April 24, 2014

I am About To Turn 65: Am I Age Appropriate?

The usual definition of something being age appropriate involves a decision whether certain activities or media (like movies or video games) may be deemed suitable to someone of a certain age. Often used by parents to help filter what their children are exposed to, a PG movie, for example, may be a bit too intense for a 7 year old, but entirely age appropriate for a child who is 10 or 11.

Beginning to date is another obvious example of an adult making a decision, based on the young person's maturity level, of when unsupervised time together at a dance or movie is appropriate. Being a dad of two daughters, I know my answer was when they turned 30, but that didn't go over too well (just kidding!).

So, what does any of this have to do with a satisfying retirement? A lot, I contend. I would like to suggest that we miss out of all sorts of experiences and fun, growth and opportunities by not doing something because it isn't "age appropriate" to a 65 year old man or 75 year old woman, or whatever.

We may be concerned what others might think. Maybe we are afraid of injury. Perhaps the financial cost seems too high. We would have to expend too much energy, either mentally or physically.

Frankly, at our age we should be very unconcerned about what others think. If someone is still trying to impress the neighbors with a huge house, expensive sports car, or vacations in the south of France, then this message will shoot right over that person's head. Having these things isn't wrong, unless the motivation is to make one look "appropriately" well off in the eyes of others.

We tend to associate people our age with words like settled, stable, predictable, or safe. How many retired, or almost retired folks, would you describe as adventurous, devil-may-care, unpredictable, or daring? How many are gutsy?

Too few, I would guess, and that is a shame. When else in our short time on earth are we as free to push against the restraints, take a risk on a new lifestyle, or try something and not worry if we fall flat on our face.

If we fail at something, so what? If the move to the mountains in Spain doesn't work, come home. If the karate lessons leave you unfulfilled, sell the white outfit to someone else. If trying to salsa dance leaves your hips out of whack, take up line dancing.

There are several folks who read Satisfying Retirement on a regular basis who I would classify as being unconcerned about being "age appropriate" in the eyes of others. Whether due to a high energy level and willingness to try everything while still physically able, or leaving a comfortable home in the suburbs to live their dream in the mountains, these people are taking their best shot. Another woman uprooted herself and moved 1,000 miles from her home to be closer to family and try on a new lifestyle. Still another took classes and tests to fulfill a dream of becoming certified as a professional mediator. Yet another is moving from a big city to a seaside town that has a strong pull on her and her husband, a pull that must be acknowledged.

My book, Living a Satisfying Retirement, is filled with stories of people, just like you and me, who took a leap of faith toward a new life. Were they being "age appropriate?" I don't know. But, I do know they didn't care. With more of our life behind us rather than in front of us, what is heaven's name are we waiting for?

Oh, and in the interest of full disclosure, this post is directed squarely at me. I can write about it, but do I live it? Not to the degree I wish I did.

Note: I will be away from a computer until Thursday afternoon on a short RV  getaway. I will respond to any comments when I am able.

April 21, 2014

And There It Sits

Buying an RV is not something most of us do on a whim. Whether it is a motorhome, trailer, or pop-up camper, there is at the very minimum several thousand dollars invested in your rig. A newer Class A motorhome (the kind that look like very fancy bus) can range from $100,000 to well over one million dollars.

When Betty and I took the plunge about 18 months ago we bought a used Class C motorhome. So far we have been very pleased. It is almost 8 years old, has over 120,000 miles on the engine, and has some cosmetic wear and tear. But, we have been diligent in the maintenance and upkeep and have every expectation that the big Ford V-10 engine will last at least 200,000 miles, much longer than we are likely to own it.

Because it was an older model with higher mileage I think we got an excellent deal. Including an extended warranty (a necessity on a used vehicle with so many mechanical parts) we paid just under $30,000. All the other costs involved in maintaining it have been less than $2,000 so far. The towing equipment for the new towed car will be somewhere around $2,500. All of this is definitely  not small change for us but worth it as an investment in our satisfying retirement and the chance to try on a new lifestyle.

In the year and a half we have owned R.T. (Road Trip) we have driven about 4,800 miles and spent 64 nights away from home. That means roughly 88% of the time we have owned R.T. it has been parked in the side yard. Some might say it has become a very expensive yard ornament.

That does raise the question I get from blog readers: does buying a motorhome make economic sense? Unless you are going to make it your home for at least 4-5 months of the year how can the expense be justified? Most RVers are probably like us - their RV sits for most of the year.

You probably won't be surprised that I have an answer: It makes no economic sense at all. Even the idea that you can save money on motel and restaurant bills when you are on vacation doesn't work. For something that gets less than 9 miles to the gallon, must be maintained and insured, and usually spends nights on the road in a campground that averages $25-$40 a night, the no motel  argument falls apart. You may not be eating in restaurants, but you still must buy food.

In one instance an RV can be a cheaper way to leave home: if you find a campground in an area of the country you like and spend at least a month. You aren't burning gas for that 30 days and the monthly fee is much less than the nightly charge.

So, if an RV usually makes no economic sense for most of us recreational users, then why spend all that money?

