June 27, 2018

What Do Retired People Do All Day?

  See if you spot a trend with these questions:

* What do I do after retirement?

* Things to do after you retire

* What do you do when you are retired?

* What do you during retirement?

These are just a few of over fifty similar questions I found after some research on what concerns people about retirement. Of course, financial issues topped the list. But, worries about having enough to do and not being bored are very much top-of-mind. After several decades of having time dictated by work, the thought of unplanned days stretching into the future is a little unsettling.

One of the questions included in one of my books was, " How do you fill your days? Are you ever bored or does your time fill up?" I was quite intrigued with the tremendous variety of answers. Here is a sampling:

Gail P. The joke in my family is that my headstone will say, “She was never bored!” Whether I’m busy or relaxing, I’m never bored. 

Paula M. I sometimes wonder how I fill my days!!! I look back to when I was a young wife and mom and remember all that I did in a day, and marvel that I could get it all done. And then I look at what I do now, and think that I am a “SLUG”. I also think I got a lot more done when I worked full time – somehow, you just fit it all in.

Without time restraints, it is easy to sit at the computer and before you know it, hours have gone by – or I go to the gym and 2 hours later, I am leaving – not having exercised for 2 hours, but having talked to a couple people, taken a shower, read the front page of the paper, etc. Before, I would have gone and exercised and been done and gone in 30-45 minutes because I would have needed to get to the store and buy groceries to go home and fix dinner. I guess there are times that I am bored, but not often – seems that there is always something to do and not enough time to do it.

Banjo Steve    My time seems to always fill up. Even when I don't know what to do at the moment, it becomes a time of contemplation for me rather than any kind of boredom. I don't mind, at odd times, constructively doing nothing in particular. Conversely, I try to avoid overbooking myself, having no desire to return to a new manifestation of the rat race.

Bill D. Regular routine includes physical exercise / activities with spouse, friends & family / reading & research re self development / volunteerism / financial (investments & home budget) management /periodic travel. 

Doug N. Our saying is "Retirement means you have to be responsible for your own entertainment." My analogy is that I have a copy of Ernie Zelinski's Get-A-Life Tree on my desk. It's been there for nearly a decade, but I haven't made the time to work on it. Too many other things to do.

I start almost every morning with 10 minutes of stretching while I'm brewing my tea. Next I check the surf forecast so that if conditions are unusually good then I can enjoy an extra dawn patrol. Finally I spend at least 30 minutes every morning working on the blog or the next edition of "The Military Guide".

After that the day writes the schedule: my spouse and I try to work out together every Sunday, Tuesday, and Friday morning (calisthenics, weights, aerobics). I try to train taekwondo every Monday & Wednesday evening. That leaves Thursdays and Saturdays for surfing, but I can also double up on Mon &; Wed if the waves are big.

I take a nap almost every day. I meet with an investment club almost every week. My spouse taught me "20 minutes a day". That means we try to do yard work or a home-improvement project together every day for 20 minutes. The reality is that once we've started, we get into it and frequently go for an hour or longer.

Roger W. I am like a little kid in that I get bored easily. For the most part I do what strikes my mood for that day. I am a prolific blogger so that takes quite a bit of time. I have two plus acres of land to keep up. I have an eighty year old home that needs constant attention. I enjoy reading and am now in the middle of a blog study of church history and how we got to where we are today. This and many unplanned things make up most of my days. But then there are some days where I choose to do absolutely nothing.

Michael V. In terms of other interests, my wife has always done a better job than myself. She has played organized tennis for years and has dedicated time to an assortment of local charities. For me, I seem to fill my time dealing with the maintenance of a house that is too big for us, bill paying, finances, taxes, etc., etc. I also enjoy baking, cooking on the grill, bike riding and daily walks. 

We have recently purchased 2 new bicycles and have started riding together. We will soon be taking this hobby on a road trip, right after we get our daughter settled into law school. 

Pat W. I do not remember being bored anytime in the last 20 years. My time fills up rapidly & I have to remember (repeatedly!) that I cannot do everything I want to do, even in retirement.

