December 17, 2018

An Open Letter To a Politician


...................of any party, any age, any level of government. 




Dear Sir/Madam,

I know you are very busy. Fundraising, meeting with lobbyists, campaigning for the election two years away,  skipping votes on issues that don't help you politically...I am sure your schedule is jam-packed.

But, while you are relaxing at a taxpayer-funded conference, or riding in the back of a town car on the way to a speech for well-heeled contributors, I'd humbly ask that you consider the following from a simple citizen:

1) Do what is best for a group larger than the one you pander to while trying to keep your office.

2) Do what is best for the long-term health of our society. By definition, long-term is farther in the future than the next financial quarter or election cycle.

3) Realize that when the earth's environment collapses through misuse and exploitation the resort you love in the South Pacific will be underwater.

4) Contemplate what your children's children will say when they try to remember what you did that had lasting positive effects on their lives.

5) Understand that the future is built on the present. What you do, or don't do today, has costs. Will you be able to feel comfortable with what you did to make that future a better version of the present?

6) Realize it is not too late to stop our selfish road to destruction, if you will take a stand based on what is best for all, even if it means your political life might end. Is that a worse fate than the actual lives of millions of people depending on you to know the difference? 

7) A politician who is honest, ethical, forward-thinking, and part of the solution is maybe not as rare as we have been led to believe. If this description fits you, please stand firm against the draw of the swamp. Our community, our country, our world is in your hands. Hold it well.

I may be retired, but I have children and grandchildren who must live in the world you help shape.


December 13, 2018

How to Evaluate a Retirement Community


The majority of us want to age in place, that is, remain in our current home as long as possible. The comfort of familiar surroundings and pushing back against the inevitable need for care are important reasons. Listen to the podcast about helping you age in place. The reality is that at some point, living alone, or even with a spouse or partner to help, you are going to need more support than is possible at home. 

For some, making that move is a logical decision. Children or relatives do not have the caregiving burden or expense to deal with. The elimination of maintenance and other home-owing or renting facts of life disappear. Moving while still healthy enough to enjoy your new surroundings and lifestyle makes sense.

Modern retirement communities offer more opportunities for entertainment, learning, and staying active, if that is what you want. A full service CCRC, or Continuing Care Retirement Community, has a range of housing and care options, including the presence of a nursing facility if that stage of care becomes necessary. 


This care does not come cheaply. A "buy-in" up to $300,000 (or more) is often required. That gets you in the door and into an appropriate level of housing (independent or assisted living). It guarantees you living space and care for the rest of your life. On-going fees can add anywhere from $3,000 to $6,000 a month. That pays for most of your meals, overall care, and all maintenance. Think of it as rent with benefits. 

Other options are less expensive but usually do not include a guaranteed place in a nursing center or a full range of services. Independent living is probably in an apartment rather than a separate casita-type facility.

So, what your fiances can handle, what your care needs are at the moment, and what level of activities and living style you desire are considerations. How to decide what is best? Here are some ways to evaluate full service retirement communities:


1.  CCRC's  or larger retirement communities that offer more limited care are usually privately owned and operated by a for-profit corporation. A community can run into serious financial problems and have to cut services, raise monthly fees, or even go out of business.  Obviously, with the amount of money you have invested in the buy-in and the monthly charges, you could suffer some severe consequences if that happens. 

It is wise to ask some basic financial health questions of a community you are considering. How long have they been in business? Are they growing or contracting? How long has management been in place (lots of turnover could equal potential problem)? What is the staff to resident ratio in the more specialized areas like the nursing center? Something in the range of 40% - 50% is good. Does it have publicly available financial information you can review? Ask to see the last 5 years of monthly fees. Are they increasing more than inflation can justify?

Click this link for a more in-depth look at how to analyze retirement community structures and expenses. Another excellent article: reviewing a community's financial health.


2. What are your first impressions of the facility?  Are the buildings well maintained? Are the interiors inviting and well-lit? Is any landscaping being well cared for? Are the dining, exercise, and public areas attractive? What do the independent and assisted living options look like? Could you see yourself living there? Do any residents you encounter appear happy and active? 

3. What transportation options are available for those who don't drive? Does the community have on-property shuttle or bus service? How about ways to go off-site to medical and religious facilities, shopping, and entertainment options? If you prefer to not travel much, are there enough activities and events on-site that match your interests? 

4. Do you have a pet or plan on getting one? What are the rules concerning ownership and control? If barking dogs bother you, do you hear too much of that while on property? 

5. Try the restaurants and lounges on campus. Would you be happy with the choices, quantity and quality of food and drink on a daily basis?

6. If part of the package, is the nursing center well-staffed, clean, and pleasant? Are residents left in wheelchairs in front of a TV all day, or is staff engaged with each one on a regular basis?  

7. If possible spend some time talking with a few of the residents. They may be your best source of what it is like to live there.



A move to a Continuing Care Retirement Community or larger facility aren't your only choices, of course. Cohousing, having a roommate to share expenses and care for each other, or living with family are all possible options. Smaller retirement communities without a full range of services usually don't require a large initial buy-in. Monthly fees are lower.

Whatever you are considering, take your time, do the research, and be sure the one you pick is best for you. Ask questions and feel comfortable with your decision. 

Since this is likely the last move of your life, make it one you that makes you happy.



