May 31, 2013

Living A Satisfying Retirement: Do You Ever Get Bored?

One of the primary concerns of both current and future retirees is how one fills his or her day. There is a real worry about being bored. After several decades of having one's day (and nights) dominated by work commitments, the thought of unplanned days stretching as far as one can see into the future is a little unsettling.

One of the questions included in my new book, Living a Satisfying Retirement, is " How do you fill your days? Are you ever bored or does your time fill up?" I was quite intrigued with the tremendous variety of answers. Here is a sampling of some of the responses from the book:

Gail P. The joke in my family is that my headstone will say, “She was never bored!” Whether I’m busy or relaxing, I’m never bored. 

Paula M. I sometimes wonder how I fill my days!!! I look back to when I was a young wife and mom and remember all that I did in a day, and marvel that I could get it all done. And then I look at what I do now, and think that I am a “SLUG”. I also think I got a lot more done when I worked full time – somehow, you just fit it all in.

Without time restraints, it is easy to sit at the computer and before you know it, hours have gone by – or I go to the gym and 2 hours later, I am leaving – not having exercised for 2 hours, but having talked to a couple people, taken a shower, read the front page of the paper, etc. Before, I would have gone and exercised and been done and gone in 30-45 minutes because I would have needed to get to the store and buy groceries to go home and fix dinner. I guess there are times that I am bored, but not often – seems that there is always something to do and not enough time to do it.

Banjo Steve    My time seems to always fill up. Even when I don't know what to do at the moment, it becomes a time of contemplation for me rather than any kind of boredom. I don't mind, at odd times, constructively doing nothing in particular. Conversely, I try to avoid overbooking myself, having no desire to return to a new manifestation of the rat race.

Bill D. Regular routine includes physical exercise / activities with spouse, friends & family / reading & research re self development / volunteerism / financial (investments & home budget) management /periodic travel. 

Doug N. Our saying is "Retirement means you have to be responsible for your own entertainment." My analogy is that I have a copy of Ernie Zelinski's Get-A-Life Tree on my desk. It's been there for nearly a decade, but I haven't made the time to work on it. Too many other things to do.

I start almost every morning with 10 minutes of stretching while I'm brewing my tea. Next I check the surf forecast so that if conditions are unusually good then I can enjoy an extra dawn patrol. Finally I spend at least 30 minutes every morning working on the blog or the next edition of "The Military Guide".

After that the day writes the schedule: my spouse and I try to work out together every Sunday, Tuesday, and Friday morning (calisthenics, weights, aerobics). I try to train taekwondo every Monday & Wednesday evening. That leaves Thursdays and Saturdays for surfing, but I can also double up on Mon &; Wed if the waves are big.

I take a nap almost every day. I meet with an investment club almost every week. My spouse taught me "20 minutes a day". That means we try to do yard work or a home-improvement project together every day for 20 minutes. The reality is that once we've started, we get into it and frequently go for an hour or longer.

Roger W. I am like a little kid in that I get bored easily. For the most part I do what strikes my mood for that day. I am a prolific blogger so that takes quite a bit of time. I have two plus acres of land to keep up. I have an eighty year old home that needs constant attention. I enjoy reading and am now in the middle of a blog study of church history and how we got to where we are today. This and many unplanned things make up most of my days. But then there are some days where I choose to do absolutely nothing.

Michael V. In terms of other interests, my wife has always done a better job than myself. She has played organized tennis for years and has dedicated time to an assortment of local charities. For me, I seem to fill my time dealing with the maintenance of a house that is too big for us, bill paying, finances, taxes, etc., etc. I also enjoy baking, cooking on the grill, bike riding and daily walks. 

We have recently purchased 2 new bicycles and have started riding together. We will soon be taking this hobby on a road trip, right after we get our daughter settled into law school. 

Pat W. I do not remember being bored anytime in the last 20 years. My time fills up rapidly & I have to remember (repeatedly!) that I cannot do everything I want to do, even in retirement.

Don S. There are not enough hours in the day. I am NOT bored. Bear in mind I also stop "working" around dinner so you can call those hours wasted or not. For me I try to achieve some kind of balance between "work" and relaxation. What "relaxation" means is different to everyone but to me it means doing something brainless: maybe reading, TV, Internet, just not work.

Jane P.   I’ve had three boring days in two years. We have an exercise or swimming class every weekday morning. We have a garden. I try to meet one of several friends for coffee or lunch each week. I’m a mediator in training and I try to have one mediation event set up each week. I have a blog and a blogging community. I play games on Facebook.