Don S. There are not enough hours in the day. I am NOT bored. Bear in mind I also stop "working" around dinner so you can call those hours wasted or not. For me I try to achieve some kind of balance between "work" and relaxation. What "relaxation" means is different to everyone but to me it means doing something brainless: maybe reading, TV, Internet, just not work.

Jane P.   I’ve had three boring days in two years. We have an exercise or swimming class every weekday morning. We have a garden. I try to meet one of several friends for coffee or lunch each week. I’m a mediator in training and I try to have one mediation event set up each week. I have a blog and a blogging community. I play games on Facebook.

Bertha T. When did we work? The days fly by and are productive. When I feel bored I do panic just a little. That is when I read a book or do a crossword puzzle. There are periods when a change of work is play. We live in a city that has a lot of opportunities for exploring and in the winters we travel to Arizona for a change of scenery. The fact that we have found a way to make changes as a part of our routine life keeps each day interesting. So the answer is "yes" sometimes I get bored but there are solutions for the short term feeling.  

Dick J. During the early part of my second year of retirement I did frequently become bored, and depressed at times. Not from serious problems but from thinking too much about how my pre-retirement vision of retirement wasn't matching the reality. 

Right now I'm doing some of the training but it will be finished within the month. I most likely will not seek to do more of that anytime soon. I fill my time planning for the next trip, traveling and spending time every now and then in New England, spending 3 or 4 days every few weeks with my 80-something parents who live about 4 hours away, cooking (always has been an activity I enjoy) and doing some light landscaping in our small yard. 

My wife and I enjoy reading and watching British mysteries on Netflix. As the months have gone by, I am more and more relaxed and satisfied with life without work.

John H. With my current routine, my day is usually close to full. Sometimes I get a little bored, but when that happens I call one of my kids, mother or sibling to chat.

Paula S. My days are full and varied which makes it difficult to tell anyone what I have been doing. Thankfully projects don't lie around waiting to get done as long, however there are many still on the list to be completed. I'm never bored.

Katie S. Communicating with friends, old and new, via Internet and Skype. Learning new things - anything that happens to grab my fancy. Learning new languages and planning my next travel. Art, art, art! I love to cook! Yoga, walking around my village and visiting with people I run into, writing, reading. spending time with my guy, gardening and hanging out with friends.

Mark R. I start the day off with what I like to refer to as “spiritual exercises” (including reading, prayer, reflection and meditation). This is usually followed by “coffee time” with my wife. I then usually end up spending an hour or so at the gym. During the late morning to mid- afternoon, I am often involved in various classes/courses offered at OLLI (some with and some without my wife).

My day is often quite filled and I have still not done many things that I wanted to when I first retired (e.g. do more ball room dancing with my wife, getting involved in a ministries that seek to make a difference in the world around me or to find more social connections with other people as I know that I can be a bit of a loner at times).

Carla H. I am always working on something, so rarely bored.

Janet L. When I worked, I regularly wished for a couple of additional hours every day as I always ran short of time. I continue to have that dilemma. The days fly past and often I find myself having to set time limits for tasks. I try to curtail myself from making too many commitments so that I don’t have to dread looking at my schedule for the week.

I feel like a kid in a candy store with so many choices about how I’ll spend my time. Although much is written about boredom as a retirement risk, I have never suffered boredom.

Doreen P. My time fills up. Two days a week I volunteer at the garden. I work with flowers now. I live in NYC so if I feel bored I go to a different museum, library or exhibit. If you live alone you have to leave your house and go out and meet people.

I read, go to museums, concerts, parks, events at the library, out with friends-it is just that everything is at a slower pace-no more rushing. I also like to exercise.

Shirley L. My days are filled with writing, biking or hiking, lunches with friends, gardening, reading, traveling, and probably a little too much news-following. I'm working on that one. And of course some cooking and cleaning--you still can't get away from that!

Bob B. During the summer, we’re active in a number of outdoor activities – hiking, bike riding, kayaking, camping, fly fishing, and target shooting. During the winter, we snowshoe or cross-country ski – when snow conditions permit. 

