October 21, 2018

Go-Go, Slow-Go, No-Go: Is This A Smart Retirement Life Plan?

I have written before about the three stages of retirement: excitement and euphoria, then panic and fear, followed by settling in and enjoying the freedom.

But, Go-Go, Slow-Go, No-Go is a bit different. Instead of thinking about time management or finding a passion, these three phrases do an excellent job of describing an approach to a satisfying retirement journey from an activity standpoint. 

We are aware of the changes in our energy level, physical stamina, and overall health as we age.  Obsessing about this reality is a waste of time. What we can do is manage our approach to living to match what is likely to occur.

During the Go-Go stage we have the energy, physical and mental stability, and desire to do things. We have determined that our financial situation will allow us to splurge for the time being. For many this means travel. This is the time for that extended road trip, tour the country in an RV, take a walking tour across Ireland, board a cruise for a trip across the Pacific, visit the Holy Land...whatever is part of your dream list. We are at the peak of our retirement health and monetary stability. 

For others, Go-Go might mean going back to school to get the degree you have always wanted. Hours of studying, rushing from classroom to classroom, balancing a home life and a school life is not for the faint of heart.

For the athletically inclined The Go-Go phase means ski trips, long distance bike rides, taking part in swim meets, joining the tennis club and perfecting your backswing. It means a real dedication to workouts at the gym or extended walking commitments.

At some point, and it differs for all of us, we move into the Slow-Go period of retirement. With a diminished energy level, maybe less physical  stamina, or a need to pull back on spending, the focus becomes a bit closer to home. This is when we think about remodeling or improving our home, or even downsizing so there is less maintenance to worry about. 

Slow-Go doesn't have to mean no travel, just trips that tax us a little less. Maybe a packaged tour takes the place of independent trips. A long weekend in a favorite place instead of a 2 week driving tour sounds more appealing.

Instead of going back to college full time, Slow-Go is the time for enrichment classes at the local community college. It is the phase when hobbies become more important. With more time at home, we develop our woodworking, quilting, writing, or auto repair skills. Starting a home-based business built around one of these hobbies often occurs. 

The third stage, No-Go, is when our interests, desire, stamina, and health are more likely to limit what we can safely and comfortably do. Importantly, I want to emphasize that No-Go does not mean being parked in from of a TV 6 hours a day, or glued to your easy chair. It doesn't mean cocooning inside your four walls. 

Rather, this is the perfect time to work on projects and interests close to home. Online courses in subjects you've always wanted to explore, a reading plan centered on a deeper study of a favorite author, period of history or subject, and games designed to keep your mind stimulated are excellent options. A day trip organized by your local senior center might be fun and get you out of the house. Spending more time with your extended family members or friends can be a good fit. 

No-Go may involve a tightened budget as health costs increase. But, with less travel, expensive vacations, and major house remodels, your financial direction can more easily be adjusted.

These three activity and energy stages are a natural part of the aging process. Each of us moves from stage to stage on our own unique timetable. That difference is important to respect in ourselves and others. This awareness is extra-important if a spouse or partner is not in the same phase as you.

Again, I want to emphasize that these stages do not affect your ability to have a fully satisfying retirement. Like all of life, we are happiest when our abilities, interests, and goals are in alignment.

October 18, 2018

We Published a Book Together: The Grandkids and Me!

Betty and I have three very excited grandchildren. Begun as an idea a few months ago, today we celebrate the publication of Bobo's Great Adventure.

In the summer of 2018, the grandkids were visiting Gran and Grandad’s home for an afternoon of play and games. At one point our grandson was looking at one of my books online. That was the trigger.

He asked if he and I could write a book together. As a youngster who loves to read and has an amazingly inventive mind, I shouldn’t have been surprised. Even so, his request caught me off-guard. After quickly recovering, of course I agreed. That would be a fun project we could do together.

Realizing his two sisters were close by and each had talents we could use, I asked if we could all work on the book together. Everyone agreed: writing a book, illustrating it and producing a finished product would be a great goal for the rest of the summer.

Photos were taken by Gran, then converted into sketches by our granddaughters. Gran helped to tweak the final pictures that fit the story written by Grandad. The boy who started it all took over the role of proofreader and marketing director.

Bobo’s Great Adventure is the result.

