January 27, 2011

Live Simply in Retirement - Links Galore

A month or so ago I added a new feature to Satisfying Retirement that contains links to other blogs related to subjects that concern us all. In an experiment, for the next few months link posts will be at the end of the month only instead of twice a month. The links will continue to deal with health or health care, relationships, finances and financial planning, creativity and leisure, travel, simple living, and retirement transitioning.


This time are more links and ideas for your to simplify your life and your retirement. It is a subject I would think most of us have some interest in. I don't know many folks who ask that their life be made more complicated. The subject is about more than just decluttering or saving money. It also includes the theme of a few of my recent posts about spending more time doing what enriches you and less doing things that just fill your time. A few of these articles or sites haven't been updated in quite a while. But, the information is still very valid. So, click away and enjoy.

Live a Healthier Life with Tai Chi

Frugal for life: 25 ways I save money 

How I Live My Simple Life

Becoming a Minimalist

Living The Simple Life

Downshift To Simplify Your Life

Simplfy Your Financial Life

65 Ways to Simplify Your Life

42 Ways to Radically Simplify Your Financial Life

100 Ways to Simplify Your Life and Make You Happier

Retirement Savings vs. Debt Payoff

If you found any of these links particularly helpful, please leave me a comment. If you have a favorite I have yet to visit, I'd like to know about it. 

January 26, 2011

Creativity - Photo Magic

In the final post in this series on creativity I'm going to do something I have been waiting almost two months to do: show off some of my wife's abstract art photographs. She had a display at our church last weekend and asked that I not use anything of hers until that was finished.

I am using her photos not just to promote her work, though that is a side benefit. What she has done with creativity fits with the theme of this series: look around you, see something common, and think of a way to make it different.

Betty took several pictures of water falling from our two backyard fountains. She used a simple point and shoot camera, on automatic setting. The original photos were taken at different times of the day to get different light hitting the water. She did use the closeup setting to keep things in focus. So far, nothing different from what anyone does.

Then came the creativity. She took several of the pictures she was most happy with and uploaded them into Corel Photo Shop. For those familiar with digital editing programs, this is one of the more versatile programs which works quite well on a standard home computer with an off-the-shelf printer. She began to warp and re-shape the pictures. She altered the colors and saturations. She adjusted contrasts, brightness, sharpness, and focus. By the time she was done, the photo of water falling from a fountain had become something completely different. She had taken an everyday picture and made it into an expression of her creativity.

Here are some samples (including the one at the top of this post):

I'll admit I am biased, but I am just fascinated by the ability to do what she has done with these photos. One of my goals for 2011 is to help her market her photos. What do you think? Is she on to something that people would want?

Creativity is really about the doing, not the end result, though in Betty's case I'm quite impressed with the end product! Not all of us have her eye. But, that shouldn't matter. Even if something you write, or photograph, or paint, or sculpt out of peanut butter is never seen by another human being, that is not important. The simple act of creating enriches you, broadens you, and gives you pleasure.

Where to get ideas? Go to a museum you have never visited. Maybe you are convinced you wouldn't like it, and you may be right. But, if you approach it with the desire to take something you see and twist it, or change it, or see it in a different way, your visit might be an unqualified success. I go to the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art (SMOCA) occasionally. I am not a fan of most of contemporary art. But, each visit does inspire. It may be a new sensitivity to light and shadow. It might be deciding a certain wooden bowl has a shape I like. I'm still not a fan of the actual art. But, I am an admirer of uniqueness.

How long has it been since you have visited a craft store. I'm not a crafty person, but I really enjoy walking up and down the aisles. I am impressed by the display of ways other people can turn bits and pieces of stuff into something pretty or useful. I am stimulated by all the colors and shapes and textures. I can go home from such a trip and see something completely unrelated to the material  at the store in a new way and think of how to re-purpose it.

