September 27, 2018

Attention: A Prescription for Happiness From a Dog

Several years ago I asked my wife, Betty, to give her thoughts on some aspects of the satisfying retirement we have been living. Her post was well received and generated lots of good comments. Even though it is 5 years old, her thoughts remain very much on target.

Hold it...It is my turn!
I think Bailey, our dog, became a little jealous. Several times since that post appeared she has forced her way onto my lap while I attempted to use the computer. In her own subtle way she was letting me know she had some things to say. Since she has no thumbs to hold down the shift key, I had to type for her, but I think this captures the heart of her message to us all:

*When loved ones come home, always run to greet them with a kiss;

*Never pass up the opportunity to go for a joyride and smile;

*Allow the experience of fresh air and the wind in your face to be pure Ecstasy;

*Take naps;

*Stretch before rising;

*Run, romp, and play daily and play ball;

*Thrive on attention and let people touch you;

*Avoid biting when a simple growl will do;

*On warm days, stop to lie on your back and roll around on the grass;

*On hot days, drink lots of water and lie under a shady tree;

*When you're happy, dance around and wag your entire body;

*Delight in the simple joy of a long walk;

*Be loyal;

*Never pretend to be something you're not;

*If what you want lies buried, dig until you find it;

*When someone is having a bad day, be silent, sit close by, and nuzzle them gently.

Thanks, Bailey.

Actually a friend of a friend sent this list of what a dog could tell us. It has been floating around the Internet for quite some time from some unknown source. It is hard to argue with this simple plan for happiness and contentment.

Here is another dog story that may or may not be true. But, no matter, again it teaches us a good lesson:
"Being a veterinarian, I had been called to examine a ten-year-old Irish Wolfhound named Belker. The dog's owners, Ron, his wife Lisa, and their little boy Shane, were all very attached to Belker, and they were hoping for a miracle.

I examined Belker and found he was dying of cancer. I told the family we couldn't do anything for Belker, and offered to perform the euthanasia procedure for the old dog in their home. As we made arrangements, Ron and Lisa told me they thought it would be good for six-year-old Shane to observe the procedure as they felt that Shane might learn something from the experience.The next day, I felt the familiar catch in my throat as Belker's family surrounded him.

Shane seemed so calm, petting the old dog for the last time, that I wondered if he understood what was going on. Within a few minutes, Belker slipped peacefully away. The little boy seemed to accept Belker's transition without any difficulty or confusion.

We sat together for a while after Belker's Death, wondering aloud about the sad fact that animal lives are shorter than human lives. Shane, who had been listening quietly, piped up, "I know why." Startled, we all turned to him. What came out of his mouth next stunned me. I'd never heard a more comforting explanation. It has changed the way I try and live.

He said, "People are born so that they can learn how to live a good life -- like loving everybody all the time and being nice, right?" The six-year-old continued, "Well, dogs already know how to do that, so they don't have to stay around as long."

          * Falling down is part of LIFE...
          * Getting back up is LIVING...
          * Don't complain about growing old…
          * Not everyone gets the privilege

Thanks, Bailey and Betty

September 24, 2018

Mistakes Men Make Before and After Retiring

Men Making Mistakes. How's that for a provocative premise for a post? Well, there are two obvious reasons I want to address this subject:

1) Most blogs are written by and for women. I am one of the few males writing a non-financial retirement blog. I can speak honestly about my gender's retirement issues.

2) I am pretty sure this will generate some interesting comments that should provoke some fascinating discussions.

Obviously, it would be dangerous for me to write about mistakes women make before and after retiring. That wouldn't go well so I will stick with my own sex. Several of the points I make can apply to both men and women but, I will focus on guys for now. I am pretty sure female readers will be glad to add comments that cover any issues I have missed and if a problem listed is not exclusive to one sex.

I certainly hope some of my male readers (of which there are many... over 40% of the total readers) will join to defend, explain, or agree. So, let's have a little fun as we learn together. Just, please, no nastiness or name-calling. I am a sensitive guy.

