April 23, 2017

Delayed Retirement Maintenance Has a Cost

For the majority of us the last effects of the 2008-09 recession are in our rear view mirror.  Unemployment rates are low and inflation seems to be under control. Interest rates on investments remain miserable, but decent returns are available with a little bit of risk.

Housing prices have rebounded in most part of the country. That allowed Betty and me to move just about two years ago to be closer to our grandkids. We have been in the new house just long enough that my thoughts to turn to what maintenance should be considered, now and in the future. Owning a house means owning the problems that come with that property. 

Delayed maintenance never got this bad
Unfortunately, over the years I have become the master of delayed maintenance. If something isn't dangerous, leaking, or unusable, I find it much too easy to wait.  We know that something will require fixing but decide it can wait a while longer.

That toilet is more difficult to flush, but it still works. The front door is showing wear and the wood is starting to crack. But, hey, there's no budget right now for a new $2,000 door. The roof should last another few years, I hope. I know the car battery is pretty old but it still works. Let's wait until fall before replacing it.

My experience with delayed maintenance is that the eventual cost is always higher than when the problem is first recognized. I have always wondered why I wait until it is time to move or until something stops working completely before I repaint, repair, or replace. The hassle is always worse than if I had simply taken care of it when I should have.

When building a satisfying retirement, delayed maintenance can describe similar behavior. One example might be our investment plan isn't really working well for us anymore. We know we should spend time reviewing our approach. But, that is a lot of work and it might force us to admit we are not in the type of financial shape we thought we were. Things will work out, they always do. We'll just wait awhile and see how it goes.

Another type of delayed maintenance might involve a business venture of yours. I have personal experience with this type of delayed maintenance. For at least 4 years before my consulting business declined to the point I decided to shut it down and retire, there were plenty of signals that things weren't going as well as they once did. The industry had changed dramatically a few years before that, resulting in a drop in demand for what I offered. The number of clients had grown regularly every year for the previous decade. Then, the growth stopped. I decided that was fine with me. I was overextended and tired.

Suddenly, the number of clients I served began to drop, one this month, two a few months later, a couple more at the end of the year. I was concerned, but still convinced things would stabilize at a comfortable level. That was not the case. The loss of business continued and accelerated.

Suddenly I was at the point where my cash flow was dangerously close to my expenses. I knew what I needed to do: increase the marketing and promotion of my business, become much more focused on the clients and their particular needs, and find a way to re-brand myself for the changes the industry was undergoing.

Unfortunately, I had delayed that business maintenance too long. When things were good I didn't spend time looking for cracks in the foundation. I didn't figure out I needed a major overhaul. When I realized things had slipped to a near-fatal level, it was too late.

Your most significant relationship can certainly suffer from delayed maintenance. Several years ago I wrote a post on Relationship Maintenance suggested steps you can take for a relational tuneup. Just like a car that misses regular oil changes, new brakes, or a new set of spark plugs, your marriage or key relationship can't be ignored for too long before trouble will surface.

Health is certainly a key area of delayed maintenance for many of us. We know a diet of fatty foods, a lack of fruits and vegetables, and a sedentary lifestyle will probably end badly for us. We know sun screen is important. We know about checkups and tests that should be conducted.  But, the future is still way out there. We can change later. We can adjust our living habits when we turn 65....or 70...or 75...or.....

Not doing what we know we should will hurt us. Our quality of life will suffer. Our ability to do what we like will be curtailed. Taken to its logical conclusion, our delayed maintenance in taking care of ourselves could end our life early.

What is the answer? Preventive maintenance. This is a proactive, deal-with- a-problem-before-it-gets-out-of-hand type maintenance. Act before something becomes critical or dangerous. Maybe there are no visible signs of a problem today, but we all know the consequences of a certain action is likely to cause problems.

Preventive maintenance is the best way to build your satisfying retirement. It may be a tough habit to develop. I think most of us are hard-wired for avoidance. But, waiting until things break or decay or become much too difficult and expensive to repair is the wrong choice.

What in your life requires some preventive maintenance? What delayed maintenance have you put off because the task is too difficult or the answers too unsettling? Share with us, if you dare!

Note: Yesterday morning I woke up to a flooded front yard. An underground sprinkler line had ruptured. There had been a small wet area near the front walk that I conveniently ignored for over a month. Delayed maintenance in action!

April 19, 2017

Moving To Be Near Family After Retirement: A Good Idea?

I am among retirement writers who suggest that moving right after retirement is a step that should be taken with caution. Leaving friends and familiarity is never easy. The adjustment after leaving work generates enough stress. Adding a move and all that implies just puts more pressure on you. Moving after retirement is an important decision; it takes time and planning. 

Over the six plus years of this blog I have shared several stories of newly retired folks who have left both a job and a long time home in short order, and regretted that move more often than not. Usually, the difficulty in establishing new friendships and missing ties at home lead the list. In short, home sickness can strike at any age. Others found the weather not as ideal as it seemed after watching the Weather Channel. Housing prices may be so different that affording a place to call home is too difficult.

That being said, for some of us a move soon after retirement is the right step to take. If your job kept you in a climate or community that left you unhappy, then the freedom to leave all that behind is welcome. If you have no family nearby and living near the ocean or a high mountain meadow has always been a dream, now you can make it a reality.

