December 31, 2017

2018 - Really?

The year that is ending has been a mix of highlights and stumbles. I have enjoyed my satisfying retirement as much this year as any of the previous ones. My 41 year old marriage has never been stronger or more fulfilling. Family times are a constant joy. We have found a church with people who we like spending time with. 

I fought a 6 month battle to properly diagnose and treat a medical condition. It wasn't life-threatening, just painful and it affected my lifestyle. I am disappointed that I continue to fight the battle of procrastination on things, little and large, on a regular basis. 

2018 holds the promise of a visit with friends in California and a European river cruise for my birthday. I am pretty sure other trips, as yet unplanned, will happen. I will watch my grandkids grow up as responsible, loving individuals. Our weekly family gatherings for food and conversation will be a regular part of every Sunday.

My blogging will continue and new books are coming.

In short, 2018 looks good from here.

But, how did it arrive so quickly? Did I really retire from radio almost 17 years ago?

Are years still 365 days long?

Have a safe, sane, and happy start to the new year. I will have a fresh post in a few days.

December 28, 2017

Why is The Prospect of Retirement Scary?

I have been blogging on this subject long enough to know that not everyone has a satisfying retirement. The post, When Retirement Becomes Less Than You Dreamed, generated a lot of comments and e-mails from those who have found all of this to be a bit of a struggle.

Some of the reasons are obvious: financial, medical, maybe relationship struggles. But, I wondered why folks who don't have any particular stumbling block still are hesitant, maybe even fearful about the whole idea of retirement.  I have receieved enough correspondence to know there are plenty of people who refuse to even consider leaving work, not because they need the money or are even in love with the job, but because they are nervous about what may lie ahead.

I wondered what may be some of the underlying concerns. What causes someone to avoid leaving the 9-5 world even if he or she can? A couple of possibilities came to mind:

* A Lifetime of Conditioning. It starts with kindergarten. That was followed with twelve years of High School, maybe four or more years of College or vocational training. Then, we had to find a job to pay off a student loan, or support ourselves and maybe a family. 

For 60 years we have been moving in one direction: forward. We have been taught to achieve, produce, learn, provide, succeed. We have been told that we must keep our commitments. Our days and weeks and years are mostly controlled by others.

Then, one day, that stops. The path we have been on since our childhood ends. The way we have been conditioned to live loses its moorings. The concessions we have made and the trade of our time for money is over. Now what are we supposed to do? What are the new rules?

* Doubt in Ourselves. No matter how self-confident or in control we appear to others, all of us harbor doubts. It is not hard to convince ourselves that the perfect retirement plan may not be so great. Being retired means we will have to be in control of everything, every day. If we have any questions about our ability to fill our time, stay happy and engaged, and be around another person all the time, thoughts of retirement can raise some serious doubts in our mind.

* Doubt in Others. The fine folks in Washington may decide to unravel the rules that we have played by to get to this point in our life. Talk of changing Medicare or Social Security can unsettle even the most confident of us. A major upheaval of the financial markets is very much out of our control and can have life-altering consequences. Without an income, a recovery is very difficult. If we have relationship problems then we aren't really sure how he or she will react to the loss of a regular paycheck and routine.

I can see these three reasons, or others I may not have thought of, as being a stumbling block to someone on the cusp of retirement. I do not suggest they be ignored or promise everything will be fine. Any one of them can be a legitimate concern.

I hope all the posts on this blog and the very fine readers who participate with comments and shared experiences can help someone tackle an issue like this and feel comfortable about moving forward. As always, if you have a particular concern, please feel free to send me an e-mail. The address is available at the top of this page.

December 26, 2017

If Life Had a Do-Over Option, Would I ?

I have given some thought to how my retirement journey has unfolded. That has raised the question, " What if I could have a do-over on some of the choices I made in my life? What would I do differently?" 

Since life doesn't really offer such a correction, is there a benefit in asking? Yes, because it helps me see patterns in my decision making. There is the opportunity to learn from past choices to improve the ones I, and maybe you, are making during our satisfying retirement

My life has been rather ordinary in most respects. I was raised in a typical 1950's-60's American suburban environment by two parents who loved each other and their three sons. I went to college, got married in my late 20's, had two daughters, and built a successful career in an industry I had fallen in love with at age 12.

Along the way I suffered the loss of a favorite uncle, a set of grandparents, and in-laws. My parents are both gone. I don't think anything I have experienced is extraordinary. But, that doesn't mean there weren't a few times along that journey that hindsight suggests a different approach would have been wiser.

 I wasted my time at college. I went right after high school because that is what one did. Also, during my freshman year of 1967 I drew a low lottery number (remember the draft?) and didn't relish the idea of being sent to Vietnam.  I graduated in four years with a degree in a field that had nothing to do with my career but did give me a broad, liberal arts background. 