Billie S. I’m never bored but I am sometimes “lazy”, ignoring chores for the moment and reading a lot. That’s happened less and less over the course of this first year. I miss being part of something I consider important to society, i.e., making a contribution. I am ready to find a way to do that which will fit with my time in the next year.

Sarah V. I play competitive league tennis which fills my schedule for at least three days per week for nine months out of the year. I spend time volunteering for local charities and organizing fundraising events. I am active in our community book club and Zumba class and I love to travel, cook, entertain and take photographs.  

Tammy P. My normal daily routine (not that too many days are normal, actually) consists of waking up around 6:00 AM, enjoying coffee and conversation with my husband before moving on to our morning workouts. This is followed by breakfast and time on the computer doing my various electronic chores of email, itinerary planning and blog reading and writing.

We generally have anywhere from one to three activities planned on any given day, plus our normal chores to get done. Plus, we each have a lot of follow ups we need to do each day as a result of the activities we are involved in. For myself, this means I need to practice piano, the recorder and my Spanish each day, as well as stay on top of the subscribed reading from the four book clubs I belong to.

Other things we do regularly are listening to educational DVD’s on topics ranging from Greek history to the science of wine making, take weekly long distance bike rides, attend yoga classes, attend a lifelong learning program at our nearby university, gardening, and in my case, needlepoint, baking and cooking. We also utilize a variety of online discount sites to enjoy a multitude of entertainment and dining options, often last minute but at a fraction of the price we used to pay prior to retirement.

Regarding boredom: As long as we understand TV is not an option to alleviate boredom, we are never bored. In our experience, using TV to alleviate boredom actually creates an enhanced state of boredom.

These responses from retirees should provide you some comfort. The number of activities and ways of staying busy are as varied as the folks who provided them. 

What do retired people do all day? Quite a lot. Join us!

June 23, 2018

The 3 Worst Things You Can Do in Retirement: How To Avoid Them

Of course, there are all sorts of mistakes we make as we move through the retirement phase of life. I know, I committed many of them over the past 17 years. Some are just irritating or a waste of time. Some are from lack of knowledge until we have the experience to choose wisely.

The three listed below are among the most serious things we can do to sabotage our satisfying retirement. Why? Because they can chew up large chunks of time as you wait for things to sort themselves out.

1) To insist on following a pre-retirement plan, without change.

This is a biggie. I know, I did it. Being a very organized person, I had everything plotted out when my wife and I decided it was time to shut down my business and retire. I had worked on a budget for months. I met with my adviser several times to review where I stood and what I hoped to accomplish. I had no real hobbies or interests outside of work, but figured things would work themselves out. I figured I'd just push the start button and cruise for the next twenty five years.

Well, that was a mistake. Things did sort themselves out, but not for two years. My budget was great, except I forgot to allow for health care costs and increases once I was no longer covered by my plan at work. I forgot about vacations; I'm retired, who needs to take vacations? I underestimated the damage of inflation on my investments. I worried so much my wife offered to find a job, a job she hated, but her income made us both feel a little better. After a year of that, I asked her to quit. Watching her drive off to a job she despised while I sat at home and stewed was worse.

My lack of interests meant way too much time reading, napping, and watching old movies. Not until three years after retiring did I find something that became a lifelong interest. Once that barrier was broken, other passions quickly followed.

I learned that planning is very important, a specific plan is not. Retirement is about constant adjustments, to fiances, interests, needs versus wants, relationships. The two years I forced my life into my pre-arranged plan made things much rockier than they needed to be.

2) To wait for something good to begin.

That isn't the best way to approach your new life. Unlike work where your every move might have been under the control of others, retirement is when you can call most of the shots or simply be open to an opportunity. Waiting for something to develop just means missed opportunities, missed experiences, missed discoveries. 

Here is a good example from my life. Quite out of the blue I was asked to help newly released prisoners adjust to life on the outside. This was something completely outside of my realm of experience. I had never had contact with anyone who had gone through this process. Even so, I was aware that transitioning back into society can be quite difficult.

In any case, I said, yes. That decision lead to a six year involvement with a prison ministry organization. I went inside several state facilities to meet with the inmates before being released, and then was part of their life for at least six months after release. Being open to trying something totally out of my comfort zone lead to one of the most meaningful things I have done since I retired. 

