May 30, 2023

More of Your Retirement Stories --- Part Four

 



In what has become a series of posts that I am glad I pursued, here are the answers to some of the retirement questions from long-time reader, David D.


Who was the greatest inspiration/mentor in your life?


I have to say none come to mind.  My father was relatively uninterested in raising me and critical of most things I did. I think he felt that it was to “toughen me up”.  Probably a good thing in his mind as I think for him life was a tough go. It didn’t work of course, and it mostly taught me to keep my head down and don’t make waves. 


At school I found that the “keep your head down and don’t make waves” kept the teachers off my back too whether I did my work or not-- it’s easy to ignore the quiet kid in the back. With my mother everything I accomplished, or didn’t, was fine with her which I think she did to sort of compensate for my father’s approach, but it wasn’t exactly motivating. I felt that in my father’s eyes everything I did was wrong and in my mother’s eyes everything I did was right. 


The greatest inspiration or mentor in my life? I can't think of anyone. I dropped out of school at 16 and about 10 years later after lots of night school classes while completing an apprenticeship and holding down a full-time job in the trades I went to university and paid my own way. No one inspired me or mentored me to do that, I just figured it was something I wanted to do so I did it.



What were you taught about money and finances in your youth? How has that advice changed as you got older?


I wasn’t really taught about money, but I had two opposing role models. Both my mother and father were raised in the depression, but each seemed to take different lessons. My father watched every penny his entire life, he was cheap with himself and others. “Money is hard to make and easy to lose” was his motto. 


That sounds good I suppose but it was really hard to get anything out of him unless he wanted it. He had my mother on a very strict budget for groceries and really everything, it was tough.  


On the other hand, my mother, who had her own job since I was in grade 2, was a free spender so maybe she needed to be on a tight budget, it did mean there was little to go around. I do recall that when department store credit cards first came out my mother had me hide her credit card bill when I got home from school so my father wouldn’t see them.  


One day I forgot or was late home, I don’t remember which, but I do remember the big blow-up in our house and my mother coming to me and asking me why I didn’t hide the bill like she’d asked.  


In any case I developed a sense that it’s a good idea to avoid going into debt and save what you can. When I was older, in my 30s, I bought a daily business newspaper and read it everyday cover to cover. At first, I had no idea what they were writing about but after a year or so I started to get it. 


I also read a book, The Wealthy Barber, by David Chilton which is a classic about saving and investing and that got me going. I still think it’s the first book everyone should read about finances.

What did you think about old age as a youth, and how do you feel about it now?


I remember about a year after I quit school, I guess I was 17, I was with my mother and grandmother. I don’t quite remember the conversation, but it was about working or maybe my grandmother was thinking about retiring and I said something along the lines of “Well I guess working is my life from now until I retire when I can do what I want again”. 


They laughed and laughed that this 17-year-old was already looking forward to the day he could retire. I didn’t know what they found so amusing, as far as I could see it was a true statement. I’d have to be doing whatever my employer told me to do for the next 45-50 years before I would have a pension that would allow me to do whatever I wanted. 


Looking back, I can see they knew I still had my whole life ahead of me so why was I even thinking of retirement, but it seemed to me that that was how it was, I was just stating the obvious. 


Interestingly when I did announce my retirement at my last workplace I was talking to one of my coworkers about my upcoming retirement and he said “I think the only reason you ever worked was so you could retire.”  Thinking back to that day when I was 17 maybe he was right. But I did have a long and rewarding career too so that helped.    



What wisdom has come to you in your advancing years?


People are the most important thing. It’s not work, it’s not money, it’s not power, people are the most important thing. As I have aged, I find that more and more true.  


The government isn’t there to amass and project power or to make a good environment for business, it’s to see that the people are able to live happy and productive lives. Is there anything else that really matters?



What do you miss about your career?


Not a single thing. Zero. Nada. In my opinion my career was a job not a life. My career was something I always saw as a deal with my employer where I traded my intelligence, time, and skills for money. I did well at it too, ending up in a senior management position, but I never considered work to be my “real life”.


Companies don’t care about you. As long as you are making them money it’s good and when you are not, whether due to you or external conditions, they will get rid of you as quickly as they hired you. 


Your family and friends are the ones that care about you, your career does not. One thing I know for sure is that a year after you leave a workplace only a very few will remember that you ever worked there.

 

Did you have a career that was very satisfying and fulfilling? If you could do it all over again would you pick a different career path?


I think I did have a satisfying and fulfilling career. I liked what I did and was successful at it.  The 10 year diversion between dropping out of high school and going to university isn’t something that I’d advise anyone to do if they can at all avoid it. 


In the end it worked out for me, but I was always career hitting goals when I was about 10 years older than my peers. Such is life but for most of my career my managers were either my age or younger.  It wasn’t a problem for me, but it was something I noticed.

 

I can say that the last 5 years of my career were not good at all. The company was continually downsizing and centralizing. In fact, I had to switch to another corporate division at age 56 to either stay on or be packaged out of a job. 


My last role there was to outsource all the work and winnow down the local department to zero all while taking arrows in the back from local management. The money was good and at 56 I felt not quite ready to retire, had I been 59 I would have accepted the buyout but 56 was too early for me. 


When the final push came to implement the last program to fully close the department, I had had it and retired.  Let somebody else do it. It was the best decision I ever made.




