June 19, 2014

An Anniversary and Some Important Changes

Four years ago this month I began writing Satisfying Retirement. It has been one of the most rewarding periods of my life. I had no idea when I hit the publish button for the first time in June, 2010 what lay ahead.

I have been able to write about a subject I have come to know pretty well. I have been able to help others on this amazing journey. I have written two books, both of which continue to sell several copies a month. I have made friends who have enriched my life and will continue to do so. 


Writing this blog has helped me strengthen my marriage and my faith. It has allowed me to scratch my writing itch in a way that has been both fun and satisfying. I have been privileged to be allowed into your home or office, on your laptop, tablet, or cell phone to share my thoughts and learn from yours. Regular readers have become a family that I deeply appreciate and respect.


My best estimate is I have written just shy of 500,000 words in these past four years, or a little less than contained in the novel War and Peace. Well over 1.2 million page views indicate someone is actually reading that output. I haven't counted but I imagine I have covered well over a hundred different subjects or approaches to those issues and concerns that all of us retirees, and soon to be retirees, face.

Betty and I leave early next month on an RV trip that is planned to last until mid September. We are excited to see all the fabulous sights down the road, and meet all the fascinating people with whom we will cross paths. We are also interested in our reaction to being gone from home for that long. Will we like extended RV trips? Or, are we better suited to several shorter trips that don't take us on a 4,500 mile journey? By the time we return we'll have an answer.


Because we want to focus on the journey and each other, I have decided to stop blogging for now, at least in terms of regular postings. Being on a fixed schedule, with the "requirement" to produce fresh posts every few days would detract from our ability to really get all the enjoyment and insight from this trip that we can. The post I ran two weeks ago about the Cycles of Life caused me to do some serious thinking about this blog at this season of my life, while the post of last week on the American Dream further stirred the pot. I guess I see this break as a type of needed mental sabbatical to reassess what I am doing and writing about.


What I am likely to do is write an occasional post, with Betty's pictures, after we have had a particularly memorable segment of the trip or learned something new that you might enjoy. I have no idea how often that will occur, but I would imagine a few times a month seems likely.


The blog will remain right here so all past posts will be available. If you have signed up for e-mail notification, when I have a new post you will be notified. Or, you can just click over every once in awhile to see if there is something you might enjoy.


Also, at this time I am ending the updating of the Satisfying Retirement Facebook Page and my involvement with Twitter. They have been used for promotion of this blog, but without regular updates they no longer serve a purpose. I do plan on staying involved with Google+ and  my personal Facebook page for the time being, but on a more infrequent basis until our return. Pinterest interests me and may become a new outlet for our photos.


I invite you to come back a few times this summer to see where we've been and leave a comment or two. But, if you move on I fully understand. There are plenty of excellent retirement-oriented blogs that post frequently. 
 

My  return to blogging this fall is still an open question. I am feeling the need for some substantial changes in my life and I don't have any idea what that will look like. It may involve restarting this blog, tackling a completely different subject, or leaving the blogging world behind. I seriously have no idea.


But, what will never change is my appreciation for your support, love, and participation for the past four years. It has meant the world to me. Thank you. Have a great summer and enjoy the greatest time of your life: a satisfying retirement.


Thanks for everything!


June 16, 2014

Follow Along!

Betty and I leave in a few weeks for our summer RV trip. I've received enough emails wondering if we will be going through a particular town or area that I decided to post these maps. 

The first is for the trip to Wisconsin. I haven't noted every stop or all the places we will be visiting in Wisconsin but you can see the general shape of the journey. It will take us 24 days to get from Scottsdale to Egg Harbor.



After spending three weeks in Wisconsin the trip back has been left much less detailed. We have a general idea of how we'd like to make our way home, but we have no firm plan. We have no reservations or need to be home on a particular date. We will let our moods dictate the final route. The Badlands and Mt. Rushmore are the only "must sees."  I expect the trip home will take about a month.




