July 31, 2013

The Oregon Trail

Wikipedia describes the Oregon Trail as a 2,000-mile wagon route  that connected the Missouri River to valleys in Oregon. From around 1830 until 1869 over 400,000 people traveled all or part of this route.

Betty and I are taking a different path to Oregon in a week as part of our satisfying retirement: flying from Phoenix in under three hours, rather than the months-long trip for folks to get from Kansas to the Willamette Valley. And, our goal is a bit different: escape the Phoenix heat for 3 weeks, reconnect with old friends, and make new ones. The RV will stay parked on the side yard for this adventure, but our youngest daughter will be flying up to join us for the last week: she is serious about finding a place to live where your hands don't burn on the steering wheel.

Mike and Tamara Reddy, of Early Retirement Journey fame, are in the midst of a two month journey from their home in Southern California to The Pacific Northwest and back. As luck would have it, they will be at an RV park in Portland during one of the weeks Betty and I are in town. So, we finally get a chance to share more than just blog comments with this energetic and fascinating couple.

Of course, we are clearing major blocks of time to spend with Galen Pearl and the Retire in Style lady, Barbara Torris and husband, Earl. They are dear friends we met and fell in love with last year during our first trip to Oregon. Who knows, maybe Linda Myers and husband, Art, will make it down from the Seattle area, too.

A trip to the fabulous Oregon coast is a must. Betty is already itching to add fresh photos to her collection from last year.










  


Wine Country is just an hour or so south of our home base in Hillsboro and will be worth a day of sipping and relaxing.







But, mostly, we will be getting to know Portland even more intimately than last year's short, 6 day visit. There are enough picturesque neighborhoods, parks, waterfront walks, and great restaurants and coffee houses to keep us happy. Add in weather that is guaranteed to be 20-30 degrees cooler than Scottsdale and we may not be anxious to board the flight home at the end of the month.







A month after our return we head out on a several week trip in the RV to the coast and wine country of California, with a side trip to the Redwoods. The planning for that adventure has already started with reservations confirmed at the key RV campgrounds we want to try. Still, we need to get home in time to prepare to leave again.
  While we are in Portland I will be posting on a different schedule: one that is more sporadic. I will aim for two fresh posts a week but vacation time may get in the way.  Upon our return at the end of the month, things will return to a normal Monday, Wednesday, and Friday schedule.

The Oregon Trail: our road to a satisfying retirement adventure.

July 29, 2013

Something Bigger Than Me

Almost two years ago I wrote A Hidden Piece Of The Puzzle. The subject was the re-discovery of my spiritual life in the last few years of my satisfying retirement. I wasn't directly advocating any particular religion or path to fulfillment, just fleshing out a bit about my personal journey. More recently I penned Retirement and Spirituality; What's The Link?

A few weeks ago blogger Linda Myers wrote Sliding into home, churchwise about her decision to become involved again in a church community after thirty years away. RJ Walters makes no bones about his religiosity in both his primary blog, RJ's Corner, and his postings at Red Letter Living. Good friend, Galen Pearl, writes about her spirituality quite frequently on 10 Steps To Finding Your Happy Place.

I'm sure I am missing references to other bloggers I read on a regular basis, but you get the point: being spiritual or religious is a part of a retirement lifestyle for many. Maybe it is the increasing awareness of our own mortality that causes folks to think about such matters. Maybe it is the social aspects of finding like-minded people to spend time with. Like Linda, maybe it is just an awareness of something missing that once was an important part of life.

I have no intention of preaching in this post. I have firm beliefs that I would be more than happy to share with you in a different setting, but this isn't the place. My faith teaches me to be tolerant and loving of others who have found a different path to meaning. While I believe they are missing the boat quite badly, being aggressive and pushy on my part will accomplish nothing. One of the great disappointments I have is the willingness of too many to offend and drive away others rather than actually follow what they profess: love your neighbors and enemies. Sometimes organized religion can be be its own worst enemy.

So, all I want to do is lay out a few of the reasons I have found a deepened faith life to be important:

  • A reminder of the precious nature of life. Any religious tradition I am aware of stresses the unique benefit we have over all the other animals on earth: a conscious awareness of our life and its importance. We don't just breath, eat, and sleep. We have the ability to use our talents and desires to make the most of our life. I believe I have been created to accomplish something. I may not always be sure what that something is, but I believe it exists.
  • A reminder that my time on earth is short. When we are young, time has no real meaning to us. As we progress through our adult years, life tends to fill up with the process of living. Time for reflection is often limited. But, at some point, our mortality stares us in the face. The time to accomplish what we are here for begins to dwindle down. While I believe I have an eternal life ahead of me, I am responsible for making the most of my time on earth, and that time is gone all too quickly.
  • A reminder that I'm part of a larger whole. Particularly in a culture that praises the individual, determines one's worth by success in the business world, or the size of one's bank balance, it is important to have a wake up call. We are a very small part of a very large universe. When we die, most of the other 7 billion people on earth won't notice. If I didn't believe I am part of a larger cosmic plan and am connected to my creator, then it would be easy to ask, "what's the point?"
  • A reminder that I'm unique. How can I be a tiny part of a larger whole, and also be unique? Simple: I was created that way. Everything on earth is unique in some way or another. There is no one else who has the exact makeup that I do, and no one ever will.
  • A reminder to be loving and giving. The primary premise of my religious beliefs is the need to love others as I love myself (as a creation of God). I am here to reflect the love of my creator to others. I am here to give of myself to others to make their lives more complete and satisfying.

Important: I have not achieved even a modicum of success in any of these five areas. I am a work in progress with many more failures than achievements, and will be until the day I die. But, I can be satisfied if I accept my shortcomings, know what I am trying to do, and never stop moving forward in that quest.

My spiritual life gives me hope, without which, I would be lost indeed.



July 26, 2013

Adding a Dog To Your Life


Almost 17 months ago Bailey joined our family. After being dogless for several years, considering all the consequences, and finding a reputable breeder, we made the move. We have absolutely no regrets. She has made our satisfying retirement even more complete.