I thoroughly enjoyed David's recounting of his path through life to this point. He managed to navigate several obstacles in his path while staying true to what was right for him. 


For those of you who are regular readers, you might recognize David as the fellow who reminds us all to enjoy the financial fruits of our work. After several decades of saving, his point is we deserve to enjoy at least some of that money when we have the time to do so. It is a difficult mental switch to make, but I have adopted some of his approaches.


The last in this series will be posted in a few weeks, with my answers to these questions. I am anxious to know what I am going to say!



 

May 25, 2023

Grumpy Old People

 




Originally written ten years ago, I noticed this post has over 18,000 views in that time. That tells me the topic remains relevant and probably worthy a fresh exposure. In the decade since this was added to the blog, I have learned enough about the subject to add a few fresh thoughts.

We are familiar with this personality type: the cranky old man. He is a stock character in movies, cartoons, and TV shows.  He seems to dislike everybody and everything. 

Step on his lawn or get in his way at the store and you will know it. Make the mistake of asking him about the government or taxes and your ears will burn for a week.  

British author Carol Wyer has a name for it: “irritable male syndrome." He is not living a very satisfying retirement.

While working on one of my books, a question was raised more than once that is worth thinking about. Here is how one contributor posed the question that gets to the heart of the issue:

"Why it does it seem like so many “old” people become bitter and negative, and then you have those “rare” old people who are enthusiastic about life, stay positive, and keep fit.

 

Is that something the positive-minded person has to really work hard at? Did they make a deliberate decision to not complain about their aches and pains and to see the world as a beautiful place? Or is this how they were all their life?"

Importantly, remember that this question was not asked by someone in his or her 20's or 30's. This came from someone in their late 50s and therefore I assume is a concern in his or her own life. 

Do we all end up inflexible and intolerant?  Does the prospect of losing the ability to drive, or to stay in one's home cause most of us to put a scowl on our face?

I am sure there are all sorts of research studies and physiological reasons why this "grumpy old man" attitude strikes. Medical reasons may include a steady decline in testosterone levels that can produce this bad mood effect.

Let me speculate on some other possible triggers. Retirement can send many a man over the edge. Normally with fewer friends than women, men have little social interaction after work and can become isolated and depressed. Certainly, the loss of a spouse could turn someone into a genuinely unhappy person. 

The loss of physical or mental capabilities has the potential to leave us bitter. We may remember the "good old days" as a time when the government seemed to work more smoothly, young people were more respectful, and doctors made house calls.

Or, as the question implies, is the crankiness due more to attitude than reality? Are unhappy seniors just an older version of how they were when younger? Can people make a conscious effort to not fall into the complaint trap as they age? If there is a medical cause, will that person seek some help?

My personal opinion is the cause is a combination of factors. The declining levels of testosterone after 60 are real. The effects are well documented. 

Overall, health and relationship issues must contribute to the potential for a less-than-sunny mood. The awareness of one's own mortality can be a rude awakening for someone.

At the same time, I believe attitude can be a major factor in preventing a full slippage into grumpiness. I don't mean the type of "everything is great, the glass is always at least half full" attitude. Denying what is happening in your life isn't the answer.

Maybe acceptance is a better word. No one gets out of here alive. Virtually all of us will suffer from some of the unpleasant realities of the aging process. 

To be grumpy and rude really says that a person is too self-absorbed. We all have aches and pains, we all lose family and friends, we all face the loss of our ability to drive. To make everyone around you uncomfortable or unhappy is really saying, "It is all about me. My problems are worse than yours and that gives me the right to lash out."

Actually, it doesn't.


As a fresh addition to the original post, frankly, I am experiencing less of the grumpy old person stereotype than I once did. Maybe it is simply where I live and when I interact with others, but the perpetually angry senior (either man or woman) is not someone I cross paths with. Considering the prevalence of guns in this country, I find that a good thing for many reasons!

With the economic turmoil of the last year or two, the pandemic damage to lives and plans, and the never-ending political clown show that plays on and on, I am surprised that we aren't all more grumpy. 

Maybe we have simply lowered our expectations; we are used to a lifestyle that has become much more unpredictable and unsettled. Maybe more of us see life as a series of ups and downs. How we react, how we handle the bad times, and the good determine whether we turn sour.

Personally, as I have gotten older, I seemed to have found myself much more at peace. Situations that once sent me into a tizzy are more likely to be noticed and then released. 

Maybe it is my use of meditation and a sense of the interconnectedness of all humans. Maybe I clearly grasp that time is too short to waste any of it stewing about something I can't control.

Being grumpy or not is more under our control than I once believed.


May 21, 2023

What Time Do You Start Your Day?



One of the questions I am asked on a fairly regular basis is what a typical day of my life looks like. I guess after nearly 22 years of retirement, I surely must have the perfect schedule figured out.

The email answer I usually give is there are no typical days. Except for beginning each morning with breakfast and the newspaper, checking for new blog comments and e-mails, there is no set routine. I have made a determined effort over the last several  years to not have my calendar look like it did when I was working.

 True, I have a to-do list of things I must or want to accomplish each day: things like empting the trash and rolling out the can, refilling a prescription, finishing a post, a reminder about an upcoming haircut, time to water the pots...the basic stuff of a day. I have been a list maker all my life. Retirement didn't change that.  But my prompts don't say when I must some of these things. That happens when it happens. 