Bertha T. When did we work? The days fly by and are productive. When I feel bored I do panic just a little. That is when I read a book or do a crossword puzzle. There are periods when a change of work is play. We live in a city that has a lot of opportunities for exploring and in the winters we travel to Arizona for a change of scenery. The fact that we have found a way to make changes as a part of our routine life keeps each day interesting. So the answer is "yes" sometimes I get bored but there are solutions for the short term feeling.  

Dick J. During the early part of my second year of retirement I did frequently become bored, and depressed at times. Not from serious problems but from thinking too much about how my pre-retirement vision of retirement wasn't matching the reality. 

Right now I'm doing some of the training but it will be finished within the month. I most likely will not seek to do more of that anytime soon. I fill my time planning for the next trip, traveling and spending time every now and then in New England, spending 3 or 4 days every few weeks with my 80-something parents who live about 4 hours away, cooking (always has been an activity I enjoy) and doing some light landscaping in our small yard. 

My wife and I enjoy reading and watching British mysteries on Netflix. As the months have gone by, I am more and more relaxed and satisfied with life without work.

John H. With my current routine, my day is usually close to full. Sometimes I get a little bored, but when that happens I call one of my kids, mother or sibling to chat.

Paula S. My days are full and varied which makes it difficult to tell anyone what I have been doing. Thankfully projects don't lie around waiting to get done as long, however there are many still on the list to be completed. I'm never bored.

Katie S. Communicating with friends, old and new, via Internet and Skype. Learning new things - anything that happens to grab my fancy. Learning new languages and planning my next travel. Art, art, art! I love to cook! Yoga, walking around my village and visiting with people I run into, writing, reading. spending time with my guy, gardening and hanging out with friends.

Mark R. I start the day off with what I like to refer to as “spiritual exercises” (including reading, prayer, reflection and meditation). This is usually followed by “coffee time” with my wife. I then usually end up spending an hour or so at the gym. During the late morning to mid- afternoon, I am often involved in various classes/courses offered at OLLI (some with and some without my wife).

My day is often quite filled and I have still not done many things that I wanted to when I first retired (e.g. do more ball room dancing with my wife, getting involved in a ministries that seek to make a difference in the world around me or to find more social connections with other people as I know that I can be a bit of a loner at times).

Carla H. I am always working on something, so rarely bored.

Janet L. When I worked, I regularly wished for a couple of additional hours every day as I always ran short of time. I continue to have that dilemma. The days fly past and often I find myself having to set time limits for tasks. I try to curtail myself from making too many commitments so that I don’t have to dread looking at my schedule for the week.

I feel like a kid in a candy store with so many choices about how I’ll spend my time. Although much is written about boredom as a retirement risk, I have never suffered boredom.

Doreen P. My time fills up. Two days a week I volunteer at the garden. I work with flowers now. I live in NYC so if I feel bored I go to a different museum, library or exhibit. If you live alone you have to leave your house and go out and meet people.

I read, go to museums, concerts, parks, events at the library, out with friends-it is just that everything is at a slower pace-no more rushing. I also like to exercise.

Shirley L. My days are filled with writing, biking or hiking, lunches with friends, gardening, reading, traveling, and probably a little too much news-following. I'm working on that one. And of course some cooking and cleaning--you still can't get away from that!

Bob B. During the summer, we’re active in a number of outdoor activities – hiking, bike riding, kayaking, camping, fly fishing, and target shooting. During the winter, we snowshoe or cross-country ski – when snow conditions permit. 

Billie S. I’m never bored but I am sometimes “lazy”, ignoring chores for the moment and reading a lot. That’s happened less and less over the course of this first year. I miss being part of something I consider important to society, i.e., making a contribution. I am ready to find a way to do that which will fit with my time in the next year.

Sarah V. I play competitive league tennis which fills my schedule for at least three days per week for nine months out of the year. I spend time volunteering for local charities and organizing fundraising events. I am active in our community book club and Zumba class and I love to travel, cook, entertain and take photographs.  

Tammy P. My normal daily routine (not that too many days are normal, actually) consists of waking up around 6:00 AM, enjoying coffee and conversation with my husband before moving on to our morning workouts. This is followed by breakfast and time on the computer doing my various electronic chores of email, itinerary planning and blog reading and writing.

