August 29, 2022
That is a good question. More than twelve years after beginning all this, I don't have a simple answer. The average American marriage lasts just over eight years, four years shorter than I have been blogging. That is a scary thought. Certainly, it is satisfying to see something I have written on the Internet pulled up during a Google search. That doesn't pay for printer ink or downloaded photos, but, there is some validation there.
I guess there are a few parts to the answer to why I keep doing this. First is my need to write. A blog gives me a reason. I know myself well enough to know I don't have the patience or drive to write a novel or even a nonfiction book. A long-time friend of mine has written two mystery novels, both of which I bought and enjoy. It has been a joy to watch his writing improve and his lifelong dream become fulfilled. It was hard, stressful work for him. That path is not for me.
Six to seven hundred words a few times a week is not a lot of heavy lifting. It scratches my itch. Finding a topic usually isn't a problem. Since Satisfying Retirement covers so many topics, I have few restrictions on what can be written about. Committing to something fresh every three or four days gives me the structure I need.
Politics is generally avoided. That subject is so overdone that it is almost always guaranteed to generate more heat than light. Religion and sex, the two biggies to avoid in polite conversation, are not often the focus of a post either. That leaves quite a few topics I can pick from.
Honestly, another reason is I sincerely enjoy reacting to the comments left on the posts. I know some bloggers don't respond, but that couldn't be me. if someone reads what has been written and then actually takes the time to add his or her thoughts, I feel it would be unseemly to not recognize that effort with one of my own.
It is interesting to watch the flow of readers into and then away from the blog. I guess this is rather typical, but almost all of the folks who commented on posts of say, six years ago, have been replaced with a a new set of regular participants. If I am still doing this three or four years from now, I imagine there will be a new crop. I guess regular readers just feel the need for freshness and find new blogs to read. Or maybe there is a change in their daily schedule that makes active participation more difficult.
I sometimes wonder where the people who were here earlier in my journey, have gone. Are they still reading but just not leaving their thoughts? Have they grown tired of retirement as a topic and simply moved on? Since I am a proponent of change, I am not disappointed or upset by this turnover. I am just a little curious. Of course, an obvious answer is podcasts. They are drawing millions each day; that is certainly a home for former blog readers.
Blogging is one of the best ways I have found to expand my horizons. I will write a piece that seems to be coherent, on target, and answers the questions that prompted the post in the first place. Then, a reader will leave a comment that adds an entirely new thought or poses a question I hadn't considered. Someone will write something that shows me a direction I hadn't even thought about. Maybe a comment will send responses along a certain tangent that opens up an entirely new path.
Each time this happens I am instantly, and very publicly, reminded that I have a lot to learn. It is clear that my thoughts are not complete. I'm also continuously impressed with the effort that people put into their comments. There is obvious thoughtfulness happening. The comments are meant to enlighten, educate, subtly criticize, be supportive, or allow someone to share a personal experience that relates to the topic.
The final reason I keep blogging is probably a little silly and exposes a problem with my ego: I don't want to disappoint those who make this blog a regular part of their Internet time. I am not sure if that is a sense of responsibility or simply like feeling needed.
Importantly, another reason that I still blog is pretty far down the list. But, in all candor, I felt the need to expose it. As I noted above, blogging is forced learning and maybe a bit of therapy. Until I am all-knowing and completely healed of my delusions there are reasons to keep at it.
That suggests I will be here awhile.
August 25, 2022
Maybe it is because I turned 73 three months ago. Perhaps it is because various aches and pains have become more of a part of my daily life over the last six months. Possibly it is because we are about to start visiting local retirement communities.
Whatever the cause, I have been thinking more about aging and how it is, and will, affect my future. I am not alone in this journey toward important decisions, and trying to do everything within my control to make things smoother. It occurred to me that a few posts dealing with some of the choices I must make can be helpful to you, too.
So, here is the second in that series, after Part One from several weeks ago. As always, your opinions, thoughts, and questions will be significant in my decision-making and allow this virtual community of retirees to share our experiences, fears, and options.
Not surprisingly, studies show that nearly 90% of us want to age in place for as long as possible. As the comments from the previous post made clear, staying at home comes with some costs and the possibility of putting you or your family in a difficult position. So, this is not a decision to be taken lightly.
Let's assume that you have weighed the costs, benefits, and risks of staying put and have decided this is what you want to do for now. What can any of us do to make our current home safer and more convenient? What planning steps do we need to budget for to be able to stay home? Some of these topics were raised in the comment section of the previous post, but I wanted to have all considerations in one post for your convenience.
