December 30, 2011

A Thank You Letter to 2011 as it Retires

A year ago I wrote a thank you letter to 2010 that summarized some of the good and not so good stuff that happened. In re-reading that post I liked the idea, so here is the 2011 version.

Well, 2011, you threw all of us some surprises. The economy didn't recover as much as hoped, leaving lots of us still in deep trouble. But, at least you didn't slip back into a recession. In fact, as this year ends there are signs that corners are finally being turned. Now, if you can talk to 2012 and ask him to do something about the mess in Europe!

Dad continues to do well one year after the love of his life passed away after 63 years together. His family is quite surprised he has found his footing and is happy....lonely, but happy. It is certainly a blessing we get to see him every week and include him in family gatherings when possible.

My son-in-law has completed his work to earn his BA and is flourishing in his new position at work. His back, which had left him virtually crippled, is still responding beautifully to the patches that help his body stay in balance. Thank you for whatever you did.

His wife, my oldest, continues to be the world's best mom, raising some incredible, respectful, loving, brilliant kids. As if that didn't keep her busy she began a Christian day care in her home to help the family's finances. 2011 has been a tiring one for her, but you never hear her complain.

My youngest has moved in with us while she ramps up her career. Even though the world economy has been shaky at best, her dreams of seeing the world as a travel director and freelance operations manager show serious signs of success.

Betty and I finally got back to Maui for a much needed extended vacation in late September into October. It felt like going home. I had a very vivid dream last night of going back.

This blog continues to grow and my first book is selling (slowly but selling) on Amazon. Money Magazine featured a story on our finances and how we  live well on less. It is quite a rush to see yourself on a magazine stand.

The interaction with readers and the joy of writing still feels just as good as it did when this part of my journey began 18 months ago. I don't know how one measures this, but I'd bet I have the best readers in the blogging world.

So, thank you 2011, for a good year. My family is healthy, our finances are OK, my spirits and optimism remain, and my satisfying retirement continues. 2012, you have you work cut out for you to equal the impact on my family that your retiring brother, 2011, had.


What Others Are Saying

December 29, 2011

A Look Back: Simplicity

This final week of 2011 is a good time for a look back..back over some posts of the past 18 months that you may have missed, or remember wanting to read again. So far I have included lists of posts that deal with relationships, health, and finances. Today's focus is on simplicity and simple living, a subject that is of interest to a lot of us as we build our satisfying retirement. I hope you find something listed you'll enjoy checking out:

*Simple Living: Steps You Can Take Now

*Living a Simpler Life

*Helping You Life a Simpler Life

*Simple Living My Way

*Live Simply in Retirement

*Could I Live Without...?

*Simple Living: One Room At a Time

*Simple Living: What Does It Mean?

*Retirement Frugality

December 28, 2011

A Look Back: Health

This final week of 2011 is a good time for a look back..back over some posts of the past 18 months that you may have missed, or remember wanting to read again. Yesterday was a list of posts that dealt with the critical subject of financial well-being. 

Today's focus is on health, a subject that can make or break our satisfying retirement. I hope you find something listed you'll enjoy checking out:

*Healthy Habits

*5 Keys To a Healthier Life

*7 Steps Toward Better Health

*Are Healthy Eating & Exercise The Evil Twins?

*Retirement at Home: Making It Safe

*How Am I Supposed To Pay For This?

*Healthy Living: Tips & Ideas

*Retirement Travel & Health

*A Real Life Miracle

*Retirement & Health Care Costs

December 26, 2011

A Look Back: Relationships

This final week of 2011 is a good time for a look back..back over some posts of the past 18 months that you may have missed, or remember wanting to read again. For the next four days I will feature a list of satisfying retirement blog posts related to a different subject. Today's focus is on relationships: family, marriage, adult children, aging parents, grandkids. I hope you find something listed you'll enjoy checking out:

*Does Family Matter?

*Who Is That person Sitting Beside me?

*The Benefits of Sharing Household Duties

*Learning About Life From A 3 Year-Old

*A Real Life Love Story: Caring For Your Parents

*Relationship Maintenance: Time For a Tune-up?

*Relationships Between Parents & Adult Children

*Retirement & Sex (that what you think!)

*What Am I Going To Do About Mom?

*How Do I Help My Aging Parents?

*Junior Is Back Home: Now What?

*Mom & Dad Want To Move In: Now What?

Tomorrow, a look back at posts that deal with one of the most important parts of a satisfying retirement: your finances.

December 21, 2011

Satisfying Lifestyle Newsletter : The latest Addition To Our Services

Satisfying Retirement Companion has become an important daily source of  information and insight to over a thousand readers. Stories from around the world on topics as varied as technology, science, financial planning and travel serve as an up-to-date companion to this blog.

Now, a new, daily newspaper is the latest addition to our range of services: Satisfying Lifestyle Newsletter. With a wider selection of news, stories, and helpful information, Satisfying Lifestyle Newsletter can be part of your satisfying retirement journey.

Check it out today!

December 17, 2011

Fed-Up Customers Finding Unique Ways to Get A Company's Attention

Last month I wrote about customers starting to strike back at businesses or organizations that treated them poorly. Bank of America's fiasco with the debit card charge and Netflix attempting to destroy years of good will and positive imaging with two stupid moves were the focus. We are trying to build a satisfying retirement and don't have the time or money to give to companies that don't seem to care.

In doing a little more research about consumers saying "enough is enough" at impersonal  and insensitive policies. I found a treasure trove of stories and web sites. As if we need any more encouragement to protest poor service with our wallets and feet, here are some examples of folks who took their protest to a higher level.

