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 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 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 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
  • 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

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?

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.

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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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October 29, 2010

Simple Living My Way

The topics of simple living, voluntary simplicity, frugality, and decluttering are of great interest to many of us. In a couple of posts last month I quickly discovered this was an important subject area for Satisfying Retirement readers.

In those previous posts I provided information about some of the better known blogs and web sites that focus on those topics. In case you missed them, links can be found at the end of this post.

This time around I am personalizing the subject. I'm going to detail some of the steps my family have taken over the years that made us proponents of simple living before it had a name. We weren't trying to start a trend, this was just they way we decided to live.

Most of the things on this list I have been doing for decades. There are a few recent additions  as I have become more sensitive to the negative impact an overly-consumptive lifestyle has on the planet and my own happiness. I hope you will compare this list to your efforts in this area. Then, I would very much appreciate your ideas and steps you may have taken (or want to take) to simplify your life. This is a great topic to learn from each other.

A video talk I saw on TED by economist Tim Jackson contained the perfect quote to start me off. He was talking about the direction of our society in terms of its relationship to buying stuff. He said, "People are being persuaded to spend money we don't have, on things we don't need, to create impressions that won't last, on people we don't care about."  That sets the stage for my list.

I don't enjoy shopping so I don't buy much. I shop when I must for what I need. To some people, shopping is a form of entertainment or relaxation. To me it is a chore to be completed as quickly as possible. That saves me money and clutter. Maybe this is a guy thing, but I avoid malls.

Clothing covers me and keeps me warm or cool. That's it. For me clothing is not a fashion statement or an indicator of my economic status. If it performs its function, is within my budget, and I need it I buy it.

A car is transportation. It takes me from point A to Point B with a minimum amount of fuss. It must be dependable, relatively safe, and have good air conditioning (this is Phoenix after all). Its year, make and model, even its color are not terribly important (ask my wife about the baby blue Mustang I had in 1976).

I use it up, wear it out. Only then do I replace it. If something does what I need it to I don't feel the need for a replacement that does it 2 seconds faster, or is in a different color. I don't even require it to have all its parts as long as it still works. 

We repaint, re-purpose, reuse. My wife is amazingly creative in looking at something and finding a whole new use for it. We find it much more satisfying to do that than simply throw something away that can be used in another way.

I buy very few books or new music. I read books constantly and listen to lots of music. I just don't feel the need to own most of them. That's what libraries are for. That's what the Internet offers. Part of that belief came during my radio days. I was given thousands of free CDs (I still have most of them). So, I got out of the practice of buying music and never regained the habit.

Of the books I did own, I got rid of 80% of them.  I realized I would never re-read them. All they did was take up space and get dusty. Someone else might enjoy them. So, I took many of them to a used bookstore for credit, and donated the rest to charity. Then my wife re-purposed the bookcases!

Use our own photos and painting to decorate. My wife and I like to take photographs and she is a painter and mixed media artist. Why buy someone else's work to decorate our home? We have the photos blown up and framed, or printed on canvas. Her paintings grace several walls in the home. It is much more satisfying to be surrounded by something you created.

Simplify lawn and yard work. Within the last two years I have cut back considerably on the number of potted plants I maintain. It was getting to be a chore, not a pleasure. We converted most of our bushes and shrubs to low water, low maintenance varieties. This saves time and money.

Cook enough at once for two meals. It is very unusual for us to make a dinner that doesn't produce enough leftovers for next week. And, if an ingredient is required for a meal we find another recipe that requires the same stuff so it doesn't go to waste.

Family above all else. Can't get much simpler than that.

So, what steps have you taken to simplify or declutter or save money? Anything on my list spur your creative juices?

Related Posts
Living a Simple Living - 9 Places to Start
Helping You Live a Simpler Life -10 More Blogs

October 27, 2010

Retirement Blogs You Might Enjoy - In Addition to This One !

