July 22, 2017

Could I Live Without?




My recent computer hacking problems have forced me to think about what I could live without. and what would diminish my life's satisfaction. Some things are essential to me, some to my happiness and sense of satisfaction. Others are a part of of daily life but I could certainly function without them. This list is by no means complete, but it might be a thought starter for you, too.

 
It would be very difficult  or very unpleasant to live without:



My wife and family


Could I physically survive without them? Yes. Would it turn my world upside down and remove a large share of what I feel makes my life meaningful? Absolutely. If things ever begin to unravel I want to have those most dear to me by my side. 


Freedoms


If I had been born someplace other than The United States or another country in the developed world my sense of what constitutes key freedoms would probably be very different. But, being born to a middle class family in 1949 in America I have come to believe certain freedoms are a part of life. Among those are the freedom to live where I want and choose my life's work.

The freedom of the press, of peaceable assembly, to raise my children they way I believe is best and of an orderly and non-violent transition of power are what I expect. On a daily basis I don't think how unusual this list would be to billions of people around the world. But, if suddenly they were gone I would be hard-pressed to adjust.


Basic services



Dependable electricity, clean water, police and fire protection, good medical care, access to safe and plentiful food are certainly high on my very important list. Could I survive without them? Frankly, I don't know. Particularly in Phoenix, making it through a summer without air conditioning would be nearly impossible and is fatal to some of our citizens every year.

An automobile


It would very very difficult and very uncomfortable to live where I live without access to a car and gas. Phoenix is not designed with pedestrians, bike riders, or users of public transportation in mind. I would most likely survive but it would be extremely limiting, inconvenient, and in the summer, downright dangerous.


Things I could live without but would rather not:



Good friends

Having good friends is important to me. When a friendship ends I feel a loss. When a friendship continues and strengthens my life is enriched. I certainly could survive if I had no close friends, but the effect on my life would be unpleasant.


Access to the world through Internet.



It wasn't until 1995 that tapping into the Internet became common. True, it was only dial-up with all sorts of limitations. But, from that point forward the world and our lives would not go unchanged.

Today, the Internet is essential to the smooth functioning of the global economy. It is so much a part of our daily lives we only think about its importance when we lose access for a few hours or days. I am sure you have noticed that one of the first things an autocratic government does when it gets into trouble is to prevent its citizens from connecting to the rest of the world. Could I live without the Internet? Yes. But I would be living in a very different world.


Availability of cultural, sporting and entertainment options. Access to music and books.



What brings dimension to my life is the ability, on occasion, to add something different to the usual routine. Music concerts, plays, a hike through the mountain preserves, a picnic on a warm afternoon are spice to my normal diet. While I may someday end up with nothing but a Kindle, for now I enjoy the feel of a book. I enjoy listening to Spotify radio, but live music is just better. Certainly I could easily survive without any of this, but life would be much less enjoyable.

In reviewing this list it is clear I live a privileged life. In many parts of the world  and for the majority of its population, even clean water and safe food are too much to hope for. Those billions are focused on pure survival and nothing else. I don't feel guilty about what I have. But, I am very much aware of my blessings and my responsibilities to reduce as much as possible the damage I cause to the environment.

Overall, I am an optimist. Excessive worry is a waste of energy and time. But, prudent preparation and awareness are not incompatible with believing things will be OK. After seeing the end of the horrible economic mess of the last decade now we seem to be in another period of political uncertainty. I am still confident in my future, but my eyes are wide open.


 
What about your list? What could live without and still function? What would make your list of essential to your happiness and well being? 


July 19, 2017

Learning to Fail


I guess I shouldn't be surprised by much of anything anymore. An article in the New York Times a few weeks ago detailed one of the hottest new presentations on college campuses: "How to Fail."  These seminars are designed to confront something that too many college freshmen have never faced: not being the best in the room.

Taking home a gold trophy for participation after a season of little league, never getting a grade lower than an A-, always having their wishes fulfilled, hovering helicopter parents protecting children from facing the reality of a world full of disappointment....these young adults don't know how to handle failure. Depression and dropout rates reflect the problems with a generation who spent life in a bubble.

Colleges have discovered that the problem is serious enough that these students need help in accepting less than perfection from themselves. They have to learn that a B or C isn't a mark of a loser. Not getting a class they want, or having a less than perfect roommate is part of life. Failing to be picked by your first choice Greek house is way down on the important list. Being trolled on social media is small potatoes.

This is one part of life retirees don't need to worry about. We don't need a class in failing occasionally, sometimes spectacularly. We know life isn't fair, some folks are jerks, and few people ever ask to see your resume later in life.