A) Mistaking work identity for own identity. This leads the list as a serious male problem. We spend years building a certain image and identity at work. It could be as a top sales producer. It may be that we are seen as dependable and hard-working. For some it could be considered being the best negotiator in the bunch. For others it could be someone willing to take on the tough jobs or risky ventures. Being well known in one's industry can be a goal. 

Unfortunately, that often means our other identities are relegated to the back seat. Husband, father, son, dependable friend...are not the first ways we think to talk about ourselves. Yet, aren't they the roles that will outlast the job? Aren't they the ones that should truly define us?  When you leave work won't you be forgotten pretty quickly? 

Your last quarterly report, your excellent organizational chart, your hard work ethic and loyalty might have made you feel worthy. I suggest that being worthy of others' love and respect is much more important. I sincerely wish I could have learned this lesson quite a long time before retirement. Being a "success" in my career could never equal being an active part of a family. I missed the importance of balance between the two parts of my life.

B) Beginning retirement without a plan. Let me ask a few questions: would you tackle a problem at work without thinking through the options and outcomes? Would you set up an investment and savings plan without any research or investigation? 

Of course not. Retirement requires the same vigor. Beginning a stage of life that could last 20 or 30 years without some idea of where you are going or want to accomplish is unwise. An effective plan would include the proper managing of your finances. But, it should cover so much more. Thinking through relational issues, the amount of travel you envision, where to live, and how to use the roughly 2,600 hours of extra time you gain each year from not working five days a week must be addressed.

Importantly, a satisfying retirement will require a constant adjustment of the choices you have made. An passion or hobby loses its hold on you. A health issue causes changes in living styles or travel plans. A major financial shift in the country's fortunes means a budget reshaping is in order. You discover a creative outlet that suddenly calls out for fulfillment. Volunteerism suddenly enters your mind.

Beginning any major project without an initial idea of what you want to accomplish would never fly at work. Neither will it upon retirement. Too many men think retirement means the days of plans and goals are over. I will admit it took me almost two years to put together a semblance of an approach.

C) Upsetting the apple cart at home. The number one complaint or fear of a spouse who is at home is the tendency of their male partner to retire with a goal of improving the "efficiency" of household operations. Many men assume that the organizational approach used at work is easily transferable to the retired environment. The "plan" is developed and implemented....problem solved. 

Nope. Retirement doesn't work that way. There are too many moving parts. There is likely another person involved who has her own system for managing the household. As the new kid on the block, we must learn the system and make suggestion gradually and with consent of the other person.

A similar fear is that the person retiring assumes he has earned the right to relax and not participate in household chores and duties. Big mistake. The other person has probably been working at a job before coming home. If not, raising children and/or maintaining a home is a more-then-full time job. If someone needs a break, it is probably your partner.

D) Not sharing financial information with spouse, partner, or family. I have written a lot about this mistake. Not giving your partner the information needed to keep the financial ship afloat in the event of a major illness or death, puts her (or him, or them) in a perilous position. If you haven't shared where passwords are kept, how to pay bills on line, when taxes are due, and who handles investment information, the person suddenly in charge is in a pickle.

If you don't have a will and power of attorney along with a health directive in place, your partner may be unable to execute your wishes. She (or your family) may be unable to pay the bills if checking and credit card accounts are not properly designated. 

If you have always handled the money stuff, make sure your partner, or a trusted relative can step in when needed. Guys...give up total control to help protect those you love. Admission: my wife is uncomfortable with financial stuff so she hasn't pushed me to tell her everything she needs to know. This remains a work in progress. 

OK, I will stop here. There's no reason to pile on! I have several more "mistakes" that guys make regarding life before and after retirement, but it is time to let you have your turn.

Women: add your thoughts, comments, and anything I missed.
Guys: defend, refine, agree as you see fit.

I am guilty of all four of these flaws. I stand at the head of the line. Hopefully, my wife of 42 years will agree there has been some progress as we take our retirement journey together.