The Fuddle Family, with Bobo
The Fuddle Family along with Bobo, a stuffed toy dog, embark on a memorable adventure. Along the way they explore the countryside, meet friendly people, and animals.
Then, a scary encounter with a flash flood puts Bobo in jeopardy, but just for awhile. The Fuddles rescue Bobo and return home, safe and sound with memories of a great family adventure that will be with them forever.

As you might imagine, Gran (Betty) and Grandad (me !) as proud as can be over this joint effort. Josh, Kaylee, Kassi, and their mom and dad are celebrating the completion of something that is meaningful and memorable.

Bobo on a swing all by himself
There is just one step left, and for that I turn to you: when people order a copy, much more than the money will be shared among the three kids. There is a very real validation of what they have accomplished. To produce an actual book that others are interested in buying is a big deal to them. 

The Kindle version is just $1.99 while the paperback is $4.99 (due to printing costs).
Click here to go directly to the book on Amazon.

I would very much appreciate your support in this regard. And, yes, 100% of the money goes to the three kids.

Bobo meets a horse

Thanks so much, and I hope you enjoy the story.

October 15, 2018

Retirement Budgeting: It is Not Safe To Ignore This Step

I received the following e-mail from a regular satisfying retirement reader and commenter.  Except for a little editing and name changes, I've left her message intact. After reading through her concerns, see if you can add anything to my thoughts.

"Bill and I are definitely taking the next step towards retirement and we're getting our business ready to put up for sale.. a big step. Bill is pretty nervous, I am calmer about it. A big leap but we are sooo. ready. The stresses of business and the challenges of staying up to date in an ever changing industry are wearing us out! We're ready to move on to the next phase of our lives.
Reading your blog helps us both to have the large view and not be too scared. We'd feel better if our savings were still making the 7% and the 5% even that they used to, in municipal bonds. (Wouldn't everyone!?) We're having to learn more about investing. "IF" the economy had not taken a slide we probably would have retired several years ago as we had originally planned.. but we're in the same boat as everyone, with interest rates what they are. LUCKILY we did not lose in the stock market dip ten years ago.
One thing we're going to do is sit down and remember what it is like to live on a stricter BUDGET. I wonder if you would address this issue in a blog post? How does one go from having a good bit of discretionary income to living on fixed income again? We certainly did this in our early years, but we have to relearn! Do you and Betty each get an "Allowance" monthly for personal spending? I don't spend much, monthly, but my husband does have a Home Depot habit.
We live frugally but well, but it is still a challenge to return to a stricter kind of budgeting so our retirement funds last..we are weighing that sense of FREEDOM and TIME we will gain (and better health, too, no doubt..) with the minor discomfort of having to watch pennies again. I read that the Frugal Girl and her spouse have a once a month budget meeting-- do you and Betty? Or do your retired readers?
One PLUS of doing this again in our lives (stricter budgeting) is that we are reviewing the importance and meaning of every expenditure, reviewing what kind of travel we REALLY enjoy and get our money's worth from, and just reviewing "meaning" in general-- a good thing!"

Besides writing most of this post for me (!), I seriously appreciate the thought Sue put into her questions and concerns. I'll take a stab at answering them. Like many, she is looking forward to retirement with a healthy mixture of edginess and excitement. With interest income still quite low, and the "normal" investments no longer the safe places we once thought them to be, she and Bill are refocusing on the need to choose how the monetary resources they have are best utilized.

Betty and I do not have a monthly budget meeting. We set our budget on January 1st for the coming year. It is based on last year's expenses, what we think we will need to spend, and what our income will be for the next 365 days. Also, we have a certain amount of money set aside for emergency expenses.

From then on it is my responsibility to keep things in balance. If we get some income we didn't plan on we discuss what we should do with it. If expenses are tracking higher than they should I make suggestions for cuts and adjustments and Betty gives her approval or suggests a modification here or there. I do record everything we spend in Quicken so I am never surprised by an out-of-whack expenses category. I can catch a problem very quickly.

Our total expenses have remained relatively steady over the past 17 years. How is that possible considering the effects of inflation and in areas like health care where costs have gone up a average of 10%-15% a year? The answer is simple: they had to because my income is relatively fixed.

