September 30, 2013

Just Published - My Latest Book Contribution



You are right, I am not 70. In fact, I am six years away from that milestone. Even so, the publishers of "Things To Do When You Turn 70" asked me to contribute an essay. This is the same company that included me as be part of the "65 Things To Do When You Turn 65" series, one of which the Wall Street Journal picked as one of the top retirement books of 2012.

This book has just been published. In fact I received my copy just a few days ago. The description on Amazon.com provides as excellent summary of this latest in the series of books made up of essays from a wide range of folks:

The contributors include a wide diversity of people 70+ who have taken on exciting challenges and have found fun, intriguing, and surprising ways to make their lives rewarding. 70 Things to Do When You Turn 70 features such luminaries as world-renowned poet Nikki Giovanni, American Book Award-winning author Gary Zukav, Emmy Award-winning filmmaker Elaine Madsen, and the acclaimed writer Daniel Klein.  All royalties from the sale of this book will be donated to cancer research and prevention.

Like the first two books in this series I am honored and happy to be included. If you are in the market for an excellent overview of what your 70's may look like I ask that you consider a purchase. Again, all the writers contributed their writing for free, and all profits go to cancer research.

There is a nice nod to my essay in the introduction. You will find the full article starting on page 69. Thank you, Sellers Publishing, and thanks to you, my blog readers, for all your support over the years.

September 27, 2013

Those Powerful Childhood Memories

As the summer winds down, at least in most parts of the country, I was thinking about one of my stronger childhood memories that defined this time of year for me. My grandparents owned a 36 acre plot of land about a hour north of Pittsburgh in a rural part of the state.

We called it "The Farm" even though nothing was planted or harvested, except memories. From the time I was four until an early teen, I spent two weeks every summer here with my parents, brothers, uncle, and grandparents. Some fifty-five years later, that time is still nothing but golden memories for me.

For a child of today, the conditions would seem unbearable. There was no electricity or running water. Cooking was done on a huge wood burning stove or over a fire pit. The bathroom was a rickety outhouse down a path. Water was pumped from a well. A weekly bath involved heating buckets of water on the stove and dumping them into a large tin bathtub in the living room, not too far from the fireplace, which was also the only source of heat for the two story house. The second floor bedrooms could get rather nippy over night but no matter, we just piled on extra blankets.

Kerosene lamps were used after to dark keep the downstairs pleasant. The adults read, played cards, or talked. My brothers and I would play with simple toys or listen to the stories my uncle would tell. Upstairs, a flashlight was the light source if a trip to the privy was required. I remember falling asleep listening to squirrels (or something small) run around in the attic above my head.


I would awake each morning to the smell of my grandfather boiling coffee and frying bacon over the outside fire pit. Coffee grounds and cold water would be dumped together in a pot and placed over the fire. Eventually, a strong smelling brew would be passed around to the adults to jump start their mornings. The younger set settled for orange juice and cereal from the ice box.

Days were spend sitting under the large trees listening to adults talk. Obviously, there was no television and only a battery operated radio so days where filled with conversation. I do remember my grandfather had an outbuilding that was packed to the rafters with old tools and all the things needed to maintain the property. Being the oldest, occasionally I was allowed inside the shed to watch him built or repair something with tools that probably came from his father.

My uncle was our primary source of entertainment. Not only did he tell great stories but helped us "improve" the land. Each summer we would plan for some paths through the woods and fields all over the property and then proceed to lightly trim a path. We gave them names, like Lowry Lane or Munn Boulevard. Of course, each summer these paths had to be rebuilt but that didn't seem to bother us. The hard work kept us busy and produced tired little boys each evening.

Near the end of each year's stay we would have our big adventure: walking to the small town of Mars for ice cream cones. Since it was five miles from the farm, for the first several years we only made it part of the way. After an hour of trudging down the dirt roads with mom and dad alongside us, granddad would pull up in his car, pick us up, and take us to the general store for ice cream. Each year he'd tell us how far we had managed to walk in the allotted time. Finally, when I was probably eleven or twelve, we managed to walk all the way to town before being picked up. We were so proud.

