January 30, 2013

The Wisdom Paradox: Can We Get Smarter?

In 2006 author Elkhonon Goldberg wrote Wisdom Paradox, a book about how our minds can grow stronger as our brains grow older. I was unaware of the book until a few readers mentioned in in comments about an earlier post. Since then I have read Mr. Goldberg's work and found a lot to think about.

Wisdom Paradox is not a simple read. The author spends a good portion of the book on very detailed aspects of how our brain works, the interplay between the left and right hemispheres and what happens in all that grey matter as we age. Frankly, when his descriptions became better suited for a med student I skimmed those pages. But, there was plenty left to raise questions about some assumptions most of us make: that our mind goes into an inevitable decline as we get older. We lose memory function, we are vulnerable to dementia and Alzheimer's, and we become unable to learn new things.

Mr. Goldberg does his best to cast serious doubt on those contentions.  He leaves the reader feeling a new sense of hope and excitement about the future. Old age doesn't have to equal decay and loss. The mind has every possibility of becoming stronger and remaining vital. But, importantly, it changes how it does what it does.

To set the stage, here are several direct quotes from Wisdom Paradox:

"I wage a never ending war on stasis (def. standing still)

A life too settled is no longer a life but an afterlife

A mind isn't necessarily weaker or strongest than when we were younger..it is just different

We have an increasingly strong feeling that life is a feast, not a struggle.

Life is not a one way street of decay.

The aging of the mind has its own triumphs that only age can bring

Being at peace with oneself is an attribute of normal aging,geriatric depression is not."

I feel better already! Mr. Goldberg states that there are undeniable negative changes that occur in the brain as we age. Importantly, they can be balanced with increased competence and wisdom. Our memory and mental focus decline with age. That is true. But, it is also quite normal for our wisdom and competence to grow.

How? Our brain is used differently. He says, "The right hemisphere is more important in our youth but as we age the left hemisphere dominates. That is the side of the brain that builds upon experiences and patterns and allows us to more quickly come to conclusions and decisions, to possess wisdom. The left hemisphere also activates during positive emotions and it withstands the decay of age much better than the right hemisphere." 

The key to making the most of this shift in which side of our brain is more dominant is to engage in vigorous mental activity. Mr. Goldberg's studies shows such use does change the brain in positive ways by increasing the number of new neurons in certain areas of the brain. We have been lead to believe that our neurons are dying off by the millions, only to be replaced by...nothing. Not true. Rather, we form new neural pathways our entire lifetime. 

To scientists a startling fact is emerging: lifelong mental activities is sufficient to counteract the effects of an brain condition where dementia became evident. That is great news. While not true in all cases, many of us have the ability to delay or defeat the obvious effects of dementia.

An active mind?
His conclusion is simple: regardless of our age, we must continue to test our mind and strive for new mental challenges. Our brains get older, but our abilities to make the most of our accumulated wisdom and experiences get stronger. It is up to us to take advantage of that fact. "You can't teach an old dog new tricks" isn't true for pets or people.

You don't have to learn a new language, re-build a '57 Chevy, or write the great American novel for this to work. Changing simple daily routines is enough to start your new neurons firing. Read an hour a day instead of watching TV, go for a walk around your neighborhood and take note of front yards you've never noticed before. Your mind is built for change, any change.

As the author says, "a mental comfort zone is a mental stagnation zone." If we don't continually learn and try new things, we have missed a built-in system designed to keep us mentally on top of our game.

This is rather exciting news!

January 28, 2013

Retirement & Congress: No, Not What You Think

This post will have little to say about Congress and it's potential impact on our satisfying retirement. There has been plenty written about entitlement reform and debt ceilings and the like. Because everything at this point is speculation I see little to be gained by stepping into that swamp.

Rather, I would like to draw a parallel between how Congress seems to be performing and two similar problems that can affect our retirement. I welcome your comments but let's avoid blaming one party or another or the president. This post is not pointed that way.