3) To live in fear that your retirement will disappoint you.

If that is how you approach what lies ahead, that fear of disappointment could become a self-fulfilling prophecy. So much of what happens in retirement is under your control that disappointment should not paralyze you from taking steps to explore your potential.  

That said, I am not Mr. Rogers, where everything is sunny in my neighborhood. I am well aware that things can go wrong. Goals you plan for aren't met. Unexpected expenses put stumbling blocks in your path. The life you thought you'd live isn't working out.

First of all, every single one of those mishaps can happen while you are employed. Being alive guarantees problems and challenges. But, retirement is the time of life when you have so much more leeway to adjust and change. Sure, disappointment may (and probably will) occur during the 20 or 30 years of your journey. But, living in fear of what may happen just sucks the joy out of your day. 

If you are smart enough, dedicated enough, and disciplined enough to retire then you are quite capable of overcoming what life may throw your way. Or, if the problem is the kind that can't be overcome, then you can adjust. Have faith and keep moving forward.

What do retired people do? They strive to eliminate these mistakes.

June 21, 2018

Preparing For Your Financial Future After Retirement

Click on the highlighted link below to taken directly to the book.

 Preparing For Your Financial Future after Retirement is a guide to the most exciting journey of your life, the one that takes place after retirement. This first in a series of three new booklet-length resources is now available.

Whether you are still working toward this new phase of your life, or already there, Preparing For Your Financial Future should be one of the resources you consult. It is an important step to take before retirement.

Taken from the pages of Satisfying Retirement, I have explored the most important subjects you should understand:

* Knowing When To Retire

* Knowing Where Retirement Income Comes From

* Knowing How Much Money You Really Need

* The Basics of Social Security

* Financial Literacy

* Should You pay Off Your Mortgage Before Retiring?

* Do You need a Professional Financial Advisor?

* What About Insurance? What Types Make Sense?

....and more. 

Available as a Kindle download, this guide is priced at just $2.99. The length is a reader-friendly 43 pages. If there is enough interest, I may also make a paperback version available in the future.

Designed to be part of a three booklet series, Preparing for Your Financial Future After Retirement covers the subjects that concern you most. 

The second booklet, Preparing for Your Active Life After Retirement will be available in July. The third booklet, Preparing To Make The Most of Your Free Time After Retirement will be available in August.

After the success of Living a Satisfying Retirement, I am pleased to offer vital retirement options and retirement advice in this new format. I'd very much appreciate your purchase of this booklet to help support  this blog, and as a resource for you. 

Positive reviews are crucial to the booklet's long term success. If you buy it and like it I'd appreciate a 4 or 5 rating. Any lower rating than that, I ask that you voice your concerns directly with me so I can fix any problems you identity.

Note: Living a Satisfying Retirement is undergoing a revision and is not available for sale at the moment until I am happy with the 2nd edition. In the meantime, please take a look at this new book available today.

June 18, 2018

Taking Care of the Caregiver: This is Vital

courtesy: pixabay.com

The Importance of Taking Care of Yourself

First, let’s dispel the myth that taking the time to take care of yourself is selfish. Self-care is always important, but never more critical than when you’re also caring for someone else. While you may feel that you must put someone else’s needs ahead of your own, neglecting what your body, spirit, and mind need is detrimental to your long-term health and well-being.

Signs of burnout include irritability, moodiness, depression, anxiety, frustration, and anger. If your energy levels dip, you’ve lost interest in hobbies, or find yourself resenting the person for whom you care, step back. Each of these symptoms is your body’s reaction to stress.

Self-care: not a reward, but part of the process

Besides preventing burnout, self-care reduces the effects of stress, and enables you to refocus. 

Increase your awareness of your daily stressors. Identify what causes you stress each day, and your physical and emotional reactions to it. Chart your symptoms for a week. Use that data to create a plan to manage your stress.

Listen to your body. When you’re tired, take a break. Cultivate a support system of family members, church and other community members, and visiting nurses to give you a break and/or provide regular respite care. 