Today, as close I as I can get to the experience of the farm is RV travel. The campgrounds satisfy my need to be surrounded by nature. The freedom of rolling down a back road reminds me, for just a moment, of the walk for ice cream down a dirt road near Mars, Pennsylvania.

Mom and I saluting the flag on the 4th of July at The Farm

What childhood memories come to mind for you? 


September 24, 2013

Becoming a Grumpy Old Person: Is It Inevitable?





We are familiar with this personality type: the cranky old man. He is a stock character in movies, cartoons, and TV shows.  He seems to dislike everybody and everything. Step on his lawn or get in his way at the store and you will know it. Make the mistake to ask him about the government or taxes and your ears will burn for a week.  British author Carol Wyer has a name for it: “irritable male syndrome." He is not living a very satisfying retirement.

While working on my book, Living a Satisfying Retirement, a question was raised more than once that is worth thinking about. Here is how one contributor posed the question that gets to the heart of the issue:

"Why it does it seem 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?"

Importantly, remember that this question was not asked by someone in his or her 20's or 30's. This came from someone in their 50's or 60's, and therefore I assume is a concern in his or her own life. Do we all end up inflexible and intolerant?  Does the prospect of losing the ability to drive, or to stay in one's home drive most of us to put a scowl on our face?

I am sure there are all sorts of research studies and physiological reasons why this "grumpy old man" attitude strikes. Medical reasons may include a steady decline in testosterone levels that can produce this bad mood effect.

Let me speculate on some other possible triggers. Retirement can send many a man over the edge. With fewer friends than women, men have little social interaction after work and can become isolated and depressed. Certainly, the loss of a spouse could turn someone into a genuinely unhappy person. The loss of physical or mental capabilities has the potential to leave us bitter. We may remember the "good old days" as a time when government seemed to work more smoothly, young people were more respectful, and doctors made house calls.

Or, as the question implies, is the crankiness due more to attitude than reality? Are unhappy seniors just an older version of how they were when younger? Can people make a conscious effort to not fall into the complaint trap as they age? If there is a medical cause will that person seek some help?

My personal opinion is the cause is a combination of factors. The declining levels of testosterone after 60 are real. The effects are well documented. Overall, health and relationship issues must contribute to the potential for a less-then-sunny mood. The awareness of one's own mortality can be a rude awakening for someone.

At the same time, I believe attitude can be a major factor in preventing a full slippage into grumpiness. I don't mean the type of "everything is great, the glass is always at least half full" attitude. Denying what is happening in your life isn't the answer.

Maybe acceptance is a better word. No one gets out of here alive. Virtually all of us will suffer from some of the unpleasant realities of the aging process. To be grumpy and rude really says that person is too self-absorbed. We all have aches and pains, we all lose family and friends, we all face the loss of our ability to drive. To make everyone around you uncomfortable or unhappy is really saying, "It is all about me. My problems are worse than yours and that gives me the right to lash out."

Actually, it doesn't.

September 23, 2013

America's Quest for Simplicity

Recently I was sent the following infograph. I thought it worth showing to you. If you look at the various statistics it is clear how far we have to go to bring our wants in line with our means.



Living With Less: America's Quest for Simplicity
Image source: www.masters-in-human-resources.org

September 20, 2013

Living Like a Local


Confession time: When I am on vacation I get excited when I can "live like a local." What does that mean? It is the ability to slip into an attitude where I am acting less like a tourist and more like someone who lives there. Obviously, I am a visitor, gone in a few days or weeks. But, I really look for ways to fit in. Do I still get lost make typical tourist blunders? Sure. But usually there is a moment when I feel at home.

