Staying Fit in your Joyous Retirement Years

I never thought I would be putting out a post on dieting. Will wonders never cease! But I finally came to the realization that I have been rationalizing about my weight for some time now. I have said I weigh the same as I did 10 years ago, so everything is fine. In reality, I have been losing muscle mass during those ten years, especially the last few. To put it bluntly, I have been gaining belly fat while losing muscle tone. I know that is not unusual for us older guys, but it is something that troubles me.

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Very Puzzling?

One of the things in my life that is very puzzling to me is how I got in the mode of spending time daily with this activity. It is not as if I have nothing else to do with my time. My wife has been doing this activity for the past three decades but I never had much of an interest in it. It’s puzzling how all this got started.

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Never Get A Day Off…

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After some serious adjustments in my thinking I kind of find myself frequently asking what day it is. Without the job to define my life, each day seems to fold into the next. Holidays are just another day to us retired folks, especially those of us without any children or grandchildren for visits….

I am generally one of those who struggle to get through this time of year but not so much this year.¬† Maybe the warm weather is helping… maybe it was the 5 million lights at Branson recently.. Fa La La

Making Sense of Change…

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When I came across the quote above I knew nothing of Alan W. Watts.  But, as usual I got on Wiki to learn more. This guy was quite a character in life.  It just seemed that once he was doing something for any extended period of time he got bored with it an moved on to something else. It seems he re-invented himself a dozen times in his 58 years of life.

Here is a quote from one of the reviewers of his autobiography In My Own Way on Amazon.

Early on, he set out to be an independent intellectual, constantly learning and living in his “own way.” He succeeded, in spite of the odds, on the terms that he set out for himself. This was deeply inspiring to me, and it turned out that despite the surface differences of interest, Alan Watts had a lot to say about the choices one makes in life and how to go about living.

I like to think of myself, rightly or not that I am also an independent intellectual who likes to live life on my own terms. But my life is nothing like his.¬† I spent thirty years in the corporate world as an engineer. I just didn’t have the courage to admit that I probably should have chosen another path.¬† By the time I realized that fact I deemed it too late to do anything about it.¬† I was happy to just serve out my time until I could draw a full pension (yeah I actually get a monthly check from my previous employer).¬† It was not until I walked away from that life that I discovered my true self.

The term retirement is to me an archaic word that doesn’t really apply to the third trimester of life. This period is more about opportunities than retiring from life.¬† As I just said I like to think of myself¬† living my “own way” but I was a late-bloomer in that regard.¬† I have a lot of catching up to do. ūüôā¬† I have been in this mode for over fifteen years now and having a ball!

Living your “own way” meaning no longer just going with the flow.¬† It means taking the time to form your own opinions and then acting on them. No more just sitting back and whining. It often means going against the grain of other people’s norms. Living blue in a very red State I feel I am often going against the grain:

  • Where so much of our world, and especially our country, is living in fear I am stubbornly try to do the opposite. I will simply not give these terrorists the satisfaction of being afraid.
  • I see love where others, including my previous self, often see fear and sometimes even hate.
  • I see the words of Jesus as an action item list for my life and not just something that I hear in a pew on Sunday morning and then forget for the rest of the week.

Living your “own way” is not easy sometimes but it sure does give you more satisfaction…

I have an Alan Watts book now on my reading list. It will be interesting to learn more about him and probably myself in the process.

 

You Don’t Have To Be Busy All The Time….

2015-11-04_08-58-20About Life BannerOne of the things that I learned the hard way during my years of retirement is that you don’t have to be busy all the time. I just couldn’t seem to wrap my mind around the idea of just having “down” time where I literally did nothing. No work, no thinking to any degree; just sitting alone with myself.¬†¬† The Quakers call this “centering down”, some call it meditation, I just call it being alone with myself.

There are so many who say that time is rushing by and out of their control. My wife and I watch the TV show House Hunters when we eat our lunch. In that show there are many who move from one part of the world to another seeking a “slower lifestyle”. They say that things in their lives are just moving so fast that they have to get away.¬† But in reality no matter where you live you still have the same 24/7 as the place you left.¬† Time doesn’t slow down, only the activities you fill it with changes. I have learned in my old-age wisdom that you don’t have to chase a slower lifestyle around the globe, you can find it wherever you are.

