January 28, 2017

What Gets Better As We Age?

Aging brings a new awareness of limitations. Physical and health-related issues are part of the reality of living. Just a few years ago, things we could do without much strain are more difficult. We must work harder to remain fit and energetic.

At the same time, several aspects actually improve. In meaningful ways, our life can become richer and easier as we turn each page of the calendar. LIfe's experiences help us in very important ways.

As we move through the last few days of the first month of a new year, let's look at some of the things that tend to get better as we age:

1. We are less concerned with comparing ourselves to others. By now, we know ourselves well enough to stop constantly comparing ourselves to others. We know there are people who are better looking than us, have more money or fame than we do, are taller, or thinner, more athletic or smarter and there is nothing we can do to change those differences. Importantly, we care less about any of that as measures of our worth or satisfaction.

2. We are more confident when we make decisions. Usually, there is less second-guessing as we age. We understand the past can't be changed and the future is largely out of our control. We are better at assessing the pros and cons of a situation based on a lifetime of experience. 

3. Relationships with others are often better. Because of point #1, our relationships often improve as we age. We tend to be more attuned to the needs of others. We appreciate true friendship as an important gift. We eliminate superficial relationships that take our time but return little of value. We have learned from our relational mistakes and find ourselves more open with partners.

4. The religious aspects of life can become more important. Spirituality, participation in organized religion, or a self-directed connection with a greater power tend to increase as we age. Perhaps it is a growing sense of our own mortality. Maybe because we have more time to think and contemplate, we search for something that brings meaning to our existence. For some that means a return to church or synagogue. For others, it may mean moving away from organized religion to an individual quest.

5. Generosity and sharing tend to increase. Giving back becomes more important as we age. As a way to connect with others, volunteerism rises with age. We understand our ability to help those who are less fortunate is more important than continual self-betterment. Charity donations tend to increase. 

We are aware of the stereotypical grumpy old man (or woman) who turns inward, rejects others, complains about everything, and perfects the art of being stingy with resources and time. The good news is this response to aging is atypical. We are much more likely to adopt some or all of the five points made above. When we do, a satisfying retirement (or re-visioning) becomes a reality.

January 24, 2017

Friendship and Retirement: Not a Simple Combination

Maybe it was because I worked for myself for so many years. Maybe it was because I tried working for big corporations and found I didn't play well in a big sandbox. Maybe it is just part of my personality. Whatever the reason, I never had very many close friends. 

My business as a consultant required lots of acquaintances: clients, industry contacts, friendly competitors, and suppliers. But, those were not the type of relationships that led to enduring friendship. Because I was on the road for many days each year, I never developed many close friendships on a social level at home, either. My wife will admit she wasn't much better.

Unfortunately, I carried that situation into retirement. If Betty and I wanted to do something with another couple, we would scramble to think of who to invite. Usually, that meant we would involve family, or do things as just the two of us.

One unexpected benefit of blogging was the start of several on-line, virtual, friendships. Regular readers became people I enjoyed contacting  through email exchanges. Over time, a few of those on-line contacts developed into actually meeting several of these folks in person. 

Over the last several months, we have reconnected with a couple we have known for over twenty years but lost contact with. Another fellow who was actually responsible for my meeting Betty on a blind date initiated a get together during our RV trip back east last summer. After 40 years apart we picked up right where we left off and added his wife to our circle of people we consider important parts of our life. This shift to having more people in my life with whom I am developing a real friendship is a pleasant change. 

One of the realities of retirement, though, is the possibility of social isolation. While both sexes have this problem, men are the ones who raise the issue most often with me. The friends lost after leaving work are not easy to replace. We guys are not as open and sharing as our female counterparts. Developing a strong friendship is more difficult for us. We are more hesitant to reveal the flaws and weaknesses that help cement a relationship.

That can be a real problem in retirement. All of us need someone to feel comfortable enough with to share problems, turn to for advice, and have fun together. A few couples or single friends to join us at the movies or at happy hour on a Friday afternoon sounds simple enough, but is a struggle for too many.

This past year I have worked on the goal of expanding my circle of acquaintances, with the hope that some of them would deepen into real friendships. I have attended men's meetings at my church, joined some volunteer organizations to find like-minded people, and been more aggressive in turning blogging contacts from virtual into real relationships. I have tried to be more open to meeting new people. It hasn't been completely successful but 2016 was a better year than most in adding to my roster of friends. 