The power of curiosity and creativity to enrich your life is real. Until retirement my idea of creativity was pretty much limited to how to increase my frequent flier miles. Over the last five or six years I have found a reservoir of creative ideas and output I had no idea I possessed. There was no magic. I just allowed myself to explore and fail and explore again. You have the same ability. Actor Alan Alda said it well: You have to leave the city of your comfort and go into the wilderness of your intuition. What you’ll discover will be wonderful.  What you’ll discover is yourself.”  Amen. Your satisfying creative retirement awaits. 

Related Posts

The first Facebook book giveaway is now underway. As I promised in an earlier post, as I learn more about FB I am giving away copies of the book I am using to help you start your own Facebook page or develop what you already have.

Just drop me an e-mail with Free Book in the subject line to enter.

January 19, 2011

Facebook and Twitter: Enough Already?

Are you getting a little tired of reading about Facebook? For goodness sakes, Hollywood has already made a movie about it. People are crawling all over each other to invest in it. The estimate of Facebook's value is $35 Billion. What about Twitter? Express yourself in 140 characters? (That's about 70% less than this post so far). 200 million users and a value of $4 Billion say, yes. You can't be on the Internet, reading a newspaper or a magazine, watching television, or talking with a younger person without being exposed to the whole concept of social media.

2009 was the year that social media began to really grab us by the mouse. Of those who use the Internet nearly 47% of all respondents to a recent survey actively maintain a profile on the social web. Just one year earlier only 15% had such a presence. Mirroring the results of a study I quoted last month our age group is most fond of Facebook. 73% of active computer users in that study claim to maintain a Facebook profile. Another sign of the importance of social media? Here's a real stunner: people 74 and older represent the fastest growing demographic on these sites.

What's the Attraction?
Why are Facebook and Twitter or photo sites like Flickr becoming so important in our lives? The primary reason seems to be the ability to extend our socializing. As we get older maintaining connections becomes both increasingly difficult and important. Friends move away, or we do. Adult children live in distant cities. We lose track of college friends. We can't see the grandchildren as often as we'd like. We want to make new friends. We want our voice to be heard.

Other reasons given include learning something new or to promote a new business venture or a blog. I know some folks who have a Facebook page so they have something in common to talk about and share with a grandchild during visits.

On the other hand, many of us are hesitant to enter this world due to very legitimate concerns about privacy. If you are not careful it is quite possible to allow the entire world to see something you wanted to keep between you and your best friend. It can become addictive. It is easy to spend hours a day looking at the constant flow of new information and photos that end up on your Facebook page or Twitter account. Some people collect Facebook "friends" the way others collect quilts or recipes. The number of people listed becomes a status symbol, not real communication.

My Attitude is Changing
My position on the place of social media in my life is changing rather rapidly. I didn't see any value to me. I avoided the entire scene until June of last year when I started this blog. Suddenly a Twitter account became a crucial way for me to promote my existence. I added a second account in November. Now I am tweeting with abandon. It was quickly obvious, however, that Twitter is virtually useless for real communication with people. While it started out as a way for people to exchange very short messages with friends and family, those days are over. Today it is almost exclusively a promotional and marketing tool for individuals and businesses.

I admit I have a Facebook account but have done absolutely nothing with it. Frankly, I haven't had the time to become comfortable with how it operates. And, with my daughters and grandkids living in town posting photos and staying in touch is much easier than using Facebook: we get in the car and drive 30 minutes or they drop by our house for a visit and dinner.

Even so the research I read and the requests to become a "friend" on Facebook are changing my attitude. I am beginning to see it as something I should know more about. I can't really call myself a complete blogger for those seeking to build a satisfying retirement if I avoid one of the major tools many of my readers use.

If you read my New Year's post about goals for this year, you are aware I have promised to have an e-book ready by the first of March. That is less than a month and a half from now. Add to that the posting schedule of fresh articles three times a week, working on a site to help sell my wife's artistic photos, a full plate of volunteer activities, and a part time job that can take 10-15 hours a week and I'd be insane to decide to learn Facebook now.

My Plan
I'm insane. I am going to learn about Facebook and start to make my page  something worthy of a visit. Maybe it will be a place where you and I become "friends" and exchange photos, information, and stories. Maybe it will be a place where I make contact with old friends I have lost touch with over the years.

