How Do You Rate Your Retirement?

If you were to give the retirement life you have been living to this point a grade – like back in school – would you be looking at an “A” for excellent or a “C” for average or (hopefully not) an “F” for failure? There are a lot of variables – maybe it’s better to go with pass/fail. It’s not always easy to live the retirement of our dreams. I think the bottom line is are you happy with your second act or is there room for improvement? And if there is room for improvement what can you do to raise your grade?

I have been retired full time about five years now. Most readers of LoveBeingRetired are familiar with the story of my fall from grace in the tech start-up world that left me prematurely job free well before anticipated. Sometimes you have to accept harsh reality which for me was I was too old (at 53!!) to do a worthy job within my chosen career at least according to the hiring powers. I am not bitter (well not overly bitter) but it was an unexpected turn of events to say the least.

Looking back at these years in retirement I find myself reliving a myriad of emotions:

– The fear I was totally unprepared for the decades of “independence” ahead.

– The self-doubt following months spent unsuccessfully trying to get back into the working world.

– The nagging concern over finances.

– Then the glimmer of possibilities as I began getting used to my new lifestyle and actually enjoying it.

– And now the hopeful expectation for all that is still to be.

St. Chapelle spires

Before assigning a grade to my retirement or yours there are a few questions worthy of consideration.

Do you find meaning in your life? Many find their justification for being in the job they do. Once separated from that daily endeavor they struggle to find that same feeling of worth.  If you can’t find worthwhile endeavors beyond the job retirement can feel empty. It becomes difficult to motivate yourself to get out of bed each morning – what is the purpose? But if you have reasons, motivations, passions that excite you each day can offer new opportunity. You don’t have to stick to the same road that led you here. Try new things, branch out, cut loose and do what feels good. Finding meaning is very personal and no two paths are exactly the same. How would you rate your current situation?

Do you have plans for the future? I have found having goals keep me moving forward. Retirement need not be the end of aspirations. Glen Frey of the Eagles said, “People don’t run out of dreams; people run out of time.” Retirement offers precious time to do what you want to do. Whether your passion is travel or learning, reading or writing, painting or singing, the time you need to explore new directions is now yours. What do you see yourself doing tomorrow? Next month? Next year?

What would you change about your situation? Back in the day we worked hard to earn those all-important “A” grades. It makes sense that it takes similar effort to boost our retirement rating to an honor roll worthy level. And while a report card full of “A”s as a student may have been awesome a stellar retirement rating means you are on track to live the best second act possible. Are there areas requiring attention to realize the best retirement possible? Can you fine tune your lifestyle to increase the likelihood of living a fulfilling retired life?

What are the best things about being retired? Sometimes life feels a bit heavy as we strive to address various challenges such as aging or unwelcome money issues or living without clear direction or struggling with boredom. Occasionally we may find that old Ben Franklin comparison of pluses versus minuses tipping in the wrong direction. As an inveterate optimist I typically see the glass half full. I have found worrying has no impact on the outcome of events. No matter how I fret good things and bad things happen. Why not face the future like Frank Sinatra who sang “The best is yet to come.” And those best of moments are sometimes found in the least likely of circumstances.

What are your plans for your continuing education? Just because we haven’t been to class for years does not mean we are no longer capable of learning. With the free time retirees enjoy the opportunity presents itself to pursue areas that interest us rather than are required of us. Your second act can be the right time to learn more about what you love without the stress of final exams. Put that mind to work. Keep yourself engaged and challenged. You are never done learning.

Are you happy? At the end of the day when you glance into the mirror do you see a smiling face looking back? If you do, give yourself an “A” for making your retirement work. That is what is all about right, finding happiness and fulfillment and enjoyment each day. Whatever path you discover, whatever steps and missteps you take, wherever your journey leads you if when it is all said and done you feel positively about how your time is being spent you are doing just fine. As a matter of a fact, feel free to do more of the same!