The most common reason we move after retirement is family-related. Sometimes it is the need to be able to care for an aging parent or relative who lives far away. There are no other siblings who can help, so the responsibility is yours. Other times, it may be the desire to be closer to a grown son or daughter and the grandchildren.

I can certainly relate to that desire. Betty and I moved from the area we called home for 30 years to be close to the grandkids. Granted it was only 40 minutes away, but we did leave an area, friends, and a church relationship we liked and had spent three decades building. In our case it has turned out beautifully. We love our new area and interact with family all the time.

The flipside of our experience was shared with me by a reader a few years ago. He and his wife left their long time home community to be close to a son and his family. Within a few months they realized they had made a big mistake. Their new community was so different from "home" that they struggled to adapt to the weather and different culture. Their son and his family had their own very full life and were rarely available for mom and dad. That couple ended up moving back to their old area and way of life. An occasional plane flight to keep the family connected turned out to be the better option.

What about you? After retirement have you moved to be closer to family? Have you decided to relocate to provide care for aging parents or to be closer to grown children and grandkids? Or, have you made the decision to stay where you are, depending on travel to stay in touch? 

This choice is one of the most important ones you may face during your retirement. While the urge to move is often quite strong, the reasons to do so must be solid and well planned.

I invite you to share your experiences and decisions. We can all learn from what you have decided.

April 15, 2017

5 lessons I've Learned About Relationships

After 40 years of marriage I have learned a few things along the way that have proven helpful. Actually, there are a lot more than five lessons, but I know your time is limited, so I will stick with a few of the biggies. You are welcome to try them out. If you don't, you can't say I didn't warn you!

1. You can't change another person, only how you react and relate to that person. One of the myths of marriage that engaged and newlywed folks fall for every time is that you can change the person you are planning on spending the rest of your life with. He or she may have some habits that annoy you, or character traits that aren't all that warm and fuzzy. Given enough time and energy, you can remake that person into the model spouse you want. 

Reality check: that is not going to happen. Assuming you are a functioning adult, there are traits and habits that you have brought with you into a new relationship. Sure, you can learn to put the toilet seat down, or not chew with your mouth open. You can take some hints about your choice of pairing plaid pants with striped shirts. Purple highlights in your hair may have been cool in college, but can be distracting at the PTA meeting.

A solid relationship is built on one person relating and accepting another. If you look upon the other half of your team as a project, I wouldn't plan on making it to 40 years together. Acceptance and compromise are the keys.

2. Each person requires private time. Retirement often exposes an inconvenient truth: 24/7 of you is too much of you. No matter how much you are in love, how compatible the two of you are, or how much you find each other's quirks endearing, an individual must have some private time and space. 

Think of a relationship sort of like raising a kid. When the relationship first starts (the child is born) he or she wants and needs to be with you all the time. Normally around 8 or 9 years old, that child begins to become his own person. He needs you in his life, but he also needs to develop his own friends, interests, and abilities. Smothering a youngster doesn't work well. Neither does a relationship. "Us" time and "Me" time are both required for a relationship to last.

3. A static relationship is one that is dying. You have heard the line in countless movies or TV shows: "You've changed. You aren't the person I married!" Well, let's hope not. Life is designed to change us, hopefully for the better, but change is going to happen. A relationship must change with it. 

Echoing point #1, accepting and relating to someone else as they mature and develop is part of the bargain, and part of the excitement. You and your significant other will change how you feel, how you think about things, even how you want to live. Some of this will occur together, some as individuals. Moving forward is inevitable, so it is best to jump on board.

4. The little things always matter. Whether your relationship is 4 months or 40 years old, certain things never grow old. Appreciation for a well-cooked meal, a thorough cleaning of the garage, or even a kind word to an in-law remain important. So does common courtesy, a flower arrangement for no particular reason, dinner out after a hard day, a foot massage...you get the point. Something that shows you are thinking of the other person enough to take that extra, unprompted step always matter.

5. Please and Thank You are still the magic words. We are never too old or too comfortable in a relationship to not use the "magic words" we learned in kindergarten or from mom and dad. I am not sure how this was measured, but a study shows a 50% increase in effort among co-workers who are graced with these words during the course of a project. A relationship benefits as well. Beyond simply being polite, using these words shows an awareness of their importance as a human being, worthy of appreciation.

April 12, 2017

Saying Goodbye to the RV Lifestyle

*19,000 miles driven

 *32 states visited

 *107 different RV parks

The last four and half years have been busy ones. After buying a used 30 foot RV in September, 2012 from the rental company, Cruise America, Betty, Bailey, and I have done everything we hoped to in our motorhome. We have seen the country in a way that only comes from driving miles and miles of Interstate and back roads. 

We have battled high winds that wanted to shove us in a ditch. We have suffered through the failure of an air conditioner in late summer, in Texas. We have had a side mirror fall off in Alabama that had to be ducted taped to the window so we could drive home. We have learned how to tow a car behind a 6 ton RV and not have an accident. 

