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Taking Stock: Time

“The right combination of structure and flexibility, productivity and relaxation.” My retirement goal as well.

Stepping Into The Future

Clock Clip ArtAs my second year of retirement begins, I am taking stock of how things are going. My last post (Taking Stock: Finances) focused on how I am doing financially; this one focuses on how I am using my time. While finances tend to be the biggest worry about retirement and something people think about and plan for well in advance, time is both the great lure of retirement and its great unknown. I probably wasn’t unusual in spending years thinking about how I would finance my retirement before it occurred to me to consider how I would spend my time in retirement.

I have always had a strong relationship with time. As a child, I made long complicated time schedules to structure my summer days. Recently, an old college roommate reminded me about the hourly schedule that hung over my desk in our dormitory room. I didn’t always…

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AARP Says More Work And Less Retirement Is Good News

Remember when AARP was an organization for retired persons? Remember when the American Dream included a decent job, a house and yard, and retirement?

The acronym AARP was shorthand for “American Association of Retired Persons.” But the organization decided to change its brand. The spelled-out moniker was dropped in favor of just plain AARP.

The capital letters AARP became the full, official name. The letters don’t stand for anything. I’m beginning to wonder what AARP, the organization, stands for.

Did the organization that advocated for retired persons change its identity — and its mission — along with its brand? Has AARP decided that retirement is no longer cool? It almost seems as if they’ve  decided to support WORK and give up on RETIREMENT.

The cover story for the September issue of AARP Bulletin proclaims:

“Good News for Older Workers: Keep, Change or Improve Your Job After 50.”

The “RP” in AARP now stands for “Real Possibilities.” I’m not making this up.

“Tens of millions of older Americans are working today at ages when their parents and grandparents had retired.

Nearly a quarter-century ago, in 1991, only about 1 worker in 10 planned to stay in the workforce beyond age 65. Today, that number has risen to almost 4 in 10.

In 1991, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, some 30 percent of Americans age 55 or older were working. By 2013, the workforce participation rate for those 55-plus had passed 40 percent, and it’s rising steadily. The federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission says the current era marks the first time in U.S. history when four generations — pre-boomers, boomers, Generation X and millennials — are engaged in the workforce at the same time.”

The above quote is from the article, “The Value of Older Workers: Experience makes them better problem solvers and more reliable,” by R.R. Reid in the September 2015 issue of AARP Bulletin. The September issue is not yet up on the website, but AARP Bulletin Today includes many related articles.

The hard copy of the September issue cites excellent sources for the claim that millions of older Americans who would have been enjoying their hard-earned retirement in the late 20th Century remain hard at work in the brave, new 21st Century. So it must be true. People of my baby boomer cohort are less likely to be retired — and more likely to still be working — than were our parents and grandparents, who were probably retired at our age.

300px-SocialSecurityposter2I’m constantly reading or hearing about the difficulties of retirement. Many people say they can’t afford to retire; some say they expect to work until they die. They believe they have little choice. For many, the cost of living outstrips retirement income based on Social Security, pensions, and savings. See the results of AARP’s latest survey of workers aged 55-64.

Retirement income is usually fixed income. The amount of our monthly income from Social Security, pensions, and savings is not likely to go up. Monthly income is more likely to go down, as a retiree burns through savings. Even the annual Social Security cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) is not guaranteed. See the earlier blog post.

Many people fear that their Social Security benefit will, in the not-too-distant future, be reduced to 75 percent of the present benefit. That fear is based on a drumbeat of negative news. (I personally believe that we can and will find a way to preserve full Social Security benefits, and also ensure that Social Security remains viable for our children and grandchildren. Call me an optimist.)

AARP views the trend to less retirement and more work through rose-colored glasses. But I’m wondering if the American Dream of retirement for nearly everyone has ended. Workers in the 1930s to 1970s era were likely to have pensions and to own houses with paid-up mortgages. But since about the mid-1970s, the trend has been away from guaranteed pensions. In the later decades of the last century, many workers began to rely on home equity loans. People refinanced their homes repeatedly, and never paid off the mortgage.