My youngest daughter laughs when I use the living like a local phrase. I'm not sure if she considers dad a little odd, or just easily amused. But, no matter. I want to experience a place for all it is, not just someplace that isn't home. Let me give you a few examples from our recent vacation in the Portland, Oregon area:

1. Betty and I (and Alison when she joined us in the final week) made extensive use of the light rail and trolley system. To be able to drive a few minutes to a nearby station in Hillsboro, buy our all day passes, step on the train and be in downtown Portland 35 minutes later was so much better than driving. It allowed me to actually look at the sights around me instead of being stuck behind the wheel of the rental car.

Then, we'd find the closest trolley stop and ride to where we wanted to be. Off we'd jump, do our exploring and eating, get back on the trolley and figure out where to get off to meet the light rail train that would return us to our car.

By the end of the second day I was comfortable using my phone to determine the arrival time of the next trolley or train. Besides being fun, I really enjoyed the process of using local transportation options to explore the area.

2. We had to pick up Alison at the Portland airport when she flew up from Phoenix to join us. By then I knew about Portland's bad traffic tie-ups and areas that were always a mess. So, by looking at a map I figured a local's way to and from the airport. Rather than join everyone else on the Interstate system, I used surface streets that avoided all the traffic and hassle. A Victory! I was living like a local, not just a confused tourist in a rental car.

3. A blogging friend (bless you, Tamara)  had recommend that I buy Groupon coupons for some of our meals before coming to Portland. I did purchase two dinners for restaurants in the downtown area this way, both of which turned out to be great choices. By the time we decided to use them, I wanted to find each one without depending on the GPS system. I had learned enough about Portland's grid system that I was pretty confident we'd make it. Except for a few one way streets not going the way I wanted to, I navigated to both restaurants without any serious issues. Success! The city was becoming comfortable to me.

There are several more examples from this trip but my goal of a shorter post means I'll skip the details. However, the point should be clear: the more comfortable I became in the place I was spending time, the more I enjoyed being there. I made the effort to learn enough about where I was to be able to relax.

When I'm in Hawaii by the third day I am shuffling along in my flip-flops, smiling at everyone, ignoring my watch and looking for local plates. When I am on an RV trip I say hi to everyone, talk about their dogs, and offer to share a casserole. When we visited Italy it meant getting used to late-opening restaurants and enjoying it. When in Portland I try local beers, drink too much coffee, get lost in Powell books, and take public transportation.

My advice: slip into the lifestyle and pace of wherever you find yourself. It is so much more enjoyable if you live like a local, even if you aren't.

September 18, 2013

Do You Make These 7 Retirement Mistakes?



A satisfying retirement doesn't just happen. When I stopped working in 2001 I assumed a lot of things that turned out not to be true. My early years were a work in progress with a lot of on-the-job training. Over time, the pieces began to fall into place. The last six years have been the most creative and joyful period of my life. But, some incorrect assumptions made the transition rougher than it had to be.

Here are  seven "assumptions" that can derail or delay your happy retirement lifestyle:


1) Assume everything will work out the way you want.  Your left a job, you didn't leave planet earth. No one gets through any stage of life without a few curve balls here and there. Some of us actually take a fastball to the head. Being flexible is a necessity.

2) Assume your planning is solid and will need little or no adjustments. Much like the assumption above, for me retirement has proven to be a time of constant adjustments. My goals, interests, and financial situation are not static. Neither is my 5 or 10 year plan. And, that is OK.

3) Assume your wife or husband has the same goals as you for retirement. Assuming anything in a long term relationship is risky, but thinking that you and your spouse or partner want exactly the same things from retirement without discussing it first is not likely to be your best decision. Save a lot of grief by talking through what you both want before you are home full time.

4) Assume your employer will not change any of your retirement benefits. Read the paper and the Internet. It is safer to assume your employer will look for ways to reduce his commitment to your pension and health care. He isn't evil, he just can't afford to fulfill promises made years ago. The world has changed too much.