We have learned to pack for two months away from home. We have learned to live together in 200 square feet and stay happily married.  We have learned how to feed ourselves with a minimal amount of mess to clean up afterwards. We have collected memories and experiences that will last the rest of our lives.

But, like all things in life, we have decided it is time for a change, it is time for us to sell the RV and shift to other vacation and travel options. The vehicle is eleven years old. That means major systems will begin to fail and need to be replaced. The air conditioner was just the first fatality. The furnace blower fan sounds like a bearing may be going. Six tires are nearing the end of their usable life. 

Living in a hot climate means we can leave very little in the RV while it is parked at a storage yard. Packing before a trip takes a lot of preparation and then re-loading the rig every time. Arriving home, we are faced with taking everything out until the next trip. Frankly, that part is getting old. Driving an ungainly 6 ton motor vehicle through traffic and bad weather has become a bit stressful.  

Buying an RV and exploring the country was one of those "bucket list" things we dreamed about, and are so happy we took the plunge. It has been a tremendously satisfying experience. It has been an important part of our retirement.

So, what's next? Betty and I want to go back to England, Ireland, and Scotland. We are anxious to take a river cruise from Amsterdam into France and parts of Germany. A cruise to the South Pacific calls to me. A few more trips to Hawaii are a must. Flying to Portland and maybe eastern Canada are possible. We have even discussed taking the train from Vancouver to Toronto or points east.

Retirement is about adjustments and changes. The RV time has been fabulous. What comes next will be just as good. We can't wait.

Goodbye, dear and faithful friend.

April 8, 2017

I Couldn't Blog Without

Closing in on 2.5 million views, Satisfying Retirement appears to have filled a need in the crowded retirement preparation field. June will mark our 7th anniversary, probably 5 or 6 years longer than I expected when I first started.

Writing 650 words every 3 or 4 days is actually not as difficult as I thought it might be. Just keeping my eyes open, writing about life as I live it, and having the best blog readers in the world to keep me honest and on target means I rarely struggle to find something to write about.

That said, there are five things I couldn't blog without. I haven't put them in order of importance, just trust me that each one keeps me here.

A good spellchecker. If I am not the worst speller you have ever met, I am certainly on the team. My hidden secret? Every sentence contains at least one mistake. Typing is a two finger hunt and peck, though after all this time I am pretty quick. But accuracy is not my strong suit. Most readers would have given up long ago if it weren't for that red underline that urges me to stop and correct.

I use the Internet to research facts, ideas, and a fresh perspective virtually every time I write a post. Unless I am dealing with a personal memory or expressing an opinion, research is essential. I may need some statistics to buttress an argument. It might be helpful to see what others have said on a particular subject. I may feel I have been down a particular path too many times and want a fresh take on something. Whatever the case, The Internet (remember when it was called the World Wide Web?) is a must.

An on-line thesaurus is very important as a place to turn for synonyms.  I still have a red-covered Roget's Thesaurus in the office, but the on-line version is quicker and has more possibilities when I am stuck for a better word. Did you realize there are almost 50 different words or phrases for retire, and that is just as a noun.

Inspiration from other blogs and social media. There are some fine bloggers adding valuable content day after day, and not just in the retirement arena. Everything from inventive life hacks, to political insights, financial traps to avoid, relationship improvement suggestions, feel-good stories, movies to see (and to avoid!).....there is a lot of excellent material to read. I am inspired by good writing, well-crafted articles, persuasive opinions, and  anyone who is dedicated to being good at something. 

Comments from readers. I have saved the most important factor for last. Without the support of this blog's readers, there would be little reason to continue. While many blogs have a lot more readers, I would put the quality of satisfying retirement's audience on par with anyone. The comments are rarely off-target or inappropriate. In fact, I am surprised when one pops up that must be deleted, it happens that infrequently.

The insights, ideas, support, and degrees of caring concern for others that are expressed on these pages makes blogging a treat. This active participation is a necessary element to blogging. 

April 5, 2017

Eliminate These 3 Retirement Stumbling Blocks

A successful satisfying retirement can be upended by any number of problems, some of which you determine and some of which you don't. Your lifestyle and genes will play a large part in your health. Financial planning will be a crucial factor in how comfortable your life is after retirement. Your relationships can help make daily life happy or miserable. 

There are three additional stumbling blocks to success that are completely under your control. None of them has to upend your journey. But, any one of them can, if you don't pay attention to their potential for problems.

The number one stumbling block is lack of self confidence

In previous posts I have stressed the importance of attitude in how satisfying your retirement will be. To steal an overused political phrase, I am doubling down on that belief by making this the most important stumbling block. You have made it this far in life by making more good decisions than bad, correcting mistakes, and maturing in your decision making ability. 

Then why is it that the thought of retirement can bring out a lack of self-confidence, a fear of taking any risks, a dread of making all the wrong choices? Recently I wrote about Stage Two of a typical retirement, the time of self-doubt and worry. It happens to almost everyone.

It happens because our self-confidence falters. Usually for no specific reason we begin to doubt ourselves and our decisions. And, for almost everyone, that period of fear and worry turns out to be unfounded. There is nothing wrong with introspection. But, when it throws us in a tailspin, we are putting our retirement progress in jeopardy. 

