July 30, 2018

Home Modifications For The Visually Impaired - A Complete Guide

While everyone's situation is a little bit different, here are some simple, low-cost changes you can make to the spaces your visually impaired loved one spends the most time in.

If their vision is gradually diminishing, you can start making these changes ahead of time for added convenience. If the vision loss is sudden or you have a child that is visually impaired, there are adaptive techniques you can learn to help your days go by smoothly.

Home Modifications for Those With Low Vision

If your loved one is living with visual impairment you will want to outfit your home in a way that will make life more efficient. Thankfully, many of these modifications are low cost and can be fairly easily implemented. It’s just a matter of knowing the basics and planning.

Adjust the Lighting

You will want to provide plenty of light in the areas of the home that are used for recreation, reading and socializing. Light should always be aimed at the point of focus, i.e., where you will be doing work, not at the eyes. Tips to help provide adequate lighting around the house include:

     Adding floor and table lamps around the living room, dining room, kitchen and bedroom. Clip-on lights can be placed strategically around the house for added convenience.
     Use lighting that is 60-100 watts. Replace burned out bulbs regularly so that you are able to see better.
    Allow for natural light throughout the home by using adjustable blinds or sheer curtains.
     Experiment with lighting to find out which works best for your individual needs. There is halogen, fluorescent, incandescent or flood lighting and most people will prefer different ones. It’s worth noting that fluorescent light does bother many visually impaired people.
     Make sure light is uniform throughout your entire hallway to more easily identify where it curves or ends.

Eliminate Safety Hazards

Feeling safe inside your own home is important. There are a number of things you can do to prevent falls and other injuries—and most of them are quite simple. You can:
     Keep desk and table chairs pushed in and train your family to do the same. All of the time. No exceptions.
     Use non-skid, non-glare products to clean and polish your floors. Avoid waxing floors, which can make them slippery!
     Remove low-lying objects that might be trip hazards such as coffee tables and end tables.
     Ensure there are no cords in any of the pathways so that you don’t trip.
     Make sure electrical cords are removed from pathways or taped down securely.
     Tape down any area rugs you have and replace any worn carpeting or floor coverings.
     Keep all floors dry and wipe up any spills immediately.
     Install grab bars or safety rails in high-slip areas like your bathroom or on the stairs.
     Mark step edges with yellow reflective tape so that you can easily identify them.
     Always keep your fire extinguisher and first aid kit in the same, easily accessible place.
     Make sure all exits are marked with a bright, contrasting color in case of emergency.
     Have smoke and fire alarms checked often, and ensure they are loud enough that you can hear them in all areas of the house.

Use Contrasting Colors

Keep the color principles top of mind as you prepare your home. Know that bright colors are often the easiest to see since they reflect light. Solid, brighter colors such as orange, red and yellow are more visible than their muted counterparts.

     Use brightly colored vases, lamps or sculptures to help identify where key pieces of furniture are.
     Avoid upholstery and rugs that are patterned. Stripes and checks can create confusion for some people who are visually impaired.
     Use color to indicate changes in surface level (such as on the stairs).
     Use contrasting colors to warn about places that may be hazardous or require extra attention (such as fluorescent tape on the inside of doors or cabinets that may be ajar).
     Color-code household items you use often or bills and documents you may need to work with. (Brightly colored post-it notes work great!)
     Use dark, solid colors as borders around white or light objects (such as a light switch). This will help it to stand out.
     Place dark objects (like chairs) in front of lighter colored walls which will also help these items to stand out.
     Avoid using clear glass dishes and cups, as they are more difficult to see.
     Paint door knobs and door frames a bright color so that they are easier to see.
     Use a different color of paint on the ceiling than the walls.
     Use solid (non-patterned) rugs to help you identify different areas of the home.

Create an Organized Environment

If you keep your home organized it will be easier to find things when you need them. It can also eliminate any tripping hazards and reduce frustration when doing everyday chores. Here are some tips to help you say organized:

     Label, label, label. Label everything in your home, from reusable bottles to hangers for clothing to on/off switches. You can even label cabinets!
     Use drawer dividers and closet organizers to separate clothing.
     Label clothing with the letter of the clothing color on the tag.
     Develop a system to keep food and toiletry items organized. Always keep these items in the same place and label them as necessary.
     Always keep chairs and other easily movable furniture in the same place.
     Use large numbered devices for telephones, timers, calculators or anything with numbers that need to be seen.
     Train family members to respect the organizational system you’ve developed. Explain to them why and how it helps you.