Unless you have already made modifications to your home, condo, apartment or bought a place with aging in place already in mind, most need changes to make the space safe and accessible. Here are some of the important things I have been considering:
This list is not exhaustive but should give you a good start in deciding if you can make your house into your age-in-place home.
August 21, 2022
During a bout of nostalgia not too long ago, I thought about three people who entered and then left my life at various times. For very different reasons, each left an indelible mark on my life. Without knowing it at the time, each added to my development and my future.
The first person who came to mind was the unforgettably named Tilly Waite. She was my fifth-grade science teacher. She was a diminutive woman with a large, dark wort just above her lips with a voice loud and harsh enough to demand attention, even from a young boy. The fact that a female was teaching science may have been a little unusual in late 1950s America, but that had nothing to do with her ability to stick in my memory for over sixty years.
Ms. Waite was the first teacher I remember who encouraged, no, actually demanded, independent thinking from her students. Ten-year-olds are not used to that. We were of the age when the authority figures in our lives told us what to do and think. We followed the rules, memorized for a quiz, and kept our heads down.
Not in Tilly's class. What did we know about galaxies, why gravity works, or how to mix a few chemicals together to cause a volcano to spout? Our minds weren't really equipped to consider theories and rules of nature. Yet, by the end of that school year, she had stimulated something in me that turned me into a life-long learner. She prodded me to think on my feet, consider alternative scenarios, and never simply memorize something, without understanding the why.
Jump ahead to my Sophomore year in high school and into my life walked John Durkin. He was my AP creative writing teacher and certainly the most important influence on my desire to write. He was simultaneously stimulating and sarcastic with a strong English accent and, strangely, a facial wort similar to Tilly's. He never met a paragraph he liked, a metaphor that wouldn't make him cringe, or a student he didn't love and encourage.
Frankly, I do not (Mr. Durkin didn't like contractions) remember any specific part of that class that opened up the joy of the written word. Instead, it was simply in a room for 45 minutes with someone who made his passion real and accessible to his students.
The following year I became editor of the school newspaper, something beyond my abilities and interests before John. I have been writing ever since.
The third person is the man who gave me a chance to prove myself when I desperately needed it. After almost six years as a radio DJ in Syracuse and suburban Boston, I was in a professional rut. Playing records and saying something clever in 15 seconds was fun but was not satisfying anymore. I needed a real challenge, and Bill Freed gave it to me.
|Studios on the third floor...no elevator|
He responded to my application for the position of Program Director for his radio station, WCLG, in Morgantown, West Virginia. After flying me into town for an in-person interview, he graciously ignored my silly long hair and tweed sports coat and offered me the job. Becoming a Program Director was a big deal, a significant step forward.
The Program Director is responsible for almost everything that is broadcast on that station: who to hire and fire, what music to play, how often the news is broadcast and by whom, ideas for contests, and an overall sound good enough for the salespeople to sell commercial time, pay the bills, and make Mr. Freed happily.
In terms of population and influence in the radio industry, Morgantown was a serious step down from the likes of Syracuse and Boston. In radio, size does matter. Yet, for me, it was a giant leap forward. To be given control over what the 25,000 folks living in Morgantown would hear every day was the step that helped open up a career path that would never have been possible without that first, big break.
I should add that Morgantown had two other factors that made my decision to move to northern West Virginia a wise one. My favorite uncle, the man I was named after, lived there. He was the head of the library system for West Virginia University. After becoming established, Uncle Bob and I would regularly meet for lunch at the place in town where most professors and business leaders had their meals. Sitting at the same table and noting the stream of people stopping by the table to exchange a brief word with Bob was a magnificent experience. I felt like a gown up.
The other factor that made Morgantown so memorable happened on a blind date just ten days after arriving in town: I met Betty Montgomery. A few years later, Betty agreed to add Lowry to her name; she became my wife and the mother of my two daughters. Forty-Six years later, we remain husband and wife.
If Bill Freed hadn't agreed to take on a completely untested radio nerd to run his radio station, my life would have been very different. Mr. Freed died of cancer at the too-young age of 62, in 1979. To his memory, I am eternally grateful.
Three people, three unique individuals, three major impacts on my life. They left their mark and I remain indebted all these decades later.
August 17, 2022
Recently, I read a quotation from philosopher Eric Hoffer that grabbed me with its simplicity. Consider his thought: "Our frustration is greater when we have much and want more than when we have nothing and want some."