That being said, adding a dog, or any pet except maybe a pet rock, is a step not to be taken lightly. A pet comes with certain responsibilities, costs, and lifestyle changes that should be addressed upfront. Unlike most purchases, you are making a commitment that may last 15 years or more. 

Not long ago the American Heart Association reviewed studies exploring the health benefits of dog ownership. What they found is that having a dog is associated with lower blood pressure, better cholesterol, and less chance for obesity since dogs require walking on a regular basis.

What are the other positive reasons to consider adding a dog to your life? While not an exhaustive list consider these possibilities:

Unconditional affection. I hesitate to use the word, love, since a dog is not really capable of an emotion that approximates human love. But, when your dog greets you at the door with his whole body wiggling in excitement at your return, it is impossible to not smile and feel good.

Bailey is a master of this. If Betty and I are gone for 30 minutes or three hours it doesn't matter,  we are greeted as we come through the garage door as if we'd been away for weeks. Her joy is contagious.

Cure for loneliness. For many single seniors, a dog is a constant companion that makes a house or apartment seem less lonely. A pet can help socialization, too. They becomes natural conversation ice-breakers and conversation starters while walking the dog in a park or neighborhood.

This is not a big issue in our house, though there are times when one of us has a full day of appointments or commitments.  Bailey curls up at the feet of whomever is home and makes the house feel less empty.

Adding structure and routine to your day. A dog depends on its owner for everything, from food and water, to an opportunity to relieve itself and to play. For those who find it difficult to maintain a structure after retirement, a pet helps the owner establish a consistent routine from day to day.

Bailey spends her night sleeping on a sofa downstairs, but is as reliable as an alarm clock in waking us up each morning. Bounding up the stairs she will leap onto the bed and lick us awake, all while begging to be stroked and hugged. It is very pleasant way to start the day.

Providing  stress relief.  Studies have shown that petting a dog or taking her for a walk are excellent ways to reduce stress. Bailey absolutely loves to be massaged and have her tummy scratched. It is very hard to be tense or upset while petting her.



The not so good parts


Of course, there are some aspects of dog ownership that are not quite so pleasant, but must be acknowledged:

Costs can be substantial. In addition to the initial purchase, food, vaccinations, toys, and care products, as dogs age they generally begin to develop medical problems that can become expensive. An injury can cost hundreds or even thousands of dollars to treat.

Bailey cost about $1,000 to purchase and have the initial round of shots and exams. Her food and on-going medcial care costs are averaging about $100 a month. As she ages we expect that figure to rise.

Arrangements must be made if leaving the dog at home for extended periods. Even though Bailey has a doggie door that allows her to take care of her business, we would never leave her home alone for longer than 7 or 8 hours. Her water must be freshened (this is Arizona and she drinks a lot) and her food must be made available. Luckily she loves to travel with us in the RV, but there are times when it is impractical to take her on trips. Then, one of our daughters will be asked to dog-sit, we arrange for a pet-sitter, or as a last resort she must go to a kennel.

The loss of a dog generates real grief and pain. I have had to watch four dogs be put to sleep. It doesn't get any easier. Even though the process is painless for the animal, it is usually  wrenching for the owner. I have been reduced to tears all four times and will be again when it is Bailey's time to go.

Your social life may be affected. There are couples we know who don't like dogs. They are uncomfortable in our home with Bailey underfoot. We have tried putting her in the laundry room but that doesn't work. They don't come around as often as they once did.

If you'd like a few other sources of information, click on these links:

Getting a puppy after retirement

http://www.helpguide.org/life/pets.htm



So small !

So Sleepy !



So Noble !



The following picture series was in the Huffington Post a week or so ago. I dare you to look at these pictures of dogs and not get a lump in your throat:
 21 Reasons a Dog is The Best Investment You Will Ever Make

And, if that doesn't do it, here is a video of a dog welcoming home his master after a 6 month military deployment. The dog actually cries for joy:

Dog cries for joy






July 24, 2013

What Is A Retro Retirement? Are You a Candidate?

Originally posted two years ago, I thought those of you who weren't part of the satisfying retirement family would find this worth reading and commenting on. I have updated as needed.


I'm sure you have seen the headlines: a bare bones satisfying retirement lifestyle requires at least $1 million. If you want to maintain your standard of living and keep up with inflation you need at least $2 million in retirement savings. And, on and on. It is enough to scare you into staying on the job (any job) until you drop dead of old age.

I have a different viewpoint. Remember I am not a financial adviser, just an average guy who has been a retiree for 12 years. The financial professionals would probably tell me I'm full of it. I am 62 64 years old. When I am 72 or 82 it is possible I'll look back on this post and decide I was full of it. But, until then, let me make a few points that might bring you some comfort: your retirement savings doesn't need to be anywhere near those lofty levels. The idea that you must have at least a few million socked away before considering retirement to me is nothing more than a scare tactic. How can I say that? Experience. My experience.

There was an article in Canada's Financial Post a week or so ago, written by Gary Marr entitled, "Try the Retro Retirement." He made the same point that I have made several times on this blog. There is a way to live a very happy, satisfying retirement lifestyle that doesn't require huge sums of money. It doesn't deprive you of pleasure and excitement and happiness. You don't shop only at thrift stores and eat beans and rice every night for dinner. You can vacation where you choose. You eat meals out and go to movies. You own a car. You dress well and are healthy.

How? By living under one simple rule: instead of worrying about how much money you need, base your lifestyle on what you have. That is worth repeating: instead of worrying about how much money you need, base your lifestyle on what you have. Determine what your life will look like on that reality and live accordingly. Instead of following the siren call of ever greater expectations and wants, be content in how people used to live in retirement: comfortable with what was available.

Do you play golf? Fine, but do you have to play at Troon North in Scottsdale where a round in season tops $250 dollars? Not as fancy, but golf at a municipal course may cost $45.