September 21, 2018

The Empty Nest Isn't So Empty

They have been called boomerang kids, often between 21 and children who end up moving back in with mom and dad. Sometimes the return is brief, for others it becomes an extended stay. I was surprised by the statistics: 15% of parents with grown children say one of their adult sons or daughters has moved back home in the past year. During a bad economic period, up to 40% of college grads are back with their folks a full year after graduation. 

Obviously, having an adult child move back home presents both challenges and opportunities to your satisfying retirement lifestyle.  Beyond the basic change an extra person makes to your day-to-day routines, space use, and costs, there are other important issues that need to be addressed.  Consider the following if you have an adult child ready to move "home:"

Protect your retirement assets. The worst thing you could do it tap deeply into what you will need to help your child out. If you are retired, or soon will be, you do not have the time to build those funds back to the level you have determined you will need. While you may feel pressured to bail your son or daughter out with the money you have in your 401 (k)) or IRA, don't do it. That advice comes from every financial source I could find on the Internet and makes complete sense to me.

If you do provide some money, make it a loan, not a gift. If you are able to help your child out while he or she attempts to get back on their feet without tapping your retirement money, then by all means do so. But, the suggestion is to loan the money rather than making it an outright gift. You will feel more like a partner in helping your child. And he or she will feel more like an adult than a child, still getting gifts from mommy and daddy. Establish a regular repayment schedule and charge at least some interest.

Charge room and board. Yes, I know she is your own family member. But, for the same reason you should loan money instead of giving it to her, the fact is she will increase your living costs. Charge a monthly rent that is well below normal market rates. But, the extra money will help you with the increased food and electric bills. Paying something toward those costs will help the child's self-respect, too.

Agree on basic ground rules. The new "tenant" should help with some household chores, handle his own laundry, offer to go food shopping on occasion, and help with the cooking or cleanup. If you prefer a neat home, insist that her living space (and yours) remains that way. What about bringing over dates or friends? 

What about "sleepovers" with members of the opposite sex? Decide well ahead of time the answers to these questions.

Insist that he or she actively look for a job or whatever it takes to become independent again. Lying on the coach while watching 6 hours of TV a day,  playing video games, or sleeping until noon is going to cause problems....quickly. Agree before the child moves in what is a reasonable plan for moving back out again.

Set a timetable. There should be some sort of "finish line" to this arrangement. Set a time-based limit, or when a certain income level has been met. Of course, you may need to be a bit flexible with this requirement. But, a timetable does help motivate the returning child to become creative in solving his problems. That may mean 2 or 3 part time jobs and living with a roommate. It may mean sharing a car or relying on public transportation. If there is a projected end to the boomerang phase, both parents and child have a goal to aim for.

Treat your "child" like you would an adult renter, not as his parent. It is quite likely he or she already feels bad about having to move back with mom and dad. Don't compound that by reminding him whenever possible of that fact. Respect his privacy, opinions, and needs. Realize that while she still wants your respect, she doesn't really need your permission. If he is following the ground rules you have both agreed upon, then take off your parent hat.

On the positive side, if your relationship with the returning child is good, this may be a tremendous time period together. Your "child" is an adult in opinions and actions. You can enjoy him or her for who they have become. The need to "parent" has diminished. The time is there to enjoy his or her uniqueness. It also feels good as a parent to help a child in time of need.

Having an adult child move home when he or she has lost a job, suffered the end of a bad marriage, or is recuperating from a serious illness will change you life, and theirs. By establishing fair and clearly defined rules and obligations it can be a time of discovery and a time of deepening relationships. It could be a tremendous plus for your retirement lifestyle.

If the adult child moving back has a spouse and/or a child, the change is more dramatic and the topic for another post.

Have you experienced the "boomerang" effect? Do you have any ideas or suggestions we can benefit from? Even if an adult child of yours has never returned home, I'll bet you have some opinions about the subject. Here's the place to let it fly!

September 20, 2018

My Summer Goal is Complete

I began the summer with a goal: to produce three booklets that are focused on different aspects of retirement. I wanted them to be shorter than a full length book, so someone could read the material quickly and  begin to implement the suggestions. I wanted to keep the cost under $3.00.

