July 30, 2011

So What Does it Mean to You?

A week or so ago I posted the highlights of a national study completed for the Sunamerica financial people. Whether the percentages mirror the population as I whole I'll leave to statisticians. But, because it was an update of a similar study done 10 years ago I found the changes in attitude important to consider. If you missed the original post, click here to read it.

What I am doing hereis looking at a handful of the findings to see what conclusions I can draw. You may disagree or have additional thoughts. I trust you will use the "comment" space at the end to add your views.

Today, 54% view retirement as a new chapter in life, rather than a winding down—a significant increase over the 38% that held a similar view a decade ago. This doesn't surprise me in the least. In the 13 months Satisfying Retirement has been around, I have not had one single indication from any source that retirement means a rocking chair, 18 holes of golf, and a life of complete leisure.

Exactly the opposite has been true. Now retirement is a word that describes a completely different phase of someone's life. It is a time of exploration, of discovery, or growth. It no longer means the end of work. Rather it means having the freedom to choose to work full time, part time, cycling in and out of employment, or even starting one's own business. In fact, I get the very real sense that retirement has the potential for being one of the fullest and most gratifying periods of life.   

Retirement is being postponed: Pre-retirees say they now intend to delay retirement by five years—from age 64 to age 69—triggered in part by increasing longevity, as well as the recession and financial need. Again, I would concur though I would add an additional reason: lots of folks enjoy what they do and see no reason to stop. If someone is good at what he or she does, do they suddenly stop being competent at a set age? Of course not. If retirement equals a time of increased choices and freedom, then one of those choices is to decide retirement begins when you say it begins.

•Retirement no longer means the end of work: Almost two-thirds say they would ideally like to remain productive and include work in retirement. As already noted, working during retirement is an increasingly common occurrence. Financial reasons may be an important motivator. But staying vital, relevant. and productive, or fostering a sense of contribution are legitimate reasons, too. Because what you do is fun may be your motivation. Maybe you've always wanted to open a book store, coffee shop, or fabric store. Do it now. The Sunamerica study found The top reason people want to work during retirement is “the stimulation and satisfaction” rather than the money.

•85% say they now appreciate the importance of quality relationships with their friends and family even more after the recession. Maybe it is a function of maturity. Maybe it is a growing sense of one's own mortality. Maybe it is understanding that you aren't taking anything tangible with you when you die. Whatever the reason, the understanding is that family, friends, and solid relationships support you during good times and bad. When your financial boat has sprung a bunch of leaks, it is relief to know there are people who have your back. There are folks who will love you and help you and even care for you regardless of the state of your 401(k).

•Three-quarters say the last several years have provided a much-needed financial wake-up call, and 81% report they have learned important lessons regarding saving, investing and preparing for retirement. I hope that is true. Too many times in the past we have seen a crisis, like a huge gas price increase, or an economic downturn, prompt similar pronouncements of a new awakening to financial reality. Then, when things start to get better sales of giant SUVs jump, folks "trade up" to bigger homes, and savings rates approach zero.

In this case the proof will be in our actions when things improve and stay that way. 78% say they can still have a fulfilling retirement by being more financially disciplined. That is an encouraging number, but will it hold?

I am well aware there are many retirees who have been severely hurt by the economic downturn. I know there are millions of folks who find themselves upside down in their mortgage situation through a combination of mistakes, both theirs and by banks or lenders. Like you I read about foreclosures, social welfare safety net cutbacks, and people desperate to hold it together. The optimistic numbers in this study are not meant to suggest everything is swell. That is clearly not the case. Some of our fellow citizens are really hurting and need our help and support.

I think the message from this study is that for the many retirees there is an attitude of hope, of adjustment, and of a sense of renewal that bodes well for all of us. Personally, I am very glad my retirement is not that of previous generations. I'm too young for the rocking chair on the porch just yet.

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July 27, 2011

Until It is Gone....and Then Returns

In mid-March I wrote about the unexpected loss of a friendship. A couple, who my wife and I counted among our very best friends, suddenly pulled away from all contact with us and everyone else they knew. That post, Until it is Gone, generated as many passionate comments as any on this blog to date. It showcased the importance of relationships to a satisfying retirement.

The gain or loss of friendships can affect us deeply. Many of the comments left on that post talked about how friendships seem to fade away over time, leaving a gaping hole. Many times we don't even know the real reason why someone disappears from our life. At least in our situation we knew why the couple pulled away. Since it had nothing to do with us we hoped that when the particular storm had passed from their life we might re-establish a relationship, albeit somewhat different than before.