Since I have no kids or grand kids I am only speculating here but it seems that kids today have a lot more scheduled activities than I did when I was a kid. “Soccer Moms” is a term that revolves around this phenomenon where one parent spends hours a day driving their kids to one event or another.

In my day my “events” were running around the neighbor visiting my friends and just hanging out. Sometimes we might get together for an ad hoc baseball game or whatever but it was not a scheduled thing.¬† It just kind of happened. Today it seems that parents, or maybe it is the kids themselves, think they have to fill their days with constant activity.¬† Looking back I kind of liked my down time where I could do nothing but maybe lay on my back in the yard and just gaze at the stars above.¬† There seemed to be many more stars in my youth than there are now but that is getting off topic.

When I was in the corporate world, especially 1980 and after,¬† I was constantly being told I have to do more with less. In the last ten years of that life I¬† saw my co-workers getting laid off one after another and was told I had to take on their work responsibilities because they would not be replaced. The mantra then was “Doing More With Less”. That jingle never appealed to me or I suspect anyone else except maybe the bosses who sang them.

In my retirement years I have once again learned how to just do nothing. As in my childhood I have again discovered that you don’t have to be busy all the time. In fact doing nothing once in a while has a calming effect that nothing else seems to provide.¬† Cutting off the thinking and doing nothing isn’t as easy as it sounds but it is worth the effort in order to maintain your sanity in this insane world we live in now… ūüôā

No More Lists…

ListsMy month-long hiatus from blogging a while back was more than just blogging. I pretty much ceased all my normal daily activity in favor of just doing what I felt like doing. Some days it was vegging out and some it was all day in the barn working on my micro-RV project of the last three years. And of course given that it was Spring, which is my favorite time of year, it was about sitting on my “mountain” and enjoying the view. One of the primary things I gave up during this period was keeping lists of my activity.

I will admit that this hiatus was brought on by a fairly strong feelings of depression. I was just too mired in the current times of fear and politics. Getting rid of that annoyance was a boon for my emotional state. Another surprising thing that boosted my contentment was that I stopped making my usual daily lists. I know this sounds kind of strange but hear me out.

All my life I have been a list maker. I still have almost a thousand 5×7 cards that I used in my work life to record what I needed to do¬†each week. When desktop computers came in that list moved there and the cards were assigned to the back of a desk drawer. When I retired from the corporate world in 2000 I brought list making with me and have done it continuously until now. I think at some levels, at least to me, I rationalize that it¬†shows me that I am a productive member of the human race. I gauged my worthiness¬†by the length of the list. I have now discovered that his forty-year old habit is stifling¬†my retirement years!

In retirement your time is your own for perhaps the first time in your life. ¬†I discovered that keeping long lists at this point in my life is accomplishing little. It may even lead to depression at times.¬†It doesn’t matter whether I¬†spend four hours getting just the right close-up photo of a flower or even binge watching episodes of Grey’s Anatomy. I finally convinced myself that my time is my own now and to ¬†spend it doing things that make me happy in the moment and not fretting so much about what is happening out in the world. So, from here on out, it is goodbye to lists to justify my existence.

Who says you can’t teach an old dog new tricks.

Anybody out there have any other suggestions for letting go of the past in order to just enjoy your retirement moments???

Epilog — Personal Resolutions…

Future-1This post finishes up my¬†multi-part “insights” series about where and how I go from here. ¬†My overall¬†goal is to do what is necessary¬†to live a happy, wild, and free retirement.¬†Some of my¬†commitments are personal in nature so I won’t be sharing them here. But I will give you the others.¬†It was a very enlightening time for me. I finally managed to “listen to myself” and gain some¬†new sometimes surprising insights:

