February 26, 2023

A Simple Request

I am turning to you for some input and ideas.

In June, this blog will mark its 13th birthday. After a dozen of these years writing strictly about retirement topics, I was like the big fellow above: I pulled out the stake to include more personal thoughts about experiences we all share as we age. Posts centered on retirement are indeed still here; after all, the Satisfying Retirement name carries with it a certain promise.

Even so, increased readership tells me branching out has been a wise move. There are new names popping up in the comment section, and I have felt more emboldened to tackle things like book banning or the Secret O' Life, for example.

So, now the request: What subjects would you enjoy reading about and possibly commenting on?  As some thought-starters, what about these?

* What parts of contemporary life interest, confuse, delight, or upset you?

* How about topics, both good and not-so-good, that deal with family or friends?

* Vacations..are they still a major draw for you, or are you finding that itch has been scratched, and you are content to stick closer to home?

* Reading and movies: would you find an exchange of favorite new books and authors or recently released movies of interest, either in the theater or on one of the streaming services?

* Speaking of streaming, which channels do you love, which ones do you regret signing up for, and what streaming options are on your wish list?

* I just had expensive problems with a thermostat and a sprinkler head. In my younger days, I would have tackled them on my own. Now, I know my limits; I call someone. Is that where you find yourself? 

OK, your turn. These are not the only topics you might want to read about on this blog; they are just some random ideas  Add things you think would be worth exploring or commenting on.


February 22, 2023

A Long-Distance Dive Into Family History

Chateau des Montgommery in Ducey

Covid made a mess of some of our travel plans over the last few years. A once-in-a-lifetime cruise to New Zealand was sunk months before departure. Likewise, a  long-distance train trip was derailed (sorry for the puns).

We have regrouped and are determined to have at least one more biggie before travel becomes too difficult or uncomfortable...or before the next pandemic.

As a bit of background, Betty's family has left a long trail in parts of Europe. Her maiden name, Montgomery, is more prominent than we realized until she began serious research on Ancestry. That name is quite prominent  in the Normandy region of France.  The Chateau above was built in the early 1600s under the reign of King Henry IV.

Chateau de Montgomery in Domfront

This castle and grounds were besieged by William the Conqueror in 1051. Five hundred years later, it served as a refuge for The Count of Montgomery trying to avoid being caught by royal forces. That didn't work: he was captured and, not long after, was beheaded on the orders of the Queen. Ouch.

Saint Foy de Montgomery

With those fascinating historical details, we have committed to a trip to many of the places her historical family left their mark in this part of France. 

A more emotional and contemporary tie involves her father; he was part of the D-Day invasion in that section of France. 

Betty has uncovered diaries, paperwork, photographs, and specifics of his time in France during the war. The yellow marks on this map mark his stops.

We will visit the actual beach he stepped foot on, see the museum that honors those who risked their lives, and see both the American and Canadian cemeteries where those who made the ultimate sacrifice are remembered.

The photos you see on the right were taken with that miniature camera during the war in France. Included are includes dozens of pictures of the men he served with and places he stayed.

His diary detailed his work as an engineer who built bridges for the Allied troops and then blew them up before the German soldiers could follow.

To complete this deep dive into Betty's family history, dating back almost thirteen hundred years ago, in September, we will spend two weeks in Paris and Normandy. After a few long flights, we will begin with an eight-day river cruise on the Seine River. 

Our shore excursions include visits to the gardens in Giverny that inspired Monet, a walking tour of the historical sites in Rouen areas, and a historical Castle in Les Andelys high above the river below.  Some of the key D-Day sites are included. The cruise portion will end with an evening boat trip up the Seine to see the lights of Paris.

After the cruise, we will test how good our very limited French is at getting us safely on a train to Caen. Three days of tours of the Montgomery sites and stepping where her dad did, should give Betty (and me) a deeper understanding of her family's role in the history of this part of  France.

A return by train from Caen to the Paris airport will leave us enough time for a good night's sleep before a very long trip back to Phoenix. Jet lag is promised!