I have tried a more structured approach:  painting from 10-10:30, take out trash at 1:00 and so forth. However, I'd rarely follow the times listed. 

Eventually, I realized there was no reason for the tasks to be completed at a certain time of the day so I just dropped that silliness completely.

There is one area, though, that I can't quite get a comfortable feel for: when to get up in the morning. I guess it is part of my personality but I have always believed that the "early bird gets the worm." 

Over the years, both before and after retirement, I have tried getting up at various times. My body quickly tells me it isn't happy with some of my choices. For a while the alarm went off at 5:00 am. By mid morning I was ready for a nap, which kind of defeated the purpose. I experimented with 5:30 and 6:00 am with similar results. 

I had always heard that older folks need less sleep. I have an acquaintance who wakes up at 4:00 in the morning and spends a few hours on the computer or reading. Another fellow can't sleep past 5:00. 

I, on the other hand, am finding I am sleeping later. Being awakened by the alarm before 6 O'clock seems like the middle of the night. Recently, Betty and I have been getting up sometime between 6:45 and 7:00 if there is no morning appointment. 

We are waking up quite naturally  - no alarm needed.. At this time of the year the sky gets light by 5, but good curtains do their job.

I am very much aware of the ticking clock (poor pun) of my mortality. By going to bed shortly after 10 and staying comfortably under the covers until almost 7, am I turning into a sludge? Am I missing valuable time each day because I am not up with the sun?  Should I follow the old bromide that I can sleep when I'm dead?

Steve Pavlina is a superb blogger, writer, and self development teacher. Among his thousands of interesting articles are several on becoming an early riser. Clearly he is of the "get up before the sun" contingent. He links success in life with being an early riser. 

Two posts of his that I have re-read several times over the years are How to Become an Early Riser Part 1 and How to Become an Early Riser Part 2He provides specific steps that anyone can take to gain control over the time one's day begins. 

I read these, feel guilty, and try again to adjust the start of my day. Each time I cannot pull it off. As he suggests, I go to bed when I am tired but can't master the getting up early part. 

So, my question to you is simple: when do you wake up on a normal morning? Are you the  type that hits the ground running even before the birds are awake? 

Or, do you enjoy a slow start that puts a premium on lingering in bed as long as you dare? Have you found a way to adjust your schedule that works for you? 

Even if every single comment is from someone who has checked the Internet, jogged 5 miles, and read three chapters of War and Peace before the sun comes up, I am not likely to try the early bird route again. All of us have a unique way to make the most of our days. 

Even so, I love to read how others use their time and make the most of their retirement journey.

So, tell us!


May 17, 2023

More of Your Retirement Stories - Continued

 


In what has become an interesting series of posts, this time around I an providing the response from reader Jean P.


 Biggest inspiration/mentor: 


My college Sociology professor, Ann Marie Keenan. When I got back the second of four short papers assigned in her Sociology 101 class, she had added a note on the bottom, “I hope you are thinking about graduate school in sociology.” Well, I wasn’t. In fact, I don’t even think I knew that such a thing as graduate school existed (being the first person in my family ever to go to college). She continued to press the point throughout my three years in her classes.

I remember running into her in the student union on the last day of classes in my sophomore year, when I was celebrating the completion of my four-course foreign language requirement (not my strong suit). When she asked me what language I was going to study next and I expressed incredulity, she said matter-of-factly, “You need two languages for your PhD.” She made extraordinary efforts to help me. 

In our junior year seminar for sociology majors, when we read and discussed a book a week. On a scholarship with no money to spare, I couldn’t afford to buy all these assigned books. When I could, I took the books out of the library; when I couldn’t, she loaned me her copy (a sacrifice I didn’t truly appreciate until I was a professor myself many years later). 

She was disappointed when I planned to pursue a career in social work and not a graduate degree in sociology after graduation from college; but, five years later, when my planned social work career had ended in failure, it was because of her that I considered a PhD in sociology as a possibility and because of her that I found my true calling.

Lessons about money: 


Money was tight in my working-class family, and my father, especially, made sure that we children were taught what things cost and how to budget and save for what you wanted. Even as a four-year-old, I already knew that if I saved up my two-penny a week allowance, I could get a nickel chocolate ice cream cone in week three. Those saving habits and budgeting skills stayed with me throughout my life, allowing me to live within or below my means. 

The most difficult financial hurdle for me in retirement was figuring out how to spend down savings. I finally decided on the strategy of treating my monthly social security benefits and my quarterly RMD distributions from retirement savings as income and budgeting accordingly.


Thinking about old age: 


I certainly absorbed many negative messages about old age in my youth, but I was also aware of alternatives. When I was sixteen, I met a distant relative, a widow in her late seventies, who was lively, adventurous, stylish, and fun. I was star-struck, and although I never saw her again, she stuck with me as a role model for my old age. 

My thinking about old age shifted perceptibly when I was fifty and experienced a cancer diagnosis with a lousy prognosis (20% 5-year survival rate). Suddenly, old age became a highly desirable achievement! I greet each new year as a gift and an adventure and like to think of myself as “growing old, with an equal emphasis on both words.”


Wisdom of advancing years


The greatest joy and surprise of my advancing years is how much I continue to grow and change. I don’t think I expected this to be such a happy, exciting time of life, and I try to get the message out to younger people that there is much to look forward to in our advancing years.