When I retired in 2001 at the age of 52 I had a investment/savings account designed to carry us until I planned to start taking Social Security and withdrawing from my IRA at the age of 64.  We have lived off that savings and investment account through boom and bust cycles. When those investments were making 10% we had extra cash flow. When our average return sunk to 3% or less, we were short. But, because we didn't spend more when times were good we had enough to carry through the tough times. A dozen years ago I had planned that the savings account would run out of money on my 64th birthday. I was one month off.

Over the years we have adjusted budget categories many times. In some years we decide it is time to replace some home furnishings, so another category must be cut. In another year, maybe we decide we would rather cut back our dining out budget so we can spend a bit more somewhere else. Cable TV and the land line phone went away several years ago ago when we realized they weren't worth the money to us.

My clothing budget is 85% less than it was when I was working and I still have money left unspent at the end of the year. I need jeans, a T-shirt, and gym shoes. Heavens, our dry cleaning expenses for last year for both Betty and me was $36....not a month, but for all of 2017. We simply don't buy or maintain clothes than cannot be laundered.

We each get a small sum of money each month (less than $100) that doesn't have to be accounted for. Betty tends to spend hers on the grandkids or the house. I spend mine on stuff for my blog, books and house.

This post is getting a little long, so let me summarize what I believe the key to our financial stability has been:
  1. We have no consumer debt, no mortgage, no credit card debt
  2. We adjust our expenses to fit within our income, not the other way around
  3. We constantly adjust to stay on track
  4. We have learned that it doesn't take much for us to be happy

OK, your turn. What hints or tips can you give to Sue and Bill and everyone else? After all, we are all in this together.

October 11, 2018

The Worst Things About Retirement

For some of us the worst thing about retirement is that it didn't start sooner. After experiencing the freedom and opportunities that become available after work ends, we are happy that the employment stage of life is behind us.

For variety of reasons, others find the transition is less than ideal. Concerns like financial fears, health problems, or relational issues are not my focus this time. Instead, I'd like to look at some things that may be a little less obvious but still make us less than satisfied. Some of these may feel familiar to you. For some reason the pieces of retirement you thought would fit together nicely, don't.

In each segment I have included a link to a post that might help you find some answers.

* After awhile the freshness wears off. Then, every day seems like the one before. This happens when the honeymoon period ends and we realize what is in front of us: a schedule that is up to us to design. Forty hours (or more) every week is now ours to fill. Say what you will about an unpleasant job, at least it came with a structure that required little effort on our part to design. 

Is retirement like a permanent vacation?

* I don't like telling people I am retired. It makes me feel old and not useful. The lack of a clearly defined "role" bothers us. The "What do you do" question was easy to answer. Now, not so much.

Retirement does not mean not working

* I don't have many friends who have retired so I miss seeing people at work or during the day. This is actually two connected issues. If you retire earlier than others the natural tie you would share with retirees is not in place. You lose both your friends at work and can find yourself isolated in social situations. Those who are around during the day tend to be young mothers with their kids or business people rushing from one appointment to the next. Your contemporaries are not around. 

I often wonder about the growing trend of folks in their 30's who want to retire very young. After the initial period of exploration and freedom who will they have as friends? Virtually every one of their peers will have work for validation and friendship.

Finding Friends After Retirement

* I feel stagnant and drifting in place. Being retired can feel like an anchor has been pulled up: the anchor of knowing where to go and what to do each day. Without that structure, you can feel like your mind lacks stimulation and you have left a port with no destination in mind. You are just drifting through your days.

5 Things You Learn About Retirement - After Retirement

* I am the go-to person for babysitting or running errands. Sometimes it can seem as though you are the only person in your relatives' address books. Helping out is something you are happy to do, within limits. Why don't others understand I'm not being unkind or rude? It is just that I didn't retire to become an answer to other people's scheduling problems.

The 10 Commandments of Retirement

* I put on weight since I'm not as active as I was at work. I'm worried about my health. Yes, I know, I had a desk job. But, just the walking around the office, to and from the parking lot, and a quick bite for lunch kept me looking and feeling OK. 

Now, it is too easy to snack when I am bored or have no particular things to do on any type of schedule. I probably watch too much TV, too, which isn't helping. Since I am not interacting with other people as much, maybe I just don't care as much about my appearance or health.

The health concerns that keep us awake

* I just don't have enough to do to fill my days. Obviously, that is part of  several of my other complaints. But, I have never had a hobby and I get tired of reading. At least at work I had something to fill my time without me having to figure out what to do.

What Do Retired People Do All Day?

