December 31, 2010

Retirement Financial Links: Click and Learn

This post is a collection of links to specific articles on other blogs or web sites that I hope you will find helpful or useful.The focus is on finance and financial planning. I have found some sites I think are worth your clicking:

Finally, I saw an absolutely terrifying story from the Associated Press. It details the almost complete lack of retirement preparedness among far too many Baby Boomers. The statistics are enough to make you doubt your own sanity. Here is the link to the story. It should be a must read for everyone.

I am not specifically endorsing any particular advice these sites offer. But, I found the information interesting and in some cases, eye-opening. If you choose to visit some or all of these links I ask you provide some feedback here to let us know what you thought. Feel free to praise or criticize.

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December 28, 2010

New Year's Resolutions: No Way

If you are looking for another list of resolutions, I'm afraid this post will disappoint. Promising ourselves to lose weight, exercise more, or stop smoking never work. Statistics show most resolutions made January 1st are broken by January 31st.

So, let's not go there. Instead I want to talk about setting some goals. Goals are different from resolutions in one major way: goals have specific steps to achieve them. A resolution says, "I will lose 10 pounds."  A goal says, "I will lose ten pounds by March 1st and here are the steps I will take to achieve that goal. Think of a resolution as a goal without a plan. Think of that as an approach that will not work. It is about to be a new year. Let's try something different on our satisfying retirement journey together.

Because I can't possibly know what your goals might be, I'll use some of mine. The nice thing about a blog is these words will live on in some server somewhere forever. So, I can't deny having declared these goals. All I can do is attempt to fulfill them so I don't embarrass myself. So, for 2011, here goes:

Publish an e-book. My reading and study of successful blogs make it clear that just blogging is probably not going to be enough to push any blog to the next level. Other steps are required to get your name and brand in front of more people. One of the most effective steps is to put together a book. Unlike a traditional book, though, a book for a blogger must be available on-line for instant download. At least at first, it must be free. Its goal is not to make money, its goal is to increase awareness.

So, Goal #1 on this very public list is to have a Satisfying Retirement e-book available, for download, for free, by March 1st. Somebody keep track!

Start a web site to sell my wife's abstract photographs. Betty has so many talents it is hard to pick just one. But a goal requires a focus so I want to work toward developing a web site that sells her incredibly inventive abstract photographs. With a digital camera and Photo Shop she produces true works of art. If enough other people agree we could fund some exciting travel through the sale of her photos.

Goal #2 is to develop a web site to market her photos by May 1st.

Become one of the top 3 blogs in the non-financial retirement my one year anniversary. I'm not quite sure how I'll measure this. Maybe it will be subjective based on comparisons of subscriptions or mentions on Google. But, it is goal I'd like to set for myself. Why? Personal satisfaction primarily. If I'm involved in something I want to keep growing and developing. This seems like something I might be able to accomplish, mainly because at least 80% of retirement blogs are financially-centered.

Goal #3 is to be a top 3 non-financial retirement blog by my one year blogging anniversary, June 23rd.

Take another extensive driving Trip. I refuse to wake up some day and be upset that I waited too long to get back on the road. We enjoyed our last trip and want to schedule several more, but with one major change. Instead of being a "drive till we drop" trip they will become "drive and stop for awhile." The only downside of the driving excursion we took last Spring was attempting to cover too many miles in too few days. in 2011 the goal will be different.

Goal #4 is to take one driving trip of 3-4 weeks before the end of the year, but cover much less distance than the last one.

Simplify/downsize  one aspect of my life. I've mentioned this in posts before but I want to set a firm goal, with a date, to eliminate cable TV from our house. We watch so little that paying that bill every month is silly. But, I keep putting off pulling the plug because I'm afraid I may miss it.

Of course I can always sign up again (at probably a better, new customer rate) if it turns out to be a mistake. So, there is no real downside. I just have to do it.

Goal #5 is to eliminate cable TV by April 1st (when my current contract is up).

Five goals, a few that are ambitious, a few easier, a few more difficult. One thing about a blog is that it is public. There are nearly 5,000 people a month who can hold me accountable.

What about you?  Are you prepared to set some goals that will make you stretch yourself and sacrifice to achieve? Are you ready for the challenge? Are you ready to commit yourself to having the best year of your life?

Game on.

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December 20, 2010

Retirement at Home: Making it Safe

If  you are are a regular reader, you know my parents have been struggling with some of the ravages of age-related health problems for the past few years. My mom finally lost the battle to all her challenges and passed away a little over a week ago. Now, our family must focus our energy on making sure my dad stays safe as he adjusts to being alone for the first time in 63 years. With no one living with him, falls or even a simple cold could prove devastating. I live only 30 minutes away and visit once or twice a week, but there is still concern.

One thing the events of the last year or two have made clear is the importance of having a safe home environment. Statistics show that one in 3 people over 65 will fall and most suffer some type of injury. Among this age group falls are the leading cause of injury death. So far my wife and I haven't experienced any of these issues of falls or tripping, or difficulty in getting in and out of the shower. But, those days will come. So, what can we do to make our present home safer and more age-friendly?

I have found some excellent resources that provide common-sense steps anyone can take. If the goal is to remain in your home and independent for as long as possible, here are things you could begin to implement. Some are rather expensive, but nothing compared to an extended stay in a hospital or care facility.

  • Walk-In Tubs: Walk-In Tubs are not cheap but one of the first major modifications to consider. They are safe, easy to use and allow anyone the independence of giving themselves a bath. Walk-in tubs have slip resistant floors and built-in hand grips. They are much safer then a standard bath tub or shower. While you are modifying the bathroom install a raised toilet seat with handles. Thousands are hurt each year by attempting to use a toilet that is too low for an aging body to use safely.
  • Throw rugs. Especially if placed over wood floors or tile, small rugs can easily cause one to trip or slip. Plastic mats placed by doors to prevent mud or snow from being tracked into the house are an accident waiting to happen. For wall-to-wall carpeting, the lower the nap the better.
  • Levered Handles: Levered handles are much easier to use than standard doorknobs. Instead of having to turn a knob, levered handles allow a door to open by merely pushing the handle down. Arthritis can make twisting a knob quite difficult. With a lever, one push down and the door opens.
  • Stair Railings: If there are stairs in your home, it is a good idea to have additional hand railings installed. Usually there is a railing on only one side of the staircase. Make sure all railings extend the full length of the stairs. Place non skid tape strips, or non skid reflective strips on stair risers to help prevent any sliding or falling on the stair case.
  • Widened Door Openings: Widened door openings are essential for anyone who uses a walker or wheelchair. Housing with narrow doorways or hallways can essentially trap someone in a wheelchair in just a few areas of the home.
  • Sinks and cabinets: Sinks are another modification that can make life much easier for seniors. With levered faucets and lowered counter surfaces they can be used without as much effort. Check that there is enough room between the floor and bottom of the sink to allow wheelchair access. The same approach applies to cabinets in the bathroom or kitchen. If possible, lower them so reaching isn't necessary.
  • Extensions cords. Make sure those wires from lamps, fans, or stereos are not crossing a path through a room or sticking out from behind the couch. Many older homes may not have GFI (ground fault interrupted) electrical outlets in bathrooms and kitchens.That oversight can kill. Replacement outlets are quite affordable.
  • Brighter Lighting. As we age our eyesight declines. Brighter light is required for all tasks, as well as reading and safely moving through a room. Install extra lamps (though watch out for excessive cords..see above) or wall lamps. Use brighter bulbs where possible. 
  • Remove unnecessary clutter. It is simply amazing the amount of stuff we accumulate if we live in a house for any number of years. You don't even have to have a pack rat-type personality to have a dangerous amount of clutter. In addition to being a tripping hazard, fire is another concern as we age. Our ability to quickly exit a burning home is diminished if things are cluttered. Also consider the placement of furniture. If someone is using a wheelchair or a walker the general guideline is at least 5 feet between any two pieces of furniture.