December 10, 2018

Taking a Gap Year: Not Just For Young Adults Anymore


It is not unheard of for someone graduating from high school to want to take a year off before starting college. There is the need for a break from twelve years of school, or a feeling that an adventure or life-refreshing experience would be beneficial before tackling college or other advanced education. Sometimes, a college graduate will have the same "itch" to explore the world before settling down to becoming a full-fledged "adult."

A while ago the Wall Street Journal had an article  about Boomers taking a "gap year" during their working career. This is seen as the chance to "wipe the slate clean" by exploring different options for the next part of their life. 

Most of the people who do this return to the working world, albeit in a different way. And, there are some who come back in a radically different form.  It may be tackling a long delayed dream, or a mix of part time work with a newly found passion for expanded leisure. It can mean a different living environment or location.

One of the people interviewed for the article summarized the most important step anyone must take: "Don't be afraid. That's what stops most people my age from making changes. Not only do they fear the unknown, but they fear letting go of the habits, comforts, safety and routine of their lives."

That may be true but it is quite reasonable to worry about having to convince a present or future employee to take a chance on someone who decides to take a period of time off, especially past a certain age. Someone would have to arrange for a sabbatical, have a strong enough skill set that finding a new job would not be terribly difficult, or believe a career change is past due anyway.

While the thrust of that newspaper article was not directed toward a satisfying retirement, the mindset that allows for a Boomer relaunch is an interesting idea for someone who is fully retired at the moment. Taking time to strip away old habits or ways of living and then restarting the journey would work at any age.

If already retired, that drawback with taking a "gap year" is eliminated. Of course, there will be other upheavals, expenses, and maybe some strange looks from friends and family. But, worrying about employment isn't as high on the list. And, any future work may take on an entirely different form: starting one's own business, using skills in a different field, or consulting a former employer.


Our mini-gap machine
I did experiment with a mini "gap" concept and enjoyed it tremendously. After debating the pros and cons for at least a year, Betty and I finally bought an RV. After several short trips to figure out the basics of motorhome life, we took a few, two month-long trips to different parts of the country. They were refreshing, memory-filled breaks from our normal routine. Looking at the photos today brings a smile to my face.


Of course, they were not long enough to really feel as if we had stepped into an alternative lifestyle. For me, that would mean driving until I found a fascinating small town and stop for a month or so. I'd look for some one-time volunteer opportunities, eat at the cafes where the town gathers every morning, get to know the local characters, and adapt to the timing of that location's lifestyle.

Then, I'd pack up and drive down the road to a very different climate or part of the country and repeat the process. After several of these stops, I think I'd be ready to come back to my safe suburban base with new perspectives on my life and the journey I am on. I think I'd be a better, or at least more interesting, version of myself, with stories to tell and lifestyle examples to copy.

On our two month trips we made a classic mistake: trying to cover too many miles and see too many things in the time we had allotted. We were never in one place more than 4 days - certainly not long enough to be more than a casual visitor. Also, we felt that being away from family for 60 days was about our limit. So, the conclusion for us was a full-blown 'gap" experience was not really our style

A couple I admire are in the midst of a serious gap year experience. They sold most of their belongings, moved out of their rental home in Hawaii, and began a one-year trip around the world with nothing more than a few suitcases and backpacks to sustain them. When their journey is over they will decide where to live, what place to call home. 

Plenty of us are snowbirds, living for part of the year in a different climate. But, to me, that doesn't qualify as a real gap experience. Based on the WSJ article, there would have to be a real disconnect from an everyday routine and familiar surroundings to produce the desired effect. 



How about you? If you had the chance, what would you do with a "gap" period, to get a new perspective on life? Is the idea of a time away from the everyday intriguing? Or, are you a homebody who is perfectly content with short vacations and feels no need to hit the road or shake up what is a comfortable satisfying retirement?

Part of me wants a real break, a "gap" experience. The logical and realistic part of me tells me, "No."  I will be fascinated to read your comments. 


December 6, 2018

Does Retirement Make You Feel Guilty?

A reader wondered how much a part guilt plays in one's satisfying retirement. Frankly, I have never thought about it in those terms until he raised the issue.

Yes, the way our most disadvantaged citizens are treated bothers me tremendously. It is hard to fathom some of the dismissive talk I hear about folks who are homeless or forced to fight to survive on not enough food and minimal health care. 

The approach of some in government to make up the deficit by cutting the bare necessities even further for these people because they have no political "value" doesn't line up at all with my religious beliefs. When children are involved I feel ill.


But, as the reader noted, for most of us, that is not our situation. We have some type of roof over our heads, enough food and medical care to be as healthy as our bodies allow us. We have heat in the winter and cooling in the summer. There is likely at least one car in the garage unless we have chosen to do without.

When we compare our lifestyle with so many others we are blessed. Does that ever raise a feeling of guilt? In part, here are those comments:

"Feelings of guilt at being able to retire when so many others are likely to have no opportunity. We are able to retire due to thoughtful (or lucky?) strategies of investment and/or frugal lifestyle. Or due to the good fortune of being born into an advantaged/educated household. 

Still, when I see so many hardworking people - and there ARE many hardworking poor people - who have no real hopes of retiring, I have to accept that the world is indeed not fair. Still, it rankles me that working hard does not guarantee some kind of retirement opportunity.

When I was retiring from my teaching career, so many colleagues said that I certainly "deserved it." Some of being able to retire was due to hard work and strategic living, but much was also due to a small inheritance and the larger inheritance of good health and good education. There are lots of hardworking and less fortunate individuals who are also deserving.