In other words, the more we have the more we want, and with greater determination. The mindset that "there is never too much" is more likely to infect someone who is already starting with an overflowing basket.
I find that both depressing, and very true. In most instances, human nature is pretty predictable. In our developed economies the acquisition of stuff, the accumulation of power or influence, and the desire to ascend the social totem pole drive too many of us too much of the time.
What compels this imbalance in our personality? Is it nature or nurture? Did the way we were raised in regard to money and possessions shape us? Or, does our daily barrage of social media, advertising, and peer pressure warp our values over time? Do we even notice the pressures all around us to conform and do our part to support the economy?
I don't pretend to know the answers. But, one of my weekly writing prompts produced some questions that might help us get a firmer handle on what is going on. I will give you my personal reaction to a few of them, and then ask you to add your experiences and thoughts.
What do you remember your family saying about money during family conversations? I grew up in a comfortable, middle-class suburban household. Therefore, money was rarely talked about. I know my dad struggled with steady employment for much of his working years. But, my mom's teaching kept things steady and any financial problems were never discussed in front of the three boys. We were not a family that spent much on non-basics, though a yearly family vacation was normal.
I heard occasional stories of life during the Great Depression. I know my dad had to sell vegetables door-to-door to help support his family; an orange was a typical Christmas present. I picked up the idea of avoiding the power of instant gratification through examples but not formal instruction. Financial basics through osmosis were more like it.What is your first memory of making money for yourself? How did it feel? I guess I was born with an entrepreneurial streak. I remember having a paper route early on. Living in Ohio at the time, winters were cold, long, and snowy. My route started at least a mile from my home at the bottom of a long hill from our home. Instead of bags over my shoulders, sometimes dragging a wagon filled with papers was required
August 13, 2022
I guess I shouldn't be surprised; I have just completed my first few visits to a physical therapist. I know people younger than me who had a problem that required P.T. sessions after a car accident or a knee replacement. Frankly, though, I never thought of me needing their services. Indestructible Bob!
After a painful and irritating bout of sciatic nerve pain, my doctor prescribed a medicine to help me manage the discomfort. It did, to a point. But, I suggested a physical approach rather than a more potent pill. My continuing goal is to stay away from prescription drugs whenever I can. Dealing with the symptom instead of the cause is not the way I prefer to go.
Doc agreed and set up a physical therapy appointment at a facility not far from my home. I will admit I was pretty apprehensive. I pictured a session with a tough woman named Helga, who berated my shrinking muscle mass, flabby underarms, and disappearing butt. She would have me sweating and grunting in short order.
None of that happened. The person I was assigned to was a he, young enough to be my son but easy to talk with. He asked all the right questions, typed furiously on his laptop, and began an exam, not unlike a chiropractor with strong hands.
It didn't take him long to determine my hamstrings were too tight, my core and flexibility needed some work, and my symptoms certainly fit the definition of sciatica. Then he answered the most critical question: Medicare would pay for as many sessions as I needed to relieve the pain and regain strength in my leg.
He prescribed four simple exercises to start. I am to perform each, twice a day, every day. We settled on a twice-a-week appointment time, and I was out the door 55 minutes later, none the worse for wear. I am keeping my part of the bargain by following through on the daily stuff; the nerve pain down my left leg seems to have already improved.
My long-term goals are for these sessions to improve my mobility, decrease the likelihood of falls by improving my balance, keep any surgery out of my immediate future and stay away from pills. Not bad for some exercise and the guidance of a professional.
August 9, 2022
Posts that detail what retired folks do with their time each day are among the most popular on this blog. Some continue to generate hundreds of views. Even for those who have been retired for quite some time, finding out what others do is interesting and sometimes inspirational, or maybe we are just a bit nosey.This time around, I want to take a different approach: here is a short list of six things I do not do as part of my daily routine.
1) Check my financial investments and the stock market daily. I can't think of a quicker way to drive myself crazy than watching the constant gyrations of the financial markets. There are folks who do that for a living. I use one of them to watch my money and let her try to make sense of a rather confusing system to protect me and my family's long-term future. To my untrained eye, everything seems to run on emotion, rumor, or events in a place so distant I am lucky to find it on a map. What looks like good news to me sends the Dow Jones into a tailspin.
Once a month I add the various totals from my accounts to a spreadsheet. Even then, if there has been a drop I don't panic and place a call to the advisor. Over the past three or fourth months of downward dips, I have asked my advisor if everything is where I want it to be. After a discussion, I settle back down. Even during the nasty times of 2008-2010, I didn't sell much or worry. I trusted the long-term strength of the economy and her skills. It has paid off.