5) Assume you (and any one else you are responsible for) will never have a serious health problem. Just because you have been healthy so far is absolutely no guarantee of the future. Flip a coin and have heads turn up four times in a row. Assuming that tails is "due" is wrong. Past behavior or conditions do not always predict the future, especially with an aging human body.

6) Assume that when you retire a budget is no longer needed. A budget got you to retirement. A budget will get you through retirement. In fact, when your income is more likely to be fixed, you have less margin for error than when a regular paycheck was part of your world.

7) Assume you can spend heavily in the early years and then cut back as you age. In a world that was completely predictable, this might work. But, what happens when you are faced with a large health care bill several years down the road? What happens when your income drops because your investments are not producing at the same level? What happens if you are wrong and expenses don't drop enough to make up for your lavish years? Front-loading your retirement with a more lavish lifestyle comes with substantial risk.


Of course, there are more than just the seven deadly sins of retirement assumptions I have listed. In your experience so far, what mistake has been most costly to you? What would you do over again if you could?

September 16, 2013

Playing Small Ball

If you are a baseball fan, you are probably familiar with the term, small ball. Usually, it means a team is concentrating on doing the little things right: stealing bases more often, bunting, forcing the opposing pitcher to throw more, attempting to walk when at bat, or using the hit and run play instead of depending on base hits and big plays to win a game.

For this post, I am using the term, small ball, to make the point that a satisfying retirement is very often putting together a series of small steps and simple decisions to create the life you want. Major life adjustments, inheriting a sizable estate from a long, lost uncle, or cutting food costs by eating mac and cheese for every dinner are rarely needed. Instead, by focusing on the little things, by playing small ball, we can be big winners.

What qualifies? Here are just a few things that come to mind. I am sure you can share some of your own examples:

1) We check the newspaper circulars (they come in the mail...don't even need a newspaper!) and on-line sites (like Cents' able Shopping) to pare our grocery bills. I am not talking about becoming an over-the-top coupon clipper, just looking for the best deals. The grocery store where we shop will match competitor's prices, so paying $1.89 for milk instead of $2.69 is just common sense. Betty and I spend no more than 30 minutes a week on this task and cut our grocery bill by $25 or so each trip.

2) We cut out the bloated cable TV package and dropped back to the basic channels while our youngest daughter is living with us. When she moves out next month, even the basic will go. We can pick up network HDTV signals for free using a simple antenna for the two or three shows a week that interest us. Specialty networks, like Discovery or PBS offerings can usually be streamed from their web sites. Netflix fills in all the gaps.

3) Betty has been using s smartphone for the past four months. She has determined that she never uses the data package and rarely texts. Yet, because she has a smartphone, Verizon insists she pay $40 a month for the "ability" to use data. She is going back to a basic flip phone, without a data package requirement, and save us $120 a year.

4) One of our cars is 10 years old. Maintaining full comprehensive and collision damage coverage is silly. We'd see nothing after a claim on a vehicle worth less than the $1,500 deductible. Dropping them saves us a few hundred dollars a year.

5) Arizona State University, several medium size colleges in the metro area, and an extensive system of community colleges offer a constant stream of free concerts, movies, lectures, and exhibitions. The Phoenix public library offers all sorts of artist talks and book discussions. We take advantage of as many of these events as we have time and interest.

6) I read a lot (again, I say, a lot). I used to help support Amazon. Now, my library card gets a full workout. Not only do I save close to $500 a year on books, but I don't need to buy more bookshelves.

7) Groupon...need I say more?

8) We bought an RV. Obviously, that isn't small ball. Actually, it is a 30 foot long, 12,000 pound behemoth. But, by eliminating those things in our budget that really don't make us happier or make our lives better, we freed up some of the money to fulfill a dream to hit the road and travel the back roads of America.

By playing small ball in part of our life, we can live large in another. And, that has been a tremendously positive trade off.