We generally have anywhere from one to three activities planned on any given day, plus our normal chores to get done. Plus, we each have a lot of follow ups we need to do each day as a result of the activities we are involved in. For myself, this means I need to practice piano, the recorder and my Spanish each day, as well as stay on top of the subscribed reading from the four book clubs I belong to.

Other things we do regularly are listening to educational DVD’s on topics ranging from Greek history to the science of wine making, take weekly long distance bike rides, attend yoga classes, attend a lifelong learning program at our nearby university, gardening, and in my case, needlepoint, baking and cooking. We also utilize a variety of online discount sites to enjoy a multitude of entertainment and dining options, often last minute but at a fraction of the price we used to pay prior to retirement.

Regarding boredom: As long as we understand TV is not an option to alleviate boredom, we are never bored. In our experience, using TV to alleviate boredom actually creates an enhanced state of boredom.

This is a sampling of the answers to just this one question. Nearly two dozen more questions provide the same thoughtful and helpful guidance for you, whether you are already retired or still moving in that direction. Living a Satisfying Retirement provides real life insight from those already living and planning their own retirement journey.

I hope you'll consider buying a copy for you, a family member, or friend. It could be the best $2.99 you have invested into living a satisfying retirement.


May 29, 2013

Backyard Magic

In early April I wrote about a decision to change how Betty and I decorated our backyard in the post, A major change after 3 decades. For all that time, in the three different houses we have occupied in the Phoenix area, our approach to maintaining plants and flowers had been the same: year-round. Of course, in the summer that meant daily watering to keep the flowering plants alive in 105-110 degree heat. While a portion of the yard we have owned for the past 11 years has been converted to low water, low maintenance bushes on a drip system, that was impractical for the dozens of pots that graced the porch, Ramada, and yard. Even though we rarely ventured into the backyard during the summer months, those blasted pots still ate up time, money, and water.

When we bought an RV last fall and determined we'd like to be away from the desert for a good chunk of the summer months, the silliness of the flowering pots became even more obvious. I gave Betty a challenge: can we make the yard interesting to look at while we are home but still be gone for several weeks at a time and have what is out there alive when we return? Nor surprisingly her answer was, "Yes."

So, we took on the task of converting the back space into one that allowed Betty to express her sense of whimsy and creativity while I found cacti and succulents that could go for 3 weeks or so at a time without being watered.

The results are pictured below. When she first said she'd like to hang a bicycle from the Ramada, suspend two chairs we bought in Texas from the back wall, and generally use spray paint and colorful pots to make up for the missing flowers I swallowed and gave my blessing. Past experience has proven that when Betty has a vision of something I'll usually not like it much initially but then fall in love with it over time. No surprise, it has happened again.

I will admit that the yard would not be everyone's cup of tea. When it is time to sell the house at some point down the road I'm pretty sure the yard will have to be made to look a bit more "normal." But, based on what kind of budget we had and what our goals were, I think we've nailed it.

Will the cacti survive for several weeks without water? I guess we will find out. The smaller ones can probably be moved into the house or given to a friend to water in our absence. Those in the larger pots should be fine. But, they certainly have a much better chance at living than the flowers, which burn up after 3 days!

I promised to share some pictures of what Betty came up with. Here you go!

Old barn hinges

Yes that is a bottle tree - with real bottles

Yes, those are chairs.

May 27, 2013

The Computer & Finances: Making Them Work Together

It is unusual to find a business that interacts with the general public that doesn't offer a way to satisfy bills on line. Some banks and airlines charge you to deal with a human being instead of handling your business, by yourself, online. With costs so low, they have determined that the potential risk of upsetting someone or losing a customer who does not have Internet access is worth it in the long haul.

At the same time we read almost every day of some company's computer being hacked with millions of customer files compromised. A cyber-terrorist in China or Chicago figures out a way to steal identities and create havoc for untold numbers of folks. 

So, what are we to do? Being a part of society today just about requires computer access and use. And, nowhere is that more true than in the area of bill paying, and recently, budgeting. You suggest the U.S. Postal Service? Mail is stolen every day creating the same problems. With the budget pressures on the Post Office, it is already taking longer for a first class letter to make it coast to coast. While the proposed elimination of Saturday mail delivery has been taken off the table for the time being, vulnerability to theft and delays are only likely to increase.

I received the following guest post submission from Angie Picardo. She provides a good, basic overview of the subject.