One thing I have learned in my first 4 months of blogging is that most bloggers are friendly and very willing to share. It is a community of people who enjoy what they do and are glad to help others discover what they have learned.  Since this blog focuses on helping readers build a satisfying retirement experience, I spend a fair amount of time reading what fellow bloggers in the retirement area are writing about.

Listed here are 9 blogs that I have found to be entertaining and well-done. Each has a slightly different slant and writing style. Each is visited by me at least once a week, usually much more often. I have provided a summary after each to help you decide if you think that site might interest you.

There are probably hundreds of other blog about retirement that I am unaware of. If you have a favorite I haven't listed I'd love to know about it. Leave a comment below or e-mail me and I'll take a look.

I did find some blogs that looked quite promising, but the content hadn't been updated in months, and in one case, two years. If the writer isn't dedicated to keeping his or her material fresh, they aren't on this list.

Retirement: A Full Time Job
This was the first retirement blog I discovered. The writer, Sydney, was the first blogger to respond to my new site and give me encouragement. She was also responsible for a lot of my early readers by giving me a guest post and lots of links from her site to mine. While she is now posting less frequently due to a new part-time job, I enjoy her take on issues. She covers a full range of topics. Her training is as a CPA, so many posts tend to be a bit more financial in nature, but in an easy-to-grasp approach. Anyone who can label a post "Does This Blog Make My Butt Look Big"  is someone I want to read.

Retirement - Only the Beginning
The writer, Dave, is not actually retired yet. In his early 50's, I believe his hope is to retire sometime in the next few years. So, he is looking at the whole spectrum of issues from a still-not-quite-there perspective. As he says, " I started to help myself and others approaching retirement to identify, understand and better prepare for the myriad of issues that impact retiring." His writing style is personal and open. His insight is first rate. Like Sydney, he has become a blogging friend who is supportive and helpful.

Adventure Retirement
Bill Birnbaum is a fascinating man. He has lived a retirement life that many would envy. He and his wife put all their possessions in storage and took off to help in a poor community in the Peruvian Andes. Then, they traveled extensively throughout South America before settling in Oregon. There he teaches English part time, and spends his free time engaged in active sporting activities.

He has written a few books; the latest comes out early next year. In between all that he offers thoughtful pieces on adventure traveling and how and where to live during retirement. Bill is a great example of a person who is building a unique and satisfying retirement around his own interests and desires.

Being Retired
Dan retired at 43 just a few months ago. His blog is a personal record of his journey. Because he often mixes photos with his articles you quickly learn he loves to fish. In fact, he has another blog just for that subject, plus one on rebuilding an old Jeep. One of his categories is Rambling Monologues which describes his style perfectly. Dan writes about what he is thinking or feeling at the moment, and often relates it to his family. He doesn't pull many punches so after reading a few of his posts you feel as if you know this man.  

Joan's Boomer Blog.
Helping Boomers Find Wealth, Health and Happiness in the Second Half of Life is Joan's goal with this well-done blog. She blends personal observations and reactions with plenty of book reviews and links to other sites. Originally she focused on helping readers develop ways to make extra money. Now, she has broadened her focus to deal with issues like health or goal setting, or creating the life of your dreams.

The category list on the left side of the blog is like browsing through a fascinating library that invites you to pull up a chair and spend time sampling what she has listed. You will find lots of book reviews and even occasional video clips. Besides being a regular commenter on my blog, she finds time to maintain a very active blogging schedule.

Frugally Retired in Texas
I mentioned Barb's blog in my post of several week's ago on Simple Living. Since she really covers many subjects in her attempt to "Live Large on a Small Pension" her efforts deserve another listing. A recent post on "Making New Connections" was especially timely. Building new relationships in retirement is a major problem for any of us. Barb isn't afraid to tackle important issues, usually with an eye to decluttering and cutting back.

Retirement Advice On Line
Wendy's blog is really a large, one-stop, resource for all issues dealing with retirement. She offers an endless supply of links to almost any subject you can imagine. Often, she will pose a question or make a statement and then let readers' comments make up the bulk of the content. Look at the list down the left hand side of the home page and you're likely to find a topic that interests you.