Dave Carroll is a musician. In 2009 he was flying to a show on United Airlines. He checked his guitar as baggage. Upon arrival he discovered the instrument's neck had been broken. After countless phone calls, messages, and refusals by United to compensate him for the ruined guitar, he took his revenge. He wrote a song about the incident and posted it on YouTube.That video was viewed 11 million times! Realizing they had a public relations nightmare on their hands the airline did what it should have done initially and accepted responsibility for the guitar.

Too late. 11 million times too late. Dave went on to form a business around that incident. He gives speeches all over the country about the dangers of rotten customer service. He has written books and of course, plays the United Broke my Guitar song wherever he appears. He had enough and found a unique way to make the "bad guys" pay.

Here's a decision that the HP probably wishes that they could have a "do-over." A soldier in Iraq had a problem with his printer. HP "customer service" wanted to charge him to tell him how to fix it. Feeling that the company was acting poorly toward a man risking his life in a war zone, he decided to make his point rather forcefully....with a gun. His video on YouTube  made it clear that he felt Hewlett Packard was more interested in a few dollars profit than supporting our troops.

A more moderate approach to poor customer service can be found on a growing number of web sites designed for people let off steam (without shooting off an automatic weapon). and  the aptly named are filled with complaints about everything from a homeowner who didn't pay the contractor to major automobile companies and lemon cars, from scams to mobile phone bills that are clearly wrong but won't be fixed.

Individual companies are targets of specific sites, too: and Hel* generate all sorts of views and complaints. is full of horror stories about the industry most folks love to hate for their "take it or leave it" attitude.

It is important to note that it is very likely a sizable number of the gripes on these sites are not legitimate. Competitors could be bad-mouthing another company. A disgruntled customer may have contributed to his own problem and then tries to get someone else to pay for it. There could be examples of someone hating a company enough to make up a grievance. But, the point remains: the Internet has given the paying customer a new way to complain and seek justice. Ignoring a letter or a phone call is easy for a company that isn't interested in treating folks well. It is much harder to avoid the bad publicity that can come from 11 million You Tube hits.

I looked for a truly horrific story about the worst voice mail system in the world but I found nothing specific, just lots of gripes about the practice. Personally, I hate voice mail when it is designed to either frustrate me enough so I will hang up, or connects me with a person who has no clue what he or she is talking about in a language that barely passes for English.

Recently I had a terrible experience trying to get a straight answer to a simple question and problem with my SiriusXM radio. I invested one hour of my time, initiated three different contacts with them, talked with a service representative and someone in Technical support, and finally was called by a "resolution" person and told my radio didn't receive the channel I was inquiring about. If the first person I contacted had told me that the next three contacts, 60 minutes of my time, and building anger on my part at the company could have been avoided.

Good customer service has pretty much disappeared. I am glad that we are at the point where we are "mad as hell and aren't going to take it anymore."  Maybe the tide will turn when enough people decide that the money we spend buys us more than a product, it should buy us respect and common courtesy.

Late addition: I just ran across this story about airlines charging extra for  families to sit together.  When does it stop?

Even more: 2011 was the year of tack-on hidden fees

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December 14, 2011

Retirement Help and Personalized Advice

The past 18 month of writing Satisfying Retirement has been loads of fun.  Watching the growth in the number of people who stop by to read a post is gratifying. Seeing the number of comments increase is a good sign. The publication of my first e-book, Building a Satisfying Retirement, and seeing its slow but steady sales figures from Amazon along with a few paid links and compensation for writing for web sites has allowed me come close to breaking even.

On occasion e-mails have asked if I am available for private consultation on matters relating to building a happy retirement. Sometimes the person posing the question is looking for help with budgeting or basic financial questions. Twice there has been a question dealing with issues like moving or downsizing. There has been some interest in helping folks develop their creativity and finding a passion after work. A couple of e-mails also wondered if I'd advise a couple before retirement on developing a specific plan to help them get ready for the big step.

Up to this point, I have freely given some ideas and suggestion by return e-mail. But, the trickle of requests for private help has led me to wonder if this is something I could offer as a service to readers and the general public. Rather than a simple one or two e-mails with general hints and tips, is there an interest in a more personalized service that includes phone conversations and specific help for a specific situation?

While this list is certainly not all that I could do to help you, these are the topics that pop up most often in my in box:

  • Budgeting  Building a workable budget before or after retirement.

  • Where to live  This is a major decision that involves lots of possibilities

  • How do I keep my marriage strong after retirement?  Retirement involves more than just the person who stops work. There are issues that should be addressed.

  • Can you help me simplify my life?  Are you struggling with downsizing or getting a daily calendar under control? Do you want ideas to give you more time to enjoy your life?

  • Other than work, I have no hobbies or interests. Help!  This is a very typical problem that will rarely just solve itself. If there is nothing to get your involved and excited, boredom and unhappiness will quickly follow.

  • My adult child needs to move home. What's that going to do to my life? This has become an increasingly common issue in the present economic reality. How it is handled affects both the child and your happiness.

  • My parents need more help than I can give them. What should I do? This problem involves many tough decisions that must be specific to your situation and needs.

This list gives you an idea of what I am proposing. This is my "fishing line in the water, waiting to see if someone bites." Do you think you, or someone you know, would benefit from my individualized consultation? Would you find this a service you might use?

Of course, the next question you would ask is about the cost. Because my goal is to help as many folks as possible, charges would be very reasonable and based on both what you wanted and how much involvement you requested.

OK, I'm ready to see if this offer produces any nibbles. E-mail me and describe what you are interesting in. I'll respond with a proposal and costs. At that point you can accept the proposal, modify it, or say "no thanks," and remain friends.

