September 26, 2011

Newer Technology & Its Effect On Retirement

A few weeks ago I featured a guest post from Kate Forgach, a senior-consumer expert for Kinoli Inc. She has offered the following piece on technological advances that are likely to play a part in your life. I'd be interested in your feedback on her assessment.

The older I get, the more I appreciate the body of my youth. As a Baby Boomer dealing with hearing loss (too much rock music), memory loss (not enough Gingko), and unbending knees (too much biking), I appreciate every bit of senior assistance. That gratitude extends to manufacturers developing products tailored for those with reduced capacity or not familiar with our rapidly changing tech world. While some of the following examples weren't originally designed with America's Booomers in mind, they still offer great benefits to those who don't want to get totally left behind.

Here are seven changes age hath wrought in today's technological world.

1. Dumb Phones. I was bereft when my ancient Razr phone disappeared as it was so easy to use and is no longer available. In looking for a replacement, I found most phones have tiny black buttons and keyboards designed more for texting and playing online than for making calls. Some manufacturers are listening to these concerns, however, and creating phones specifically for my brethren. According to reviews, the Doro PhoneEasy series offers basic, easy-to-use phones with big numerals, a bright screen and few unneeded extras.

2. Intelligent Phones. Intel is working on a phone for those who have memory problems. Using caller ID tech, it'll display a photo of the person calling, the user's relationship to the caller, and information about their last conversation. It would be even more helpful if Intel would create a human-implant screen that would jog my memory upon meeting people I "know."
3. Nana Technology. Companies like Accenture and Intel have teamed up with universities and other researchers in the development of gadgets that make life easier. These include smart walkers that users can retrieve by remote control; pillboxes that remind you to take your pills; and mailboxes that let you know when mail has arrived.

4. Tablet Computers I'd give my AARP membership for an iPad. The screen is a joy, the touchpad keyboard is nice and big, and, most importantly, it's entirely intuitive. Apple's security technology also nearly eliminates spyware and viruses, which are a nightmare to eradicate.

In general, touchscreens are easier for seniors to use. It took me just 30 minutes to get an elderly friend up and running on her new Motorola Xoom tablet. Unable to type anymore due to arthritis, the light touch required for these screens opened a whole new world. We loaded a few useful apps, made Google her home page, set up a gmail account and she was off.

5. E-readers. Few books are printed in large type anymore, but e-readers can make every book easy to read. The Kindle, for example, allows users to boost the font size with a touch of a button and the resolution improves with every release. The Barnes & Noble NOOK boasts a full-color display that makes reading even easier.

6. Durable Tech Cases. 
Otterbox has cornered the market on hardcore cases for phones, e-readers, laptops and just about everything else that can be dropped, smashed or end up in water. They also have a stellar reputation for quality customer service, which means seniors don't have to deal with smarmy, unhelpful responders.

7. Online Shopping. Shopping the e-commerce way is so much faster and easier for those facing diminished capacities. Plus, the selections are much larger, it's often also possible to find better prices, and free shipping deals bring your purchase directly to the door without a delivery fee. Isn't technology wonderful? 

Kate: I have resisted the pull of a e-reader to this point, but I assume I'll cave in soon. Now that my e-book is available, I guess I need to get with the program. In addition, my public library has a good selection of downloadable books and magazines so my excuses for not having one are crumbling. And, after just half a year or so with a smartphone, I could never go back. Thanks, Kate, for your overview. 

Kate Forgach is a senior-consumer expert for Kinoli Inc.. She has written about senior issues for 11 years as a Cooperative Extension specialist and for a wide variety of newspapers and magazines. She has been featured in USA Today, Detroit News, New Orleans Times-Picayune, New Yorker magazine, "ABC World News," NBC's "TODAY" show and many other media outlets. 

I hope you'll consider supporting your favorite retirement blogger and helping yourself in the process by downloading a copy of Building A Satisfying Retirement. Click the botton at the top right of this page to order. If you don't have a Kindle, there is a link that allows you to download a free reader for your PC.