Friendship and retirement are an important paring. I will be the first to admit that strengthening this often involves hard work, and making yourself vulnerable to disappointment and hurt. But, the payoff is worth the cost. 

How are you doing? Is your retirement well-stocked with friends? Do you have a handful of people you can turn to if there are major bumps in your road, or is this one area when you are less than satisfied with the status quo?

A post from two months ago may be worth re-reading if this an area where you'd like to dedicate some extra effort. The Five Key Qualities of a Spouse, Partner, or Friend.

January 20, 2017

Six Things That Will be Different in 10 years

The end of an old year tends to bring out the predictor urge in many of us. We look back at the 12 months that is now in the history books and wonder what the new year will bring.

Instead of looking ahead only a few months, I thought it would be fun to leap forward a decade. What will be different in 2027? What things that we take for granted today may not exist in their present form in 10 years? Here are a handful that might come to pass:

1) Black Friday will have passed away from lack of interest and the steady shift to Internet shopping. Already Americans are buying more online during the holidays than at brick and mortar stores. That trend will only accelerate. The idea of rushing out to shop right after Thanksgiving dinner, or getting in line at 5:00 AM for a chance to save on a PlayStation will be a distant memory. Such a shift will also mean the end to many of the physical stores that populate our malls and strip centers.

2) Retirement will be later for the majority of folks. No longer will 65 be the target age, rather 70 or even 75 will become the new norm. As we live longer, retiring at 65, or earlier, would mean preparing for retirement investments to last at least 30 years. Many people will find that unpractical. The government will find ways to trim Social Security and Medicare entitlements, putting more pressure on people to save more and delay retirement. Recent studies say 27 % of us will delay retirement for as long as possible, while 12% claim to want to never stop working. Those numbers are likely to increase.

3) Grown children will be much less likely to live with their parents. Today approximately 1/3 of young adults live with their parents. Actually, a higher percentage of those 18-34 are back at home rather than living with partners. Over the next decade any lingering effects of the 2008-2010 recession will have long since faded into memory and the economy will have found a new footing, unless history is about to repeat itself. Young adults will choose shared housing, living with partners, or as singles. Mom and dad will be pleased.

4) Electric automobiles will be commonplace. There will be as many charging stations as gas stations. With batteries able to hold a charge much longer, electric cars will be practical for both commuting and trips of a few hours. Prices will have dropped, making plug-in cars affordable for many. 

5) Streaming entertainment choices will have replaced almost all cable systems. The idea of having to sit in front of a television to watch favorite shows will seem so old-fashioned. Choosing to be entertained on any number of devices from any number of sources, is already quite common. With 100 million American households still using cable TV, the growth potential for alternatives is enormous. Options that bundle fewer channels for much less money will be the norm. Cord cutting will change the entertainment industry forever. 

6)  Buying recorded music or movies will fade away. Owning a CD or DVD will make little sense when virtually anything ever recorded or produced will be available on demand. Live concerts will remain popular unless ticket prices continue to reach nose-bleed levels. Big screen, 3D movies will still motivate folks to leave home to be entertained, but there will be added extras, like virtual reality headsets, to remain attractive. 

These six possibilities are just the start. What can you add to the list? Look down the road 10 years and tell us what you see.

January 16, 2017

My Retirement Shortcomings

Satisfying Retirement is a pretty positive place to learn about retirement. If you are looking for help in preparing for your retirement, or want some ideas on how to make this stage of your life joyful and productive, there are all sorts of informational resources available here. These past 15 years have been a very positive time in my life.


I would be less than honest, however, if I didn't admit when I have been wrong about some things retirement-related. Everything has not been a bed of roses. So, here is a list of how my retirement life has fallen short in some ways. If any of these have happened to you, know you are in good company. If you have avoided these screwups or missed opportunities, congratulations! 

* I was unhappy in my job for too many years before I had the gumption to make the decision to leave the work world behind. I wasn't bringing my best to my clients and I was shortchanging myself.

* I wasted the first two years worrying about everything, from finances to how I filled my days. I think that is rather common, but still, worry rarely solves anything and 95% of what I worried about never came to pass.

* While still a young retiree (early-mid 50's) I remained too conservative with investments. In hindsight, I should have taken a few more investment risks when I had plenty of time to recover any loses.