Do you want to travel in an RV? Great. Do you need a 45 foot super unit, or is a popup camper a better fit for you?

Do you plan on gardening more after retirement? That is rather inexpensive if you don't recreate the Hanging Gardens of Babylon. How about exercising? Walking at the mall or around your neighborhood is free. Weights and exercise bands cost less than a month at the gym. Maybe you like the gym with all the equipment, pool, and sauna. Fine. It is cheaper and better for you than doctor visits due to poor health.

Play with the grandkids? Free. Go out to dinner with friends? No problem, but does it have to be at the steak house that charges $50 for 6 ounces? Have you ever considered a potluck at your house? If it is good enough for schools and church, why can't it work at home?

I guess it all comes down to your expectations. And my experience is they change the longer you are retired. The dreams of cruising the world, jetting off to spend the summer in Italy, or having a vacation home in Aspen begin to lose their luster as you age. Why? Because priorities change. Time with family and friends, giving something of yourself back to the community through volunteer work, a new passion for writing or biking or gardening suddenly become more important to you than spending spring in Tuscany. This approach is simply a conscious choice to live a mostly frills-free retirement.

Certainly you can decide that working longer or harder, or gambling on riskier investments so that you can have the baubles, the vacation home in the Cayman Islands and a new car every year would make you happy. Then, you will need a $4 million retirement fund. Just don't be surprised if the tricked-out retirement lifestyle wears thin after a while and you find you aren't as happy as you though you might be.


Life on the front porch with an iced tea. The way it once was, and can be again.

Or, you could approach retirement more like your grandparents did: a time to savor life, use your talents and skills, and strengthen your relationships. Live life with the money you have, not with the money you can only dream about.

I wager you will be happier. Want to bet?

July 22, 2013

The Suzanne Lifestyle Challenge: How Did I do?

Last month, fellow blogger, Suzanne, posted a challenge on Life Out Loud.  She wrote, "Almost everything I do has a purpose toward a greater goal. The tasks may change under the heading, but the heading will never change - Physical, Social, Fiscal, Spiritual, Family, Creativity and Community. Those seven little words establish a foundation that give meaning to my days."

She issued a challenge to her readers to pick words that represent a balance in one's approach to life and prioritize them. Then, for thirty days track what is done under each category. At the end of the month, how closely does your actual time spent match up with what you say is important?

That is the type of challenge I enjoy. I am always interested in how I spend my time and whether I am using it in a way that aligns with what I believe is important to me. So, I found a small notebook and began to record how much time I was spending each day in each of the headings. To keep things simple I used the same seven words that Suzanne did.

The month is up. What did I learn? That my priority choices for my words match the amount of time I spend on each pretty well. At the same time, this exercise pointed out some areas that need more work on my part. Specifically:

My original priority list:                   My 30 day list:

1. Family                                            1. Family                     
2. Creativity                                        2. Creativity                
3. Spiritual                                          3. Spiritual life             
4. Fiscal                                               4. Travel Planning         
5. Travel planning/doing                       5. Physical                   
6. Community Service                          6. Community Service   
7. Physical exercise                              7. Fiscal                       


Family  remained at the top of the list. This month's total included a birthday party for my granddaughter, helping my other daughter with some work issues, helping to get the RV ready for a my oldest daughter's family vacation, and weekly lunches with my father.

Creativity was virtually all time spent on the blog, with an hour or so devoted to re-working a travel book. This area needs more diversity. I am looking seriously at a few on-line courses through Coursera.org for the fall. I need to use more of my creative muscle on something other than blogging.

Spiritual time included Bible reading and church services. Small groups and discussion groups are shut down until fall or the total number of hours might have put this category first (where it probably should be!).

Travel Planning was one place higher for two simple reasons: I am working on our trip to Portland next month and an RV trip to California in October. Making reservations and looking for interesting places to visit is fun for me.

Physical Activity moved up two spots, and that is a good thing. After I cancelled my gym membership three months ago I stopped doing much of anything for my physical well being. That was not going to work out well long term. This challenge helped me restart some exercise, specifically walking inside a local mall four days a week for 2 miles each time. That isn't nearly enough but at least it is a start, and about the only option during a Phoenix summer.

Community Service is an area I am going to have to work on. My relationship with my latest mentee through the prison ministry organization has ended. After five years and five mentees I need a change for awhile. So, I am going to have to find another way to give back. I have given some thought to being part of a ministry that presents a Bible study once a week in a retirement home. That might be a good choice.

Fiscal means time spent on managing our money. The fact that this category was three slots lower than I expected it to be is actually a good thing. Our financial health is good, the systems I have in place are working well, and I am not spending much of my time worrying about this part of my satisfying retirement.

By the way, my broker just called to tell me about an investment that has tanked. He suggested I sell to get something for the money. Since we both agreed on the purchase and these things happen I didn't get upset, but chalked it up to the cost of investing. That calm acceptance pleased me.


These seven words worked as well for me as they did for Suzanne. Thanks to her for the idea to check on doing what I say I am doing. This was an excellent exercise I will repeat at least annually.

How about you? What words would you pick?

July 19, 2013

My First Few years of Retirement: Discovering The Passion

This is the fourth in a series of posts about some of the earlier struggles I endured on my path toward a satisfying retirement. If you missed the ones about finances, relationships, or time management, click any of the underlined links.

This time around I want to deal with one of the facets that tends to get overlooked until after retirement has started: finding a passion, strong interest, or hobby that you look forward to each day. From personal experience I can assure you that waiting until you leave work is a mistake. That's what I did and ended up drifting for several years.

No Hobbies, No Passion = Problem


Because my career consumed virtually all my time and energy, I did not have any outside interests to turn to. After work ended I filled my time with sports on TV, reading, or puttering around the house. Betty and I did take several major vacations within the first five years of retirement, but that became a very expensive way to fill my free time.