Betty has made several built in bookcases, medicine cabinets, and extra storage places in the RV. So, we are just about set. It will be quite an adventure and something completely different for our satisfying retirement.
 

 
As a sort of warm up trip, we spent the last few days in Flagstaff with the whole family. We took the RV and rented a small cabin at the campground for my oldest daughter's family. We celebrated (a very much delayed) Betty's birthday, our wedding anniversary, both of our daughters' birthdays, a granddaughter's birthday, and  a satisfying life in general. 

We also enjoyed temperatures almost 30 degrees cooler than at home. At this time of year, that is no small blessing!




June 11, 2014

Starting a Small Business or Generating Income: Ideas?

I received an email from Dave, a reader in Oregon, who asked me to address a question that concerns him and many others. Here is a portion of his note:

My situation is that I’ll retire in just over 12 months and two weeks….June 30, 2015.  Yes I count the weeks!  Finances and health insurance are the gorilla issues for me, so ideas on a part time business venture (vs just getting a hourly wage job) would be of interest.
This is of keen interest because at 63 I’ll be paying for family health insurance coverage (I have two twenty something children on my policy so pay family rates).  The “bronze” group health premium is $14,400 per year (probably higher in a year when I begin paying 100%). 
 If I’m self-employed or a small businessman these expenses are fully deductible.  As a simple retiree, I would have much less tax benefit (deductible after 10% of AGI…and not counting Obamacare tax credits based on income).
Anyway, I digress. I'd really like to hear from you and especially others about part time businesses that folk are using to bring in supplemental income and just fill up part of the day/week. For you, Bob, it was writing a book! 


Dave is right, there are lots of folks who are looking for ideas to generate extra cash to help with unexpected situations, to fund a special vacation trip, or simply to feel more comfortable about one's cash flow. The tax benefits can be enticing, even as a retired person.

As I have noted in other posts, I have been a travel guide in the Phoenix area, helping to transfer visiting business people here on conventions and incentive travel trips to various sightseeing spots, golf courses, and restaurants. The work is simple and pays rather well for part time work. I no longer do that type of work, but for almost five years it was a nice source of several hundred dollars a month. The only problem with this type of work is you have to live in one of the dozen or so cities in the U.S. that attract convention travel.

I have also used my writing to make extra money. Articles for PBS and other web sites, plus my two books, have generated enough to allow Betty and me a few extras in our retirement. Ads on the blog kick in a few hundred a year...enough for several nice dinners out!

Regular reader, Barbara (Zero to 60 and Beyond) sells her art work on the web, while I think RJ Walters still makes and sells wood furniture. Another Barbara sells quilts, while yet a third Barb (very popular name among my readers, apparently) makes extra spending money from her blog, Retire in Style.

So, for Dave, and everyone else who is anxious to find a way to put together a small business to generate some extra income and provide some tax advantages, here is your chance to tell us all what you do to add to your income. Any and all ideas are welcome.

Who knows, I may find an idea I love from your suggestions and run with it.


Note: I'm heading to Flagstaff for a long weekend in the RV. I will probably be slower in posting and responding to any comments from Thursday until Sunday evening.



June 8, 2014

The American Dream: Time for a Redefinition?

A CNN poll just released contains some sobering numbers. 59% of the adults surveyed don't believe it is possible to achieve the "American Dream" anymore, while 63% feel their children will grow up to be worse off. Though not spelled out in the survey, the phrase, American Dream, is generally interpreted as meaning hard work and perseverance will pay off in a better life.

With the increased concentration of wealth among the top tier of Americans, and the relative decline in middle and lower class wages, financial stability, and upward mobility,  it is not difficult to understand these poll results. 

The question is what do we do about it- accept and adjust or strive to change the perceptions and underlying reality? What can we do about it? Do you believe the poll is reflecting the real state of mind of the majority of Americans?