Please give it some thought and let me know if you are interested in learning more. I will put a link on the sidebar of the blog so if you decide at some point in the future you have a need like this, the offer remains open.

Thanks for your support and the opportunity to be of service, both in the blog posts and this additional, personalized service.

December 12, 2011

Frugality and Retirement: How Does It Work?

The post of a few days ago dealt with the pressure on the middle class and its effect on retirement. The obvious follow up to that is what happens when the situation calls for real cutbacks in expenses and life style. Is it still possible to have a satisfying retirement?

Like simple living, frugality is a word that is really open to interpretation. There are folks who think of frugality as being a smart steward of their money. For the most part, wants are replaced by needs in the budget. A free movie from the library replaces the $10 ticket at the local cinema. Dinner out is either the $5 foot long sub at Subway or a home cooked meal instead of the $30 restaurant experience.

For others, the word takes on an almost religious tone. Spending more than is required to stay alive is to be avoided. Living space is cut to the bone. Almost all belongings are given away or sold, leaving a dresser drawer with a few changes of clothes. If possible, a car is replaced by public transportation or walking. Health insurance is dropped, in favor of self-medication and an occasional trip to the emergency room or free clinic.

This second interpretation is not what I think about when I type the word frugal. The dictionary defines frugal as not wasteful, not spending unnecessarily, being economical and thrifty. How many people would not find those words something to strive for?  The problem comes when each of us puts our own interpretation on those words. To somebody a 60" LCD TV screen is a necessity. Buying a $60,000 car instead of the $75,000 version could be considered thrifty.

Frugality, like simplicity, is in the eyes of the beholder. Living on $100,00 before retirement and $70,000 after is certainly more frugal. But, for many of us the numbers may be more like $50,000 before retirement and $25,000 after. So, how does a satisfying retirement work when one has to be frugal?

There is no argument that it takes work and a commitment to the goal. It requires reassessing what you need to be happy and content. It demands that you prune those things that no longer fit within your budget. It pushes you to decide what are needs and what are wants.

Of course, a "need" for me could be a "want" for you. I need a high speed Internet connection to be able to blog. Since blogging is my passion and what occupies several hours of a typical day, cutting out the Internet connection isn't an option. I'd give up going out to any movies again if that was the trade off my budget demands.

For you maybe a "need" is a meal out at least once a week at a decent restaurant. Your volunteer work, or babysitting the grandkids, or part time work at the store leaves you drained by Friday. A meal out with spouse, friends, or even alone, is something you look forward to. It is a reward to yourself for the week's efforts. That is a need for you and your budgeting decisions will reflect that.

Frugality may mean that you have to settle for a medical insurance policy that is designed to help you only if hit with huge bills after an emergency or major surgery, but pays nothing for regular Doctor visits or drugs. You do your research and find out the hospital and local Walgreens have regular free clinics for blood pressure checks or diabetes testing. Costco or Walmart will sell you a 90 day supply of the generic version of the expensive brand name prescription for $10.

I could cite examples until the cows come home (there is a cliché I haven't used in 18 months!) but instead I'll summarize what frugality in retirement means to me:

  • Spending time with my grandkids and family. Except for gas = free
  • Watching a movie or documentary at home from either the library or Netflix. Cost is $17/month (less than one movie out for 2 people)
  • Sitting on my back porch, reading and watching birds and clouds = free
  • Cutting my cable TV bill from $70/month to $20
  • Running errands only 2 days/ week. Saves approx. $50/month in gas
  • Cutting meals out to just once a week. Saves $160/month
  • Not buying new books, only used ones or going to library. Saves $50/month
  • Keeping an 8 year old car that squeaks and rattles for another few years
  • Clipping coupons and paying attention to sales on stuff we need thus cutting our monthly food budget by $70.
  • Mothballing a computer than has issues rather than replacing it right now. Making do with one that is even older (Sorry Dell).
  • Only doing laundry and running dishwasher between 9 PM-9AM during the week (rates 66% lower)
  • Going on an expensive trip to Hawaii..important to my mental health and well-being

That last example is important in this discussion of frugal living. For me, that 18 day trip, while quite pricey, was vitally important to me and my wife. It gave us a break from our routine, broke our pattern of stress and over-commitment, and allowed us to add rich memories to our marriage. For me that was a frugal choice because it saved me (and Betty) from problems that were threatening to become disruptive. At that point, it had become a need. It was an investment in ourselves.

The vacation budget is depleted, but we did not borrow any money, leave any balance on our credit cards at the end of the month, or in anyway disrupt our retirement budget. We planned for it, saved for it, and made it happen.

Frugality and retirement do work together. It requires being flexible. It means you know yourself well enough to understand what you need and what you can adjust to being without. It doesn't have to mean leading a bare-bones, sterile, hand-to-mouth existence at all. It is about re-balancing what you have and how you will mold it into what you need.

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December 9, 2011

One Year Ago Today

My mother died one year ago today. It is hard to believe she has been gone that long. A friend of mine whose mother died five years ago mentioned recently he was upset because he could no longer remember his mom's voice. I hadn't really thought of the erosion of specific memories and pieces of a person until that comment. I can still remember my mom quite vividly but I wonder when that will start to slip.

What I remember most are the life lessons she taught me:
  •  Be honest and trustworthy
  •  Protect my reputation at all costs
  •  Help the less fortunate 
  •  Reading is a priceless gift. Use it every day
  •  Treat my wife like the jewel she is
  •  Keep smiling no matter what the circumstances. Attitude counts.
  •  Always put family first
  •  Never let your children there for them forever
  •  Stay married (she made 63 years)
  •  If in doubt check the dictionary

Thanks, mom for making me the man I am today. I miss you and your strong presence. I am watching over dad, not as well as you did, but I'm doing my best.