About two months ago we began to receive a trickle of contact from them: an e-mail here or there, a request for information, a forwarded video clip from someone else. We followed up with responses that were pleasant, but put no pressure on them to take any additional steps. If time heals most wounds we wanted to give them all the space they needed. Then, a few weeks later we received a direct invitation to join them at an event that they thought would interest us. Betty and I attended, again being careful to not make more out of that contact than was implied.

From that point on, the friendship rapidly reformed. Meals together and church functions we shared both as couples and as men and women begin to appear on our calendar. The original problem that caused the separation will always leave deep scars. But, the couple realized that pulling away from people who love them at exactly the time when that support is needed the most was not allowing them to move on.

I am happy to report that the friendship has been restored in all its former glory. The four of us have undergone some major adjustments in our lives but understand we are better together than apart. What lessons can I draw from this experience?

Authentic Friendship is worth fighting for. I don't know if it is as a result of social media or the fact that many of us stay home and use the TV or streaming movies as our entertainment option. But leaving the house to meet others and build friendship bonds seems to be happening less and less. As we age, friendships naturally fade away: people move, get sick, die, change interests, get divorced...the list is endless. It is harder to meet new folks and harder still to develop a deep connection. If there is an important friendship in your life, do everything you can to feed it and strengthen it.

Patience is required. We are an instant gratification society. When we want something we want it now. Reality check: what we want sometimes doesn't happen. The situation i have just described would have been either permanently damaged or set back for a time if I had pushed the other couple. I had to wait until they were ready and took the first tentative steps. Even then, I found it best to discuss what had caused them to separate from everyone only when they brought it up. Over time the issues have been exposed and now both couples are moving forward. Even better, that couple is initiating contact with others who were shut out so their social circle is reestablishing itself.

Being judgmental would have destroyed everything. There is no way I can judge whether our friends should have handled the situation differently because I am not them. My initial reaction was they handled it wrong. But, I think that was my hurt talking. Within just a few days of the breakup I was better able to process what had happened.

Betty and I talked quite a bit about the situation and how we should proceed. We both concluded that we may have responded in exactly the same way if we had been the ones experiencing what they had gone through. My initial judgment was selfish and incorrect. If I had expressed my flawed interpretations the friendship might have suffered fatal damage.

It feels so good to have this couple back in our life, actually stronger than before. It reminds us that friendship and human relationships are so much more important than debt ceilings, or politics, or ......just about anything. Our Satisfying Retirement depends on it.

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July 24, 2011

This Can't be The Answer

Last week ABC TV News had a series on the changing face of retirement. One of the stories talked about a "growing trend" of retired couples living apart from each other for parts of the year. Entitled, "One Couple, Two Retirements," I think the story raises a few important points.

As you can tell from this post title, this "trend" doesn't strike me as a healthy way to resolve relationship issues and build a satisfying retirement.  I'll begin by raising a question about the characterization of this activity as a growing trend. That seems wildly overstated. For some people this may be an answer to deeper issues. But, to infer this is a likely decision for many retirees strikes me as hype. Consider for a moment the cost of  a split lifestyle. How many retired folks do you know who can basically double their living expenses for whatever period of time they are living apart?

Some of the couples quoted in the story made it quite obvious they did not want to be around their husband (or wife) all day, everyday. One lady noted all her friends were sick of having hubby around 24/7. That statement is both sad and revealing. Clearly, these couples had already lived separate existences while sharing one house before retirement. The implication is the other person is an irritant, has little to contribute, messes up "my" schedule and system, and is fine only in small doses.

Let me be quite clear: separate time and separate activities are crucial to any marriage or serious relationship. I have written about that need before. If you missed it, check under Related Posts below. But, there is  big difference between me doing prison ministry work and blogging while why wife attends various women's groups at church, and one of us living in San Diego for part of the year.

One of the report's conclusions is this idea of living separately for part of the time is something women push more than men, perhaps reflecting the power they've gained in the past 40 years. As a man I won't pretend to analyze that conclusion, though I hope some comments from my female readers will address this statement. But, I will suggest that there is a real point of friction if a man retires with the intention of changing how a household is run, or decides he is free to sit in the recliner and watch TV half the day. If he does not have interests and activities that allow his partner time to pursue different interests, there will be problems.