Home adaptations for visual impairments are meant to enhance your home and make it easy for you to do the daily tasks you need to do. We hope you found some of our ideas helpful and they make a positive difference in your life.

This post was provided by Hireahelper.com a web site designed to help you locate and arrange for moving services. Satisfying Retirement received no compensation for this post nor does its publication imply endorsement of any of the companies included. 

July 27, 2018

What Was The Smartest Thing You Did to Prepare to Retire?

This is logical follow up to the previous post, What was the Dumbest Thing You Did in Your Retirement Planning? After admitting a mistake or miscalculation, let's turn our attention to what worked so well we'd like to brag a little about it.

I will start the ball rolling with what allowed us to retire after my business failed and then transition into a satisfying retirement. It was a decision that seemed difficult to accomplish at the time. But, without it, I might still be living for a paycheck.

When I married my wife, Betty, I was 27 years old and not making much money working for a radio station in West Virginia. She had a job that paid about as poorly, but with careful budgeting we were doing OK. 

The "smartest thing" was to start a savings plan in our very first year together. Frankly, I don't remember how much we set aside though I am sure it wasn't substantial. What was important was establishing the habit of paying ourselves first. We bought mostly zero coupon bonds which were quite popular then and provided for tax-free growth. As my income grew so did the contributions.

Regular investments continued for the next 24 years. Starting seven years after our marriage  I also set up an IRA account. The two large companies that employed me had defined benefit retirement plans. Too bad I didn't stay long enough at either job to have it make much difference.

When I started my own business I began a Keogh plan. Later, my company contributed to a retirement plan. Importantly, that IRA had its last contribution in 2001 but I have yet to start taking any of the funds that have been growing for 35 years. The Required Minimum Distribution law will force me to start withdrawing money next year when I turn 70.

That means that from 2001, when I retired, until Social Security payments started in 2011, Betty and I lived off the savings account we began in 1976. As I noted, we haven't touched the IRA money at all. Inheriting some money from my parents starting in 2015 certainly helped delay the start of the IRA drawdown. But, that had no effect on our ability to live for 10 years strictly on our savings. 

Did we skip some of the "toys" that those around us were enjoying? Sure. Old cars, smaller TVs and vacations in tents or a small popup camper suited us. We were cautious by nature and determined by decision. 

The end result was a savings account healthy enough to retire when we did, and an IRA account that will take care of us from next year forward.

How about you? What was the smartest thing you did to prepare to retire? If you are still working, what have you done to get ready? It certainly doesn't have be financially-oriented. Maybe it was earning an advanced degree. Or, maybe you decided to skip college and run with your great idea. Who knows? The "Smartest Thing" can be almost anything that worked for you.

Let's share our ideas and successes so everyone can learn.

July 24, 2018

What Was The Dumbest Thing You Did In Your Retirement Planning?

Am I restricted to just one mistake, one dumb decision? Well, for purposes of this post I will hold myself to just one of many dunderhead moves.

Who forgets to plan for health care costs?  Me

The dumbest thing I did in my retirement planning was forgetting to allow for health costs. For someone who is dedicated to budgets and paying attention to finances, this was a very large boo-boo.

For the twenty years before retiring in 2001, my company paid for our family's health care. One of the pluses of being a corporation is the ability to have the company pay some of the expenses of the employees and their families.. The costs are treated as an expense by the corporation and are not taxable to the individuals. 

In my defense, even though I was the corporation and wrote the checks every month to pay our family's health care costs I wasn't paying close attention to yearly increases, which were modest compared to today's situation. Plus, I was so used to not thinking about health insurance, I left it out of the retirement budget!

Within 6 months, my oversight became painfully obvious. I was receiving a bill that had no money allocated to pay it. The costs for me, my wife, and two college age daughters was high and ratcheting up every year. The future trend was clear even then: a for-profit health care system meant rates would only increase, along with all the other expenses of health care.

Because we were buying insurance on the individual market I had to find $500 a month in 2002 and almost $600 a month in 2003, just for the premiums. When our daughters graduated from college the costs dipped by a few hundred a month, but then started climbing again, eventually topping out at 25% of our income for health costs.

What could I do? Since I was living off investments and savings, I had one logical choice: cut expenses. Three cars became two. Meals out several nights a week became once every seven days. Yearly trips to Hawaii ended. A reassessment of wants versus needs took place. I squeezed the budget to make room for health care costs.