As a person living a satisfying retirement sometimes I feel I no longer have "skin in the game." I am not in the same place, mentally, and economically, as those who responded to this poll. I no longer care about moving up the ladder, increasing my financial clout, buying and spending more, or working hard to achieve that elusive dream.

During the time I built a career and solidified my financial future as best I could, I was part of an America that rewarded hard work. This survey and basic awareness of how things are today, point to a society that is different.

I hasten to add that what I just said doesn't mean I don't care, in fact just the opposite. Being not directly involved in the day to day struggles gives me more time to think about where we are heading. It gives me the chance to see more clearly the growing inequity that is creating a yawning gap between those at the top of the ladder and those on the rungs below them (and those who can't even get on the ladder).

If the majority of our fellow citizens believe the American Dream is dead or no longer attainable what does that mean for all of us? How will that perception change our daily life and our future? If that hope is no longer alive, what is taking its place?

Retirement is a time of life when many become more involved with their community, with volunteerism, with family, or with seeing a wrong and trying to do something about it. What we may be facing is the rules of the game are changing. The basic glue that holds us together may be losing its grip.

I wish I knew what to do about it. I wish there was an answer that made sense. I can promise you that during our upcoming RV trip around the country I will be listening carefully to what people are saying and how they are living. I will be thinking about what a single, retired person can do, or should do.

So, I'll have to get back to you on this.



June 5, 2014

Cycles of Life

One of the most prolific and long-lasting bloggers and web writers is Steve Pavlina. Here is something he wrote over nine years ago that still resonates with me.

"A reader suggested I write about this topic: Explore the tension between being satisfied with what you have and your accomplishments vs. the desire to do better. Being too complacent would yield suboptimal results because you’re drifting and not getting close to your true potential. But push too hard, and you may never enjoy what you have and may burn yourself out. So it would seem the optimal solution lies somewhere in the middle between the extremes.

On the one hand, you have complacency. Think of this in positive terms as enjoying what you have and being at peace with your current situation. And on the other hand, we have ambition and effort, the desire to keep moving and to improve yourself.

The perceived conflict comes about as a choice between here and there. Stay put or move on. Which is better? Is a perpetual balance between these two extremes the right answer? Like 50% complacency and 50% ambition? Let’s try a perspective shift … one that eliminates the problem entirely.


This problem arises from the assumption of a static view of life — that every moment is the same as every other, that if being ambitious is the right choice now, it will still be the right choice tomorrow.


Life isn’t static though. When you take a snapshot “here is where I am now” view of your life, you reinforce a flawed view of reality. Life is always in motion. Look at the cells in your body. If they ever go into a static state and stop moving, you’re dead. They’re doing different things at different times. Sometimes your body must shut down to fight illness; other times it’s happy to move around and get some exercise. There’s no single right thing for your cells to be doing at all times. Movement and change are integral to life itself.


In life there’s no status quo. Think about the momentum of different areas of your life right now. What’s expanding? What’s contracting? Instead of thinking of complacency vs. ambition as some percentage mixture in the present, think of long-term cycles of expansion vs. contraction. Cycles of ebb and flow are a natural part of life.


Notice what type of cycle you’re in right now. If you’re in an expansion cycle, then push your ambition as far as it will take you, and forget about complacency. If you’re in a contraction cycle, then take a break from ambition and spend time on your inward development. Sometimes these cycles last for years. From about mid-2004 onward, I’ve been in a massive expansion phase — trying new things, meeting new people, starting a new business. Before that I was in a contraction phase for many months, thinking and contemplating, doing lots of reading, turning inward, reassessing my priorities.


There are even cycles within cycles, like periods of short-term contraction during a long-term expansion period. It’s like the stock market. You have long-term bull and bear markets and short-term bull and bear days and weeks. At the time of this posting, it appears we’re having some bear days in an otherwise bull market. Cycles within cycles.


So just as a stock investor needs to know when to buy and sell, you must listen to the signals from your own life (both internal and external) to learn when it’s time to expand or contract. Every day is different. Sometimes buying/expansion is right, and other times selling/contraction is right. You don’t balance the two. You cycle between them.