I know this will be an extraordinary trip for both of us. Betty will come home with a much more personal link to her family and its impressive history. I will come home knowing we have made memories and some friendships that will linger for the rest of our lives.

February 18, 2023

Is That All There Is?


The end of a day: Is that it?

Why such a bleak title and introduction to this post? Take comfort, dear reader; the implied mood is not reflective of mine. I am not in the throes of despair. I do receive emails on an occasional basis, however, that express at least some of this feeling about retirement.  The primary concerns: What did I do? I loved my job. I will run out of money, or my spouse is driving me crazy.

I certainly understand these concerns. I flirted with similar ones after leaving the workforce almost 22 years ago. I didn't think I was ready financially, emotionally, or socially...pretty much a clean sweep of feeling unprepared. 

Eventually, everything sorted itself out. For almost thirteen years of writing this blog, I hope I have conveyed the message that retirement has the potential to make this stage of life productive and satisfying. 

Even so, I would guess we have asked ourselves, "is this all there is," every now and then. It is part of the human condition to wonder what we are accomplishing and what comes next. What sets us apart from other species is this need to question, speculate, to hope.

At its core, retirement is the only time in our lives when a lot of the answers to those eternal questions are under our control. No, we can't change the facts of mortality. We have only limited control over health issues that may have been baked into our genes from day one. But, that leaves tremendous wiggle room, doesn't it?

I am constantly inspired by stories of folks with severe limitations achieving remarkable things. I think of those who compete in marathons in their wheelchairs, or on artificial legs. I think of people who are unable to move any part of their body below the neck but have mastered painting, using a computer or writing a book by grasping a brush or stick in their mouths to accomplish these tasks. 

A perfect example is the story of Helen Keller. Deaf and blind, she mastered communication, learned to speak, and became an author, activist, and lecturer. Anne Sullivan, her teacher and constant companion, showed an awe-inspiring level of patience and determination to young Helen. 

When I am tempted to complain because I have some morning stiffness in my fingers, a knee that acts up, or a sore back, Helen Keller pops to mind; I am embarrassed by my petty complaints.

While we are still on this side of the dirt, the reality is there is never a time when it is appropriate to ask, "is that all there is?" Because the answer is an emphatic, "No!" If you settle for what doesn't make you happy or fulfilled, then it is on you. 

Maybe you can't change your physical condition or location. It is not all that uncommon for retired folks to live on a tight budget. I certainly get enough emails from unhappy spouses (of both sexes) who feel trapped in an unsatisfying relationship. I am not minimizing the real pain and frustration that can accompany those situations. 

But, I do suggest that you have the ability to rise above each of those scenarios. Strictly physical problems do not have to affect your ability to think, create, write, or enjoy the sound of the birds in your backyard. A pet could care less that you can't walk or run. He will love you anyway.

A tight budget forces you to be creative. Can't afford a computer or Internet connection? Your local library has both. Going out to eat is so infrequent you forget how to order off a menu? Become a great cook at home. Set the table, light a candle, pour the water into a real glass, and make an ordinary dinner of leftovers something special. 

If you have tried everything to make things work well with your spouse, and divorce isn't an option for many reasons, reassert your individuality. Do what makes you happy. Carve out times of the day when you please yourself. Then, search for any way to ease the burden on your spouse or partner. Even a pat on the back or a quick squeeze of the hand could help thaw the permafrost a bit. 

By the way, if the title reminds you of a song by Peggy Lee, you are definitely an older boomer.  In a rather bleak view of life, the lyrics suggest that if this is as good as it is going to get, then let's dance and party before the final disappointment of death. 

During a time of upheavals in the late 1960s, this was a top 15 hit for Ms. Lee. The lyrics speak to a very turbulent time in our nation's history, and for many of us as well.

Call me out of touch with how the world really is, but I would respond, if this is all there is, I am pretty happy to be allowed to experience it.