College, for me, was not a time when I allowed myself to be intellectually challenged. I took the courses I needed to, but was never fired up by most of them. I did feel a spark during a few urban study courses, but never fanned that flame. I doubt if I went to the library more than a half dozen times in 4 years. Since this was well before computers and the Internet, I have no idea how I put together the papers and essays required to graduate.

The cliché that college is wasted on the young is certainly true in my case. I was so focused on my radio career that classes were an interruption. I was the president of my fraternity for a year but I did nothing with that experience. I made no lifelong friends nor did I do more than to keep the place functioning. I rarely dated and enjoyed no new cultural experiences. My college years would be a productive do-over. 

My business eventually died because I stopped growing. In my case it was a business that died, but the effect of standing still can be applied to any part of life. At the peak of my consultancy I was serving over 30 radio stations single-handedly and had worked for over 200 other stations at one time. That meant constant travel, spending each weekend catching up on all the office work, and re-packing for a flight out Monday morning. I allowed myself no time for two crucial elements of any business: learning new things and marketing.

I was content to continue to repeat the same mantra even as the radio industry was changing right before my eyes. I didn't take the time to think about new approaches because I was too busy keeping the cash flow up. I had no time to use my standing in the industry and the successes of my clients to generate new business. I became the worst thing you can become in life: complacent. I milked my present success dry until there was nothing left. While things have turned out well, I wish the business had continued for another 6 or 7 years and I had given more to my clients.

I was a absentee husband for too many years. At the time I believed the message that if I made a good living and provided well for my family I was doing my job. If I resisted the possible lures of years on the road and stayed faithful to my vows and my wife no one could ask for more.

Wrong. While I was spending 170 nights each year in hotels, my wife was raising two girls, keeping the household functioning, and getting everything tidy for the return of her hard-working husband every Friday night. And my response? I looked for the smallest thing "wrong" to complain and point out to the family.

Then, I was locked in my office working all weekend on everything that was piling up: bill paying, writing reports, picking new music to recommend, and critiquing tape recordings of the DJs on client radio stations. I helped out around the house but only if it didn't get in the way of my "real" job.

Once I stopped living that lifestyle, it was clear to me how much I had abused my family's love and patience. While it took several years of retirement to get my life balance back, I can never repay my wife and daughters for sticking with me through my "jerk" period and carrying more than their share of the load.

I could easily come up with several more re-dos, like the lack of any hobby or outside interests, but I'll save them for another time. The goal of this exercise is to look at mistakes or oversights and hopefully learn from them. I can honestly say that the three mistakes did result in my changing: to become dedicated to continual self-education and learning, to keep growing with new challenges and never allow myself to become stale, and to make every attempt to become the partner I am supposed to be to my wife and family.

Betty and I have made 41 years together and are much happier and satisfied with our relationship than during the dark times when my work was my wife.

I did find an excellent list of do-over ideas that Mike Bellah posted on line several years ago. You might find reviewing his list kick-starts some ideas for you.

How about you? Any imaginary do-overs cross your mind?

December 24, 2017

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays To You

This isn't the time to spend reading a long blog post so I'll keep this short.

This is the one time of year we can tune out the discord, rancor, and uneasiness that seems to surround us. 

The world's problems will still be there when you reconnect, but for now focus on everything else: friends, family, neighbors, the homeless or less fortunate...anyone in any situation that allows you to spread joy and love. 

Thank God for your blessings. In my case I thank Him for the birth of His son and his grace and mercy in my life.

Whatever your religious persuasion or belief system, I wish for you and yours peace and happiness, an internal joy that can't be extinguished, and an appreciation for the blessings of being alive.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all.

If you just concluded celebrating Hanukkah, I hope it  was meaningful and fulfilling.

Peace on Earth and Goodwill to everyone.

A fresh post will be available Tuesday.


December 22, 2017

Lessons from Mom

Over the last month or so there have been a few posts about problems with aging, caring for parents, and the inevitable decline as we age. I thought it was time to throw a little positivity into the mix. I had a very strong relationship with my mom and dad, though mom was the one who probably did more to shape my world view and how I perceive things. Now, 7 years after her death there are still times I wish I could show her a post I have written or ask her opinion about something.

What I do draw upon on a regular basis are some of the life lessons she instilled in me. There was nothing all that unusual about her advice, but following it whenever I can has made me the man I am today.

With the anniversary of her passing just a few weeks ago, now seemed like a good time to remind myself of Jean Lowry's rules of life:

* Be honest and trustworthy

* Protect my reputation

* Help the less fortunate

* Reading is a priceless gift. Use it every day

* Treat my wife like the jewel she is

* Keep smiling no matter what the circumstances. Attitude counts.