Second is sticking with your plan after it proves unworkable

I am a planner. My family used to joke that I had a do-to list that extended months in advance. Little did they know that I had another list that included the entire year! I like predictability and having a feeling of control. Unfortunately, I had to learn those personality traits don't always work well in retirement.

No obsessive planning, no mystic with a crystal ball, no blog or book, can provide you with the perfect plot for your journey. No matter how meticulous you are, the way you expect things to turn out, won't. What you want, what you need, what is important to you, will change over time. 

The second stumbling block to a satisfying retirement is the refusal to accept that reality and to continue to plow ahead with a plan that no longer works for you. The refusal to admit you are not the same person today that you were when your master life plan was developed will not end well. The dogged insistence on following your master plan, regardless, is not recommended. 

The third stumbling block is modeling your retirement after someone else's.

Wouldn't it be great if you could just find a book or web site that gave you a retirement model that you could follow, verbatim, and be assured of a wildly happy existence? Yes, it would. Too bad, there is no such thing.

Each retirement is unique. While my writings and those of thousands of others are meant to help you avoid serious pitfalls and give you lots to think about, no one else is you. Think of your friend who lives on a sailboat in the Caribbean, your sister who has a flat in Paris and spends her days painting street scenes, or even your parents who live in a retirement community and are busy and happy.

While there may be bits and pieces in each of those lives that are a good fit for what meets your needs and desires, none should become your life without putting the essential "you" in the equation. Following someone else's game plan is a guarantee of unhappiness at some point. The right path is the one you discover on your own, adjust as you go, and put your unique stamp on that life.

Visualize yourself as the man in the image at the top of this blog. Imagine yourself leaping over those three stumbling blocks. That is the way toward a satisfying retirement.

April 2, 2017

A Patagonia Escape

A little over a week ago Betty and I loaded up the RV and our dog, Bailey, and headed to the southern Arizona area around Patagonia. About 3 hours from our home, it is the perfect spot for a 4 day getaway. Patagonia Lake State Park is about 10 minutes south of the small (920 residents) town, and 20 minutes north of the border with Mexico. 

Yes, there is already a wall there. It runs right through the middle of Nogales, dividing the town into American and Mexican communities. Border patrol check points are common on the major roads in and out of the area. Seeing a white and green Border Patrol truck perched on a ridge line is par for the course.

The American side is lined with massive warehouses, trucks coming and going at all hours with produce and products bound for one side of the border or the other. I imagine a tightening of the border or a change in NAFTA would hit this part of the state pretty hard.

But, all that politics aside, we came to relax, give Bailey the chance to explore a new area chock full of smells and sights, and step off the merry-go-round for awhile. Long walks around the large lake were accompanied by the sounds of hundreds of birds tweeting from dawn until dusk. Saturday morning we took a pontoon boat tour while a guide told us about the history of the lake and the wild plants we were seeing all around us. This part of Arizona is a major birding destination, so information on what was flying over our heads was an added bonus.

We slept late, read a lot, watched downloaded Netflix shows since Internet doesn't exist, and enjoyed a few dinners in town. With only 4 restaurants to choose from, Patagonia is not a foodie destination. Actually, one of those eating spots is not open Sunday evenings, so choices are quite limited. Arizona wine country is only 25 minutes away though, with some additional dining and wine tasting options in nearby towns.

The town has an active local theater organization with its own dedicated performance venue. Plays, art films, and exhibitions are common. Opened for only a few months. a brand-new Opera House is now part of community life, too. Based on the entertainment model of old western opera house entertainment,  this 80 seat building features local and regional music as well as dance performances. On one of the days we were in town a trio from the Tucson Symphony held a concert in the Opera House; it was sold out for the night time show.

The last time we were in Patagonia was probably 4 years ago. Frankly, Betty and I were a bit disappointed in the changes we noted in town. Two restaurants and a large antique business are gone. The town's coffee shop and ice cream parlor locks its doors at 4pm. Everything had a bit more run-down feel. Tourist traffic was light, though birders were in evidence, obvious with their long lens cameras and binoculars. 

On the plus side, we loved the State Park. It was obviously spring break for the kids in the area. Hundreds took advantage of the time off to come with their families to enjoy the sandy beach, boating and kayaking options, and sitting around camp fires each evening. With overnight lows near freezing, those blazing logs added needed warmth and delicious smells to the night air. Since many of the campers were in tents, the fires were restarted early each morning to help defrost the adventurers.

I will leave you with some pictures, and a teaser: Betty and I reached an important decision about our future vacation plans. I will share those thoughts in a future post.

The break is over and spring time activities are in full swing. But, thank you, Patagonia Lake State Park for a memorable time!

March 29, 2017

What One Thing Would You Change In Your Life?

I know, you have several things you'd like to change. One thing isn't nearly enough. Altering your life can be a constant process. Even so, by picking one thing you will be forced to prioritize what is really important to you at this moment. 

This is a tough question. I had to give it a lot of thought. Physical conditioning, missed experiences, strengthening my important relationships, working harder to build up this blog, still worrying too much about money, choosing easy over hard....I have plenty to pick from. 