I'm not setting a goal based on a date. But, I am putting Facebook Building into my calendar and to-do list. So, slowly over the next several weeks if you are a Facebook user (and a lot of you are) you should see something begin to blossom. It might be interesting if I report on my progress, the problems I encounter and the things I am learning. If you decide to become a Facebook user maybe my experiences will help you save time and aggravation.

Book Giveaways
As another incentive to check on my progress, I have purchased a few books to help me become Facebook literate. As I move forward in this project I will be giving away copies of these books (new ones, not the ones I've used!). Read about my progress on this blog. When I indicate I am giving away a book or two, respond to the e-mail request. I'll randomly pick one or two and send you the book, free and with no further obligation. This may spur you to enter the exploding world of social media, or help you make the most of what you have already done.

If you are already comfortable with Facebook, I ask a favor: leave a comment here about some things I should be aware of and things I should do and not do. Or, send me an e-mail if your hints and tips are a bit too long for this site. Finally, watch for my Facebook page, become a friend, and help me develop a page I can be proud to point to.

Related Posts

January 17, 2011

Curiosity and Creativity: Part 2

Last Monday I wrote about the role of curiosity and creativity in helping you develop a satisfying retirement. As I noted, creativity is a word that sometimes scares people. Many of us have this self-limiting view of the subject and believe we aren't gifted in that way. But, that simply isn't true. We use creativity everyday in virtually every aspect of our life, but often simply don't think of it as creativity.

Can your native creativity and curiosity be developed and strengthened? Absolutely. In this post, I want to detail some specific steps you can take to help you free your creativity and begin to find new inspiration.

Creativity Steps You Can Take

We all have had the experience when a great idea has flashed through our mind. It could be a solution for a problem at home or work, a way to make something work better or an idea to save money on a home project. It could be something quite complex or quite simple. The problem is that creative thought comes to us, and usually goes just as quickly. Because our mind is never still, an idea is easily lost.

The solution is just as simple: capture the idea right away. I've mentioned an idea journal before. This is a notebook of some sort where you write down every random idea or flash of insight you have. It can also include a clipping from a magazine, a screen shot of a particular idea from a web page, or a quotation that inspires you.

A small digital recorder is very helpful when you are away from a computer or a pad of paper. See something, hear something, or experience something that intrigues you and make a brief comment into the recorder. Later, transcribe the thought into the idea journal.

If you are stimulated visually, photos, clippings of pictures, videos, scenes in a movie, or even a rough sketch can become the foundation for a creative event. Look at the sketch books of Leonardo Da Vinci if you doubt the creative power of pencil and paper.

Develop a list of what you have tried before to solve a problem or to expand your creative output. After each entry note what you liked about each attempt and what where the pitfalls. Make another list of all the things you have thought about trying and re-read it on a regular basis. I begin playing guitar this way. After deciding I missed making music, I finally was prompted to buy a new guitar after reading that entry in my creativity journal month after month for almost a year. Suddenly something clicked and the time felt right.

At this point in the process do not self-edit. The idea may turn out to be impractical. Then again, it may be the perfect solution for a problem you haven't thought about yet. The idea may sit unused for weeks, months, or even years until there an application becomes apparent.

In addition to these more general approaches let me offer a specific strategy based on one aspect of your life.  The next post in the series will continue with two or three additional areas that you may find helpful in your quest to expand your creativity.

Interacting with Other people

One of the most important sources of creative thoughts can come from others. I am sure you know people who have interests and experiences different from yours. Your job is to talk with those people about what they do and you don't. Take someone out for coffee. Take a walk together in a park. Pack a picnic lunch and talk over a sandwich and chips. In a relaxed setting like these you can get almost anyone to talk about what interests them and why.

You may not be interested in what they are so passionate about. But, your mind might suddenly make a connection between something said and a need you have. Importantly, after talking and listening go find a quiet place. Be alone with your mind. Think about what you heard or felt. Decide if anything you heard is useful to you in any way.