December 5, 2011

Do You "Fit" The Satisfying Retirement Profile: Part 2

Far and away the post from last month about fitting the normal profile of the satisfying retirement regular blog reader generated the greatest number of comments of anything I have written. For the vast majority, the profile of a typical reader did describe folks well. I was also encouraged to learn that many pre-retirees find the information useful.

But, that post only dealt with four basic descriptions: age, education, kids at home, and where the blog was most often read. I know it would be helpful if I have a more complete picture. So, this time, I ask you to respond to four more profile questions. Like the previous post, this will help me better target what I write about to match your needs and interests.

  • Which social networks do you visit, at least occasionally? By this I mean sites like Facebook, Twitter, Over 50 is Nifty, etc. Which, if any, are part of your experience?

  • Do you ever visit YouTube? This site now features full length movies in addition to millions of videos of people, places, and things. Millions visit every day. Are you one of them?

  • Do you spend any time with on-line forums? These are like chat rooms where folks of similar interest often ask questions and get answers from other forum members, or become involved in an ongoing discussion on a topic that is important to the reader. If you do spend time with forums, which ones?

  • Besides Satisfying Retirement which blogs do you visit regularly? To keep the list manageable, please list the 3 or 4 that are most important to you. They could be on any subject, not just retirement issues.

That's it, four more questions that will help me tremendously as I strive to make this blog as useful, entertaining, and on-target to you as I can.

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December 4, 2011

Traveling abroad..8 Tips for a Safer Trip

Travel is one of many joys of a satisfying retirement. The change in routine and chance to learn something about other cultures and food make travel, especially to international destinations, a dream many of us hope for. But, like anything else, there are some pitfalls to be aware of. Guest author, Isabella Woods, provided me with the following article that highlights important ways to stay safe when traveling abroad. 

With the average life expectancy of a US citizen now reaching almost 84,  there’s more time than ever to enjoy travelling abroad. If you are concerned about health and safety, here are discover 8 tips to help keep you safe wherever your travels take you…

1. If you’re travelling alone, let your family or friends know where you’re going and when. Give them a simple itinerary – it’ll help keep their minds at ease, and if anything does go wrong then they’ll know where you are and who to contact. We understand the whole point of a holiday is getting away from it all, but if you can provide a friend or a family member with details of where you’ll be staying, do so. And we’re sure they won’t bother you unless they need to!

2. Pack a decent first aid kit. Maybe you’re the sort of person who never gets ill, but when you’re travelling abroad in unusual climates, eating food your body isn’t used to, and messing with your internal body clock, it’s much more likely you’ll pick up a bug. Make sure you take these essentials: diarrhea tablets, paracetamol, insect repellent, and bandages. Also, make sure you check with your doctor before travelling in case you need any specific vaccinations – more than half of tetanus cases are in people over the age of 65, so a tetanus booster is sensible pre-vacation practise. However, some vaccines, like the yellow fever vaccine for example, aren’t recommended to people over 60 or if you suffer from a chronic illness. If yellwo fever is a problem at your planned destination that into consideration.

3. So you’ve raided your best savings account and stumped up the cash for a superb holiday and enough spending money so you won’t go short. We’re jealous already! But in terms of that spending money, it’s always best to go for a mixture of cash, travelers’ checks and cards. If you’re going somewhere unusual, make sure you order any currency a few weeks in advance. Also make sure you have some travelers’ checks, too – and write down the numbers of these on a piece of paper and keep that safe – it will help if your checks get stolen. Also, perhaps you’d like to consider pre-paid Canadian credit cards. You basically upload a sum of money to the card and then use it abroad as you would a debit or credit card – withdrawing money at ATMs and using it to pay for your bills. Generally they offer very competitive exchange rates and you won’t feel as vulnerable if you might if you’re carrying a wad of cash around. Also, write down your card number and take down the emergency number just in case you’re unlucky enough to be the victim of theft.

4. Take a bottle of antibacterial hand gel and carry it with you. This little bottle will be a godsend on holiday, as it never means having to find a fresh supply of water and a bar of soap to make sure your hands are clean. Use it before and after a meal to help keep germs at bay and keep your risk of catching a nasty bug to the minimum.

5. Take your cell phone. Or, if you’ve got one that you’d rather not lose or have anything bad happen to, buy a cheap basic model that you can take with you. If you’re staying in one country for a considerable length of time it may prove cheaper to buy a SIM card once you’re out there. However, you can also get SIM cards that you can use internationally. It’s always helpful to know, if you need to, you can get in touch with anyone should something go wrong – and having a cell phone with you is the quickest way of doing this. There are companies that rent cell phones for your use overseas, which may be your best option.

6. It’s highly likely you’ll want to document your holiday. However, it’s advisable to make sure you keep more expensive belongings like cameras out of sight most of the time. Use them only when you need to and make sure you wrap the camera strap around your wrist for added protection from thieves. Once you’ve finished using your camera, pack it away safely and zip up your bag – an open compartment is just asking for someone to dip in and try their luck.

7. Keep the expensive jewelry at home. Even if you’re planning on going out in the evenings and want to wear a fancy outfit, it’s best to take jewelry that doesn’t have stacks of sentimental value and didn’t cost a small fortune. Stick to costume jewelry or simple basics. Even if you’re staying in an upmarket resort, pickpockets and chancers may well be rife – and if you look like you’re a rich picking you’ll be their first port of call.