Most people would agree that Congress is not handling the functions it was designed to handle. The latest poll numbers I saw put the approval rating of this body lower than it has ever been in history. In fact, the pollster joked that cockroaches have higher approval ratings than Congress! That's a little snarky, but the point is valid. Congress has become so partisan and focused on job protection rather than country protection that it can only do two things well: Nothing or kick the can down the road.

How does that relate to our retirement? Too many folks have one of the two attitudes about their own retirement. It is causing problems now and will cause terrible problems in the future if things don't change.

*Do Nothing  Those who take this approach to retirement believe the payoff to years of work and sacrifice is ....to do nothing. That may mean literally to do nothing except watch TV and sleep in a big, overstuffed armchair. Or, Do Nothing can mean to do nothing new: develop no new interests, pursue no new dreams, leave any relationships locked in place without attempts to improve them, make no adjustments to financial plans, even figure your health is OK now so why change how you have always lived.

Personally, I see this type of retirement as being a waste...a waste of potential and opportunity...and really a waste of a good chunk of one's life. Don't misinterpret what I am saying. Relaxing is great. Sleeping in is pure bliss. A daily to-do list that is blank is just fine. Being "productive" all the time isn't necessary.

But, I do not believe we were created to just take up space and kill time. A long walk in the country, watching the birds at the feeder in your backyard, enjoying a cup of tea in front of the fire, even watching Downton Abbey every Sunday night is so much more than doing nothing. So is learning a new language, travel, volunteering, going back to school, or writing a book of poetry for your grandchild.  A life that is allowed to just peter out as days "dwindle down to a precious few" is a life that is missing a solid close.

What you do with the ten or twenty or thirty years that retirement gives you is entirely up to you. It is one of the few times in your live when you have a real say in what your existence looks like. Grab it. Don't do nothing.

*Kick The Can Down The Road is another horrible choice for your retirement. We know what the expression means for Congress: put temporary patches on long term problems, let others worry about the country's future, never really solve a problem if it is too difficult or politically dicey.

The same approach to retirement will have the same negative consequences. Putting off the hard choices doesn't mean the tough decisions never have to be made. Sacrificing short term pleasure for long term gain doesn't come easy to some. Satisfying one's instant gratification is thought to be a birthright. Spending less than one makes is seen as foolish. After all, isn't that what credit is for?

Consider these terrifying numbers: The average American nearing retirement has only $30,000 in savings and investments. Poorer Americans average less than $17,000 set aside. For reasons that I will never understand 75% of Americans have less than $50,000 earmarked for retirement. Do they figure they will work until they die? Do they believe there will be decent jobs available to them at 70, 75, 80, even 85 years of age? Or, do they believe in the financial tooth fairy?

"Healthy food doesn't taste good. My grandfather lived to 100 and ate meat all his life." Well, you can certainly try that approach. There are folks who smoke and never get cancer or drink heavily and have a healthy liver right until they die. But, the odds are not in your favor. Ignore your eating choices or your body's signals of impending problems and you very well might find that the road you are kicking the can down comes to a dead end. 

Doing nothing or avoiding the tough choices will not work much longer for this country.  And, it certainly won't work as a retirement approach. 

A satisfying retirement is a proactive one. It is one that excites you, fulfills you, keeps you just a bit on edge wondering what is coming next. It is about as far removed from doing nothing and kicking the can down the road as I can imagine.

January 25, 2013

A Wife's Perspective on Retirement..Part 2

In a previous post, Betty answered some questions I posed to her about our satisfying retirement. I figured both you, and I, would be interested in her view of what the last nearly 12 years has been like.

The response was strong, both in the number of clicks and comments. So, today here is part two..the last few questions...with Betty's unique perspective:

...Do you think your husband is happy with retirement? Why or why not?

That first year was difficult for him. I don’t think he was lost as much as bored with the everyday “sameness” of it all. I had to quit my job as a Pre-School Teacher because of health reasons but then thought at age 47 I really needed another job. I took the 1st thing that came around and I was miserable with it .  Bob was now ready to have some fun with this whole idea of retirement but I couldn’t do anything because I was now working 8 hours a day 5 days a week. There was a lot of resentment on both sides that year.