Now, just as autumn begins that goal has been met. Preparing To Make The Most of Your Free Time After Retirement is now available on Amazon. A look at the Table of Contents shows the focus of this edition:

  • Adjusting to Time Together
  • What Do You Do all Day?
  • Can You Spend Part Of The Year Away From Family?
  • Preparing Your Home For an Extended Absence
  • Retirement Fulfillment: Are There Different Paths?
  • Free Time and Aging Well: Nine Things To Consider
  • Do You Ever Get Bored?
  • Maintaining a Balance In a Retirement Relationship
  • Simple Sizing
  • Easing Into Retirement
  • 5 Things We Can Stop Worrying About
  • Spirituality and Retirement
  • Grandparents and Establishing Limits
  • A Retire Builds His New Life
  • Taking The Time To Live
  • Retirement and Your Social Network
  • Why Spend Your Free Time in Retirement Being Average?

The two other booklets in the series include Preparing For Your Active Life After Retirement

and Preparing For Your Financial Future After Retirement. 


Each includes information taken from the posts of this blog, are somewhere between 44-55 pages and available as Kindle downloads.

If you enjoy this blog and find the information helpful to you, I ask you for a favor: consider purchasing one or more of these booklets. Besides containing solid advice that I trust you will find useful, you'd be helping to cover some of the costs associated with this blog, now in its 8th year. 

The various ads you see from other companies on the blog generate enough income for copy paper and printer ink! So, booklet sales are important.

If you do decide to buy and read one or more, I'd deeply appreciate a positive review on Amazon. They are very important to long term sales.

As Satisfying Retirement closes in on 3 million views, I am as dedicated today to providing actionable, experience-proven information and advice as when this started in 2010.

Thank you for your interest and support.


September 17, 2018

Can You Retire With Less Than a Million Dollars? Absolutely!

$1,000,000 is the minimum you need in your investments accounts to have a satisfying retirement, according to many retirement advice sources. Others say you need something north of $2 million to rest easy.

As regular readers know, I tend to push back against such generalizations. How someone can draw a line in the sand and tell you what you must have or must do without knowing you and your situation is silly.  I offer suggestions and advice based on my experiences and feedback from readers, but I hope I am never guilty of telling you "my way or doom."

That being said let me offer some thoughts on how the non-millionaires among us can still retire and enjoy a fulfilling and stimulating life. Again, I will say these are thoughts from me. They may not work for you, or you may have even better ideas which I sincerely hope you will leave as comments below.

In the interest of full disclosure I will state that with all my assets, minus my almost non-existent debt, Betty and I are technically millionaires. But, I have never thought of myself that way, and honestly, I live my life denying that fact. I live my retirement years on a nest egg that I see as several hundred thousand dollars below that figure. Why? To give me a safety net if everything starts to fall apart and to keep me from making the mistakes that I see too many others making: living for wants and instead of a balance of needs and wants.

How to retire without a million dollars is really quite simple: adjust your lifestyle to what you have to work with. That includes any 401(k) or IRA accounts, any other investment accounts, Social Security, the value of your home or other real estate, projected inheritance (if any), and part time or full time income.


1) The vast majority of us can substantially lower our everyday expenses after retirement. The average of those surveyed for one of my books is much closer to folks living on 50% of their pre-retirement income. Betty and I are closer to 40%, even though we live well and are much happier than when my salary was into six figures. Possessions and things don't motivate us nearly as much.

2) For unexpected emergencies and expenses set aside enough to live for 6 months, or pay for a large emergency. Remember, even if you have insurance for whatever the problem, you will probably have to fight for that money and/or wait months or years to be reimbursed. The worst scenario is to max out credit cards or a home equity loan.

3) Simplicity and retirement can often go together. Most of the retirees I come into contact with, both in real life and through the blog, have downsized both possessions and desires. Less really is more: more time, freedom, and flexibility. Keeping up with the Joneses becomes very unimportant.