Also feelings of Guilt from no longer being "productive" in the typical 9 to 5 style. Not necessarily new, I know, but many of us don't feel useful unless we are on that blasted "hamster wheel" of the work world.

All sorts of these feelings of guilt can be turned into appreciation for whatever gifts we have earned or been arbitrarily given, but for me, it has taken some time and processing."

This quote raises some very important points to think about. The common definition of guilt implies that something wrong has been done. It leaves one with a feeling of self-reproach for some ethical or legal failure. I'm pretty sure the reader isn't implying he "cheated" his way into retirement. 

This "guilt" is one of comparison: comparing his situation with other human beings who are in a much worse state through no fault of their own. In fact, he notes their situation may be in spite of doing things correctly. That prompts the question, "Why me? How can I live the way I live while others suffer without me feeling guilty?"

The feelings that were expressed are those of a person with a finely tuned sense of morality and fairness. What he sees is the condition of humanity: there are perceived "winners" and "losers " who may be in those categories through no action of their own. There will always be poor people and always be those who are well-off. But, what he is reacting to are those who have been "mis-categorized" and can do nothing about it.

Obviously, there are folks who ignore the basic rules of good financial stewardship. They spend too much, use credit poorly, and don't save. These are not the people the reader or this post are addressing. The "make your own bed" cliche is a better fit for them. Certainly we can have empathy for their situation, but a guilty feeling at our situation compared to their's wouldn't seem appropriate.

Before I get too heavy into philosophy and religion let me stop here and make one point: This comment has brought to light a very important issue - that of fairness in society and what our responsibility is to recognize and react to it.

I must admit I don't feel guilty in the traditional sense about being able to retire early and live decently. I also don't believe I did anything better or different than many of my peers who were still working and might continue to do so for years.

Yes, I worked hard, saved a lot and lived within or below my means. But, the talents and skills I was born with came from God. My educational and economic advantages came from parents. These factors were primarily responsible for who I became. 

I do feel guilty that there isn't more I can do to make things more fair. The best I can do is try to make the little parts of the world I touch a little less unhappy and depressing.


Has this post caused you to think about your retirement situation in comparison to others? Is feeling bad about what life has given you counter-productive? How do you react when others express jealousy over your situation? These questions can be important to our overall feeling of living a satisfying retirement. I'm interested in your contribution to this discussion.


This subject was the focus of a recent podcast in the Living a Satisfying Retirement Lifestyle series. It used an earlier version of this post from several years ago that prompted some excellent comments.

The topic is important enough that it is worth a rerun to allow more readers to weigh in on this subject.


December 3, 2018

Retirement and Financial Security: How Much is Enough?


The quick answer is, no one knows, including you.The amount you need to retire comfortably and live a satisfying retirement lifestyle is dependent on so many variable that a definitive answer is impossible. That doesn't stop all sorts of web sites, blog posts, financial advisors, and others from giving you their opinion. I caution you to use what you learn in this manner only as a piece of the total puzzle, not the ultimate solution.

It shouldn't be surprising that I am not going to give you a hard and fast number either. But, I am willing (or foolish enough) to take a look at some of the factors that will help you arrive at the "magic" number for you.


What is First?

The first step is to assess your expected income. While many of us lived our working lives spending more than we made, that was dangerous then, and fatal now. Once you retire, if you spend more than you have resources to support you could be in big trouble. Why? Simply because you cannot predict the future: what will happen to your income stream, your health, even how long you will live.

Retirement income comes from several sources. For most folks your pension, 401(k), IRA, annuities (a contract between an individual and an insurance company promising lifelong income in exchange for an upfront payment), and other investments will be an important source of financial support. Take the time to figure out exactly what you have and what they are likely to produce for you on a consistent basis. If you are unsure, now is the time to get a firm grasp on your assets, and make any adjustments as needed.

Based on those sources, you can use a basic retirement withdrawal calculator to predict how long the money will last if you withdrawal a certain amount each month. As you do so, don't forget to factor in your best guess for inflation, whether you want to leave money to family, any tax consequences, and appreciation of hard assists, like art or classic autos.

Social Security is another pillar of your financial house. The government web site provides a calculator that allows you to predict what your monthly checks will be, depending on when you begin accepting checks. If you missed it, read a post from a few months ago , How To Decide When To Start Social Security

Do you expect any inheritance from a parent or relative? While I strongly suggest you don't count on this money for part of your planning, knowing it may be there for you at some point in the future allows you to make "what if" plans.

It is Budget Time

Next, as I wrote about 6 weeks ago, develop a retirement budget. You will have certain expenses that continue whether you are working or not.  If you own a home property taxes aren't about to cease. Cars will probably be needed well into your satisfying retirement; remember to plan for both repair and replacement. Food, utilities, vacations, health care costs, clothing...these things will continue.

Note: In Monday, December 3rd NY Times Business section, see the excellent article on the reason to budget.

What will take some real thought on your part is the shape you want your retirement to take. Do you have plans to travel extensively or buy a vacation home near that favorite lake or ocean? Do you want to see family members on a more regular basis which means more travel? Is an RV and the open road calling you?

Or, are you anticipating a simpler lifestyle, one that keeps you closer to home. Are you content to explore opportunities to become involved and volunteer in your own backyard? Are you thinking of downsizing your living space to save expenses and work?

What about adult children or parents? Will they be part of your life both in terms of time and expenses? Should you budget for extra money in case your parents end up needing substantial financial support?