September 25, 2011

Somewhere Over The Pacific

On Monday Betty and I are off on a much-needed vacation to the incredible island of Maui. Even though we have been to Hawaii many times, almost 10 years have passed since our last visit and that is just too long, especially for someone living a satisfying retirement.

Rest assured: the blog will continue as usual. You will find fresh posts every few days. Assuming the laptop doesn't fail, I will answer e-mails and respond to comments. But, because of the time difference and serious beach time things will happen a little slower than normal.

Look for a fresh post Monday afternoon about the effect of technology on our lives. By then, we should be safely over the ocean and back on land.


September 20, 2011

The Death of a Bookstore...Any Lessons for Us?

For 40 years Borders was a major force in Americans' reading habits. Its big box style stores anchored shopping malls and power centers. Readers, or simply browsers, found comfort in the aisles crowded with books on any subject. Music CDs and DVDs satisfied those looking for music or movies. Often a coffee shop and comfortable chairs offered a none-to-subtle enticement to sit and read a book or scan a magazine while sipping a latte. Buying the reading material became almost secondary to the experience. In fact, picture a library with better lighting, a wider selection, and a coffee shop, and you have a Borders bookstore.

Earlier this year Borders gave up the fight and closed down the final 400 stores while laying off its last 11,000 employees. For book lovers the death of Borders was a sad moment. It seemed to be the clearest signal yet that brick-and-mortar bookstores were not going to be part of our future. After this 1,250 store business disappeared, could Barnes and Noble be far behind?

I am not going to detail the future of book selling in America (and the rest of the world, for that matter).  I'll leave that to others. Rather, I have been wondering if there are larger lessons to be learned from this business failure. Are there a few elemental truths that we can uncover?  Obviously, the answer must be yes, since I am writing this post. Consider the following:

Change is a powerful force.  There is little disputing the fact that Borders was unable to keep up with the transition from printed to electronic distribution for many readers. Figures released by Amazon from earlier this year show that e-book sales are now besting printed versions by 2 to 1. Unable to compete on price and selection with Amazon, Borders steadily lost printed sales. Since 1999 they have suffered a 44% drop in sales, while Amazon has seen Internet sales explode by over 800%.

The company was also quite late in deciding to produce an e-book reader. By the time they did, Kindle and Nook owned that category in the consumer's mind. Barnes & Noble was bigger and had more clout in the industry. I have always thought having two major bookstores with similar names was not a recipe for success for one of them. Time has proven which one.

The quip that change is the only constant in life was proven again in this case. To protest against it, deny it, or dig in your heels and be the last man standing is a losing strategy, whether you run a chain of book stores or your life. The old days and old ways are not coming back. You must adapt to changes in technology,  financial planning and expectations,  health care costs and availability, and what your retirement lifestyle will look like. The plans you made may not be viable anymore. You can whine about it, fight it, or change.

Serving Others Serves You.  The Borders store near my house never equaled the close-by Barnes & Nobles in friendliness and having a constant presence of employees to help. That may have not been true in other situations, but I was more comfortable to be in a B&N. With the coffee shops, the huge selection of magazines, and the book, music, and movie sections being almost identical, I usually choose the store with  better service.

Another personal example involves Home Depot and Lowe's. For the longest time I would never go into a Lowe's Home Improvement Center because they had invisible employees. I never could find anyone to help me. On the other hand, Home Depot had folks in virtually every aisle eager to find that sprinkler part or perfect shade of blue for the home project.

A few years ago, Home Depot decided to save money by cutting back on employees, at the same time Lowe's started hiring more. Within a very short time period, my loyalties shifted. Realizing the error of its ways, Home Depot's experiment in poor service ended quickly and once again, service was given a top priority. I'm back to the folks with the orange aprons.

The point is obvious. People respond to other people being helpful. It doesn't matter if you are in the business world, trying to build a happy family, or  volunteering for the local food bank, serving the needs of others provides direct benefits to you. 