Miss about career: 


I suppose if there’s anything I miss about my college teaching career, it is the opportunity to meet and mentor young people. Mostly, though, I have been able to find ways to continue to experience much of what I loved about my profession while sloughing off the parts of the job I found burdensome.

Would I do it again: 


I have no regrets about my career path and would do it all again in a heartbeat! (even the false start on a failed career, an experience from which I learned a lot)


Thank you, Jean for your encouraging and openly honest responses. I found your insights and reflections fascinating. 

Readers: check out Jean's two blogs: Jean's Garden and Stepping into the Future.


May 13, 2023

Legal Documents and Paperwork: The Evil Twins

 


This is a logical and necessary follow-up to the recent post about the legal documents we should consider having on hand,  No matter how well we prepare for what may happen to us, that future will still be lined with papers. It is easy to forget that there remains a crucial role for paper in the legal, medical, and financial worlds. 

Many of us depend on the Internet, smartphones...all manner of electronic devices that keep us informed, help us pay our bills, and even entertain us. Electronic medical record keeping has almost replaced written patient files and reports. 

Think of the dreaded Patient Portal that replaced human interaction at most doctor's offices. Nothing frustrates my wife more than those online ten-page forms she must complete over and over again before being able to keep an appointment.

Eight years ago, I wrote about the almost overwhelming flood of paperwork after my Dad died. Right after that experience, Betty and I sold one home and bought another. Yep, even more forms to acquire, fill out, have notarized, and file with the appropriate government office.

Computers and electronics may dominate our day, but not a good chunk of life. The wonderful world of no more paper forms still waits for us somewhere in the future.

When my father passed away, I had to:
  1. Fill out stacks of papers at the mortuary
  2. Apply for more than a dozen copies of the official death certificate
  3. Sign forms when his death certificates were finally ready to be picked up
  4. Fill out a form and provide a copy of the death certificate to Social Security
  5. Sign more forms and provide a copy of the death certificate to close out his checking account.
  6. Fill out a form and provide a death certificate to the Veteran's Administration.
  7. Sign dozens and dozens of papers and provide a stack of death certificates to begin to deal with his trust and investments. 
  8. Alert the Post office about a change of address

Since we decided to sell our house and buy another, we have had to:
  1. Sign and initial a 13 pages selling contract
  2. Full out a 12-page detailed report on all known problems with the property
  3. Prepare a counteroffer form.
  4. Sign a counter to the counteroffer
  5. Sign multiple forms for the Title company
  6. Agree to have a lock box put on the property
  7. Initial and sign a multi-page offer-to-buy contract
  8. Fill out and sign another dozen forms from the Title company for the purchase
  9. Sign paperwork to order a home inspection on the new home
  10. Sign agreements for service termination and service start-up.
  11. Complete at least 8 online change of address forms

My dad's situation required  60 days to wrap up and then file an estate and personal tax return for the next five years until everything was done.. If you have ever sold and bought a home, you know all about the last-minute surprises that can make closing day very stressful. And let's not forget about dealing with the DMV about driver's license address changes!

Parts of our life continue to require paper and ink. No matter how powerful the Internet may be, our trees remain in danger: we use a lot of paper.

May 9, 2023

Friendships: My Weakness - Or Not?

 


All sorts of studies detail what is important for a healthy, happy retirement. I am generally OK at the eating, sleeping, and exercising parts. But, in one area, I fall short. Actually, I may be a non-starter. And that is in the category of having meaningful friendships. 

Since Betty and I will celebrate our 47th anniversary at the end of June, and my relationship with her, our daughters, son-in-law, and grandkids is at the core of my satisfaction with my life, I must be referring to a different type.

I have a severe shortage of meaningful, non-relative friends. The type of person I could call if there is an emergency. The one person I would reach out to if disaster struck. One or two friends who would join me for lunch or to watch a sporting event at a bar on a Saturday afternoon. The people on speed-dial.

I can turn it up a notch in social situations where the folks are acquaintances or casual friends: the kind I interact with at church or the library during one of my volunteer shifts. Small talk, the smile where appropriate, the words meant to encourage or support; I can do all that well. My social image is one of approachability and affirmation.

Those people are important to me, but not in a "Help Me!" situation. Nor would any of them likely think to call me to be there holding a hand or commiserating about anything. These relationships are several steps above "Hi, neighbor," but not approaching serious.

I have been very content with solo time with my wife and family for most of my life. I am not a loner in the classic sense, but I could never be a politician; the glad-handing and constant social interactions would drive me off a cliff. 

Even my career in radio mostly involved sitting in a closed studio, talking into a microphone, with no real interaction with whoever was listening. I was performing as much for myself as I was for my audience.

This leads me to the point of this post: are deep, meaningful friendships a requirement for a fulfilling life? Am I missing out on what a good buddy or two would add to my days? Or, am I what I am, content in my own skin, with myself, my thoughts, and my hobbies, not needing with seems to be a real gap in my retirement?

Except for one or two people who don't live near me but have become dear friends through blogging and visits, I have never had many profound friendships. Since I was either in a radio station or working for myself, the water cooler environment was never really part of my life. I really never had co-workers, only clients.