You may be thinking that none of this applies to you yet. That may be true, but you are only one accident away. How about a relative or friend? Do you know someone else who could benefit from some of these safety fixes?

There are probably another dozen suggestions that I could have added, but I want to encourage you to jump in now with your thoughts. What else could make a house safer? What modifications will allow us to stay in our homes as long as possible, as independent as we'd to like be, and still be safe? Your satisfying retirement may depend on it.

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December 17, 2010

Senior Lifestyles: Study Says We Are Full of Life

The results of a major study were released to Satisfying Retirement yesterday and make for fascinating reading. Home builder, Trilogy by Shea Homes, has just completed a rather impressive survey with over 2,000 seniors. The study was conducted through an on-line questionnaire with those 55+ to help determine how personality traits affect someone's housing needs. The homebuilder will use the data to help them sell housing in their high-end resort communities, but that doesn't make the findings any less interesting. Here are some of the highlights of this national survey:

Boomers are focused on connecting with others and staying near loved ones. For instance, social media is not just solely a phenomenon for younger people. Those taking the survey say they prefer collecting friends on social networks just as much as they do recipes – and even rank it slightly higher (37%) than collecting pictures of the grandkids (34%). In fact, over 85% of 55+ adults came to the survey from Trilogy’s Facebook pages and Twitter feeds. And boomers are especially committed to their loved ones. When deciding where to live next, they ranked being within driving distance of family and friends as the most important factor, followed closely by desires to create a balanced lifestyle and being more active.

The majority of boomers say retirement is not an end phase, but rather, a new and exciting chapter of life. 51% say it’s a time for re-invention and self-discovery, followed by different than it used to be (15%)), playtime (8%), over-rated (5%), an opportunity to give-back (5%), over-due (5%), obsolete (4%), and a chance to work from home (3%).

Boomers are out to make a difference. 24% say their church, synagogue or place of worship is their favorite cause, followed closely by environmental and animal causes with almost 24%.

When asked what they collect, they weren’t thinking of trinkets. 54% say it’s family memories, followed by recipes (39%), Facebook friends (37%) and pictures of their grandkids (34%).

Boomers look forward to a myriad of things: traveling (59%), having a balanced lifestyle (51%), being more active (46%), and having more “me” time (46%) in retirement - in that order. Pursuing new interests and hobbies (43%), living near people with similar interests (34%), having lots of activities to choose from (35%), and spending less time spent in rush hour (27%) ranked next.

Boomer know how to live a healthy lifestyle: maintain a mind-body balance, engage in healthy relationships and continually learn were ranked most important.  
This study is remarkably consistent with everything I have written and you have shared in this blog for the past six months. The results point to an active, involved, socially aware, and happy group of retirees. It tells me you would probably be interested in more articles about social media, like Twitter and Facebook, and more info on great travel experiences.
I am amazed at the importance of Facebook and Twitter - even more important than collecting pictures of grandkids. That will not sit well with my wife! Because those who participated mainly came from the Internet there is some research bias in both the findings and the type of people surveyed. But, they do represent a major faction and I am thrilled to receive this study.

I want to thank Trilogy by Shea Homes for the opportunity to get first crack at this data. If you'd like to see the actual survey it is available here. The homebuilder's site is available by clicking here.
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December 10, 2010

Can You Live Without These?

Life is made up of change. Nothing stays the same for very long. Both are true statements but that doesn't make them any easier to accept. As human we prefer stability. When things don't change it is easier to predict what will happen or how our life will unfold. Unfortunately, those desires are in conflict with the real world.

There are probably hundreds of different things I could write about in this regard, but  I would like to focus on everyday stuff. Several months ago I had a similar post that asked if certain things we are used to are disappearing. Because that article was written well before this blog had many readers, you probably didn't see it. So, it seemed a good one to modify, add to, and re-run. Here goes: everyday items that will someday disappear from our lives.

  • Yellow & White Pages. Several phone companies have taken steps to eliminate the printed books that arrive with a thump on your front porch once a year. Yellow page advertising continues to decline in actual dollars spent and in effectiveness. On-line searching has become the first choice to find something that was once available only in printed form. White pages for residential listings will probably live longer than business white pages for exactly the same reason. It is simply habit now for most of us to find a business phone number, along with a map of the location, and store hours on Google or Yahoo. Phone companies can save whole bunches of money if those massive books don't have to be printed and distributed once or twice a year.

  • Movie Rental Stores. The stand alone video rental store is not long for this world. Hollywood Video went bankrupt and was purchased by Movie Gallery which then filed for liquidation in October. Blockbuster Video stores are closing at a rapid pace in most cities as it also fights through bankruptcy  It has made several attempts to use kiosks to distribute DVDs, but Redbox has seemingly won that battle. Meanwhile Netflix recently announced a shift in emphasis from sending DVDs through the mail to streaming directly to TVs and computers as their preferred business model. Next up the 800 pound gorilla, Google TV, is beginning to make its mark, while services like Hulu chip away at cable use. Physically picking out a movie and bringing it back to a store are destined for the scrap heap at a speed more quickly than most would have predicted even 3 or 4 years ago.