Evaluate your caregiving work. Are there certain tasks that you find more challenging than others? Ask for help, and don’t turn it away when it’s offered. Be specific about what you need. 

De-stress healthfully
Avoid self-medicating with addictive substances, because doing so can put you at risk for serious issues like alcoholism. Stress makes it easy to drink another beer, have more wine after dinner, or reach for a cigarette or something else addictive. Instead, when you’re feeling the stress and know that it’s time to step away for a break, try these suggestions:

Schedule exercise. That’s right—add it to your calendar just like you do doctor’s appointments and other engagements. You don’t have to block out an hour every day if it’s not feasible, but aim for 20 to 30 minutes at least three times a week. Whether it’s a walk or jog around the neighborhood with a friend or partner, a solo bike ride, or a Spin class at the gym, commit to doing this for yourself.

Eat well. It’s easy to grab fast food through the drive-through, drink a mug of coffee and call it breakfast, and guzzle a diet soda for lunch. Whenever possible, though, you should reach for nutritious food that’s high in lean proteins, fiber, and vitamins and low in refined sugars, starches, and carbs. Don’t have a lot of time to cook? Prepare extra food and freeze leftovers for easy, quick future meals. Cultivate a positive relationship with a Crock-Pot or Instant Pot. A balanced diet will maintain your health and energy, and bolster your immune system.

Don’t sacrifice sleep. It’s tempting to come home and jump into the chores you’ve not had time to complete when you’re caring for someone else. But not allowing yourself time to relax makes it more difficult to get a good night’s sleep. End each day with a pre-bed routine, whether it’s reading a good book, soaking in a warm bath, or meditating. Try to unplug at least an hour before bedtime so that your brain has time to unwind, too.

Grow your tribe. Don’t discount the importance of friends. A solid support system is scientifically proven to improve your outlook. Plus, connecting with friends boosts oxytocin, which controls stress hormones and reduces anxiety.

A quick list of more self-care activities

Can’t spare more than a few minutes each day for yourself? You can still make it happen.

● Take a 10-minute walk and let the fresh air rejuvenate you.

● Set the timer for 15 minutes, pop on a favorite show, and put your feet up.

● Treat yourself. Schedule a bi-weekly massage, manicure, or whatever you enjoy that makes you feel good.

● Spend time snuggling with your pets.

● Meditate for a few minutes each day, or do yoga.

● Make time for your hobbies—whether it’s crafting, cooking, or diving into a good book.

Here are more self-care ideas you can adapt and incorporate into your life. 

This is a guest post from Harry Cline, someone with extensive experience in the field of caregiving. He is building what looks like an excellent resource at his web site: NewCareGiver.org. This post is filled with links for more information if you are interested.

Later this summer, he will be publishing a book that should be worth your time: The A-Z Home Care Handbook: Health Management How-Tos for Senior Caregivers.

Harry Cline is creator of NewCaregiver.org and author of the upcoming book, The A-Z Home Care Handbook: Health Management How-Tos for Senior Caregivers. As a retired nursing home administrator, father of three, and caregiver to his ninety-year-old uncle, Harry knows how challenging and rewarding caregiving can be. He also understands that caregiving is often overwhelming for those just starting out. He created his website and is writing his new book to offer new caregivers everywhere help and support.

Satisfying Retirement received no compensation for this post and is not necessarily endorsing any of the sites accessed by links provided by the other.

June 15, 2018

Shocking Retirement Medical Expenses: How Do You Cope?

A couple over 65 will spend at least $260,000 on medical care during the rest of their life. Even with Medicare and Medigap coverage that mountain of money is always on our mind. How is that for a figure guaranteed to disrupt your thoughts of a satisfying retirement?

My wife and I have been relatively lucky. While the American health care system is an absolute mess and not likely to get better in the near term, we have avoided big bills and debilitating problems. Betty has a series of medical issues she deals with by pushing through them, adjusting parts of her life to accommodate them, and waiting for Medicare coverage next year to proceed with some likely surgery.

I had a minor heart issue while on vacation three years ago, the normal number of colonoscopies for someone my age, an occasional bout of acid reflux which seems to be stress-related, and stiff knees and fingers. All in all, for a couple in their late to mid 60's, we have not been faced with medical issue or expense that we couldn't handle. 