  • I vow¬†to be more tolerant of other’s beliefs but that does not mean I¬†will¬†let others run roughshod over me.¬†I believe that we are all praying to the same God. It is simply¬†that humanity has managed to invent so many versions of God to meet our own expectations. I heard a quote the other day that sums this concept up. It goes “And on the third day man created¬†God...” God is God and it is not up to me¬†to decide what he believes, how¬†he judges,¬†or even what he does or maybe even more importantly doesn’t do. It is also not up to me to determine who he will “save” but I personally do believe that in the end we will all be reconciled with him. Finally It is up to me¬†to listen for the things¬†she gives me for¬†living my¬†live as she wants me to.
  • ¬†I vow¬†to try harder to do what my¬†blog header says and to not take myself or life for that matter too seriously. Life, especially mine, is too short to worry about things that I can’t possibly change. It is also too short to fear what others might do.
  • I¬†vow to live more truly to my¬†purpose in life. It is what drives me as a person. It is who God intends for me to be. But I also learned that as the saying goes all work, toward purpose or not, and no play makes RJ¬†a dull boy so I vow spend time to just have some fun for fun’s sake.
  • I vow¬†to do more to live my life with¬†zest.¬†¬†I vow to ask myself¬†each day what will make me happy and then to accomplish that wish on some level. I will also strive to do some creative activity every day.
  • I vow to never again just sit back and wait for fate to happen to me. ¬†Fate is what I make of life. It is not a static thing to come over me. For the most part I make my own fate.
  • I vow to work harder to see the unnoticed things in life and to celebrate them within myself and with others.¬†
  • I vow to celebrate my eccentricity and to embrace creativity wherever I¬†discover it.¬†
  • ¬†I vow to not put off things that will make my happy and fulfilled until tomorrow. I don’t have enough tomorrows left for that kind of indecision.
  • I vow to my own self to be¬†true….

Insight 5 — Eccentricity

I talked a little about “craziness” in the last post but I want to expand that concept this time to include¬†eccentricity. A definition of this word is: a strange and unconventional behavior.¬†In some ways that fits my current life. I seem to be a person who always looks at the unconventional way of doing things. I just don’t generally go with the flow so to speak. Is eccentricity something I should value more in my retirement life?

Here is a little about what Ernie Zelinski says about this topic. 

Unconventional‚ÄúEccentricity is not, as dull people would have us believe, a form of madness,‚ÄĚ declared Dame Edith Sitwell. ‚ÄúIt is often a kind of innocent pride, and the man of genius and the aristocrat are frequently regarded as eccentrics because the genius and the aristocrat are entirely unafraid of and uninfluenced by the opinions and vagaries of the crowd.‚ÄĚ ¬†

The more you are out of step with society, the greater your chances for self-discovery, adventure, and happiness in this world. ¬†Contrary to the popular belief that people like Ben Kerr are crazy, Weeks and James concluded that eccentrics are much more intelligent than the general population. True eccentrics are highly creative, curious, idealistic, intelligent, opinionated, and obsessed with some hobby. These non-conformists give themselves the freedom to be themselves, a luxury that most people in society haven‚Äôt learned how to enjoy. Eccentricity allows them to pursue hobbies and lifestyles that are their passions. Freed from the need to conform, eccentrics aren‚Äôt bothered by what others think about them. It follows that only those who can be eccentric can truly live. Thus, celebrate your eccentricity and you will be set free . Your self-development and movement toward self-actualization will be wondrous, mysterious, and fascinating. Ernie (2013-11-16). How to Retire Happy, Wild, and Free: Retirement Wisdom That You Won’t Get from Your Financial Advisor (Kindle Locations 4174-4180).

Wow, from this quote it sounds like eccentricity is something that all of us should be honing. But if we are all eccentrics then that is the norm and that therefore no one would be eccentric. How’s that for insight. But in reality most of us are more conformists than we are eccentric. We want the types of houses others tell us we have to have. We buy clothes with manufacturer’s name boldly printed on them so we are in reality paying to be walking billboards. We bleach out our teeth to absurd degrees to be like everyone else. Most of us simply follow the crowd so there is really not much fear that those of us who are truly eccentric will become the norm. ¬†Thinking outside the box to me is a form of eccentricity. We just don’t go along with the conventional wisdom of the day.

One thing I know I want to maintain and even enhance in my remaining years is my eccentricity. I am just too far along in my life to really care what others think of my behavior. All of the words “highly creative, curious, idealistic, intelligent” seem to be the things that I want to strive for more of¬†in my remaining years.

