August 25, 2016

Seven Reasons I Love RV Travel

A Satisfying Retirement is built on a solid foundation of financial, relational, and emotional support. Without enough income, family or friends, and ways to use free time productively, what could be the best time of your life may fall short.

I will add one more element that is often overlooked: vacations. Does that seem odd? After all, isn't retirement one, long, vacation? Well, no, it is not. The responsibilities and hassles of everyday life don't stop when your paycheck does. The need to shake things up a bit, get a fresh perspective, and collect new experiences is just as important after you leave the full time employment world. 

My wife and I enjoy RV travel. While we are on the road only a few months each year, there is a satisfaction and stimulation from motorhome travel that is hard to match. If you are considering the RV lifestyle, let's see if these seven reasons convince you to take the plunge:

1. The freedom of traveling with your home is addictive. Unpack once, bring your pillow, favorite photos, books, and movies. Eat when you are hungry, sleep when you are tired. You are home wherever you are.

2. Pets are welcome on the road. Does putting your pet in a kennel or dropping her off at a friend's bother you? Is your dog part of your family? RV travel is even better with your best friend.

3. Don't fly over the country, rather be immersed in daily, local life. Buy your produce at a farmer's market. Explore a local nature preserve. meet the town characters at the diner. Experience your country in a very personal, interactive way.

4. Being in a small space encourages relationship-building. You learn the art of compromise quickly in 200 sq. feet. 

5. After the initial purchase, vacations are much less expensive. With proper care an RV can last a decade or more. Think of all those motel rooms you are not renting and the restaurant meals you are not buying.

6. Life long friends can be found on the road. RV parks are full of friendly folks who want to share and connect. Several of our dearest friends were first met while traveling.

7. You come home with a new sense of satisfaction. Where you live seems fresh, welcoming, and very comforting. There is no place like home, especially after being gone for awhile.

RV travel is not for everyone. But, for us, it satisfies like no other type of vacation. These seven reasons might convince you to give it a try.

August 22, 2016

5 Things That Successful Retirees Do Well

Successful Retirement

I have never met a retiree who is trying to "fail" at having a satisfying retirement. By fail, I mean spending time worrying instead of enjoying, stagnating instead of experiencing, and second-guessing major decisions. We expect retirement to be the payoff for years of working, commuting, saving, and delayed gratification. Does it always work that way? For too many of us the answer is, "No." 

I believe there are five definite traits and decisions that separate the truly "successful" retirees from the rest of us. While things would run more smoothly if we exhibited these attributes well before the end of our full time working life,   the good news is that any of us can improve the quality of our retirement journey by adopting them now.

1) See retirement as a beginning not an ending.

For many of us, what we do for a living defines us. Our job or career controls how we think of and describe ourselves. "What do you do" is the first question virtually anyone asks of a stranger. A successful retirement requires that we celebrate our working life, are proud of what we contributed, but see the future as a new and exciting stage of life. Retirement is the beginning of what can be the most creative, productive, and fulfilling part of life. It is not the end of our relevancy.

2) Believe retirement can be the best stage of life.

I will quickly qualify this sentence, with my belief that a happy life means we think of each stage of life as the best. Each holds joys and experiences that are usually unique to that time in our lives. It should not be the case that we simply exist until retirement. But, retirement brings with it a freedom to experiment, to adjust, to focus on what makes us happy and satisfied. Those with this attitude will prosper.

3) Prepare financially and emotionally but don't over-think or second -guess decisions.

Think of it like skydiving. Once you leave the plane it is a little late to worry if you rolled the chute correctly. As you fall at 120 miles per hour, wondering if your training was really complete isn't likely to cross your mind. Retirement isn't that dramatic, but the point is a valid one. Once you leave the working world behind, the preparation you completed beforehand should be sufficient. Adjust with change, yes. Second-guess everything you did to get where you are today, no. 

4) Believe attitude makes all the difference.

 "Attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference." I agree with Winston Churchill. Our attitude determines how happy or unhappy we are either for a moment, or a lifetime. It is completely under our control. Even under the most trying of times, how we react to that stress determines its power over us. Abe Lincoln said something about how we either see the thorns on the rose bush, or the blooms. A satisfying retirement tends to recognize the thorns but keeps its focus on the blooms.

5) Want to leave a legacy that empowers others.

When all is said and done, we want to leave something behind. While a legacy might mean money for your family, I tend to think of it as warm memories, an example of a life well-lived, compassion for others, and a faith that nourishes and supports us and those we love. My parents left me and my two brothers a financial cushion that has smoothed out any rough spots in our future, and for that we are eternally grateful. But, even more important was the example of a 63 year marriage, concern for others, and a desire to do no harm. One of the important choices we can make during our retirement journey is the legacy we are leaving behind. 