Only in recent years have many baby boomers started to wake up and smell the burned coffee. The new reality is retirement without adequate pensions and savings. And meanwhile, you’re still paying the monthly mortgage. Is the American Dream of retirement about to become a nightmare?

I can hardly wait to see how Robert De Niro plays a 70-year-old intern working for a much younger boss (Anne Hathaway). Watch the trailer. Is it a comedy or a horror movie?

Fanny Karst: Beginning With the End

Couldn’t pass up this post!

Life in the Boomer Lane

karstLife in the Boomer Lane found Fanny Karst by accident, when she was on one of her favorite sites, Advanced Style. Karst had designed a tee shirt (‘OLD IS THE NEW BLACK’) that LBL had to have, and so she ordered it. It wasn’t until recently that she wanted to know more about Karst, herself.  What she found was pretty amazing. First, Karst is 30-years-old. Second, she designs for women over age 50. Most important, her designs are in-your-face statements of powerful women in control of their lives, meant to be worn by women who society deems as the exact opposite.

What inspires one so young to design for older women?  And how can one so young have the ability to reach beyond the stereotypes of aging to a place that empowers?  Karst is more than a designer.  She is a visionary and an inspiration.

If one looks at…

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And, Autumn. And, Saturday Mornings. WORD.

A perfect thought for the night that we have to give up Daylight Saving Time for a few months.

Live & Learn

fall-autumn

[…]
Rumi said,
There is no proof of the soul.
But isn’t the return of spring
and how it springs up in our hearts
a pretty good hint?
[…]

~ Mary Oliver, Whistling Swans. Felicity: Poems


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The Stars Inside – Not Shaken But Stirred

I believe this is the first time I’ve reposted a poem. From a blog I just discovered today, via David Kanigan.

roughwighting

stars, wishes, dreams, poetryAre the stars out tonight?

Is it gloomy or bright?

Should I believe in a wish

Or not strive for true bliss?

 

My star is plastic, pointy and hard

Reminding me always to be on guard

No night is soft, the air turns cold

Just like this star that I firmly hold

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ERICA JONG on FEAR OF DYING

Photo by Mary Ann Halpin

Photo by Mary Ann Halpin

“I’m 73, and my writing is better than it’s ever been. I’m freer, I have these beautiful grandchildren and a daughter who adores me, finally. I see that the greatest thing about getting older is how your judgment changes and how you come to understand the cycles of life. And you keep having these amazing flashes of understanding.”

— From an interview by Carole Burns with Erica Jong in The Washington Post, Sept. 9, 2015, p. C1. Erica Jong’s new book is “Fear of Dying.” It rhymes with “Fear Of Flying,” by the same author. Fear Of Flying was written and published in the last century. Click here: to see the Fear Of Dying book trailer.

Social Security And Medicare Are America At Her Best

Editor’s Note: Below is a column I wrote in February 2013, the year I turned 65. I began collecting Social Security earlier, at age 62. In June 2013, my Medicare coverage started, and I retired in October 2013. This article was originally posted on one of my other blogs. Because readers of Retirement Made Simple have shown a deep interest in Social Security and Medicare, I’ve removed it from the other blog and am reposting it here today, with minor updating, including additional links to other sources. As you can tell, Social Security and Medicare are American icons that I feel very strongly about.

An official-looking envelope arrived in the mail this week. (Yes, despite reports to the contrary, we still have mail delivery in the USA.)

Inside the envelope, my Medicare card! Thank God! But how did this happen? How did I ever get to be this old? Never mind.

medical_care_card_usa_sample

Amazing thing is, I didn’t even apply for Medicare. They just send me the card automatically, three months before I turn 65. Part A and Part B, both automatic. It’s effective in June, when I turn 65.

Many people are convinced that all government is inefficient. Anarchists claim government can’t possibly do anything right! Where do they get that idea?

Social Security and Medicare run like well-oiled machines.

The Social Security Administration +++   runs Social Security with amazingly low administrative expenses! And the honest truth is, it’s all been paid for, by me! And by you! Through specifically designated taxes! Is this a great country, or what!