* I have let my physical condition deteriorate more quickly than it needs to because of my laziness toward regular exercise. The gym is 10 minutes away, we have half a dozen parks close to our home, and I have bought a bike. So, what's the problem?

* I still treat time as if it is endless for me. There will always be tomorrow to start, or finish something. My sense of urgency is lacking. 67 isn't ancient, but the clock is ticking.

* Sometimes I write a post that isn't completely honest about my feelings on a particular retirement topic. I fear offending readers. Is that silly? Occasionally should I throw caution to the wind? 

* I have a healthy retirement investment account but continue to live well beneath our means. I know I can't take it with me, but I have always lived this way, so it very hard to change now. That means I miss opportunities and experiences that I really could afford. 

* I don't know if my daughters and families will be able to retire the way I did. I fear for their future and the freedom that can come with retirement. 

* I wonder when I will run out of things  to write about. Then, I wonder what is next.

* I pray I never have to go back to work; I have no marketable job skills. There is little call for a 67 year old former radio announcer!

January 12, 2017

A Satisfying Retirement on a Limited Budget

It is easier to lead a satisfying retirement if you have few financial worries. While money certainly doesn't buy happiness, few would argue that your options for living how and where you choose are more likely to happen the fatter your investment portfolio. So, this post isn't for you.

On the other side of the issue, much of the popular press would have us believe we are doomed to a future of diminishing opportunities and darkening skies. I disagree. Yes, way too many seniors have been put in a very tough position by recent events and they will struggle. They may have to choose between buying some medicines and skipping meals. For the richest country in the world to allow that to happen is, in my view, criminal.

So, who am I writing for today? This is for those who have a retirement income that is sufficient for our needs and allows for satisfying an occasional want. The Great Recession may still affect what we can afford and how we live.

We have likely downsized some of our expectations. The way we pictured our retirement may have looked different from our present reality. Still, compared to so many in the world, and even in our own country, we remain blessed. This time of our life continues to have the potential to be the most enjoyable stage of life, free of many of the obligations and restrictions that have filled our youth and working years.

That said, the post title tells it like it is: we probably have a limited budget when it comes to some things beyond the necessities. What most of us are going through is an re-alignment of our wants with our available resources. Doing what we want, whenever we want is not a logical approach. if nothing else we should have learned that the bills do come due, regardless of how many credit cards and home equity loans we use.

So, what can we do to enjoy this time of life if cash flow is a problem? Are we doomed to nothing more than trips to the library or window-shopping at the mall? Absolutely not. The number of free or low cost ways to be entertained, stimulated, and renewed in mind and body are plentiful enough, if we just take the time and effort to find them.

From my own life here are a few examples. Then, it will be your turn. Each May there is a National Railway Day. You didn't know? Me neither until I ran across a press release. There is a tremendous railway museum in the Phoenix area that in 31 years of living here I had never heard of. Dozens of full size railway cars, cabooses, and engines are there waiting to be climbed on and through. Visitors are encouraged to blow whistles, ring bells, hang off the back step and yell "All Aboard."  On National Railway Day, there is no admission.

Suddenly, our family had the chance for a tremendous day together. Since the grandkids love trains the museum was a natural. It is located in a park that has a huge play area, walking paths, and picnic tables. So, to celebrate my last birthday and Mother's Day we all met at the park for a day of play, eating, and exploring railroad cars. The cost? About $25 for subs for lunch for all eight of us. The memories? Priceless.

Betty and I enjoy hearing the symphony. With tickets between $35-$50 a person our entertainment budget doesn't allow for that very often. But, there is something called a brown bag lunch series. On selected Fridays at lunchtime, the symphony performs roughly half that night's concert for less than half price. It is a great chance for us to hear the music we like at a substantial discount.

One of the local community colleges has a twice a year film festival. Each series features half a dozen movies of a particular country or culture. These are films mainstream theaters wouldn't show. The college presents them, for free, in a comfortable performing arts center. Usually, the host gives the audience a little background about the movie and why it is worth screening. Betty and I make it a point to go to most of the showings.

While we have never done this, I know some folks who volunteer as ushers at one of the dozens of theaters in the area. For helping to seat people and hand out programs, they receive free admission to all the shows. They enjoy everything from Broadway performances to Shakespeare plays, all for just a few hours work.