These last 2 blogs are ones I have recently discovered and have just started reading on a regular basis, so my comments are briefer. But, that doesn't mean you should bypass them. Actually, I think you might find all sorts of hidden treasures here.

Our own Time
Chris writes about her personal journey toward retirement, complete with bumps, detours, and new discoveries. Sometimes the topics are serious, sometimes about finding pawpaws (I didn't know what they were either).

Retired Boomer in the Sunbelt
I'm not quite sure how to categorize this blog. Mike is a retired fellow living south of Tucson, AZ. He writes about John Lennon, motorcycles, hippies, tragedies in his past, and the welcome summer monsoon rains in the desert. I would describe reading this blog as reading the personal diary of a fellow I'd like to know better. 

Why am I spending time listing the "competition" and inviting you to leave my blog to go to theirs? Because bloggers are friends and we share. The better each of us is individually, the more likely new readers will spend time with all of us. I hope you will visit some of the sites I've listed.

In return I ask a favor: if you like their blog leave a nice comment for them, and then return here. I'll miss you while you are gone.

October 23, 2010

Go Fly a Kite

We can remember when we were much younger. We were free to play and experiment. We were free to dream big dreams and see anything as possible. We had friends and parties and presents and good times.

Now we are all grown up. We have responsibilities. We are settled down and settled in. Our dreams of being a rock star, a fireman, or the president of a Fortune 500 company have either been achieved by now or are distant memories. We don't think much about playing or experimenting anymore.

Why not?  Who says we can't recreate some of the absolute joy and exhilaration of youth, when everything was possible and limits were not self-imposed. Part of the challenge of the retirement period of your life is to not let society limit your options with thoughts like:

  • "What you want to do is not age appropriate."
  • "What you'd like to try is for younger folks."
  • "Don't be silly, people your age don't do that anymore."
  • "I can't do that, I'm too old."
I give you permission to reject every one of those statements. Each one is based on a cultural stereotype that is not relevant. Fifty years ago retirement meant a rocking chair in Sun City. Today retirement means sky diving, fly fishing in Montana, starting a new business, traveling the world, taking up tennis, learning how to paint...whatever you want to try.

Here is a list of some of the fun stuff many of us did as carefree youngsters. Do you have the spark in you to say, "Yes. I liked it them, and I'm going to do it now!"

Fly a kite.  Fresh air, the wind at your back. Sunshine, laughter and excitement as the kite lifts off the ground to kiss the sky. Get a child or grandchild to run with the kite if you can't. But, if you can do it, run and laugh out loud as that beautiful hunk of cloth and plastic defies gravity.

Have a Picnic.  Any food tasted better outside, even Mom's Bologna sandwiches. Grab a blanket, a few sandwiches, some chips, an apple, a bottle of water, maybe some cookies. Find a park nearby, your backyard, your front yard, your doesn't matter. You are on a picnic and the world slows down just for you.

Cook hot dogs and s'mores over the fireplace in the living room. As a youngster did your parents ever grab a few long sticks, plunk themselves down in front of the fireplace, and cook hot dogs over a fire in the fireplace? Did you end the meal with s'mores? What is stopping you from doing that again? Grab a few sticks, some dogs, and spend a glorious hour heating and eating them in front of the fireplace. No fireplace?  Is it too cold to do the same thing around a grill outside? Bundle up, share memories, and have the best meal of the week.

Camp out in the backyard Remember a  blanket thrown over a clothes line or a real tent complete with a flashlight and a few sleeping bags? The big adventure in the backyard, all those scary sounds, and the fear of an animal sniffing around your "campsite," even in the midst of suburbia. So, do it again. The backyard is still a bit scary after dark when sounds and the wind make going to sleep an adventure all over again.

Play hooky. I must admit that as a child I was too much of a straight arrow to do this. I have been accused of being born 40 years old and that may be true. But, now that I am retired, there are times when I can skip out on a meeting, or job, or something on my to-do list and feel a great sense of freedom and extra time.