With advancements in technology, you are no longer required to go into a business in person or submit payment through the mail now that paying balls and managing your finances can be done completely through the Internet. The convenience factor should be more than tempting for someone tired of having to rely on brick and mortar stores to help manage their finances. For most bills, you can make payments on the due date without even having to leave the house or write a check, or pay the postage.
Paying Bills
 For just about every bank you can track every detail of your bank account. Since most banks no longer return cancelled checks, if you still write a few of those you'll need the Internet to make sure they were cashed in a timely manner. You can check on your balance at any time and pay bills online and on time so you never have to worry about a late charge. In fact, most banks will pay any late fee and work to get any negative notice on your credit report removed if they don't process a payment properly.
Banks will allow you to set up an automated payment option where you can enter the amount of your bill (no matter what type of bill) and where it’s going. The bank or credit union will withdraw the funds from your account on the due date each month, or the date that you have set yourself.
It’s easier to keep track if you let your bank know how much each bill will be. There are tools for your online bank account that will allow you to set aside a certain amount for bills, reserve and spending. This new dynamic in online banking has made management of your bank accounts easier than ever.
You also don’t even have to go through your actual online bank account to pay bills, either. You can just go to the website of the company that you are making a payment to and enter your debit/checking or credit card number to pay off a balance. Many worry that their information may not be secure over the Internet, but cable, energy and other utility companies provide secure Internet connections that make it very difficult for your information to go missing or acquired by third parties. Of course, sometimes it happens, but most of us will never be affected.
Managing Your Budget

How about help with budgeting? The Internet has a resource and/or a tool for that. Websites like allow you to control every aspect of your financial life. Mint has proven itself to be secure so you will not have to worry about your information being stolen or borrowed.
You just enter some information about yourself and it will automatically pull the information from your savings and checking accounts, automobile and mortgage loans, as well as any investments you may have attached to the account. This type of tool is helpful for seeing all of your money in one single place, how it is spent, and how you might want to budget going forward.
Web sites like this will create a display showing where your income is coming from, and exactly where your expenditures are. It can tell you how much you are spending on gas, restaurants, and groceries—basically anything. It can also offer you advice on what investments might be right for you and what the next steps should be if you are trying to save money or pay off a student loan, for example. Many of these programs, like Mint, are free.

Getting Started
Contact your bank or Credit Union and ask about these services or do a quick online search. Just be sure any fiancial sites like this have a small padlock next to their URL address. This means that those sites are secure and legitimate.
After setting up your budget for each account (savings, spending and bills) you can see where all of your money is going to go in any given month. If you don’t have all of your accounts (including investments, mortgages, etc.) in the same place, you will want to find a tool that allows you to see your information spread out before you. Besides the services offered by Mint, there are several other tools that can help. BudgetPulse and Expensr are another two that will be able to do mostly all of the same things and are offered for free.
Now that you’ve seen what it takes to get started, it’s time to take hold of your finances as tools like this make it easier than ever to control how much money comes in and out. Technology has made our lives simpler, and it is making money management that much more efficient. You no longer have to keep a paper records or files of income and expenditures. Digital tools can easily be embraced to help you budget and manage all of your ongoing finances!

Angie Picardo is a writer for the personal finance website, NerdWallet, providing you the tools for understanding personal finance.

As a follow up, I have used on line banking & bill paying for several years with absolutely no problems. Now that we are spending more time away from home in our RV, it is essential that we can handle bill paying and financial management while on the road. I save quite a bit on postage and supplies each year, too!

For full disclosure Satisfying Retirement has received no compensation for any of the links provided in this post.

May 24, 2013

Digging Deeper: Those Six Words

A recent post of mine apparently struck quite a chord with good friend and blogging buddy, Galen Pearl. A Retired Life: A Summary in Six Words was my attempt to attach three words to my life before my satisfying retirement journey began, and three words that describe where I feel I am now, some 12 years later. Besides writing her own blog post as a follow up, she contacted me to ask if I could expand one the original idea.

Galen wants to know my answers to some important questions that this post raised for her, and hopefully for you. Frankly, I wouldn't have thought of digging deeper until she asked. But, she is raising some important concerns that could benefit from clarification. In essence her questions centered on the timing and my awareness of the movement from the three words before retirement (angry, ambitious, unfulfilled) to the three words after retirement (calm, content, fulfilled). 

