About LoveBeingRetired

Dave Bernard is a California born and raised author and blogger with an extensive 30 year career in Silicon Valley. He has written more than 300 blogs for US News & World On Retirement and his personal blog Retirement –Only the Beginning. Dave has written three books to date: "Are you just existing and calling it a life?"; "I want to retire! Essential Considerations for the Retiree to Be"; and " Navigating the Retirement Jungle". He has been quoted in various articles and magazines including The Wall Street Journal, The Times of India, Prevention Magazine and Erickson Tribune. Dave lives in sunny California with his wife and a shared passion for the San Jose Sharks.

Who will speak for the retired?

Before retiring I tried to make sure all my bases were covered. I had a good idea what it would take to finance the lifestyle my wife and I hoped to live. I did my due diligence to identify as many as possible of those interests, passions and hobbies that would keep me engaged and stimulated for the next few decades. My wife and I decided where we wanted to live while retired and made the move. And I did in-depth research to make the best choice to provide us with quality affordable healthcare (wishful thinking I know). This past month has been a rude awakening showing just how helpless we can be when it comes to basics such as medical coverage. Allow me to elaborate.

When my wife quit her job back in July she opted for COBRA coverage to extend for 15 months the medical, vision and dental plan we had been enrolled in while she worked. We figured we could research other options during that 15 month period but for now this made the most sense. She filled out all the required paperwork and began making monthly payments as directed. Easy peasie – everything should be fine for that time period, right? Not so fast.

About a month ago I noticed one of my prescriptions was not being refilled. I called the provider and was informed I was not covered. What? And so the saga began. My poor wife – bless her – began the long painful process of clearing up the mistake in “the system”. For weeks, multiple times a day, she talked with representatives from COBRA and the insurance company. Each time she made a call she had to start at the bottom of the call pyramid, explaining over and over who she was, her information and what the problem was. Often after explaining the situation she was put on hold and then suddenly rerouted back to the beginning or disconnected all together. Return calls never materialized – ever – whether promised by the initial contact or escalated to a supervisor. Sometimes the account showed we were covered, sometimes it said we were not. Our frustration was building. I could not have done it but my wife – bless her again – stuck with it.

Our salvation came from the fact this kind of thing was what she had done while employed. Luckily she had a contact for the broker who managed the health plan for her previous company. By getting her involved we were able to rise above the noise and get some attention. The broker made some calls and things started to happen. According to a call this morning everything should be fine now. We will see.

The sad thing is without an inside connection we might still be spinning our wheels while our blood pressures rise and resolution of the problem remains wishful thinking. What about all those who are on their own? You can be sure potential problems are not limited to healthcare. We have experienced challenges with regards to phone services, internet services, as well as electric and water services. It’s a jungle out there.

I believe companies and the people they employ generally want to do a good job. It may be naïve but that is the way I roll. However, it seems too often that service is subpar. The focus on profits has driven many companies to look for cheaper ways to do business. I get it but what is the real cost in terms of customer satisfaction? Automation reduces the need for people but also removes the personal touch. Those blasted call trees that you have to walk through – step by step – every time you make a call may save money but can try the patience of a saint. Outsourcing may be cheaper but when the person answering the phone cannot be understood what kind of service are we talking about? My biggest fear is things are only going to get worse.

And when things get bad and you feel you are getting nowhere, what can you do? How do you escalate a problem if you are just one of thousands of customers each relatively insignificant in the grand scheme of things? It is scary what the future may hold. I only hope my wonderful wife will stick with me and continue to make the bad things go away. In the meantime I remain cautiously optimistic and continue to work on my patience for all things frustrating. I am sure to get a lot of practice…

Do you need a vacation in retirement?

Taking time to get away from the daily grind while you are working is an important ingredient to maintain sanity and a healthy relationship with your partner. The stress and hectic pace of full time employment requires downtime to stay on top of you our game, recharge the old motor and reinvigorate what might otherwise become stagnant thinking. Who does not remember that wonderful feeling after a week or so away when you return to work ready for action? Well at least until you quickly find yourself overwhelmed as you are forced to return from that slower pace you so easily were able to adapt to. Vacation when you are working is important.

What about after you retire?

Supposedly retirement provides an escape from all those stresses and hassles typical to the working world. We are no longer working full time so problems associated with that state of life should be a distant memory. Do you really need to take a vacation from a retired life spent doing whatever you want? Does the old engine need to recharge when it has not been subject to those same demands that wear it down?

Having been retired for three years now I have my routine down. I keep busy pursuing activities and passions that I love. I try to avoid stressful situations and with the flexibility of running my own life am generally successful, at least to this point. But just because I don’t need to escape my day to day life does not mean I have given up vacationing.

My wife and I are in Maui at the moment. We have been here a few times including an idyllic wedding not so long ago. Maui is a special place for us. And yet I cannot help but feel that it might be better suited for a younger generation. All around us happy families with little ones are enjoying the sun and surf, splashing and playing in the numerous pools that decorate our surroundings. Squeals of joy pierce the air and we cannot help but get caught up in there young exuberance and love so obviously displayed. What fun for all! But what about those of us whose kids have grown up?

Young adults pursue a myriad of activities from parasailing to paddle boarding, from sunset cruises to snorkeling excursions. We did these same things when we were a similar age. And I am sure we could do them (most of them anyway) today if we so chose. And that is where I find myself challenged. I don’t really want to do those things. Am I taking full advantage of these wonderful islands if I am happy taking a walk here and there or sitting on our balcony reading a book? Shouldn’t I be out there doing all I can to not waste a moment of our limited time here?

If there is one thing I have learned in retirement it is I do not need to stay busy every moment to enjoy myself. Downtime is good time if that is how I choose to go. A balance of activity and relaxation is a what keeps this ship safely on course. I enjoy doing things at my own pace and choosing those things I most want to partake in. What I do is what is right for me at the moment. That is one of the joys of retired life.

Maui is truly beautiful with warm tropical breezes wafting through the palms, miles of white sandy beaches and an ocean a color of blue that takes your breath away. But it is just one place amongst a multitude. There are so many wonderful destinations we could visit, places we have never been to. And as retirees we finally have the time to get out there.

I think the trick in retirement is realizing you no longer vacation to get away from something. Instead you are blessed with the freedom to vacation just to get to something wonderful. Rather than escape you now vacation to add to your list of memorable experiences. Stay as long as you want. Do as much or as little as you choose. And if you like what you have found you can do it again. Could it get any better?

And who knows – I just might try my hand at a little paddle boarding tomorrow if I am so inclined. Aloha for now.