This one can get a little tricky. If your absence causes another person a problem, then don't do it. But, if you are free to skip a chore scheduled for today, delay the garden pruning, or not attend a meeting you don't really enjoy anyway, go for it. You suddenly feel as if you have gained an extra hour or two for yourself. There is a feeling of liberation, even if you are skipping your own task.

Have a Birthday Party. In all likelihood you liked birthday parties when you were young. The excitement of tearing off the paper from presents, eating cake and ice cream in the middle of the day, and having friends all paying attention to you was hard to beat. Now, as adults , most of us dislike celebrating our own birthday. We'd rather the day was ignored.

Isn't that a shame?  Isn't it still nice when you are the center of attention for a while? What is wrong with having presents to open, special food to eat, and memories to share? Instead of celebrating being another year older, make the party a celebration of good friends and food. The birthday is just an excuse.

Visit Lover's Lane No reason for a lot of details for this subject. But, how long has it been since you and your significant other went "parking?" You don't have to do anything more than sit quietly, hold hands, and stare out the car window at the scenery. Of course, if that is a bit too tame for you, then go for.... whatever. The goal is to bring back, for just a little while, that fabulous time when love was new and you were terrified.

This post was written with me in mind. Out of the seven things listed I do two of them. As I wrote this I caught myself asking if I believed what I was saying enough to put it into practice. My wife will be the first to tell you I need to be more spontaneous. I could use a helping of the childhood stuff that I skipped the first time around. Well, here is a public pledge to do at least two more things on this list before the year is up.

Just as I was wrapping up this article I ran across a post that fits perfectly: Tonight we had dinner in the shower. They really did. Read it and marvel at the simple joy such an unusual event generated.

How about you? Anything on this list you want to try again? Anything else you want to barefoot in the grass, smear finger-paints all over the big piece of paper, lay on the grass and look at the stars? Then, what's stopping you? Want to leave a comment and commit yourself to be a kid again, if only for a little while?

October 18, 2010

I Would Appreciate Your Help

When I launched this retirement blog almost 4 months ago I asked some questions about topics and content. Not surprisingly, because this site was brand new I received only a few responses. Now that the number of page views is approaching 25,000 I thought the time was good to ask the questions again.

I enjoy writing, so I could probably churn out a post about almost anything. But, to stay true to the title of the blog, Satisfying Retirement, I want to focus on topics that you care about the most.

So, the questions are simple:

 1) What topics about retirement living are most important to you? What would you like me to write more often: Health issues, Relationships, Finances, Simple Living, New Technology, Creativity & Learning, Time Management, My Life experiences? Anything else?

2) What topics don't really interest you as part of this blog? What should I write less about or even avoid entirely?

You will be an invaluable help to me if you would leave a comment answering one or (hopefully) both of the questions. With your responses I can be sure I produce material you really care about and avoid the stuff you don't. A sincere thank you for your support. My goal is to make every post valuable and meaningful to you.

One favor: if you have a friend or relative who is retired, or soon will be, and that person doesn't know about this blog, please ask them to visit here just long enough to answer the questions. A critical way for me to attract new readers is to provide content they would find attractive.

October 15, 2010

Texting, Talking and Listening - Where Are We Headed?

I'm not breaking any news by saying technology has impacted our lives in ways we may not have even imagined a few years ago. Perhaps the biggest shock has been the completeness of the changes.

Wired telephones have disappeared from millions of American homes. Compact discs are dying as iPods and downloadable music make the purchase of a CD unnecessary. It is virtually impossible to find a VHS player even though most adults still own VHS tapes. Now, even the plain DVD is becoming old-fashioned . Many new movies are issued on HD Blu-Ray, with a DVD copy thrown in for free. 3D televisions will hit the mass market in time for the holidays.