The mark of a life well lived is in how we respond to disappointment and failure. A complete life leaves a trail of good and bad, happy and sad. Friends and enemies populate our past. Sometimes family members need to take a time out. Sometimes we need to sit in the corner for awhile.

Only if we let those events, both positive and negative, define who we are, should we sign up for one of these courses. By now we have learned the art of balance, of compromise, of accepting. We look forward to challenges rather than avoiding them. We appreciate the nuances of life, the things that paint our canvas with subtle or unexpected colors.

I am pleased higher education has discovered the need for teaching failure as well as success. That bodes well for the proper maturation of the students lucky enough to participate. It suggests that when they are ready to retire they will know what we learned on our own: a life is build through a series of stumbles and advances, adversities and achievements. 

Ultimately, a satisfying retirement is what that process creates. 



July 15, 2017

Retirement Blogs Worth a Look


A week or so ago I noted the reasons why I blog. That made me think of all the very good people who are writing and publishing and freely available on the Internet.

The ones I read on a regular basis are listed on the right sidebar. I encourage you to check them out if you haven't already done so. Every 8-9 months I update that roll call, adding some fresh ones, while removing those that no longer seem to be the best use of my time, or the blogger has stopped posting fresh content regularly.

I decided it was time to search for some fresh choices for both you and me. Here is a list that may help you discover some new blogs to add to your personal must-read list. Don't be surprised if some of these show up on my blog list, too. 


I have grouped them by category to make it a bit easier. I hope you find them worthy of your consideration.


Focus on Financial Issues


The Retirement Cafe

The Retirement Manifesto

The Squared Away Blog

Our Next Life

A Wealth of Common Sense

Focus on Lifestyle & Health Issues


Our Empty Nest

Any Shiny Thing - Life After 50

Changing Aging

Intentional Retirement

U.S. News on Retirement

Frugalwoods

Retire Early Lifestyle

Focus on Senior Travel


My Itchy Travel Feet

Travel past 50

Hole In The Donut

Solo Travel Girl

Never Stop Traveling



Who are your favorite bloggers that aren't listed? I'd love to sample some more.



July 12, 2017

You Have To Be A Little Crazy To Retire

Let's review.


Retirement means you:


1)  Stop getting a regular paycheck
2)  Give up employee health insurance
3)  Say goodbye to coworkers and companions
4)  Don't get paid when you take a vacation
5)  Have to fill an extra 8 hours a day on your own
6)  Must find ways to feel productive 
7)  Are your own financial safety net

Of course, all seven negatives can befall you without retirement being the cause.  Your company may downsize, be purchased by someone that loves automation, fails to please stockholders or owners, moves its factory to Mexico, or tries to sell a product the Internet has made obsolete.

Now, you are unemployed, which is like retirement, except you are under serious pressure to end your forced lack of work as soon as possible. You want to go back to work. You need to go back to work. You spend every waking (and sleepless moment) thinking about work. 

So, all a bit tongue in cheek, right? If these points were the sum total of retirement, you would have to be a little crazy to agree to do so voluntarily. If given the choice you'd stay at your desk, on the factory floor, in the company car, or wherever your presence was validated every few weeks with a paycheck, until your employer changed the lock on the door.

The good news is all these scary possibilities are more than outweighed by a much longer list: the reasons why you decide to retire, on purpose. You are not a little crazy. I contend you are about to start living fully for the first time since you put on big boy or big girl pants.

A quick summary is in order. You are raised by a parent or two, or maybe a relative. You are under their control. You eat what they serve, you sleep and wake when they tell you, and pretty much are lacking any real independence.

If you decide to go to college, things change a little. You are free to skip classes and generally make a fool of yourself. If you learn much it will be a by-product of an extended childhood.

Then, to pay for those 4 or 6 years of "freedom," you find yourself with a very large student debt. You must get a job to pay off that debt and support yourself.

For the next 35 years or so, you live to work. You spend untold hours in a car to and from your job. You do what you are told to do (not unlike childhood). For the more unlucky among us, you are available well after working hours and on weekends for phone calls and emails. Sunday night is the most stressful time of  your week.

Finally, you retire. You have looked over the seven points that began this post and have come to the logical conclusion that you would still like to stop working. You believe that having control of your days, schedule, and productivity are worth more than the downsides. You think that freedom is worth the cost.

At this point, you decide you'd have to be a little crazy to keep on working.


July 10, 2017

A Hacking Attack Triggers Some Changes



A few days ago I noticed a massive bump in the number of daily visitors to Satisfying Retirement. Six times the normal views showed up on the blog's stats page. For no discernible reason I was in the top tier of retirement bloggers. 

