety and help someone focus. A story in the Washington Post recounted the story of a woman who found coloring helped her deal with the grief of losing her infant son. She needed something different than just words and prayers to help her. The story also includes a reference to a woman who used the process of coloring to help her with confidence in controlling hand tremors.

While I didn't find a direct connection between adult coloring book users and someone who is has an artistic streak, I would think that isn't such a large leap. Julia Cameron, author of The Artist's Way and her latest, it's Never Too Late To Begin Again, deals with the subject of being a shadow artist. To her, that is someone who sees him or herself as an artist but life took them in another direction. Maybe coloring with pencils and markers helps satisfy that need.

Recently, Timber Press  sent me three adult coloring books to review. I have yet to put ink to paper, but I did find them interesting. They are alittle different from other adult coloring books I have seen. These include background information about the subject of the page and the names of what you will be coloring. One of the book contains several blank pages after each section so it is possible to add one's own sketches and then color them in.

I'd be interested if you take part in this activity, or know someone who does. August 2nd was National Coloring Book Day. I missed the celebration, but may be joining the crowd now.

Satisfying Retirement was provided with the coloring books at no cost, and for review purposes only.

September 15, 2016

On The RV Road Again

As I write this, we have just arrived in Oklahoma City. After leaving home on Monday, September 5th, we have driven 960 miles, stopped in 7 different towns, and had a tremendous time. With about 6 weeks to go on our RV trip, we are adding experiences, memories, and photos to our satisfying retirement.

Unlike previous trips, we are keeping most travel days to only 3 hours on the road. That means less wear and tear on the driver (me!) and allows us to arrive at our new destination by early afternoon. There is plenty of time to get things set up, relax, and see any local sights that grab our attention.

Normally, we will stay for just one night in smaller towns, and then two nights in areas with more to see. With careful planning this has meant extra time in the bigger towns of Albuquerque, Amarillo, and now, OKC. 

Frankly, we could spend much longer in each place, but we have family visits built around certain timing that means this is the best setup for now. On the return trip from Tennessee we can be much more flexible in how long we choose to stay in a particular town. Betty has already suggested we change our route home to go through 5 additional states so we can put more stickers on the RV map!

To this point, our favorite sites have been Old Town Albuquerque, the Cadillac Ranch spot near Amarillo (pure Americana kitsch) , Palo Duro Canyon State Park, the Route 66 Museum and the historical museum in Tucumcari, and the RV Museum near Amarillo.

Surprisingly to me, a full week after Labor Day the RV parks are mostly full. For some reason I thought things would start to quiet down by mid-September, but that is not the case. RVers don't have to follow a calendar, something I should have realized. We booked ahead for this first leg of the journey, so there have been no problems. It will be interesting to see whether there are any changes in occupancy by October. 

Both Betty and I brought along at least half a dozen projects each, so our free time has been busy. We have had the chance to discuss some things we want to do to the house when we get home, but have yet to reach a firm conclusion about the future of our RV adventures. At this point I'd guess we will modify and continue with our current motorhome, but the road ahead is still quite long and could bring changes to our thoughts.

We cooked and froze 15 meals ahead of time. They completely filled the RV freezer.  So far, less than half are gone. But, tomorrow means grocery shopping for fresh produce, fruit, and bread.

While we are shopping or driving, enjoy some photos from the road:

First night in Heber, AZ

Bailey can read!

A selfie!

A giant game of chess?

No more riding on this saddle
Gazebo in Old Town Albuquerque

Grounds of San Felipe de Neri Church

Gives Betty an idea for our backyard!

All sorts of galleries in old town Albuquerque

Rout 66 Museum in Tucumcari...notice the wall of photos

the juxtaposition of modern technology and  an old Rt. 66 gas station

Luckily, this store outside Tucumcari was closed! Way too much stuff
Route 66 Cadillac Ranch..Yes, 10 cars

Palo Duro State Park

Yes, a trailer doggie house!

From the Robin Williams Movie, RV

A customized teardrop trailer

Complete with kitchen

A dozen vintage trailers and twice that many motorcycles

Not bad for 9 days!