* Always put family first

* Never let your children there for them forever

* Stay married (she made 63 years)

* If in doubt check the dictionary

Before you nominate me for sainthood, let me assure you that this is a list of goals, not accomplishments. Each one requires constant focus and vigilance on my part. Each one, except using a dictionary, is very much a work in progress. 

I have had a much better time trying to live up to mom's admonitions since I retired. The work environment I created for myself and family did not lend itself to some of the "rules" on this list. I fell short on the wife and children parts, didn't do much for the less fortunate, and tended to put business, not family, first.

The last 16 years of my retirement journey have increased the odds that I can live up to mom's desires for me. At least I have fewer excuses when I miss the mark.

Thanks, mom. 

December 20, 2017

Maybe I Missed My Calling

Hopefully you noticed a different look to the letters on a white background. I have been told by my graphics-trained wife that this combination is easier to read than the way things looked before. Also, the font size is bigger, again an adjustment for our aging eyes.

Please let me know what you think with a comment after this post. It is easy to put it back or make other modifications. After all, you are the ultimate boss!

Now, on to the post for today

Not too long ago was my last lesson. Twenty one youngsters, all in a 5th grade classroom were mostly quiet and as attentive as an 11 year old can be after lunch period. Name tags were on each desk.

After a deep breath I began what I hoped would be a meaningful, even enjoyable 40 minutes for "my" kids. Modifying some of the teaching materials to better connect with their lives and experiences, I led them through some key words and concepts. We consulted a large map and learned how much of the food and many of the products we consume and buy come from countries all around the world. Special cards were handed out to teach another lesson about the global economy. All too quickly, my time was up and I had to say goodbye.

As I was packing up to leave, the classroom teacher stopped me while all the kids looked on expectantly. She handed me a framed picture of the class that each child had signed to thank me for our time together. A round of applause and shouts of  "Thank you, Mr Lowry" followed me out the door.

It was moments like these that made the planning and time worth it.  

For the last year I have volunteered with the Junior Achievement program at a nearby elementary school. Last spring I taught a 4th grade class, this fall I have just wrapped up the lessons with 5th graders. I have enjoyed the experience enough to sign up for next year.

At first, walking into a classroom of 21 or 22 kids is intimidating. After all, I am old enough to be their grandfather. I don't want to bore them. I have to be careful to use examples they can relate to without trying too hard. I have a specific lesson plan to complete in 40 minutes each week. I must find a balance between maintaining control and making each child feel comfortable in my presence.

And, I enjoyed it tremendously. There was a flutter of nerves as I drove to the school each week, hoping I was prepared and the kids would be attentive. But, once I started everything seemed to just flow. Rarely consulting the teaching book, I became wrapped up in the presentation. I could quickly judge if the material was sparking any interest or it would be best to skip to the next section.

My mom was a teacher, full time, part time, and as a classroom volunteer, for 40 years. My uncle and grandfather were library system directors and university provosts, so I guess I have it in my genes. For the last twenty years of my working life I was a management consultant, which, come to think of it, is a type of teacher.

Playing records on the radio was fun. It was the perfect life for a young man in the late 60's and early 70's and a nice boost to the ego to be a local celebrity. I don't regret my career choice at all.

But, I guess it is natural to wonder what life would have been if I had followed a different path, maybe into education or teaching. After leaving the classroom now I feel a natural affinity for that setting and the ability to be a positive influence on the young lives sitting at all those desks. 

Retirement gives me the opportunity to have a taste of a life that might have been.

December 17, 2017

Travel and Health: Balancing Our Wishes and Our Wallet

This is a topic I have written about before, but each time there are enough comments and follow up e-mails to tell me you are interested. So, travel and health is something that is important to discuss. 

Traveling is one of the joys of the satisfying retirement phase of your life. With few or no commitments to an employer and probably an empty nest, you have much greater freedom to pack up and go. No longer must you travel when everyone else does. Midweek departures or hitting the road while families with kids are tied to home are now possible. You don't have to join the crowds mid-summer at popular destinations. 

Of course, your own preferences, interests, retirement lifestyle and finances have a bearing on what your travel itinerary might look like. My wife and I like a combination of a big trips every few years mixed with a healthy dose of long weekends or several day-long excursions. Finding ways to spend part of each summer  out of the Phoenix heat is a never-ending quest.

We are healthy enough as I write this to not have many travel restrictions. Would I scuba dive like I used to? No. That is pretty strenuous. Would I agree to walk across Ireland? Maybe, depending on the accommodations at the end of each day (no tents!).