  • The Post Office. Any "normal" business as out of step with the world around it as the postal service would have disappeared years ago. But, the promise of universal mail service keeps this dinosaur alive. Even common sense suggestions like eliminating Saturday delivery are met with howls of protest, all while demanding the service stop losing billions a year. But, changes must occur, and they will be substantial. Five day delivery is a given. Delivery directly to your home or neighborhood box may end. Private companies are already partially involved. E-mail, Fed Ex, and UPS have just about wiped out the minimum revenue needed to keep the post office functioning. Most of your mail now is just bills, magazines, and junk mail. 

  • Paper Checks. This was mentioned as part of the previous post. Britain is already laying the groundwork to do away with checks by 2018. It costs the financial system billions of dollars a year to process checks. As Interest security gets better  electronic transfers are much more secure than paper checks.  America will not see the check disappear as quickly as those in England will, but it is coming. Check usage continues to shrink. It nows accounts for less than 50% of consumers' recurring bill payments, down from 72% in 2001 and 60% in 2003. Without an effective, cost-efficient postal service, the movement away from checks will accelerate.

  • Handwritten letters. Another causality of the change from written mail  to electronic communication is the handwritten letter. How many of us were raised to mail a Thank You note for a present within a few days of receiving the gift? How many wrote letters to home from summer camp or back and forth when one half of a couple was in the military? Handwritten letters have been important in our lives, but are virtually gone now. Children aren't being taught cursive writing in many schools, so they can't write a letter or couldn't even read one they receive.

  • The Newspaper. The younger generation simply doesn’t read the newspaper. They certainly don’t subscribe to a daily delivered print edition. That will go the way of the milkman and the laundry man. It is out-of-date when printed and much too expensive to distribute. As for reading the paper on line, get ready to pay for it. The rise in mobile Internet devices and e-readers have caused many newspaper and magazine publishers to form an alliance to determine a pay-for-reading business model that will work.

  • Cable TV.  As more people get their entertainment from streaming sources the need to spend $75 a month or more on cable is diminishing. Most network shows are available on the Internet within 24 hours of airing on TV. Movie choices are abundant, and at much cheaper prices than cable's On Demand-type offerings. Cable companies raise prices and still get into battles with suppliers, resulting in loss of certain channels for many of us for periods of time. Outlets like the Discovery Channel stream right to my Android phone. In our house, cable will either be eliminated, or cut back to basic service this Spring. I can't justify the cost for amount of time we spend not watching those 250 channels.

  • The Land Line Telephone. Have you ever watched the TV show "Brothers & Sisters?"  There is a huge family that spends close to half of each episode on their cell phones. Even 60-something Mom (Sally Field) doesn't see to own a land line phone. Those of us who still have one keep it because because we've always had it, not because it gets lots of use. Now that cell phones make it possible for 9-1-1 calls to be tracked, the last real reason to hold on to that desk phone is gone.

Adapting to change and using it to our benefit are important steps for us on our journey to a satisfying retirement. Which of the things on my list above will you miss the most? Which ones are you happy to see go? What didn't I list that you believe is not long for this world?

I'll tally up comments and pull this post out again in a year or so and see how we did in our prognostications.

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December 3, 2010

Retirement: Smile at The Small Stuff

Being happy is an important part of living a satisfying retirement. Life is too short to be spent grumpy and out-of-sorts. If you have figured out what brightens your days and makes you smile you have taken important steps toward an enriching retirement lifestyle.

The fascinating thing about this subject is the list of happiness-producers is always unique to you. If you try to copy someone else's path to joy you will be disappointed. These triggers must be figured out by you. It is also quite true that things that make you the happiest aren't usually big things. Sure, winning a lottery will probably put a smile on your face (until you see the tax bill). Getting a major promotion at work or the birth of a grandchild is usually considered a good thing.

But, what about the small stuff that can brighten any day? What are the little things that, when they happen, make you feel pleasure and contentment?  Are you missing moments of happiness because you are thinking too big? Shrink your focus. Discover some happiness triggers that you can make happen whenever you choose. From my life here a few examples to get you started:

Hot cocoa and a fire. Since I live in a place that is hot a good part of the year, when things turn cold my wife and I get excited by the simple pleasure of a log crackling away in the fireplace and a cup of hot cocoa while we snuggle on the sofa to watch a favorite movie or read quietly side-by-side. We are happy and content when the wind blows cold air from the North and the whipped cream in the cocoa sticks to our lips.

Sunshine on the patio. For almost 330 days a year, Phoenix enjoys sunny days. You might think the simple joy of sitting on the back patio in the sunshine would have worn thin by now. Not by a long shot. I can spend a fabulous few hours just watching the birds at the feeder, listening to the two fountains in the yard, and watching the shadows move across the floor. Cloudy days make me sad. I live where I do because sunshine makes me happy.

giggling child. My grandkids have the greatest laugh. It is physically impossible to listen to one or both start to giggle and not smile and laugh right along with them. Their obvious joy is instantly transferred to me.

A puppy. Is there a puppy alive that can't charm a smile out of even the grumpiest old man? Is there any way to not be happy around something that so blindly loves you and wants your love and attention? Yes, there is extra responsibility and those occasional messes to clean up. But, overall, aren't puppies happy-producers?

A mystery book you can't put down. Reading is one of the great pleasures in life. A well-written novel can take you anywhere whenever you want a getaway. I love mysteries for their ability to weave a complex set of clues through a few hundred pages, finally tying it all together at the end. I rarely figure it out early, but the challenge is there.

Fixing a problem with a computer. Though not an expert by any means, I do enjoy helping friends when something has gone wrong with their computer. After performing the necessary cleanup of software conflicts or deleting unneeded programs, I love seeing the smile of their faces when everything works the way it should. It takes very little of my time, but makes someone else's life just a bit easier and it makes me happy to help.

A thoughtful comment on this blog. Someone taking the time to leave a comment makes me happy. It shows I have written something that caused another person to take a few minutes to read and react. Seeing there is a new comment on one of these posts makes me smile.

I could have added bigger things to my list like a paid-off mortgage or tickets to Maui. Certainly a clean physical exam makes me happy. Those happy triggers are obvious. The point here is to focus on the small stuff, the everyday parts of your life. If you can put just a few of your own happy points in your day, your life will feel blessed, content and delighted. And, that is a satisfying retirement.

OK, your turn. What small stuff makes you happy? What have I not mentioned that I may be able to make part of my day? Please share.

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How do you measure success?
Go fly a kite

December 1, 2010

Simple Living - Easy Steps You Can Take Right Now

Whether you call it simple living, voluntary simplicity, or downsizing, the goal is pretty much the same: eliminate clutter and simplify one's life. As noted in previous posts, simple living doesn't mean going without, living in poverty, or denying things that make you happy. It does mean being intentional about what you own, buy, and keep. It means being aware of the impact your actions have on the environment. It means getting out of society's idea of success: more and bigger.