4) Adjust your expenses based on two things: changes in your investments and changes in your lifestyle. This is rather obvious. When my investments were earning 8-10% my income and spending options were different than they are with something closer to 3%. And, Betty and I are very happy with simple meals, simple pleasures, and simple living.

5) Accept that the condo on Maui and extended cruises may be out of reach. Rejoice in all you can do. With a nest egg of less than $1,000,000 and upwards of 30 years left to live, your ability to live a very satisfying life is quite likely. Focus on what you do have and what you can do. Even if you live almost solely on Social Security and must count every penny, remember you are still better off than at least 80% of the rest of the people on this planet. We have so many opportunities and blessings we can lose sight of how good we really do have it.

6) Aggressively protect your health. As I age I realize how incredibly crucial this is to the rest of my satisfying retirement. Taking shortcuts now in terms of foods I eat, exercising, and regular health checkups will cost me later, and I don't just mean monetarily. I mean in my mobility and freedom to do what pleases me. I mean in how much of a burden I place on loved ones.

It is hard for me to explain completely how much more fulfilling and satisfying my lifestyle is today on 60% less money than I once earned. As soon as I adjusted my mindset to living and not spending a load was lifted and my life took on a whole new depth and sweetness.

How much do you need to achieve this same state? I have no idea and I'm not going to give you a figure. That is for you to determine. But, I will tell you the experts are wrong: you can be happy and productive without achieving whatever is the latest magic number they are promoting.

September 13, 2018

Work Burnout: Am I Done Yet?

Work Burnout. A while ago ago a reader asked me to address the issue of feeling that work has become a real chore and how that affects the decision to retire. To retire just because you have had a rough stretch at work or you have a strong urge to chuck it all is usually not wise. Launching a satisfying retirement takes planning and is a process that should begin well before you accept your last paycheck.

At the same time, staying employed after your mental and physical well being begin to suffer is not wise either. I found several excellent web sites that might help you take a fresh look at your situation to determine if your problem requires action.

What are some of the signs that help you know it is time? Here is a short list that may help you decide if you are on the road to burnout at work:

  • Every day is a bad day.
  • Caring about your work or seems like a total waste of energy.
  • You’re exhausted all the time.
  • The majority of your day is spent on tasks you find either  dull or overwhelming.
  • You feel like nothing you do makes a difference or is appreciatated

At I found a burnout quiz. Answer the twenty questions and the results are summarized to help you determine if you are at risk for at work burnout. Scientific? No. Something I'd use to decide whether to retire or not? No. Helpful to look at your situation? Yes. Just by answering the questions you have the chance to think through your condition.

At the site, Business Insider you will find a basic description of the 12 stages of burnout. Taken from an article in Scientific American, this strikes me as a good starting point to assess your situation.

The Mayo Clinic web site has an excellent review of the subject. For example, they suggest to ask yourself these questions:

  • Have you become cynical or critical at work?
  • Do you drag yourself to work and have trouble getting started once you arrive?
  • Have you become irritable or impatient with co-workers, customers or clients?
  • Do you lack the energy to be consistently productive?
  • Do you lack satisfaction from your achievements?
  • Do you feel disillusioned about your job?
  • Are you using food, drugs or alcohol to feel better or to simply not feel?
  • Have your sleep habits or appetite changed?
  • Are you troubled by unexplained headaches, backaches or other physical complaints?  

  • The site continues with overviews on what causes job burnout, who is most at risk, the consequences of ignoring the problem, and importantly, how to handle it.

    From personal experience I can say that I did suffer from many of the symptoms of job burnout a few years before I retired. My radio consulting business was in serious decline for a few important reasons: I had stopped trying to learn anything new in my field and was content to just offer the same solutions to client problems that had worked for the previous 15 years. I simply wasn't motivated to put in the effort to "grow" my knowledge, and that meant a slow death for the company.

    Secondly, I was sick of the travel, being away from home all the time, and knowing my marriage and family life were suffering. I saw no reasonable way to continue doing my job while protecting my relationships. So, my wife and I decided it would be best to close the business and take an early retirement.