Bob also spent that first year constantly going over the books to be sure we would make it before he would start bringing in Social Security or touch our IRA and have enough left over to enjoy our retirement. I also put a tremendous financial burden on the family because of all of my health issues.

So… that 1st year was difficult but then I quit my job, Bob put down the financial papers and trusted in himself that he planned well for our retirement, (which he did beautifully!) and we both haven’t looked back since!

I think he is extremely happy with retirement and with his life physically, emotionally and most important spiritually!

…What do you see ahead for you and Bob in the years to come? What would you like to see happen?

I see us both growing each day spiritually and in doing so we will not only have a better understanding of God but also each other, our family and our friends. Bob and I already volunteer a lot for our Church and I see us both doing more in the future.

I think that Bob and I will be seeing a lot of the United States in the next 10-15 years. I hope we’ll be able to see not only the fantastic and unusual sights of this country but experience the true spirit that’s in the diverse cultures and peoples of the United States and what makes this melting pot so “united”! Bob and I are so different in so many ways but we work! There are so many extremes in this country from cultures to politics. Yet we all somehow come together to make this country work. I’d like to find out how in subtle ways and not so subtle ways we as a country somehow come together.

I don’t want to give up the dream of traveling abroad. We’ve done a lot of that but I would like to explore some more. There’s nothing better than looking at our country through the eyes of other countries.

I hope that our health, mentally, spiritually, and physically gets better with age. Can it be done? I think we will both try!

I see us possibly moving to another State for the summer months sometime in the future.

Bob and I will be scouting around for a good assisted living community 15 or more years down the line. We have very strong beliefs that neither of us want to be a burden on our extended family. I would like to be very close to one or both of our daughters. We don’t want our family driving long hours just to visit.

…What advice would you give to a spouse whose partner seems unhappy in retirement?

I’m afraid that I am the spouse that would more likely be unhappy and it isn’t about retirement but about chronic health issues. I suppose many run into this problem at some time or another during retirement. If chronic illness does rear its ugly head I have some suggestions for both of you.

First of all without getting into all the boring details, I have several chronic illnesses both physical and mental. It is not easy for the whole family but it can be done! I’ll go one step further and say that these hardships can be frightening, impossible, crazy, wonderful, joyous, hopeful blessings for anyone who wants to grab a seat, buckle up and come along for an outrageous adventure of a lifetime!

God is there for you. Seek God first in all things and trust in Him. Face God honestly and He will take you on an adventure beyond your wildness imagination!

Hone up on your communication and listening skills - Take a deep breath then take a few more. Never be afraid to have a conversation about things but before you speak, think to yourself, “Does she want my advice, or support? Does she want a listener or someone to be a springboard with new ideas on the subject?” Sometimes you might have to ask what she wants but if you ask, show your concern by sitting down and looking at her and show her that you have her undivided attention.

Respect – Everything! – Respect all of the things that make this person a person. That includes all of those weird foibles and odd behaviors as well as all of the good things she or he does. Don’t forget to respect your spouse’s space, time, and how they accomplish things. Do they do these things differently than you? Does that bother you? Are you relaying anger or frustration back at them? Maybe they are pleasers and when they don’t “please” you they become unhappy.

Show an interest in each other’s (Fill in the blank) _____________.It doesn’t have to be everything they do. It’s nice to find some activities that are common ground so that you both can share this together.

Have there been changes in you or your spouse’s life? Remember, it doesn’t always have to be bad changes. Stress can build with wonderful changes also. Sometimes change can happen to you and you breeze by without a second thought, but it could be a devastating blow to your partner.

Pick your fights. And remember, you don’t have to win all the time. Play fair and fight fair. A heartfelt “I’m sorry” can turn your whole day around! (By the way, Bob is almost always the first to say those wonderful words!) You’ve heard it all before but I know that it’s true. Don’t go to bed angry or worse, giving the silent treatment.