The perception of value becomes the value. In most cases the price of a paperback or hardcover book was virtually identical at Borders and Barnes & Noble. Amazon was almost always cheaper, as was Walmart on occasion. But, if you were the type of reader who wanted to hold the book and sample some of it before buying, you were likely to choose one of the "B" stores. As noted earlier, customers may have established a greater value to Barnes & Nobles than they did to Borders on something other than price. Customer service may be one reason. Certainly the number of stores and location had some bearing on the outcome. B&N had a better web site with easier navigation.

But, something else in our collective mind said B&N was better. I contend that "something else" was the wholehearted acceptance of changes in reading habits. Barnes & Noble's rapid deployment of the Nook reader left its direct competitor in the dust. It also helped validate the entire concept of e-readers. If B&N and Borders had both been slow to develop such a device, I wonder if Kindle would have become the force it is today. With two devices on the market, each supported the other to grow the market for downloadable books. That perception of the value of e-books became a self-fulfilling prophesy when they became mainstream.

Early in my radio career I was taught that perception is reality. If the radio station I worked for said it was the #1 choice for the latest hits often enough, then eventually that perception became true, even if another station across town actually played more.

In life you are perceived a certain way. A post from a few weeks ago on your legacy made the point that we want to believe our time on earth means something to someone else. The value you have in your relationship with others is directly affected by the perceived value you bring to that relationship.

Related Posts
Speaking of electronic e-books, I'd appreciate your consideration of the purchase of my e-book, Building a Satisfying Retirement. It is available by clicking here. 

September 18, 2011

Looking at Some Comments left on

In one of my braver moments I decided to look at the comments left on the web site about the retirement article that is also available in October's Money Magazine. As I expected, many of the comments were negative, some downright hostile. There is something about the Internet that can bring out less than the best in people. In this case, instead of seeing if there is anything to be learned from the experiences of others, many of those who left their thoughts decided to use rudeness and draw incorrect conclusions.

The good news is, I didn't take any of it personally. Human nature is such that we all like to tear down someone else who does something we can't or haven't. It also gave me some quotes that I can use to try and set the record straight. So, here are a few of the quotes and my responses:

"What are they doing for health care? Obviously none of these people has health insurance or ever goes to the doctor."

 I can't  speak for all the other couples, but our situation was pretty clearly spelled out in the article:  We spend 33% of our total yearly income on health care. Betty and I have been on the individual market virtually our entire married life. Except for 4 years early on, we have never been covered by health insurance through work. We do skip or delay some treatments that aren't essential because of the cost. When safe to do so we usually split pills in half to keep prescriptions costs under control.

We both have regular physicals, see the dermatologist yearly, get new glasses every two years, and see a dentist twice a year. Betty gets new hearing aids as required. We have very high deductible health insurance that keeps premiums under control but that means we pay for most everything out of pocket. Betty has several health challenges that she manages the best she can by knowing as much about her problems and treatments as any doctor she deals with.

Are there people who pay a lot more? Sure there are. The article didn't say everyone in America can be exactly like us. It gave a snapshot of our situation so others could decide if they are better or worse off in certain areas.  But to assume we never go to the doctor and still leave a satisfying retirement is kind of silly.

"You can't use the phrase 'low cost retirement' and Scarsdale, NY in the same sentence."

There was a woman profiled who actually did live in Scarsdale and is living well in retirement on not much money.  Scottsdale isn't exactly low-rent but we are making it work. Of course, some places are more expensive than others but we choose to live here for all the reasons listed in the article. If someone is living in an expensive community then logic dictates that will be part of the financial calculation to develop a plan for retirement. Could we live on less money somewhere else? Probably. But family, church, and friends are too important. It is part of the cost of retirement we are willing to bear.

"How do you save money like that with the average American living paycheck to paycheck?" 

The implication in the question is that you can't. I would respond that the median income for Americans is over $46,000 a year (more than we live on in high-rent Scottsdale). That average American family is carrying a $15,000 credit card debt, at least one car loan, a hefty first mortgage, and very likely a home equity loan. They are living paycheck to paycheck because they are overextended, over their heads in debt, and unwilling to delay gratification.