Of course, the choice really has to be within the realm of reality. No matter how much I might enjoy it, I will never be a professional baseball player or pro golfer. I cannot break the world record for high jumps. I am not going to the Olympics (except as a spectator). That 50 foot cabin cruiser is never going to sail with me at the helm. 

Since I think we are all interested in each other's answers, I am going to keep my part of this post very short. This is a bit of an experiment: can I open up the comment section to an important question without providing a lot of background and options?

I don't want to give my answer here. Keeping things completely open to your thoughts is the goal. Yes, I will respond to each comment but I will keep my answer private for a few days. 

Never fear: I will post my answer to this question on the Satisfying Retirement Facebook Page and on my Twitter account (@SatisfyingRetir) in a few days.

So, consider all the possibilities and decide what one thing you would like to change in your life. 


March 25, 2017

Two Approaches to Retirement

Retirement is a unique journey for each one of us. While there are basics that apply to everyone, it is the ability to shape this stage of life to meet our deepest desires and needs that make it so satisfying.

If I had to simplify the process I suppose I could put retirement into two broad categories: the "reasonable, got it covered, done my homework" type of approach, and the "Let it roll, what will be will be, I will adjust as needed, it is all good" crowd.

Neither of these are right...or wrong. That is what is so fascinating about writing a blog focused on retirement. Anytime I think I have it all figured out, someone leaves a comment, I read a new press release, or my own life kicks me in the shin and says, "Not so fast."

Certainly, I fit much more comfortably into the first category. My career was decided at age 12. I fell in love with the life of a radio announcer and never wavered. Saving for retirement started at 24. I have experienced only two major employment setbacks, getting fired and later having my own business slowly die.

But, the planning and "got it covered" mindset allowed me to thrive through both situations. Even finding myself retired at least 10 years before I thought might happen has been a blessing. June will mark 16 years on the other side of the employment equation; I can't imagine in my worst nightmare going back.

My parents taught me the importance of delayed gratification. My dad was unemployed for several stretches of my youth. He lost a substantial amount of money in a failed business attempt. Yet, never, ever, did he allow his struggles to upset the family. He was a steady rock. During tough times mom's school teacher salary kept us in casseroles, with a roof over our head, and a feeling of safety. I learned early on the value of planning and adjusting.

Over the last few years Betty and I have let a little of the "let it roll" attitude into our retirement. She has always been a bit more of a free spirit and has encouraged us to take the long RV trips, or rent a beach house for a family gathering. She decides we should stretch the budget in one area, but insists it contracts somewhere else. No deficit spending in the Lowry household if we can help it (last year was an anomaly!).

Our oldest daughter fits the first category well. Like her parents she is conservative financially, though willing to take a risk if she is comfortable with the pro-con balance. She keeps a tight grip on the family budget and expenses. She and her husband will probably look forward to a retirement that is comfortable and happy.

Our youngest is more in the "money is meant to be spent on experiences" camp. She has skated near the edge financially several times, but always manages to pull herself back to stability. She takes steps to cut expenses and increase her income so she can spend an extra week in Scotland or Spain or go to Disneyland with her nieces and nephew. Saving is not really in her nature. Retirement is probably going to look quite a bit different for her. But, importantly, her decision is absolutely right for her. She loves her life.

So, how about you? Which fits you best? Or, have you found a way to straddle both approaches, a little bit planning and conformity seasoned with a dash or two of "what will be will be?"

March 21, 2017

Aging in Place: Can You Do It?

A growing trend among retirees is the desire to remain in one's home as long as possible. In fact, a recent study quoted by AARP shows 87% of those 65+ want to age in place for as long as it is safe. Even among those 10 years younger, 71% would opt to stay put. Familiarity and community ties are the biggest draws.

Even so, the market for retirement communities remains strong, such as Jimmy Buffett's new retirement community approach. Sun City communities and other planned offerings have adjusted to a more active lifestyle and the positives of providing care that includes nursing home facilities. 

The ability to choose between staying home or moving to a retirement community or coop housing setup is a new development. In part, it has occurred because there are more options available to receive medical care in one's home. With nursing facility costs out of reach for many retirees, it is good news that other choices exist.

For purposes of this post, let's assume you would like to stay where you are for as long as you can. What do you need to consider for this to be a logical, safe, and enjoyable decision? Here are several factors to mill over:

1. Is your housing safe for aging in place?

A single story home is almost a necessity. Certainly, your bedroom and bathroom should be on the first floor. As our knees and hips start to act up, a two or three story dwelling becomes dangerous. In addition to our joints, our balance erodes over time, making stairs a constant hazard. Adding stair lifts is expensive and not always feasible. 

Doors must be wide enough to accommodate wheelchairs or walkers. The cabinets you use every day should be low enough to reach from a sitting position. Door knobs can be replaced with level handles. Throw rugs should be eliminated since they are a serious tripping hazard. The list of changes to your home can be long, but it is important. Take a fresh look at your home and decide what would have to be modified. Have an expert check your roof, heating and cooling system, electrical, and plumbing too.

2. Does your community help seniors age in place?

When you can no longer drive, is there a bus or senior transportation system that can take you to stores and medical appointments? Would you be comfortable using a taxi or Uber-type service? Are there any tax breaks for seniors, like a freeze on property taxes? Is there an active senior center that you can use? Are health care facilities, as well as an adequate choice of doctors, within a reasonable distance? 