I prefer to avoid air travel simply because airlines have made that form of transport as legally close to torture as possible. But, to get to Hawaii or Europe for our river cruise next May means putting up with many hours in a metal tube. Actually, my first choice for long distance travel would be by train but Amtrak pulled out of Phoenix almost 20 years ago (how dumb was that?) so that isn't a viable option. That means we usually drive.

For Betty and me there are two major restrictions on our travel desires: our dog and our budget. A few weeks ago I revisited the idea of adding an RV back into our life, but that has faded as a possibility. We have found an excellent kennel that Bailey can tolerate for 2 weeks. 

So, the core issue is really one of health. At some point our physical state will begin to limit our travel options. That is as given. It could be something dramatic that changes our lifestyle completely. More likely it will be a gradual decline in physical strength and abilities. There may come a time when one of us is afraid to have the other in a foreign country where paying for medical care  or an emergency flight home is more of an issue. 

But, for now, none of these scenarios are in play. So, should we ignore our carefully planned budget for travel and "go for it" while we can? Should we do all we want even if we have to tap into savings and investments that weren't supposed to be for traveling? Should we live with the worn out carpeting or out-of-date bathroom sinks for another few years and put the money into trips? Will we look back at some point and kick ourselves for not having the experiences while we could? Or, will we second guess our decisions to put ourselves in a financial hole that may have serious consequences?

In our household, this is a debate without a firm answer. Overall, we are homebodies. We enjoy where we live and the people who fill our lives with happiness. We have a decently active schedule of church, volunteer, and social events most of the year. We buy tickets to Broadway shows that visit town, enjoy several Diamondback baseball games a year, like well-produced plays, and will attend a few concerts. I enjoy finding things to do in the area that are different and low cost.

Still, the call of the road is always there. Our wish list includes more cruises, a trip back to England and Ireland, and a visit to Paris. New Zealand beckons, as do several of the islands in the South Pacific. 

We have talked about taking a train trip across Canada, visiting Montreal and Quebec. Seeing the autumn colors in New England can't be beat. Time in Portland and the northern California coast is always a draw.

I guess the most important step is to prioritize this list. In that way, if a health issue arises we will have had the experiences most important to us. 

Then, we must decide how deeply to dig into our retirement fund to pay for this. The way we budget for vacations now is to save for a big, expensive trip by taking small, closer to home excursions for a few years. That approach will not work if we are serious about the bucket list type of travel listed above.

Me, contemplating my choices
So, where does that leave us? Betty and I are starting to play with the idea of being more aggressive in tapping our retirement resources to make some of these dreams come true. Then, our natural caution filter kicks in and says, but what if.......

If you were in my situation would you take the trips? Would you answer that some trips just aren't doable and we should live within our budget? Would you suggest we accept our homebody tendencies and be happy with our life the way it is?

I hope we have at least another 10-15 years to travel. Now, we just have to decide where and how best to pay for it.

December 14, 2017

Retirement Roundup: Stories You May Have Missed

Every so often I will gather a few news stories that might interest you but could have escaped your attention when they first popped up on the Internet. For example:

* Old Age is a myth built around a premise that no longer has one definition. Places like The Villages, in Florida, are popular among lots of folks but they are  no longer the only choice.  Time magazine tackles the subject: The Is No Such Thing As Old Age Anymore

The Power of Continuous Learning is a short but useful article on the positive effects of keeping your brain active by learning new skills and pursuing new hobbies and opportunities.

* Early Retirees who don't have access to either Medicare or work-related health insurance are facing a very uncertain 2018. Even through Obamacare is still the law and early enrollment is open for another week, Washington has left things very much up in the air. This situation is creating unnecessary stress. Read about it here: Early Retirees Face Higher premiums and Uncertainty

*What is the best way to give financial gifts to your grown children? Next Avenue has these suggestions: 3 Ways To Give Money To Your Adult Kids

*Is the computer going to disappear from our homes? Some tech experts say, Yes. Devices like Amazon's Echo and ever-sophisticated smartphones will make desktop computers or laptops and tablets obsolete. Take a glimpse at one possible future: Life Without Computers

* There is so much to learn and do before and after retirement, you can't be blamed for overlooking something now and then. But, don't plan for these 4 facts of retirement life, and your journey could be bumpier than you want: 4 Retirement Issues You Probably Aren't Planning For

*Moving after retirement is a big deal. There are several factors to consider before deciding it is right for you. Here are 5 factors to think about: 5 Mistakes To Avoid When Moving After Retirement

December 11, 2017

What Is Retirement?

I can assure you of one thing: retirement is not what it was for your parents, maybe even an older sibling. The environment that created the Sun City model of endless golf in a tract home under the desert or Florida sun is vanishing and not likely to return. Are there still folks who live like that and even aspire to that type of life? Absolutely, and there is nothing wrong with it if that is how you describe a satisfying retirement. But, there is a shift that is well underway.