Where to live after retirement is also a possible trigger for this living together/apart type of situation. Moving to a "dream" location really needs to be a decision both parties agree upon. If the man wants to experience a winter in Alaska and his wife has lived in Southern California her whole life, I will guess there will be problems if he insists she accompany him on this adventure. If he simply wants to "rough it" for a few months maybe he should try it while she stays at the family home. But, what would disturb me a great deal if he decides to move to Alaska and spends only a few months of the year together back in L.A.

My wife  and I have taken a few separate vacations over the past 35 years. I went to Hawaii alone for two weeks on two different occasions. Betty sent several weeks traveling through Wisconsin on her own. We both enjoyed those experiences and don't regret them at all. But, I'm pretty sure that we would both agree that we couldn't wait to come home and tell our partner all about it.

My conclusion is that a marriage in which two people look for reasons to be apart is not much of a marriage. If volunteering for two months in Honduras is important to one person then I am all for that happening. But, if that turns into one person traveling the world on various mission trips while the other half goes scuba diving in Fiji for 5 months a year, I would wonder about that couple's commitment to each other.

My attitude my strike you as old fashioned. You may argue that a strong relationship should be able to weather extended separations while each person does what feeds his or her passion. I sincerely hope you will leave your thoughts below.

If, like me, you find the idea of living apart from your spouse or significant other for long blocks of time as troublesome, I'd welcome your thoughts, too.

In case you didn't see the original report I have a link here that takes you to both a video and a web story of this "trend."

Note on August 2nd: I found this interesting story about a couple facing a situation where the soon-to-retire wife wants to join the Peace Corps and the husband does not. Read it here

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July 18, 2011

Retirement FAQs

On Web sites FAQs are Frequently Asked Questions. They are the inquires that occur often enough to be predictable. The questions are followed by short, to-the-point answers that sometimes actually answers the questions. Here are my versions of FAQs for retirement advice.

How much money do I need to retire? Enough to live comfortably and handle most emergencies. You will probably end up needing more than you think. If you live in Scottsdale, La Jolla, or West Palm Beach, a lot more. Don't believe all the "rules" about how much you have to save or how little you can withdraw each year and not risk running out of money. Life is a constant adjustment to situations. No one can predict what the future will be like or how you will want to live. Stay flexible.

Won't I become bored? Maybe. But, don't you become bored now? Boredom is easily solved. Find something interesting to occupy your mind and time. Retirement is all about trying on a new you. If you become bored it is because you aren't looking hard enough for alternatives.

How do I fill all that time? You will be amazed at how quickly all that time fills up. Your real problem will be finding enough time to do all you want to do. Learning to manage the only resource you have that can never be replaced is a skill that will, in large part, determine how satisfying your retirement becomes. What to do after retirement? Your choices are limited only by you.

My spouse doesn't want me around the house all day..what do I do? Go somewhere else for a while. Take long walks, go to the library, volunteer a few times a week. Do things around the house that make him or her want you around. Part of the time do what your spouse wants to do. Part of the time do what you want to do. The rest of the time do things together.

Can I spend all day in sweats? Sure. But, a word of advice...don't. There is no need to dress up as if you are still going to work. However, lounging around all day in a bathrobe or an old sweatshirt will affect your energy and desire to make something of the day. Develop a morning routine that includes dressing well enough to leave the house, even if you don't plan to. It really does make a difference.

Can I unretire? Absolutely. That is one of the best parts of retirement, there are no firm rules. In fact you can retire, unretire, and retire again as many times as you want. Maybe you'll find that financially you could use the extra income. Maybe you like interacting with different people each day and miss the stimulation of an office or factory floor. A part time job may be perfect for you. What if you've always wanted to have your own business or turn a hobby into income? No problem. Retirement is as much about attitude and freedom as it is about your state of employment.

What will happen to my health and health insurance? If I had the answer to that I wouldn't be writing FAQs.

Did I miss an FAQ you want answered?  Comment away!

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July 15, 2011

What Type of Retiree are You?

An important research study has been making the Internet rounds over the past several days. I found the information enlightening and insightful. In a rare break for this blog, instead of writing something myself, I am providing you with a direct copy of the study's key findings as today's post.

I encourage you to read the following and think about the possible implications to you and your satisfying retirement. I ask you to leave a comment at the end with your reaction and thoughts.