3. Do you have options when you must move out?

Are there good nursing home facilities in your area? Is there usually a long waiting list? When it is time to make that move, you will probably not be up to a long move or a long delay. Facilities that are nearby give you the opportunity to visit them on a regular basis. As you get nearer to making that move you will know which ones have maintained their standards, quality of care, and affordability. 

4. Do you like where you live?

Not only does your home have to be safe as you age, it should make you happy and be in an area you enjoy. There is no point in staying in your present home if the neighborhood is less than ideal, the closest shopping is several miles away, and the yard or living space take constant maintenance and upkeep. If you feel more like a prisoner in your home rather than comfortable and relaxed, consider finding another place to age in place. There are enough struggles without adding unhappiness with your current home.

For many, being close to family and friends are keys to deciding to age in place. In addition to the joy they can add to one's life, having relatives and good friends to help with life's little challenges is a blessing. Even something as simple as a drive to the doctor's office or the car repair shop is easier when someone you know is along for the ride. It makes aging in place less stressful.

Deciding to age at home for as long as possible is a choice many of us are making. If this includes you, please be sure to review the steps above. Make your decision not just emotional, but is one that will keep you safe, secure, and protected.

There are plenty of on-line resources to help you decide if this is right for you. Age in Place is one I found that seems like a  good place to start.

March 17, 2017

I Wish I'd Known This When I Retired

Today, retirement comes with certain expectations. Popular literature, feedback from friends, books, Internet articles....all sorts of sources paint a picture of this stage of life. Getting an accurate overview of what is likely to happen is not that difficult.

When I stopped full time work in 2001 things were different. There was very little retirement information that dealt with anything other than financial preparation. Sure, Sun City-type retirement communities painted a picture of never-ending leisure, happy folks playing cards, enjoying the pool, and tasting wine with friends every bit as good-looking as you. 

When our parents retired, the life of golf, playing bridge, and days spent in the wood-shop was an appealing model. For many, things didn't work out that way, but that was the dream to aspire to. Because there wasn't a lot to go on, I began my journey with the same idea of what retirement should look like. 

Within the first year away from my job, I began to grasp that my expectations were different from my parents. I was approaching the next 25 years with a different set of desires. I didn't really know what those desires would be, but the idea of being put on the shelf, of being relegated to days of leisure didn't sound fulfilling. Then again, neither did non-stop travel, or moving to Costa Rica and living as an expat. 

Honestly, 16 years later I am still adjusting. There have been times when I had a new challenge and some new goals. Other periods felt more like a pause or a lull between whatever was next. Some break was good, too much, not. My personality allows me to fall into a rut and feel quite stagnant if there isn't a goal in front of me.

What I wish I'd known, or understood, when I retired, was the simple truth about retirement: at its core it is very much like every other part of one's life. When full time work ceases, how you spend your time is much more under your control. But, the person you are doesn't change. The foundation you have built is what remains your bedrock.

How your relationships fare after retirement depend on the effort you put into them before leaving the work force. Your financial mindset doesn't change. If you have been a saver, you remain a saver; if you take the attitude that money is to be spent, that belief will follow you. If you are a homebody, happiest puttering in the backyard, reading a book by the fireplace, or having friends over for dinner, it is unlikely retirement will change that into someone who wants to be on the road for weeks on end.

Retirement is a stage of life, it isn't a complete reboot of who and what you are. If you believe your post-work life is going to be quite different, you may become frustrated and unhappy. A satisfying retirement can be filled with new opportunities and options. But, I contend, that the core of who you are, what you believe, and what makes you the happiest, isn't all that different.

If I had understood that truth I would have saved myself some disappointment. Early on, I would have spent less time trying to turn my life into an image of retirement that I had been programmed to expect. I would have been more content and less on edge about creating the perfect post-work life. I would have understood that I would be building on a foundation already constructed, not starting over.

March 13, 2017

7 Things That Are Almost Gone: Does It Matter?

Life is made up of continuous change. Nothing stays the same for very longBoth are true statements but that doesn't make them any easier to accept. As human we generally prefer stability. When things don't change it is easier to predict what will happen or how our life will unfold. Unfortunately, those desires are in conflict with the real world.

Today, I am looking at a few things that used to be part of our everyday life but are getting harder to find. Change has relegated them unnecessary for many of us. How about you?

*Yellow Pages. Virtually all phone companies have taken steps to eliminate the printed books that once arrived with a thump on your front porch once a year. What reminded me they still exist was the recent arrival at my house of a small version with maybe a hundred pages of display ads and listings. It went right into recycling. The Internet makes these books out of date almost as soon as they are printed. White pages for residential and business listings aren't even available anymore unless you request one. 

*Movie Rental Stores. The stand alone video rental store is not long for this world. There are no national chains left, unless you count the Redbox kiosks. Larger cities have a handful of independent video outlets that survive by featuring hard-to-find foreign and art films, some still on VHS. But, names like Hollywood Video, Movie Gallery, and Blockbuster are gone.