8. Finally, if you’re travelling across the pond to the UK you’ll be in good company – as Americans make up the second highest proportion of the annual 5.4 million over 55s to this little isle. But you’ll be in for a long plane journey, so make sure you wear your flight socks, walk up and down the aisle every so often, and perform in-flight exercises to help make sure deep vein thrombosis is kept at bay. If you suffer from varicose veins you’ll be more susceptible so be aware of this and make sure you do your best to move your feet and ankles while onboard the flight.

Thanks, Isabella. On a personal note I have rented a cell phone before trips abroad and found them a tremendous plus for safety and keeping in touch. The phone is mailed to your home before you go. Upon your return home, you simply send it back in the prepaid envelope. Since most American cell phones don't work in many other countries, this is a very viable option.

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December 2, 2011

Relationship-Building With Your Parents While There is Still Time

A year ago I had a post that offered some ideas on how to make the relationship between you and your adult children better as you journey through your satisfying retirement. If you missed it check it out here. A reader suggested I take a look at the changing relationship between us and our elderly parents. 

Over the past year I have experienced this shift in my dealings with my dad. Mom died just about a year ago, leaving him alone for the first time in over 63 years. The family had real concerns about his ability to adjust to life without her. For over six decades his life had been completely centered on her and her happiness. If I ever needed a model for a loving husband I only had to look at him. But, what would happen after the object of that devotion was no longer there? Would he become depressed, withdrawn, and simply wait to join her?

The answer has shocked us all. He has maintained his lifelong positive attitude. At almost 88 years of age, he continues to live independently, sing in two different choirs, read at least a book a week, participate in family gatherings (like last week's Thanksgiving dinner), maintain a clean home, and develop a routine for shopping and laundry. 

More to the point of this post, his relationship with me and my wife, Betty has deepened. We have become the human anchors in his life. Certainly not in the way he interacted with mom, but he cherishes our visits. When we have lunch with him every Saturday at the retirement community dining room, he always refers us as his "very special friends" to the hostess. He saves newspapers and magazines he thinks we will enjoy.

He has become comfortable with turning over virtually all of his financial matters to me. I always tell him what is going on and what his broker suggests, but he trusts me to handle his estate so the assests will be there for his three sons. While he still likes to write checks to pay the monthly fee to the retirement community, everything else is my responsibility. I had begun to be his financial ears and eyes a few years ago, but the degree to which he has turned control over to me has accelerated since mom's passing.

Never a talkative soul, he has slowly begun to initiate conversations and ask questions about other family members. Trust me, that is a big change. While mom was alive he was perfectly content to simply sit and listen. And, until the last few visits that remained his style. But, suddenly, over the last month or so he has initiated conversations about political and world events, asked how certain family members are doing, and whether I think his beloved Phoenix Suns will play again this season. If I mention something in passing, a week or two later he will ask a logical follow up question.

He has begun to limit some of his activities. Daily walks around his neighborhood are rare due to back pain that was caused by lifting mom in and out of bed and wheelchairs for almost 2 years. Of course, I've asked him to see if a doctor could help, but he has decided not to pursue it. He drives very rarely and has announced that when the car battery dies he will give up driving (no, I'm not planning on leaving the lights on to speed up the process!). He is thinking of dropping out of the choir that is part of the church that he and mom attended. It is almost 15 miles away and the trip is tiring to him.

I do worry that his world is closing in on him. Unless we are visiting or he has choir rehearsal, his days are spent in a lounge chair reading and napping. He watches the news at dinner time and every Phoenix Suns game (when they are playing). Otherwise, he has expressed no interest in watching movies or listening to music. He has steadfastly refused to learn to use a computer but does carry a cell phone I purchased for him whenever he leaves the house. The community in which he lives offers all sorts of social activities, both on campus and off. But, he is uninterested. Even so, he seems happy and content. His short term memory is pretty spotty but he writes everything he must do in a notebook that operates as his calendar. He has yet to forget any appointments or paying he few bills he still likes to handle.

To watch him handle the greatest loss of his life with grace and maturity has been both surprising and gratifying. To have him begin to slowly open up and converse is a treat. Just a few months shy of his 88th birthday, I'd say dad is a blessing in my life that continues to amaze and please me.

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November 30, 2011

Retirement and Simple Living

Over the past few years one of the bigger trends in the world of blogging has been the number of sites that promote living a simpler life. If you do a computer search for phrases like voluntary simplicity, zen living, minimalism, or frugality, the number of hits will be in the millions.

What is the attraction? It could be a desire to spend more time on things you like. Travel, becoming deeply involved in gardening or photography are more fun than constantly dusting, cleaning, repairing, and maintaining stuff you own. Living a simpler life has strong appeal for many. Eliminate things that take you away from what you really enjoy. Get back to basics. Play that creative music that is inside you.

I have found a tremendous interest in this topic among readers of the Satisfying Retirement blog. To have a happy retirement lifestyle 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 are tired of all the work lots of possessions entail. Whatever the motivation, simple living strikes a real chord for many.

Most of the things listed here I have been doing for quite some time. 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 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, then 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 don’t really matter. Even the color is 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 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!

We 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. Over the last few 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 another time. 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. 

....this is an excerpt from Chapter 5 of my e-book, Building a Satisfying Retirement: How to Make the Most of This New Stage of Your Life. There are eight chapters full of practical, actionable information, whether you are a few years away from retirement, or have already started this exciting new phase of life.

I ask that you consider buying a copy for yourself, or someone else, this holiday season. The book is available through Amazon by clicking here.