Everything worked out. We discovered we liked a simpler, pared down retirement lifestyle. I learned my lesson and made sure health care was in every budget from that point forward. Of course, the insane increases of the last several years made me readjust again, until Medicare relieved some of the pressure when I turned 65.

Even now, 18 years later, I can look back at the first year's budget and get the shudders. Missing something that obvious was really dumb.

Your turn. 

Your retirement planning oversight doesn't have to be as major as mine to share, though if it is I might feel a little better! It doesn't have to be financial, either. Maybe you moved because you thought you'd love the mountains, and learned the thin air gives you a permanent headache. Or, maybe you thought you'd love to be close to the family....until it became clear they had their own, very full lives without a lot of time for you.

What is on your retirement wall of goofs?  


The second in a series of three new booklet-length resources is now available. Preparing For Your Active Life After Retirement is a guide to the most exciting journey of your life, the one that takes place after retirement.

Whether you are still working toward this new phase of your life, or already there, Preparing For Your Active Life should be one of the resources you consult. I'd appreciate your support.

July 22, 2018

The Loss Of A Loved One

An unpleasant reality for many of us who are married or in a long term relationship will be the likelihood of facing the death of a spouse or partner. Women tend to outlive men so we usually think in terms of widowhood. Interestingly, recent longevity studies show a chance in this accepted pattern: men are closing the longevity gap.

A study released a few years ago on trends in the United States reports that over a ten year period expectancy for males grew by 4.6 years while the predicted lifespans for women rose by less than 3 years. Women still live, on average five years longer than men, but that gap is narrowing. The point is becoming a widow or widower is a life experience that may confront just as many men as women in the years ahead.

I have been asked to address the topic of losing a loved one. It is a subject fraught with intense emotions and life altering consequences, but one I don't feel adequate to address on my own. A guest post submitted a few years ago continues to resonate with me. It deals with this subject from the perspective of a person who can speak about it from first-hand experience, I have posted it here for you to read and consider.

If you are single you might find some value in the author's words, too. You undoubtedly have friends who are married. These suggestions may give you a little guidance in helping a friend through this process. 

4 Practical Ways To  Prepare for the Loss of a Spouse
Denial Won’t Do, Warns Author-Widow
The sound of silence was the most haunting for Thelma Zirkelbach on her first night home after her husband’s death. “I’d lost my husband, but I hadn’t lost his voice, I told myself,” says Zirkelbach, who had spent so many nights the previous year at hospitals with her husband Ralph, who died not long after being diagnosed with leukemia.

 “I picked up the phone and there was no dial tone. If the phone was dead, Ralph’s voice would be gone forever.” Through her panicked daze, after having sunk to the floor with her spirits, she realized the phone jack was unplugged. She plugged it in and heard his voice one more time through the answering machine. It would be the first thing she fixed around the house without Ralph’s help in decades.

“There were many moments like that in the year after his death. One of the things I had to learn was to find help from many people, whereas for most of my adult life I had the help of many in one man,” says Zirkelbach, author of “Stumbling Through the Dark,”  a memoir about an interfaith couple facing one of life’s greatest spiritual challenges.

Loving couples wince at the thought of losing their spouse and may even deny the idea despite a terminal medical diagnosis, but accepting the possibility helps in preparing for the years that follow, says Zirkelbach. She offers the following tips for doing that:

 Consider the best way for all loved ones to say good-bye: Ralph’s family comes from an evangelical Christian background, whereas Thelma is Jewish. Memorial services are designed for the surviving family and friends, and Zirkelbach held a service at her synagogue, which was filled with friends and colleagues. “Make sure you do all you can to best say goodbye in your own way, which may include your religion or some other ritual,” she says.

 Take stock of the necessary services you’ll need to replace: In many ways, Ralph was an old-fashioned Midwesterner who was a handyman around the house, moved heavy boxes, dispensed with unwanted critters like cockroaches, and acted as a one-man security system. He also provided smaller services in which a companion can help, such as fastening necklaces. Since Ralph’s death nearly eight years ago, Thelma has hired her current handyman, air conditioning technician, accountant, financial advisor and attorney. 

 No matter how independent you are, accept the fact that you may need emotional support: Soon after her husband’s death, Zirkelbach joined a support group for widows and widowers and found solace in the company of others who had loved and lost. At one point, the group leader connected with members by saying they were blessed to have loved someone enough to mourn them. “His statement turned grief on its head,” she says.