Each of us has the power to influence the quality of our retired life. With some work hopefully we can improve a less-than-stellar grade to something closer to an “A”. Why settle for average when you can be excellent. When you think about it, now that you are retired is there a more worthy focus for your attention?

Preparing To Retire Is All About the Details

If you hope to realize the retirement you imagine and deserve you need to prepare. Leaving the details of your second act to chance is a good way to miss out on what should be a glorious time to explore your interests, passions and hobbies. It is not possible to foresee all of the twists and turns that lie ahead but you can improve your odds by proactively planning for your post-career journey.

What it will cost to live the life you want?

Careful budgeting is a cornerstone to any successful retirement plan. If you don’t know the net of how much you have coming in compared to how much you spend each month you put yourself in a precarious position. While you may skate by in the early years when your funds are relatively higher you will eventually find yourself running in the red.

As you begin your calculations try to figure your cost of living based not just upon getting by. Retirement is your time to enjoy. Build in sufficient expenditures to allow you to do so. Often times there will be tradeoffs so it helps to prioritize those most important components of your retirement wish list.

One area that caught me unprepared was the incredible cost of healthcare. All those years working for companies that paid for health and dental and vision as part of employment are but a distant memory. In retirement each of us assumes the burden of insuring our own health. Not only are the rates monumentally high to begin with but the costs are trending ever upward. I find it frightening knowing our advancing years bring with them the likelihood of numerous health challenges whose corresponding expenses are only increasing.

My wife and I did our research and ultimately opted for a mid-level plan through Blue Shield with significant deductibles, intimidating out of pocket maximums, and confusing coverage options, all for the not-so- cheap price of more than $2000 per month. And that excludes dental and vision. As you prepare to live a fulfilling retirement, don’t underestimate the bite healthcare costs will take out of your nest egg.

What do you want your retirement life to look like?

If things go as expected you can hope to spend your retirement days doing the things you have always wanted to do. You control how you choose to spend the hours and days and weeks. Freedom of choice is a wonderful reality. By the way, have you thought about how you might want to spend all that blessed free time?

Recent retirees often share how they worked hard all their lives to earn their retirement only to discover they are not sure what to do once they arrive. Imagine you are in the early days of your second act only to find yourself bored with the life you live. With nothing to look forward to it can sometimes feel challenging to even get out of bed.

The time to plan is before you retire. Take a look in the mirror and ask yourself what it is you would like to do with the next few decades.

Is travel an important ingredient to your happily-retired list or are you content at home?

Do you get antsy without people to interact with or can you entertain yourself?

Do you like to try new things or are you set in your ways?

Do you have a lot of interests/hobbies to explore?

What do you enjoy most doing?

Do you have any specific goals set?

Look ahead to the lifestyle you hope to live as a retiree. Then take those actions now that can better assure you realize those dreams.

How does your vision of retirement compare with that of your spouse?

If you have a significant other retirement will include both of you. If you have never spent 24/7 together for an extended period this is your chance! The well prepared retired couple takes time to better understand each other and individual ideas of retired living. There will be plenty of time to do things together but it is equally important to have time alone. You can avoid possible conflict by deciding who does what around the house and garden. Since retirement is dynamic open communications as you navigate your journey together is a must.

What does your spouse most enjoy doing?

What things do you like to do together?

Are you both okay with spending time apart pursuing personal interests?

Where do your plans regarding retirement differ?

A happy spouse means a happy house so make sure you are on the same page to get the most out of your mutual retirement.

Have you found your “happy place”?

I remember times on the job when all that kept me sane was the thought of someday retiring from the rat race to live a more enjoyable existence. I pictured a peaceful spot away from the noise and stress where I would do what I wanted – as little or as much as I liked. My ultimate happy place found me sitting on a beach, waves rhythmically breaking along the shoreline while seagulls squawked above – not a care in the world and not a better place to be.