Obviously, a large factor is deciding which of these retirement lifestyles (or a combination of them) you plan for is determined by your income. I've always wanted an RV, but the budget to buy and maintain one didn't exist for several years. I'd spend my summers in Flagstaff but not wanting to be away from family that long makes even that 3 hour distance not feasible at this time. I retired before my financial foundation was where I expected it to be. Through a conservative lifestyle and prudent budgeting things are just fine. But, I determined early on the champagne lifestyle wasn't going to happen on my beer and wine budget.

Things Change: Plan For It

Importantly, my desires for that lifestyle changed. It no longer appealed to me. Being home, with family and friends is what makes a satisfying retirement for me now. Volunteer work with Junior Achievement and the Friends of the Library  and the simple pleasures of reading and enjoying all Arizona has to offer are what I aspire to now.

The bottom line for you: pick the lifestyle you think you want to retire to and budget for it. If the numbers work for you, great. If they don't figure out where you can prune while still maintaining what is most important. But, don't be surprised if your goals change as you move through this stage of life. It is the rare person who can predict at the beginning of retirement what his or her interests and desires will be 10 or 15 years down the road.


One more hint: I believe there are three retirement lifestyle phases. If you love to travel and explore you are much more likely to do that in the first decade or two of retirement. If you want to scuba dive the ship wrecks off the coast of Bermuda, don't wait too long (I've done that and it is a blast!). That means your budget will show dramatic shifts over time. What you set aside for travel in the early phase will taper off, to be replaced with higher expenses in health care or maybe dining out.

How much money is enough to retire comfortably? The simple answer is enough to allow you to live the way you would like to at each stage of your retirement lifestyle tempered by the reality of your financial foundation.

The real answer is not one really knows, including you, until you are in the midst of it. The best you can do is plan well, adjust as needed, and be happy with what you have. The most miserable risk in retirement is not running out of money, it is running out of the joy and satisfaction that retirement can mean for you.

November 29, 2018

Does Jimmy Buffett Really Have The Answers?


The ultimate Boomer, Jimmy Buffett,  will be 72 on Christmas Day. Even though he only had a few hit records, Jimmy continues to be one of the biggest concert draws, year after year. In fact, he was in Phoenix a few days ago for a sold-out concert. He portrays an image that is a combination of beach, booze, sun, women, and song into his 7th decade. His lyrics are often witty, literate, and captivating. For millions of  Parrotheads, he speaks to their dreams, aspirations and lost youth.


Confession time: I am a semi-retired Parrothead. I have been privileged to see Jimmy in concert several times, once flying to Denver just to see his show. There is no way I can see him in person or listen to his music and not smile. You can bet whenever my wife and I go to Hawaii Jimmy's music is along for the ride. He has been very much part of my satisfying retirement.


With tongue firmly planted in my check, I contend that many of life's important lessons, especially for us retired and pre-retirees can be found in the lyrics of Jimmy's music. Not so sure? Here are some examples to convince you I am not just a cheeseburger in paradise:


"Few have ever seen, most of them dream.  I've got to stop wishin' and got to fishin'."
  • Too many folks dream their life away without doing what they really want to do. There comes a time to stop dreaming and a time to act.

"All of the faces and all of the places, wonder where they all disappeared.
Vision of good times that brought me so much pleasure. Makes me want to go back again."
  • I have known so many people and been to so many places, but they are no longer part of my life. Luckily, I'll always have my memories and I can visit again anytime.
"Oh, yesterday's on my shoulders so I can't look back for too long. There's just too much to see waiting in front of me. And I know I just can't go wrong."
  • Memories and the past are great, but sometimes they just hold me back. I am excited by what is ahead.

"I'm growing older but no up. My metabolic rate is pleasantly stuck. I'd rather die while I'm living, than live when I'm dead."
  • I don't care what the calendar says, I can still be a little kid sometimes. I don't want to always act like a gown-up and I refuse to stop grabbing all that life has to offer.

"I'm a cultural infidel,. believe in common sense. I'm a cultural infidel, love the present tense."
  • They may not be "appropriate" for someone of my age but blue jeans and funny T-shirts are just fine for me. I don't live in the past; I take what's best about today.

"I wish lunch could last forever. Make the whole day one big afternoon."
  • My schedule is mine. I understand the importance of being wholly invested in whatever I am doing at the moment. And, if that is a long meal with friends, so be it.
"Ain't it funny how we all turned out. I guess we are the people our parents warned us about."
  • My 20's were a blast and completely different from my life today. My values, lifestyle, choices, and mindset then would probably shock many of my friends now. But, I learned tolerance and the ability of maturity to work its magic.


Jimmy speaks to the parts of us that mean so much: treasuring our memories but not living in the past, staying active and full of dreams, and keeping the streak of non-conformist alive, if only in our mind. I wouldn't suggest we try to model our life to fit the image Jimmy projects. But, it is a fun escape with some life lessons tossed in.
  


November 26, 2018

Your Best Frugal Ideas


Frankly, by now I shouldn't be surprised that the topic of frugality is always so popular. The recent blog post, Retirement and Frugality generated lots of views and some very interesting comments. I think we determined that frugality isn't being cheap, it is being a wise steward of our resources.

A few readers suggested I have a post with nothing but ideas, tips, and ways of being both retired and frugal. Sure, why not. I know there is a real interest in how retirees spend our free time, what part volunteerism plays in our lives, and the frugal lifestyle choices we make. So, this could be quite instructive.