If so, write thoughts into your idea journal. Let them percolate. Do not categorize what you hear. Force your mind to think of extensions of what is talked about. What is the relationship between what that person said and something else you may use? Can you think of a way to do something they have described better, faster, or differently?

Here is a exercise for you to try: look at something in your home, at a store, or even at a friend's home. Now, think of three different things you could do with it, or springboard a new thought from it. You don't actually have to do any of the three ideas. The point is to stimulate the part of your brain that looks for connections and extensions. In the Aha book the author gives this example: a friend saw an illustration on a toy box. Instead of just thinking it was a pretty drawing, he was inspired to create a series of books for children based on the character on the box.  

Ready for another? Think of one thing you have read or done today. Relate it to something else in your life. 90% of the ideas for the satisfying retirement blog happen this way. I'll read an article or see a story in the paper that triggers an idea. I'll be looking at family photos or a movie and suddenly be literally assaulted by one or two blog ideas. I don't actively expect this to happen, it just does.

Watch children whenever possible, either your own or grandkids or even children at a mall or in a park. See how they take something common and use it in a dozen uncommon ways. Just because the toy blocks are designed by an adult to be put in order to spell a word doesn't mean they can't be stacked on top of each other to make a tower. Why can't they be used as supports for a piece of railroad track for the Thomas the Train set? As adults we have a basis of knowledge about how to use or do something. Kids don't. Follow their lead.

Embrace ambiguity. Great ideas come when you aren't sure about something. Suspend judgment, be open-ended in what you allow yourself to imagine. Listen to complaints. They are often a tremendous source of opportunities to solve a problem or develop something new. Don't be sure of the answer all the time. Pretend you have to solve a problem differently from the way you usually do.

 I'll stop here before this post becomes too long . I hope you can see the unlimited opportunity in growing your creative muscles when interacting with others. Instead of listing of few of my earlier Related Posts, I want to give you a list of some of the books I consulted to develop these posts. I have read each several times and find they are invaluable to me when I start to get into a rut.

Aha                    by Jordan Ayan
The Artist's Way   by Julia Cameron and Mark Bryan
The Creative Age  by Gene Cohen
Creating Minds     by Howard Gardner

The third in this series will outline two more areas in which creativity can be developed and nurtured. Look for Part 3 on Wednesday, January 26th.

Your turn to be creative: What ideas does this post give you to expand your creative universe? What roadblocks to creativity do you face? What hints can you give me to help me in my journey down the creative highway?

January 14, 2011

Travel and Vacation Links: Plan Your Getaway

We are one month into what has been a rough winter for many. Spring still seems a lifetime away. Even here in the desert southwest we've had a wet and cold season that can't end soon enough for me. So, this link post concentrates on great sites to help you plan a trip or vacation. Just thinking about a getaway can make the winter blahs more bearable.

Here are links to sites designed to ignite your travel bug, to get you ready to plan and pack, and hit the road, airport, boat dock, or hiking trail. I have avoided listing the common, big names like Expedia or Priceline. Instead these are sites you may be less familiar with.  Either I have personal experience with the site or it looked interesting enough to list.

I have not included any site that requires you to register or leave an e-mail address. Also, not on the list are sites overwhelmed with pop up ads and other distractions. Fodor's has more ads than any other site, but the information is worth the minor inconveniences of closing the pop ups, so I made an exception.

http://www.tripadvisor.com/   The best part of this site is the section of reviews written by travelers. There are links for booking all parts of your travel and a tab for ideas on where to go, but the feedback from people is the reason I have used this site several times. I have found the reviews accurate and very helpful.

http://www.bootsnall.com/ A full-featured site with a focus on independent travel. If you prefer to not travel as part of a group, check this one out.

http://www.planetware.com/ This site specializes in foreign travel information. While the U.S. and Canada are included, I'd come here if South America, Asia, or Europe interested me. There is a great collection of photos and detailed walking and hiking information.

http://www.fodors.com/ My biggest complaint is with the number of pop up advertisements. At times it becomes a real challenge to navigate from page to page. If you can stand the interruptions, Fodor's is the gold standard of travel and lodging information.

http://www.roadtripamerica.com/ This one really caught my eye. It features routes, planning, and ideas for a road trip anywhere in North America. There are interactive maps and enough information to keep you motoring for weeks.