Don't worry if you don't own a Kindle. A free reader for your PC can be downloaded here. Apps for your iphone and Android phones are also available at no cost.

 Building A Satisfying Retirement is available for just $3.99.

Your definitive guide to a successful retirement yours today for just $3.99. If you are an Amazon Prime member you can "borrow" the book for free!

November 25, 2011

Working after Retirement...What Do You Do?

A growing number of retired folks are either working or considering that step. The reasons are as varied as we are, but generally involve either a financial  need or a desire to use skills and talents as part of their satisfying retirement. Working for a retail or service industry is often the most obvious choice. Others have decided this is the perfect time to start a business. If you missed my post on starting a business after retirement, click here.

What Do You Do?

We are all interested in what others do with their time in retirement. One of the most viewed posts I have written has been So, What Do You Do All Day? That is one of the first questions all of us ask someone we have just met: "What do you do?"  Saying, "I'm retired" will usually prompt the person to wonder how you fill your day. I'm asking that question now, specifically about working after retirement.

I'll go first. Since retiring 10 years ago to I was a part time tour guide for almost five years. This job involved taking groups of visiting business people, in town for a convention or sales seminar, horseback riding, kayaking down the Salt River, taking part in a cattle drive or biking through the dessert. It meant taking bus loads of folks to desert cookouts or fancy dinners at a 5 star resort. Often I'd be stationed at the airport greeting folks as they arrived in Phoenix and helping them get their luggage and then onto the bus to their hotel. The work was simple, paid well and had flexible hours. I was able to use my people and organizational skills and take part in activities I'd normally not be part of.

How do you generate extra retirement income?

Now, your turn.  We'd be quite interested in what you have done to re-join the work force, either full or part time. What different types of jobs have you tackled since retiring? Have you worked at a big box store, a small local retailer? Maybe it has been at a grocery store, or a delivery service. Some folks I know drive shuttle buses around town or at the airport.

Have you started your own business? That could be anything from selling some of your wood cabinets or handmade quilts, to becoming a consultant or launching a carpet cleaning company. Is it a full time or part time effort for you? How has it worked for you so far? 

Does being a volunteer count?

Importantly, the definition of working after retirement doesn't have to mean getting paid. Volunteer work can be every bit as time consuming as a paid position and an important part of a satisfying retirement lifestyle.

On the volunteer side of things I have been a tour guide at Taliesin West, Frank Lloyd Wright's home in Scottsdale. For the last few years I have been heavily involved in prison ministry, working with a Christian organization that mentors men and women both inside prison and after release. I find volunteering to be immensely fulfilling.

What have you done as a volunteer that you could share? Your experiences could easily prompt someone to become involved in their local community. Volunteering is a tremendous way to use your skills to help others and feel good, too.

Your Turn: I really want your input!

OK, now please fill up the comment box below. Tell us about what type of work you have taken on since retiring. It can be full or part time, for someone else or your own efforts to bring in more money. Have you gone back to work and then re-retired?

Has any volunteer work you have tackled been especially meaningful to you? Can you suggest ways for the rest of us to get involved and make where we live a better place?

I am looking forward to some tremendous ideas.

November 23, 2011

Feeling Blessed

First Greece causes the world to hold its collective breath. Then, Italy has economic markets in a tizzy until its Prime Minister is forced out the door.  Portugal and Spain continue to twist in the wind. Waking up to the seemingly endless financial mess the world is in can become depressing rather quickly. As someone wanting to retire at some point, or already trying to put together a satisfying retirement, you may wonder if anyone is not only weathering the storm, but enjoying life.

A friend who reads this blog remarked the other day that I am really living the satisfying retirement lifestyle I write about. I thanked him for the compliment, but wanted more details. Since it is my life, I don't have the ability to step back and look at it like an outsider does. He reminded me of a few of things we had talked about recently:
  1. My trip to Maui where my wife and I spent a fabulous 18 days totally relaxing and forgetting the real world's problems for awhile.
  2. Enjoying a free outdoor concert near our home that featured a 30 piece orchestra & band performing 30 Beatle songs in a tribute concert.
  3. Having lunch at an outside cafĂ© and spending a sunny afternoon at the Desert Botanical Gardens, looking at the incredible display of cactus, succulents, and wildflowers, and endless people watching.

When I got home I thought about his observation. I stopped checking the stock market and reading the world news to remember some of the things I had been able to do in the past few weeks:

  • Going to a movie with friends on a Friday afternoon while the rest of the world waited for 5 PM to start their weekend, followed by a dinner of happy hour appetizers while we caught up on each others' lives.
  • Enjoying a free admission day at the Phoenix Art Museum to see the new Western Art exhibit
  • Watching the Blue Man Group perform in Tempe: a 90 minute extravaganza of inventiveness and energy.
  • Having two sets of friends over for dinner two nights in a row, and really enjoying the time together to talk.
  • Hosting a Bible study at our house and making new friends
  • Taking the grandkids door-to-door on Halloween and loving that my granddaughter insisted on holding my hand all night.

My friend was absolutely right: my lifestyle was matching what I write about. Obviously the trip to Maui was expensive and ate up our vacation budget for a few years. The Blue Man group cost about $65 for tickets but worth every penny. Everything else though was free or low cost. For whatever reason I like finding things to do that are fun, free, and give my wife and me a new experience.

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. It is four days of family, food, relaxation, and no gift-giving pressure. I refuse to participate in the insanity of Black Friday. In fact, unless it is to visit family I make it a point to not leave the house. My life is blessed. I know that and I thank God everyday for it. I also know it could be taken away from me, or someone I love, in an instant so I take no precious moments for granted. It is truly a satisfying retirement life.