I am turning the rest over to you. Think about anything and everything you do to stay within budget and make the most of whatever you choose to spend. Is your focus in the area of budgeting to control income and outgo?

How about food purchase and preparation? How to you make sure money you spend at the grocery store doesn't end up in the garbage? Do you grow some of your own food? Are your menu choices made with frugality in mind?

How about clothing and home furnishings, entertainment choices, and transportation? One car or two, or none? Streaming services, library DVDs, over the air TV...or no TV? Do you listen to music often? What's your source: the radio, streaming music services (the free version!), old school records?


Books from the library or garage sales? Passed from friend to friend so only one copy must be purchased? Newspapers delivered or only read on-line?
Health and exercise: How do you keep medical expenses under control? Gym membership or a walk and bike regime instead? Drugs from Canada or a pill splitter? Using free clinics?

How about hobbies? Doing what you enjoy, find enriching, and making your free time a joy are a very important part of retirement. But, lots of pastimes can be expensive. How do you deal with this frugality?

You get the idea. I thought wrapping gifts in newspapers was kind of over-the-edge, but I was promptly corrected. So, I am no judge whatsoever.

Educate me!


November 23, 2018

I Can Name That Song In 3 Notes

It is a holiday weekend in the U.S. So, something a little on the light side:


First radio job at 15
 For a dozen years I made my living as a rock and rock DJ. It was an exciting time of my life. My parents weren't too happy when I used a different name on the air, but they understood the need to keep the real me separate from the radio me.

Music was my job. I'm willing to bet it was an important part of your life, too, even if you weren't making a living that way. Studies show that the music you hear in your teens and early 20's becomes the music you take with you for the rest of your life.

 While you are likely to enjoy different styles of music as you age, those songs on the radio during high school and college became part of who you are. Music has an incredible power to trigger memories and feelings like almost nothing else.

Recently, I was looking at a list of some of the top songs of the 1960's and 70's. It occurred to me that some of the song titles were perfect representatives of how we thought and felt during that time. As the years advanced, the changes in society and culture could also be marked by the music. Just for fun I picked a handful of songs to make my point.

I Want To Hold Your Hand.  I can still remember where I was when I heard this song for the first time. I was listening to a transistor radio hidden under my pillow well past my school day bedtime when the song played. The Beatles sounded like nothing I had ever heard before. Instantly I was captivated. At age 14 radio suddenly became my constant companion.  While the music was up tempo and loud and different, the lyrics were not much different from the rest of the songs of that time. The focus was on innocence, acceptable limits of contact, and a form of chaste puppy love. Two of the biggest hit songs of the late 50's were April Love and Young Love. Their message was really no different from the one sung by the Beatles. Upheaval and rebellion were yet to come.



Ballad of the Green Berets. Staff Sergeant Barry Sadler had a number one song in 1966, extolling the bravery and glory of the Green Beret soldiers. This song reflected the mood of the country: military service was an honorable way to serve the United States, and Vietnam had not yet become a political land mine. The song was used in a movie of the same name staring John Wayne. Society was only a year away from the Beatles openly singing about drugs and the rumblings of discord on college campuses.



To Sir with Love. From the movie of the same name, British artist, Lulu, sang of respect for teachers and authority. She was expressing appreciation for an adult figure who helped change her outlook on life. The one interesting subtext in the song was the message of interracial tolerance and acceptance. Though the teacher in the movie was black (Sidney Poitier), Lulu's character in the movie didn't care. While the other students were less than open about having a black man as a teacher, she simply accepted what he could teach her.  During the time this song was released (1967) racial tensions in the U.S. and the rest of the world were building toward a climatic event just one year later in Memphis.



People Got to be Free. Only a few years earlier the Rascals had sung about Good Lovin'. Now, in 1968, the mood of the country had begun to sour. The riots in Chicago were only a few months in the future. The assassinations of Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr. were soon to occur. The tide had begun to turn against the Vietnam war and the government. The Beatles were experimenting with LSD, and the movie Easy Rider became an instant hit among the young, glorifying a lifestyle of easy love, drugs, travel, and no responsibilities.



Songs demanding social change became an important part of rock radio. Ohio, about the shooting at Kent State helped propel Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young to stardom. Edwin Starr sang against War. Helen Reddy became a feminist icon with her hit, I am Woman. Music was angry, aggressive, and demanding changes.

Flash forward almost a decade. The Vietnam war was history. The campus riots and political tensions had stopped. The gas shortage of the early 70's had faded from memory. The country's mood had changing dramatically since the late 1960's.

Music that was meant for dancing and sex took over the airwaves. The Bee Gees dominated the charts with the soundtrack from Saturday Night Fever and #1 songs like You Should be Dancing and Staying Alive. Such a heavy use of falsetto hadn't been as popular since the early days of Frankie Vallie and the Four Seasons. 

Everything was about the beat. Lyrics of disco songs were either unimportant, or strongly sensual. Society had become liberated in a way that made I Want to Hold You Hand look like a song from another lifetime. Rod Stewart wanted to know if you "Think I'm Sexy."  The group Exile wanted to "Kiss You All Over."



As the 1970's ended disco faded away. The 1980's began with hard rock groups like Queen, solo superstars Madonna and Michael Jackson and country flavored artist Kenny Rogers. There was a variety to the types and styles of music that radio hadn't played since the early 1960's.