If this is a new idea to you, please check the Related Posts list at the end of this article. In each, there are other blogs and web sites to help you learn more about what this is all about. If you are an old hand at simple living, I hope you will post a comment that adds something to the list I am about to provide.

I have found a tremendous interest in this topic among readers of this blog. To have a satisfying retirement you must have a firm handle on your finances. You may be looking to move to a smaller home or condo and aren't sure how you decide what stuff to get rid of. Maybe you just tired of dusting, maintaining, and storing a lifetime of accumulated possessions. Whatever the motivation, this is a topic I will attempt to revisit a bit more frequently.

This time around I am offering a basic list of some ways you can reuse, recycle, reduce, and become a bit "greener" in your daily life. This list is by no means complete. There probably is no such list. But, it can be a starting place if you are new to downsizing. It may spur you to do more if you are already a proponent. It may prompt you to think of all sorts of ways you can simplify your life and your living arrangement. Personally, I have accomplished about 75% of the items listed and I am by no means a fanatic on the subject. If I can take these steps, anyone can.

Ways to Reduce
...use less copy paper. Use both sides if you can
...use "save to file" instead of printing something that doesn't require a hard copy
...use old printed sheets for note and scrap paper
...ignore what the bottle says, you don't need to shampoo, rinse & shampoo again
...Take steps to be taken off all junk mail lists
...Call catalog companies and ask to have them stop sending you printed catalogs
...low flow toilets and new washing machines save a tremendous amount of water
...replace plants requiring lots of water with low water ones.
...Computers & TVs use lots of power when off. Use power strip to kill all power

Ways to Reuse
...Use organizations like Freecycle to give you stuff to someone who needs it
...Make use of second hand or used furniture instead of new
...When you end up with plastic grocery bags, use again as trash can liners
...If  use plastic water bottles, can be refilled & reused 1-2 times, then recycled
...Use rechargeable batteries in cameras, iPods, etc instead of disposable ones
...Use refilled ink cartridges in printer and save big bucks & the environment

Share, Borrow & Download
...Swap books with friends. Use the library instead of buying
...Swap or share music and movies with friends.The library has these for free, too
...Share children's clothing with friends who have kids younger or older
...Read newspapers and magazines on-line instead of subscriptions

Green Stuff
...Use farmer's markets. Produce isn't shipped 1,000 miles first
...Try to get used to tap water. It is safe and saves you big bucks and the environment
...Use cloth grocery sacks always
...Use toaster oven for small meals, the big oven only when necessary
...Plan errands so make fewest trips possible in car
...No more incandescent bulbs
...Close curtains in summer to keep out heat, in winter to keep out cold sure ceiling fans are rotating in proper direction for season (yes, it does matter)
...install a drip system if your garden requires it. Saves water over hand watering.
...Use programmable thermostat to only run heat and AC when you are home.
...Do you really need a special hot dog bun warmer, smoothie maker, pasta machine?
...Change furnace filters at least every 3 months, once a month in dusty places

To give you some more ideas, here are a few more Voluntary Simplicity/Simple Living sites to visit:

12/2 -Shirley at Voluntary Simplicity just posted an excellent list of 9 things you can do to help save the environment and money at the same time. Click here

I'd appreciate your letting the sites you visit know that you found their name at Satisfying Retirement. Bloggers love to know where new friends come from.

Related Posts

Now, your turn. What are you doing to simplify, declutter  or downsize? What items on the lists above can you start to implement?  Is this an important subject to you...should I continue to write about it rather frequently?

If you enjoyed this article, I ask that you subscribe for regular updates sent to your e-mail. It is free and allows you quick notification when I have added fresh content. It is also helpful to me to track readership. Simply click on the Subscribe to - Posts button near the top of the left hand column. I'd appreciate it.

November 29, 2010

A Free Day

A free day is a day without appointments, commitments, a to-do list, or nagging worries about tasks undone. A free day: isn't that what every day is when you are living a satisfying retirement?  Hardly.

Last week my wife and I declared a free day. It was supposed to be glorious. The calendar was cleared. We told family to call only if there was an emergency. We had a rough sketch of how to make the most of the day, but none of it was a must-do. If we felt like something we'd do it. If not, oh well.

Our free day lasted about two hours.  People we had asked not to call, called anyway. A problem with a volunteer project my wife is working on raised its ugly head and couldn't be ignored. My Mom's health was getting so tenuous we felt we better make time to see her. I realized I needed to be a few days ahead on this blog because of the Thanksgiving holiday.

At first we got upset. Two previous attempts at even half a free day had collapsed earlier in the month. We were determined to not mess this one up. We are retired. We have control over our day, didn't we? No, not so much.

Then, we simply sat down and laughed. My wife, Betty, put it all in perspective. Wasn't it great, she noted, that our family needs us and wants to be with us. Isn't it good that our skills are useful to others. Isn't it wonderful that we can just drop other plans to go see Mom.

Suddenly the free day became free again, but in a very different way. It was a day to freely bless what we had in our life. It was a time when we freely chose to help others.

All was not lost. We went out for a late breakfast/early lunch and ordered more than we normally would. We spent a few minutes shopping and then came home, pulled out a huge photo album and reminisced.

Our free day didn't go according to plan. But, the mark of a happy retirement experience is the ability to shift in mid-stream when needed. The day became much more memorable than it ever would have been if our original plans had remained unchanged.

And, yes, we have another free day scheduled for next month.

Related Posts

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November 25, 2010

Play it Again, Sam

Do you like movies? Is your idea of a great night at home a favorite flick and a bowl of popcorn? Are there certain movies you can watch again and again? I have dozens but here is my short list to get you thinking about some of your favorites. The holidays are here. What better time for a great movie !

 Casablanca. I am immediately transported to a time of mystery, romance and elegance. I want to find a club with a piano and the last plane leaving soon. Humphrey and Ingrid are the perfect couple in the perfect movie. And, who doesn't love the French Captain, playing both sides against each other. This is one of those movies I can only watch in its original black and white.

Blazing Saddles. A camp fire and baked beans, a hangman with a limp, a Governor with a slimy sidekick, and, oh my, a black sheriff. Mel Brooks makes it all happen with his wicked sense of the absurd. Rather cutting edge for its time.

French Kiss. Paris and love. A scoundrel with a heart of gold. A man, a woman, and a dream. No matter how many times I see this, I get misty when Kevin Kline sits next to Meg Ryan on the plane in the last scene.