I have made some good friends through blogging. Several times those contacts have turned into meals together, game nights, traveling to see each other, or simply talking about our day. These are enriching interactions.

When I was a counselor for both just-released prisoners and people struggling with personal problems, I formed more intense bonds, but they were, by definition, short-term and confidential-type interactions.

As a member of a ham radio club fifteen years ago, there were one or two men who I would count as dependable sounding boards. 

With one in particular, I enjoyed a deeper friendship. That ended when I moved away from the area. Unfortunately, he became sick and passed away a few years ago. 

There is a possibility that when Betty and I move to a retirement community in three or four years, the various clubs, social activities, and seeing many of the same people during meals will evolve into deeper relationships.

Or, a lifetime of simply being more solitary and enjoying that status will not change much.

What I really wonder is if I am missing out on a part of living that would add to its enjoyment.  Am I living the way that I seems best for me? Or am I staying in a comfort zone and avoiding the work of adding another dimension to my life?


May 5, 2023

Letting Go: How Do We Know When?



When is it time to let go of something in one's life? When should an attachment to something be severed? When do we know it is time to let go of whatever it is that may be holding us back? These are not easy questions to ask, and certainly not easy ones to answer.

We are creatures of habit. Most of us are happy when our world is settled and predictable. This doesn't mean we aren't active and involved, rather we have some anchors in our existence that are comforting. Even those of us who still travel each year need the security of a home base, a familiar place where we can refresh and recoup. 

So, when is it time to let go of a part of our life that has been dependable until now? How do we know when it is time to cut the cord and move in a different direction? See if you agree with some of my conclusions.

*Relationship problems: Though letting go of a bad marriage or problem-plagued engagement would qualify, today, I am thinking more along the lines of friendships and acquaintances. 

All of us have had situations where we dread meeting with someone we know, or we always seem to leave their presence feeling worse than when we arrived. Certain folks have a dark cloud over their head that follows them wherever they go. If you are near them, that dark cloud covers you too. Negativity, projectile complaining, gossiping to harm others....being with these people drains you.

It may be tough, but you know it is time to let go of this relationship when you dread the time spent together. Cut the cord, for your own sake.

* Living situationThere has been a lot written about downsizing, aging in place, or moving to a retirement community. Honestly, I think one of the tougher "Letting Go" questions involves this topic. Most of us have an attachment to our home. It could be based on longevity, a sense of community, a place for all your stuff, a mark of your independence, or the house where your kids were raised. Whatever the reason, knowing when it is time to move because of health or family issues is not easy. 

My personal marker will be when I feel staying where I am risks my life or forces a responsibility on my kids that I do not want them to endure. Would they take care of Betty or me? In a heartbeat. But we have made the firm decision that we don't want that to happen. Letting go of our current lifestyle will be tough, but we are committed to that choice. I love our home; I love my family and their peace of mind more.

* Vacation and travel decisionsMaking the decision to sell our RV was really triggered by two factors: the expenses of keeping the motorhome and the desire to explore more of the world while we can. Pulling back from the world a few years ago was forced by Covid and all its effects. Even now, there is a lingering feeling that something could suddenly make its presence known and upend everything. 

While neither Betty nor I are ready to give up all travel, I have noticed a growing satisfaction simply staying close to home. We live in a part of the country that offers lots to do or supports the decision to do very little. 

I believe our upcoming trips to Portland and especially the river cruise in France will give us some guidance in the whole arena of travel in our future. We might decide to speed up the pace or come to the conclusion that long-distance trips are no longer for us.

* Driving: I have left one of the hardest examples of letting go until now. In our car-based culture, the ability to take yourself from one place to another when you choose is considered a basic right, not a privilege. The independence signified by that vehicle in the carport or street is almost impossible to quantify. Even if it is rarely driven, the point is it can be driven - by you.

Yet, we all know there will come a time when the car keys must be taken away. The unacceptable risks, not only to yourself but to other drivers and pedestrians, demand action. I am sure there are all sorts of studies that show we believe we are much better drivers, at any age, than we really are. Reality has a different measurement scale. Letting go of the car keys, even voluntarily, is very hard. 

I am quite sure neither I or my wife are close to this decision point. My dad drove safely until he was 85, but I am not him. I have worse eyesight and will probably be off the road before that.  Absolutely it will be very hard for me to let go of this part of my independence, but it must happen.


What have I overlooked? What is an important "letting go step" you know is out there somewhere, waiting for you to decide?


May 1, 2023

Your Retirement Stories - Part Two




Following up on a reader's suggestion a month or so, I posed some questions about retirement from your perspective. Some of the ways we approach this time of life were shared in Part Two of this series. To continue here are Elle's remaining answers and a response from Marian that is well worth reading.

What did you think about old age as a youth, and how do you feel about it now?  


One birthday when I was 5 I asked Dad how old he was.  He explained that when you hit 29 you start going backwards (so he was just 13 that year).  So age was a non-subject in my life except when I was a teen and I was embarrassed at how old my folks were compared to my contemporaries nearly all of whom were 1st born to 19-21yo parents.  Dad is just 2y younger than hubsters’ grandmother.  Combine this with the early demise of my folks, age is a non-issue.  I’m grateful for every single day and year.  Each day is a new life-courtesy of my Native American Medicine Woman’s counseling.  ๐Ÿ˜Š



What wisdom has come to you in your advancing years?