I trust the handful of songs and artists I've highlighted began prompting memories from that jukebox in your mind. What songs had special meaning to you growing up during this time? Which groups or artists dominated your singles and LP collection? What about Elvis, Motown, Simon and Garfunkel, Three Dog Night, or The Righteous Brothers? Do you remember You're So Vain, Wild Thing, or Paint it Black?



8 track tapes...Do you still have any?


November 22, 2018

Happy Thanksgiving



A Happy Thanksgiving from Bob, Betty, Bailey, and the Satisfying Retirement family.

You may be surrounded by your family and looking forward to a traditional meal. You may be far from home but know there are people who love you. You may be serving our country somewhere that looks nothing like home. You may be alone for the first Thanksgiving after a major life change. You may be alone, happy and thankful for the life you have chosen. 

Whatever state you find yourself today, I sincerely wish you a peaceful, joyous day. We all have blessings regardless of where we find ourselves. Today is the day to think about them and celebrate that part of our life.

For readers who are not in the United States or do not celebrate this holiday, my same hope for you remains: life is a heck of a ride. Enjoy it, cherish it, and love anyone and everyone you can.


Please join me for a moment to think about all those left homeless or devastated by the on-going California fires, the hurricane that hit Puerto Rico, the floods in Japan and India...all the natural disasters around the world in 2018 that left so many suffering. Our wish is their future be brighter and one day life again holds things to be thankful for. 

November 19, 2018

Retirement Advice: Relating To Your Adult Children


After the post about dealing with difficult parents, let's flip the view and consider parents dealing with adult children. This is an important topic for anyone who has grown children. Our kids are our kids forever. Being a parent is a job without end. But, just like retirement creates major changes, there should be a definite shift in how you and your adult kids relate to each other. 


Not surprisingly, parents and their adult children often experience some problems in their relationships. For the parents, the change from being the primary influence to something less in the child's life isn't easy. For the adult child, the roles become blurred. Are my parents still authority figures? Friends? Something in between? What about how they interact with my children? My in-laws?


Various studies have highlighted several areas in a parent-adult child relationship that could cause problems:

*Differences in communication styles
*Lifestyle choices of the adult child
*The way grandkids are being raised
*Political and religious differences
*The employment status of the adult child
*How the household is run and maintained 

Parents wouldn't be parents if they didn't compare what they see happening in these areas with how the child was raised. The child wouldn't be considered a mature adult if he or she hadn't developed some differences from the parents. There may be a shared DNA, but each of us is unique and each responds differently to situations and what life throws at us.

It is a given that there will be some rough spots between parents and their adult child. A blog reader asked that I look at some ways that may help parents improve this important relationship. My research in preparing this post lead me to several sources that were remarkably consistent in their advice. Not all of these suggestions will apply in your situation or even be workable. But, it would be wise to think about each point listed below and determine if a particular answer fits your situation.

Accept differences. This is probably the most important suggestion and the toughest. Your adult child is not you. As he or she grows life experiences will result in changes that you may not fully approve of. At this stage of the game it isn't your job to approve. It's your responsibility to accept them.

Don't judge. At least not out loud. Obviously, this closely follows the first suggestion. You are no longer judge and jury. The child may be looking for approval, acceptance, or at least tolerance for what they have done. They are not looking for you to tell them what they are doing wrong.

Timing is not under your control. While the child may still need and solicit your input and guidance, it will be less frequently than you may want or think necessary. Interactions of this sort should not be initiated by you. You may not see your grown child as often as you'd like. Remember, he has his own schedule and life.


Respect new traditions and ways of doing things. The way your adult child and his significant other or family celebrate a holiday, decorate the house, plan their vacations, even dress themselves may not be your way. Remember, it is their way and deserving of your acceptance.

Blending two families can be tricky. If married, your child is now part of two families. He or she must attempt to keep two sets of parents happy. That can be quite difficult. Take the high road and don't insist on a perfect balance of time and attention. That will only make things tougher on your child. 

Respond to questions or pleas for help like you would any other adult, not your child. When I read this in more than one study it struck me as a crucial part of having a healthy relationship. Do you talk with your adult child like you would a co-worker, or a friend? Or, do you talk at him? Unsolicited advice-giving or lecturing won't work on another adult. Why would you think it would work on your grown-up child?

Learn good listening skills. This is something that can improve all our relationships, not just with an adult child. Most of us, myself included, are thinking about our answer while the other person is talking. We aren't truly listening to what they have to say. 

Decide that a healthy relationship is more important than the disagreements. Do you want to score points and win the argument while losing the war? Accept that your adult child is not under your control anymore. Accept that he or she is an adult with opinions, ideas, and beliefs that may differ from yours....like most of the rest of the adult world. That acceptance will gain you a much better shot at having the healthy, nurturing, and loving relationship you desire.


Personally, I can report that these suggestions work. In the case of our grown daughters my wife and I have been extremely fortunate. Areas of conflict and differences have been very minor. Nothing has taken place to harm a tremendously close bond between parents and kids. In fact, several years ago both girls moved back to Phoenix to be close to us (and other friends & extended family).

I can't tell you exactly why we have escaped any problems so far or claim we never will. We have tried to keep most of our opinions to ourselves. We have respected their choices and allowed them to build their own lives. While we may question some things that occur, we only do that in the privacy of our home, not in front of them.

One thing we do is actively look for things we can do together. Picnics, watching football or sporting events together, movies at a theater or at a home or apartment, seeing plays and musicals together, meals out...any excuse to spend quality time together in a relaxed and enjoyable setting goes a long way to smoothing over the bumps that are going to occur.