In large part that model for retirement depended on an employer who paid you a pension and took care of your medical bills in exchange for 30 or more years of loyalty. That model depended on a system of affordable housing that would increase in value, little by little, year after year. That model depended on a banking and investment system that believed in a fair profit but managed to keep the most greedy and immoral members of its community under check or quickly disposed of. That model depended on a government that worked, compromised as needed, and understood that we are all in this together. To create a nation of a few haves and a whole bunch of have-nots was in no one's longterm interest.

That model has been severely damaged, if not shattered. Certainly, there will be an increasingly  large percentage of our citizens who have no real expectation of a standard retirement lifestyle. The financial meltdown of almost 10 years ago destroyed too many nest eggs and shredded financial plans. Working as long as possible will be essential, or even desired, by many. 

For those who do plan on retiring there has been a shift in expectations. With retirement now likely to stretch over 20 or even 30 years or more, roughly 25% or more of one's life span can occur after full time employment has ended. With better health, folks are likely to stay active and vital well into their 80's. Looking forward to just sitting in the recliner, watching TV, and puttering in the garden doesn't hold much attraction for many.

So, for those whose future holds a promise of retirement, what has it become? What is retirement now? What are the basic elements that build a satisfying retirement and are, at least to some degree, under your control?

Retirement is not the end of something. It is just a change in direction.

Originally, the concept of retirement was a vision of a life of leisure and a worry-free existence. After years of toil, it meant full time relaxing with some travel and time with the grandkids for the last decade or so of life. 

Very few of us would be satisfied with that retirement lifestyle today. As noted, we probably have two or three decades of life ahead of us. Ending full time employment means we are simply entering the next stage of our life, a stage that offers as much fulfillment and excitement as we wish it to.

Our life is made up of different phases, or stages: youth and life with parents, going away to college or moving away from home and starting our own life, starting our own family while working to support that life, and now, retirement.

Retirement is more control of your most valuable asset: Time.

During the first few stages of life most of us spend time to generate income, on relationships, social commitments, and to build a particular lifestyle that makes us happy. Control of this resource is turned over to others.

When we enter the retirement stage, we are given the opportunity to grab much of that control back. As we get older, we become much more aware of the value of time, and its rapid passing. I wrote awhile back about the odd phenomenon of weeks, months, even whole years racing by much more quickly in my 60's than they did in my 40's. As I become more aware of its value, the more quickly I seem to spend it. But retirement does gives me the opportunity to be purposeful and diligent in how I spend my time. I am more likely to eliminate time wasters from my schedule.

Retirement is freedom to explore that unique creature: You

Parts of me that are uniquely me were kept under wraps in my working years stage. During that time I used certain gifts and talents I had been given to earn a living and help raise two incredible daughters. But, I felt there was more of me waiting to emerge, I just didn't know what.

When given the time and freedom of retirement I began to experiment. I tried new hobbies. I discovered the gym. I had a brief fling at bird-watching and hiking. I wrote a travel book about Arizona. But, I was still looking. I started playing the guitar. I became a lay counselor at our church with the Stephen Ministry program. All these activities were fun and fulfilling, but some part was still itching, waiting to be scratched.

Then, I moved onto prison ministry and writing this blog and two books. When I retired 16 years ago I never would have  guessed either activity was in my future. But, that is what makes retirement so satisfying and exciting: I don't know what lies ahead but I have the opportunity to find out.

What is retirement? It is a time of your life when you can take center stage. It is when you can explore all that makes you so special, a creature who will never be duplicated. Isn't that thought incredibly exciting?

Note: if you missed the recent post about Retirement Done Differently take a look for some ideas on how this stage of your life can take on a whole new look.

December 9, 2017

Technology and Seniors: What is Available To Help Us?

Just in time for holiday shopping I was contacted by an organization that represents author Lisa Cini. Her 2016  book, The Future is Here: Senior Living Re-imagined, explores the increasingly important role of technology in helping us take care of ourselves or those we love. 

I thought you might enjoy taking a look at some of the newer products that are available now and  could change the way we live. To learn more, type in the name of any of the products that intrigue you in Google search.

Satisfying Retirement has received no compensation for this post, nor is this an endorsement for any of the products listed. This is strictly for your information.

December 6, 2017

Are We Defined By Our Health?

It is absolutely true that if a group of seniors gather, medical conditions and problems will be discussed. We seem to eagerly trade stories of a misdiagnosis, a lingering illness that won't go away, a troubling test result, or the struggles of a friend or relative. 

Ask young people about their future as older folks and declining health is likely to be part of their description. Watch a TV show that includes an older character and he or she will probably show some evidence of physical or mental impairment. 