Roadtrippers. Probably the best place to visit if you are hankering for a road trip. Everything is designed for those who want to get behind the wheel and go. The travel guides are tremendous.

Iglu cruises - Family cruises A site that offers information on cruises anywhere in the world. This would be a great place to start if you are ready to experience the joys of cruising from family friendly operators.

Itineree  Plan everything at one site. Type in where you want to go, then choose from travel arrangements and things to do.

Trip Hobo Want to have a suggested itinerary for your vacation? This is the place. These folks will build a vacation around your preferences and likes.

First Choice Based in the U.K., First Choice offers a full range of vacation and travel options and accommodations, based on budget and your interests. 

January 5, 2011

5 Important Stories for Retirees

Time for one last look back at last year. CBS Moneywatch.com posted a story last week that caught my eye. It was a list of the top 5 news stories from 2010 that had to do with retirement. I thought you would find their selection interesting. I have added some comments and thoughts of my own. You may disagree with some of what I have to say. In that case, I certainly hope you will comment at the end of this article to add your voice to a debate that is crucial to us all.

The Passage of Health Care Reform topped their list of the stories that could have the biggest impact on retirees going forward. The potential positives and negatives have been debated to death so I'm not going there. The change to a Republican-controlled house could very well make a lot of what happened last year moot. If money for various parts of the law isn't provided, not much will happen. If various state efforts to not participate are allowed to proceed the law will not be able to function. If some court rulings stand the central part of the law will be eliminated making the rest of it not affordable. The fate of 30 million uninsured citizens, the size of our federal deficit, and the affordability of insurance through private insurers are all directly affected.

So, what do we do while we wait?  Take more responsibility for your own health maintenance. Eat better, exercise more, understand the cost-savings of preventive care, buy generic drugs when possible, and question the need for tests and procedures that seem designed to simply protect doctors or rack up extra charges. In the highly unlikely event that the Health Care Bill ends up exactly as passed costs and personal responsibility will shift. Get used to it.

The Release of the Deficit Commission Report. Not surprisingly, the suggestions included in this report brought forth howls of protest from those supporting programs suggested for cutbacks. While everyone demands deficits be cut, absolutely no one wants anything that affects them to be part of the cuts. Obviously, such a selfish stance cannot work. It is impossible to spend more than we make as a country, yet continue to ask government to pay for things we think are our right.

There will be cuts in Social Security and the retirement age will go up (not in our lifetime), Medicare's waste will be attacked (a bit), and the Pentagon will no longer have access to unlimited funds. Why? Because we will have no choice, unless it is the loss the the country's entire middle class, hyper-inflation, and the purchase of most of our assets by foreigners. But, it is going to make the yelling and partisanship of the last  few years seem mild in comparison. The real losers will be the poorest, sickest, and most vulnerable of our citizens. They are most likely to suffer the most severe cutbacks.

Higher Retirement ages in France and Greece trigger protests . This was an interesting choice for the third most important retirement story of the year, but the author is probably correct. The riots in France over the increase in retirement age from 60 to 62 and protests in Greece over a similar change from 61 to 63 were hardly unnoticed by the rest of the world. Most Americans, with the choice to retire as early as 62 or receive full benefits at 65 or 66 probably have a hard time sympathizing. Meanwhile Bolivia, decided to turn common sense upside down and reduced the full retirement age to 58.

These events are the outcome of debt-ridden governments trying to rein in entitlement spending, and keep pension systems from going broke (I have no idea what Bolivia was thinking !). The debt commission's suggestion that U.S. full retirement increase over the next 50 years or so seems extremely cautious by comparison, but does reflect the reality of people living longer and the system being broke.

As an interesting aside CBS reports on the results of a study that correlated early retirement with mental dysfunction. According to the study, countries with the lowest retirement ages, like France, Italy, and Spain scored lowest in cognition tests among their older citizens. What's the connection? I'd suggest this may show that keeping active and engaged in your later years is one of the best ways to reduce the odds of getting dementia or Alzheimer’s.