If your income situation is much more modest, then saving is a real problem. I am not minimizing the mess the economy has made of millions of lives. But, in that situation you are not likely to be anticipating retirement anytime soon which of course,  was the focus of the article. 

"Don't they (the magazine) do articles on folks with a nest egg of $50,000 or less?  

If someone has less than $50,000 in a nest egg and is even thinking about retirement, they are in deep denial. The terrifying fact is the average American at age 50 does have just $50,000 set aside for retirement. That person has no legitimate hope of retiring, unless they want to attempt to survive on a typical monthly social security check of less than $1,200 (before deductions for Medicare).

What worries me the most about the tone of some of the "comments" left on the web site is the obvious lack of grasp of reality and what needs to be done to achieve one's goals. There is an undercurrent of looking to blame others for a lack of planning, of sacrifice, and of common sense.

The sad, horrible fact is that way too many of our fellow citizens will never be able to experience a truly satisfying retirement. For many, that reality is not due to any failure on their part. They are being passed over and trod underfoot by the way our world operates now. Their future is bleak. It should bother us tremendously.

But, the other side of that coin is that many millions could experience a tremendously gratifying retirement experience. But, they are not willing to take personal responsibility for the choices they make today that directly impact their future tomorrow.

Retirement is all about choices. Make the right ones and a satisfying retirement can be yours.

September 15, 2011

How Do You Know When to Retire?

"When should I retire" is a question I hear a lot. Comments left on the blog or e-mails filling my inbox ask for help in knowing when it is time to call it quits. The answer I give is usually the same: For your individual situation, I have no idea. Retiring from your present full-time job to begin your satisfying retirement is one of the more important decisions you will make during your lifetime. There are so many factors to consider that you must put in the time and effort to come to the best answer for you.

I wrote the  following post about 6 months ago. In looking it over I think the information is valuable enough to repeat now without many changes. I have a lot of new readers who may not have seen this the first time. If so, I urge you to add your comments at the end. Fresh input is very valuable to all of us. If you remember reading this post when first published, I hope a second time will spark your thinking about one or more of the points raised.

You know it is time to retire when....

You dread going to work everyday. You are tired and dispirited. Everyone has an off day or a few days every now and then. But, if that feeling is present pretty much all the time, you may have reached your limit.

You are being asked to do more work for a less money. This is the hidden message in that last productivity memo you received. To preserve your job you will have to accept a salary cut and pick up the slack of those unfortunate souls who got a pink slip. For the short term it may be in your best interest to accept this. But if the situation begins to look semi-permanent, you may have second thoughts.

You feel the essential "you" is slipping away. There isn't enough time for you to do what satisfies you and makes you happy. You find yourself doing things that make you uncomfortable. Your world has shrunk to work-sleep-work.

You can't wait to get home to work on a project or new passion. Closely tied to the "you" reference above. All your thoughts revolve around after work hours. There never is any time to do that thing you really love.

You complain to anyone who will listen (and even many who will not) about work. Spending your energy and life in a negative place increases your stress and shortens your life. It is also a quick way to get fired.

You have saved enough to live without a regular paycheck. You have run the numbers so often your calculator is melting. There are solid income streams that make you feel you can do this. You have thought through contingencies. You have thought about worst case scenarios. The numbers still work. You feel confident in your financial planning and long term situation.

A loved one is very sick and you'd rather spend your time with that person while you can. Whether a parent, child, relative, or best friend, there is no do-over if that person isn't likely to be with you through your retirement. Do you feel strongly that person needs you right now? 

Your health is beginning to slip and you have things you want to accomplish while you still can. In this case you are on the other side of the fence. You are sure you will not be physically or mentally able to do what you'd like to do if you wait too long to retire. You decide it is more important to enjoy your freedom while you have it, even if it means a more limited lifestyle.

You have affordable alternatives for acceptable health insurance and care. This question is hard to answer at the moment. Everything seems to be in a state of flux. But, if your health coverage through work will continue, or your Medicare and supplemental policy are working well you are better off than many. Plan to spend much more than you think you will. If the budget still works you have dealt with one of the biggest hurdles to a satisfying retirement.