How about you? What examples of "playing small" can you share?



September 13, 2013

Helping An Adult Child

I have been noticing a lot of web articles recently that deal with the issue of grown children and retirement. Phrases like "boomerang kids" have become common. The adult child has to move back home due to a lost job, or medical condition. The grown child needs help to pay for additional education to reenter the job market. A divorce may mean that child brings along his or her own children when moving back home. This is not a rare occurrence. One survey I found showed that 44% of jobless 18 to 34 year-olds live with their parents. Almost 25% with jobs are still at home.

Some of the articles take a firm position As parents, you have already done your job. The grown child is on his own. The money saved for retirement is not going to be used to solve someone else's problems. Maybe a small loan here and there, but no full scale bailout. You are not going to become a full time babysitter for your grandkids. The house is no longer set up to handle an extra person, or two or three.

The flip side to that is your child needs your help and you are going to provide it. When you became a parent you believe your responsibility doesn't end after a certain age, regardless of the circumstances.  You do what you have to do to provide shelter and food, or money for an education or a car to get to work, or whatever. If your retirement savings take a hit, so be it. Family trumps your portfolio.

So, what do you do? Cut the cord and tell the robin to fly, or provide support, both emotional and financial, as long as needed? How much should your own future be adjusted for an adult child?


Here is another toughie. I received an e-mail from a fellow a week or so ago asking for feedback and ideas from readers on another adult child-parent issue. His youngest daughter was into her final year of  college. She had done her part by getting scholarships and taking on a rather sizable student loan. Even so, helping her with college tuition put mom and dad further behind each month. Saving for their own retirement had to be delayed and their own debts were increasing.

This couple is within a few years of retirement. They are worried that the financial hole they have dug for themselves means retirement may be just a dream. The fellow's question was a simple one: if you have committed yourself to doing what you must for a child, do you have to accept that retirement is not a likely scenario? Is working well into the future the only option? They willingly helped their daughter and took on these obligations but wonder where they are headed.

These are not easy questions. My last post on the history of retirement noted that when we were a rural society this type of problem rarely arose. Everyone stayed close to home or accepted that each family member was responsible for the well-being of the rest of the family regardless of age or circumstances. That model no longer exists for most of us. Multi-generational living is still the exception rather than the norm.

Do you have any experiences in this area to share? Can you give some solace to the parents who have put their own retirement in the deep freeze for their daughter? Do you have feelings about where and when the obligations of parents ends...if it does?  Would the door to your home and bank account be closed or open in a similar situation?
.







September 11, 2013

How Did We Get Here?

With a blog entitled, Satisfying Retirement, it is rather obvious what my focus is. I have chosen to write about a subject I have been experiencing for over a dozen years. While not everyone is happy with the word retirement, we all understand what it means. At the same time there is serious debate  about its future, whether the whole concept of someone leaving the workforce at a set age remains valid in today's world.

For this post, I thought it would be interesting to look at how the whole idea of "retiring" started. If we could flash back about 80 years we wouldn't find anything like retirement. With a mostly rural society, folks worked on the farm until they couldn't anymore and then sat in a rocker while the younger family members took up the slack.

Those in factories or retail worked until their health gave out and they went home to a rather uncertain future. With no company pensions or government safety net, and little ability to save much during the working years, the "oldsters" were depending on being cared for by the rest of the family until death.


Things changed rather radically in 1935. The Social Security Act was signed into law in August of that year. Taxes were collected for the first time a little less than two years later and the first one-time, lump-sum payments were made in January, 1937. The maximum lump sum payments was $315, but the average was under $100. While not calling it that, these initial lump sum payments were meant for burial and funeral costs, not retirement. Regular ongoing monthly benefits started in January 1940. Note that such a massive social program took several years to be fully rolled out, not unlike the new health care laws.