I figured a bunch of computers had clicked on the spot for some reason, one I didn't immediately figure out. The number of spam comments didn't increase dramatically. The comments came from the normal folks and regular blog readers. There hadn't been a huge spike in book sales. So, I assumed the traffic spike was just an odd occurrence.

Then, on Friday afternoon I learned differently: my computer had become loaded with malware, trojan programs, ransomware, and other not-so-nice software. My home wireless network had been overwhelmed with attacks, many of which got through. The computers began behaving erratically. The printers stopped printing. When I tried normal fixes for typical computer glitches the problems only became worse.

Finally, Betty called a representative at our computer company who listened to our problems and receieved our permission to remotely look inside the machines. He found software with the signatures of Eastern European and Russian hackers. He found good chunks of the computers were remotely turned off or had their settings changed.

At that point he switched us to a Microsoft support company that spent nearly four hours cleaning out all the poison, resetting up the wireless router, and re-programming two printers had had become unworkable. Several times during this process I had to plug or unplug certain pieces of equipment, turn printers on and off, then on, off, and on again. I was forced to reprogram the Roku device to get the television system back on line.

Finally, I was informed that the malware was gone, both printers were back in working order, and the router was operating properly. Hundreds of malicious programs were removed. A new malware detecting program was installed to work in conjunction with the firewall program already in place. For about $300 my electronic life had been made whole again.

The day of the attack's repairs was certainly one of the more stressful I have had in quite awhile. Only my heart episode of two years ago raised my anxiety level as high as this violation of my privacy by computer hackers. I feared the blog and everything electronic had been compromised. 

This event has triggered the following steps by me. Whether they keep me any safer is debatable, but I have to take some action to feel better:

1)  Our smart phones will have wireless and mobile data turned off at all times except when needed. There is no benefit , only risks, from being connected to the Internet at all times.

2) I am curtailing some of my Internet activity. I have cut way back my the number of "friends" on my Facebook page., friends I actually know and trust. The Satisfying Retirement Facebook page is gone. It is a way into my life that may or may not be exploited; it is not important enough to me to continue.

3) I have purchased and installed a much more robust anti-virus, anti-malware, anti-phishing program. It is set to the highest level of protection. It scans for problems every few hours.

4) I have changed my Chrome settings to block all self-starting videos without my permission. 

5) Both computers and wireless printers will be turned off overnight. 

6) For now, I will continue to blog. But, if I see another massive bump in clicks, I will terminate this blog instantly. I will start up somewhere other than on Blogger. 


These steps will not prevent a persistent hacker from making our life a mess. If people can break into the computers of big companies, utilities, the NSA, or anyone, anywhere, at anytime, I know I will never be entirely safe. Even so, the benefits of  the Internet far outweigh the negatives, for now.

I sincerely hope you don't have to deal with this type of problem. It can shake your belief in the goodwill of  too many people. At the sametime, it is comforting to know there are folks out there who can fix these problems quickly and at a reasonable cost.


July 6, 2017

Why Do I Blog?


That is a good question. More than seven years after beginning all this, I'm don't have a simple answer. Certainly, it is satisfying to see something I have written on the Internet and pulled up during a Google search. Those small monthly checks from Amazon for selling a few books or getting clicks on the ads that flow down both sidebars is nice. They don't pay for more than some legal pads, printer ink, or downloaded photos. But, there is some validation there.

I guess there are a few parts to the answer of why I keep doing this. First is my need to write. A blog gives me a reason. I know myself well enough to know I don't have the patience or drive to write a novel or even a nonfiction book. A long time friend of mine has written two mystery novels, both of which I bought and enjoy. It has been a joy to watch his writing improve and his lifelong dream become fulfilled. It was hard, stressful work for him. That path is not for me.

Six to seven hundred words a few times a week is not a lot of heavy lifting. It scratches my itch. Finding a topic usually isn't a problem. Since Satisfying Retirement covers so many topics, I have few restrictions on what can be written about. Committing to something fresh every three or four days gives me the structure I need.

Politics is generally avoided. That subject is so overdone today and almost always guaranteed to generate more heat than light. Religion and sex, the two biggies to avoid in polite conversation, are not often the focus of a post either.  That leaves quite a few topics I can pick from.

Honestly, another reason is I sincerely enjoy reacting to the comments left on the posts. I know some bloggers don't respond, but that couldn't be me. if someone reads what has been written and then actually take the time to add his or her thoughts, I feel it would be unseemly to not recognize that effort with one of my own.