You are excited about making a major change in your life (where you live, how you spend your time) Change is life. A life without change is in a rut. Change can be stimulating, exciting, terrifying, and necessary. Sometimes you just have to shake it up and that thought gets your blood racing.

Your self-identity isn't defined by your job. You have a life and and sense of self worth not dependent on work. This is important. There are few things sadder than someone who retires and discovers he has no life outside of work. If you have at least some friends who are not co-workers, enjoy hobbies or other activities you are much closer to being ready to leave the job.

What do you want to do with the rest of your life? When do you want to do it? Aren't those the most important questions? When you can answer them you may be ready.

Which of these questions and statements fit your situation? If you are retired, which ones were most important to you when you made the decision? Retirement today is quite different from a retirement lifestyle of even 10-15 years ago. You may plan for more work. You may want to stay in your home as long as possible. Sun City holds little appeal. You may be chomping at the bit to spend a few years overseas on mission work. You are ready for a new phase of your life, not for your life to end in a whimper. Your thought: retirement  only the beginning of a new part of my life.

How do you know when to retire? You just do.

September 13, 2011

Our Satisfying Retirement - Thank you Money Magazine!

Money Magazine has published the story about how my wife and I have built our satisfying retirement lifestyle. It is now available on newsstands.

A version of the story is also available on it's sister web site,

If you are new to this blog, welcome!  On the right sidebar you will find all sorts of links to follow: the most popular post of the last few months, the archives of the blog's entire contents, a list of my favorite blogs, an easy way to contact me, and simple ways to subscribe for complimentary e-mails or RSS feeds whenever a new article is posted.

Over 500 pictures taken this morning...for just 1 in Magazine!

The key for us has not been to deprive ourselves of things that make living a joy. Rather we have spent the last 35 years living below our means. This has enabled us to live the lifestyle profiled in the article.

Preparing for Money Magazine Photo Shoot
Also, now available as an e-book download for your Kindle or other device is the 2nd edition of Building a Satisfying Retirement. Click the link at the top right of the blog to buy your copy. Even if you don't own a Kindle, there is a free reader you can load on your computer to read any Kindle book.

I have added a new section about working after retirement and freshened the content since the 1st edition was released and given away last spring.

To my regular readers my deep appreciation for the support you have shown for the past 16 months. Your visits have made this the #1 blog on Google for building a Satisfying Retirement.

For those who have found the blog because of the Money Magazine or pieces, thank you. I hope you make this blog one of your regular reads. If you sign up for a subscription, I'll be honored to be sure you receive each new post in your e-mailbox or your RSS reader.

A satisfying retirement is very possible. My wife and I have lived it for over a decade, through several recessions, the collapse of my business, a 50% drop in the value of our home, and assorted other bumps in the retirement road.

Please, feel free to contact me to ask questions, make suggestions...even complain about something I've written (or not written). We are building an active community of retirees, and those looking forward to retirement. I'd love you to become part of our on-line family.

September 12, 2011

I'm Living in a Time Warp

Is it just me, or has time speeded up without telling anyone? Has the government decided to save energy by making each day several hours shorter? Has my calendar shortchanged some of the months so a year isn't as long as it used to be?

I feel like I'm in some sort of "Beam me up, Scottie" time warp. We just celebrated Christmas a little while ago, didn't we? How can the next one be less than 4 months away? How is it possible 2011 is almost 75% over. I'm still writing 2010 on checks. There is no way I'll be 63 in 8 months. That's the age of my parents (25 years ago !).

When I was a younger man time moved at a proper pace. The days spent on the road or between vacations was about right. A year lasted the correct amount of time. Now, just as time becomes more precious  it accelerates. That seems remarkably unfair. Not just days, but whole weeks seem to simply disappear. The trip we took to Tubac, AZ seems like just a few weeks ago, not half a year. Was it really 16 months ago Betty and I took our "Drive Til You Drop" road trip? That can't be.

The advice I read says there is a way to get time to cooperate. If I live in the moment, savor each thing I do, and not look ahead to an event in the future, time was again click by at the regular pace. OK. That works for a little while. Then, we are off to the races again.