Cherish the moments.  Let go of the crap (this is a daily effort).  Life is not a competition.  Don’t worry about the Jones-you’re not even on their minds. 



What do you miss about your career? 


SOME of the people.   also have come to miss the journals after 3.5 years.  I don’t know what’s going on in medical research and advances anymore.  I need to find that avenue without having to subscribe to all those expensive journals again. 



Did you have a career that was very satisfying and fulfilling? If you could do it all over again would you pick a different career path?


YES YES YES!  NO NO NO!  I was born to make a living in the operating room.  It was challenging, fast paced and fulfilling to be part of improving health and saving lives of the traumatically injured.  As well, sitting with the family of someone we couldn’t save and giving them respectful time alone before taking their loved one to the morgue.  I worked with some turd surgeons but a big majority were wonderful.  They taught me so much more than I was required to know.  I will ever be grateful for those 4 decades of my life.

 


Marian responded with her answer to this question: What do you miss about your career?  

Great question because I think most people have some aspects of their career that they miss.  It would be sad to work in a career for most of your life and not have anything you miss from it. 

 I worked in multiple areas during my career as a registered nurse.  Prior to retiring I was the director of the Nursing Division at our community college.   I miss the interesting interactions with people, the problem solving and frankly, being the “go to” person (sometimes I hated that as well.)  

I think it is really important to identify what you miss in your career, so that you can plan a way to fulfil some of that in retirement.  For instance, I increased my time with friends once I retired because I knew I would miss the social interaction of work.  

I am doing plenty of problem solving by learning new hobbies, such as blogging and using my Cricut machine.  Being the boss and “go to” person is not going so well…people don’t seem to appreciate that quality in retirement.  Go figure.  


Thank you to both Ellen and Marian for sharing their insights about life and retirement. For the third installment of this post, I will share more responses from readers to these questions.

I hope we can learn a little something from others in order to make our own retirement journey the very special time it is.




April 27, 2023

Retirement Done Differently

 


A few readers have suggested I explore the journey of retirees who have lived their life a little differently than many of us. That sounded like a fascinating idea. The problem? My retirement has been pretty standard. While I left the working world earlier than planned, I live in suburbia and have a primarily predictable life. Something may go wrong at some time in the future, but I am not the person to act as an example of a "different" retirement style.

I can share some examples of what a less-than-traditional retirement may look like. Then, I will ask you to share your real-life experiences or about someone you know who followed a different path. 


Examples of a Retirement Done Differently

1. Retire to a foreign country

Becoming an expat is the choice of a growing number of retirees. The State Department estimates close to 9 million Americans live in other countries. Of those, 35% are 50 and older, and nearly 20%  are 65+. Social Security checks are sent to those who live outside the U.S., but Medicare does not apply. 

Of course, in places picked by retirees, good health care is often much more affordable than in the States. Plus, housing costs can be dramatically lower, too. For a look at some of the top reasons to retire in another country, click here.

If you'd like to read the stories of those who have chosen to spend their retirement years in another country, click here for some of the most popular blogs. 

2. Living Full time in an RV, travel trailer, houseboat, or sailboat

Living all or most of the year in an RV or trailer has been well documented. If you love to travel, don't mind small spaces, have few belongings, and can handle basic maintenance chores, living in a recreational vehicle may be the right choice for you. Check out this site for a quick overview of this lifestyle; thousands of retirees earn extra money each year by accepting one of the jobs listed in the Workamper News.

One of the best summaries of RV living can be found here.  Some of the better full-time RV blogs are available here  

Although not full-time RVers, Mary and Alan know most of the ins and outs of being road warriors.  Reflections Around The Campfire is well written and one I read quite often.

Living on a sailboat, houseboat, or motorboat is a little less usual but not unheard of I found a website with an excellent overview of what living on a boat full-time is like. Click here.

A relatively new phenomenon is spending most or all of your retirement on a cruise ship. Not for those on a limited budget, there are benefits: meals are provided, a doctor and medical clinic are open 24 hours a day, plus most entertainment options on board are free. 

Usually, there are a fully equipped gym, library, and classes to keep you busy and involved. Someone cleans your "home" every day. You visit fascinating foreign ports regularly.  I wrote a bit about this choice in a blog post, Unusual Retirement Options, several years ago.

3. Starting over in a dream location 

Six or seven years ago, I wrote about Brett and Laura, a couple who sold all their belongings and moved to the island of Kaua'i. Their blog, The Occasional Nomads,  continues to be an excellent overview of their life, day in and day out.

Importantly, the couple spent two years researching the idea of a move before committing to such an upheaval. They had family on the mainland and in Japan, so Hawaii was centrally located for them. Look at the blog post for insight into their decision-making process.

Not long after that post was published, the two travelers decided to sell almost everything and travel around the world for a year with just a few suitcases and a real sense of adventure. Their blog has links to that period; it takes a brave couple to do what they did.

Just in the last year or so, Laura and Brett made another abrupt change: They left Kauai again, moved to Tennessee and became used to not living out of suitcases. With a final, forever move still to come, this couple has set the standard for adventure. 

4. Volunteering overseas 

Linda Myers has been a blogging friend for over a decade. She and her husband spend part of the year in Arizona and the rest in their home not far from Seattle. Her blog, Thoughts from a Bag Lady in Waiting, is one of my favorites.