Now retired, I have discovered quite a few happy places. The beach continues to reign supreme. But I love sitting on a bench in the garden or walking a wilderness trail. I am totally at peace strolling the downtown or driving along country roads. How about a mid-day coffee at the local java shop watching the rest of the world scurry by? The best part is in retirement I no longer only imagine time in my happy space(s) – I get to spend time there whenever I want. When did you last visit your own happy place?

I sometimes get slightly obsessive about planning. I like to know what is next on the agenda, where we are going, when we will arrive, you know the drill. When it comes to retirement that planning obsession might be a positive. Although no one knows exactly what to expect – which can be kind of exciting in itself – the more we anticipate the details of how our retirement will roll out the fewer unexpected surprises we will face.

5 Ways Seniors Can Find Empowerment Through Technology

Written By Marie Villeza

The notion that seniors don’t wish to use or embrace technology couldn’t be further from the truth. More and more research continues to show that seniors are just as interested in technology as younger generations. This narrowing of the digital divide gives seniors even more resources to help them stay in touch, maintain a social calendar, enjoy travel, and monitor their health. All of which goes to show that age is just a number.

Of course, there are many seniors who are ready to jump into using technology, but their lack of know-how leaves them feeling intimidated. It doesn’t have to be this way! By helping seniors gain accessibility to technology, we can empower them to take better control of their lives. Here are some great ways to connect seniors with technology and help them maintain independence.

Tablets and Smartphones

A tablet is a great option for seniors to use, especially if they don’t have a need for a computer. Tablets have great portability, and they make it easy to check email, use social media, stay in touch with family, play games, or plan for life. Smartphones also offer great access for seniors. These phones have all the benefits of a tablet but on a smaller scale. There are even several types of smartphones that are specifically designed for seniors. It helps, too, that more companies are taking note of seniors’ interest in technology, which in turn brings more devices to the marketplace that are senior-friendly.

Technology Classes

Most libraries and senior centers these days have a variety of technology classes that can help anyone get a better grasp of how to use their smartphone, tablet, computer, or apps. The best part about these classes is that they are usually free. (Always a bonus when you’re retired and on a budget!).

Also, AARP has recently developed AARP Tek, which gives seniors a starting point for learning more about technology, understanding safety measures when using new technology, help with using social media, and connecting with caregivers. This is a huge benefit to bridging any sort of digital divide. And by having such a renowned senior-focused group aiding in technology know-how, this definitely can lend a sense of legitimacy and comfort.

Apps Abound

Once seniors have the hang of the tablet and smartphones, the possibilities are endless. There is an app for just about everything you can think of: games, travel, appointments, music. And that’s just naming a few. Apps can also connect seniors with technology-assisted living that includes grocery shopping, transportation, medication reminders, cleaning services, and in-home health care. While predominant in larger cities, this type of technology is still available in many moderately-sized cities and suburbs. By having this type of access right at their fingertips, seniors can keep their independence and stay tech savvy.

Smartwatches and Fitness Trackers

Many seniors are enjoying the benefits of smartwatches. These are sleeker, nicer looking and less obvious devices compared to the wearable safety alert systems of yesterday. Smartwatches offer a multitude of options like cell phone connectivity, GPS tracking, medication reminders, fall alerts, or panic buttons. (This technology can even provide comfort to families, too, so they can help monitor aging parents who might not live nearby.)

Fitness trackers help everyone keep an eye on their fitness levels, and with the ease of use these are perfect devices for seniors who want to monitor their fitness and sleep activity.

Get the Family Involved

With teenagers being the portion of the population particularly savvy when it comes to technology, connecting teens with seniors is a great way for the younger generation to help the older generation understand how best to use their devices and apps. This becomes a twofold benefit in that not only will seniors get tech help from kids who know how to use it, but you also have inter-generational bonding taking place.

These are just a handful of ways for seniors to gain more accessibility to technology. As the marketplace grows, so will their options. By making technology more approachable, seniors will have the opportunity to feel more connected to their families, communities and the world in general.