I suggest that too often people of our age are defined by our health rather than something positive about our lifestyle or accomplishments. And, that description comes from not just younger people, but us as well. It seems almost like a badge of honor to talk about our diabetes or high blood pressure. Special diets and a regime of pills validates us as officially a senior.

Recently, I was listening to a program on the Internet, produced by the BBC's station in Northern Ireland. It dealt with the problems that come from misconceptions about what older folks can do and need. Government and the private sector have ideas what being 65, 70, or 80 means. They attempt to approach what they perceive as our reality with programs and products. 

One of the comments that generated the idea for this post was this tendency to think of older people by their limitations and not their potential. The idea that retirement is not the end but the beginning of a completely different stage of life is a recent development but something that is not universally believed.  One of the people interviewed on that show is 42. She said she is looking forward to being 65 and free to start something completely new from what she is doing now.

What a great attitude, and one that represents the feeling that most retirees I come in contact with have: age means freedom, opportunity and rejecting artificial boundaries.

Of course, we have declines in health. That comes from being human. We are not as spry as we once were. Our memory has some holes in it. Hearing aids are used when needed. It may take a bit longer to stretch and feel limber each morning. 

So what? If that is what happens as the physical body ages, why do we allow others (and ourselves) to define us by what is very natural? Why do we think about the walls instead of the space beyond? Why do we define who we are by what our bodies are doing instead of  what we can do? 

Talk about anything but your last visit to a doctor!

May I suggest next time you are with a group of friends you don't talk about health problems, but life experiences. Talk about what is new or different in your life. Get really brave and start a discussion about some political issue. Ask what travel plans others have. 

Just don't compare medical charts. 

If you have a spare 27 minutes and want to listen to the BBC show I mentioned above, click this link: Live Long, Work Long?

December 4, 2017

6 Months later: Do I Miss Our RV?

The short answer is, Yes.

Last spring we sold our 12 year old RV for several reasons. There was at least $5,000 worth of repairs and replacements that needed to be taken care of. At 138,000 miles, lots of years of bouncing around America had added enough squeaks and groans, shimmies and shudders, to make each trip tiring for the driver (me!) and noisy for the passengers (Betty and Bailey).

Living in Arizona means that we have to drive quite a bit to escape the desert and scrub brush. If traveling east we need at least three days before things became slightly green. Heading toward California we could be in pretty areas within a day, but traffic, bad roads, and expenses came along for the ride.

Because of the heat, very few things could be left in the RV between trips. All lotions, liquids, candles, even canned and boxed food, had to be put in before a trip and taken out as soon as we arrived home. Betty and I were spending a few days on each side of a trip loading, unloading, cleaning and doing multiple loads of laundry. Taking a "getaway" meant a lot of work and preplanning.

At our home in Scottsdale, we were able to park the RV on a side yard. That meant we could plug in the electricity, get the refrigerator going, and quickly load what we needed for a particular trip.

The new home does not have such an easy option. The HOA will approve parking large vehicles as long as they are not visible from the street. We would have needed to spend close to $2,000 to make a place for the RV. All neighbors who could see the vehicle in our yard would need to give us approval to store it within their view. 

We were left with the option of paying over $1,000 a year to store the RV, outside, baking in the sun, 15 minutes away. All that stored up heat was beginning to fade the exterior and all the inside fabrics. Rubber seals and plastic tubing were beginning to split. With no way to keep it plugged in, batteries were dying and pre-cooling the refrigerator was impossible.

Even so, I miss my freedom machine. Maybe I miss the "concept" of an RV more than the actual vehicle and the financial commitment it entailed. The idea that Betty, Bailey, and I could find an opening on our calendar, throw a few things together, and break away from routine is still attractive to me. Being out of the Phoenix heat for part of the summer is a tremendous plus. Traveling with a dog in a car for long stretches of time is not practical, nor is leaving her in a kennel for more than 5 or 6 days at a time.

We visited 32 states in the just over the 4 years we owned R.T. (Road Trip). The memories and photos are wonderful tradeoffs for the various hassles and work. We saw places we would never have experienced any other way. We learned to live together in a small space for almost 2 months at a time. Bailey hated the riding part of each trip but absolutely loved all the new smells and places to explore.

With the cost of a new decently-sized RV somewhere between $70-$90,000 for another Class C, or $90-250,000 for a comparable Class A motorhome, that is not likely to happen. Renting is a poor option: all the work of prep and cleanup at several hundred dollars a day.

So, we made our decision and agreed it was best. But, now half a year later, I will admit I am having second thoughts.  I have been looking at various dealers in the Phoenix area that have a good selection of used RVs with low mileage. I have asked Betty about her thoughts. I have discussed the fun we could have in modifying and personalizing another rig.