She and her husband, Art, started volunteering at a refugee camp north of Athens several years ago. It wasn't unheard of for them to make multiple trips in one year. I find that type of dedication inspiring and encouraging. 

An overview of a 31-day stint is summarized here. Giving that much of yourself to those who really need your love and support is a unique way of sharing part of your retirement.

4. Living off the grid

Estimates are that roughly a quarter million Americans live without regular utility services. For our purposes, off the grid means not being connected to a regular electricity or water supply. It might also mean no Internet or cell phone services.

Solar panels, a wind turbine, or generators for electricity, propane as a source for cooking or heating,  a well, or hauling water from another source are alternate ways to maintain a liveable environment. 

A composting toilet or septic system would be involved. The house may be tiny, on wheels, or even a canvas Yurt, though none of those options are required for disconnecting.

Why would some do this? I would suspect cost savings is one of the primary motivators. With climate change happening right before our eyes, wanting to have as little a negative impact on the environment as possible and living closer to nature are reasonable motivations. For some, a survivalist bent means being more self-reliant than most of us.

If this subject interests you, a beginner's guide on how to live off the grid might be a good place to start. 


5. Joining a co-housing community

 A co-housing community is a group of people who come together to share resources, support each other, and form a community. For singles or those who have lost a partner or spouse, this choice offers companionship and a sense of community. If your interest is piqued, click here.


We are an adventurous bunch! Retirement can be a time of shaking up the normal, pushing ourselves, and taking a different path.

Do you have stories or dreams to share?  


April 23, 2023

It Has Been Years (and not long enough)

The last time I had food poisoning was several years ago. In fact, I think that time I blamed it on a can of tuna. 

It is amazing what power exists in one small can. After a a day, the nausea and other effects had passed (!) so I began to eat some solid foods again, A day later I allowed myself a baked potato. The next morning, I was back to normal. 

Well, I ate something a week or so ago that should have been marked, 'Bob, stay away." This time it was a can of chili. I found it on the floor at the very back of the pantry. Only after eating it for lunch and realizing a few hours later that something wasn't right, did I look at the expiration date on the bottom of the can: "Best by June 2019." 

A side benefit: in 24 hours I lost a few pounds. As a diet, I wouldn't recommend it, but the body is an amazing machine that rids itself of whatever is causing problems as quickly and efficiently as it does.

This most recent bout of intestinal upset impressed upon me the absolute blessing of good health. It is almost a clichรฉ that you don't realize what feeling good is, until you don't. To not feel your stomach doing its job or to not feel too weak to get out of bed, are too easily taken for granted when healthy. 

At almost 74, I have the usual aches and pains that come with age, but nothing significant. Very few pills live near the bathroom sink. I have no serious issues that restrict my ability to go about my daily life pretty much as I see fit. 

Experiences like the tuna or the old can of chili make me appreciate that blessing. I am well aware that too many people, including lots of readers of this blog, have ongoing physical limitations that make each day a push through their infirmities. They do it because they choose to live as fully as possible and fight against the pain and problems. 

I hope that as I begin to face the health complications that are certainly waiting for me I can show the same grace and determination that these folks do.

Just two little cans with a warning to be heeded. Isn't it amazing how life gives us so much to learn from even the smallest triggers?

Oh, after this, I did check all the edible stuff in the pantry and found nothing as old as that can. I guess those expiration dates are there for a reason.


April 19, 2023

Your Retirement Stories



Following up on a reader's suggestion a few weeks ago, I posed some questions about retirement from your perspective. Several insightful responses later, I would like to give you a glimpse of what a few folks said.

If you didn't have the time to read the comments that were left on the original post, I urge you to click the link above to take a look at what was shared. In addition to tackling several of the questions I asked, CJM ended her comment with this candid look back:

"If I had to do it all over again, I would have pursued a career in graphic design. I also would have never married in my 20s, and I would have rented my own apartment in a top fashion metropolitan city (Paris, Milan, or NYC)."

Reader Jack, besides winning significant points for giving his wife the titles of crucial inspiration and mentor, noted after all was said and done:

"Yes, my career was satisfying and fulfilling. I would pick the same career path. I was fortunate it came along at a time when certifications were all which is necessary."


A few shared their answers by email. For this post, I invite you to read part of what Ellen had to say:

Q: If you are fully retired, what would you have done differently in your last five years of work (part or full-time)?

No change in my final 5 years. My first year of retirement however? I’d have fulfilled all my plans for 2020 that were covid-canceled:   3 trips, including a 40th anniversary trip hubster had planned, and 4 concerts here in the valley! Three did not reschedule, and I couldn’t attend the 4th as it was right before a knee replacement, and I didn’t want to risk a covid infection even though I was vacc’d and masks were required.

Q: If your parents have passed, what role did you take in their last few years?

My parents were fully independent until near life-end. Dad died first in ’94 after a 4-month battle with lung cancer. Mom was just 71 and fully able. As long as he was independent for personal care, they got along fine (I visited every weekend along w/lil sis). When he was unable, I set up hospice visits and, when that wasn’t enough, we had in-home 24h care. That was only 10 days until his final breath. He wanted to be home, and I’m so grateful it could happen.