Thanks to the reader who asked that I explore this topic. It is important and worthy of our thoughtful consideration. It has been helpful to me to look at all the pitfalls and problem areas that can arise. I sincerely hope that something in this post helps you make your relationship with your adult child all it can be. If you an are adult child attempting to improve the relationship with your parents, much of this can be helpful to you, too.


Comment time. Did I gloss over or miss any important areas in this type of relationship? Have you struggled to build a meaningful bond with an adult child? What if the parents and adult child live in separate parts of the country...does that create special challenges? I encourage your sharing thoughts and ideas. A solid relationship with an adult child can make your satisfying retirement much more rewarding.


November 15, 2018

Dealing With Difficult Parents: What Can I Do?


Not long ago a reader asked for some feedback on the important issue of dealing with a difficult parent. This problem is one that many of us are facing now, or will have to deal with in the future. That person is responsible for bringing us into the world. In the vast majority of cases, he, she, or both did what they thought best. Maybe their parenting fell short (even far short), but there is a connection that can't be erased. Now, that connection is under strain, maybe even tearing. 

I don’t pretend to be an expert in this area of human relationships. But, I have a few suggestions that may help you and bring you some peace as you work through a tough time with one or both of your parents.

Don’t expect your family member to change. Whatever you do (or don’t do) accept that the difficult parent may not change. You can change some of the factors under your control that may make the relationship less stressful. But, expecting a difficult parent to become loving and accepting will only make your feeling toward that person worse when change does not occur.

Don't Give Advice Unless It's Asked For. Your parent is probably feeling a loss of control and freedom. If you begin to reverse the parent-child role by offering unsolicited advice on unimportant topics, you are risking problems. Importantly this concerns advice, not critical health and safety issues that must be faced.

Accept Differences of Opinions. After all, your parent is not you. Mom or Dad does not think exactly like you. Respect the opinions of others, don't disregard them. Don’t dismiss, out of hand, an opinion no matter how different from yours.

Listen to What Your Elderly Parent is Saying. Listen completely, really listen. Remember that an older person might take longer to form a response or finish a thought. A period of silence is not a bad thing that you need to fill immediately. Paying attention and listening carefully shows respect. Of course, listening works both ways so try to determine that your loved one is hearing and understanding what you are saying.

Attempt to determine a pattern. Does your parent’s mood worsen the longer he or she is awake? Could it be pain? it a growing feeling of frustration at the inability to perform usual daily tasks or to remember things? Angry outbursts, complaints, and sarcasm may be the result.

Respond to strong emotions with none. The best response is no response at all. Most people who like to argue do so because it tends to evoke a strong emotional reaction from others. Don't take the bait. If you respond to a challenge with a neutral emotional tone, it is likely the combative parent will move on to another subject. Your parent will probably drop the subject pretty quickly.

At all costs, stay calm. When you must deal with criticism and anger keep yourself under control. Yelling back never helps. Your parent’s emotions can be a projection of feelings of isolation and inability to do he or she used to do. Don’t allow yourself to be pulled into a battle that is about emotions and not reality.

Protect Yourself. You and your parent cannot afford for you to suffer from burnout. While you can't change your aging parents' condition, you can do things for yourself. Remember that you need a respite for yourself. Your parent may not be happy (so what else is new?), but hire someone for a few hours, or even a full day to recharge your batteries. Taking a break is something that you require. Don’t feel guilty. Don’t accept criticism from others. You know your limits.


There are many quality organizations and web sites with more information and suggestions. Here are a handful that I have visited:

My last thought: remember the good times and when your relationship was good. Once your parent is gone any time for reconnecting is over forever. Do what you can to build a bridge, no matter how difficult it is now.

November 12, 2018

Retirement and Blogging: What Do They Share?


After eight years, blogging continues to be satisfying. Even I am surprised I haven't run out of things to write about. I have found a schedule that seems to work for me. But, there are days when I stare at the blank computer screen and wonder how I am going to fill the page.

Inspiration disappears for a period of time. The creative well seem to be empty. There is a little flood of panic. Then, something worth committing to words eventually starts to flow and I relax.


Is retirement much different? Don't we experience times when we are simply going through the motions? There is a predictable, comfortable routine to the day. Nothing really new or interesting happens. There are no problems we can't handle without a little effort. Inspiration is taking a break. Life moves forward.

I thought it might be interesting to draw comparisons between where I turn for blogging inspiration and how I find new energy for whatever might be next in retirement.


Pay attention & shake it up

One of my best sources for blogging topics is to stop long enough to look at the world around me. What in my life might give me inspiration? Old photos,  movies, a play or theater presentation, a headline in the newspaper, mementos around the house, the birds in the backyard, people at the mall, actually just about anything can inspire if my mood is right and I'm open to seeing things in a new way.

Building a satisfying retirement works the same. Looking for a new angle or use of the everyday, meeting a new person or having a new experience, any of these can energize an otherwise mundane day. I might read something in a magazine that changes my perspective. Betty and I decide to try a restaurant we have never been to. Shaking up a routine or attempting to break an unproductive habit can be just the boost I need to get moving again.

Sometimes you just have to act

When a deadline is approaching and there is nothing ready to go, I must force myself to write. I go through files of idea starters, other blogs, even random Google searches on topics that I think might interest readers. Eventually something clicks. If I have a good title, then I will usually just start writing and an hour later a post has taken shape. There is still time required to strengthen weak parts, cut out unnecessary words, spell check, and select a photo. But, if the bulk of the post is done I can relax.