Netflix is willing to send you a DVD through the mail, though the company has made it clear the future of that option is bleak. Amazon Prime, Google Play, You Tube, and Netflix will be happy to stream a movie directly to your home, making the Redbox kiosk experience seem almost quaint. 

*The Post Office. Any "normal" business as out of step with the world around it as the postal service would have disappeared years ago. But, the promise of universal mail service keeps this dinosaur alive. Even common sense suggestions like eliminating Saturday delivery are met with howls of protest, all while demanding the service stop losing billions a year.

What does the future hold? Eventually, five day delivery will happen. Mail directly to your home instead of a neighborhood box is probably doomed at some point. Amazon, Fedex, UPS, and private services have taken much of the postal services package delivery business away. E-mail and texting make snail mail much too slow. Most of your mail now is just magazines and junk mail. That isn't enough to pay the bills, even with postal stamp and shipping prices increasing on a regular basis.

*Paper Checks. Britain is planning on doing away with the paper check by 2018. It costs the financial system billions of dollars a year to process them. As Internet security and pay-by-phone systems improve, folks will agree that electronic transfers are more secure than paper checks.

America will not see the check disappear as quickly as those in England, but it is coming. Check usage continues to shrink. It now accounts for less than 50% of consumers' recurring bill payments, down from 72% in 2001. Social Security stopped mailing checks in 2013. A recent survey shows 52% of those in their 20s and 30s have never written a check. 

*Handwritten letters. Another causality of the change from written mail to electronic communication is the handwritten letter. How many of us were raised to mail a Thank You note for a present within a few days of receiving the gift? How many wrote letters home from summer camp or back and forth when one half of a couple was in the military? Handwritten letters have been important in our lives, but are virtually gone now. Children aren't being taught cursive writing in many schools, so they can't write a letter or couldn't read one they receive.

*The Newspaper. The younger generation simply doesn’t read the newspaper. They certainly don’t subscribe to a daily delivered print edition. That will go the way of the milkman and the laundry man. It is out-of-date when printed and much too expensive to distribute. As for reading the paper on line, get ready to pay for it as a matter of course. The rise in mobile Internet devices and e-readers have caused many newspaper and magazine publishers to form an alliance to determine a pay-for-reading business model that will work.

Interestingly, the demise of some newspapers seems to have been delayed by the recent political upheavals. Attacks against the truthfulness of the media has resulted in some significant subscription increases for a few of the better known ones, like the NY Times and Washington Post. But, that is likely a short term phenomenon. 

*The LandLine Telephone. Part of the reason the telephone white pages have almost ceased to exist is the drop in wired telephones. Considering how many folks have cell phones, it is somewhat surprising that 62% of American homes still have a landline phone. About a dozen years ago that number was 97%.

In some cases the hard-wired phone line is required because the household is still dependent on dial-up Internet. Up to 9 million of us don't have high-speed connections. Often home security systems require a dedicated phone line. If the electrical system fails during a storm, so do cell phones, but the landline phone operates. And, there are plenty of places in the country where cell signals are unreliable or non-existent. 

Adapting to change and using it to our benefit are important steps for us on our journey to a satisfying retirement. Which of the things on my list will you miss the most? Which ones are already gone from your life? What didn't I list that you believe is not long for this world?

March 10, 2017

Retirement: Is It A Smooth Ride?

Retirement is about movement. Movement from employed to unemployed. Movement from restrictions imposed by others to restrictions imposed by you. Retirement is about change. Change in how your day is structured. Change in your relationships. Freedom.

If you are getting close to retirement, or have recently taken the big step, it is natural to wonder "What have I gotten myself into? What happens now?"  Some of my earliest posts on Satisfying Retirement dealt with the Three Phases of retirement and some answers to those questions. I have reworked the original material a bit and present again for your review. 

When I stopped working in June 2001 little did I know that just a few months later the events of September 11 would make what I had done for a living very difficult. While air travel had become increasingly unpleasant over the previous decade, 9/11 would make that unpleasantness close to unbearable. Those of us who flew for a living were suddenly faced with tremendous time and logistics hurdles that made conducting business a major hassle. So, when I decided to stop propping up a failing business the additional burdens created after the terrorist attacks had yet to happen. It is quite possible that the first stage of my retirement life might have been quite different if my stop date had been later.

What Happened First?

My First Stage of retirement began with an incredible sense of freedom. The fear of making a wrong choice, or wondering how I would fill my days lay in the future. Waking up knowing I didn't have to pack a bag and go to the airport was exhilarating. Waking up knowing I didn't have to leave my family for several days or a week at a time was a blessing. All I perceived was endless enjoyment stretching out as far as I could see.

Coffee on the back patio with the morning paper, tending my garden, going to a movie in the middle of the day, spending more time reading and listening to music...I had the world on a string. My lifestyle had altered for the better, immediately.

Did I miss the contact with clients or others I worked with? Not really. My client roster had been diminishing for the previous 4-5 years at a rather steady clip. And, as anyone who is in contact with customers knows, a few of my clients were not my favorite people. I dealt with them because they supported my family and me. But, not having to deal with those abrasive or arrogant personalities was like a breath of fresh air.