Americans have emerged from the economic recession with a new set of expectations around the purpose, timing and funding of their retirement. Not only is retirement being postponed, but it no longer means an end to working—retirement is now a new chapter in life. The SunAmerica Retirement Re-Set Study is a nationwide survey of Americans age 55 and older that takes an in-depth look at this new retirement mindset. Developed in collaboration with Age Wave and conducted by Harris Interactive, the study found a significant shift in attitudes and actions since 2001 when SunAmerica conducted its initial landmark retirement study, Re-Visioning Retirement.

The SunAmerica Retirement Re-Set Study is the first major study of its kind to specifically assess the impact of the recession on America’s mindset, family dynamics, lifestyle expectations and financial planning for retirement. The study reveals that while the recession had a financial and emotional impact, Americans are emerging from the tumult of the last few years empowered, and with a more pragmatic and disciplined approach to retirement and retirement preparation. Here is a summary of the key findings.

1: Retirement Mindset Re-Set

  • One-third of Americans age 55 and older say their financial assets have not yet recovered to pre-recession levels. Almost half (46%) say their home is worth less now than it was before the recession.
  • Americans are recovering from the “recession mind-bender.” The percentage of people who felt secure dropped dramatically during the recession but is now on the rebound. Similarly, people became more worried and angry during the recession but are now increasingly optimistic.
  • A new outlook: Today, 54% view retirement as a new chapter in life, rather than a winding down—a significant increase over the 38% that held a similar view a decade ago.

2: Re-Setting Timing and Purpose:
  • Retirement is being postponed: Pre-retirees say they now intend to delay retirement by five years—from age 64 to age 69—triggered in part by increasing longevity, as well as the recession and financial need.
  • Retirement no longer means the end of work: Almost two-thirds say they would ideally like to remain productive and include work in retirement.
  • The top reason people want to work during retirement is “the stimulation and satisfaction” rather than the money.
  • Americans 55 and older say that baby boomers are more likely to have less in entitlements, less money for retirement and less respect from younger generations compared to prior generations of retirees. However, they also expect boomers to be more active and youthful, have more opportunities to learn and grow, and experience more interesting lives.

3: Re-Setting Values and Obligations:

  • 85% say they now appreciate the importance of quality relationships with their friends and family even more after the recession.
  • Asked how the recession affected their financial situation and investment strategy, 96% say it’s important to protect themselves and their families against financial uncertainties.
  • Nearly half of Americans 55 and older expect to provide intergenerational support for family members and, in a new twist on childcare, 70% of those believe their adult children will need financial assistance.
  • Financial peace of mind is now 6x more important than accumulating wealth: 82% name it their key financial goal.
  • Protecting assets is now 5x more important to investors than higher-risk returns.

4: Re-Setting Long Life Expectations:

  • “Remaining productive” is now seen as the top benefit of living a very long life, followed by “deepening relationships with family” and “witnessing new discoveries as the world evolves.”
  • Nearly half of today’s retirees retired earlier than they planned. The top reason people give for early retirement is unexpected health problems.
  • Asked what their financial challenges are for retirement preparation, people say their top concern is higher taxes.

5: Re-Setting Financial Solutions:

  • Three-quarters say the last several years have provided a much-needed financial wake-up call, and 81% report they have learned important lessons regarding saving, investing and preparing for retirement.
  • Americans believe they can still “get there from here,” and 78% say they can still have a fulfilling retirement by being more financially disciplined.
  • Post-recession, people are seeking financial solutions that won’t lose value and can help their money go the distance.

6: Re-Setting the Path to a Satisfying Retirement:

  • There are four distinct segments of Americans age 55 and older based on their retirement attitudes, expectations and behaviors: Ageless Explorers (20% of respondents), Cautiously Contents (18%), Live for Todays (27%) and Worried Strugglers (35%).
  • The first two groups are enjoying their retirement and have a high level of happiness and financial security.
  • The second two retiree groups are struggling due to misfortune and/or bad planning. Over the past decade, the percentage of those age 55 and older who are “Ageless Explorers” and “Cautiously Contents” fell from 46% to 38%. Meanwhile the percentage of people who fall in the two segments who are having a difficult time—the “Live for Todays” and “Worried Strugglers”—rose from 54% to 62%.
For more information regarding the SunAmerica Retirement Re-Set Study and its findings and to download a full report, please visit http://www.retirementreset.com/
SunAmerica Financial Group (SAFG) is the enterprise name for a group of companies offering insurance, retirement and investment services through a diverse family of financial services companies. Copyright ©
2011, SunAmerica Financial Group. All rights reserved.

 This is important information. What group are you in? Do you identify yourself in these results? Please leave a comment and let's talk about it.