Yes, I miss the RV lifestyle. Yes, we may consider another one at some point. Yes, I may be slightly crazy. 

November 28, 2017

Retirement Done Differently: Slow Travel

Doug Nordman is a reader and often leaves comments on Satisfying Retirement. Also, he has his own blog,, providing information and insight to military members, both past and present. 

Last month's post, Retirement Done Differently, promoted a comment from Doug that led to my request for him to tell me more about a retirement lifestyle that may attract you: slow travel. Even though his usual focus is on military matters, this guest post contains plenty of information and suggestions for us civilians (does my 6 years in the Army Reserves count?). The idea of staying in a location long enough to adapt to the pace of life and deeply explore the area certainly appeals to me.

Maybe you, too!

My spouse and I are a dual-military couple:  I retired from the submarine force in 2002 and she retired from the Navy Reserve in 2008.  (We reached our financial independence by 1999 on a high savings rate.)  We've lived on Oahu since 1989.  Our daughter (born & raised here) started her own Navy career in 2014.

We love the islands and our Pacific Rim culture, yet we still enjoy seeing the world.  Every flight from Hawaii is at least 2500 miles, so we try to spend extra time at our destination(s) and fewer hours in the air. 

We lived my first 12 years of retirement with our daughter's school schedules, and our breaks only allowed for a few weeks of the typical holiday vacations and college visits.  During our empty-nester years, however, we've discovered slow travel.  At every destination we live like locals for months. 

When you're working a career (or raising a family), you only have a couple weeks for your annual trip.  Everyone else in America is also vacationing at the same time, and the travel industry fully exploits the crowd.  You're usually visiting a resort, and your lodging might not even include a kitchen.  (Your corporate host wants you to buy their resort food.)  You barely have the time to learn your transportation options and you pay full retail prices to get around.  When you add it all up you're living like a two-week millionaire.

It's still pretty good!  You can control these outrageous expenses by travel hacking with rewards programs, credit-card points, and discounts.  However your time is your most valuable resource, and just as you really get started on your vacation you have to return home.

Slow travel replaces the entire traditional vacation with your new lifestyle.

Instead of traveling during summers or holiday peaks, you visit during the rest of the year.  Airfares are cheaper and the crowds are gone.  You'll use AirBnB or to find long-term rentals with a kitchen.  You can try your own cooking from the farmer's markets and still eat out.  You can rent a car, but you can also figure out the public transportation systems.

You live like a local, and you're enjoying day trips to local attractions.  Now your travel depends more on your passport & visa than on your budget.  It's a staycation in a different country.

In early 2015 my spouse and I cashed in our frequent-flyer miles to visit Spain.  (As military retirees we've also traveled on Space A flights, but that's a whole different blog post.)  Our daughter was stationed in Rota (free lodging!) but monthly apartments are plentiful-- and at a huge discount to hotels.   

Cadiz Plaza
Our daughter was on sea duty, so my spouse and I were on our own.  During the next three months we took day trips to everything within 25 miles.  We'd sleep in, take our time with breakfast, and start out after the morning rush hour.  We'd take a walking tour of a town and visit its local attractions.  During the later afternoons we'd enjoy a leisurely Spanish lunch and return home around sunset.  We'd cook our dinner or walk to a local restaurant.  Some days we'd stay "home" doing chores or grocery shopping or planning a longer side trip.  Each month we'd go to Sevilla or Madrid for a week.  The big-city prices were very negotiable during off-season when we shopped around and rented for longer periods. 

The only travel limit that made us head home was our 90-day visa.

Gilbraltor viewed from Spain

We enjoyed ourselves so much on that first visit that we returned in the fall for another 60 days.  We spent nearly half the year in Spain, yet our budget barely noticed the difference.

The following year we visited Europe with friends for a couple of months.  They wanted to start the trip with a cruise, and it was a huge contrast with our slow travel.  We all had fun but my spouse and I felt as though we were rushing from one place to the next on a multi-country scavenger hunt. 

After the cruise we rented a villa in an Italian hill town.  While our friends buzzed around the countryside in their rental vehicle, we walked all over the town and surrounding hills (with occasional buses and taxis).  We could have easily spent months exploring Cortona, Orvieto, or Padua.  We didn't miss the crowds (and tourist prices) of Venice or Rome one bit.

The cruise cost enough to be a rare fantasy trip.  However our slow travel through those hill towns was very inexpensive.

We've also lived like this in Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Dallas, Seattle, Norfolk, and Charleston.  In the next few years we're tackling Japan and Australia. 

After that?  Well, we're not as hardcore as Billy & Akaisha Kaderli at  But we're tempted to try a few months with TrustedHousesitters like Heather & Volkan.

Travel while you still can.  Slow travel helps us appreciate it even more.