Singing in the Rain. I'm still not sure how Donald O'Connor can pull off the dance moves he does. Gene Kelly and Debby Reynolds are actually believable as a couple, even though there is a 20 year difference in their ages. Gene makes rain and getting wet the height of romance.

Wizard of Oz. The transition from black and white to color when Dorothy arrives in Oz is still stunning after all these years of technical advances. The Cowardly Lion, Scarecrow, and Tin Man are simply lovable. If you have ever been separated from your family, the story must touch you. After all, don't we all want to go home again, even if it is Kansas?

 Mary Poppins. This brings back tremendous memories of family nights when the kids were growing up. Singing all the songs, watching Dick Van Dyke do a chalk drawing and a bad English accent, or the proper English Dad getting so frustrated over his kids, while loving them to death. This was the perfect family film at our house.

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. After seeing this I grew a mustache and have never shaved it off. The first of the successful "buddy films" this made Robert Redford a star. The shootout in Bolivia still brings chills, as does Katharine Ross, but for entirely different reasons.

The Quiet Man. I have been to the tiny Irish village of Kong, where much of this movie was filmed. It is every bit as quaint and beautiful as it looks on film. Seeing it takes me back to a simpler time when "men were men and women were glad of it." I always refer to a hike as just a "good stretch of the legs." This is proof John Wayne could do much more than ride a horse.

Get Shorty. I'm not sure why this is one of the movies I can see over and over. Maybe it is John Travolta playing a bad guy who so desperately wants to be good. Maybe it is Danny DeVito driving the "Cadillac of Minivans." It certainly has something to do with Gene Hackman absolutely nailing the part of a second-rate producer in over his head.

Avatar. The story has been told many times before. The characters aren't very memorable. But, seeing this in 3D changed the way I will look at movies forever. The colors, the absolute breathtaking visuals, and the majesty of a magical world takes me away. The film technique is so advanced that even in regular DVD, and especially BluRay, the picture leaps off a 2 dimensional screen like no other movie I have seen.

Those are 10 movies I can watch again and again. Now it is your turn. What movies are on your list and why? Leave your comment and maybe I'll just discover a flick I need to re-watch. Go ahead and give my choices a thumbs up or down. I can take it. Go ahead....Make my day.

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November 24, 2010

Thanksgiving 2010

Across America Thursday is the day we gather with friends and family and give thanks for our blessings. This is my first Thanksgiving as a blogger, so it seems appropriate to take this space and this time to give public thanks.

As this is being written my Mom is under Hospice care and is not expected to live much longer. She has had a full, 84 year life including being married 63 years to a man who adores her. She has raised three sons who love her and are doing well in life. She has seven grandchildren and four great grandkids. It is expected she will die peacefully in her sleep, with no pain. Shouldn't we all be so lucky.

What I give thanks for today is not just the fact of her life, but that she and My Dad moved to be close to me and my family 23 years ago. My wife and I got to enjoy years of parties, dinners, game nights, vacations together, holidays, and memories. My daughters had the incredible bonus of growing up with grandparents as part of their life from early childhood onward. They felt the special love that only grandparents can convey. They enjoyed the fun of an extended family. Their lives are so much richer for having Gran and Grandad by their side.

I am giving thanks for my good health. Except for the normal aches and pains that come with my age, I take virtually no medicine and have no restrictions on my life because of an ailment. It takes work to maintain one's health. With tongue firmly planted in my cheek a post last week raised the question of whether healthy eating and exercise are evil forces in our life. I know that a large part of the quality of my retirement is my responsibility. I am thankful that, so far, so good.

I am thankful for being well fed, clothed, and comfortably housed. I have money in the bank and two cars in the garage. This puts me in the top 1% or 2% of the world's population. Living in this country it is often hard to be aware of how unusual our style of life is among the world's nearly 7 billion people. It is important to remind ourselves that we are blessed and amazingly lucky to be here. No matter how tight your budget, or how long you have to wait for that new blouse or iPad, there are billions of people who would change places with you in a heartbeat. I am thankful for living in America. With all our problems and all the discord at the moment, would you really rather live somewhere else?

A heartfelt thanks for my wife of 34 years , my two beautiful daughters, and my 3 grandkids. They make my life worth living. They make me want to be a better man and a better human.

Finally, a thank you to God and the blessings he has granted me through his love and grace. My faith is central to my life and crucial to who I am. Whatever your religious beliefs (or lack of) I doubt you would argue with me that the world needs our love, needs our concern and involvement, and needs the steady hand of the creator, in whatever form he may exist

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours.

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November 22, 2010

The Small Sparkles That Life Up Your Life

The sky was beginning to cloud over, kids were playing, ducks were looking for bread crumbs, bikers rolled by while teens on skateboards defied gravity. Sitting in a folding chair and watching the scene my eyes were drawn to the surface of the lake. The sun was at just the right angle to cover the water with sparkles. It was beautiful. I was enjoying a satisfying retirement day. Within a few minutes the sun's angle had changed and the sparkles were gone. Or, were they? From someone else's viewpoint they probably were just as fabulous. They were simply gone from my view.
Isn't life kind of like that? There are brief moments that sparkle and shimmer. We look upon them with awe. We remember them. We talk about them. But, real life takes place in between the sparkles. It is how we fill the space between them that matters.

Relationships are certainly made up off sparkles and spaces. There are the everyday moments in relationships which occupy most of your life. Those are the large spaces filled with chores and responsibilities, some arguments, making tough decisions, cooking, cleaning, and shopping. These don't sparkle at all. They are the mundane activities that fill your day when you have other people in your life. They are what we call living.

Then there are those times when you and your spouse or significant other are exactly on the same page. Everything is going according to plan. You are communicating well and any disagreements are minor. If you have children or grandkids there are times when things just sparkle: a vacation by the lake, a great day at the zoo, a family night watching a favorite movie.

As a retired person, you have control over most of your day. At least you think you do. But, when you must wait for a repair person, or your car is in the shop you are the mercy of others. When you spend a few hours waiting for an overworked doctor you are reminded you are not in control quite as much as you thought. Menus must be planned, food must be bought, bills must be paid, gardens must be tended, the bike should be ridden. The days and weeks pass by so quickly you wonder where the time went.

Then, there are those moments when you grab a little time and sit down to read that new novel you've been aching to open. Your hobby bench invites you to build that project or fix the broken lamp you want back in the living room. You find some time to write, and out flows everything you have bottled up while the spaces of life are filled with everyday stuff. You remember you have time with the school kids tomorrow night to tutor them in math or English. As they grasp the concepts you are explaining their smiling faces sparkle and shine. Maybe you sit in the sun at the coffee shop sipping you latte, reading the paper, and people watching the afternoon away. These precious times make you feel alive and vibrant. They are the sparkle that make a day special and memorable.