 Thirteen years later, Mom was diagnosed with bladder cancer. She ignored complaints, resulting in a soccer ball size tumor, and her death came in 7 short weeks. I told (yes TOLD) her Dr what I wanted and that we would be leaving the hospital in 5.5 hours (he knew he neglected her, and he was lucky Mom made me promise not to sue him).

 Lil sis and I cared for her at home with 2 short breaks from out-of-state sisters.Our hospice RN was awesome. Sis worked 2d/week (her business is slow in Nov/Dec) and I worked 3d/week (I’m an OR RN and we’re slammed end-of-year). I did weekends as she had 2 young children. Mom was surprised and immensely grateful to be home, and she thanked us each and every day until she became nonverbal.


Q: Who was the greatest inspiration/mentor in your life?

My parents were inspiring. Dad had a 4th-grade education and was a long-haul truck driver in Europe, then a dairyman in the US. Mom was an accountant for a small store after WW2 until they married; Dad wanted her to quit. They are very intelligent people, well-read, and raised 6 kids, 5 of whom graduated college and one entrepreneur who has done very well for himself. We could accomplish anything we wanted and ya just don’t quit!

By no means were they perfect, nor was my childhood spoiled or idyllic, but I was given sound values/morals/a roof/food/clothing, so a great toolkit for adulthood. I had some great professional mentors as well in healthcare. Great support from surgeons as I built a business for them and directed it for an amazing 8y run. Best time of my professional life!

Q: What were you taught about money and finances in your youth? How has that advice changed as you got older?

Mom said save half. I wasn’t very good at that after turning 18 and the first 7y of marriage with in-law influence, but we pulled out. I was, however, grateful to have $1500 when we got married. That was equal to 38 weeks of full-time work back then. Dad was great at math, and I spent much of my childhood sitting at his business table, doing math for transactions and listening in general.

Best advice ever? “The dollars spend themselves; it’s the pennies you have to watch. Don’t forget that”. I borrowed money once and paid off the note to him 15 months early. And he was sooooo right! The house payment, utilities, cars….those were a no-brainer. But saving the pennies, nickels, dimes, and quarters instead of saying, “But it’s only $2”, THAT made the difference in our world after the 1987 wake-up call.

By 2010 we were debt free, including a small 2nd home in the mountains. To this day, we watch the pennies and make conscious decisions. And we have no qualms about dropping $10k into a vacation. We earned it, we saved/invested in it, and we’re enjoying it.


For the next post in this series, I will share the rest of Ellen's answers and those from reader Marian.

Finally, in the third round, I will answer the same questions from my point of view. No, I don't get to hide!

Thanks so much to all who passed along parts of your experiences. After nearly 22 years of retirement, your answers and insight continue to educate me.


April 15, 2023

What Legal Documents Should I Have Prepared?

 


Several readers asked me to provide a quick review of the essential legal paperwork we should consider preparing well before it may be needed. Since health emergencies are never predictable, having the legal side of things ready for family, friends, and doctors is both wise and considerate. The time to ask, Are You Ready, is now.

Since I am not an attorney what is listed are suggestions for you to consider. To determine if one or more of these documents is right for you, please talk with a lawyer, your primary care doctor, and family members.


*Will: a document that states how you want your assets to be distributed after you pass away. It is important to have a will even if you do not have a lot of assets, as it will help to ensure that your belongings are distributed according to your wishes. If you die without a will, a probate court will decide how your assets and possessions are distributed.


*Power of Attorne gives someone the authority to act on your behalf in certain matters, such as managing your finances or making medical decisions. That person, or persons, act as your agent. Their duty is to have your wishes carried if you are unable to do so. It is vital to have a power of attorney in place in case you become unable to make decisions for yourself. 

A power of attorney can give your agent the authority to do a variety of things, such as:

* Manage your finances

* Make medical decisions

* Sign legal documents

* Operate your business


* A Living Will:  states your wishes for medical care in the event that you are unable to communicate them during a terminal illness or condition. It is important to have a living will in place in case you are ever in a situation where you are unable to speak for yourself. 

A common example is including a reference to a DNR, or Do Not Resuscitate. If you are in a medical condition that shows no positive resolution, a DNR tells medical professionals your wish is that they not take extraordinary steps to prolong your life. Organ donation directions are also part of a typical living will.


*Trust: a legal arrangement that allows you to transfer ownership of your assets to another person or entity. Trusts can be used to protect your assets, to provide for your loved ones, or to minimize taxes. 

If your financial and property ownership is such that you want to have more control over what happens to them and when, trusts are worth investigating. Most trusts are rather complex and more common if one's wealth and assets are substantial.


* Advance Medical Directive: states your wishes for medical care in the event that you are unable to communicate them. Unlike a living will, a medical directive is for your future medical care as you are treated, enter rehab or a long-term care facility, or are likely to recover.  


It is also important to keep copies of all of your important legal documents in a safe place where they can be easily found. Your loved ones, lawyer, or the person charged with overseeing your care must know where to find these documents.

Betty and I have all of these documents, except a trust,  prepared, reviewed, and updated as needed on a regular basis and stored where our daughters can find them quickly. In our case, the will provides for the distribution of all assets upon our passing, so a trust is not required.

I hope this quick overview helps. None of us wants to think about this part of our future. But, to not do so leaves those left behind with an emotional, legal, and financial mess.

For a more detailed review of documents and paperwork that might come in handy at some point, here is an excellent article from A Place for Mom website.