Speaking as a women, if I’m crying silently into my pillow half the night and then thinking and rehashing the fight in my head for the other half of the night, I can guarantee you guys that whatever the fight was it is now blown up 100%! I know you’re tired but trust me, you need to solve it before bed!

Bob and I now have two figures (they can be anything) that sit right above our heads in bed. If one figure is turned away from the other, then one of us is upset about something. Does it work? Well, not always. Sometimes Bob doesn’t look at the figures for weeks. Ya gotta love him!

Be creative in solving problems. Don’t just think outside the box. Saw a hole in the box and look through it or better yet just get rid of the box altogether!

We all need to have a short pity party every once in a while. If you know you need one try to let your loved ones know ahead of time even if it’s just a verbal signal like, “Time out!” or even a red index card. (Yes the card might be hurled at your spouse but hey, we’re all trying!)

One word…Humor. We have a great situation right now at our house. Our grown daughter is now living with us. I have a severe hearing loss in both ears and Bob has a moderate hearing loss. I wear hearing aids and he doesn’t. (but should!) I sometimes I take mine out. One spouse will ask a question, the other spouse will answer with something that makes absolutely no sense, the other gets angry because of the silly answer and so on and so forth.

Bob and I do this on a regular basis and one evening our daughter clocked us going at this farce for 20 minutes! She finally burst out laughing saying we should write this material down as a sitcom. We’d make a fortune!

Be realistic. Really know what your limitations are. Have they changed in the last year, month, or even week? Sometime these limitations can change for the worse but sometimes they can get better. Take inventory often and then tell your spouse. He or she might think that you still feel that you can’t do something where now you feel you can tackle that something. They might try and talk you out of it and you want them to support you. Poor communication can be brutal.

Know that your spouse might be scared, nervous, worried, frustrated angry etc… as you are at this latest bump in the road.

Body language! Need I say more?


I'll add nothing to these fabulous answers. You must appreciate how tough it was for Betty to be so open on all these questions and share real emotions. My publishing them was the easy part.

January 23, 2013

Uncertain Times Call For Different "Rules"

What follows is a guest post from Donna Every, a financial advisor and author. Her latest book is her first novel, The Merger Mogul,” (www.donnaevery.com). While the target of her comments are entrepreneurs, i8t occured me that her points are equally valuable to those on a journey toward a satisfying retirement.

Savvy Entrepreneurs Play by Different Rules in Uncertain Times   

“The entrepreneurs who are successful during times of uncertainty are so because they don’t rely on the standard approaches they’d use in predictable times, and they look for opportunities – the positives -- in situations that would have been considered negatives five years ago,” Every says.

“It’s similar to how we deal with the weather. In places where it’s sunny most of the summer, we wouldn’t leave our house each morning packing coats and umbrellas just in case. The weather’s predictable. But in the winter and other seasons when the weather can quickly change, we head out with a different mindset.”

For businesses, switching gears to deal with inclement economic conditions involves adopting new perspectives and practices, she says.

“I incorporated some of these in ‘The Merger Mogul’ because it’s set during the recession and my protagonist, the mogul, had to adapt,” Every says. “He used many of the strategies I teach my business clients for thriving during economic uncertainty.”

What are some of those strategies?
• Build on what you have, not toward what you want: Instead of setting goals and then seeking out the resources you’ll need to meet them, assess what you have available and decide what you can achieve with that. This not only saves you the time and expense of pulling together resources you may not have, it also gives you the advantage of working from your business’s individual and unique strengths.

• Follow the Las Vegas rule: Tourists planning a weekend in Las Vegas will often set aside the amount of money they’re willing to gamble – and lose -- on cards or the slots. That way, they won’t lose more than they can afford. During an uncertain economy, entrepreneurs should calculate their risks the same way. Rather than going for the biggest opportunities as you would in prosperous times, look for the opportunities that won’t require as much of your resources. Calculate how much you can afford to lose, and always consider the worst-case scenario.