February 14, 2023

Four Years and Counting


In a little over four years, I will be 78, a fact that is sometimes hard to grasp. Betty and I agree that is when it would be wise for us to move to a continuing-care retirement community. My wife will be a youthful 73 but is committed to having us both in a situation where our family is not responsible for our care during the inevitable decline of later years.

Luckily, we know where we want to go. A nearby well-run, attractive, full-featured community was home to my parents for the last several years of their lives. It is about 20 minutes from where we call home now and where our daughters live. Most importantly, there are Independent living, assisted living, nursing care, and memory care facilities as needed. 

While four years seems like a long time, it is not. Time has a nasty habit of flowing by too quickly as we age. Forty-eight months gives us enough time to do what we must before moving. 

I am detailing the steps that have occurred to us to make this "last move" go smoothly. If you have a similar change in a living arrangement in the future, this may help you with planning. I welcome your thoughts if you have already relocated to a planned retirement community. Especially if I am overlooking necessary and essential steps!

These are not in any particular order; all must be accomplished before we feel well prepared.

* Downsize

Some downsizing occurred when we moved to our current home almost eight years ago. Various sets of grandparents' china and other keepsakes were distributed to our kids. Old paper files, unneeded furniture, and books were sold, donated, or added to the dumpster. 

Well, here we must go again. Our new living space will be about half as ample. Deciding what we want with us and what should become a memory takes work and forces tough decisions. No attic, garage, storage shed, third bedroom, and den means leaving quite a bit behind. 

We have decided on a fresh start, furniture-wise. Besides the reality that much of what we own now won't fit, it seems like a good time for a new look. Some of the coffee and end tables have been with us for over 30 years. The dinette set predates that. The area rugs in the family and living room are past due for replacement. The large couches and dining room table will probably stay behind. 

A few pieces that hold special significance will come with us. Otherwise, we will start with a blank slate, with new color schemes and furniture that can serve double duty as storage or office space.

The bulk of what is left in the china hutch will go. Our daughters may want some of it, but most will find its way to a series of garage sales. Dozens of old photo albums, various items in the attic, and all the garden and lawn tools will be sold. Excess clothing will likely find its way to Goodwill. My ham radio gear will be sold to the highest bidder. Betty and I will combine our painting and art supplies so they take up less room.

There is a good-sized storage shed in our backyard. It currently holds Christmas decorations, old paintings by Betty and my dad, picture frames, and other odds and ends. Since that space won't exist in the new place, we must figure out what to take and what goes away.

The attic has old tax files, paperwork, and out-of-season bedding. The garage has the usual assortment of tools, leftover paint no longer needed, yard rakes and hoes, fertilizer, boxes of mementos, and cute art projects the grandkids made years ago. Since the living space at the retirement community has neither an attic nor a garage, most of this will have to go.

* Sell/donate/give away/throw away

We have begun to make various piles of things to be donated, household stuff to sell at yard sales, artwork Betty created she'd like to sell, and lots of household stuff that will, unfortunately, make their way to the trash.


Sell house. 

One thing we cannot predict is the condition of the real estate market several years ahead. Regardless, we are using the proceeds to pay the rather substantial entrance fee to the retirement community. If the market is strong, there should be enough from the sale to cover a few years of the rental fees.

We have decided not to put much into this house to make it more up-to-date. Both bathrooms could use overhauls, but sinking that much into them just before we leave will unlikely increase the price enough to be worth six months of upheaval. We do want to put some personal features into our new place; undergoing two renovation projects in such a short period doesn't make sense to us.

* All the paperwork and adjustments that come with a move

Change of address with everyone, arranging last bills and utility shutdowns, finding bank branches, and shopping closer to our new address will have to be done. 

One thing that has yet to be decided: do we change doctors, dentists, and other health services close to the new home when we move or wait until driving becomes an issue before switching to medical providers close to the new community?

Mentally adjust to living with all "old" people (like us!)