I wish for you and your family a happy, joyous, and peaceful Thanksgiving weekend. Whatever your circumstances you have something to be thankful for. Dwell on that for awhile.

November 19, 2011

Is Starting a Blog Right For You?

Should you consider blogging? Has that idea ever seem interesting to you?  I saw some statistics recently that would scare off a saner person:
  • Up to 80% of Blogs are abandoned within the first month
  • 20% of bloggers update their blog every single day
  • There are over 190 million blogs on the Internet
  • There are over 136 million domain names registered
So what is the attraction of getting involved in something that has an 80% failure rate, requires lots of time, puts me in competition with a huge number of people, and produces no income? Couldn't I find something else to do with my time? At least as of today, my answer is "No." Maybe you will see a reason that prompts you to enter this fascinating world.

I have a desire to write and blogging satisfies that need. My favorite courses in high school and college were those involving creative writing. It took me nearly seven years but I finished and self-published an Arizona travel book for family and friends. For awhile last year I took part in a writing group that met twice a month. I didn't stick with the group, but it re-lit my passion to write. All I lacked was a direction and an outlet I would enjoy. I found it in blogging.

Blogging can occur on a flexible schedule. Blogging can take a lot of time. Like any new hobby or pursuit there is a learning period that gobbles up the hours. Writing doesn't flow from my keyboard. Sometimes it is a real struggle to fill a page with something I am willing to put in front of others. 

But, I decide when I want to sit down and churn out an article. Some days I tackle writing first thing in the morning. Some times I'll be ready to write after after dinner. 

It encourages interacting with other people. There are a lot of people blogging. Many are willing to share ideas or help newcomers avoid proven pitfalls. I have found virtually everyone I have come in contact on the Internet is friendly and anxious to develop a relationship with other bloggers. They may be virtual friends, but friends they are.

There is a rush when something I have written generates comments from readers. The feedback from this type of writing is virtually instantaneous. I can post something on this blog and often within an hour someone has left a comment. Something I have written has meant enough to someone else to take the time to leave their thoughts. That feels good.

Of course, the flip side also occurs. I have written some posts I thought were pretty good only to have virtually no reaction and very few readers That is frustrating and disappointing. But, I quickly remind myself that no one owes me anything. I am blogging because it satisfies a need in me. The poor response prompts me to take a critical look at the article and the subject matter to see what I can improve the next time.

There is the thrill of learning something new. Six months ago I had no idea what a blog was or how one was created. I didn't understand the language or the process. I had heard of Twitter but I thought it was for teenagers. I had no idea how powerful it can be to promote something like a blog. Successful bloggers have learned certain tricks of the trade that were totally alien to me.

Learning how to participate in this world and at least hold my own has been exciting. I need the constant stimulation of a new challenge. Learning how to build this blog has been the challenge I was seeking. I am learning something new almost every day which makes each day exciting and a joy.

Blogging can help others. Before starting I spent several weeks trying to decide what my blog's niche should be. Eventually it became clear that the only topic that I could really share anything of value was something to do with retirement. After almost a decade of figuring out what works and what to avoid, I thought I might have enough to offer others. 

There are literally thousands of blogs about retirement, and at least 80% of them deal with money and financial planning. I decided to pick an area that seemed undeserved: how to build a retirement lifestyle that is productive and satisfying. Feedback and comments seem to validate that choice. There is a real hunger for information and tips to make this phase of life a positive one. There seems to be an interest in hearing about my experiences in this journey. If what I pass along helps, the time and effort will be well worth it.

I don't know how long I will keep writing Satisfying Retirement. At some point maybe the thrill will be gone and I will move on to something else. But, at the moment that is the farthest thing from my mind. I am having a blast and have no intention of going anywhere.

If you are thinking maybe blogging would fill a need in you, by all means go for it. There is virtually no cost, except in time and taking an ego hit now and then. The blogging world remains wide open to someone with an itch to write and a story to share.

(Written 7 years ago, I am still blogging as of November, 2018. Views passed 3 million several months ago. The satisfaction remains)

November 17, 2011

It Only Takes A Few Minutes

The world is a scary and upsetting place. The amount of bad news overwhelms any stories that may cheer you up. One gets the feeling we are intent on destroying ourselves. Being in a non-stop political campaign doesn't help since the entire thrust is for one side to declare the other is working  to ruin our way of life and is evil personified.

Live long enough and you learn to take most of that with a very large grain of salt. Unless you are convinced there is a grand conspiracy at work, you begin to filter out the most extreme stuff. Frankly, if you intend to have a satisfying retirement (or a satisfying anything) you have to, or your ability to enjoy life will be at risk.

This year, I have taken a few simple steps to eliminate some of the negative clutter in my life. I have developed a filtering system to cut back on the stuff that drives me crazy. If you find yourself dwelling on the bad stuff too much, maybe some of this will work for you.

I have pruned back the list of blogs I read and follow. Too many of them spend too much time ranting about the unfairness of life, the dysfunctional political system, or the need to blame someone for their plight. Filling my in-box and my mind with that drivel every day obviously was going to affect my attitude. One blogger, in particular, has had a tough run of luck and circumstances the past several years. But, the lashing out at everyone and everything was getting to me. This person has more issues than a magazine. When I realized I feared seeing a new post in my blog reader,  it was time to stop reading. While what this person wrote about was often true, the vitriolic approach was not contributing to my day.