As for Medicare,  +++   I’ve been paying a tax every week since 1966 (which happens to be the year I graduated from high school). For Social Security, I’ve been paying a couple of years longer, ever since I got my first part-time job at age 16. Every week, for 48 years! My money, invested prudently in the safest possible way — U.S. government bonds. Accrued interest!

+++   The two links in the two paragraphs above are the most authoritative sources regarding Social Security and Medicare, respectively.

Saving every week for 48 years. Investing the money prudently. Isn’t that what the investment gurus advise?

How could that possibly be wrong? It feels right to me. All younger workers (by which I mean everyone under 62) need to read the following article by Motley Fool, as printed in USA Today in September 2015:

“The average American is just plain wrong about Social Security’s importance.”

Why is it that so many poorly informed workers are ready to give up on Social Security???  And why is it that Social Security and Medicare are the two programs the wealthy hate the most? I don’t get it.

— John Hayden

Other related articles
Personal Finance Guide for Seniors (medicaresupplementalinsurance.com)
Watch out for Medicare card calls and other scams (utsandiego.com)

And finally, from Atlantic Magazine in 2012:

Don’t Cut Social Security, Double It

The Last Wedding Of Summer, And A Full Moon Over Annapolis

A kiss is still a kiss. And yes, people keep getting married, despite rumors to the contrary. Someone is getting married nearly every hour of every day, someplace, somehow.

The fundamental things apply. We enjoyed a wonderful wedding weekend in Annapolis with the large and growing extended family. Continued growth is certain, the eldest uncle predicts with confidence, especially if weddings continue at this pace. (The uncle is usually right, except when he’s wrong.)  Family genes will continue to populate the Earth, nearly forever.

The ceremony was brightened by late afternoon sunshine on the open balcony of the Marriott Waterfront. The assembled witnesses faced east, so Annapolis Harbor was the backdrop for bride and groom and clergy.

If sailing is your thing, or even your unfulfilled wish, you could not want a view more splendid than the sparkling Annapolis harbor. The hotel is so absolutely waterfront that I could have thrown an ice-cube over the yacht, docked below, with room to spare.

After the vows were said, and the other formalities; after the lawfully wedded bride and groom were duly introduced, the couple kissed and beamed. The bride waved her bouquet overhead. They walked, fast, up the aisle, only to endure the time-honored ritual of wedding photography.

For better or worse. In sickness and in health . . .

One and all enjoyed delicious food, imbibed delightful spirits, and generally made merry. Crab cakes are de rigueur in Maryland. The crab cakes we dined on Saturday evening were the best! The fillet mignon you could cut with a butter knife, and the asparagus was cooked to perfection.

The father of the bride, announcing that he was nervous and not in control of his emotions, nonetheless delivered a perfect, heartfelt and humorous few words.

Most importantly, perhaps, we danced all night to the music of a first-rate band. A live band, not a DJ! Hardly ever see a live band, living or dead, these days. Where did all the bands go? The answer my friends, is blowing in the wind.

Well, to be clear, most of us danced most of the night. Many with beer bottle in hand. Some of the  nieces and nephews, flush with the exuberance of youth, hardly paused to get a fresh bottle of beer. (To be fair, in my day, we danced with lit cigarettes in hand.)

Champaign and wine, and an open bar. And coffee. And cake. And dancing. And, too, a full moon.

Exuberance is contagious. So I danced a bit myself. However, my number of fast dances is strictly limited, like the number of pitches in a pitcher’s arm. And the band didn’t play many slow dances. Some relatives and friends of my baby-boomer generation remained calm and took full advantage of the live music, fast and slow. (Did I mention that I am the oldest of said generation in the entire extended family?)

The band was peerless, but still, nary a waltz all night. What is modern music coming to? (I must throw in something critical, else the copy desk will convict me of hyperbole, with exuberance as the evidence. Oh wait, that was when newspapers still had copy desks. Ancient history, nearly.)

After the sun went down, as the evening lengthened and the dancing continued, the last full moon of summer rose high above the Annapolis harbor.

Yes, Virginia, The world will always welcome lovers, as time goes by.