John Lennon once said, "Life is what happens while you're making other plans."  That is the human condition. We want a life that we control. We would like a day with nothing but sparkles. No chores, no irritations, to disappointments, no hassles.  A day that goes according to our plans.

But, that isn't how things work. We can be much happier and much more satisfied when we learn to accept the large spaces into which we put our everyday life, while being on the lookout for those sparkles of pure joy and beauty that brighten and enlighten. After all, if every meal was nothing but desserts, then desserts would not be so special and delightful.

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November 19, 2010

A Retirement Myth

I have this image that my retirement experience is quite different from the one my parents have lived. Of course that includes the value judgment that mine has probably been better. To prove the point I built a list of some of the major events in their retirement journey so I could compare it to mine.

Surprise, surprise. In several important criteria Mom & Dad's time after work has beaten mine, hands down. I would never have thought that true until I wrote this. It has been quite an eye-opener. Using my original list, here is a comparison that lead to this conclusion that my beliefs were more myth than reality.

Financial Expectations: My parents assumed that the pensions and investments they had accumulated would be there for them when needed. They planned on Medicare and a strong supplemental policy, earned by Mom's 35 years as a teacher in Massachusetts, would take care of their medical expenses. They assumed Social Security would remain solvent and send them each a check every month.

Every assumption they made, every promise society made to them, has been fulfilled. Substantial medical bills are taken care of. Their investments continue to grow each year, not shrink. Their  pensions have not looked for ways to cut benefits or go back on their word.

In my case, I self-funded my retirement savings. They suffered a big hit 2 years ago but are slowly climbing back to where we were in 2008.  My wife and I have never had a group medical policy; we have always been in the individual market, which is expensive and has major restrictions on care. Neither of us is old enough yet for Medicare, but we expect it to be less generous for us in the coming years.

  • In this comparison my parents are the clear winners.

Enjoy Freedom and Free Time.  For the first 10 years after retiring, Mom & Dad enjoyed travel. They made several trips to Europe, took cruises, visited friends back East, and went for month-long driving trips. For several years their passports got quite a workout. 

Dad took up painting. He was an electrical engineer by training and had never exhibited any artistic leanings. Frankly, we were amazed at his interest and ability in this creative endeavor. To this day he continues to solo in the church choir.  Mom taught for 35 years. When she retired her teaching didn't stop. For another decade she volunteered as a classroom assistant at a school near their home. That kept her active, involved, and excited to work with the youngsters.

My wife and I have traveled since retirement though not as much. Our financial situation wasn't nearly as solid as my parents, primarily because I retired at 52, they at 65. Those extra 13 years gave their nest egg quite a boost over mine. Also, I had flown so much in my job, I wanted to stay home. We have been to Europe twice, on a cruise, spent time in Florida with friends, and covered most of the Western US on various trips. But, we are both stay-at-home types and very happy to spend most of our time with friends and family.  

Creatively, it took me awhile to find my stride. For the first few years after work I was into not much more than serious puttering. Then, I became active in volunteer work.  I wrote a travel book. I became heavily involved in ham radio. The last year has been spent immersed in my writing and blogging. My wife has developed her photographic editing skills to the point where we may start selling her work on line. She has become Super Grandmother to 3 incredible children.

  • In this comparison I am going to declare a tie.

Health and Preventive Care. This is one critical area in which Mom & Dad  did not do well. My Mom never exercised beyond what she did in a normal day. There was no gym, or walking or stretching program to keep her limber. Growing up our menus were heavy on meat, pasta, and cheese. She almost never drank plain water, but got her liquids primarily from coffee and milk. Her rapid physical decline in the last few years has certainly been accelerated by the poor shape she was in.

Dad has been a little bit better. Never very active or sports-oriented, in the last few years he has taken daily walks of a mile or so. A quintuple heart bypass operation 9 years ago gave him a second chance to be more aware of diet and exercise. At 86 he is still able to do more physically than most men his age.

My wife and I have watched  what has happened to my parents and vowed to approach our older age differently. We have both lost weight, exercise regularly, walk and hike, and go up and down the steps in our house at least 30 times a day. Meat is a rarity in out diet. My wife has cut her medications in half and moved from diabetic back to pre-diabetic status. We drink lots of water and virtually no soft drinks. Maybe because of our poor health insurance, we are doing all we can to prevent costly problems.

  • In this comparison we are much better off in retirement than my parents.

Marriage Mom & Dad have been married for 63 years. For the last twenty of those years they haven't been apart for even one day. They are deeply devoted to each other and very much in love. It is hard to imagine one without immediately thinking of the other. I'm not sure in their own minds if there is an "I" or "me" anymore, it is just "us" and "we."  It is inspiring to experience this type of bond.

I must quickly write that Betty and I have been married for 34 years. I feel we are a stronger couple now than at any time earlier in the marriage. Being together full time for the past ten years has strengthened our love and understanding of each other. Are there still arguments and rough patches? Sure...we are two individuals who have different opinions about almost everything. But, neither of us can imagine a life without the other.

  • In this comparison my parents beat us on longevity and have given us the perfect model to work from.

Foresight. Because this post is getting long, I'll quickly summarize one last area. My parents moved into a continuing care community four years ago while they were still in decent health. Their primary reason for doing so was so I wouldn't have to worry about the quality of their care and their living arrangements when they could no longer take care of themselves.

We are not of the age where that is something we have given much thought to yet, but their self-sacrifice and concern for us will be repeated by us when the time comes so our kids don't need to worry either. 

  • In this comparison my parents gain the edge for their foresight and planning.

As I noted in the opening, I assumed my retirement has been more complete and more satisfying than my parents. After all, I had a 13 year head start on them. But, that belief has been pure self-deception. By almost all measures, Mom & Dad Lowry have had the type of satisfying retirement that I write about, but haven't experienced at their level.

It is good to be humbled every now and then. 

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Simply click on the Subscribe to - Posts button near the top of the left hand column. I'd appreciate it.

November 17, 2010

Are Healthy Eating and Exercise the Evil Twins?

It isn't as if we don't know eating the right foods, avoiding the bad ones, and exercising are good for us. If we want a satisfying retirement we'd better protect the only body we have. This isn't new information. So, why it it so tough to follow through? I know part of the answer: we are born rebels and we chart our own path. Well, maybe not. More is at work here. See if these reasons sound familiar to you. They have worked for me for years.

The payoff for good habits is in the future. This excuse just keeps on working. We are living today. Thinking too much about the future isn't our style. Besides, we have plenty of time to switch to healthier habits. Of course, the future isn't as far away as it used to be and what we do today will have a cost tomorrow. But, procrastination is a well-practiced skill by the time we are older.