• Join hands and hearts: Competition is fine when things are going well, but when times are tough, you need allies. Explore forming partnerships with other entrepreneurs so you can strategize to create opportunities together. With what your partners bring to the table, you’ll have more strength and new options to work with.

• Capitalize on the unexpected: Surprises can have positive outcomes if you handle them nimbly by finding ways to use them to your advantage. Instead of planning damage control for the next unexpected contingency, look at it as an opportunity. Get creative as you look for the positives it presents.

• When life is unpredictable, don’t try to forecast: Focus on what you can do and create now rather than what you can expect based on what happened in the past. In good times, that information can be a helpful and reliable way to make predictions, but savvy entrepreneurs don’t count on that in uncertain times.

“While the U.S. economy certainly is improving, there’s still too much uncertainty both here and abroad to go back to the old ways of doing business just yet,” Every says.
“If you’ve survived the past five years, you’ve probably been relying on many of these strategies – maybe without even realizing it,” she says. “Don’t abandon them yet, and if there are some here you aren’t using, work toward incorporating them, too.”
Donna Every is director of Arise Consulting Inc., a company that offers business training, and consulting services. She can be contacted at donnaevery@sunbeach.net.

There isn't a point she makes that can't apply to building a successful retirement. Read them from your unique perspective and see if you don't agree.

January 21, 2013

Mom's Reading Cards

Recently I wrote about finding my mom's old travel journals. The insight into her life and thoughts was priceless. At the same time I found a large stack of index cards. These contained the names of every book she had read over an eight year period from the mid 1990's until her eyesight became too poor to continue, around 2004. At that point she shifted to audio books, but for any book lover, you know that isn't the same.

Several blog regulars asked if I would provide a list of some of the books mom gave high marks to.  Most of her choices were fiction, many leaning toward female-oriented plot lines (seems logical) or pure escapist fare with strong female characters. There were some historical fiction choice, too.

I did locate a few cards of non-fiction that contained some high marks. Each card averaged about 20 books and usually three or four of those received one, two, or even three stars.

There is no particular order to this list. I have only selected the ones I could find that had at least one star (up to three for real favorites). In many cases she only listed the author's last name so you will have better luck searching by title. Frankly, I have no idea what many of these books are about. Also, I don't know if all are still in print, so I leave that to your research.

These titles are from no more than 30% of the cards I found. If you think this type of listing is valuable I'll produce a part two.

Birmingham   Carriage Trade
                      The Rothman Scandal
                      The Lebaron Secret

L. Blair           With this Ring

Booth             The Sisters

J. Katz            Sign Off

P. McCabe      Wasteland

C. Leavitt       Into Thin Air
M. Palmer      Critical Judgement

C. Allen           Illusions
                       Mixed Emotions
                       Somebody’s baby

E. Adler          The Secret of the Villa Mimosa
                       All or Nothing

Alcorn            Vestments

Wolitzer         Tunnel of Love

Tyler               Ladder of Years
                       Accidental Tourist
                       Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant
                       Saint Maybe
                       Back When We were Grown-ups
                       Morgan’s Passing

Thayer            Everlasting
                      An Act of Love

Van Slyke      A Necessary Woman

Van Wormer  Jury Duty
                      Only You  
                      West End

M. Atwood     Alias Grace

L. Battle         Storyville
                      The Past is Another Country

Barber            A Farewell to France

Banis              This Splendid Earth

Berg              Until The Real Thing Comes Along
                      Say When
                      Ordinary Life
                      True to Form

Wolf               The Harbinger Effect

Archer            Sons of Fortune

Howard          Dirt Rich

Inman            Old Dogs and Children

Hunter           Far From the Sea

Feldman         Looking For Love

Fielding          See Jane Run

Cookson         The Parson’s Daughter

Freeman         Illusions of Love

Coscarelli       Living Color

B. Bradford    Voice of The Heart
                      Act of Will
                      To be The Best

Bright            Parting Shots

Binchy           The Copper Beech

C. Alexander  The Endurance


Holland           One's Company (Reflections on Living Alone)

LeShan            It's Better To Be Over The Hill

Ellerbee          And So It Goes 

Buscaglia        Bus 9 to Paradise

In looking up some of these titles I discovered a new side to my mother: one who didn't mind a bit of violence and intrigue in her reading choices. For a proper Bostonian school teacher I thought I'd find more "high brow"titles. But, actually, it was nice to discover the very human side of a woman who liked escapist fare that had some kick to it for her leisure reading.