The takeaway: Exuberance is contagious, but the effect wears off quickly. More quickly, say, than a hangover.

Inside information: The legally wedded couple is honeymooning in Jamaica.

A personal afterthought: I am older than all but a very few of those in attendance. How did I get so old, all of a sudden? (Answer: One day at a time.) I believe I must have been the oldest of those still standing to participate in the after-dinner revelry. I’m obviously older than the parents of either the bride or the groom. Anyone can see that. No wonder I feel a letdown after every party lately.

Time goes by.

Recommendation:  Eat, drink, be merry, and dance!  Accept all wedding invitations that come your way, and stay for breakfast the morning after.

Editor (Retired)

August 28, 2015

I’ll be out of town this weekend for a family wedding. Looks like grand end-of-summer weather. See you Monday.

Retirement Living, Your Retirement Home Could Be Any Place in North America, Or Anyplace In The World

If you’re a recent retiree, like me, you might be casting around for the perfect place to call home during your golden years. Retirement means freedom! Not least of all is the freedom of not being tied to geography like a serf in feudal Europe. You can live anyplace you choose (subject to a possible veto by your significant other.)

Here in the U.S., retirement locales that come to mind first are Florida and Arizona. For those with a little more imagination, nearly every place in the U.S. probably has something special. It all depends on what you like.

For the adventurous retiree, the possibilities are boundless. You could live on a mountain top, in an abandoned lighthouse, on an island. You could live in Alaska or New Orleans, or a thousand places in between.

But why limit retirement life to the U.S.? Yes, I know, you plan to travel during retirement, including international travel. You’ll travel as frequently as you want, depending on your degree of wanderlust and, of course, your budget. But I’m not talking about travel, I’m talking about your home base. Why limit yourself to the USA? Canada offers many agreeable retirement options, at least  for part of the year. Plenty of Canadians are snowbirds, living North in Summer, and going South to Florida in Winter. As good as that sounds, we can be more imaginative than that.

You’ve probably heard about people who’ve retired in Mexico, for the climate and the cost of living. You might be able to live pretty comfortably on your Social Security check in Mexico.

I’ll let you in on a secret: The U.S., Canada, and Mexico are only the beginning. You’re retired, you’re free, and your Social Security and pension dollars are welcome EVERYWHERE!

And what good luck: the folks over at “Above And Beyond Travel” have done the research for you. The information in their post, “The Best Countries To Relax And Retire,” written by Chelsea Petersen, will take your breath away and set your imagination on fire.

“With the cost of living rising every day, everyone dreams of a comfortable retirement. We compiled a list of some of the best places to retire to, taking into account several factors; including living costs, healthcare, and community.”

Some of the “Best Countries” are Panama, Malta, Spain, Thailand and Ecuador. Click over to “Best Countries” for more.

I’ve heard that Spain offers retirement real estate deals that are beyond belief. You could check out this NPR report: “In Spain Entire Villages Are Up For Sale And They’re Going Cheap.” Hard to believe, but would NPR lie to you? Many villages and individual homes within are said to be available at rock-bottom prices, by American standards. Seems that times have changed and so has the economy. NPR explains what happened:

“Many local Spaniards just don’t want to live in villages anymore. They migrate to bigger cities for jobs, education, access to public transit and health care.”

I won’t bore you with the details. If you want details, read the NPR story, or listen to the radio version.

But here’s an idea: Some retirees like the concept of living in an “intentional community.” This might be particularly appealing to those who fondly recall the hippy communes of the 1970s. Some enterprising senior citizen, possibly a former hippy who’s now a retired Realtor, could buy a village in Spain and sell shares to like-minded retirees who’d like to live in a community where they might actually know their neighbors. You have to agree that a village in Spain sounds more romantic than, say, a suburb in New Jersey. (Sorry New Jersey.)

Is your passport up to date? You could organize your travel itinerary to check out possible home bases. Remember, it’s as much about the journey as the destination.

I’ll be talking a lot more about searching for the perfect place to live in retirement. I’m in the hunt a home base myself. I need a place with an affordable cost of living. Enjoy the search.