When everyone you see is roughly your age, is that comforting, or does it feel restrictive? Will weekly updates of those in the community who have died be powerful reminders of our future or prompt us to stay busy and involved until the end? 

This community has a tremendous range of activities, clubs, and educational seminars. There are all sorts of arts and crafts facilities, a full-service gym, a year-round heated pool, and several restaurants. 

My parents used very few of these facilities and ways to stay connected. Betty and I are primarily loners, most comfortable with each other and our "me" time. But we both agree that we'd like to become active in this new way of life for as long as possible. One of the attractions of a planned community is being surrounded by people our age and finding ways to connect with others. 

Well, that's our starter list. Suddenly four years seems almost right around the corner.

P.S.  Happy Valentine's Day and, more importantly, Betty's birthday today!

February 11, 2023

I'm Retired: Where's The Money Coming From?


Isn't this a question we ask about retirement, even if we are "expert" about all things retirement by now? This question is important enough for me to attempt an answer. 

The number one financial fear is whether enough money has been saved and invested, along with expected income from Social Security and maybe a pension. Where does my money come from when the checks stop?

Obviously, I don't know your specifics since the answer depends on your resources and how long you live. But, I do feel comfortable outlining a few basic responses to the question of income and retirement. And I urge you to add a comment at the end of the post if another idea comes to mind.

So, what are the sources of income we depend upon? You might be surprised by the wide range of possibilities.

Social Security

This is the basic foundation that most of us use for our retirement. Nearly 66 million receive a monthly deposit from the government. Roughly 25% of that total are disabled or dependent folks, many under the age of 65.

The amount of the payment is based on too many variables for this post, but the more you made during your working days, the amount of time you were employed, and when you start taking payments determines your monthly check. Delayed acceptance and spousal benefits are other factors. 

In inflationary times, like now, the amount of your payment increases with a cost of living adjustment based on inflation. For 2023 an adjustment of 8.7% helped a bit after seeing rapid price increases over the last few years. The average Social Security check is $1,550 a month. Medicare premiums are deducted from that base amount. In a nice surprise, Part B Medicare costs actually went down about $10 a month this year.

Much is written about the impending exhaustion of the fund that provides the cash for Social Security, or the subject becomes a political talking point. Personally, I expect the age to receive payments will move in increments up to 67, and the payroll tax will cover higher income groups. There is a possibility that benefits could be reduced for a time. But, there isn't any that Social Security will disappear. Tens of millions of us would not allow that to happen.


Frankly, I am surprised that roughly 31% of Americans still receive a monthly payment from their employer under a defined benefit plan. That is down from 42% a few decades ago and is likely to continue to shrink in the years ahead. Companies have found the benefits are too great to maintain, particularly in the area of health care. 

If you worked for the government, you are probably in better shape. Close to 90% of full-time workers continue to receive pensions. Federal workers can receive Social Security as well, but the amount received is reduced by the size of the Federal pension.

To millions of us, a promise to pay doesn't always mean the reality of payment. Under severe financial stress, companies find ways around a pension promise, leaving too many folks in dire straits. Planning your future around a private sector pension that lasts as long as you will, is becoming a bit of a roll of the dice.


If you work for a company that offers a 401(k) retirement plan and contributes a percentage of your salary, this could be an important linchpin in your income stream for retirement. Likewise, a well-funded IRA is often key to a satisfying retirement. Since having both an IRA and a 401(k) is allowed, if you afford to do so, put money in both starting as early as you can. For those over 50, there is a special provision allowing extra money to be put in an IRA each year. 

Remember, the money grows tax-free, but you are only delaying the tax bill that comes due when you withdraw funds. Be sure to take that into account. Make sure you understand the Required Minimum Distribution rules. Once you reach a certain age, you must start to withdraw a predetermined amount from your IRA, or face hefty penalties.

If you have a Roth IRA, that money has already been taxed, meaning it grows and can be withdrawn without any other deductions or timetables until your passing. Under current laws, your heirs will have to withdraw a certain percentage each year. 