 Nurture your spiritual life: “I have become ‘more Jewish’ during my widowhood,” she says. “When I was a child, Judaism was part of the background of my life, like the Muzak you hear in elevators but don’t really listen to.” Now, however, religion has moved to the forefront of her life, and she adds she is thankful for the strength her faith has given her. “Yes, in spite of loss, I have still found joy in living,” she says.

Author Thelma Zirkelbach has been in private practice in speech pathology, specializing in young children with speech, language and learning disabilities, for many years. She began her writing career as a romance novelist. Her husband’s death from leukemia in 2005 propelled her to creative non-fiction. Her web site is Widowsphere: A Circle of Hope.

Satisfying Retirement received  no compensation for this guest post.

July 20, 2018

Now Available: Preparing For Your Active Life After Retirement

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

Whether you are still working toward this new phase of your life, or already there, Preparing For Your Active Life should be one of the resources you consult.

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

* Preparing for Your Active Life After Retirement

* How Do You Know When To Retire?

* Why Do We Make The Choices We Do?

* What’s Best: Aging in Place or a Retirement Community

* The Best Place for You to Retire

* Searching For Your One Great Passion May Be a Mistake

The Best Place for You to Retire

* Making Peace With an Aging Body

* The One Thing No One Tells You About Retirement

....and more.

Available as a Kindle download, this guide is priced at just $2.99. The length is reader-friendly and just over 40 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 Active Life After Retirement covers some of the subjects that concern you most. 

The third booklet, Preparing To Make The Most of Your Free Time After Retirement will be available in late summer.

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.

NoteLiving 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 these new booklets available today.

July 17, 2018

What Don't You Miss From Your Youth?

There was a tremendous response to What Do You Miss From Your Youth?  It seems everyone had a lot of fun bringing back memories of all sorts from more carefree times. I enjoyed  the comments because they stimulated all sorts of memories for me, too. If you haven't taken the time to read all the comments, do yourself a favor and click the link above. What fun.

Several readers suggested the flipside of that post: What Don't You Miss From Your Youth? What happened when you were younger that you are glad is over and done with? What was in your past and should stay there? 

Again, like the previous post, let's keep things more fun or silly than serious. I will start with some of mine:

1. Junior High dances. Boys on one side, girls on the other. Awkward and terrifying. 

2. Piano Lessons. I did play the clarinet for 10 years and enjoyed that instrument. But, the piano lessons with a woman who was unhappy most of the time....not so much.

3. The day each fall that Daylight Savings Time ended. That was the saddest day of the year for me. Cold, snow, darkness at 4:30 in the afternoon, no playing outside. I hated what that day signified.

4. The parental rule about only one Coke per week. Oddly, today I rarely have a soft drink. But, then, it was a hated restriction. 

5. Having to wait for my parents to take me to the library. 

6. Summers were too long...I liked school and looked forward to the new year right after Labor Day. 

7. Living in houses with no air conditioning and sharing one bathroom with 5 people. Ugh! 

8. Tent Camping. I enjoyed everything about Boy Scouts, except camping. It was always cold or wet, the ground was hard and bumpy, and of course, I always had to go to the bathroom multiple times overnight which meant, leaving the wam sleeping bag, getting dressed and walking into the woods!

9. My afternoon paper route when it was snowing. We lived up a hill and about a mile from where my first customer lived. Pulling a wagon through snow, fully loaded with newspapers, was not my thing.

10. Dating (very much like point #1). I was scared of talking to girls, didn't have much social confidence, was in the geek group at school. Dating was painful and therefore very infrequent.

OK, your turn. What are you glad is a fading memory?

July 14, 2018

What Do You Miss From Your Youth?

This might be kind of fun, thinking about what was memorable or important while growing up, but is no longer part of your life. Let's keep our responses more fun than serious!

To get things started, here are some of the things I miss from my childhood:

1) Sunday nights with Ed Sullivan. Beatles and Topo Gigio..need I say more?

2) Store not open on Sunday. Family drives, picnics, church.

3) No cellphones. No spam calls, no interruptions 24/7.

4) Howdy Doody, Captain Kangaroo, and Leave It To Beaver

5) Winnie the Pooh and his friends. 

6) More bikes, fewer cars.

7) Lionel model train sets. Then, HO gauge. Not as impressive, but a layout could fit on a normal piece of plywood. 