Doug Nordman is the author of "The Military Guide To Financial Independence and Retirement" and blogs at

November 24, 2017

Not Knowing What You Don't Know About Retirement

A reader sent me an email recently that contained an intriguing question and one that deserved a post. I'll let his words set the scene:

"As a follower of your blog and a reader of various websites on the topics of aging and retirement, I see the focus upon and comments by those folks who have planned and prepared for retirement for years. They may now fret over "have I saved enough" and "should I downsize/relocate" and etc but they usually are very prepared. But what about folks who just sort of find themselves retired? And there are a bunch of us. They don't know what they don't know.
So my Question: have you done a post recently from the perspective of/ or directed to someone who "finds themself retired" without necessarily having planned to be there? All of the concerns of the unknown are quite frightening. The scare mongers who are usually investment companies tell us we need millions saved or we will be in the poor house.
 The Internet is full of calculators that purport to give your Magic Number that most will not achieve especially when they find themself already retired. There can then be a tendency to enter this exciting chapter of life under the misconception that it will not turn out well. And you know that is not necessarily true."

He is quite right: becoming retired when you have planned for it, saved for it, and thought about life after work is one thing. It is quite another to suddenly finds oneself "retired" due to job loss, health or family situations, or simply burned out and needing to make a clean break. I can certainly relate. My retirement happened quite suddenly: my business went from robust to bust in about 18 months, about 5 years earlier than I had planned to walk away.

How do you know what you are supposed to know? Who do you believe? For those who have sort of stumbled into retirement what suggestions might I have? 

For purposes of this exercise, I am assuming the the situation isn't caused by simply ignoring the realities that are ahead of us all. If someone thought "it will all work out" and that was the extent of their planning, I refer you back to this post: 5 Retirement Myths You Should Ignore.

But, if you were rushed into retirement before everything came together, what should you do? What should be your approach?

1) Prepare a clear-eyed, realistic look at your financial situation now

This is a time to focus on where you are that this moment. What are your realistic streams of income? What is the condition of your investments, any pensions, future Social Security, and savings? Could you down-size your housing situation to cut expenses? Don't allow the "experts" who tell you you need X number of dollars to have a satisfying retirement influence your analysis of your situation. You have what you have. You will make it work.

2) Develop a strict budget that matches income with outgo. 

Cut what doesn't fit. Align your resources with your needs. Wants will come later. Live within that budget. You can live comfortably on a lot less than you may assume. Nobody needs 150 TV channels. No one needs the latest smart phone. Even 2 cars may be an extravagance that must be given up. When I lost a job many years ago, with two young kids and a wife to support, we didn't go to the local mall for a full year. Mac and cheese became a staple, hot dogs a treat. No temptation helps keep spending in check. 

3) Be sure to budget for health care

I have admitted this before, but when I retired I forgot to budget for health care increases. This was a serious oversight. If over 65 Medicare will be your savior. If not, you are entering a scary uncertain place, particularly at this time in our country's history. Health care costs are really unknowable, but whatever you think they may be I'd suggest adding 20% and keeping your fingers crossed. Even with Medicare, you will have plenty of expenses. Plan for them.

4) Develop of list of all the activities, hobbies, passions, and interests you have had throughout your life.

If thrown into retirement before you are ready, you will need activities to help you stay busy and focus on the opportunities that lie ahead, not the mess you may be in now. Think of whatever you like, or even used to find enjoyable at some time in your past. You have the time to feed those passions. One caution: if your hobby is rebuilding classic automobiles, that might not be your best option until your finances are steady! 

5) If you have a significant relationship put maximum effort into protecting and strengthening it.

Show me a study on retirement happiness and I will show you a section about the role strong relationships play in that journey. It could be a spouse, a significant other, or a best friend or two. But, you need those relationships to keep you on course and happy. Being with another person for 20 or 30 years in an unfulfilling, tense relationship is not a pleasant prospect. Use your new-found time to relationship-build. Trust me, it is worth more than money.

Knowing what you don't know, and then acquiring that knowledge is the first step to a productive and fulfilling retirement. You will make it work. You will not just survive, you will prosper. Retirement is all about you. Live it up.

November 22, 2017

That Special Holiday: Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. It is four days of family, food, relaxation, and no gift-giving pressure.

I refuse to participate in the insanity of Black Friday. In fact, unless it is to visit family I make it a point to not leave the house. My life is blessed. I know that and I thank God everyday for it. I also know it could be taken away from me, or someone I love, in an instant so I take no precious moments for granted. It is truly a satisfying retirement life.

I wish for you and your family a happy, joyous, and peaceful Thanksgiving weekend. Whatever your circumstances you have something to be thankful for. 

Dwell on that this holiday.

Look for a fresh post in a few days.