Brief flings at stamp and coin collecting as a child didn't light my adult fire. I really didn't have any typical hobbies as a child. As a youngster I did enjoy looking at large model train layouts, but never really had the money or skills to pursue it as a hobby.

Through a chance visit to a local radio station in Cambridge, Ohio at age 12, I became fascinated by radio. From that point on broadcasting became my focus for the next 40 years. I put together little radio studios in our attic and "broadcast" to speakers in other rooms of our house. I built a radio station in a tool shed in the backyard when I was 15 and spent countless hours pretending to be a DJ.

Finally, Something To Get Excited About


That radio fascination did lead me to my first real interest a few years after  retirement: ham radio. Very different from broadcasting, amateur radio is primarily attractive to those with a strong technical and electronics background. Most ham radio operators can build a transmitter from scratch, construct large antennas on their roof, or fix virtually anything electronic. I can rewire a lamp but that's about it.

I did discover that there are amateur operators who are primarily interested in simply talking with others all over the world. Many hams are very active in emergency communications after natural disasters. Others simply enjoy the social aspects of getting together with other people who enjoy the hobby. So, I studied what I needed to know to get my federal license, joined a ham club, and found a passion that became a driving force in my life for several years.

Eventually, for various reasons, that interest began to fade. It was replaced by a giant leap out of my comfort zone and background: volunteer work in prison ministry. Going into a prison the first time was terrifying. I was exposed to an environment I had only seen on TV or in movies. But, what I found were men who were trying to turn their lives around and simply looking for someone to care enough to be there with them. If you'd like to read more about my prison ministry experiences the posts, Pushing Back Against the Box  and Prison Ministry: What does it accomplish, might be worth your time.  

I'm afraid I can't provide you with any "secret" tips to help you discover your driving passion, the thing that will make your retirement truly satisfying. Ham radio became a part of my life because a friend was deeply involved and invited me to learn more about it. Prison ministry happened because my pastor asked me to write letters to some men in prison who were looking for pen pals. That quickly developed into a much more active involvement that continues to be part of my life. I stumbled into blogging three years ago simply as an outlet for my need to write. Last year, my wife and I made the plunge into RV travel and found something that is becoming an increasingly important part of our lives.

What will I be doing in another few years? I have no idea. It will probably be something different from what I am doing now. I could not have predicted any of the interests that have helped shape my retirement. Each was something new for me. Each required me to learn a new set of skills or allow a hidden part of my personality to surface. Each happened because of some external stimulus that came when I was receptive to a change.

Maybe that is the overriding lesson: be open to things that may seem wrong for you, out of your comfort zone, or simply alien to your experience. Is it simply serendipity, the accident of finding something good or useful while not specifically searching for it?

Sounds right to me.

July 17, 2013

Searching for Simplicity in a Complicated World


This was first posted over 2 ½ years ago. I have freshened it just a bit from the original but the message still resonates today.


News Flash: We are facing a loss of predictability in a world with constant and accelerating change. I'm being just a bit sarcastic. These changes are not a news flash for any of us. It is a description of what we deal with every day. It would be difficult to live in the 21st century and not have to cope with this.

In many cases we have become immune to the constant shifting of what we take for granted and what we believe to be true. I read a term last week that actually made me laugh: The New Normal. This is the new found belief in austerity and economical living. In reality, it is just a return to the normal way we used to behave with our money and our investments: don't spend more than you make.

The shift under your feet isn't just an earthquake, it is a societal shift. Consider a handful of examples:

More holiday shopping takes place on line than in physical stores. A few years ago this would be have been unthinkable. Not only were there substantially fewer on line choices, but how many were comfortable using a credit card on line? Would we ever be willing to order things without first touching or seeing them? The answer is, Yes.

Amazon is selling more e-books than physical books. When this article was first written Borders, Waldenbooks, and B. Dalton were all in business. Now, all all gone. The last large chain, Barnes & Nobles continues to fight  rumors that its days are dwindling down to a precious few, but bad news continues to pile up.

Have you tried to find a cell phone recently whose primary function is a phone? It is becoming more difficult. Smart phones (which can make you feel stupid) are just about the only choice. E-mails, voice mail, and actual phone conversations are losing the battle to texting. And, cell phone bills continue to take an ever-increasing chunk of the typical American's monthly budget.

Desktop computers will be an endangered species within the next few years. Even laptops may be going away. Increasingly, smart phones and devices like the iPad can do everything the bigger, bulky computer on your desk can do, but are lightweight and hand sized. An article in the Wall Street Journal last week quotes a study that predicts the number of smart phones will surpass the number of personal computers within 2 years.

Update: in 2012 over 655 million smart phones were sold, more than double the number of personal computers sold.

The promise of a pension or 401k being there when you need it is not necessarily true anymore. As companies, governments, and unions try to handle future obligations they are finding the only answer is to cut benefits and payouts. No matter what you were told, that retirement financial nest egg may look more like an omelet. Social Security and Medicare...who knows?

Health studies are produced every day that contradict what yesterday's said. Wait long enough and cigarettes and bacon will become health foods. It is becoming increasingly difficult to know what to believe when so many experts have such different opinions.

The political climate is unstable. Wild swings in legislation and philosophies make it almost impossible for business or individuals to make long term plans. What was law today may be abolished after the next election. Emergency "patches" are applied to serious problems instead of having the foresight or political will to actually find a long term solution. Compromise has become a dirty word.

Even something as commonplace as repairing your own car requires specialized computers to diagnose many problems, and then computer-like parts to fix it. Changing your oil is still possible. Figure out what the check engine light means? To the repair shop you go.

Newspapers, magazines, network television, even cable television are all in for the fight of their lives. Media streaming directly to your TV, phone, or iPad make every other form of distribution too expensive and too slow. A headline in the Wall Street Journal said it quite clearly in reference to old vs. new media: Digital or Die.