Generating Adequate Income from Retirement Savings.  With CD rates hovering around 1%, Money Market Accounts paying much less, and Social Security having no monthly increase for the second year in a row, it is easy to see why this has become one of the top stories for retirees this past year. Trying to make ends meet when energy, food, and health costs are rapidly rising just as rates on fixed investments plummet is increasingly difficult. Stocks remain volatile. Experts warn against municipal bonds as cities and states face huge deficits.

There is no simple answer. The quick return of higher interest rates doesn't seem to be in the cards. Cutting expenses can only help so much. At some point the only things left to cut are essentials.  For those on a fixed income that was adequate before, the next few years do not look very encouraging. The hard truth is you’re on your own when it comes to figuring out the best approach for you.

MetLife Halts Sale of New Long-Term Care Insurance. This is a story I read but its importance didn't register. CBS Marketwatch.com is correct in drawing attention to an important issue. Even with adequate health insurance through Medicare and a supplemental policy, the average 55 year old will still spend almost $200,000 on out of pocket medical expenses during the rest of his life. Nursing care expenses average close to $5,000 a month, and Medicare doesn't pay for long term care.

For years we have been advised to consider buying longterm care insurance to help with these overwhelming costs. Now, the 4th largest provider of these policies has stopped selling them. It is a safe bet that other companies will follow. For those still willing to insure someone the premiums and exclusions will certainly increase.

There isn't really a a positive story among these five. Even the potential benefits of health care reform come with added costs and large does of uncertainty. So, what is the underlying lesson? The age of individual responsibility is on us. The time when we could count on the government or social institutions to solve all the problems that come with aging is rapidly drawing to a close.

Another answer? Maybe we will see a resurgence of family taking care of family. Maybe the multi-generational household will become the norm. Maybe that is not such a bad thing.

Your thoughts? Would these stories been in your top 5? Do you have a different thought on any of them? Let me know and we'll talk about it.

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January 1, 2011

A Thank You Letter to 2010

I've heard of bloggers who write a letter to the year just ended. I like the idea. It seems an interesting way to take a brief look back and consider what the last 365 days have been like. Also, I like the feeling of clearing the decks for what is to come.

Dear 2010,

You will be a year I would't soon forget. There has been some heartache and incredible joy. There has been the finding of a new passion. There has been an apparent slow ending to the economic nightmare of the last few years. You have kept me energized. You have allowed me to stay healthy. You are set to kick me, full throttle, into 2011.

This was the year my Mom died and my Dad started a new life, alone, for the first time in 63 years. The slow decline and the final month of her life were tough to watch. But, with the incredible blessing of the folks from Hospice of the Valley, the medical people at various Banner hospitals around town, the loving care of the nursing care facility at Friendship Village, and my faith in God, I am moving forward. The holidays will always be marked by her passing just a few weeks before Christmas. But, her life was full and loving. We celebrate her life, not her passing this year. Thank you, 2010,  for the memories.

Grandchild #3 became reality in late June. Kassidy, with grins and giggles, has made our growing and loving family sparkle with her personality and joy. Her brother, Josh, and sister, Kaylee, are quite possibly the brightest, cutest children on the plant at this moment. Your timing, 2010, was perfect.

This blog was born on June 23rd. I haven't looked back since. I have absolutely no idea where it is going to go and what it may become, but starting it made the second half of 2010 a real kick. I appreciate it.

The financial ship of state is slowly righting itself. Our nest egg is almost back to its original size. Of course, I lost 2 years of appreciation. But, we'll be fine and it certainly could have been much, much worse (as it was for far too many). So, 2010, thanks for allowing my family, our country, and most of the rest of the world to survive the mess that just about wrecked us all.

All things considered, you have been a very good year. Thank you 2010. Please ask your brand new new little brother, 2011, to be just as nice.

Your friend,


Have a great rest of the New Year's weekend. The first post of 2011 is about Retirement and Sex.  That should get your attention. Look for it Monday morning.