For her, for you, and for me, let me attempt some explanations:

Q. Did retirement trigger this change? For me, the answer is definitely, yes. If I had continued running my business little would have changed.  The first three words would have remained firmly in place. If I could project that into the future, I believe my marriage, relationship with my daughters, and my overall health would have been comprised. I guess I could add a few more words if I had continued down that path: divorced or separated, depressed and lonely, and physically sick.

Is retirement necessary for this transformation? In my case, yes, but that isn't likely to be true for everyone. Better self-awareness, a shift in how life is viewed, a good friend making a comment, an increase in your spirituality or faith - almost anything may be the spark. Working or not working isn't the key.

Q: How did retirement turn things around? There are a few obvious reasons why the closing of my business halted this downward spiral. All the pressures of running a business stopped. The fear of clients being unhappy and not renewing my contract was no longer my first and last thought every day. I was no longer spending 100,000 miles in airplanes and 150 nights in hotels year after year after year. My weekends were no longer a desperate time to catch up on work and home and family before leaving again Monday morning.

I began to step away from the horrible feeling of time pressures and performance anxiety. Like others I have talked with, for much of my career I always felt I was in way over my head. At some point people would figure out I had no idea what I was talking about. They would see the emperor had no clothes. I would be exposed as an overpaid fraud. With retirement I no longer had to worry about whether I belonged or not. I left the playing field behind.

Q: Did I actively pursue these changes? No. For such a fundamental shift in my world view and the old paradigms (my old way of thinking), time had to pass. It probably took me a few years just to realize how seriously damaging and wasteful my previous approach to living had been. I had bought into the American dream of hard work and total focus = success. That meant vacations on Maui, wreck-diving in Bermuda, a condo in Florida, a convertible when I wanted one, a large house with an even larger mortgage...and an empty life built around little of substance and meaning. I had no passions, no hobbies, no real relationship with others, no real living faith.... no core me.

I did manage to avoid the one, fatal mistake of some of my contemporaries: affairs. 150 nights away from home is a lot of nights with a lot of temptations and opportunities. This isn't bragging or hinting at any type of superiority, it is just that I never was even remotely tempted to break my marriage vows. Why I was so firm in this regard I guess I'll ask God at the end of my life. But, trust between Betty and me was never broken, strained, or even stretched a little. Maybe that is why we will celebrate our 37th anniversary in a few weeks.

Honestly, I don't think there was one instance or one occurrence when the three "bad" words were replaced with the three "good" ones. I don't think I was really aware of the shift until four or five years into retirement. and even then it wasn't as clear as it is now. By then I had developed some outside interests and hobbies that allowed some parts of my long-buried personality to blossom. I recognized a contentment that hadn't been part of my life since my days as a carefree DJ in my early 20's. That life was a total blast with few responsibilities and constraints, but it was a life of an immature semi-adult. It couldn't continue and it didn't.

Q: How did I become aware of my shift? Galen wondered if I noticed this change all at once, or it was gradual enough that an "ah-ha" moment never really occurred. I think the latter is probably true. Actually, until I wrote the post I hadn't put all this into words. And, that wouldn't have happened if my pastor hadn't preached on the life of Paul and had used the three word concept.

It is kind of amazing when I look at the attitude I approach each day with now. After all, there are still all sorts of problems that may lie before me: financial pitfalls I can't foresee, health problems that could change everything, the health and well being of my daughters, son-in-law, grand kids, and dad, daily issues caused by our government's inability to govern....I should be as nervous as I was before.

But, I'm not. My satisfying retirement is unfolding in ways I couldn't have predicted but I welcome with open arms. Maybe time does heal many self-inflicted wounds.

May 21, 2013

Video Connections: Are You Interested?

Maybe I'm just a little slow to notice the obvious, but I just downloaded Skype last week. I know a lot of folks use it to make free phone calls to other Skype-equipped friends and family anywhere in the country or world.  But, since my family lives here and any friends we call are easily reached by cellphone the whole phone-call-over-Internet thing didn't seem important to me.

Then I had an e-mail back-and-forth exchange with blogging friend, Galen Pearl. We discussed things we could do to stay fresh with our blogging activities. Suddenly, I remembered that Skype also has the ability to engage in video exchanges, too. It is very easy, and also free, to have a chat with someone and do it on camera so you can see and hear each other. 

He has an idea!

Wow...brainstorm...idea time!  Maybe some readers of this blog would like to connect with me or other readers in this way. Since most recent computers come with a built-in web cam and microphone the process is painless. For older computers, adding a $10 web cam and microphone is super simple. 