So, what should our response be to this onslaught? Can we do anything to get a sense of control back? Here are some thoughts to get your own creative juices flowing:

Put more stock in you. Gather all the opinions you want. Do all the research on any subject that helps you get a handle on the issue. But, when it is decision time, trust you. You should not doubt your own abilities. Learn to trust your gut and intuitions. If something doesn't seem quite right to you, then it isn't. Will you make mistakes? Sure you will. But, guess what, you'll make mistakes even if you wait for others to tell you what you should do.

Personal responsibility must make a comeback. The time when we could safely outsource all our decisions to others is ending. Believing the experts almost brought down our economy. It should be obvious by now that promises to you by corporations or government aren't binding. You need to take on more of the load of managing and guiding your own life.

Decide what adds clutter to your life and reduce it. It could something as obvious as too much time on the computer or Internet. It could be too many possessions to repair, maintain and insure. It might be a house that is much too big for your needs. Maybe a three car garage doesn't need three cars. Over-commitment is a dangerous form of clutter. Are you the go-to volunteer for everyone? Determine what can be eliminated or cut back and do so. Less clutter means less stress. Less complexity means less stress.

Learning and changing never stops; don't even try. It is useless to dig in your heels and try to keep things the way they were (or are). Your life will probably be OK for awhile without rushing out for the latest phone or tablet. But, to refuse to consider change is a doomed strategy. Read, study, ponder. Try to understand how a change you've been reading or hearing about may affect you.


In summary I believe there is one basic truth that gives us hope: the more we learn to handle complexity, the simpler it becomes.


July 15, 2013

Living a Satisfying Retirement: What Would You Tell Me?


  "What is the one question you’d like a retired person to answer for you?"

As the final question included in my newest book, Living a Satisfying Retirement, I thought this would be a very interesting way to wrap things up. Asked of those who have yet to retire, I wondered if there was one key question that was central to a pre-retiree's concerns.

Whether the question was about finances, how to best spend one's time, or knowing when to stop work, the underlying query was really the same: looking to ease a feeling of uncertainty. Retirement can be a radical shift in our lifestyle. It comes with no guarantees. It is only natural we'd like to be sure of the terrain before we leap.

Here is a sampling of some of those questions my respondents would love to pose to those who have gone before:
  

Tom S. How does Medicare work, along with the supplemental health insurance plans? It all seems very complicated.
Caroline G. Why is it so scary to let go? Fear of the unknown? I’m looking forward to retiring, but there’s a nagging feeling out there that it’s final. I know from being laid off in the 90’s that it’s not easy getting rehired when you are older.

I’d like to know why it seems like so many “old” people become bitter and negative, and then you have those “rare” old people who are enthusiastic about life, stay positive and keep fit. Is that something the positive-minded person has to really work hard at? Did they make a deliberate decision to not complain about their aches and pains, and to see the world as a beautiful place? Or is this how they were all their life?
Clifford Y. Has it been everything you expected it to be? I enjoy asking people this, particularly with all the press fixated on the fact that "no one will be able to retire" until they are 70 or older. I see the opposite so I like the reinforcement that successful retirees can give me.
Mary M. I am interested in what other retired people are doing, particularly how they are managing their money and spending. But everyone's situation is unique, and I am depending on my own inner wisdom to create the retirement that is right for me.
Stuart H. I would ask a retired person the following question: How do you manage your finances so that you make sure that you do not run out of money?

Janice N. How did you identify activities/goals that provide the same satisfactions you received from work? In my case those were using my education & experience, socializing, making a contribution, complex problem solving, etc.
Jeff F. If you could have retired earlier than you did, would you have and why?
Dennis K. Do you ever miss the sense of purpose that full time work provides?
Don B. While everyone does their best to prepare for retirement from a financial aspect, what have you done to prepare yourself for those non-financial aspects of retired life? How will you keep busy, engaged, and passionate about a life away from work and the relationships on the job?
Charlotte C. How do you schedule/plan your day/week/month? What criteria do you use to schedule activities?
Garnet S. I wonder if there’s an “adjustment period” and how long it lasts. Also wonder about good sources for Medicare/insurance info.
Cindy B. I wonder how much time retired persons usually spend planning for their retirement, including talking things over with their significant others. And, after retirement, did they feel like they may have talked about it too little, or, possibly, too much? I sometimes think all the talking that my partner and I do makes us forget that ultimately events are unpredictable, and we get a false sense of security.
Terri C. How do you know – is it a feeling or a whisper in your ear that it’s time to retire. especially for people who like their jobs? I don’t want to regret my decision.
Belinda P. Is it better to be retired and living on much less income - or do you regret not waiting a while longer and building your nest egg?


This is a sampling of the answers to just this one question. Nearly two dozen more 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 in living a satisfying retirement.

If you have bought the book, read it, and found it useful, I'd appreciate your adding a review on the Amazon page where the book is sold. Positive feedback from readers is the most powerful form of advertising there is.


July 12, 2013

My First Few years Of Retirement: Time Management

For most of us retirement means an extra 50 hours or more a week to fill. Work and commuting no longer define our daily schedule.  We become responsible for effective time management. The "success" of our satisfying retirement will depend, in large part, on how we learn to use that extra 2,600 hours a year.

This is part three of a series I am presenting on the first few years of my retirement. Two Fridays ago I wrote about some of the financial struggles my wife and I faced. Last Friday was about another biggie of retirement: relationships. If not properly addressed marriages can either bloom or whither under the stress of full-time retirement.

This week's post is about how I struggled with, and finally became comfortable with, the use of my extra time. I won't say, the "mastery of the use of my extra time" because it continues to be an issue for me even after 12 years.

As regular readers know I spent a good part of my working life traveling. Time management was a critical part of my business. I had to balance dozens of clients as far apart as New York City and Honolulu, keep them happy, and attempt to keep my home life afloat. I had to find enough time for chores around the house, family vacations, and attending my kids' various school functions and performances.

I became the master of the to-do list. I'd have my weekends planned six months in advance. I'd even go so far to write something on the list just so I could cross it off and feel a sense of accomplishment (silly, right?). While this approach allowed me to juggle a lot of different responsibilities while working, it was a dangerous path into retirement.