One of my favorite treatments of this subject can be found in the Bible in Ecclesiastes 3:1-8. The whole book of Ecclesiastes is an interesting story about a man searching for the ultimate source of joy in life, eventually succeeding by identifying it as the fulfillment that comes from hard work.
To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:

A time to be born, and a time to die;

a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;

A time to kill, and a time to heal;

a time to break down, and a time to build up;

A time to weep, and a time to laugh;

a time to mourn, and a time to dance;

A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together;

a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;

A time to get, and a time to lose;

a time to keep, and a time to cast away;

A time to rend, and a time to sew;

a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;

A time to love, and a time to hate;

a time of war, and a time of peace.


Life is constantly cycling through expansion and contraction phases. Sometimes we’re able to go out and do no wrong. Other times we run home licking our wounds. By recognizing what kind of cycle you’re in, you can flow with it instead of fighting it. In a contraction phase, this means spending a lot of time thinking and journaling, reading, working on personal development to build your skills, going to school, spending lots of time with family. In an expansion phase, it means taking on some ambitious projects and stretching yourself, joining new clubs, meeting new people, taking on new responsibilities, enjoying new experiences.


What happens in your life when your decisions are out of phase with your current cycle? What happens to a stock investor whose decisions are out of phase with the market? Problems also occur when we get stuck in one phase for too long. A prolonged contraction phase can lead to depression (both in the stock market and in your personal life). A prolonged expansion phase can build stress and anxiety. Life requires cycles of exertion and rest — that’s what makes us stronger.


What is your life calling for right now? Should you be contracting or expanding? Is this the time to reinvent yourself in private or express yourself in public?"



This is not the type of post you can read quickly and move it. To get the most value from what Steve is saying, you'll need to think through his message and how it applies to your life. The pattern of life to be a series of cycles seems very true to me. How I apply that "truth" is still a work in progress.



June 2, 2014

Vacations: How Do You Prefer To Get There?

Blogger friend Suzanne recently completed a great-sounding vacation trip with husband Malcolm that included a ride on the Amtrak Zephyr from the Bay area to Chicago. As a lover of train travel, I enjoyed her posts about this trip. If you missed them, here is a great summary post: Planes-Trains-and-Automobiles.

Another couple Betty and I have become good friends with, Mike and Tamara Reddy, just completed a 40 day long RV vacation through the southwest. We got together twice, once near Tucson and then again in Sedona as their route took them close enough to us to make spending time together possible.

Our youngest daughter returned two months ago from a two week vacation in New Zealand. That involved 14 hour flights and the International Date Line, so she one day ahead of us during those two weeks. Dad struggled to figure out what the correct day and time were for her when we wanted to stay in touch.
Betty and I have flown many times to Hawaii. We have taken long flights to England and Italy. We have been on a cruise. 

Our "drive till we drop" driving trip through the west put 5,000 miles on our car. We have taken Amtrak to San Antonio. And now, we are jumping into RV travel with both feet. These examples point to the variety of ways we decide to take a break from the routine. 

I know some folks wonder why retired people take vacations - isn't every day a vacation? Well, no. Obligations, schedules, chores, and routine are a part of retirement too. A break is needed.


So, my question for you, is how do you prefer to travel? If given the choice do you fly, drive, take a train or bus, motorcycle (this is for you, Chuck), head down the road in an RV, or maybe bike or hike to your destination? Why do you prefer that mode of transportation?

What travel choices do you avoid like the plague? Betty and I fly only when we must, either because there is an ocean in the way or time issues. Maybe it is because I flew over 1.5 million miles while working, or maybe it is because airline travel has become stressful and unattractive to us, but flying is my last choice. What about you?  I know folks who dislike driving: time spent on the road is not time at their final destination.



Let's compare vacation travel likes and dislikes. After all, it is the season.