It is interesting to watch the flow of readers into and then away from the blog. I guess this is rather typical, but almost all of the folks who commented on posts of say, five years ago, have been replaced with a a new set of regular participants. If I am still doing this three or four years from now, I imagine there will be a new crop. I guess regular readers just feel the need for freshness and find new blogs to read. Or maybe there is a change in their daily schedule that makes active participation more difficult.

I sometimes wonder where the people who were here earlier in my journey, have gone. Are they still reading  but just not leaving their thoughts? Have they grown tired of retirement as a topic and simply moved on? Since I am a proponent of change, I am not disappointed or upset of this turnover. I am just a little curious.

Blogging is one of the best ways I have found to expand my horizons. I will write a piece that seems to be coherent, on target, and answers the questions that prompted the post in the first place. Then, a reader will leave a comment that adds an entirely new thought or poses a question I hadn't considered. Someone will write something that shows me a direction I hadn't even thought about. Maybe a comment will send responses along a certain tangent that opens up an entirely new path.

Each time this happens I am instantly, and very publicly, reminded that I have a lot to learn. It is clear that my thoughts are not complete. I'm also continuously impressed with the effort that people put into their comments. There is obvious thoughtfulness happening. The comments are meant to enlighten, educate, subtly criticize, be supportive, or allow someone to share a personal experience that relates to the topic. 

The final reason I keep blogging is probably a little silly and exposes a problem with my ego: I don't want to disappoint those who make this blog a regular part of their Internet time. To keep doing something as personal as blogging because a little bit of me says folks would be sad if I stopped seems to be a reason that is both embarrassing and based on an an unattractive level of self-deception.

Importantly, this last reason that I still blog is pretty far down the list. But, in all candor, I felt the need to expose it. Like I noted above, blogging is forced learning and maybe a bit of therapy. Until I am all-knowing and completely healed of my delusions there are reasons to keep at it. 

That suggests I will be here awhile.


July 3, 2017

7 Perks of Retirement: Small but Nice!





Every once in a while it is good to be a bit whimsical. Retirement isn't always serious and important. Here is a list of seven things that you can do when you stop working full time (there are more than seven, but you're busy, right?).


1) You can sleep late if you want to.  Just because I can doesn't mean I do. My warped sense of productivity screams that I've wasted half the day if I'm still in bed by 7 AM. Even on Saturdays when I really could laze around all morning I am up and on with the day by 6:30. But, the freedom to sleep later is still, in theory, available to me.

2) Going out to dinner earlier and getting the senior price. I used to joke about retired folks having dinner at 4 in the afternoon to get the blue plate special. Now that I am one of them, my wife and I do eat much earlier than we used to. We consider 5:30 PM to be late dining. If going to a restaurant, 4:30 PM is actually a good idea to avoid the lines and long waits. And, we always check the back page of the menu for the "55 Club" or whatever name is given to the senior prices. Of course, the smaller price also means smaller portions, but that's good for my waistline anyway.

3) Forgetting what day of the week it is, and not having it matter.  Except for church on Sunday morning, what day it is becomes rather unimportant. Monday feels like Wednesday which feels like Friday. The only downside is time has definitely speeded up. Whole weeks and now even months seem to be gone in the blink of an eye. I want to believe this isn't a memory issue, but more a function of me being busy and happy.

4) Taking advantage of cheaper matinee movie prices. Who in their right mind would pay $12 for a movie when shows before 6 PM are $7? At the local AMC theater shows before noon are $5. I'll see something I don't even like for $5. Or, I'll stay home and watch Netflix.

5) You can stop wearing a watch. Cell phones tell you the time if you need to know. The clock on the computer screen and car dashboard are entirely sufficient. Not wearing a watch is a physical and symbolic statement of freedom from the tyranny of time. That is not true, of course, but it sounds good.

6) You don't have to shop on weekends with everyone else. A rule in the Lowry household: no Home Depot, Costco, Wal-Mart, or shopping malls on weekends. There is no reason to subject ourselves to the hoards of weekend warriors and teenagers. Monday through Friday contains 120 hours. If I can't get my shopping done in that amount of time, I am shopping much too much.

7) You can wait at home all day for the repairman. I don't know why it is, but if there is a 3 hour window for a repair person, I am always in the last 5 minutes of that window. Never am I first or even in the first half of that big window. I don't know why but I've learned to (mostly) accept it. With the flexible schedule of a retiree it doesn't matter. If I don't wear a watch I don't even realize how late the fellow is and I stay calmer.



These are seven rather silly perks of a satisfying retirement, but all true for me. How about you? What less-than-life-changing  things can you do, or not do, if you don't work full time anymore? Let's call this a mid-week lighten up and have some fun with your answers. Comments are strongly encouraged!

Oh, and if you are reading this in the U.S.A. have a Happy 4th of July holiday!