One of the neatest things about blogging is the opportunity to make new friends. Last August, Betty and I traveled to Portland, Oregon. We spent face time with Galen and Barbara Torris and her husband, Earl,  and became real friends, not just blogging buddies. In January we drove the two hours to Tucson to meet Linda Myers, author of another blog I read regularly, and her husband, Art. That also gave us a chance to reconnect with Barbara and Earl who spend the winter in southern Arizona.

This August we are going back to the Portland area to have more time with Galen and Barbara and Earl. In a totally serendipitous occurrence, Early Retirement Tamara and her hubby, Mike, will be in the area at the same time and want to meet for lunch. Then, comes word that Retired Syd and Doug might be in Portland. too. Finally, add to the mix that Linda and Art Myers may be driving down from Seattle to see us all and we have the makings of a blogging convention!

We may have the unique opportunity to make new friends in person with Tamara, Mike, Sydney and Doug, while strengthening our bonds with Galen, Barbara, Earl, Linda, and Art.

The connections I have made and will continue to make through blogging, are very gratifying. For a variety of reasons making new friends as we age is often difficult. I never expected blogging to be the vehicle to help Betty and me establish important friendships in other parts of the country, but it has.

In addition to the above folks, we hope to meet regular reader Pam in California when we are there in the fall, as well as Sonia Marsh. RJ Walters, the focus of a profile I wrote a month or so ago, is definitely on our radar when we get to the Midwest. Regular reader and commenter, Chuck in Tennessee, has invited us to his place when we are in the Smoky Mountain region.

Video Calls

All this leads me back to where I started: video calls. This may be an excellent way to expand relationships. So, I am wondering, would you ever want to hook up by camera and get to know each other better? Would you like the opportunity to ask me some questions about retirement, or just chat about our lives?

I am willing undergo an experiment to see if this fills a need and opens new doors. If you'd like to connect via a Skype video call, e-mail with your interest at this address: We'll pick a day and time that works for both of us and see what happens.

If this seems to be fun and productive, there is a way to actually put together a conference call with several of us at the same time. Maybe we'd have a round table on when it is best to start Social Security, or what are we doing to plan for the time when we need help with daily tasks. Maybe something a little more fun: best RV parks we've been to or where to go on a summer vacation.

I don't know if video calls will work for a blog like Satisfying Retirement but when do I shy away from trying something new? I'll wait to see what the e-mail response is like. I may get none or I may be overwhelmed. Either scenario is fine; nothing ventured nothing gained. 

Remember, you must have Skype installed on the computer you will be using and have a decent high speed connection. It is free, totally secure, and takes about 5 minutes to set everything up. Click the name Skype to go directly to their web site. While you can pay for the ability to call land lines and cell phones, none of that is necessary for the video calls.

In some experimentation I have done, there is an occasional tendency for the Internet connection to be lost in the middle of a video chat. There are some issues with a newer version of the software that we may have to deal with.  In that case, we could continue by phone if there is more to say. But, that isn't a reason to not consider doing it.

In the meantime I'll have a comb and clean T-shirt handy to make myself presentable on short notice!

May 20, 2013

My Whole Self

Today I'm going to do something I rarely do: "borrow" freely from someone else's blog.  A few months ago one of my favorite retirement blogs closed down. Suzanne's  blog was hacked and Google had her shut it down. I know Suzanne missed the fun of blogging, but the experience left her gun shy for awhile.

Then in early April, she reappeared with a new effort, Life out LoudHer first post set the stage for what she was going to do with her new creative outlet. Then, she promptly left the country for a month-long vacation. A few days ago she reappeared with a fresh post. I like her new focus so much I decided to share it here.

What Suzanne did was identify the individual parts of her whole self that she considers significant to to well-being. This is her list:

The Care And Keeping Of My Whole Self

Physical Self - Taking care of my body through regular exercise and a healthy diet

Spiritual Self - Spending time in contemplative thought, prayer, and expressing gratitude

Financial Self - Being mindful of the bottom line and practicing fiscal responsibility

Family Self - Responding to the needs of family and honoring my commitments

Creative Self - Experiencing joy through self-expression

Social Self - Maintaining healthy relationships with friends; enjoying social experiences

Community Self - Being socially responsible through volunteer efforts

To my way of thinking this is a a tremendous road map for a happy life and a satisfying retirement. As has been discussed on this blog many times, I find too many resources for retirement spend virtually all their time on the financial side. Certainly, that part is vitally important. But, the cliche, "money can't buy you happiness" can be extended to include..."or a satisfying retirement." The other areas of our development are every bit as important.