August 19, 2016

An Open Letter To My Grandkids

My Darling Grandchildren,

Much of what I want to tell you in this letter won't make much sense to you yet. You are still young enough that everything is made safe and right by your mom and dad, brother or sisters. You have two sets of grandparents who live nearby, see you often, and love you very much. You have an aunt who would give her life for you. An uncle and your cousins are frequent visitors. God loves you and has your future well in hand.

Things that happen in your world all make sense. You have food to eat when you are hungry and a bed to sleep in when you are tired. You have favorite toys and lots of books. A swimming pool keeps you and your family cool in the summer. Your days are free of danger and fear. You are very lucky and blessed to have this time in your life. Many other little boys and girls around the world do not have what you do. They are not bad or less deserving but have a much tougher time growing up to be happy and healthy.

As you grow, things will start to change in your world. Mom and dad, grandparents, cousins, and your aunt and uncle will always love and protect you. You will never be abandoned or made to feel unimportant. But, the sad truth is that some of the things in the world and some other people will not care as much for you or protect you.

Some will be mean to you and try to make you feel small or wrong or unimportant. Some will try to get you to do something you know in your heart is wrong. Some will try to take away things that are yours. Some will call you bad names. Some may even try to hurt you.

What I want you to know is that all those bad things in the world do not have the power to change you. Who you are today and the very special person you will grow to become cannot be harmed by the bad parts in the world, unless you lose faith in God, those who love you, and faith in yourself. You will have the strength to say "No" to anything that wants to make you into something else.

There will be times in your life when you will make mistakes. You will choose to do something that you shouldn't. You will say mean things to other people. You will be tempted to do something you know isn't best for you and others. 

When these things happen, and they will, I want you to remember that you are just a human being. You are not designed to be perfect. You are not built to never make mistakes or wrong choices. So, don't feel you have failed. Don't make a mistake worse by trying to cover it up. Don't allow something you did wrong today affect how you act tomorrow. 

God has already forgiven you. Those who love you deeply will never, ever stop loving you totally and completely. They may be disappointed when you make a wrong choice, but will never walk away from you or make you feel unworthy of their love and care.

Honor your parents. You will not always agree with them, but they deserve your respect. Make your word be your bond. When you promise to do something, do it. Protect the environment. We only have one earth. Defend your brother or sisters, both verbally and physically, if need be. 

The world is a tough place to live. You will need strength in your character and convictions every day. But, I know as strongly as I know anything in my life, that you will never fail to live a life that makes the world just a little bit better because you are in it.

All my love,


August 16, 2016

Retirement and Hawaii-Bound


How many of us dream of packing up our belongings and moving to Hawaii? The lure of endless sunshine, warm temperatures, seeing the ocean every day, and living close to nature are powerful pulls.

How many of us actually make that change? Blogger Laura and husband Brett are one couple that left rainy and chilly Portland for the perpetual summer of Kauai. After a few years of diligent research, serious downsizing, and a willingness to make major lifestyle adjustments, they made their dream a reality.

Laura is a regular reader of Satisfying Retirement. I asked her to share her story. She graciously agreed and has provided me with a wealth of information. Her own blog, The Occasional Nomads, provides a fascinating glimpse into all aspects of living over 2,600 miles from the mainland.

With her permission I am going to take parts of her past posts and e-mails to me and reproduce them here. I will add some of my own comments to her narrative. Some of what she has to share is what I expected: expenses are high but the climate is spectacular and worth the adjustments.

Her experiences also tell of having to undergo changes in diet, learning to make do when needed, living within the limits of an island environment, fitting in with the local culture, and give serious thought to bringing pets along.

Hawaiian cove
I will admit to being a lover of all things Hawaiian. I have been to all five of the major islands, both on business and for pleasure, at least 15 times. When I step off the plane I immediately feel at home. The softness of the air, the smells, the friendliness of the people, and the slower lifestyle have very strong appeal to me.

Several times Betty and I have toyed with the idea of relocating for at least part of each year.

I was excited to learn all about Laura and Brett's adventure and now, to share it with you. Even if you have never thought of such a move, many of their experiences can be applicable to any relocation or major lifestyle change.

Here is Laura's story:

I recently wrote on my blog about how and why we chose to retire to Hawai'i: The Occasional Nomad. We're different from many retirees who dream of Hawai'i because we chose it from a purely analytical standpoint versus having come here on vacation (although both my husband and I had both been here, but not together or on a family vacation).

Living in Hawai'i is very different from vacationing here. The transplants I know that have been successful have spent long stretches here versus basing their move only on positive vacation experiences.

If you want to come, research, research, research what it's actually like to live here and then research some more. So You Want To Live In Hawai'i by Toni Polancy. I don't know how recently it's been updated, but there is still lots of solid information on living here, choosing an island, as well as a chapter specifically about retirement. 

You can find out what things cost here - read the local food circulars; sign up for forums to discuss Hawai'i issues. Again, living here is different. If you still want to come, then start planing, planing, planing. And keep researching. A move overseas to Hawai'i is great motivation to downsize and get rid of the flotsam and jetsam in your life. Less really is more here.

Do I Have To be Rich To Move To Hawaii?