    It is important to note that this decision was not made hastily. For the better part of a year I struggled with the financial aspects of retiring at least 7-9 years before I thought I should. Betty and I discussed all the pros and cons of my retirement and what affect it had on her work, too. My personal identity was tightly wrapped with the business. I had no hobbies or passions waiting for me. 

    But, the decision was one of the most important I have ever made. I was on the road to ruin and needed to get off before i crashed my life and my marriage. Work burnout is real and powerful. Just be sure you have thought everything through. A satisfying retirement does not follow automatically.

    September 10, 2018

    A Satisfying Retirement with Limited Resources: Can That Work?

    Here are two retirement questions that are asked regularly: 
    "If savings and investments are not sufficient to live the way I hoped to, can retirement still be a happy experience?"
     "If I must depend on Social Security for the bulk of my monthly income, what are my prospects?" 

    I grew up in America. I was taught that continuous consumption is good and essential to our way of life. I learned that money is necessary and powerful. I believed that more money and possessions equaled more happiness.
    Without questioning the reasons or justification, I bought the "work hard, make lots of money, and you are a success" mantra.

    I was misled. Not until my retirement did I understand the real correlation between one's financial situation and happiness:

    a) consumption is not always right, nor is it connected to a positive way of life.
    b) money is not necessarily linked to importance or power.
    c) money and possessions do not equal happiness.

    With that foundation, let me answer the two questions:

    Yes, and sound.

    I'm not trying to be flippant. Rather, if nothing else after 17 years of retirement, the experience of writing this blog and interacting with tens of thousands of people, I have been allowed to see some serious fallacies behind the assumptions most of us carry with us.

    Sure, having investments or a pension that produce a reliable income and savings that can cover a significant crisis, lifestyle changes, monetary help for family members, or a way of satisfying some bucket list wants is nice. All of us would probably prefer that situation. 

    But the reality is, not all of us do. Many of us don't even come close to that dream. Among all retirees, 21% of married couples and 43% of singles rely on just Social Security for 90% of their total income. That equals tens of millions of people. Of course, there are way too many who are desperately poor due to a combination of factors that I can't adequately address in this post. 

    But, for those who might ask the questions that opened this post, what do these folks do? How do they spend their retirement years? Is it possible to be happy and have good prospects?

    My most crucial suggestion has nothing to do with money. It has to do with accepting adjustments. Maybe you thought your retirement would include travel, perhaps even a vacation home, lots of meals out, season tickets to the ballgames or orchestra.....whatever you pictured in your mind.

    That isn't the way things turned out. That is the reality. But, it doesn't have to dictate whether your retirement is happy or not. It shouldn't make you feel like you're "failing" retirement because you can't do what others can. Your financial resources may set boundaries on retirement, but it absolutely doesn't have to determine what happens within those boundaries. That is still within your control.

    Sure, living solely on Social Security or a smaller savings account means you may have to change your living arrangements: living with family, having a roommate, living in a manufactured home instead of your apartment or house. Your food choices will be more limited, but as we age, we eat less and require less to maintain a healthy weight.

    The number of free things you have access would overwhelm most people in the world: libraries, concerts, educational classes, health clinics, meals, and activities at the local senior center. Oh, and let's not forget one of the real joys of life: interacting with family and friends doesn't have to cost a penny.

    Discount prescription drugs are increasingly available. Most senior centers schedule low-cost day trips to the type of places tourists may spend hundreds of dollars to visit. Need a massage or hairstyling? Go to a local barber college or massage school. You are likely to find vastly reduced prices since students have to perfect their skills on someone.

    For many, the spiritual side of life provides comfort and a sense of belonging. Churches and other organizations offer friendship and support. Even if you prefer to walk a spiritual path alone, your beliefs provide support and purpose to your life. This fits any budget.

    Access to a computer opens up an endless world of knowledge, games, interactions with others, videos, studying a subject that interests you, and learning a new skill. If your budget doesn't stretch enough to cover an Internet service, every library in the country has computers available for use by anyone. 