8) Allowed one soft drink a week, but my brothers and I got to pick the day. My parents had a thing about soft drinks and our teeth.

9) My weight and physical fitness were of little concern. No matter what I ate I remained thin and never ran out of energy.

10) Home delivery
 of the mail. What's junk mail?

11) Taking the train somewhere. Or, piling in the family station wagon for an 8 hour drive to the grandparents' home.

OK, your turn. What made your childhood memorable?

July 12, 2018

Is Your Retirement an End or a Beginning?

That is a good question with an important answer. Retirement is both an end and a beginning. It is a transition between two phases of life. Whether that is a positive or negative change is really one of attitude and expectations.

For many of us, our job, our career, the time we spent earning a living came to define us. The people we worked with may have been the core of our social structure. If married, our family's life revolved around work commitments. Vacations happened when there was a lull in the schedule. Weekends may have been at the mercy of mandatory staff and management meetings. For those of us who traveled a lot, being home was more about catch up than relaxation and family. Hobbies or passions? No time.

When someone asked what we "do," we had a ready answer: a description of our place in a company or industry. Raising a few children, being married or engaged, working on a novel....that wasn't implied in the question. The "correct" answer was always related to our income.

For us, the start of retirement was the end of something: an easily defined, socially acceptable place in the scheme of things. For a period of time, we may have struggled to figure out who we were without the title. The answer to what we "do" became hesitant and poorly defined. 

For others, retirement was a beginning, the conclusion to a life of work,
a clean break between two stages of life: one externally focused, the other internally. What had paid the bills and produced enough investments to  stop was enjoyable and fulfilling. We liked our work. But, we knew life held something different for us. We were created for more. We embraced the break.

Maybe we worked at something because it was required to support us and others. The job was a slog to be endured. Nights and weekends meant a small taste of freedom. We wondered what else might satisfy us. When a chance to retire became more than a dream, we jumped across the break between the two ways of living, sure that something good lay before us.

How we mentally approached retirement was quite different but the final result was the same: another way of life. A poll on this blog asked "if knowing what you know now, would you have retired sooner than you did?"  62% responded that, 'No, I retired at just the right time." 

To me, that is a good measurement of satisfaction. Whether the respondents initially saw retirement as an end or a new beginning, more than 6 out of 10 are happy with the timing. Add the 15% who wished they had begun their satisfying retirement earlier and there is an obvious conclusion: retirement could be both an end or a beginning, but however it was approached it is a welcome stage of life.

"Officially," I am now into my 18th year of this part of my life.  I loved my career and have tremendous memories. I entered retirement with some fear and uncertainty. It took a few years to find my stride. Now, I am exploring all I can be. Each part of life was quite different from the other, but I needed the first stage to realize the blessings of the second.

If you'd like to read more, here are a few articles to inspire you:

Is Retirement an Ending or a New Beginning?

Life After Retirement: What Do I Do Now?

The first in a series of three new booklet-length resources is now available. 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.

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.

July 9, 2018

What if Your Retirement Life Was Reviewed Like a Movie?

What if our satisfying retirement was like a movie review? Others watched your life unfold and gave you two thumbs up, or down. Rotten Tomatoes gave you a 65 or 95 or .....45% approval rating. You were open to constant retirement advice.

Actually, in a sense, this happens everyday. You are on stage, in all sorts of public settings where others are observing you: the coffee shop, grocery store, auto repair shop, or drug store. OK, in most cases people are not "reviewing" you. Actually, most of the time, they are so focused on themselves they are ignoring you.

But, if we can imagine for just a few moments, what would a "person reviewer" say about your life after retirement? Let's take a few of the normal ways a critic judges a movie and apply it to our life.

Originalityin a movie it is usually important that there be something original about the plot or the characters. The director has found some different way to tell a familiar story that the audience finds memorable. Sure, there are sequels that work well, but even they need a fresh twist on the original story.

A retired life well lived is very similar. If we try to copy someone else, live someone else's life, or just follow the standard path even if it doesn't suit us, we will miss what being truly alive is all about. Each one of us has a unique set of skills, gifts, and personality. Our lives must reflect that to be truly alive.

Character Development: I am sure we have all seen movies where the characters never come alive. Either the words they speak are wooden and unnatural, or the plot never forces them to change. The movie is no more than a still photo repeated for two hours.