January 16, 2013

What Do You Think?

Once a week I get an e-mail from a reader asking for my advice about something. It could be financial or relational, or maybe a how-to question. I try to answer the best I can and hope my input has been helpful. Then, a few times a month I will get a reader suggesting a particular topic for an upcoming post. 

I love both kinds of e-mails. The first allows me to share my experience, while the second often gives me a great idea to write about. Honestly, coming up with thirteen new posts every month is getting harder. What haven't I written about several times? So, every new idea is more than welcome (hint, hint).

Regular reader and commenter, Jane, (not her real name), sent me such an e-mail a week or two ago. She asked if I thought three specific concerns of hers might be turned into a post for feedback from everyone. Absolutely! 

Question: Membership Clubs

One of her questions concerned the advisability of membership in stores like Costco or Sam's Club. After downsizing, the gigantic sized detergent or pickle jar became a storage problem. The second freezer didn't make the move so stocking up on meat was no longer viable. She found herself overstocking with six month's worth of paper towels and other products.

At the same time, Costco or Sam's Club often have attractive prices on clothing, automotive tires, carpeting, and appliances. The Costco near me has an excellent wine selection. Photo services and eye glasses are also very competitively priced. 

So, she wanted to know what others have done after downsizing. Do the savings in some areas make the yearly membership in these membership clubs worth while? Or, are you tempted to stock up on things you don't really need but the price is hard to pass up?

Question: Where do you go for vision care and exams?

Along the same lines, she wondered if most retirees go to more expensive eye doctors for exams and eye wear, or are the services at Walmart, Sears, or Costco just as good? Many health plans will cover services at these national chains while not paying for an expensive ophthalmologist. 

For me I choose the more expensive route. My family has a history of eye problems. It is important to me to catch anything like macular degeneration early. While I may be kidding myself, I trust the doctor more than the person in the mall. But, I may be wasting money based on a perception and not reality. What do you do?

Question: Family-Owned Business and Retirement

Finally, is an issue that many retirees struggle with: when one partner is ready to retire and the other isn't. The retiring half of the equation wants to travel or move or start enjoying life away from the job. The still-working half has decided he or she can't afford to quit now, or enjoys working over retirement.

Jane's question actually asked about this from an interesting perspective: a family-run business. Both spouses are important to the success of the company but one is ready to walk away. However, if he or she does retire now the business will suffer. The partner who still wants to work thinks another two years of keeping the company going would be best. Jane notes that her spouse is supportive of her desire to stop now. But, she is feeling guilty knowing the costs and the strain on her husband if she leaves. Training someone to do her job would take the better of two years so that's not a real choice. What to do?

OK, now your turn. Please help "Jane" and all of us with your thoughts on one, two, or all three questions. If you are part of (or were part of) a family-owned and run business your input would be especially helpful. I imagine there are lots of folks in her situation. Work and keep the business chugging along when you are burned out, or step off the train and potentially harm your long-term retirement. Big dilemma.

January 14, 2013

An Apology

Last summer I started work on my next retirement-based book. After the reaction to Building a Satisfying Retirement I decided to write a follow up. Based on feedback from blog readers, I thought a book built around answering the most often-asked questions by both those who are retired, and those close to retirement would serve a real need.

Instead of depending on me to answer those queries, I turned to the experts: you. Over 50 folks responded to my request for help by answering a dozen questions about their satisfying retirement journey: all about their hopes and plans, problems and disappointments, joys and fears.