What I am interested are your experiences. I have friends who are facing much more serious problems and more uncertain futures than we are. I know several of the blog readers have lived through some major medical issues that  caused real problems. My youngest brother had to go through a serious bout of colon cancer a few years ago. He is now 3 years cancer-free but that was a scary and uncomfortable time for him and his family.

What have you had to face? How did it affect your life? What adjustments have you made to your retirement? Have costs of medications or procedures forced you to ration care?

How is your attitude? What helped you get through the trials of whatever you faced? How has any of this affected your family?

What can you share to help the rest of us if we are faced with a serious, potentially life-threatening issue? 

June 13, 2018

Feeding Your Hidden Creativity [We all have it]

When I asked for new topics for this blog in the post, Where Does This Retirement Blog Go From Here?, a few suggested more about creativity. I'd venture to guess that few concepts are as misunderstood as creativity. So, let's see if I can clear up some misconceptions as well as provide a way to satisfy your desire to be more creative.

Wikipedia defines creativity as the use of the imagination or original ideas, especially in the production of an artistic work. To most of us that means the ability to paint or sculpt, play or compose music, sew unique clothing, build a beautiful wooden bookcase, write a novel or a book of poetry. The key part of the definition we latch onto is the phrase, "especially in the production of an artistic work." 

Certainly, the examples listed above are creative. Each involves a specific talent, either one we are born with, or one we study and perfect. Most of us think of being creative as a full time pursuit. A good musician, writer, painter, or chef doesn't spend 30 minutes a few times a week to at their skill. Rather, maybe a few hours a day are required. 

That's great for those of us driven to carry a certain type of creativity to its full potential. But, what about the rest of us? We don't have those skills or abilities. So creativity isn't for us, right?

Not so fast. 

Read this explanation of creativity from the web site, Creative Something, written several years ago by Tanner Christensen:

"Being creative means solving a problem in a new way. It means changing your perspective. Being creative means taking risks and ignoring doubt and facing fears. It means breaking with routine and doing something different for the sake of doing something different. It means mapping out a thousand different routes to reach one destination. It means challenging yourself every day. Being creative means searching for inspiration in even the most mundane places."

The author of this inspiring piece argues that creativity is not restricted to certain activities or certain skill sets. If I am reading his thoughts correctly, creativity can involve virtually any part of anyone's life.

You substitute or add an ingredient to a favorite recipe just to see what will happen. You find a new place to leave your car keys so you are less likely to forget them. You re-purpose an old bookcase into an entryway display case  with a mirror. You find a quicker way to a favorite bookstore. You fix a broken lampshade with clear tape and a few decals to cover the split.

Each of those examples, and thousands more we could think of show a type of thinking that certainly qualifies as creative. They describe someone solving a problem in a new way, or breaking with routine. No Frank Lloyd Wright,  Georgia O'Keeffe, Jackson Pollack, Picasso, or Ella Fitzgerald talent required.

Rather, the ability to solve a problem comes from allowing your mind to try a different path. It isn't necessarily coming up with something brand new. Rather, creativity is often just combining experience and what is known to trigger a new way to solve a problem or generate a fresh approach to something.

Huffpost had a fascinating article, Ways To Be More Creative, that should give you plenty of ideas to try. Among some of the suggestions: generate ideas based on everyday tasks, think of unusual uses for everyday items, engage with people who are different from you, become a beginner at something.

I found Creative Something to be a tremendous resource for all sort of ideas and motivation on the subject of creativity. There are hundreds of blog posts on all aspects of creativity that should inspire you to look for a new way of doing something, a new way of satisfying yourself.

I will leave you with one thought: every single one of us is creative, in hundreds of different ways. Even if you don't think of yourself this way, if you have ever figured out how to get a broken light bulb out of a lamp, found a substitute for Cumin in a recipe, used a staple remover to add something to a key ring, a bread clip to identify various cables to your audio or TV setup, put together a costume for your grandkid's school play, or figured out how to poach an egg without overcooking it, you are creative.