Every once in awhile we will pick one of the historic districts in Phoenix and walk through it, snapping pictures of gardens, decorative walls, and interesting homes. Then, a stroll to a nearby park or a small lunch spot makes for an inexpensive, enjoyable afternoon. The trick? Treat your hometown like a tourist. Search out places nearby that you have never been to. Pretend you just moved to town and find hidden corners that delight and enrich you.

Now to the simple free stuff:
  • we live near several parks with plenty of space for the dog to romp and us to enjoy a picnic or to just stretch our legs.
  • we are surrounded by hiking trials through the mountain preserves that ring Phoenix or along the canals that flow through the Valley. Even in summer if we start early enough it is fine.
  • every Wednesday night the Phoenix Art Museum is free. Once a month the Heard Museum opens it doors for no charge. Once a month our Bank of America Debit card gets us into one of a dozen local museums for no charge.
  • The Phoenix library system hands out free passes five days a week to twenty local museums and attractions. Just stand in line for 5 minutes and take the one you want.
  • Church concerts. Our church has a frequent schedule of free vocal and orchestral concerts. We miss very few.
  • Movie night with family at one of our homes. Except for the cost of popcorn and some soft drinks, a free time with our favorite people.

OK, enough from me. You get the idea. Making a satisfying retirement  is up to our ingenuity and creativeness. There are enough ways for you to be entertained and enriched to last a lifetime.

What have you found to do that fits your budget and is free or inexpensive? What special tricks to you employ to fill your days, nights, and weekend with interesting and enjoyable activities? I can't wait to get some fresh ideas.

January 8, 2017

Your Definition of Retirement Success

The last time I checked, Amazon had over 9,000 books for sale that dealt with one or more aspects of retirement. I would guess that most of them tell you to have a successful retirement by following their guidelines and rules. 

Regular readers of this blog know it isn't that simple. Each satisfying retirement is unique. Suggestions are tremendously helpful. Past experiences should be considered. Obviously, I trust this blog passes on some thoughts that help you decide how to build your retirement.

But, the bottom line is, there is no blueprint we can follow that guarantees success. Each of us takes pieces and parts we learn about, mix those with our own goals, personality, and resources, and move forward on our journey.

One thing that is very helpful in this process, is to read what others have done. Sometimes, those experiences will cause us to consider a new path or a readjustment. Other times, we will glimpse a caution light that tells us to proceed with care. And, then there are important moments when others will point out a flashing red light that tells us of a decision that did not work out well.

If I asked 50 people for their definition of retirement success, I bet I would receive 50 different answers. Sure there would be common threads, but success is a very personal measurement. For some, financial freedom is the most important way to gauge a retirement, because that can open up opportunities that otherwise might be missed.

For others, stronger relationships are key. The time to volunteer, deepen one's spiritual life, work on projects that have lingered for years, or find a creative path that was undiscovered before retirement might indicate achievement of retirement success. Maybe just having a loose schedule with the freedom to craft each day as you see fit is your indicator. For many, it is something very personal that says, success.

So, let me turn to the folks who can share with the rest of us, what makes a retirement successful: you. Give the question some thought and then add your ideas and conclusions on what defines a successful retirement for you.

All answers are valid because of the uniqueness of the journey. Don't hesitate to list several things that you think are important in defining a retirement that is satisfying.

All of us look forward to a lively exchange of ideas.

January 4, 2017

Quiet Time is Never a Waste of Time

Followup: I will blame it on the eggnog and staying awake until 12:30 AM on New Year's Eve. Replacing the word Retirement with Re-Vision is a non-starter for this blog.

I asked the question, knowing that you would tell me exactly what you thought and why. I depend on you, dear reader, to help me stay on track and keep my focus on what you expect on these pages.

While a few comments voiced support for the idea of re-vision being a good replacement for retirement, the "No" votes were more persuasive. I think the word, re-vision, might reappear on occasion as part of a blog post, but not become the official name of the blog, nor is it destined to become the new word for retirement. There were several excellent suggestions, though, that you can expect to see appear in future posts. 

So, back to the subject at hand:

This is the time of year when those of us who live in the desert southwest come out to play. After 5 months of non-stop heat, temperatures are finally perfect for outside activities: picnics, hikes along the canals, lunches and dinners on the back porch or restaurant patios, romps with the dog in one of the many parks in our area, and a quiet hour outside with a book.