This covers things like mutual funds, bonds, and stocks that you have placed money in over the years. While there are some tax consequences, like capital gains tax, your investments provide income as you need it.


This investment choice contains many too many variables and cautions to detail here. If you'd like a simple overview, click this link or search Google for more information. Annuities are designed to provide a fixed monthly income for life from a lump sum of money you turn over to a private company.  I caution you to exercise due diligence in this area. 

Part-time work

For many retirees, some retirement income comes from a part-time job. Depending on the state of the economy and your particular skills, this is one way to supplement other income sources. 


Not that different from part-time work, turning a hobby or skill into retirement income is a natural step for many folks. Love woodworking? Make cabinets or coffee tables. Know how to build a website? Help small businesses establish their presence on the Internet. Love to paint or take stunning photos? Sell them online or in books. Have specific knowledge about a particular industry? Become a consultant. Love teaching children but don't want to be a teacher? Try tutoring.


For the lucky ones among us, parents or relatives will leave you money, investments, or property that can be turned into a source of income. Unless you are quite sure this will happen, I'd strongly suggest you don't build your retirement plan around this possibility.

Hopefully, this list should encourage you. With the eight income possibilities listed here, plus whatever ideas you add, the way to pay for retirement is likely within your grasp.

February 7, 2023

Achievements: It is Time To Blow Your Own Horn


We have all experienced disappointments, losses, and troubles, both big and small. If you live long enough, there will be things you have done you'd probably like to undo. Life is a never-ending challenge that requires us to have hope in ourselves and the future. A previous  post dealt with how hard it is to stay out of the rut of living.

All too often, though, we can forget our achievements, those things we have done over our lifetime that make us happy, maybe even a little proud. As we move through the first few months of a new year, I thought it might be encouraging to focus on some of our most proud achievements. I will list a few of mine to get you started. Notice that most of the things on my list are not earth-shaking, they barely rattle. But that is the important thing about achievements: size doesn't matter.

1. I quit smoking (That was a tough one...it took several years)

2. Raised two well-adjusted, content daughters who want me in their lives

3. Have been happily married to the same woman for over 46 years 

4. Am loved by my grandkids,  and I love them back.

5. Rebounded from being fired to form a business that supported my family

6. Watched that business die, forcing me to retire early. So far, so good.

7. My parents lived nearby and loved being part of my family's life

8. Learned to scuba dive (haven't done it in years, but still...!)

9. Have avoided most of the signs of becoming a grumpy old man

OK, what is on your list? Take a little time to think about everything you have accomplished. What are some things that make you smile, feel good, and be proud? 

A little bragging is allowed..it is good for the soul.

February 3, 2023

My Banned Book Project: Update

 As you may remember, I took on a new project for the new year. The American Library Association has published a book of 52 of the titles that most often provoke an urge to ban those publications. The challenge is to read every book on the list and record your reaction to each.

At the moment, over 2,500 books have appeared on various lists from different sources. Some proponents want to remove these books from school libraries. Others are intent on removing them from public libraries as well. Censorship to enforce someone's beliefs upon everyone is the goal. School and public librarians are under fire. Library board meetings that are usually open to the public have degenerated into shouting matches with threats of shutting down a town's public library not unheard of.

While I believe book banning is a horrific option, I do understand that not everything published is appropriate for everyone. In most cases, we should defer judgment on appropriateness to the parents of a child. When I get my hackles up is when a group of people decides their choices for their offspring must be applied to all, regardless of age or circumstances.

So, I am reading as many of the books on the ALA's list  as I can this year.  I promised to approach each with an open mind, attempting to understand why a listed book would generate such opposition. I am also interested to see how of the 52 books on the list are available at my library. As an additional benefit, the ALA notes that keeping these books in circulation helps deflect attacks and complaints.

A little over one month in, here is a progress report:

* I have read five of the listed books. My reaction to each will be noted below.

* So far, every book has been readily available in my library. That tells me minority pressure has yet to limit everyone's choices.