The engine of creativity is always working in your life. All you must do is allow it to push you to look for a new solution to an old problem, decide to perform a routine task differently, and not be afraid to experiment. 

Give it a try. I think you will be surprised at how creative you really are.

June 10, 2018

What Are Your Retirement Wishes?

That may seem like a deceptively easy question. What I want from my retirement is to be happy, to lead a fullly satisfying life. I want to enjoy the freedom that retirement seems to hold for me. I want to relax and do what I've always wanted to do.

OK, those are very reasonable responses. I wouldn't have a problem with any of them. They are fine, as goals. They are where I want to end up after a certain period of time. 

Of course, your goals may be very different. You want to start a business and make it a category-buster. Maybe you want to join the Peace Corps and spend 2 years helping starving families somewhere in the world.

You want to write that book that has been struggling to get out of you. You want to earn a degree that has always alluded you. You want to restore 1965 Mustangs or train the real ones. You want to be the best grandparent you can to your child's kids.

All great goals. What they are not is complete. Goals without plans to achieve them are really just wishes or hopes for your future.

I have written a lot about the dangers of making a retirement plan before or after leaving work and leaving it unchanged as time passes. Recently, there has been a lively discussion about how best to schedule one's time during a typical day. Certainly it is possible to over-plan, over-commit, over-volunteer. 

So, am I reversing myself? Not at all. The type of plan I refer to this time is a specific one designed to help you achieve a singular goal. It is a plan with a beginning and an end.

Think back to your days in business, teaching, retail, or virtually any way you earned a living. It is likely there was a plan to accomplish specific goals: increase revenue by 35%, cut expenses by 19%, implement new product roll out by a certain date. Teachers, you had a yearly plan to follow to cover certain subjects in a particular order. Self-employed? Same deal. I set goals the first of each year that I wanted my consulting practice to achieve.

Those plans came with steps to be taken to accomplish the objective. No one in charge would expect revenues to increase 35% without a way to reach that goal. I contend our retirement can benefit from the same mindset.

Let's say, you'd like to learn to quilt. Certainly, you'd look for classes in quilting. You'd talk to everyone you know to find other quilters. You'd do some Internet browsing, buy a few books, watch some YouTube videos. Then, you'd start working on something: a bedspread, maybe a blanket or something to display on a wall. Your goal? Finish by Christmas so you give your project as a gift.

How about learning enough about your finances that you can start making some of your own investments? The same process would be followed: gather information, talk to others, set aside a certain amount of money, and start slowly to learn what works and what doesn't. Your goal is to increase the size of your nest egg by 15% by the end of the year. Come December 31st it is easy to see if you met your goal.

Retirement often gives us the chance to set all sorts of different goals, some easy, some requiring lots of effort. To achieve what'd you like from the time, effort, and money you really should not approach a serious goal as an open-ended quest. If there is no finish line, no measurement, I think you cheat yourself out of a lot of the satisfaction that comes from accomplishing something that is important to you.

June 7, 2018

River Cruising: What is It Like?

Our home for 7 days;  Viking Mani
Most of us are familiar with cruise ships. We have seen pictures of these massive sea-going hotels. With the ability to hold thousands of passengers on each trip, taking a cruise is something an estimated 20 million folks indulge in each year. Virtually all of them feature a dozen restaurants and lounges, Broadway-like shows, casinos, rock climbing walls, swimming pools, full fitness centers, and enough shopping to bankrupt anyone.

Quite different is the experience of river cruising. With roughly 200 passengers, these 440 foot long vessels are very little like their big cousins. Instead of unlimited entertainment options on board, days are spent leisurely floating from one city or town to the next. Reading, playing cards, sitting on the deck watching the countryside pass by, and establishing friendships solidified over dinner each night and onshore excursions each day, river cruising is more  about being closer to the places you visit and the people on board.

Less than two weeks ago, Betty and I completed our first river cruise from Amsterdam to Basel on the Rhine River with Viking Cruise Lines. With a few extra days in Amsterdam before the cruise and then afterwards in the Swiss city of Lucerne, we spent 12 days having the time of our lives. 