    Is your smartphone eating up too much of your budget? Several companies offer a basic talk and text service for a fraction of what the big boys charge. Can't justify the cost of a streaming service like Netflix?  I'll point you back to the library with thousands of DVDs available to take home. 

    In addition to adjustments, I will add one more "A" word to this post: Attitude. Being happy and content is an internal function, a decision made by you. It has nothing to do with finances. Sitting in a park on a beautiful day, eating a peanut butter sandwich and washing it down with a bottle of water costs virtually nothing. Still, it can add a tremendously positive experience to your day. 

    Financial resources do not have to determine how satisfying a retirement lifestyle is. Too many people don't believe that and end up dispirited and defeated. Don't accept that as your fate. 

    A satisfying retirement and limited resources can work. Trust me.

    September 6, 2018

    5 Things A Retired Person Learns About LIfe After Work

    Retirement means moving into a new phase of life. It means learning (or re-learning) some important lessons about living. It means accepting that you must be flexible enough to adapt as things change. The end result is a satisfying retirement. Five simple (yet important) lessons all retirees learn:

    1. Life is all about change. 

    I am the world-champion of lists and predictability. Sometimes, my family jokes that I had my spontaneity gland removed at birth. So, if I can embrace change anyone can. There are several times during your life that change moves to the forefront: leaving home, starting a career, marriage, divorce, birth of a child, moving to a different home. Retirement is on that list. Your self image, how you approach your day, what parts of your personality start to assert themselves....all of these and much more change after you leave your job behind. After a time, most of us learn to not only accept the changes but embrace them.

    2. Time management is very important to happiness

    When you leave work you leave schedules. commitments, and deadlines behind. That sounds fabulous, and it is. Yet, with that blank schedule come a dilemma:  how do you fill your time? Do you attempt to stay as busy as you were on the job or do you decide to spend long hours in a hammock, reading? Do you find yourself somewhat stressed at the end of the day because you were over-committed? Or, are you bored because there isn't enough to keep you engaged and stimulated?

    How you use the priceless gift of time in a way that makes you happy will be one of the most important steps to a satisfying retirement lifestyle.

    3. We are defined by who we are, not by what we did. 

    The first time someone asks you the universal question, "what do you do?" what will your answer be? It was easy while working. We described what our job was. Well, do you say, I'm retired." Usually that prompts an "Oh, that is great. What do you do all day?" How will you answer?

    Retirement is when the answer to that question is an important indication of how you feel about the experience. Is it, "Not much. I read a lot and go shopping with my wife," or, "I am so busy. I write, volunteer at the grandkids school, joined a bridge club, go the gym most mornings...I don't know how I fit it all in every day."

    This is the stage of life when you are not defined or limited by what you do to get a paycheck. It is when your true self is allowed to blossom. It is when all parts of what make you the unique person you are can be explored and nurtured. 

    4. Relationships are worth the work.

    Of course, this is true before retirement. It's just that when you spend more time with someone you would prefer that those times are something to look forward to. A less-the-healthy relationship can expose any weaknesses more easily and make time spent together more stressful.

    This applies to spouses and life partners, but also close friends. If you are single, your network of support probably includes at least a few people you consider friends. They are the ones to turn to when you want feedback, validation, or simply a shared cup of coffee. Even if you spend most of your time with a spouse or partner, we all need contact with others to fulfill some of our needs.

    A retirement with few friends and an unhappy home life is rarely satisfying. Putting in the work needed to maintain strong, positive relationship is time well spent.

    5. Financial stability is important but money alone can't buy a satisfying retirement.

    If there is one message I have been consistent with over the past 8 years of this blog, it is that money is only one part of a satisfying retirement lifestyle. True, without a solid financial foundation you either can't retire. or you must live under some serious restrictions. Everything is built around having enough resources to start this new phase of life.

    But, basing everything on the size of your nest egg is a mistake. Life is a complex combination of factors, all of which are part of retirement. You have the time and ability to develop intense interests and hobbies, give back through volunteering, build lasting friendships, explore the importance of spirituality to you, see the world or your part of it with fresh eyes, and satisfy yourself.