Try to find a cell phone that is just that: a phone without Internet, streaming video and audio capabilities. You don't text? Really? Why not? To call one of these computers-in-your-hand a phone is not very accurate. 70% of kids prefer to communicate non-verbally, meaning text messaging or using social media like Facebook and Twitter. Almost 3 million texts are sent every single day in the United States. The average American teen sends and receives over 3,000 text messages a month. Another startling number for you to consider: 25% of teens admit to texting while sitting at the dinner table. My experience is 100% text during a movie.

So, what is the problem? Technology makes it easier, cheaper, and quicker to move vast amounts of information. The consumer has almost total control of how and when he accesses that information and entertainment. The problem is we are losing the ability to engage in a verbal conversation.

In such a world the ability to listen to someone else while watching for smiles or frowns or confused looks is gone. Emotion and physical reactions are impossible to perceive when reading words on a 2 inch screen. Building a true friendship in a 140 character tweet can't be done. All this leads to a breakdown of civil dialogue and exchanges. People are becoming used to expressing opinions and feelings in rapid shorthand. The ability to listen politely and respond with respect is disappearing.

I am not likely to do more than stick my finger in a dike with multiple holes. But, I would like to offer some reasons why conversation (the verbal kind) is important. A recent national study that caught my eye noted there are 5 things we can do each day to improve our mental well being:

1) Connect with others. Make human contact.
2) Be active. Get off your duff and do something.
3) Be curious about the world. Ask questions and try new stuff.
4) Keep learning to keep your mind functioning at peak efficiency.
5) Give some of yourself to others. Share.

Guess which one human activity covers all five...verbal conversation. Talking with someone causes you to connect with another person. You are face-to-face, making contact with another human being. In doing so you will be active. You will generate and show emotion. You will gesture with your hands. Your voice will rise and fall. Your ears will hear the sound of a human voice.

Unless you only have conversations with yourself, and those don't really count, you will encounter something that is new or different. Something in the conversation will cause you to become curious. Maybe you wonder how the other person could be so wrong. Maybe he or she will tell you about a trip they took that prompts you to ask about that place. Or, maybe it will be as mundane as what is a good place for sushi. It is impossible to talk to someone and not have your curiosity triggered.

To participate in a conversation your mind has to be functioning at a certain level. Processing the words, thinking about what was meant, and then forming a logical response takes brain cells. You will learn something about the other person based on what is said. You will learn something about yourself based on your reaction to what is being said.

By listening and responding, you are giving your time and attention to another. Unlike texting or voice mail, you can't pretend to not be there. You are there as part of the dialogue. By actively participating you are showing respect for the other person. You don't have to agree with what is being said. But, the simple act of listening and responding shows you care enough about the other person to be there.

The average person speaks around 8,000 words a day. Using those words to establish and build friendships, strengthen business relationships, and maintain a healthy marriage all while helping to improve your mental health makes exercising your verbal skills during conversation time well spent. The ability to listen to someone else's words intently and genuinely care what they are saying is paying that person the ultimate compliment.

Texting, cell phones, and social media have their place. Most of us would not choose to give them up. They can enhance communication. What they shouldn't do is replace face-to-face communication. Physically being with another person and communicating is a large part of being human.

I worry that the skills of reflective listening and forming appropriate verbal responses are skills not being passed on to younger generations. Texting is to good communication what McDonald's is to fine dining. They may be in the same family but the results are quite different.

Am I old-fashioned? Is it better to reduce chatter and communicate as efficiently as possible? I'm afraid you can't text me your answer, but you could leave a written comment below.

Related Posts

10/17 Late Addition: Just appearing in a USA Today story about changes over the next 40 years: a man is trying to explain to his teenage daughter the importance of face-to-face communication. But, because of Facebook, "she could not grasp it."   My point, exactly!

October 12, 2010

7 Things You Can Do When You are Retired

The topic of Monday's post about aging parents is not a feel good subject. It can't be ignored, but it can be depressing. So, I decided to lighten things up a bit today and write about something fun. It might even cause you to smile. Here's hoping. This is my list of seven things that you can do when you stop working full time (there are more than seven, but you're busy, right?).