Better food and healthy eating are more expensive. Organic vegetables and range-free chickens are probably healthier. But, have you seen the cost? The dollar menu at MacDonald's looks awfully appealing when compared to the cost of pesticide-free fruits and vegetables at Safeway. Farmers' markets aren't much better. The food tastes better and supporting area farmers feels like the right thing to do. But, does it fit the budget? Of course, the average American spends as much as $250,000 on out-of-pocket medical care from age 65 until death. Is that in the budget?

Other food choices are more pleasing. Being concerned about a healthy diet means a lot of the "good stuff " is off limits. Is Ice Milk really the same as Ice Cream? Even though the FDA allows it to be called low-fat ice cream, it is not. Rich sauces have been good for the French for hundreds of years. Shouldn't I be allowed a little?  Is there any way to make chicken fried steak that will pass the healthy test? The bottom line is we have 10,000 taste buds on our tongue that we hate to waste on food that lacks...well....taste.

The gym? It's 15 minutes away. Besides I have too much else to do. I have a stair master in the spare room. Come to think of it that's where my new sweater is hanging.  We have all sorts of reasons why exercising enough to help us is too much bother.  "I can't walk today, it is too (hot, cold, light, dark, wet, dry). I can't go to the gym, I'm trying to be green and I don't want to drive."

We know all these excuses are just that, excuses. At some point your body is going to start to break down. While genetics play a big part in what happens to us, we have a tremendous amount of control over the quality of our physical aging. Isn't it odd that we are a society of instant gratification for everything except health and exercise. Then, we figure we can wait just a little while longer.

This list comes from my personal list of lame excuses. The first one, about the future, is starting to catch up on me. Once you past 60 the future doesn't seem to stretch quite so endlessly ahead. The gym excuse was great for almost 5 years. Then, we switched to a facility only 5 minutes away (at half the cost) and I lost that one. Now, I'm pretty good about going 3 times a week. I bought a treadmill, used it to hang my clothes in the bedroom, and finally sold it a few years ago. Worst $900 I ever spent.

If you have uncovered any tricks or hints that work for you and may help the rest of us do what we know we should, I ask you to share! Personally I have no interest in entering an Iron man Marathon. But, I would like to not become the Falling-Apart-Man. Can you help us build a happy retirement lifestyle?

November 15, 2010

Two Decisions Made, - One Life Affected

A life is often molded by a collection of seemingly small events and choices. Something that doesn't seem very important at the time can change everything. 

There are two events from my life that make the point. They concern two decisions I made. One didn't seem like a big deal at the time but affected the rest of my life. The other involved a choice in my career's direction. I knew it was a critical decision and involved substantial risk.

Decision #1: Being a Camp Counselor

When I was 14 years old I applied for a summer job as a camp counselor. This was perfect for a teen boy. It meant being away from home for most of the summer, living in a cabin in the woods, swimming, boating, and hiking. It satisfied my need to be a leader and in charge of a group of young campers. After several meetings to discuss my responsibilities and allowing those in charge to judge my suitability, I was hired as a counselor in training. The day came to depart. My parents took me to the place where the kids were to board the buses. We said our goodbyes and I took my suitcase and boarded a bus for the two hour trip to the camp. I expected to be away for 8 weeks.

Exactly 6 days later my parents drove to the camp to take me home. Rather quickly I had learned that being a camp counselor was not for me. Whether it was homesickness, or living in a cabin with a dozen 9 year old boys, or for some other reason entirely I'll never know. But, it was not for me and luckily I was able to leave.

So, how did that leaving the camp affect my life in a profound way? By being home that summer I discovered my true love, radio. I spent all my free time learning everything I could about it. I set up two turntables and pretended to broadcast radio shows for hours at a time. That summer lead to my getting a job as a janitor at a small station not too far from my home a few months later. Then, to an on-air DJ shift which turned into a three decade long career. By "failing" as a camp counselor, I succeeded in finding my life's work.

Decision #2: Taking a Major Career Risk

In the second instance, I was working for a radio station in Morgantown, WV. While that is where I met and married my wife, that isn't the decision I'm referring to. Rather it was the choice I made to leave a comfortable life in town for the high risk chance to become a consultant.

At the time Morgantown was a small city of 25,000. West Virginia University is there so the town was a fun place to be. With only four radio stations being a DJ and program director of two of them made me a rather large fish in a small pond. I was a minor celebrity and people knew me. My favorite uncle lived there as did my wife's parents. It was a comfortable life. If I choose to do so I could have remained for the rest of my life and been happy.

In a lucky happenstance that I detailed in an earlier post, I was put in touch with the country's leading radio consulting and research company, and offered a job. To accept would require moving to Iowa and leaving all our family and friends behind. It would mean giving up my "big fish" standing with no guarantee that I was actually good enough to succeed in the rather rarefied air of big league consulting. Frankly, I didn't think I had the experience to be put in such a situation. I could easily fall flat on my face.

I did decide to risk comfort for greater challenges. My new bride agreed, with more than a little trepidation, to leave her family for Cedar Rapids, Iowa. That decision allowed me to learn the consulting side of the business from the best. Just by being part of that company I had instant credibility with every major broadcast group in the country. Eventually, that experience allowed me to start my own company and build a solid career. If I hadn't risked it all by leaving the safety of the familiar for the bigger payoff of the unknown, it is highly unlikely my life would have developed anything like it has. Certainly, it is unlikely I be sitting here in front of my computer blogging about having a Satisfying Retirement.

Your life's course probably mirrors mine in some ways. Decisions made or unmade, opportunities presenting themselves, lucky breaks, unlucky breaks...all combined to make your life what it has been to this point. You controlled some of those choices, but many you did not.

What that leaves all of us is to take what we are given and make it something uniquely ours. Any day you may be faced with a choice that seems unimportant, or one that is clearly of critical importance. What you decide will affect everything that is to come.

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November 12, 2010

Do You Love Where You Live? Is That Important?

The cool weather has finally arrived in Phoenix. Warm sunny days and cool, clear nights for the next 5 months makes me almost forget the furnace of summer in the desert. Each day is simply gorgeous. Typically, we will get no rain until late December, so most days aren't even marred by clouds. The tourists have arrived in force clogging the streets, but making the resorts and restaurants happy. It is a fabulous time to live where I live.

That feeling made me wonder if most people feel the same way. Do you love where you live or do you simply live where you live? No place is perfect. But, there are certain factors that will determine whether you are content with the place you call home. Take a look at this list and we'll have a quick quiz at the end.