While the new law didn't help older workers, suddenly younger workers had a guaranteed income  at a defined point in their future. That income was never designed to be someone's total income after work,  just a supplement. Unfortunately, as we all know, today too many of our fellow citizens are forced to live completely off Social Security. That leads to a rather sparse existence, but it is substantially better than the way things used to be.

Spousal benefits were not part of the original law. Retirement benefits were only paid to the primary worker. In 1939 the law was amended to add survivor, spousal, and children's benefits. In 1956 disability benefits became part of the program.

So, the concept of retirement that we all understand began in 1935. The urban legend that 65 was set as the full retirement age because most people died before then so the government was off the hook isn't true. My research shows 65 was picked because some European countries used that age so America just followed along.

Of course, as our life span has increased, the "full" retirement age for Social Security has crept up a few years, though not nearly enough to keep up with increased longevity. That is part of the reason for the constant talk of Social Security's fiscal future. And, it is important to remind ourselves that the original intent of Social Security wasn' t a retirement plan, just a supplement.

Importantly, as originally designed the government's role was simply that of the fund's administrator, rather than its payer. How things have changed over the past few generations! Congress has rather dramatically changed both the intent and funding of the program over the years, resulting in both a change in understanding of the role of Social Security and its funding.

But, back to the original point: retirement in any form and however paid for happened because our society changed. The rural model was replaced with an urban model. Families caring for family members until death was replaced with the idea that we were responsible for our own future well-being. Then, government decided that we may not be capable of taking care of ourselves on our own and turned Social Security into a retirement program instead of just a supplemental program.

As poet Robert Frost wrote in his "The Road Not Taken, "and that has made all the difference."

Lesson over...class dismissed.

September 8, 2013

Does Retirement Involve False Starts and Stops?


A reader who offers suggestions for blog posts (which I love and encourage from anyone), recently dropped me a note to ask about the path to a satisfying retirement. She and her husband have been moving toward that goal for a few years now but something always derails their plans. One partner gets cold feet and decides that working longer would be good for their long term financial health. Or, the decision to retire brings the realization that no firm plan to fill all that free time exists so retirement is put off.

Another "false start" involves one partner going back to school in order to try a new career. But, soon comes the realization that studying and sitting in class for hours at a time doesn't mesh well with the desire to volunteer, go to church more often, travel, or spend time cooking. Retirement and starting a new, full time career can't work together.

So, she wonders how many almost-retirees make a few false starts on their plans as they get ready to leave their old lives. The short answer is, "Many." Like any stage of life we rarely proceed smoothly from step A to step B. Unexpected problems arise or life goals are adjusted. Just being alive means you are in a state of constant change.

With something as life-altering as retirement, having second or third thoughts is only natural. Trying to figure out how to use all that free time can be daunting. Trying to balance the desire to learn something new with the eagerness to spend time doing what you already know you love is not easy.

The last twelve years of retirement have taught me to allow myself to change plans, direction, even lifestyle. In fact, come to think of it, I'm not sure there really is such a thing as a false start. Retirement starts when you are mentally, emotionally, and financially able to take that final step. Everything before that is just a test or a feeling out of various aspects of a life change.

So, for the person who wants to retire but can't quite cut his or her ties to work, then it is more likely you aren't quite ready. For the person who stops work and then realizes there are still motivations to have a job, whether full or part time, then there is no "failure" in satisfying that need.

For the person who is simply afraid of the unknown and needs encouragement to jump......Jump. Jump in with both feet, knowing that retirement is simply a part of your life's journey that you can adjust, change, or even revoke, if need be. Retirement is not an end, but really a new beginning.

False starts? Not really...just a different path.

___________________

Note: If you think my last few posts have seemed a little shorter than normal, you are right. Very observant of you! One of the decisions I made in returning from my Oregon trip was to keep these posts a few hundred words less than my typical post has been for the last 39 months. There are two primary reasons:

1) A post of 800-1,000 words is a bit too long for some readers to tackle in the limited amount of time they have to check up on all the blogs and web sites that interest them. Besides, I should be able to convey my thoughts in 500-700 words. My creative writing teacher in high school would probably say even that is too much. For a writer, he pounded into my head that effective communication is better served by much less rather than more.