You can sleep late if you want to.  Just because I can doesn't mean I do. My warped sense of productivity screams that I've wasted half the day if I'm still in bed by 7 AM. Even on Saturdays when I really could laze around all morning I am up and on with the day by 6:30. But, the freedom to sleep later is still, in theory, available to me.

Going out to dinner at 4:30 PM and getting the senior price. I used to joke about the retired folks having dinner at 4 in the afternoon to get the blue plate special. Now that I am one of them, my wife and I do eat much earlier than we used to. We consider 5:30 PM to be late dining. If going to a restaurant, 4:30 PM is actually a good idea to avoid the lines and long waits. And, we always check the back page of the menu for the "55 Club" or whatever name is given to the senior prices. Of course, the smaller price also means smaller portions, but that's good for my waistline anyway.

Forgetting what day of the week it is, and not having it matter.  Except for church on Sunday morning, what day it is becomes rather unimportant. Monday feels like Wednesday which feels like Friday. The only downside is time has definitely speeded up. Whole weeks and now even months seem to be gone in the blink of an eye. I want to believe this isn't a memory issue, but more a function of me being busy and happy.

Taking advantage of cheaper matinee movie prices. Who in their right mind would pay $11 for a movie when shows before 6 PM are $7? At the local AMC theater shows before noon are $5. I'll see something I don't even like for $5. Or, I'll stay home and watch Netflix.

You can stop wearing a watch. Cell phones can tell you the time if you need to know. The clock on the computer screen, cable box, and car dashboard are entirely sufficient. Not wearing a watch is a physical and symbolic statement of freedom from the tyranny of time. That is not true, of course, but it sounds good.

You don't have to shop on weekends with everyone else. A rule in the Lowry household: no Home Depot, Costco, Wal-Mart, or shopping malls on weekends. There is no reason to subject ourselves to the hoards of weekend warriors and teenagers. Monday through Friday contains 120 hours. If I can't get my shopping done in that amount of time, I am shopping much too much.

You can wait at home all day for the repairman. I don't know why it is, but if there is a 3 hour window for a repair person, I am always in the last 5 minutes of that window. Never am I first or even in the first half of that big window. I don't know why but I've learned to accept it. With the flexible schedule of a retiree it doesn't matter. If I don't wear a watch I don't even realize how late the fellow is and I stay calmer.

These are seven rather silly reasons to retire, but all true for me. How about you? What less-than-life-changing  things can you do, or not do, if you don't work full time anymore? Let's call this a mid-week lighten up and have some fun with your answers. Comments are strongly encouraged!

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October 10, 2010

A Real Life Love Story - Caring for Your Parents

A little over a month ago I wrote about learning to help your aging parents (or relatives). It is one of the toughest things most of us will have to go through. Watching the physical and mental decline is not an easy thing to accept. In many societies the norm is for one or both parents to live with one of the children and their family. While there can be tremendous positives in a multi-generational household, it does come with major risks and headaches.

In America it is much more likely that a nursing home or long-term care facility will be the end destination. There are probably many reasons why this is our standard way of dealing with aging parents. This is not the blog to explore why, though I'd welcome your thoughts in the comments section. . But, even that scenario certainly doesn't promise a stress-free period.

One of the comments left on the original post is worth reprinting here. His explanation is well-written, emotionally honest, and representative of what  many of us have, are, or will face.  

My Dad died at the age of 81, but his decline started well before that. During his lifetime, he often went through lengthy bouts of depression, and in his later years, the depression mingled with confusion, memory loss, irritability, and no doubt endless boredom, making his last years a nightmare, not only for him, but for those of us who tried our level best to be patient and understanding. He took boatloads of pills, and I often wonder how much the medication contributed to his moodiness and overall state of mind.

My Mom had no life at all during those years, such was her sense of commitment to taking care of him. In his final years, he could never be left on his own for fear of falling or getting into some other sort of predicament. With his confusion, he would often mistake her for someone else, and sometimes he would even convince himself that there were 2 versions of her, one good and one evil. He would often hallucinate and sometimes vehemently accuse her of cheating on him, even though she tended to him on an almost 24/7 basis and had no time to take care of herself, let alone find a boyfriend.