Most river cruise ships have one restaurant, maybe a more casual choice for breakfast and lunch, a lounge for cocktails and evening entertainment, and a roof deck with plenty of chairs for relaxing. Our ship had shuffleboard and a few putting greens for those so inclined. A small but well-stocked library, a few Internet connected computers, and a couple of shelves of gift items completed the package.

Our stateroom came complete with a balcony, a TV (that we rarely used!), plenty of storage, desk and chair, excellent air conditioning, and one of the best showers we have experienced anywhere! Twice-a-day steward service kept our room clean, bottled water restocked, and turn down service during dinner each evening.

The ship was so smooth sometimes the only way to know we were moving was to look out the window. On a river, with such a large ship, there was no swaying or motion sickness to contend with.

The crew was absolutely on top of their game: friendly and efficient. After just two days, we were greeted by name more often than not; one of the benefits of 200 passengers instead of 3,000.

Each day included a stop in a city with a walking tour lead by a competent local guide. We visited the Anne Frank Museum in Amsterdam, a windmill site in Holland, Mannheim, Cologne, Heidelberg and the Black Forest in Germany, plus Strasbourg in France. Along the way, dozens of castles loomed over us from the steep hillsides that line portions of the Rhine.

Yes, we were that close to the wall
Actually, one of my favorite memories was passing through eight locks along the river. As the ship slipped into the slot, we were literally no more than 6 inches from the sides. As water filled the lock, we slowly rose 20 feet to meet the new level of the river.  I sat on our balcony or stood on the deck experiencing this fascinating display of engineering and skill.

The flight time to and from Phoenix was tough. On our last day we awoke at 6:30am in Lucerne and weren't home until 8:30am Switzerland time, the next morning, making for a 26 hour day. 

Even so, the friends we made and the places we saw made the effort worth it. Here are just a sampling of the thousands of photos Betty and I took on this memorable journey.

Amsterdam canal at night

More Amsterdam

Kinderdijk Windmills
Cologne, Cathedral 
The famous Anne Frank House and Museum

Local guide with traditional wooden shoes

Cologne at Night

There are dozens of castles along the middle Rhine

How to make cuckoo clocks
How to sell cuckoo clocks!
Strasbourg, France

These last few pictures are from Lucerne, Switzerland and while on a sightseeing cruise on Lake Lucerne. Yes, those are the Swiss Alps in the background.

June 4, 2018

Turning Off Politics, Turning On My Sanity

One nice benefit of being in Europe for almost two weeks was the ability to not pay attention to the scandals, breathless updates, and the heated rhetoric of our politics. Yes, I occasionally had wireless Internet in some places, but with no daily newspaper and no desire to ruin what was a marvelous trip, I stayed away from most of what passes as news today. I was vaguely aware of what was happening back home, but chose to ignore it. After all, I was looking at towns and villages hundreds, maybe even thousands of years old that had withstood much worse.

Of course, arriving home, the morning paper and the daily flood of  inflammatory headlines took their toll. It didn't take long to try to suck me back into the alternate reality of Washington. My brief dose of cleansing was over.

Or was it? 

I really felt a peace during that break from what passes as news today. I don't like to live with my head in the sand. I think part of the responsibility I have as a citizen is to know enough of what's going on to have an opinion and voice it when appropriate, vote when possible, and even protest if that is best.  But, to wallow in it, be surrounded by it, and buffeted by the almost endless expressions of anger or distrust, is exhausting.  

My thinking about how closely I want all of this to touch my daily life is undergoing an adjustment. I realize that swimming in that pool all the time means I can't avoid constantly being wet. Allowing political news and the daily flood of what is happening to be always in front of me is not serving a constructive purpose. 

A good analogy may be how I watch baseball games. There are times I turn off the TV before the end. I know whether I pay attention or the not  the final score will be what it is. My attention to the very last pitch won't change the ultimate outcome.

With our present state of affairs my awareness of every ebb and flow won't change what is eventually going to happen. Probes, investigations, judicial proceedings, lawsuits, whatever will be will be whether I am paying full attention or not.

The European pace of life, living on a ship cruising down a river, is not my normal life. I know that. But, can I bring some of the feeling of separation and calm home with me?

I'll find out.