 

<<<This is part of a continuing series of my year-end discernment period. Scroll down the center bottom footer to see the earlier posts list>>>

Insight 3 — Personal Time… Doing Your Own Thing

This post is a continuation of the discernment period I recently spent on thought of where I go from here. I retired from the corporate world fifteen years ago and from my own business nine years ago. Since then I have struggled with my retirement years.  Part of that struggle is due to the very different approaches to life between myself and my spouse. I love her dearly but we are two very different people. She is content with living a simple life of computer games, puzzles, TV, and naps. It is all she needs to have a fulfilled life. I on the other hand seek at least as some level new experiences, travel, and the unknown and to live a purpose beyond myself.  How to reconcile those differences between us has been a major portion of my distress.

When I read the following quote from Ernie Zilinski helped it gave me some insight into his problem:

2014-12-21_13-47-42Contrary to popular belief, by no means do all retired couples enjoy their time together more than they did when they were working. The fact is, even two people who have enjoyed a successful marriage for three decades can end up driving each other crazy when one or both retire….

A post-retirement lifestyle shouldn‚Äôt be limited to the retiree spending most of his or her time with their spouse. It‚Äôs essential that each partner have his/ her own interests….

It‚Äôs also important that couples give each other the freedom to pursue individual interests. Without the workplace to provide them with something to do, some retired individuals end up being lost souls, following their spouse wherever they go.¬†Not giving their spouse the space and freedom to pursue their own interests can backfire and leave these retirees with even less company and less to do….

The key is to organize your life so that you have time with your spouse and plenty of time to do your own thing. Zelinski, Ernie (2013-11-16). How to Retire Happy, Wild, and Free: Retirement Wisdom That You Won’t Get from Your Financial Advisor (Kindle Locations 972-980). Visions International Publishing. Kindle Edition.

Almost all of the retirement books I have read, and I have read several¬†of them, don’t address the issue of when spouses have very different ideas of what a happy retirement is. They say the divorce rate among people over sixty is increasing dramatically in recent years and I image this discontinuity between spouses is one of the primary reasons. Most of the blogs and such I read about retirement are accounts of how the spouses ¬†agree on lifestyles and approaches to their retired lives. They spend their time doing what makes both happy, wild and free as Ernie puts it. ¬†It just seemed like everyone always enjoys what the other does. Many¬†seem to have an¬†“Ozzie and Harriet” retirement life that I have never ¬†really known.

While I occasionally get my wife to leave her nest,¬†doing my own thing will now take on an added importance in my life.¬†I simply can’t live the¬†sedentary lifestyle of my spouse. Learning to do my own thing and getting¬†my wife to accept that fact is going to be an important part of my future happiness.

 <<<This is part 4 of my year-end discovery period. Go to the home page and then scroll down to see earlier posts>>>

Insight 1 — Waiting For Fate…

One thing that helped me during my recent¬†discernment period¬†was a book by Ernie Zelinski entitled: How to Retire Happy, Wild, and Free.¬†Ernie has written several very popular books about retirement. I don’t really know what drew me to this one but it was worth the effort as it addressed many of my concerns that¬†other books on retirement have¬†not. It seemed this book was mainly a collection of clich√©s but that was ok. It was¬†what I needed. ¬†Let’s talk about a quote¬†from that book:

2014-12-21_13-47-42Regardless of how talented you are and how successful you are in the workplace, there is some danger that you will not be as happy and satisfied as you hope to be in retirement. This may be the case even if you end up having friends to spend time with, living the lifestyle you want to live, residing where you want to live, and having many interesting things to do. What may be missing is a sense of purpose and some meaning to your life. Put another way, you will want to keep growing as an individual instead of remaining stagnant….

Most people have at least a vague sense that they should set aside some surplus cash now for retirement so they don‚Äôt have to rely on meager government pensions sometime in the future. But when it comes to how they will spend their time, the majority of individuals are waiting for fate to show them the way. The more that these people expect from retirement without any effort on their part, the more likely that their retirement will be filled with boredom ‚ÄĒ even depression.