* The bulk of the books in this challenge are YA, or Young Adult, in orientation. I would select very few of them as a personal choice, not because of their content but because the narrative is not meant to appeal to me. 

* Spoiler alert: none of the first five are so offensive they should be banned. However, age restrictions are reasonable for most.


1) The Absolutely True Story of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie

About a native-American boy who grows up on a reservation but decides to go to school in the primarily white community nearby. This a story about building self-confidence, learning about acceptance and community, seeing things from different perspectives, and understanding the need to appreciate one's roots.

There is one paragraph about self-pleasure and a few instances of rather mild teenage boy fantasies. The major complaints are about profanity and the above-mentioned sexual references. 

My thought: Not appropriate for most preteens. Older teens and others would find nothing terribly shocking by today's standards or find it uncomfortable.

2) The House of The Spirits by Isabel Allende

This novel takes some time to find its pace. There are a lot of characters and settings to unravel. This is a rather deep dive into family and generational dynamics in an unnamed South American country. Once the reader understands the who, what, and why, this book is a worthy read and well-written.. There are obvious parallels to today and class divides in society.

There are sections describing rape, spirituality, and conflict. Several of the characters hold unusual religious beliefs and are unpleasant people. This is not a book that would hold much appeal to most under 18. The major complaints are sexually explicit, religious viewpoints, offensive language, occult beliefs, and abortion.

My thought: This is not a book that would appeal to anyone under 16. Making it unavailable without parental approval in elementary or Junior High makes sense. Above that age, it is worthy of consideration and belongs in general circulation.

3) Fun Home by Alison Bechdel

This is a graphic novel autobiography. Yes, it is graphic in some of the language, drawings, and tone. But, graphic also means Fun House is primarily drawings, like a comic strip, with text to explain the context of the depictions.

The focus is on Alison and her family, with the father having an outsized influence on her and her development. Subject matters include lesbianism and homosexuality within the family. While frank in both drawing and text, I did not find the material is meant to shock. Rather, the novel attempts to realistically portray what fractured family relationships look like.

My thought: as a "coming out" story, Fun House feels very realistic to me. For someone going through this situation, there is a frank explanation of both the problems and strengths that come from honesty.

This is inappropriate for most children under 14 or 15 due to content and drawings. Someone who is going through identity issues would probably find this book helpful. Anyone else would likely not find this novel appealing.

4) Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close  by Jonathan Safran Foer

If you have seen the movie of the same name starring Tom Hanks,  the book version is more intense and, frankly, a much more complete tale. The narrative bounces around a lot, making it hard to pick up and put down without getting confused. There are segments I found irritating but stuck with it. In the end, loose ends are tied together.

The lead character, nine-year-old Oskar, lost his father during 9/11; the effect is profound. He is brilliant, inventive, endearing, and sometimes appears to be bipolar in his responses.  There are some descriptions of graphic sex as perceived by a young boy through observations and the Internet.

My thought: Not appropriate for preteens. The story and inventiveness of the character and the plot would require a certain level of maturity, not because of the minor sex scenes but simply to follow the complexity of the story. If a preteen has seen the movie, do not assume he or she would be attracted to this version.

5) Looking For Alaska by John Green

 A television version of this book is available on Hulu; the two are very different. This novel is much more mature in its subject matter and how these events are portrayed. 

Based on the experiences of the author at a boarding school in Alabama, this novel strikes me as realistic in its portrayal of some of the darker episodes of growing up. 

There are descriptions of explicit sex, a possible suicide, the loss of love and innocence, and the effects of poor choices. In the end, the author portrays a sense of what he calls "Radical Hope,"  a belief that in spite of all the problems of life, we have a future and a part of us that continues after we die.

My thought: This is not a novel I would have read except as part of this banned book project. Teenage angst is not normally my choice. However, if a person is mature enough to handle the subject matter, then no restriction seems necessary. I see the plot as supportive and ultimately encouraging.

You thoughts are encouraged!