I've also read some scientific reasons why time seems to speed up as we get older. It involves something about dense, first memories, and sketchy later memories. Sounds plausible, but not helpful in getting whatever is causing my time loss to stop. The suggestion was to have more first-time, intense experiences that cause fresh dense memories. That was particularly unhelpful advice.

One lady, Merry Walker, posted this on 6 years ago:

"When you're five years old, a year is one fifth of your life. That makes it seem like an impossibly long time, especially if you're five and have to wait until next year for something you really want.

In comparison, when you're 20, a year is only one twentieth of your life, and while the days don't exactly fly by yet, a year doesn't seem like the eternity it was at five.

By the time you're 50 and a year is only one fiftieth of the time you've experienced, a year whips by pretty quickly."

Makes it all sound reasonable and normal. That may be but but my time loss is very personal to me.

Nothing I found on the Internet seems to solve the problem. Since time is really a man-made, artificial system of measurement, you'd think someone would invent a way to have it stop running away from me. 

This post is a bit shorter than what I normally write. But, it seems as though the last half day disappeared while I was on the laptop writing this. Since that proves my point I will quit while there is still part of the day left......oh's gone.

Related Posts

September 6, 2011

Unintended Consequences...For the Better

Labor Day weekend marked the unofficial end of summer. Of course, here in Phoenix it will stay above 100 for several more weeks, but now we have hope. Still, it is a time when change is in the air. With many activities starting up again after a few months break, there is a feeling of a fresh start. Looking at my calendar for this week was enough to tire me out before it even began: moving furniture, two church meetings, a luncheon meeting, a dinner party, and packing for our upcoming trip to Hawaii. A satisfying retirement is not dull.

My wife and I are both happier when we are busy...not overloaded and stressed...but busy and feeling involved. So, this week's list of things we must do is actually no problem. But, we have become so used to sleeping in late and taking it easier over the summer months that we'll have some adjusting to do when the alarm clock starts ringing at 6:00 AM again.

The past few weeks have involved a series of decisions to make room for our  daughter to move back home temporarily. That meant converting an office back into a bedroom. It meant turning a closet that had been used for storage back into one suitable for clothes.

Amidst the adjustments several changes occured. We had wanted to get rid of the big, heavy, 1970's entertainment unit in the living room for quite some time. Two gigantic floor speakers I had since college days needed to go to audio heaven. The furniture simply overwhelmed the smallish room. 

In order to make the office back into a bedroom, Betty's computer desk and files had to move into our master bedroom. But, that meant the entertainment stand and bookshelves in the master bedroom had to go somewhere else.

Guess what? They fit our needs in the living room perfectly. So, the old entertainment unit and speakers were manhandled into the garage for an upcoming sale. The bedroom unit & shelving came downstairs into the living room. Finally, the computer stuff moved down the hall into our bedroom where it fit into the space left by the just-departed bookshelves. The bedroom is back in business and we didn't have to buy a new entertainment unit for the living room. 

We have a large roll-top desk in the family room. It has been used for storing stuff that didn't go anywhere else: wrapping paper, out-of-date files, odds and ends of this and that, and the family junk drawers. Daughter needed the desk for her business papers. So, for the first time in at least 10 years the roll top desk was emptied of stuff and suddenly was re-born as a ....desk! In the process we got rid of all sorts of trash that was only taking up space and cluttering up our retirement lifestyle.

Next came the pantry. Since some of the stuff in the desk really belonged in the pantry, that space had to be decluttered and rearranged. Half a dozen empty recipe boxes, cookbooks we never look at, two sets of salad bowls we didn't even know we owned, and assorted junk went into the garage sale pile.

Finally, we discovered we had three DVD/VHS players that were not needed and had been stored for who knows what reason. Guess what their fate is...garage sale.

So, what started as a must-do process ended up affecting major living and storage areas in a very positive way. The rule of unintended consequences came into play. When faced with changing one thing, the string of adjustments that followed worked very much to everyone's benefit.