In my business life I had little time to sit back and contemplate my purpose. It was always to get the job done and to keep paying the bills. I put off any serious thoughts of life but when I retired that changed dramatically. For a good while¬†just couldn’t find my “new” place in life. Much of this¬†indecision¬†was put off as I went from retirement from corporate world¬†to six years of owning my own cabinet/furniture making business. But after those six years my “purpose” in life hit me head-on. ¬†What do I do now??

I, like so many others just let life happen. I had always been a planner so this coping strategy was very foreign to me. Foreign but easy!! I initially spent most of my time in front of a television waiting for fate to show me what I was meant to do. As stated in the quote above that decision lead to some periods pretty deep depression and boredom that sometimes took weeks shake off.

I have come to the conclusion that the main¬†reason I become¬†bored is because I am letting my life happen instead of making things happen. Will I ever completely extinguish the feeling of boredom in my life? ¬†Given my personality I am certain the answer to that is “no” but it is a matter of degrees not absolutes. Basically when I don’t challenge myself enough I fall into boredom. It seems as simple as that to me now.

Lets finish off this post with another quote from the book–

As would be expected, some retirees were bored, some were physically active, a few were expanding their minds, and a lot were waiting for destiny to show them the way.  

 

 <<<This is part 2 of my year-end discovery period. Go to the home page and then scroll down to see earlier posts>>>

Want to Retire Early? Ditch the Middle-Class Mindset…

MansionMeet the Johnsons, a family of five recently profiled by The Washington Post. The Johnsons live in Culpepper, Va., and bring in $90,000 per year — a full 55% above the median household income for the town. Based on this alone, you might think mom and dad are prime candidates to retire early.

Then again, the family has to pay the bills. All three daughters have a computer in their room, the family shares a laptop and three iPads, satellite TV is available on three flat-screens throughout the house, and all family members except the youngest have a cellphone.

Their savings for college: $0. Their retirement savings: “meager.” When asked what more they’d need to feel financially secure, Mrs. Johnson says: $150,000 a year. If we had an extra $60,000 a year, we’d have some breathing room. I’d like to have some extra things. Not just look at them and drool.

SOURCE:  Want to Retire Early? Ditch the Middle-Class Mindset.

I’m afraid the above mentality is more prevalent in this country than many want to admit. I am also sure that many in that mode will sometime in the future go the way of others in losing their middle class status to “right-sizing” and they will be totally unprepared for that happening. For the most part we are being true to the capitalistic mentality of spending more and more as each year progresses. Where a 1500 square foot home was enough in the past, now we need at least 3,000 square feet. And we need it sooner rather than later.¬† We simply can’t spend frugally now in order to save up enough for a 20% down payment. We want now what our parents and grand-parents took years of savings to acquire. It seems if you are in your middle to late twenties you think you must have the house of your dreams.

The mentality of “wanting it now” will eventually be our downfall if it is not corrected. We expect to buy everything at the lowest possible costs. To do that companies must seek the lowest expenses and that certainly includes building our factories¬† and as many other facilities as they can in third world countries. We demand our government to give us the services we expect with little or even preferable none of our tax dollars. To live within this framework means dismantling our safety nets that protect us. It also mandates that we watch our infrastructure crumble away for lack of funding to maintain it.

Wants vs. Needs that is the difference between living simply and living lavishly. Too many of us like the folks above are in the “here and now” lavish mentality and therefore not thinking or saving for tomorrow. It doesn’t seem to matter if like the Johnsons we make 55% more than most we think we need more and more in order to “not just look at them and drool”.

We seem to be a country that wants it all but is not willing to pay the price for our wants. If we can get it on credit now instead of saving for it that is the way to go…

A Dangerous Game…

RetirementCongressional leaders are playing a dangerous game with their constituents’ money, their livelihoods and their retirement savings. On Wednesday, all Congress did was flip over the hourglass on a game of chicken that cost our economy $24 billion and left America’s future up in the air — and, by doing so, may cause some of our hard-earned retirement savings to disappear into it.

via Your Retirement: A Victim of the Debt Ceiling Deal – ABC News.