The pots in the backyard have been re-planted with colorful impatiens, begonias, geraniums, snapdragons, and others that look pretty, but I'm afraid I've forgotten their names! The Bermuda grass has gone dormant, so cutting and raking chores are over until March.

I have refilled the gas grill tank and started looking for recipes that work well when cooked outside. I store a bottle of red wine on the back porch because the temperatures keep it just right for a glass each afternoon, not too cold, and not too warm.

A new feeder we bought during our last RV trip is attracting dozens of hungry birds to a section of the backyard that comes alive when they fly in and out a few times each day. They aren't very colorful, but I am happy to help them stay fed and healthy.

Bailey, our soon-to-be 5 year old cocker, has found new joy in going for long walks, sniffing for lizards, and not finding her paws painfully hot from overheated sidewalks. 

The two bikes we bought last spring have had their tires pumped up, helmets dusted off, and neighborhood roads explored.

Betty has a stack of different projects for our home. We visit flea markets and antique stores, pick up something interesting, and let her creativity soar. Coffee mug displays, a new clock for the family room, inspirational words we bought at the Magnolia Store in Waco....are destined to add color and warmth.

After a year with lots of vacations and special trips, we are sticking close to home for the next several months (except for a quick weekend trip to Disneyland with the grandkids). It is the season for quiet time with our thoughts and our family.

To some, this might sound boring, or a waste of time. We should be much more active and involved while we are able. We can save these quieter pursuits for later in our retirement journey.

I heartily disagree. Too often folks fall into the trap of thinking that only activities that push your limits or involve major time commitments are worth doing. Enjoying an afternoon on the back porch, or in a local park, seeing a move at a 2 PM matinee showing,  tackling a new Bible study together, or working on a project at home are not time wasters. They are time enrichers.

Quiet time, doing smaller things, is not a bad use of time. It doesn't represent a missed opportunity. Actually, it is one of the true joys of retirement: having the freedom to construct a block of time in a way that feeds you. 

Your climate may not encourage outdoor activities, but quiet moments are possible anywhere. You simply have to decide that time spent slowly and deliberately is not a waste, but a treasure. 

January 2, 2017

A Satisfying Retirement Re-Vision

Retirement is a poor word to describe what happens to many of us after our working days are over. It implies ceasing to do much of value, withdrawing, concluding something. It means the end of something but not the beginning of something else. It suggests leaving an active life behind for one of leisure.

While that depiction of retirement was probably a better fit for earlier generations, today nothing could be further from the truth. With a decent commitment to healthy living, using our financial resources wisely, and filling our days with activities that motivate and please us, this stage of life can easily last twenty or even thirty years. That is much too long for us to be content with simply filling our days with golf or reading, TV, naps, and having dinner at 4pm!

Along with everyone else who has been blogging, writing books, producing TV shows, or otherwise being involved with this stage of life, I have been searching for a word to replace retirement. Retread, reboot, and reimagine have been used by others. While clever, none seem to express exactly what I think retirement should become.

As I thought about this problem during the week between Christmas and New Year's Day, another word came to mind. I'd like to have you think about it, and give me your feedback. If I am on to something, I would modify the name of this blog to incorporate this new word and keep it front and center as a way of talking about this time of our life.

The word that might better describe this phase of life has some of these definitions:

  • alteration
  • adaption
  • different edition or form of something
  • modification
  • refashioning
  • remaking
  • revamping

The word is revision (the post title gave it away!).

What is important is the presentation of the word. As commonly used, you may think of revision  as something an author does to a book, a screen writer does to a movie or TV show, a teacher does to her course syllabus for the new semester. Something is revised, freshened or improved.

But, if I add a hyphen, the word becomes re-vision, or a new, revised, and different vision of something, in this case, a life. A re-vision of this part of my life means I am altering, adapting, remaking, refashioning myself to take advantage of the freedom and time I now have. I am forming a new vision, a re-vision of what has been up till now. 

Unless I am off base and had too much eggnog over the holidays, the word re-vision seems much more accurate than retirement for how we live.

Okay, so changing a word may not strike you as a big deal, and you may be correct. What we name something is simply a convenient way to identify something. But, in the case of retirement is it possible this outdated word defines how others see us, or we see ourselves?

A Satisfying Retirement Re-Vision...yes or no?