2) I have several new projects in mind for the coming several months that will be taking up larger chunks of my time. That is one of the reasons I wanted to cut my social media involvement back to just the efficient core (bye bye Twitter!). Also, I simply have only so much time to write blog posts each day. A few hundred words makes a tremendous difference.

So, dear reader, I hope you don't feel cheated. There will be times when the message needs a longer post and then I give myself permission to inundate you with words. But, for the most part I want to save you and me time, be a bit more focused in my thoughts and writing, and bring my new ideas to full fruition.

Oh, and the irony that I just used 300 words to tell you I'd be writing less isn't lost on me!

September 5, 2013

The Not So Secret Ingredient for a Satisfying Retirement

Probably millions of words have been written about how to have a happy, productive retirement lifestyle, almost 80,000 of which have been mine! Financial planning, working on your marriage or primary relationship, developing a hobby or passion that lights your fire every day, allowing your spiritual side to blossom....you have heard it all before. There really is little new under the retirement sun, unless it is whether retirement is even a valid concept in the 21st century. But, that's the subject for another time.

My experiences during my recent vacation highlighted one other indispensable requirement: friends. Yes, friends. These are the people who aren't related to you who will put up with your quirks and oddities just because they choose to. They will take you to lunch, share dinner with you at your home, or have a hot dog while sitting next to you at a ballgame.

They will laugh with you, cry with you, hug you when you need it, and give you a verbal slap when called for. They will allow you to be you while gently nudging you to grow and develop. They will listen as you try to explain away your mistakes without judging or condemning you. Friends are what makes living rich and full of joy.

Too often we leave friends behind when we retire. Sure, we mean to stay in touch, but drifting apart after the bond of work has been severed is what usually happens. Old friends may move away or fall out of our lives due to divorce , sickness, or death. Sometimes we just grow apart.  Making new friends as we age becomes more difficult.

That's why what has happened over the past year to Betty and me is so special. During our two trips to Portland we have met some people who have become a very important part of our lives. We love them, care about them deeply, and long to be with them whenever possible. Amazingly, they feel the same way.

This trip we met a new couple who we instantly developed a bond with. That relationship is likely to strengthen and deepen over time, too. We were able to talk with each other like long lost college chums, feeling comfortable and at home in each other's company.

Of course we have very important relationships with friends in Phoenix. They enrich our lives every time we are with them. But, it is impossible to have too many true friends, wherever they may live. Betty and I feel as if we have hit the jackpot.

To our new friends in Portland (and those we met there), know that you make our lives fuller, more exciting, more vibrant, and more loving just by being you.

Friends must be one of God's way of showing us we matter. Otherwise, why would He put them in our lives?

courtesy blog.clarity.fm -

September 4, 2013

Join Me Thursday For My First Webinar

Note: I understand there was a problem with the first 10-11 minutes of this interview. People on the phone heard music instead of the conversation. I am sorry you missed the first few questions and answers because of a technical glitch. For those who joined later and heard the interview, thanks for your time and interest.

I will be re-doing the part of the interview that was lost. A recording of the entire 50 minute conversation will be available soon.

I have been invited to be the focus of an interview on the new web site, Retire to, this Thursday, September 5th. Ed Zinkiewicz, co-founder of the site and author of a new series of Retire To books, extended the invitation last month and I quickly agreed.

You are invited to listen live on your computer and even pose questions for Ed or me to answer during this 40 minute session. There will be a series of slides that appear on your screen that will help you follow along. If you are unable to listen to the interview as it happens, I will post a link to the recorded version when it is available so you can listen at your convenience. There is also the option of listening to the interview on your phone, or connecting through Skype.