If you find some of the things on this list fit you, then you are not having the type of experience you expected. You know these are not just minor complaints but things you struggle with every day. 

If these dissatisfactions bother you let me assure you that you are not alone, and these are not frivolous problems. They are very real and important. 

After each item on the list I have put a link to an earlier post that might give you some answers or encouragement that you can turn things around. Please take the time to read the ones that might help.

If you would like a more personal response, I invite you to email me with specific questions and concerns. I would be happy to begin a dialogue with you. No promises that every issue of yours will be solved, but I would love to be able to help you cross at least one thing off your "worst things" list.

October 8, 2018

Retirement Living Options That Are Not For Everyone

After the post of a few days ago, How To Move to a Retirement Community  I thought it would be fun to look at some options that are very different retirement options that aren't designed for everyone.

One of the really nice things about a satisfying retirement is the freedom that comes from deciding how you live or even where you spend your time. Some of us are happiest staying where we are now, with an occasional trip to add new experiences to our lives. 

But, what about those retirees who have decided to really break the mold? A while back the Wall Street Journal had a story about folks who have picked, shall we say, more unusual retirement options. A few other news stories that filtered across my desk make it obvious that a "traditional" choice may not be so obvious. Consider these:

Live on a Ship

For roughly the same monthly cost as a typical full service retirement community, a small but growing number of people are living for several months or more each year on cruise ships.

A recent research study concluded that the services on a typical cruise are comparable to those in a retirement community: dining choices, escorts for dances and dining, help with doling out medicines, and daily housekeeping. Cruise ships have a doctor and nurse on board and on call 24/7, as well as a decently outfitted medical facility without worrying about health insurance or copays. Entertainment, fitness centers, libraries, and satellite TV complete the package.

Between cruises, those who have adopted this lifestyle stay with friends or in a short term apartment rental or hotel. Of course living space is at a premium, but as a trade off you spend your time visiting fascinating location anywhere in the world and have your needs and wants taken care of.

Just a month or two ago I saw an article about folks who live on cruise ships full time. For all the reasons noted above, these people have left any land-based living arrangement behind. Click here for an excellent article on the good, the bad, and the ugly of cruise-ship living

Spend part of the year as a Park Ranger

This retirement lifestyle could be considered a type of snowbird living. Folks spent the summer months living in an RV while serving in volunteer capacities at national or state parks. Usually the rental fee for the camping space is free, or deeply discounted in exchange for the help. 

The volunteers may serve as managers of a camping/RV site, teaching interpretative classes, or working in a gift shop. The story I saw told of a couple that spent last summer at Yellowstone, the previous summer at Yosemite, and plan to be at Mt. Ranier this year. During the winter months they pull the RV to a warmer climate or spend time visiting friends. For more information on this option, For more information on this option, click here

Share Housing with others

If you have an interest in living communally, this may work for you. Residents of these communities have private living spaces, but share kitchen and other facilities.

There are a growing number of such senior developments in the U.S. with more in other countries. I have read predictions that most metropolitan areas will have at least one cohouse development within the next decade. Especially for those who have lost a partner or have no nearby relatives, the sense of family and of sharing one's life with others are major draws.

If this sounds like something you'd like to explore, take a look at CCohousing,org's website.

Live in another country

Moving to a place like Costa Rico, Mexico, Belize, or anywhere else in the world is becoming a reasonable choice for many. Estimates are that over half a million Americans are spending their retirement years outside their home country.

The primary reason is cost. Health care is usually 50-80% less expensive with comparable care. Many doctors in Central or South America, for example, are trained in American schools. Larger cities have modern hospitals and clinics. Housing is usually much less expensive, too. Social Security checks can usually be sent to you, though the rules vary by country.

Another reason folks choose to pull up stakes and start over again is the desire for adventure and a fresh start. Retiring to another country is a major decision that requires serious thought and preparation. It is not something to be done on a whim. Learning a new language and customs while fitting into a new culture can be daunting to some, but amazingly stimulating for others. Interesting? Click here

I've just scratched the surface on this topic. Additional options include some form of extended volunteer work, like the Peace Corp, or building a small apartment on the property of grown children to create a multi-generational situation without sacrificing privacy.

I'd like to know is what do you think? Are any of these ideas (or others I haven't mentioned) logical alternatives to aging in place or a typical retirement community? 

It is kind of exciting that we do have options.