The answers were tremendously insightful. Each one of the 50+ who responded gave me an in-depth look at their lives. I was honored to be allowed to see what folks were really feeling about the whole subject of retirement. The material for the book was just waiting to be put together.

I had originally promised to complete the book by late fall. It seemed as though the finished product might make a good holiday gift for many folks. My question-answering collaborators were anxious to read their words in print, along with everyone else's.

Why the apology?

Because, the book remains unfinished. For a variety of reasons I stopped work on the new book in late summer and didn't get the spark back to work on it again until just a week ago. I re-read some of the answers and realized how helpful the material would be.

So, out came the files and I have begun again. While I hope to have the e-book published by late Spring, I may be better off this time to not set a deadline but simply buckle down and finish what I started.

For those of you who took the time and energy to share your thoughts and concerns with me, I apologize for not finishing when I said I would. Be assured the book will happen and your participation will have not been in vain.

For everyone else, I can promise you the book will be one you will want to read. The answers and life stories are a treasure trove of helpful information and insight. Frankly, I have been re-examining my life based on what I have been reading. It is that powerful.

Whether you have been retired for less than a year or more than a decade you will learn something new. If retirement is still in your future you will better understand the process involved in getting from where you are now to where you want to be.

Now, back to work.

January 11, 2013

R.T. the RV and Our 2013 Travel Plans

On New Year's Eve Betty and I took a look at our calendar for the upcoming year. After reviewing our budget and our desire to hit the road when we can, we sketched out our travel plans. This will be the first full year we own an RV so our first reaction was to think about all sorts of extended trips we might take. "Let's be gone for months at a time! Let's drive to Alaska, then Maine, then Florida, and then home!"

After a deep breath we reached a wiser decision: to step gently into the RV world rather than plunge in head first. We need experience with this type of vacation and lifestyle. We have to see how Bailey, the dog, will handle being inside a rolling box for long stretches of time. Frankly, we have to see how we will react to that same scenario. For the trip I just described our yearly travel budget would probably just pay for the gas. Also, I have to see how my dad will handle going several weeks without our visits and closeness.

Nothing prettier than the Oregon coast
After our tremendous time in Oregon last summer we have decided to spend most of August there. That will involve renting a condo from a friend, so no RV will be required. Betty, Bailey, and I will drive up and back while letting our oldest daughter and her family have some fun in R.T. while we are gone.

So, what about RV trips?  Betty has a commitment at church that will make it tough for her if we were gone for even a week at a time until Easter. That means for the first two or three months of the year we will probably restrict ourselves to a few 3 or 4 day jaunts. With most of the country too cold to visit, we will certainly make a trip to the Tucson area and maybe the wine country around Patagonia. Southern California is a possibility but that is a lot of driving for just a few days. More likely a place like Lake Havasu or Palm Springs would make sense for these excursions.

Several years ago I wrote a travel book about Arizona. I only printed a few copies for family members but I believe there is a market for it. After all this time I have to freshen many of the pictures and update the information. April is looking like the perfect time to spend two weeks traveling around the state and working on the book project.

By June the heat in Scottsdale is over 100 degrees every day so that means it is time to head north. We are thinking of a 2 week trip across Northern Arizona along Route 66 and then into parts of New Mexico. Betty has never been to Santa Fe or Albuquerque. I think we'd enjoy small towns like Las Vegas and Taos, too.

In August we are off to Hillsboro, Oregon to see blogging buddies Barbara and Earl Torris and Galen Pearl. Missing the hottest month of the year in Phoenix made this a no-brainer! Our youngest daughter will probably join us for a week or so. She is giving some thought to relocating to Portland. The weather and lifestyle fit her very well.

Come October we are heading west: two or three weeks in California. There are so many tremendous state parks in the southern and central part of the state that our toughest job will deciding which ones to pick. Meeting blogging friends from that part of the state, like Early Retiree Tamara, her husband, Mike, and Sonia and Duke Marsh would be lots of fun.

Add it up and we will be away from home almost three months this year, half of that in the RV. Assuming all goes well, the tentative goal for 2014 is four months of travel, all of it in R.T. and most of it in the Midwest and East.