In later years Mom did all the driving. This tiny woman would load a man who could hardly walk under his own steam into her car and trot him around to his doctors’ appointments. I have no idea how she managed this without help.

If Mom was to have any time to herself in those years, it would require that I be available to “babysit” Dad while she went out. I hated every minute of it. I loved my Dad, but we seldom saw eye to eye on anything (I suppose the way many fathers and sons do). Conversation was difficult for any number of reasons, not the least of which was because he was so confused about what was going on around him, sometimes repeatedly asking me if I was going to take him home soon, when he was sitting in his favourite chair in the only home he’d known for 40 years. How can a man look out his front window at the same neighbour’s house that he’s seen every morning for 40 years and want to know if we’re going home soon?

My Dad would fall constantly. Even with his walker, I would have to walk slightly behind him with my hand gripping his belt to try and steady him so he wouldn’t hit the deck. You haven’t lived until you’ve had to wipe your father’s blood off of the kitchen wall because he split his head open on a corner after taking a spill. Or how about putting his head through the side of the bedroom dresser after falling backwards? And try lifting an elderly man off the floor by yourself when he’s too feeble to help in the process. I use to grab a blanket and wrap it around behind him to try and get some leverage to pull him back up on his feet, but sometimes I just had to wait it out until someone else came along to grab one arm. There is so little dignity in old age that I often wonder why we all seem to want to live forever.

I don’t judge my Dad based on those years. At his best, he was a decent, hardworking man, always willing to help a neighbour or drive the local kids to hockey practice when other fathers were nowhere in sight. It’s an unfortunate fact of life that the most recent memory we’re likely to be left with of an aging parent is usually a snapshot of them when they’re at their fragile worst, both physically and mentally, and possibly a glimpse into our own future.

This comment is absolutely first-rate in bringing to life the pain and struggles inherent in this situation. It is remarkably consistent with everything I have read on the subject, and my own limited experience to this point. The writer identifies several key areas of concern that are worth highlighting.

How much does increasingly high doses of medication help or hurt? How many of the problems during this stage of life are actually enhanced because the parent is taking medicines that counteract each other, or have serious side effects?  With strict privacy laws in place, how do you get straight answers?

The effect on the spouse or partner is significant. Control is lost over most of that person's own life. Having to be on call means being unable to do anything that delays immediate response to a need. The potential for abusive behavior is real, as is the heartache of confusion. It is impossible to imagine the pain of having your spouse of many decades not even remember who you are. Performance of unpleasant tasks of personal hygiene can't be handed off to someone else. Personal dignity is lost.

When to take away the car keys is a major area of contention. Driving an automobile is a significant statement of personal freedom. When that is taken away from someone for this own good, the emotional outbursts can be tremendous. The original post had a link to a very well written article on this subject. If you didn't see it the first time, click here

The final memories of a parent or loved one may not be the ones we want to hold onto. But, the struggles and pain make it difficult to remember all the good times that came before. Allowing some time to pass and then recalling pleasant memories of the past with family photos or videos would seem a possible way to soften the painful thoughts of the last few days. But, the hurt of those last months or days never goes away.

I am deeply indebted to the unnamed person who left the comment I have used as the focal point for this post. He has voiced some of the fears and concerns many of us must face. Here are some excellent links to articles from the web site Maturity Matters. I found them to be well-written and practical in their advice. If you are facing the dilemma of caring for aging parents, maybe you will find these links a good place to start.

Links to helpful articles
I can also recommend the book, How to Care for Aging Parents, by Virginia Morris. It is easy to understand and very comprehensive. I am using it for my parent's situations. Our health care system is confusing enough with trying to handle it alone.

In this area, we can learn from each other. If you have suggestions, insight, or a personal experience to share, I would be most grateful if you left a comment. This is an area where your experiences and suggestions will be very helpful to others.

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