    If you only focus is on money, you are not living the full life you could. You are allowing fear of the unknown keep you from the joy of the new.

    How many of these core lessons have you learned? How many are on your to-do list?

    September 3, 2018

    A Social Media Code of Conduct --Wouldn't That Be Nice?

    I don't spend a lot of time on social media. I dropped Facebook a few months ago because of all the privacy and security concerns. Plus, I wasn't using it very much anyway. I do have a Twitter account, strictly for promotion of the blog, the podcast, and my books. That's it. No Pinterest, Snapchat, or Instagram. 

    Obviously, all of social media has come under some type of scrutiny over the past few years. The use by "bad actors" to incite violence, influence voters, spew hatred or unfounded conspiracies has been well documented. Recently Facebook and Twitter have deleted millions of fake or spammy accounts. As I write this, a well known conspiracy blogger and podcaster has been booted off several sites.

    Though by no means solved, an increased focus on their customer's privacy concerns has begun to show some progress. Hacks continue and private data is being sold. But, the spotlight on these abuses means they are going to diminish.

    All that got me to thinking of a code of conduct for social media. If the companies themselves and the majority of users of Facebook, Twitter, et al, agreed to some basic ways of using media and interacting with each other, how much more pleasant our online life would be. How much more productive and constructive being interconnected would be.

    About seven years ago I had a post about a blogger's Code of Conduct. Blogger, RJ Walters, had his code prominently displayed. As I reread that post, I thought how well such a code would help social media become more civil and encouraging.

    I am under no illusion that this way of conducting oneself is likely to happen. I think we are too far down the road to turn back the tide of garbage that washes over us....unless we accept the premise that one person can change how he acts and interacts with others. That one person then influences another to act in a civil and productive manner and so on.

    Can baby steps reform everyone? Not likely. But, we can only control our own actions and mindset. We are not responsible for how others think and react, only how we respond.

    RJ's Code of Conduct:

    I welcome your comments to anything I say. But I will not allow others to use my blog to vent their bitterness. As long as you comment by the code below I will post them for others to see.

    • I will express myself with civility, courtesy, and respect for every member of the this online community, especially toward those with whom I disagree—even if I feel disrespected by them. 

    • I will express my disagreements with other community members' ideas without without insulting, mocking, or slandering them personally. 

    I will not exaggerate others’ beliefs nor make unfounded prejudicial assumptions based on labels, categories, or stereotypes. I will always extend the benefit of the doubt.

    While RJ wrote this with his blog readers in mind, it would seem to be a framework for use of social media.

    All bloggers decide if they want to permit comments to be left after a post. Some decide the blog is more of a personal journal, so someone else's comments don't really fit. But, most blogs encourage and actively solicit comments...I do.

    It is certainly OK to disagree with a blogger. or someone on social media. It wouldn't be very interesting if every comment simply echoed whatever the post was about and agreed with everything that was said. A different point of view can open up a meaningful exchange of ideas and solutions to problems.

    But, if you spend anytime at all on the Internet you have come across comments that are downright nasty. Ideas aren't just disputed, but the attacks become personal. Name-calling and denigrating someone's honesty or integrity take place. 

    I wish this simple statement of online behavior was one more of us followed in our daily life, not just when on social media. I am afraid the concept of respectful disagreement is being drowned out by the shouts and rants of angry people, fully believing he who yells the loudest and longest wins.

    An important belief is extending the benefit of the doubt. That means someone accepts the possibility that he may be wrong and the other person may be right. It means accepting that, as a human being, each of us has incomplete knowledge. We are not infallible.

    Common decency, or open and constructive debate are held hostage by the extreme fringes on either side of an issue. Trying to reach a consensus is required in a democracy. For whatever reason those with the strongest opinions are those least likely to grant it to those who may disagree with them.

    Is this a pipe dream with no real possibility of happening? Probably, but doesn't everything start with just one voice?