You don't have to be wealthy to live in Hawai'i, but you do need a steady, solid retirement income. You have to be adaptable and be prepared to live in a different way than you did back on the mainland. Be prepared to change, from how you live to what you eat to how you interact with others. The LAST thing anyone, local or otherwise, wants to hear here is, "well, back in xxx, we did it this way." Talk to transplants and locals about what they love about living here, and what they see as positives and negatives. Here is another post I wrote that discusses how we manage to live in such an expensive place on a fixed income: How We LIve In Such An Expensive Place. Again, less really is more here.

Do you want to rent or buy in Hawai'i? Almost everyone advises that you rent for at least a year before purchasing a home here, to make sure you want to stay before making the huge commitment of a home purchase. Besides being very expensive, homes here require LOTS of maintenance ("salt never sleeps"). We have been renting since we arrived, and currently have no intention to buy. We are enjoying the freedom from worry and other issues that renting has brought, and our housing needs will change again in a couple of years when our youngest daughter heads off to college, so we're glad to not currently be owning anything.

How About Fitting Into The Community?

Be prepared to have it take a while to make friends here. Locals have been seeing transplants come and go for years (most transplants don't last a year), so they take their time and make sure you're going to stay for the long haul before they open up (they're still very friendly and helpful in the meantime). We've made friends with other transplants/retirees.

I know our situation is a bit different from many: military retiree, older parents, etc. but our move to Hawai'i has been very positive for us. We can't imagine living anywhere else now.

How About Our Dog. Can We Bring Her?

Sadly, we relinquished our pets before we moved. It was NOT an easy thing to do, and might seem heartless to some, but it was the right thing to do for our pets. We knew from our research that it would be very difficult to impossible to find a rental here if we had a pet, so that was part of our consideration. Neither of the two homes we've lived have allowed pets, and we consider ourselves fortunate to have gotten chosen as renters for each one - the rental market here is very tight (I highly recommend that people start reading the Craigslist housing list daily once they think they want to move here - it's a real eye-opener on costs, what's available, and how few properties allow pets).

Still, even if we had planned to bring our dogs, two elderly pugs, the strong recommendation from our vet (who had lived in Hawai'i) is that we did not move them as either the upfront requirements or quarantine would have been very hard on them. And, it turned out we most likely couldn't have brought them anyway, at least at first, because many (if not most) airlines would not accept the breed for transport. We were gratefully able to re-home our beloved dogs into loving families using a rescue organization. It was more difficult to find a new home for our 11-year old cat, but one of our daughter's friends stepped forward and she also sends us pictures and videos - Lily adjusted well to her new home and is happy and doing well.

A period of quarantine is still required, but you can now take care of everything up front before you move, and your pet will be checked at the airport and released if all is in order. It's still very expensive - people we know have paid on the average $1000 per pet to get them admitted (you also pay for quarantine - it's not cheap either). Again, this is an area where people need to do their research and decide what they want to do.

Do you ever get island fever - The need to get off island?

 So far we haven't suffered from 'island fever.' One thing that you discover when you live here is that each part of the island is very unique, and has its own microclimate and culture. And, you become accustomed to driving shorter distances. So, a trip up the north side feels very far away and different from how it is where we live (on the east side, in Kapa'a). Same for heading down to the south or west sides. It makes the island seem a whole lot bigger than it really is.

We usually get in 2-3 trips off island every year though. This year we went to the Grand Canyon/Sedona during spring break (so got to do some driving then), then made a short visit over to Oahu in June, and later this month I'm taking my daughter back to college in Massachusetts (so far from home!) with a stop in Denver on the way back to visit my mom. Last year two of our daughters and I went to Japan in the spring, and then my husband took our oldest daughter to college in Oregon in the fall followed by a road trip with his sister down the California coast to Los Angeles which gave him his 'driving fix.' Anyway, so far we've never felt 'trapped' here, and have discovered there's nothing like coming to Kaua'i and knowing you are home.

Brett spent 22 years in the navy, and we did a LOT of traveling then, back and forth across the country. He said he's gotten his fill of driving, but I could see us doing some RV travel, maybe in a few years. We've talked about renting an RV and seeing some places we missed when we lived on the mainland (national parks, etc.).

A heartfelt mahalo to Laura and Brett for sharing their experiences. The ability of middle class folks to successfully relocate to the islands might encourage others to consider the move. But, Laura makes it clear that lots of research is required, as well as some basic changes in living and consumption habits. I urge you to check out her blog and read the posts for more details.

For Betty and me, the deal breakers are both the distance from family and the pet situation. We could be separated from our family for two or three months a year, since we already do that while on RV trips, but not as full time residents. And, for us there is no way we could give Bailey away or put her through the air travel or quarantine system. So, an occasional two week escape to Hawaii remains our option. 

How about you? Does this post give you any ideas? Do you see yourself living the island lifestyle? I look forward to your comments.

Hawaiian waterfall

In the meantime, Aloha!