2) Regret something I did years ago. What would be the point? I can't change it, I can't relive it and do something differently. To regret it in a way that it remains bouncing around in my mind on a regular basis doesn't happen. I try to fix whatever happened as I move forward and learn from that bad choice to avoid making it again.
3) (Sort of) Forget that the clock is ticking. I turned 73 a few months ago. I am not a spring chicken. According to the life expectancy for the year I was born, 69 years on earth was what I should expect. Now that I passed that, that same chart gives me another 12 years. Based on my family history and my overall health I plan on beating that. After all, 85 seems right around the corner!
Even so, nearly 85% of my life is in the rearview mirror. It is my absolute intention to make that last 15% full of happiness, productivity, and doing things beneficial to others. We hear that life goes by so quickly. Yes, it does. I hear that clock ticking but I am not allowing it to terrify me or hold me back.
4) Take my important relationships for granted. My wife, Betty, and I just celebrated our 46th wedding anniversary. That is just as hard to grasp as having the majority of my life behind me. She has been part of my life, a part of me for so long, that my years before her almost don't seem real. We complete each other in ways that are too numerous to list. We help each other grow and change in positive ways, ways that would be impossible without each other.
My grown daughters have developed into tremendous adults. Each is comfortable in her own skin. Each has built a life that is satisfying for them. Having them close by is a blessing that shows itself every day. Adding grandkids to the mix is almost too much good news.
5) Believe I can have a chili dog and onion rings for lunch and not pay a price. See point #3 above! What I eat, how I use my body, and the attention I pay to what it is telling me is mostly within my control. Shame on me if I trade my future for instant gratification today. My cardiac episode of almost seven years ago was a powerful reminder.
6) Allow my mind to stagnate. To stop learning new things, to stop listening to new music, to stop having conversations with people I disagree with, to stop engaging in the world, is to stop living. Frankly, it is easier at our age to let our thinking sort of calcify, to harden around what we know, to stick with what makes us happy and comfortable. It is hard work to push back against a mind that wants to just rest. It is also the way to slowly fade away.
There are six things I try not to do as part of my satisfying retirement if I can help it. Just so you know, I fail to live up to one or more of these points more often than I'd like to admit, even in a blog.
August 5, 2022
Because neither of this post's topics seems to hold the promise of 700 words of deep insight, I am breaking the rule (mine) and covering two totally different subjects.
A few months ago Betty and I took on the challenge of learning sign language. Using the ASL method, we have spent some time each week working together to master many of the basic signs we may need to communicate between ourselves or others.
There are dozens of apps and hundreds of YouTube videos that have made this easier than I first assumed. Of course, like any language, those proficient in it flash signs much more quickly than we can decipher. Even with the ability to slow down the playback speed, there are times when we are left scratching our heads or taking our best guess.
I find it interesting so many of the signs are intuitive. The rocking of your arms for a baby, turning a steering wheel to represent a car, waving goodbye for...Bye, are obvious and part of the language. Of course, some are more complex and some are purely invented to communicate something.
ASL doesn't use verbs or articles. So, if I point to myself and give the rocking motion, I am rocking/holding a baby, assuming the person watching will fill in the am and a part of that statement. English sign language does use symbols for verbs and such so their signing is more complete. But, for our purposes, filling in the obvious words to complete a sentence or thought is so much easier.
Bottom line: While neither of us could communicate very well with another hearing-impaired person yet, we are beginning to make each other's desires or actions known. Like anything else, ASL will require regular practice and use. Betty and I know enough now to tell the other person to take a hike...no, just kidding. I don't know the sign yet for hiking, but the one at the top of the post means, "I love you."
After three weeks of dealing with temperatures between 105 and 116, we finally hightailed it out of town for an all-too-brief getaway. At 8,900 feet, the tiny town of Greer, AZ is usually 40 degrees cooler than the Valley. Daytime highs in the low 70s or upper 60s meant we could wear long pants and sweatshirts for the first time since early May. With one general store and two restaurants, there are few distractions.
It rained every day, generally showers or overnight thunderstorms. This time of year is considered the monsoon season in Arizona, A flow of moisture from Mexico is responsible for rain all over the state, but the White Mountains tend to soak up a lot of it.