Like a lot of men of my generation whose wives stayed home to raise the kids, when I stopped traveling and working, I was entering a world that had functioned smoothly without me for quite awhile. My job was to integrate into the system, not blow it up and start all over again.

Wrong Choice, Bob


Of course, being a guy, I chose the "blow it up" option....not my best decision. It took me a few years to understand that the finely tuned system I had inherited was that way for a reason. I had to grasp the critical importance of the three different types of time: us, you, and me. Woe to the person, male or female, who doesn't understand that virtually all of us require some time to be alone with our own thoughts and interests.  

I have tried the two basic approaches to making the best use of my time: fully scheduled and completely unstructured (the go-with-flow approach). For the first few years my daily calendar looked just like my work calendar: 15-30 minute blocks of time assigned to various tasks and activities. I scheduled the normal stuff: gym, paying bills, reading, chores, etc. But, I also scheduled time for relaxing, napping, and reading. If I didn't really want to read at 2:15 on Tuesday, tough. It was on the schedule.

Surprise, surprise, this was a no-go. Not only did I feel pressured to meet a made-up schedule but I was doing most everything just so I could check it off the list.

Then, I gave a valiant effort to use the go-with-the-flow system. I'd wake up when I wanted, eat when I was hungry, and do what I wanted when I wanted. This was even worse. Without a structure I didn't know what to do. Days would simply pass without meaning or memories. I think I was even more nervous under this system because I didn't have anything to tell me how to account for my time.




Finally, a system for me


 Finally, I settled on a time management system that I continue to use: a blend of schedules, to-do lists, and free-flow. I need the comfort of knowing what I want to do today. I like a list that helps me remember to tackle tasks that I should do. And, I need to be able to move anything from today's list to tomorrow, next week, or next month, and feel OK about it.

Previous posts have detailed the struggle many newly retired folks have in this area. Fear of boredom or being unproductive are common. The loss of set daily parameters catches many off-guard, me included. It takes time to understand how to use your time in a way that is satisfying to you. There is no one way to manage your day after retirement. I have discovered no shortcuts through this process. Each person finds his or her own mix of structure and freedom.

When we were younger we seemed to have all the time in the world, so we ignored its passage. When something isn't valuable you don't keep track. Retire and time becomes very, very real. It's passage is either a joy or as burden. Days pass so quickly you lose track, or they seem to crawl from moment to moment.

That difference can make or break your satisfying retirement. A time management system that works for you is a skill you must master. And, part of that mastery is having a passion or interests that keep you engaged, excited, and motivated.

Next Friday the last in this series will detail my very real struggles with discovering something to do with my time, something to define my life after work. I entered retirement without any interests, hobbies, or passions. That was a big mistake. Effective time management without something to manage doesn't work.

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July 10, 2013

5 Ways to Achieve Instant Sucess Slowly

 
First posted almost three years, I think there remains value in these strategies. See what you think.

 
 
You are familiar with stories of actors who achieve "instant stardom" after fifteen years of hard work. Thomas Edison spent 14 months of testing to get a light bulb that lasted less than 14 hours. Hard work and time are usually required before the payoff. Still, as a society we expect instant gratification, instant solutions, instant success, even instant mashed potatoes. Are those expectations realistic? 

For most of us, most of the time, the answer is "No."  It is more likely that some or all of these five steps will have to be taken. It doesn't matter if you run a business, write a blog, want to maintain a marriage, or simply want to maximize your own potential. Every one of these strategies applies.

You must offer something of value
You may be able to fool some of the people some of the time, but they will not come back. If you try to sell an inferior product you will be out of business. If you think you don't need to work at making your marriage succeed but believe your partner needs to do all the work, you are headed for divorce court. Write a blog with below-average content and lots of spelling mistakes, you will probably be writing for an audience of one.

Value isn't apparent immediately. For someone to judge value there has to be a period of time when you prove again and again that a consistently good outcome is associated with you.

You can't simply copy what someone else has done
Recently I have spent a lot of time reading various blogs. looking at how others do what I am trying to do. It is impossible to not notice how many blogs basically copy each other. There are probably 1,000 simple living or minimalist blogs. Maybe 100 of them are original in content, approach, and feel. The rest recycle the same stale list of tips and ideas. Guess which ones are successful. Hollywood and TV networks are shameless in copying someone else's ideas. Reality shows went from a new idea to completely overdone and absurd in very short order. One hit movie will generate a dozen copycats.

In whatever you are doing, true success comes from something unique about your product, idea, or method. Unless your name is Xerox, copies aren't an acceptable approach. Look for that angle that makes you stand out. Don't repeat someone else's life, mold your own.

You must keep commitments
Keeping a promise has become somewhat of a rarity in many aspects of our life. Politicians will make campaign promises they have no intention or ability to keep. Health insurance companies try to drop you if you really need the protection you have paid for. Someone will make a commitment to you and break it without a moment's hesitation if it becomes inconvenient for them.

When you make a commitment to someone you must do everything in your power to keep it. If you promise to stay with a spouse "until death do us part," that doesn't give you much wiggle room. It  shouldn't mean you can split when things get a little tough or you've gotten bored. When you promise to complete a project in a certain way under a certain budget, then that's what you do. When you agree to head the church stewardship committee you agree to give it the best you have.  Success will follow. You will be a person who can be trusted, can be depended upon.  


You must follow up after the sale.
How many times have you been involved in any type of transaction in which the seller only cared about closing the deal? They did nothing to insure you'd be happy after the sale. The only thing that mattered was your signature on the dotted line. They didn't care about turning you into a repeat customer.

As any successful business person knows, the sale is just the first step. Keeping a customer is much cheaper than constantly finding new buyers. The same rule applies in serious relationships. The wedding day isn't the end of the process, it is the very beginning. Attracting readers to your blog doesn't mean you have succeeded, they must return. Building a beautiful wooden cabinet for someone doesn't mean you are done. It opens the door for more.  Success takes time, it takes building a firm foundation of delivering more than you promised. You must constantly strive to do something better than you did yesterday.