That process is the same for anything in your life that is worthwhile. There will be times when you must force yourself to take action. It would be easier and more pleasant to avoid whatever it is. But, the problem isn't going away until you confront it. Whether this is a relationship issue, a health concern, a financial upset, or even where to go on vacation, you may have to simply grit your teeth and do something. 

Look for something fresh from others 

On a regular basis I read a half a dozen other blogs a day. I like what the writer is saying or I think the information is useful to me. I find inspiration and topic ideas galore from others who spend their time in front of a keyboard. Many write substantially more words than I do, so there must be something I can learn.

Your daily life isn't different. Inspiration often comes from an outside source. Interacting with other people may be an effective way to find an answer to a problem. They may not directly address what your need is. But, by simply being with them you may find a new path toward something. Being with a group of people you enjoy can't help but make you feel better.


Maybe you simply need a retread



Dip your bucket into the well....you may be surprised!
When all else fails and my blogging well is dry, I'll take an older post that I've already written and find a way to freshen it up. Maybe I can add some new or additional information. Maybe my original premise is no longer valid and I can discuss how my thinking has changed. Possibly providing links to other blogs will give the reader a fresh take on the subject. A new photo can help.

Reusing or reworking something you have done before is really what retirement is all about. A lifetime of behavior and expectations are up for review. Just because you thought one way while working doesn't mean that line of thought is best for your life now. Was there an interest or hobby you used to love that fell by the wayside? Is it time to bring it back, maybe in a slightly different way? When you were 30 you loved to mountain bike. But, now at 60, maybe trail riding is safer and more suited to your body.  You still love to bike, but you change the approach.


Writing a blog and building a satisfying retirement are not that different. Both require some of the same skills. Maybe that is why so many blogs are being started by retired folks. One tends to reinforce the other!

November 8, 2018

Retirement and Frugality Work Well Together - Don't They?


satisfying retirement is built on much more than money. But, let's not be naive. Without financial resources retirement could be anything but satisfying. At this stage of the game, whatever the reason for your situation is almost unimportant. What is crucial is what you are going to do about it. But, if the forces of the financial world are aligned against you, what can you do?

There are a few things that make sense to me. You can control your spending by controlling your wants versus your needs. You can change your lifestyle to reflect the reality you find yourself in. You can adjust your attitude to become a positive force instead of a negative drag on your life.

I can't solve all the problems. If I had those answers I'd be running for President....no, wait. Who in their right mind would want that job? But, I have experience in being fired with two young children and a wife to take care of, having a company collapse from under me, living on mac and cheese for several months, losing 40% of my IRA  and 50% of my house value in 2008, and being bled by health care costs. I've been there.

If you have been visiting this blog for a while, you know about some of the steps my wife and I have taken to adjust to our financial reality. This time I am writing more about an attitude change rather than a list of things you can do to get your budget under control.

Wikipedia defines frugality as " the quality of being frugal, sparing, thrifty, prudent or economical in the use of consumable resources such as food, time or money, and avoiding waste, lavishness or extravagance." Since few people would want to be known as wasteful or extravagant, why isn't frugality something everyone embraces? Why is it almost a dirty word to many folks?

Like anything else, there are different degrees of frugality that range from casual to extreme. For example, I can clip some coupons, look for price match opportunities, and stock up on something when it is on sale. Or, I can become an extreme couponer, getting massive amounts of products for free or low cost and spending hours on the computer to get 100 rolls of toilet paper for a few cents. Neither of those approaches fits my definition of frugality.

I think frugality may have become a captive of those who are extreme in their definition and pursuit. Using both sides of copy paper is fine when you are printing something for your home or to file away, using newspaper to wrap a present not so much. Taking handfuls of sugar packets home from Burger King, probably not. Keeping the air conditioner off all summer and heating the house to 55 degrees in the winter goes beyond what is reasonable for most of us. But, I would guess that the concept of frugality makes many think of those examples. 

As a teacher of mine used to say, "I beg to differ." Frugal living means keeping more of what is yours, yours. It means not spending money for things you don't need and don't enjoy. It means eliminating the habits and activities from your life that take away your hard earned resources. All that sounds good to me.  Retirement and frugality should go together. From the first year of Satisfying Retirement comes this post: Simple Living My Way. Take a look.

Again, Wikipedia says, "Common strategies of frugality include the reduction of waste, curbing costly habits, suppressing instant gratification by means of fiscal self-restraint, and seeking efficiency."  It doesn't mean eliminating the things that bring joy and happiness to your life. It doesn't mean living on the edge. It doesn't mean not enjoying what you have saved and planned for. It just means regularly reviewing how you live and how you utilize your resources. Does everything still deserve a place at the table?

Several years ago US News carried a story, "The Secret to Living Well on $11,000 a year." This man's approach isn't one many of us would follow, but it makes for interesting reading. It was a follow up to "The Secret to Living Well on $20,000 a year." This fellow's life is more mainstream but still rather spartan. I'm afraid articles that these give a one-dimensional view of frugality.

So, my simple question to you is are you frugal? Do you think of yourself that way? Are you doing all you can to avoid waste and trim your expenses by eliminating things that no longer serve you well? Have you taken a hard look at everything in your life that costs you money, time, and effort and assured yourself that whatever it is passes the test? 

If so, then I'd suggest you are frugal. Wear the badge proudly.