Discover Your Passion: Know Who You Are

 

Under construction. Maintenance area.I had to discover a passion for retirement because I had worked all my life at something that I was not passionate about. I understood that in order to discover a passion I had to understand who I am. Figuring out who I am was not complicated, but it required time and effort. It took a lot of mental work, the hardest kind of work. It took a lot of experimenting and trial and error, the scariest kind of work. But almost anyone can do it. You don’t have to be a monk, priest, philosopher or psychologist. You don’t have to have a college degree.

source:  Satisfying Retirement: Discover Your Passion: Know Who You Are.

The above quote comes from a fellow blogger Bob Lowery over at Satisfying Retirement a few days ago. ¬†It was a guest quote from Boyd Lemon. I was very surprised that it didn’t get the usual number of comments for that site. Several things in the post struck me as almost profound in their wisdom. Particularly the quote above. ¬†Sometimes I write a post that I think has at least at some level a profound message only to see that it gets a minimum of views. I don’t understand why?

As I have faced lately, I have finally come to admit that I was probably in the wrong profession throughout my corporate years.  I blame the indecision to admit that early on and do something about it at least in part to a lack of guidance counseling in my high school years. I went to a very small high school in the 1960s so I understand the lack of guidance. I hope that is not the case today but I fear that it is.

One of the most profound responsibilities that a parent has is to help their child learn their ingrained passions and talents early in life. If appropriate counseling is not available in the school system then it should be sought elsewhere. When a person is passionate about what they are doing they are much more likely to make a difference in this world and isn’t that what most of us end up wanting? To make a difference.

But of course I realize that most teenagers think they know it all and would probably resist this type of guidance. Forming young minds is probably the most noble of all professions and guiding them to listen and learn about their compassion is one of the most critical things that you can do for a person.

It is not that I didn’t have a fulfilling life in the occupation I ended up in but instead it is more of a road not taken type of thing. I will always wonder if I had recognized earlier on what I felt strongly about if it would have been even more fulfilling?

Thanks Bob for doing the guest post that got me to thinking about this….

Take a lifestyle cut in retirement — Please…..

Source: ¬†Don’t take a lifestyle cut in retirement — Fidelity Investments.

I know the source article says basically the opposite of what the title is. That is because I think the article is, at its foundation, wrong. ¬†It wouldn’t hurt almost any of us to take a lifestyle cut now or even in retirement. I know that my wife and I are now living on a little over half of what we spent but prior to my retirement. We moved from the “high cost” State of New Jersey back to my roots in Indiana. ¬†We quit buying much of the things we bought before and to tell you the truth we are living a much more happy life in the process. I have fallen thoroughly into the mantra of “Simplify, simplify, simplify….”

The U.S. being a capitalist society teaches us that if we want our country to prosper we must continue to spend and consume more as each year passes. ¬†If we don’t our businesses will die on the vine or so they say. The problem with that is that for most of us working folks we make little if anything more in income than we did twenty to twenty-five years ago. ¬†So in order to consume more we have to buy it on credit. Being good little citizens many of us now have $10,000 or more in credit card debt and often times a second or even a third mortgage on our houses to pay for our ever spiraling spending.

I think it is time for us to get out of the “spend more this year than we did last year”. That is especially true for those of us who are now living in our retirement years. We should have learned it much earlier in life but we should at least now know that having more and more stuff does not insure a happier life. In fact I have found the exact opposite to be true.

So even though I trust my friends at Fidelity Investments to manage my retirement saving I did indeed take a lifestyle cut in retirement and am having a ball. ¬†If only I had learned this secret much earlier in life. My country is going to have to somehow figure out how to prosper without my increased spending…..

Many have little savings as retirement looms

Source:¬†Many have little savings as retirement looms ‚Äď USATODAY.com.

Ravages of the stock market. The people Redmond encounters most who are lacking sufficient retirement savings weren’t necessarily delinquent or negligent. Many had money saved but were wiped out by the sour stock market in the past decade and poor investment strategies, Redmond says.

That’s what happened, in part, to Robert and Connie Cabana of Tampa, who are both in their 60s. Robert built up a sizable 401(k) working as a financial executive at Verizon. Connie was a business assistant for a local irrigation supply company. Connie was laid off four years ago; Robert was let go three years ago.