Our cabin was perfect for the seven of us. Our youngest daughter was supposed to be with us, but her business required a trip to Quebec. I don't feel too sorry for her! We kept the days open for games, hikes, movie-watching, reading, and eating simple, filling fare. We had two dogs with us who were kept more than busy by the new smells.
Here are some pictures to help you take a quick mental vacation A special thanks to granddaughter, Kassidy, for providing many of the photos for this post:
|Mother and child reunion|
|Betty is in charge|
|Yes, Main St is always this busy|
|Kaylee contemplating High School|
|Kassidy thinking about Junior High|
|Daddy enjoying the solitude|
|Josh thinking about the start of football|
|All of us enjoying time together|
August 1, 2022
For many of us, retirement follows a pattern that seems almost preordained. We have worked for several decades. We live a "normal" life, sometimes spending more than we should but being careful to set aside money for the future. We try to control our human urge for instant gratification and do our best to live within a budget. Eventually, we leave the world of work and begin to experience the freedoms of this new phase of our life.Social Security starts. Medicare eases many of our worries about health expenses. We travel some, spend more time with family, satisfy our creative urges, volunteer in a way that gives back some of our blessings, and often see growth in our spiritual life. In short, our retirement is what we hoped for.
Unfortunately, not everyone lives in this idealized picture. A post a while ago dealt with grandparents becoming parents. That topic generated some excellent comments. Another article about continuing to support adult children also hit a hot button for several. When does our financial commitment end, or is having a child a life-long support commitment? Most of us expect that the daily parenting part of our life is over as we approach retirement age. But, for too many, it is not. Dreams of a very different future are put on hold or ended.
What about having to retire due to an unexpected job loss, a Covid-induced issue, or any of the dozens of problems we all seem to be dealing with these days? How about folks that lived either paycheck to paycheck, just scraping by, or stitched together a series of part-time jobs, just trying to stay afloat until the economy and inflation tipped over their boat? The image of everyday retirement life isn't part of their reality.
I will readily admit that my retirement is progressing well. I am living pretty much the way I thought I would be at this stage of my life. A few early struggles over financial worries and time management are the worst I have experienced so far. Finding passions and things to occupy my mind and energies took a few years.
* Housing is likely to be a significant problem for someone with serious financial restraints. A typical home or condo is increasingly out of reach for new homeowners. If you sell your current home for more than you ever dreamed possible, the next one will be just as mind-boggling. In many parts of the country, affordable apartments are hard to find. Or the past few years, this problem has become a literal crisis. Evictions are on the rise after a pandemic moratorium.
*Many skills and experiences lend themselves to participating in the barter and exchange economy. An estimated $14 billion in services are exchanged in the U.S. annually without cash. A family member of mine exchanges a 60-minute massage for hairstyling. Both ladies benefit, and no money changes hands. Maybe you have training as a nurse or adult daycare worker. Is it possible to exchange that experience for room and board?
Folks are making enough money to make life more pleasant by selling household items or collectibles on eBay. Buying things at a local flea market and then reselling them is common. Millions of us visit the website every day, all looking to buy or sell.
* The quickest way to make money is to spend less of what you have. I hope I am not minimizing the real problem some of our fellow retirees face. Choosing between food or prescriptions is not a theoretical choice for too many. Living through a hot summer without air conditioning can be life-threatening as we get older.
Even so, most of us can find something we can live without. What we consider a necessity may be a luxury when times are tight. After all, when we were growing up, there were three TV channels, no cell phones, and a meal out was a special treat. We didn't feel deprived.
* Retirement is not a forever state if you can't afford it to be. There is absolutely no shame in going back to full or part-time work. You will be thought of as a successful entrepreneur if you turn a hobby or skill into a business that generates any level of income. Don't get discouraged if some form of age discrimination makes things more difficult.
* It is hard to make sense of a situation where health care costs, particularly prescription medicines, are unaffordable to tens of millions of our citizens. . For the truly poor, Medicaid guaranteed treatment at the emergency room, and other government programs are available. They can be onerous and sap one's dignity, but they will keep someone alive. The lower and middle class gets shafted in this country, and I don't have an answer. If someone is forced into early retirement, employer-provided health care coverage is gone. Meals-on-Wheels may provide the only decent food someone receives all week, and services like that have suffered dramatically after Covid.
The pre-Obamacare model didn't work. The current state of health services is an improvement but continues to allow too many to fall through the cracks. Health care based on maximizing profits and minimizing contact with people who need a doctor is ridiculous.
I hope a few of the things noted above are helpful, but I am willing to bet you have some thoughts, ideas, and approaches I haven't touched on.