Ed has prepared a web page that provides all the details you need to listen on Thursday. Part of his bio for me includes:
Bob Lowry writes the leading blog for building and living a satisfying retirement. He has written two books about retirement, has been interviewed in Money Magazine, Advertising Age and on CNN.Com. He writes regularly for the PBS web site, Next Avenue, and is a contributing author to the best-selling 65 Things To Do When You Retire series of retirement books, the first of which the Wall Street Journal has called one of the most significant retirement books of 2012.
As his own retirement journey began to unfold he discovered a serious lack of information for retirees: books, web sites, and even blogs were filled with advice on how to manage one’s money before and after retirement. But, there were few places to learn about retirement’s effect on a marriage and important relationships, how to fill one’s time effectively, whether to move after leaving work, or how to simplify one’s life. No one was explaining the stages of retirement everyone must go through, or how to uncover a passion that would make each day a joy.

I am excited by this venture. It is the first time I have been asked to be part of a webinar, a web-based presentation over the Internet. Ed has done a wonderful job of allowing for the widest possible listenership and participation.

I invite you to listen on your computer, your phone, or by Skype. I urge you to submit a question during the interview for us to tackle. And, I ask that you pass on the word about this event to anyone you know who may be retired or thinking about beginning their own satisfying retirement.

For all the details on how to listen, watch the slides, or submit a question click
here: Worth a Listen: Bob Lowry. The interview will be conducted this Thursday at 3PM CDT. That means 1PM on the West Coast and 4PM on the East Coast.

Please plan on joining me Thursday afternoon. This should be fun. And, a big thank you to Ed Zinkiewicz for his invitation.

September 2, 2013

Ambition and Retirement: The Odd Couple?

I had an interesting question posed via e-mail not too long ago. That person had yet to start his satisfying retirement journey. He was still a few years away but had a solid financial game plan and a hobby that he was anxious to spend more time enjoying. His marriage was satisfying and his relationship with his adult children was good. Yet, something was bothering him enough to ask for my thoughts.

His concern was simply this: does having ambition end when work ends? Does the striving for some type of achievement or distinction  and the willingness to work toward it stop with the last paycheck? I could tell from his question that his definition of ambition is a traditional one, rooted in the concept of power, or wealth, or recognition. He was really asking if striving toward more was soon to be over.

I assured him that wanting more, working toward more, and hoping for more didn't stop with retirement. In fact, the desire for more actually intensifies. What changes is the definition of ambition and the meaning of more.

During my radio consulting career my ambition was pretty fearsome. I wanted to be a major figure in my industry. I was willing to travel 100,000 miles a year, be away from home for almost half of each year, take on more business than I could comfortably handle, and strive for more. While my ambition was adequately fed for several years, eventually things started to fall apart. It took the closing of my business and a few painful years of readjustment to understand the type of ambition I was seeking was ultimately unsatisfying. It was based on the totally false assumption that there is never enough, in the bank, in the garage, in the size of the house, or in the influence over others.

Retirement allows for a completely different meaning of ambition. Being ambitious is about the quality of one's life, the fullness of relationships, and the satisfying feeling one gets when volunteering to help others. It is about the desire to live each moment as fully as possible. It is about the opportunity to discover a side of one's personality or talents that was always there, just waiting for the chance to burst forth. It is about more joy, more freedom, more acceptance.

I assured the fellow of all of this.... and received no response. Maybe my answer was so profound I erased all his mental doubts. Maybe he decided I had no ambition myself and was trying to sell him on the concept of becoming a sloth. Or, maybe, he is still thinking about the concept of being ambitious with a whole different range of experiences and payoff. Whatever his thoughts were, I am glad he asked the question. It gave me the chance to clarify my own thoughts and motivations.
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It is Labor Day. This post is shorter than normal because you have more interesting things to do than read a long blog post, and I have family coming over for a cookout.

My ambition for today is simple: to not burn the burgers.