Number one on most lists is the presence of family and friends. If you have good relationships with your family members who live nearby it is likely you haven't given much thought to moving. Most of us will put up with a lot to be close to loved ones. Good friends are also important to how you feel about your home town. As we age it seems making new friends becomes more difficult. If you live close to people you genuinely like and can turn to when you need help that is another check mark in the plus column. 

The cost of living affects us all. This includes cost of housing, taxes, food, and energy. Some places are just more expensive to live than others. Southern California, Connecticut, The Bay area of northern California, and Scottsdale (!) are well above average in this regard. To love living in one of these places is to accept that fact and budget for it. Other parts of the country are relative bargins in these categories. If your budget is tight, the cost of living may play an important part in where you hang your hat.

Recreational opportunities. Being outside and enjoying nature is an important component of happiness for many. Being close to lakes for fishing or boating, having mountain trails to hike or bike, being able to play golf or tennis when you want is crucial to many. If you live in Manhattan I will assume this isn't a key priority for you. But, if you do live where you can't satisfy your nature fix on regular basis that could be a big deal.

Educational and cultural offerings. College towns or cities with major universities often rank high in resident satisfaction. The concerts, plays, lectures, community classes, and art exhibits that are usually part of educational institutions may be quite important to you. A symphony orchestra or venues to see live plays and musicals may be the parts of a community you need. Then, again, maybe you could care less. But, the lack of these opportunities may be troubling to you.

Transportation. If you don't like to drive or own a car, don't live in L.A. or Phoenix. Cars are the only reliable form of transportation in these cities. If you prefer public transportation or walking to get from here to there how does your town satisfy you? This could be a major factor in how happy you are living where you do.

Sporting and Entertainment activities. Some of us are happiest as spectators of professional or college sporting events. Others require a variety of soccer fields, horse trails, golf courses, or baseball diamonds for happiness. A good selection of movie theaters and restaurants is a necessity for some. Can you satisfy your interest in sports where you live? How about being entertained? Have you had to give up what you love because it simply isn't available?

Health care facilities. The Phoenix area is blessed with excellent medical facilities. There are two Mayo facilities in town, along with dozens of hospitals and specialized treatment centers. Several medical schools provide us with a better than average doctor-to-patient ratio. In many parts of the country the residents aren't so lucky. If you or a loved one has a medical condition that requires specialized treatment, odds are you will need to live where those options are available.

The weather. We all talk about it. We all complain about it. Yet, most of us tolerate wherever we call home. There are some folks who love to ice fish when it's 10 below zero. I know some guys who love to camp in the desert when it is over 100 degrees. Take away someone's ski trails and you'd be in trouble. Portland or Seattle can get mightily gloomy in the winter with month after month of rain and drizzle but both cities consistently rank as some of the most popular places to live.

Weather is something over which we have no control. Your only ability to affect the weather where you live is to move to where that weather isn't. Are you sensitive enough to your hometown's weather for it to make you unhappy. Or is it simply an irritant that doesn't change the way you feel about where you live?

Especially in retirement, moving is one of the most critical decisions you are likely to make. So, ask yourself this important question: "Am I unhappy with enough of the parts of where I live to consider a move?" Or, did reviewing the list above make me think, "This really isn't that bad, in fact I really kinda like where I am and I can tolerate the rest."

I love where I live, though come summer I've love to be in Oregon or Flagstaff. But, I have carefully considered what parts of living in Phoenix are deal-breakers. So far, those parts don't equal a move. I can say I love where I live. I am enjoying a Satisfying Retirement where i am.

How about you? What factors are keeping you where you are? What things that are missing are making you consider a relocation? Let us know. It's like the weather, we are all interested in how others address this issue.

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November 10, 2010

Asking for Help - So Much Tougher Than Giving It.

At one time or another all of us need some type of help. We may be unsure about a financial decision. Something about our important relationship seems a bit off. A relative has a health problem we don't know enough about. The point is, none of us comes with a complete set of knowledge on every subject. So, we ask friends, experts in the field, even strangers on the Internet for some feedback.

Even knowing we could use some assistance doesn't mean it is easy for us. We love to give advice, we're not as anxious to receive it. I certainly needed help at several times in my life, but was slow to ask. In looking back I have come up with a list of some of the reasons. So you don't repeat my silliness here are some thoughts on why you shouldn't hesitate to seek and accept help when you need it (me, pay attention!). 

Asking for help isn't a sign of weakness. From time to time every one of us needs the advice or opinion of others. Asking for help isn't a sign of weakness, rather it is a sign of strength. You recognize a need and take an assertive step fill it. A true leader knows his strengths and weaknesses and takes steps to shore up the areas that need reinforcement.

Asking for help allows you to tap into a large pool of knowledge. There are people who know a whole lot about something you don't. To seek out that advice when you could benefit from it is a smart thing to do. After all, if you are asking for help shouldn't you check the best source available? If you look closely you will notice that the most successful people surround themselves with other people stronger than they are in other areas.

 Most people love to be asked for their help. Unless you are asking a complete stranger, someone you approach to give you a helping hand will be quite willing to do so. If that person is qualified to advise you both of you will benefit. Don't worry about others judging you because you asked for their help. They are likely to think quite highly of you for turning to them for advice!

Don't assume the person you need help from isn't willing to give it. Most of us are leery of imposing on a friend or someone who has experience solving your particular problem. We may rationalize they are probably much too busy to spend time with our issue. If that's your thought, re-read the section above.

Accept help or advice graciously. If you ask for help, it is not a good course of action to tell that person why his or her suggestions won't work. Remember, you asked them. Accept what they have to say and decide later if the answer will work for you. Even if a friend, co-worker, or spouse offers unsolicited advice, accept the offer to help with a smile. That person may have noticed something you didn't or has fresh insight. Ultimately, you decide whether to action on the suggested fix.

Ask for input before you are overwhelmed, frustrated and angry. You won't be at your receptive best if whatever is bothering you has reached a critical stage. You will be looking for a quick fix that may do nothing to solve the underlying issue. You won't have the patience to explain the situation fully so the other person can give you good advice. Ask for help as soon as you are aware you need it. 

Finally, say thank you. People like to help other people. They also like to be acknowledged for that assistance. Someone went out of their way, probably invested some time in the problem, and gave you their best advice. Thank them, even if you don't plan on using the suggestions.

Many of us do everything we can to avoid admitting we could use assistance. We will knowingly make the situation worse before asking for help. I am living proof. At one point or another I have ignored every single item listed above. I think I'm a bit smarter in my old age. I realize that asking for help is not an indication I'm weak. I hope this post will help you to avoid my mistakes.

Then I will have been helpful.

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