You must set goals but remain flexible.
If you don't know where you want to go, any road will take you there. This saying is absolutely true. Without goals you have no plan. You don't know where you want to go. You have no way to measure progress. You are depending on luck to make everything come out right. You are living like a casual gambler in Las Vegas who hopes just one more quarter in the machine will be the difference.

Goals are essential to success, in life, in business, in relationships, and certainly in retirement. Goal setting forces you to think through what you want and how you will get there. At the same time, you must remain flexible. Things change all the time. New opportunities open, old ones close. If you rigidly adhere to goals without making mid course adjustments you will not succeed.


Success doesn't mean monetary gain. In life, success covers all aspects of your existence. To fail is not a usual goal of anyone in anything. But, success takes dedication, will power, and an understanding of yourself. It doesn't just happen, you must make it happen for a satisfying retirement or a satisfying life.

Care to share any of your success secrets?


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July 8, 2013

Leaving an Inheritance: Should I ?

 
For most of us, a satisfying retirement requires some serious financial planning and often a fair amount of sacrifice and delayed gratification. As last Friday's post on Finances detailed, the first few years of my journey had its share of money issues Betty and I had to work through.
 
One part of financial planning I did not address was the issue of leaving an inheritance to children, grandchildren, or an organization we feel strongly about. You have probably seen the bumper sticker, "I'm spending my kid's inheritance," on the back of a large RV. We probably also know of people who live a very restricted and limited retirement so money can be left for others after death.
 
Not too long ago a reader sent me an e-mail asking if I would explore this subject a bit. Part of her message said:
 
"I was hoping you might explore the idea of how most retirees feel about leaving an inheritance to their children. My husband is still a year or so away from retirement, but I find myself already thinking about how we might live on our SS and pensions, so that we can leave our nest egg for our kids. I remember as my parents grew older trying to encourage them to spend more, but they seemed content and wanted to make sure they were passing some wealth on to us. I just wonder how you and your readers feel about this. Or is it even possible with rising health costs, etc?"
 
I found several web sites that refer to recent studies that show somewhere around one-half of all retirees plan on leaving an inheritance. Of course, "leaving an inheritance" doesn't say whether that means a large nest egg for the next generation or enough to handle end-of-life expenses with some sum left over.

I could find no historical data that indicates whether that percentage has been affected by the latest recession and poor return on investments, but common sense says it probably has. So many retirees are worried about providing for themselves without being a burden on their adult children or relatives that the thought of leaving extra money is a non-starter.

So, inheritance-leaving:

*Is it a "responsibility" of the parents to help their kids or relatives with a good-sized portfolio?

*Or, rather than a responsibility is an inheritance a way we can show love and be fondly remembered?

*Or, have we decided to start distributing our projected inheritance now, over time, rather than waiting until we are gone?

*Or, do we live our retired life wisely yet fully, not scrimping to the point of discomfort or forgoing experiences,  but not trying to "die broke" by spending everything we have this side of the grass?

*Or, do we believe that we spent a tremendous amount raising our kids and now it is finally our turn to enjoy our retirement money? If there is something left over, great.


This is a toughie. This is a subject that you probably feel strongly about. I ask for your feedback and responses with one important restriction: no comment that implies another comment comes from a selfish person will be posted. The issue of inheritance is very personal. It is one that contains no one right answer. Every decision and expression of that decision deserves our respect. We may not agree with the choice someone makes, but it is not up to us to tell them they are wrong.

So, what are your thoughts? What part does inheritance play in your financial planning?
 
 

July 5, 2013

My First Few Years of Retirement: Relationships

Last Friday I wrote about my finances during the first few years after work. What has become a very satisfying retirement didn't begin that way. Early on I had my fair share of worries and struggles that eventually resolved themselves but not without many sleepless nights.

This is the second in a series of four posts that look at some of the major hurdles all of us have to conquer if we hope our retirement will be productive and happy. This time, I will detail some of the early problems Betty and I had to overcome as we made the adjustments to our relationship after I closed my business.

Like many others my career involved a lot of travel. I was gone an average of 150 days a year for fifteen years. That meant 100,000 miles in airplanes every year, countless hotel rooms and cities that all looked the same. It meant Betty did most the "heavy lifting" in raising our daughters and keeping the household functioning.

It meant I would arrive home pretty much burned out and in no mood for any problems or disturbances. Of course, that was impossible. She never used the "wait til your father gets home" line on the girls, but there were still issues to be dealt with, house maintenance and repairs, bills to be paid, and a mountain of office work for me to plow through before the next plane flight. It helped that my office was in our home, so during those rare weeks off at least I was "home-home" to share some of the load. But, again work tended to take over my time.

When we agreed I should let my business close down and start my retirement we had to reestablish a relationship. I had been gone so much Betty used to joke we had been married twenty-five years but had only been together for ten of them. While a bit of an exaggeration, the point was valid. Betty had run the home front almost single-handedly for well over a decade. We had to figure out how I would integrate back into the system. By this time both girls had finished college, left home, and started their own lives. So, it was time for Betty and me to do the same and figure out what we shared besides two fabulous kids.

One of the important changes we made within the first two years was a serious kick-start to our spiritual life. After twenty years in a church that no longer was helping us to grow, we changed to one that almost immediately reignited our shared passion in our religious life. From that also came something that had been seriously lacking in our lives: friends. Betty and I are both rather solitary folks. Within a few months, we had more people who cared about us (and us them) than in all twenty years at the previous church. We became involved in small groups, women's and men's ministries, and Bible studies. Together we had found a deep need and filled it together.

I learned (very slowly...the process continues) to begin to accept Betty as just as capable as me in maintaining the household and handling problems. As the years passed I became even more aware of her amazing gift to stay calm in the face of trouble and find a creative and workable solution to most problems, without my active interference and "help."