One thing my first stage of retirement didn't experience was the loss of office interaction. For most of my consulting career I worked alone. There were a few clients and industry friends who I talked with several times a week. And, I will admit that not having the phone ring or the e-mail inbox full everyday did bother me a bit at first. But, the "water cooler" type of relationship was one I didn't miss because it wasn't part of my experience.

It is very possible that your experience in this regard was very different. If you had a work environment that included co-workers you enjoyed, clients or customers who were a pleasure to deal with, even a boss who treated you well and rewarded you fairly, missing that human interaction might be a large part of your first phase of a satisfying retirement.

First Stage Discoveries

During these first steps of developing a new satisfying retirement lifestyle I did quickly discover a few things that became important:

· Time becomes a friend. Initially time is seen as a tremendous ally. Suddenly you have control of the clock. You determine how your day is to be structured. Of course, commitments to a spouse or other relationships don't stop. But, the blessings of a day and evening that lack the rigidity of your former workday fills you with a real sense of freedom.

· Self discovery is a journey that begins anew. You learn things about yourself and spouse that you never knew while working 8 or more hours a day. We've all read about the adjustments that a spouse has to make when the husband or wife is suddenly "underfoot" 24/7. It is true, even if you worked from home for all or part of your career. Unless you are single, that other human being is not used to your charming presence all the time. If you approach the process as a positive, the personality traits, thoughts, and interests of the other person gives you a chance to expand and grow yourself.

· Your "possibles" list has fewer restraints. Books you want to read, trips you want to take, projects around the house, changing a spare bedroom into den space, taking on a new hobby that has always intrigued you, involvement in volunteer work, the chance to more fully develop your spiritual side if that is your thing...the list of "possibles" can be endless. Of course, financial, family, and health care issues impose certain limits. But, those boundaries are quite a bit farther apart when you are enjoying a satisfying retirement lifestyle.

Second Stage: Reality Raises Its Head

The first "honeymoon" phase is when time stretches forever toward the horizon. You see all the possibilities of an active, productive, exciting decades-long part of your life. That euphoria can last a few weeks, a few months, even a year or more. But, at some point, virtually everyone leaves the first stage of retirement and gets a slap in the face: this is the Second Stage.

I am not a mental health professional so I can't tell you why this happens. Nor, would I even pretend to tell you how to "fix" a severe problem. Hopefully, knowing that you are not alone and that these feelings come to most everyone might make the process easier to bear.

·As you make the transition into this new phase of retirement, there is a growing sense of unease, even panic. "What did I do? Am I crazy? I'll be broke in a year! What if I get really sick?" The reality of being without the safety net that a job provided suddenly strikes you. You are the Master and Commander of your fate and that is scary. What looked so good a few months ago now looks like a shipwreck about to happen.

·Loneliness often rises to the forefront. Even if you are married and your non-working spouse is home most of the time with you, feelings of isolation from what is going on out in the world will build. You have no idea how you are going to fill all the time each day. If you are single, widowed, or your spouse continues to work that void can be even stronger.

·The benefits you took for granted while working are either gone, or curtailed. Medical coverage usually suffers. Paid vacations? No more. Pension contributions? No way. Gaining weight and losing physical and mental sharpness? Yes.

What you must keep in mind is that, this too shall pass. If you suffer a bout of moderate to severe depression that lasts for more than a month, I urge you to seek professional help. Doctors can help you get control of these serious side effects of not working. But, if you have thoughts about any of the question above and are not clinically depressed, breathe easier. The  next stage will definitely follow.

Third Stage: Stability Returns and Real Growth Begins

Luckily for most retirees, Phase Three of your retirement arrives and can become the most satisfying. This is when you achieve a healthy balance between euphoria, panic, and reality. It is when you realize that you have the ability to make it all work for you. A happy, satisfying lifestyle is very possible. 

This isn't a period of Pollyanna-like thinking. It is a time when you can more calmly look at your current position, your options, and your dreamed-about future and decide what you can accomplish. It is a time of possible personal growth and development like you haven't experienced since you were in your 20's. Emotional and intellectual growth opportunities abound. Time really is your ally.

Personally, I originally thought my wife and I would take a long cruise at least once a year, spend the hot Arizona summers someplace else, and maybe buy an RV and explore the country. Almost 16 years later a fair amount of that has happened. We did retire before our financial resources were sufficient to turn all of our dreams into fact. But, that was a deliberate choice on our part. To continue working would not be worth the cost to our relationship or our health just so we could make all those "dreams" happen. 

Also, we discovered that plans are meant to be adjusted, or abandoned. What makes us happy today is quite different from what it was all those years ago. The joy of spending much more time with family and friends and deepening our spiritual life has grown in importance. We have always built our married life on experiences over things and that wasn't about to change. So, some of the grandiose thoughts of retirement lifestyle have been modified. Did we get the RV, occasionally take a cruise and travel to Europe a few times? Yes, Yes, and Yes. Are we perfectly content to spend several months at home? Absolutely, yes.

Did I go through the anguish of Stage Two? Certainly, and I still do every once in awhile. But, I have developed the insight of what was really important to me so I can weather the storm, and so can you.

Questions for you: what phase are you in? How has your experience differed or matched mine? What advice can you share?