One definition of character I found says it is the mental and moral qualities distinctive to an individual. As we age, we change. We gather life experiences. It would be unusual for someone to be exactly the same at 20 or 30 as he is at 60 or 70. Life has its effect on us, both for good and bad.  And, like a well-written movie script, we deepen and grow because of what happens. The key question becomes whether your character is developing in a way that represents the core of who you are. 

Musical Score: Music and sound can really enhance a movie. In some cases a certain musical presentation is what is most memorable. If I mention the movie, Jaws, don't you think of that sound when the great white is getting closer to the swimmer? Or, how about the theme from Star Wars? For many of us those notes are filled with memories.

Most of our lives aren't quite as dramatic as those two examples. But, think of a musical score as that part of your life that enhances the main story. Maybe it is a beautiful smile that lights up a room. It could be you are always there when a friend needs help or comfort. You can tell a joke at just the right time to defuse a tense or uncomfortable situation. These attributes aren't all your life is about, but they certainly add color and meaning to your life story.

Comparison to others in the same genre: Movie critics will often compare a particular type of movie to one that came before. Romantic dramas may be compared to Casablanca. A new tough-guy male actor has the performances of Clint Eastwood or Sylvester Stallone lurking in the shadows. A jilted fiancee might be seen through a comparison to Meg Ryan in French Kiss.  While sometimes unfair, it is inevitable that a new movie will have to compete with the past.

In human terms, we are always being compared to others. What type of career did we have, how big is our home, what do we drive? Our consumer-driven economy is based on creating desires for things we don't have. However, a satisfying retirement is very often built around a rejection of that mindset. As we mature and realize what really makes us happy, things we buy or possess often retreat into the background. Experiences, contentment, a more simplified lifestyle, or stronger relationships with others become the "things" we care more about.

Ultimately, we may see a movie even if a critic give it two thumbs down. Personally, I tend to disagree with the "experts" most of the time. Movies that score poorly I like while blockbusters often leave me cold.

Should I (or you) care what type of "review" others may give my life? No, not really. I am confident enough in my own decisions and self awareness to not worry too much about a less than blockbuster review. Importantly, though, I try to listen whenever an opinion or suggestion is offered.

Improvement in all areas of my life is my goal. I may not agree with it, but I will take retirement advice from all sources and then decide. I must be open enough to a script suggestion or a new way to enhance the music score that enriches my life. 

Lights - camera - action! 

July 6, 2018

An Important Lesson About Life: From My Granddaughter

I had my 69th birthday about two months ago. When the first number in my age is still a six I can think of myself as older middle age. But, next year when that six is replaced with a seven, I am officially in the old category.

I mentioned to my granddaughter that 70 would feel like I had reached the top of the roller coaster track and what lay ahead was a fast, scary, downhill run to the bottom. 

She quickly told me my concern was misplaced. Amazingly perceptive for a nine year old she said, "Granddad, the fun part of the ride is when you go down! That's when it gets really exciting!"

Wow. That immediately stopped me in my tracks. She was absolutely right, not only about roller coasters but about what is to come. The exhilarating part of the experience can still be ahead. Her one, heartfelt comment summarized everything I have been writing about for over eight years: that we choose how we approach this stage of our life. As long as we can, we explore, grow, engage and stimulate all our senses. 

Obviously, just like a roller coaster, our ride comes to an end. We may have all sorts of technological wonders and amazing medical care (if we can afford it), but we still have an expiration date waiting for us.

We can dwell on that end and some of the unpleasant things that may lie ahead, or we can throw our arms up into the air, screaming with excitement and feeling the rush of life through our veins as we grab all the joy we can.

I can't think of a better analogy than the roller coaster's plunge down the hill. Thank you, granddaughter, for giving me a fresh look at what lies ahead.

The first in a series of three new booklet-length resources is now available. 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.

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.

July 4, 2018

What Have We Lost?

As the drumbeat of scary, disturbing, upsetting, anger-inducing, even deadly events greet me after a week away in the Arizona Mountains, it becomes harder to think of pleasant subjects appropriate for a blog about the best time of life. Somehow writing about vacations, finding a fun hobby, or a new book seems almost flippant. So, I am going to vent a bit in this post, and then likely go back to what you came here for: retirement lifestyle advice.

I began my radio career as a newsman at the ripe old age of 15. My expose to news gathering and being careful in what I covered started at a very tender age. 