Now, we await a garage sale that will move our junk into someone else's house and give us half the garage back. Isn't the end of summer grand!

See anything you like?

September 1, 2011

Junior is Back Home...Now What?

They have been called bommerang children who end up moving back in with mom and dad. Sometimes the return is brief, for others it becomes an extended stay. I was surprised by the statistics: 13% of parents with grown children say one of their adult sons or daughters has moved back home in the past year. During a bad economic period, up to 40% of college grads are back with their folks a full year after graduation. (2009 study)

Obviously, having an adult child move back home presents both challenges and opportunities to your satisfying retirement lifestyle.  Beyond the basic change an extra person makes to your day-to-day routines, space use, and costs, there are other important issues that need to be addressed.  Consider the following if you have an adult child ready to move "home:"

Protect your retirement assets. The worst thing you could do it tap deeply into what you will need to help your child out. If you are retired, or soon to be, you do not have the time to build those funds back up to the level you have determined you will need. While you may feel pressured to bail your son or daughter out with the money you have in your 401 (k)) or IRA, don't do it. That advice comes from every financial source I could find on the Internet and makes complete sense to me.

If you do provide some money, make it a loan, not a gift. If you are able to help your child out while he or she attempts to get back on their feet without tapping your retirement money, then by all means do so. But, the suggestion is to loan the money rather than making it an outright gift. You will feel more like a partner in helping your child. And he will feel more like an adult than a child, still getting gifts from mommy and daddy. Establish a regular repayment schedule and charge at least some interest.

Charge room and board. Yes, I know she is your own family member. But, for the same reason you should loan money instead of giving it to her, the fact is she will increase your living costs. Charge a monthly rent that is well below normal market rates. But, the extra money will help you with the increased food and electric bills. Paying something toward those costs will help the child's self-respect, too.

Agree on basic ground rules. The new "tenant" should help with some household chores, handle his own laundry, offer to go food shopping on occasion, and help with the cooking or cleanup. If you prefer a neat home, insist that his living space (and yours) remains that way. What about bringing over dates or friends? What about "sleepovers" with members of the opposite sex? Decide well ahead of time the answers to these questions.

Insist that he or she actively look for a job or whatever it takes to become independent again. Lying on the coach while watching 6 hours of TV a day,  playing video games, or sleeping until noon is going to cause problems....quickly. Agree before the child moves in what is a reasonable plan for moving back out again.

Set a timetable. There should be some sort of "finish line" to this arrangement. Set a time-based limit, or when a certain income level has been met. Of course, you may need to be a bit flexible with this requirement. But, a timetable does help motivate the returning child to become creative in solving his problems. That may mean 2 or 3 part time jobs and living with a roommate. It may mean sharing a car or relying on public transportation. If there is a projected end to the bommerang phase, both parents and child have a goal to aim for.

Treat your "child" like you would an adult renter, not as his parent. It is quite likely he or she already feels bad about having to move back with mom and dad. Don't compound that by reminding him whenever possible of that fact. Respect his privacy, opinions, and needs. Realize that while he still wants your respect, he doesn't really need your permission. If he is following the ground rules you have both agreed upon, then take off your parent hat.

On the positive side, if your relationship with the returning child is good, this may be a tremendous time period together. Your "child" is an adult in opinions and actions. You can enjoy him or her for who they have become. The need to "parent" has diminished. The time is there to enjoy his or her uniqueness. It also feels good as a parent to help a child in time of need.

Having an adult child move home when he or she has lost a job, suffered the end of a bad marriage, or is recuperating from a serious illness will change you life, and theirs. By establishing fair and clearly defined rules and obligations it can be a time of discovery and a time of deepening relationships. It could be a tremendous plus for your retirement lifestyle.

Have you experienced the "boomerang" effect? Do you have any ideas or suggestions we can benefit from? Even if an adult child of yours has never returned home, I'll bet you have some opinions about the subject. Here's the place to let it fly!

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Alert: Money Magazine will have a feature story in the October issue about how Betty & I have built a satisfying retirement. Look for it in your mailbox, on the newsstands, or right here in a few weeks.