Just like the rest of retirement, this schedule is simply a plan and open to adjustment. Except for August in Oregon we are open to add or subtract as needed. We have talked about a trip to San Antonio but nothing firm is on our plate.

So, this is where you can help. Where should we go that we might have overlooked? What trips of 7-14 days from the Phoenix area do you recommend? What are your plans for this year? Maybe you will be someplace that sounds perfect to us.

For those wanting to see a few pictures of the inside of R.T. here you are:

Betty and Bailey enjoying a relaxing lunch

January 2, 2013

Retirement Coaching is Big Business - For Me?

Not surprisingly, a new business has sprung up over the past several years and is raking in big money: satisfying retirement coaching. Companies have found out that many folks approach retirement with more than a little trepidation and uncertainty. Financial issues often top the list. But, concerns over boredom and how to spend one's time, whether to downsize and move, how to deal with grown children, even end-of-life questions are common.

An recent article by Patricia Marx in The New Yorker magazine detailed the very expensive steps many well-to-do retirees are taking to help them with this transition: hiring retirement coaches. She calls them cheerleaders for a team of one: you. Sometimes the goal is to find a new career path, but just as often it is to develop a plan to make retirement as close to perfect as money can buy.

In a process not that dissimilar from employments coaches, the client is asked all sorts of question about what makes him or her happy, what they would do if money were no object, and what a perfect life would look like. Various personality tests may be administered to help pin down your level of satisfaction in areas as diverse as career, marriage or relationships, fun, personal growth, and financial issues.

Over the course of meetings both in person and on the phone that may last months, the retiree is helped to be "the person you allege you want to be." Retirement coaches don't judge or analyze, they act as an expensive support person. Ms. Marx cites fees that range from a few hundred dollars to $150,000. The author talks about a few of the major figures in this industry that are located right here in Phoenix.

Hold on, I can do this!

Well, that caught my attention. I live in Phoenix. I used to be a consultant. Since there are no guidelines, I can be an "expert" in retirement. I can find some personality tests on-line if I need one for someone who wants my advice. One of the most influential retirement coaches owns a Lear jet to fly in clients. I can't do that but Greyhound still has pretty attractive rates.

So, I thought about what I could do to start raking in the big bucks from those who can't figure out what to do with their free time. I could have an expensive seminar at one of the resorts in town where I have some snazzy Power Point shows about gratification and finding your passion. I could have a special phone line installed so clients could reach me whenever a crisis of confidence hits. I'd  need to brush up on the proper lingo, like "core values" or "clarified goals."

I'd probably have to upgrade from my 4 or 10 year old cars if I have to meet someone at the airport. My house isn't set up for meetings so I'd have to arrange for an office in one of the executive suites around town. Oh, and I'd need a corporate name: "Bob's Satisfying Retirement" isn't going to cut it. Someone who pays me $10,000 a month for my thoughts expects a snappy company name.

Now, this is getting exciting. I tell Betty we can afford that trip to Europe next year. I'll take care of the grandkids' college costs. That old rug downstairs will be replaced.

Then reality strikes: I've been giving this information away for the last few years on this blog. All anyone would need to do is read old posts, for free. True, I wouldn't be talking with anyone on the phone and I couldn't agree to be only one person's retirement coach. But, that is a small price to not pay for world class insight and advice.

Not really

OK, Ok...my tongue has been firmly planted in my check for the last few paragraphs. There really are very highly paid retirement coaches who help people figure out what they should be able to figure out on their own. But, I'm not one of them, nor do I want to be.

I'd love to have some advertising on this blog to help cover my costs. But, my reasons for blogging on satisfying retirement are not monetary. I do it as a creative outlet. I do it because I enjoy it. I do it as a way to help others. I do it for the tremendous friends I have met along the way. I do it for folks who send me letters of appreciation and support.

So, big-time retirement coaches in Phoenix, you can relax. You'll get no $300 an hour competition from me.