Together we began to build a marriage that played to our individual strengths and what we did well together. Through compromise and some occasional loud disagreements we have figured out what it takes to happily coexist and grow as a couple. Our marriage is a blend of two people whose personalities would seem to be at odds with each other. But, because of a shared belief in the commitment we made to each other it is working.

Getting a relationship to work for both spouses or partners is never easy. Retirement adds additional stress and the need for more adjustments. Be prepared for it, discover how the two of you best fit together, and move forward toward that goal.


Last week we celebrated our 37th anniversary. So far, so good.



As a final thought in terms of other relationships, at least for me retirement has meant more friends and closer relationships. Because I worked alone at home, when I wasn't traveling I never had the water-cooler, office friendships. I didn't have many friends overall, and none I would have considered close.

Since retirement that has changed. Now, I have a few dozen people I'd consider friends, and a few, both men and women, who I'd turn to in a pinch. Retirement has given me something I had missed for way too many years: other people I could count on.

July 3, 2013

Movies for Seniors: Are There Such Things?

 
Betty and I like movies. The problem we face with each passing year is that movies don't like us. Except for a few notable exceptions, like Quartet or The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, movies are not written, produced, or marketed to seniors. Hollywood seems to believe we don't like movies because we don't go to movies.
 
Obviously, they have it backwards: We don't go to movies because there are very few movies for us to like. Imagine my delight when I received the following press release.
 
 A Million Senior Voices

By James Twyman


 "The senior audience just isn't reliable," the man said to me. "Why do you think most movies are made for young people? It's because older people don't go to the movies. If they did, more would be made for them."
I couldn't believe my ears. I was speaking to a distribution "specialist," a consultant to independent producers like myself trying to get their films in front of large audiences. A movie I co-wrote and produced called Redwood Highway was ready to be released, and this man was recommended by a friend to help. According to him, it was a pointless trying to focus on seniors - the group we made Redwood Highway for.
 
"There are over seventy-six million Boomers in the US, and forty-three million people over sixty-five," I said to him. "I'm pretty sure most of them still see movies."
 
The answer was the same. In his mind, and in the minds of many in the film industry, people over fifty-five are not worthy of attention, and are grossly neglected, especially in theaters. An occasional film like The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel breaks free and gets some attention, but it's the exception, not the rule.
 
 
That trend is about to change.
 
There is a movement gaining speed, what I like to call Senior Cinema, to which producers, distribution companies and even the big Hollywood studios are starting to pay attention. They're paying attention because they don't have a choice. As the Baby Boom population reaches retirement age, there's an enormous need for quality films with strong senior characters engaged in stories that resonate with them. It's already begun -- movies such as Quartet and Amour being among the latest - but that's only the tip of the iceberg.
 
"What you need are numbers," the man said. "If you're so convinced there's a big audience for films like Redwood Highway, prove it. Get a million seniors to join together and demand better entertainment. I think it's unlikely, but if you can do it, then they'll definitely take notice."
 
A million seniors telling Hollywood that it's time for senior cinema to be taken seriously!  I thought about that for the rest of the day and it didn't take long to realize he was right. It's easy to throw out numbers and data, but a petition with one million names, all of them lending their voices to a campaign for better senior entertainment - that would get some attention.
 
One million signatures may be just a starting place, but it represents something that has never been tapped in the film industry before - the largest demographic in the country standing up and demanding attention. Consider these statistics: The 50+ generation represents 45% of the US population; an American turns 50 every seven seconds, which is more that 12,500 people every day; the 55+ age group controls more than three-fourths of America's wealth; Baby Boomers account for 40% of total consumer demand; and seniors have a net worth 3 times that of younger generations. However you look at it, this is not a generation to take for granted.
 
"I love to go to see movies and I would go more if there were films worth seeing," Karen K., 56, said. "I don't think I'm any different than others my age. The problem isn't in our motivation, it's about choices. I'm not interested in seeing Iron Man 3, but as soon as a movie comes out I can relate to, I'm there."
 
AgeNation is an multi-platform website and organization that caters to "people who weren't born yesterday." Its founder and president George Cappannelli adds, "Boomers and elders are being underestimated. Decision-makers beware. You are not only leaving money on the table, but in ignoring this market you are poking a bear that is about to wake up and bite you. They want more than you are giving them."  
 
So I believe its time to launch this campaign and make our voices heard! We've created a petition and survey that will be distributed to all the key individuals in the movie business. It means that everyone in the industry making decisions about which films get made and which ones don't, or what films will or will not receive proper distribution, will see this report and will have to rekon with its contents. I can already tell what it will reveal -- that the senior community wants and deserves inspiring films that relate to their own lives. Knowing that there are a million people ready to buy tickets to senior-oriented films will be the difference between two movies a year and 20.
 
So, what can you do? It's very simple. Just go to www.seniorcinema.com and fill out the survey. It will only take about two minutes, but the results could be astounding. People like the consultant I met won't be able to dismiss you any longer. The entire film industry will have to take notice, and they will definitely respond. It's up to you. Let your voice be heard and let's go to see some great movies.

 

 
 
About James Twyman:
James Twyman is the New York Times bestselling author of 15 books, as well as the producer/director/writer of five films including the award-winning feature film Indigo. His newest film, Redwood Highway, starring two-time Academy Award nominee Shirley Knight and film legend Tom Skerritt,will debut on National Grandparents Day, Sunday Sept 8, and will be previewed earlier that week in senior residences around the nation. He currently travels around the world promoting films for what he believes to be the most important, and underserved film audience in history - elders. For more info, visit: www.seniorcinemacircle.com   


Satisfying Retirement has no connection to Mr. Twyman, the web sites mentioned, or the movie previewed in the clip above. But, on a personal note I wish him all the luck in the world with Redwood Highway and his campaign to get movies made that appeal to the tens of millions of us who are just waiting for a reason to go back to the local theater.