But the serious hit to their retirement, which wiped out half their 401(k) savings, resulted from the stock market and an overexposure to risky stocks, they say. Now, 75% of their 401(k) is gone, and they have “very little” left, Robert says

I can remember in the early 1990s wondering if I would have enough to retire on. Fortunately for me the 1990s Clinton era was a prosperous one. My savings more than doubled during those years. I was never one to take a lot of risk so I was pretty much unaffected by the dot.com melt down that occurred in 2000 as I got most of my savings out of the markets before that happened. But I did have a friend that insisted that the “good times” would go on forever. He, like the people in this article, lost a good portion his 401(k). ¬†I haven’t heard from him in years. I wonder how he and his wife are making out in their retirement?

I can remember the stories from the pundits about how people are not prepared for retirement throughout all my adult life. ¬†First there were the oil embargos of the 1970s then there was the savings & loan fiasco of the 1980s followed by the melt down of the dot.com era and now due to deregulation the near meltdown of our entire financial structure. But this is the first time I have seen times remain as dreary as they have for more than ten years now. I can see the “malaise” has grown exponentially since President Carter’s famous speech. ¬†Maybe if we had actually listened to President Carter and freed ourselves of dependence on foreign oil back in the 1970s we would be in much better shape today. Who knows what that alternative history might have been if one of our past presidents had been brave enough to make that happen! Who know how many young lives would have been spared if we didn’t need so much middle eastern oil?

Will any future generations ever be prepared for a secure retirement? It’s hard to say. ¬†About the only thing you can do is keep putting a little of each paycheck back and hope for things to get better. There is not much else an average guy can do.

Do Retirement Savings the Old Fashioned Way…

Let me start of by saying that I am by no means an investment professional but that doesn’t keep me from having an opinion. And I will also admit that looking backwards is a lot easier than looking forwards,¬†especially¬†in money matters. That being said there is something to saving for retirement the old fashioned way and that is to save the money while you are in your income earning years. Fortunately I retired just before the dot.com bubble burst. I had already moved much of my savings into more, some might say very, conservative areas that were somewhat unaffected by the coming down markets. I was more fortunate than many of my follow front-of-the-herd baby boomers in that regard.

It seems that, especially during the boom years of the Clinton administration everyone was betting their retirements savings on doubling or tripling via the stock market’s constant upswing. ¬†The feeling was “if I can just put $10,000 into the stock market it will be worth $30,000 to $40,000 in a few years. Many people were planning on retiring with the new found wealth in the their forties instead of waiting for the usual sixties.

And then came the Bush years of stagnation. When Mr. Bush came into office the stock market was right around 10,500. Now more than ten years later it is at a little over 11,000. that make for an annual percentage basis of about 0.3% annual gain. If you had bought $1,000 worth of U.S.Savings Bonds in January 2000 it would now be worth $1500 or the same amount of profit as your $10,000 would likely have gained in the stock market over the same period of time.

I know all you financial¬†advisers¬†out there are saying “what you say might true be but these are unusual times”. ¬†To that I say over the very long term you might be right but this has been going on for almost twelve years now. To many that is well over one-third of the earnings years and there seems to be no reason to believe that things will change any time soon. Given the vitriol atmosphere in the congress now there is little reason to believe that your government will ever be able to help bring back prosperity even if they could in the first place.

So, here we are again back to the old-fashioned way. If you want to be more assured that you will be able to live comfortably in your senior years you are going to have to give up some of the “stuff” you deem important today. This includes things like that $3 cup of coffee, the vacation home, the $300 monthly budget for new clothes, and the new car every three years. Instead put it away for retirement. It doesn’t seem to matter much where you put it; if putting it in your mattress makes you feel secure then put it there. Just put it aside where you can’t get to it too easily.

One of the things that we let our corporations get away with is shedding any responsibility for their employees future well being. The company pension plans of my generation are long gone now so the only thing you can be assured of is the social security you will receive. It will be the only thing that will provide even the most basic safety net. ¬†And, no I don’t think we U.S. voters, especially us senior citizens, will allow anyone to take that away. But then again what do I know ūüôā

The Rites of Retirement….

One of the rites of retirement is being able to take a vacation pretty much whenever you want.  Well, my wife and I want! We will soon be heading out for our Canada and New England trip. This one could take up to a month of our time. That is another privilege of retirement, we can take as long as needed.  We have a house sitter who will take care of our animals and such as long as we are gone.