In my just released book, Living a Satisfying Retirement, nearly 50 people make it very clear that a happy transition is dependent on developing  every aspect of one's life. Without creativity and a way to fill one's time,  a strong family relationship or circle of friends, a sense of community, and taking care of your health, the best-laid financial plans will not produce what you desire.

i am glad Suzanne has begun blogging again and allows us to accompany her on her journey to care for her whole self.

May 17, 2013

Aspire to Retire: Simple Sizing

Late in 2011 I wrote a post about frugality and retirement. In re-reading it recently the message remains important. I am going to take some of it and add some fresh thoughts for this post.

I read the phrase, Simple Sizing, somewhere in the last few years and like it. Simplicity makes the process sounds as if we have all chosen complexity before. Downsizing can sound a little draconian and too much like what businesses due when it is time to shore up the bottom line. Frugality has a tinge of religious fervor that carries with it a feeling self-denial. But, whatever word we decide to use it is not unusual for some cutbacks to occur on the path to a satisfying retirement?

Simple sizing seems a good way to summarize what one is attempting to do: make our life easier by putting our possessions and wants in balance with our needs. I don't care how disciplined you may be, life has a way of adding clutter. If that weren't true the storage business wouldn't be booming. Our garages would actually be able to hold a car instead of our stuff. Do we really need a terabyte of hard drive storage? That is enough space for over 300,000 photos. OK, so maybe Betty will eventually fill one, but even so.....

There are folks who think of cutting back as being a smart steward of their money. A free movie from the library occasionally replaces the $10 ticket at the local cinema. Dinner out can be either the $5 foot long sub at Subway or a home cooked meal instead of the $30 restaurant experience. Do we really need a new wardrobe for summer?

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

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

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

Making it work

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

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

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

Simple sizing may mean that you have to settle for a medical insurance policy that is designed to help you only if hit with huge bills after an emergency or major surgery. Regular doctor visits or drugs come out of your pocket. So, you do your research and find out the hospital and local Walgreens have regular free clinics for blood pressure checks or diabetes testing. Costco or Walmart will sell you a 90 day supply of the generic version of the expensive brand name prescription for $10.

Here are just a handful of examples of what simple sizing in retirement means to me:

  • Spending time with my grandkids and family. Except for gas = free
  • Watching a movie or documentary at home from either the library or Netflix. Cost is $17/month (less than one movie out for 2 people)
  • Sitting on my back porch, reading and watching birds and clouds = free
  • Cutting my cable TV bill from $90/month to $20
  • Running errands only 2 days/ week. Saves approx. $70/month in gas
  • Cutting meals out to just once every 10 days. Saves $160/month
  • Not buying new books, only used ones or going to library. Saves $50/month
  • Keeping a 10 year old car that squeaks and rattles for another few years.
  • Clipping coupons and paying attention to sales on stuff we need thus cutting our monthly food budget by about $75.
  • Only doing laundry and running dishwasher between 9 PM-9AM during the week (rates 66% lower).
  • Buying an RV and making it our vacation vehicle for the next several years..a long delayed goal that has proven to be a tremendous addition to my retirement happiness and well-being.

That last example is important in this discussion of simpler living since an RV is not inexpensive to buy or operate. For Betty and me it gives us a freedom we have been seeking. It gave us a break from our routine, allows us to step away from daily commitments and stress, and allows us to add rich memories to our marriage. At that point, it had become a need. It is an investment in ourselves.

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

Share with us your efforts to simple-size.

May 13, 2013

Living a Satisfying Retirement Just Published!

I am proud to announce the publication of my newest book, Living a Satisfying Retirement. Now available on Amazon, this book is a follow up to Building a Satisfying Retirement, published two years ago.

Living a Satisfying Retirement is a project that took a small village (to steal a phrase from somewhere) to produce. Over 50 folks were gracious enough to fill out an extensive questionnaire during the summer of 2012 and allow me to reproduce their answers.

Both those already retired and those moving toward retirement participated. Each was asked questions about his or her plans, likelihood of moving, the effect on important relationships, what financial planning had taken place, and how a day without a job would be filled. To protect particpants' identities, I used fictitious names, but the answers you will read are just as they were submitted.