July 8, 2011

Into the Unknown: A Gutsy Lady tells her Story

Sonia Marsh is the lady behind the Gutsy Writer Blog. She and I have become blogging friends over the past year. When I found out she was prepared to turn part of her fascinating life story into a book, I asked her permission to pose a few questions. This post is longer than what you normally find at Satisfying Retirement but Sonia's story is worth bending the rules a bit.

View from the Marsh's house in Belize
A few years ago she and her husband packed up their family, left southern California, and moved to Belize, a small country in Central America. The reasons behind such a gutsy lifestyle change and what she gained from that adventure are the basis for these questions:

Q: Sonia, what motivated you & your husband to pack up the family and head for Belize?

We felt that living in Orange County, California, clearly compromised the future of our three sons, with its culture of sexually active, pill-popping, value-lacking teens who are not taught the consequences of their actions. At thirteen, our oldest son entered the dark tunnel of suicidal girlfriends, teenage sex and satanic tattoos. This threw our love-filled home into turmoil and forcing his younger brothers to receive nothing but leftover attention.

My husband and I were desperate enough to take an unconventional approach: we sold our lakefront California house—and everything else we owned—and moved our family to Belize. We wanted to instill a new set of values upon our children.

But, Bob,  it wasn’t just for our kids. My husband, Duke, and I wanted some adventure in our life before we retired. Duke couldn’t wait to swap LA’s gridlocked freeways for flip-flops, and I longed for my own slice of Caribbean paradise.

Q: Why did you pick Belize?

“Had it not been for a leaking toilet, we may never have healed our family,” reads the first sentence in my book, Freeways to Flip-Flops: Our Year of Living Like the Swiss Family Robinson. Our plumber, who fixed our toilet told me about Belize, a country that sounded like a place we could afford. English is the official language and you could buy ocean front property for as little as $15,000, I Googled Belize and he was right. Although $15,000 might not offer the ideal plot of land to build your dream house, it was possible to find cheap water front properties in many parts of Belize.

Q: What were the biggest adjustments you and your family had to make?

One thing we learned very quickly in Belize was: “If they don’t have what you want, want what they have.” If the store didn’t carry what you wanted, just accept it and go with the flow. This was an excellent lesson for my kids, especially coming from the U.S., where we have so many choices. This taught us to always question, “Is this a want or a need?” before buying something. We have brought that attitude back with us.

We had to adjust to the lack of water and food, and the abundance of bugs, especially after a rainstorm. We relied on rain water to wash. I never realized to what extent I valued water until we were in a drought. It taught my family how much we had taken for granted.

Finding food was a major problem. Stores would rarely carry what you needed, like fresh milk or cheese or brown bread, on a regular basis. Feeding two teenagers and a growing ten-year-old became a full-time job, especially when you learn we had to shop by boat. There were no cars up north on the island of Ambergris Caye where we lived.

Q: What do you wish you could have brought back to Southern California with you?

I would love to have the beautiful, warm Caribbean turquoise water in front of my house again. Apart from that, I wish we had the slower pace of life that locals enjoy in Belize. I learned one thing about people who live in poorer parts of the world that I wish we could incorporate into our life. As long as you have enough money in your pocket to pay for your food for today, you’re happy. Local Belizeans don’t seem to worry about tomorrow the way we do.

 Q: Tell me a bit about the book you have written about this experience.

The Marsh family
Freeways to Flip Flops: Our Year of Living Like the Swiss Family Robinson is the story of our family moving to a tropical island in Central America. Writing this book has made me realize that my childhood in Africa and Europe molded me into a woman who believes in being gutsy, and taking risks. I have a desire to inspire and motivate people to follow their passion and quit postponing their dreams. So, it’s not just about my book but about my message: Life is too short to play it safe. Be Gutsy and find your paradise.

Q: What has been the biggest surprise in writing your first book?

For me, an unexperienced author, it was the length of time it takes to write a book. I'll never forget the first class I took called, “How to write a book proposal.” The teacher, who later became a close friend, started the class by saying, “It can take six years to write your first book from start to finish.” I laughed and made a silly comment which I now regret. “How can it take six years to write a book, only a stupid writer would take that long?”

Now I realize how ignorant my comment sounded. At the time I thought it would be so easy to turn my 600 page journal into a book, I didn't realize how much I had to learn about the craft, the fact that great memoirs have to use the same concepts as great fiction, that my story needed to follow a specific structure, and that I had to have a message to leave with my readers.