College included a few journalism classes, as well as a major in International Relations. I spent 4 years learning about diplomacy, history of wars and conflicts, the role of geography in shaping politics, and in using strength for positive purposes. 

During that time, many of our country's leading diplomats had graduated from the same school I attended. I could see firsthand the proper use of words, policy and compromise in helping shape the world. Of course, I also saw the disasters of things like the Vietnam War or the Civil Rights horrors, too. People are people and really bad things will happen.

I give you this background to help you understand my dismay at the current state of affairs. With the shooting at a Maryland newspaper and death threats against at least one Congresswoman as just the most recent events, it seems obvious that the rhetoric of the past 18 months is turning more deadly. Certain people feel emboldened to turn political slogans and dangerous talk into horrific actions.

Let's admit that there has always been biases in some of the media. After all, people are charged with viewing or interpreting an event or the words of a speech into a concise recap. Each of us has a way of seeing things that can color what we think, say, and do. Our response is filtered through our world view.

Yet, as someone who is a bit more of an insider in this field, with some training and exposure, I belive that the vast majority of people involved in the media approach their responsibility to be honest and accurate very, very seriously. Credibility is hard to earn and nearly impossible to regain once the truth is given short shift.

In today's hyper-politicized environment, some media outlets have determined that being opinionated and driven by one ideology or another increases profits and influence. Fox News on the right and MSNBC on the left have abandoned much of the "truth and moderation" premise of legitimate journalism. 

Some newspapers, magazines, radio networks or individual commentators chose their "side." The idea that used to dominate most of journalism: being centrist, moderate, and restricting opinions to the Editorial page, is slipping away. Economically, journalism has become a business that understands niche marketing: picking a target audience and super-serving it.

What is most dangerous is the recent decision by many of us that something we disagree with, or find goes against our beliefs, must be "fake." That word means the information presented is not real, it is fiction. Anything that doesn't support what we believe to be true is to be ignored and dismissed. By declaring information we disagree with as fake, we are declaring that we know the ultimate truth, with no margin for error.

There is no chance that what we think might need to be reexamined. There no possibility that we can be wrong about something. There is no possibility that a leader's statements are not true, but are made to stimulate a violent, non-thinking, unquestioning response of "the base" whether that is on the left or right. Anyone who suggests otherwise is the enemy and is open to an angry, maybe even violent reaction.

As a society, when we get to the point where anyone who disagrees with us is the enemy, in a very real and physical sense, I suggest we have drawn a line that will be very hard to erase.

If the only response to a different opinion, interpretation, or the truth of a matter is one of violent rejection and vilification, we are no longer experiencing a democracy. If one story, or one point of view is unquestioned and treated as words from the Oracle, with death to those who see something differently, what have we lost?

When the rhetoric, on the right or left leaves no room for anything other than ostracizing, degeneration, suspension of rights, silence of dissent, even killing in the name of what is correct, where are we?

If someone argues that it is about time one side of the argument stopped being put down and marginalized, turn-about is fair play, and it is their time to promote "truth," I think we are close to losing this experiment we began 243 years ago. If truth becomes open to interpretation, if facts are either real or alternative, much more than the media is under attack. One loud voice from Washington recently said that we are headed to a civil war. He left no doubt as to which point of view should "win."

I find Fox News to be pandering and immoral in their dismissal of anything that doesn't support their political and profit positioning. I find nasty attacks and biases from MSNBC and CNN just as wrong. Importantly, I fully support their right to do what they are doing. That is called democracy.

But, never in my worst nightmare, did I think we would be debating what is true and what is fake. And, never did I think that certain misguided citizens would vent their frustration against what they disagree with politically with a gun or bomb.

Are those who attack the media or resort to violence against others not terrorists? Do we find attacks against citizens in another country a crime that deserves the ultimate punishment, but find inciting violence with words and deeds against fellow citizens in our country simply our right to express our anger?

I will most likely be dead in 20 years or so. My fear is not for me. It is for my children, my grandchildren, and their children. It is for the unborn who may find themselves in a world where one way is the only way or where their ability to think and debate and reason is a crime.

What have we lost? I am afraid the answer is becoming clearer. Some will argue that we have been through periods in our history worse than this and have rebounded. Sorry, but this feels fundamentally different and much deeper.

By the way, I picked the July 4th holiday period to write this post, on purpose. What we celebrate on this day is what may be slipping away: Independence.

OK, rant over. Back in a few days, on target and calmer.