The answers were open and forthright. Frankly, after almost three years of blogging, I was pretty sure the answers wouldn't surprise me. I was wrong in several instances. The answers dealing with creativity, the range of interests and activities cited, and the effect of the last several years of a poor economy were not what I expected.

Is this new life what they expected? What good was all the planning they did ahead of time? What bumps (or giant sinkholes) may be waiting for them up ahead? What is their daily life like without a paycheck and a place to go every day?

How about those who haven’t retired yet? What are their biggest worries and uncertainties? What questions would they like to ask of someone who has been retired for a time? Another group completed a series of questions to help answer these questions and concerns.

A partial list of the questions asked include:

* How long have you been retired?
* Was it your choice to stop working? If so, why did you stop when you did?
* What do you miss the most about your old job or career?

* How much of your pre-retirement income are you living on?
* How much did you plan for what you wanted to do when you retired?
* What are your favorite parts of retirement?
* What are your least favorite parts?
* How do you fill your days? Are you ever bored or does your time fill up?
* What effect did retirement have on your important relationships?

For those not yet retired, some of the questions (and answers) include:

* How much longer do you expect to work before retiring?
* What are you most looking forward to when you retire?
* What are you most concerned about?
* Do you have hobbies and interests that you expect to spend time pursuing?
* What effect do you expect retirement will have on key relationships?
* Are you likely to move soon after retirement?
* What is the one question you’d like a retired person to answer for you?

Whether retired or planning for it, Living a Satisfying Retirement is written to give you a tool that is indispensable: advice from real people living the life you dream about.

The book is available in the Kindle format at Amazon. If you don't have a Kindle reader, Amazon provides free software for your computer or smart phone to allow you to benefit from the life experiences of these folks.

Priced at just $2.99, the sale of this book will help me keep this blog financially viable. I run very little advertising, so income from freelance writing and this book pays the bills. I hope you will consider a purchase today.

That being said, if you can't purchase the book at this time, I deeply appreciate your continued support for the Satisfying Retirement blog. I love being here for you and building a community of those who believe retirement is one of the best times of our lives.

To buy a copy now, click Living a Satisfying Retirement.

If you live outside the U.S. be sure to use the Amazon site for your country, like  for Canada. The book is available for immediate download in virtually every country in the world.

Thank you!

May 6, 2013

Another Retirement Option: Spiritually Based Communities

If I say, "Sun City," you probably have a definite image: a planned community in the sunbelt somewhere. Your mental picture includes golf courses, golf carts, an activity center, a pool, and streets lined with small homes.

Such retirement communities are still the first choice for many for their satisfying retirement. They are safe and secure, have plenty of planned activities, and are usually located near first class medical facilities. Living in Phoenix I am quite familiar with the various Sun Cities - after all Dale Webb invented the concept and opened the first one on the west side of Phoenix on January 1, 1960. Over 50 years later the original Sun City has nearly 39,000 folks calling it home.

In the last several years other organized retirement options have become available. A year ago I wrote about some different retirement options that included living on a cruise ship full time, relocating to another country, or living in an RV and serving as a park ranger. A follow up post detailed the growing interest in cohousing, either for those 55+ or for mixed generations. The Cohousing Organization is an excellent place to look for more information.

Multi-generational housing is also increasing in popularity. Grandparents, mom and dad, and children share the same house. Sometimes this is due to economic need. But, in many cultures, having everyone together is a tremendous way for an extended family to care for each other in a very tangible way.

Another growing option is to stay in one's own home as long as possible. Aging in place is a valid choice for many. Better overall health, better home health care services, and home modifications make staying in a home you love a reasonable answer for many. Continuing care communities, with independent, assisted, and nursing care living are the first choice for many. 

A fellow sent me an e-mail recently about yet another choice that I had not heard of before: a spiritually based retirement community. I know there are retirement homes sponsored by various religious denominations. But, this idea is different. Those who are looking to deepen their spiritual growth and development live with other like-minded retirees.

Located in Hawaii, Polestar Gardens is for seniors interested in spending their golden years in the company of like-minded souls, deepening their spiritual life--not just in entertainment and amusements, but in meditation, chanting, and creative service. their web site states they follow the teachings of Paramhansa Yogananda but welcome those from other paths who feel attuned to these universal teachings of meditation and service to others. They are not affiliated with any other organization.

While Polestar Gardens is not my spiritual cup of tea, I find it so encouraging that the number of options we have continues to expand. Where Betty and I will choose to move when the time comes we continue to discuss. Who knows what options will exist when we are faced with that decision.