We plan on going into Canada¬†via¬†Wisconsin and then traveling the interior to¬†Ottawa. Then up the St. Lawrence seaway to Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island. Coming back we will go through New England to NYC for a visit to Ground Zero and then westward toward home. This is going to be one of our freestyle vacations in that we don’t have a day-to-day itinerary planned. My wife loves it that way; me not so much. So I have been sneaking in some plans for some of the major cities such as Ottawa, Montreal, Quebec, and Charlestown.

On our last major trip in 2009 I pretty much blogged everyday. I can’t make that promise this time as I just don’t know when we will have internet connections and even if I want to take the time to do it. ¬†But I am an avid journal writer so it’s not much of an additional chore. I still refer to the blog entries (found here under “In The Slow Lane/On the Road” to remember our daily adventures on that one.

I took two years of french in high school but that was almost 50 years ago so I don’t think that will do me much good in Quebec. I know they are a pompous bunch in that city so even though they might know English they often stubbornly refuse to speak it there ūüôā .

So if you don’t see as many of my posts as usual you will know why. We think we are safe from winter storms being we are going in July but you never know. ¬†Yvonne, who packs for everything will probably put some blankets and such in our trusty HHR for this trip.

And the journey goes on….

Retirement Rule #77

Spend your fixed income on what is important to you, not today’s marketers.

Ok so this is kind of bogus post in that I don’t know what the 76 retirement rules might be that¬†precede¬†this one. ūüôā But that doesn’t make this one any less important. One of my blog buddies proudly states that he has given up cable TV. I salute him for that if that is important for him but I choose to do otherwise. But I do see his point in several aspects. It seems that much of what is on cable today is nothing but a giant marketing scheme.

There are so many home improvement type shows on cable that it seems to dominate the bandwidth. Almost every one of them tells us how to spend more and more of our money on things that we “need”.

  • They want us to believe that if your kitchen does not have cherry cabinet, granite counter tops, and stainless steel appliances then it is absolutely mandatory that you immediately remodel to make that happen.
  • They want us to¬†believe¬†that if your back yard does not include a water feature, a fire pit, and at least some formal dining area that you should immediately contact your landscape architect.
  • They want us to believe that if your car does not have dvd players front and rear, in-dash GPS, and 0-60 mph in under six seconds that you should rush to your car dealer to make that happen.

I put a lot of the blame of the average $10,000 credit card debt that the average family carries on these types of things. And it seems that seniors are not exempt from these situation. Everyday I see yet another senior on one of these programs who proudly announces his latest remodel or new car or other such major expenditure. It is almost as if life cannot be complete without everything that the marketers say we “need”.¬†Maybe if more of us were like my blogger buddy we wouldn’t be susceptible to these types of ploys.

Getting back to the rule #77 it is up to you how you spend your discretionary money while in retirement. Don’t let today’s marketing schemes tell you how to do that.

  • ¬†I don’t put a lot of emphasis on how my neighbors view my lifestyle.
  • I still drive the stripped down pickup truck I bought in 1992.¬†
  • We haven’t done any significant “home improvements” in more than ten years now.
  • We are just as likely to eat out at McDonald as we are an up-scale¬†restaurant.
  • We don’t take fancy vacations to the Bahamas or¬†Hawaii¬†on a regular basis.

Why not? The reason is that those sort of things are just not that important to my wife and I. Most of our vacations, and we do take several a year because that is what we enjoy, are made by car. We travel a couple hundred miles and then look for a place to stay. Our home, although it doesn’t meet 2011 design standards feels very comfortable to us. ¬†While my wife does spend more than I am comfortable with on her flowers each spring I accept that because her gardens are one of the things that are important to her. I spend more than I probably should on “techie” things because that is what I enjoy.

Years ago when I was about to retire the financial planners told us that we would need at least 80% of our pre-retirement income to live in our retirement years. But because of what we think is important that number ended up being less than 60%. If we followed the latest trends we, like our neighbors, might likely had needed that other 20% or maybe more.

Don’t let others decide what is important to you in your senior years.