 Q: When do you hope to have Freeways to Flip-Flops published?

As soon as possible. The big New York publishers are unwilling to take a risk with an unknown author unless that person has a huge on line following. By huge, I mean around 100,000 to 200,000 subscribers and thousands of hits/day on your blog. But, I'm making progress.

I started blogging three years ago, network like crazy, both on line and in person, volunteer at writers associations, and use all forms of social media. I’ve hired a professional to develop my new author website and blog, soniamarsh.com. I also speak about blogging and now want to expand my presentations to topics related to Gutsy Living. Three months before my book comes out I plan on hiring a publicist whom I’ve already spoken to and like.

One thing I recommend to all aspiring writers is to learn how to market your book. Unfortunately we now live in a world where author promotion is just as important, if not more, than simply writing a great story.

Thanks for the interview, Bob. There are many advantages to retiring in Belize. If anyone has specific questions regarding the expat life in Belize, or writing, or blogging, I’d be happy to help. You can contact me at sonia@soniamarsh.com.

Thank you, Sonia. I'll be anxiously awaiting the publication of your book. You have done something that many of us dream of but just aren't gutsy enough to try.

July 6, 2011

A Special Weekend: Creating Memories That Can't be Bought

The wind gust caught the bright, green and yellow kite with its ribboned tail and lifted it just above the pine trees lining the front yard. The two young kids screamed in delight. Suddenly a down draft caused the flying machine to plunge to the lawn, digging a hole right at daddy's feet. The yells from the children seemed to say that was even better than watching the kite sail through the stormy sky.

The 4th of July weekend was a fabulous time for our clan. Everyone dashed north to Flagstaff to escape the 118 degree heat of the desert floor. Just two hours away thunderstorms, clouds, and 7,000 feet in elevation meant long pants, sweatshirts, and an invigorating 3 days of family memories. The house we rented was a great match for our needs: big kitchen and dining room table plus a large fenced-in backyard. There was a metal-roofed back porch that was perfect for listening to the rain pound down on Saturday afternoon while sipping coffee or holding a steaming mug of Earl Grey tea.

My wife, youngest daughter and I found ourselves on Sunday night in a smallish upstairs room in the historic Weatherford Hotel in downtown Flagstaff. Seven folks, holding flutes, a banjo, a few guitars, a violin, and a cello  were sitting in a circle playing Irish music for their own enjoyment. A dozen spectators, sitting on chairs taken from the next door bar, were allowed to eavesdrop on their fun. The Irish Society of Flagstaff gathers in the same room every Sunday evening for a few hours to make music just for the fun of it. We stumbled across the event and took advantage of a unique experience to build a family memory that money couldn't buy.

Flagstaff is a tremendously attractive smallish city in northern Arizona. The home of Northern Arizona University, this town attracts more than its fair share of folks in tie-dyed shirts, flowing paisley-patterned skirts and peasant blouses. Everyone seems to have either a dog or mountain bike, or both. Young children are everywhere. People watching is an endless joy.

Downtown is packed with restaurants, bars, antique stores, and thousands of people enjoying free concerts, movies on the square and art festivals all summer long. An old-fashioned 4th of July parade, complete with kids on bikes, clowns, marching bands, and fire engines filled the streets Monday morning.  

Our weekend was filled with what makes being part of a happy family so special. Playing Granddad to three adorable children makes it all so memorable. Even watching Lady and the Tramp for at least the 100th time was fun: the kids see it as fresh and new each time. Too bad adults don't take such pleasure in such simple joys.

My wife dug out a recipe for making "kick the can ice cream." At my age I am usually not fond of the "kick the can" expression. But, in this case I am all for it. The homemade vanilla ice cream that came out of the cans we kicked around the backyard for half an hour and then popped in the freezer, was fabulous, as good as any I have ever tasted.

We played Hearts and Texas Hold'em. We had picnics in the park, and spent hours on swings, climbing trees, and generally behaving silly on the playgrounds that seem to be on every street corner. The kids were fascinated by a three-legged dog and how it maneuvered so well. This provided a great teaching moment on overcoming handicaps and making the most of what you have.

Once again I was impressed by how wonderful my eldest daughter and son-in-law are at the tough job of parenting. Their kids are inquisitive, respectful, smart well beyond their years, bubbling over with personality, and not ashamed to show love for everyone.

A satisfying retirement is so much more than managing one's finances, or worrying about health problems. This 4th of July weekend in Flagstaff with family was rich beyond measure.