*Freedom that is hard to feel any other way 
*Stepping out of your normal routine - not better, just different
*Exploring the country in a way you can't if you fly.
*Having the comfort of your things with you when you stop for the night
*Time together with your spouse or significant other without interruption, or,
*Time alone to still your mind, recharge and refocus
*Waking up and going to sleep close to nature

RV travel is not for everyone. You might be the type of vacationer that wants to be pampered, have a restaurant prepare all your meals, choose from a zillion TV channels, and sleep on a huge bed with down pillows. That is the way I preferred to take a break (preferably in Hawaii, England, or Italy) before I discovered RV travel.

Now, I can't wait to get on the road. The freedom is intoxicating and the feeling of adventure around the next bend can't be beat. The cost is high but the payoff is higher. Betty and I have chosen to cut our budget in other places so we can spend in a way that makes us happy.

For this year the time on the road will increase to around 90 nights. Next year I expect the total to be well over 120 nights away from home. I am excited.

And isn't that what a satisfying retirement is all about?

Freedom machine or expensive lawn ornament?

April 17, 2014

A Slice of (Your) Retirement Life

A few weeks ago the post, What's Going On?, generated several comments that expressed an interest in reading about other retirees' experiences in all the areas that concern us: is retirement everything you hoped, and if not, why not? What keeps you up at night and what excites you every morning? How do you productively fill your time and balance commitments with freedom? How about travel...doing more or less than you thought you would?.....basically we are asking to hear some of each other's unique story.

Those types of interviews filled my last book. I found those answers and reactions fascinating. So, the idea of doing more of it on this blog is a winner. Soliciting stories and information about lifestyles and how retirement is working opens up endless possibilities and interesting insights. Even those 52 folks who took part in the book project have certainly learned something new or changed their direction since I solicited those opinions a couple of years ago, so they are encouraged to chime in, too.

Here is what I propose: I have listed a few questions below. In the comment section answer one or two of the questions that are most important to you. Your total response may be longer than a typical comment but that is fine. We are all looking for fresh ideas and support. Length isn't nearly as important as simply sharing what this journey looks like from your perspective.

My Questions (pick one or two to answer in the comment section):

1) Has retirement turned out the way you thought it would? Why or why not?

2) What has been your biggest surprise about being retired?

3) Do you worry about your financial situation? 

4) What new things have you discovered about yourself?

5)  If you had it do over again, would you keep working, retire sooner, or are content with how things worked out?

I am an anxious as anyone to read your answers. This should be a fun and instructive exercise for all of us.

I won't leave comments after each entry like I normally do. But, I will have a followup post or two in a few weeks that tries to draw some general conclusions from the answers left to my questions.

April 14, 2014

To Move or Stay Put: I Can't Decide

Is it ignorance or apathy?  I don't know and I don't care.

Jimmy Buffett may have summarized my dilemma best with these lyrics from one of his songs. Betty and I have changed our mind on this one decision so often that our kids now just roll their eyes and ask, "What is your plan today?"

We have lived in our current home for twelve years. It was a major downsize choice after our daughters finished college and moved out to start their lives. It is a pleasant, older home with a big backyard, enough room for us and plenty of storage, room for the RV on the side yard, and in a quiet and stable neighborhood.

Unfortunately, it also has some items in the negative column: being an older home (30 years) it has maintenance and repair issues. The house has two stories which is not a problem now but might become one as we age. The windows are the original ones, meaning they are about as energy efficient as a hole in the wall.

The outside is a type of wood product siding popular three decades ago that requires repainting every 7-10 years (we are there now). While the backyard is pretty and relaxing and great for the dog and grandkids, it takes a fair amount of effort to keep it looking decent. We have replaced many of the plants with low water, low maintenance varieties, but there is still a lot of grass to be cut and watered and sprinkler heads to fix.

Over the past year or so, Betty and I have decided to move in seven years, then two or three, then back to seven, then maybe 13-15.....you see the pattern: indecision. We are motivated to move by the maintenance and cost of an old, energy-wasteful home. We have spent our entire married life (38 years in June), in the suburbs and are bored with that lifestyle. Actually all three of the houses we have called home over the past thirty years in Phoenix and Scottsdale have been inside a 5 mile circle. 

So, our thoughts have turned to a smaller condo/townhome type arrangement, in another part of the Phoenix metro area, in a community with a pool, fitness center, and outdoor maintenance is taken care of by someone else. We would like a place where we could turn things off, lock the door, and be gone in the RV for weeks or months at a time and not worry about our home.

So, there is the situation, - and we remain stuck. Moving is expensive, and involves lots of changes, even if only 20-30 minutes away. We are attracted to a more urban environment, like Tempe. It has an active cultural life, 60,000 students at ASU to bring energy to town, light rail, an excellent bus system, and a different feel than our current neighborhood. It is a bit closer to our kids and my dad, and is only 20 minutes from downtown Phoenix.

But, in our saner moments we say to ourselves, " We are comfortable here. Our friends, church, doctors, and familiar shopping choices are here. Tempe is only 30 minutes away. When we feel the urge we can drive there a lot easier than moving there."

So, here we sit. The house has recovered much of the value it lost during the 2007-8 real estate meltdown in Phoenix. But, what if we finally decide to move (or have to due to health) ten years from now and the market is back down again? We would have left a lot of money on the table. Part of me wants the stimulation that a move brings. The other part says save yourself the hassle.

As of today, neither part is casting a deciding vote.