Other bloggers were a bit less angry, but nevertheless were not leaving me in a good frame of mind. I know things are screwed up and I am every bit as upset as anyone. But, pouring that anger into my head from all sorts of sources wasn't helping. So, I cut out the blogs that hurt rather than helped me.

Regular readers know I canceled cable TV last spring. I wasn't watching enough to justify the cost and the quality of a lot of the programming was dreadful, insulting, and sometimes disgusting. Reality TV shows are often designed to provoke the worst in both the performers and viewers. The news channels have staked out a part of the political turf and allowed no other viewpoint to grow. Prime time TV is either about sex, violence, or sex. By walking away  my life was instantly improved. Not only did I gain a few hours a night that was wasted, but my attitude improved. "Must-see TV" became a "Must-not for me."

I have found I am spending more time with people who enrich my life and less time with those who don't. These folks add warm, love, spiritual support, and encouragement when I am with them. They avoid spending time on negative or divisive issues. Even though several of my friends and I are on very different ends of the political spectrum, we care enough about our time together that we don't allow those differences to become a wedge between us. Plus, we agree about so much more than a political issue or a social concern it would be a shame to let the disagreements sour the entire relationship. We choose to be positive with each other.

Lastly, though actually this is most important, I have made a personal promise to myself to be a better companion to my wife. After 35 years we know each other well. But, I am not the most demonstrative person when it involves " romance" stuff. Even though I know my wife craves it, I am stingy with the things that she desires. Being not much brighter than a box of rocks, I have realized that such an attitude bring down two people - her and me. And, that is just stupid. The environment around the house is so much more pleasant if I simply make the effort to give her what she needs. I do draw the line at dancing, but everything else is open for modification. Since I have taken this new tack, the Lowry household is sooo much more enjoyable.

We can't control many things in our life. Coming down with a serious disease is usually nothing we can prevent. Often our employment is in someone else's hands. Having a roof torn off in a big storm is going to happen no matter how much you wish it didn't.

But, you can control some of the things that affect your happiness. To not deal with the things you can to improve your life is, well, just silly. It took me good chunks of this year to figure out the negative triggers in my life that I wanted gone. Then, it took a matter of minutes to come up with a solution. Do you want a more satisfying life? What are you waiting for? The clock is ticking.

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November 15, 2011

My 2012 budget...The First Draft

With Thanksgiving a week away and the end of the year just five weeks after that (Where oh where did 2011 go?) it is time to start looking at next year's budget to keep my satisfying retirement on track. There is enough information on what I've spent so far this year to project what categories will need to be adjusted.

In July I wrote about the categories that are in my personal budget in the post Jumping off the Financial Cliff Without a Net.  I'll use the same ones to see how things went this past year and what changes I should make.

  • Mortgage payments: I own my home so no payments No change
  • Real Estate Taxes:  should be somewhat lower next year due to decreased valuation of the home in 2010 (always lags by 2 years)  Reduce by 5%
  • Home Owners Insurance:  very stable over the last few years. No change.
  • Utilities: electric, gas, water, sewer/trash pickup  will go up.  Increase 10%
  • Home maintenance and repairs:  under budget this year, but house is one year older. Will hold with no change


  • Food and household supplies: under budget this year due to smarter shopping and coupon use, Expect food prices to continue to rise. Increase 10%
  • Internet and cable TV: doubt cable company will raise rates again. Too much pressure from other choices. No change
  • Cell phones: expect wife to get a smart phone. Will increase costs by $35 a month. Increase 25%
  • Decorations & furnishings: under budget this year. Don't need much in way of new furnishing or planting. No change.
  • Yard service:  No change

  • Clothing purchases: slightly under budget for year. Don't need much beyond basics. No change
  • Dry Cleaning/Laundry:  budget for entire year is $90 and only spent a little more than half that. Reduce by 30%
  • Entertainment: under budget for this year but purchased theater tickets for 2012. No change
  • Dining Out:  will be right on budget. No change
  • Auto gas, repairs, insurance, registration: bad year for cars - 36% over budget. Gas will go up. Increase 20%
  • Health insurance premiums, uncovered expenses, co-pays:   15% over budget this year even though I planned for an 18% increase in premiums. Increase 30%
  • Health supplies over-the-counter vitamins & medicines: slightly under budget. No change
  • Eyeglasses: neither of us are scheduled for new glasses next year. No change
  • Haircuts & beauty salon:  a bit under budget because I went five weeks between haircuts instead of four. No change

  • Gifts: under budget since decided to not exchange presents between adults at Christmas. Still over budget slightly due to unexpected wedding and baby showers. Reduce by 25%
  • Computer purchase, repair, software: way over budget due to replacing crashed computer, new printer, and a few external hard drives. I will need a new computer next year. Increase 20%
  • Subscriptions, postage stamps: under budget due to canceled subscriptions. Reduce by 15%
  • Charity:  on budget. No change
  • Vacations:  big trip to Hawaii and several day trips. Next year no biggie. Reduce by 50%.
  • Life insurance: will continue to buy policy on my life until I'm 65. No change.

Not surprisingly, next year I will be faced with increases in the categories you might expect: utilities, food, gasoline and car maintenance, health insurance, computers, and cell phones. Meaningful decreases can be taken in vacations and gifts.

The bottom line looks like a total monthly budget that should be about 5% more than this year. Both my wife and I will get our new health insurance premium information in a few weeks and that could cause a major pruning of other categories if my guess at the size of the increases is off by a lot.

How about your situation? An accurate budget is the only way to help you achieve a satisfying retirement. There is no other way to stay on top of your expenses and be sure your financial plan is working well. It is time to take a look at how you have done in 2011 and begin to think about next year. I welcome your comments and suggestions.

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