When its okay to say no

As we begin our exit of the Great Recession we have all had to make sacrifices to get by. Whether it be cutting back on vacations or shopping a bit more frugally for food, tightening our belt has become the norm. In many cases, retirement savings have become a last resort to keep us liquid and though we hate to dip into those sacred accounts, sometimes there has been no other way. But at what price? Using our limited resources to keep afloat today may result in us experiencing first hand that number one retirement fear of outliving our savings.

I read an article in the Mercury News this morning about the plight of grandparents who are forced to help their children through tough times due to the economy and lost jobs and stretched mortgages. Retirement for many can unexpectedly become a continuation of raising the family that you thought you already raised. Providing daycare services for grandchildren can help children make ends meet but is that really what we want to be doing in our golden years? According to the Mercury over the past five years grandparents have provided $370 billion in financial support to their grandchildren, an average of $8661 per household. And this is at a time when many retirees have total savings accounts in the area of $100,000.

Is it fair or wise to attempt to keep afloat the families of today at the expense of the retirees of tomorrow? Or is this just a way of deferring our debt? Someone is ultimately going to have to pick up the tab.

As retirees living on a fixed income, grandparents need to realistically look at their situation and make hard choices.You can no longer add to your savings – you have to live on what you have. You  want to help but how much?

  • What can you realistically afford to contribute to your kids and grand kids without putting yourself in future financial jeopardy? You need to carefully consider the whole picture weighing your income and costs for the next “x” number of years and only contribute what you can afford if you hope to assure your future financial security. Overly generous behavior now is a recipe for disaster later.
  • If money is “loaned” to children can you count on getting the money back at some future time? Will you be okay if you do not get reimbursed? And is the potential friction that this debt may cause in the best interest of all concerned?
  • You can choose to volunteer your time to help with daycare but is that what you really want to be doing with your retirement? For many it is and for others it is a worthwhile sacrifice since you get to spend time with the little gremlins before they enter the evil teenage years! But if you do not want to do this or are willing to help out but for the short term, how do you get your message across? Remember this is your life to live so what do you want to do?
  • If you choose to take care of your children family today can you expect your children to take care of you later? Do you even want to be in that difficult position?
  • Can your children reduce their standard of living to better cope with their needs? Everyone has to live within their means and if times are tough you have to learn to do with less.

Sometimes saying no is the best answer for all concerned not only for today but for the future.

We all want to help wherever we can especially when it concerns family. But as retirees we need to realistically look at all of the variables. The decision is a very personal one and what works for me may not be the ticket for you. But be ware – this is not something we can afford to make a mistake regarding. A sound decision today will hopefully lead to a safer and more secure tomorrow.


Excitement in Retirement

So after scrimping and doing without for so long, with years of putting others needs first as you provided for your family and countless re-evaluations of when and if you can retire, you have finally crossed the threshold. You are retired – let the golden years begin! It has been a hard road and you can consider yourself lucky as I am reading yet another headline saying 27% of those over 55 are postponing retirement. In fact some wonder if they will ever be able to retire.

We all want to retire at some point – what that retirement will look like exactly is subject to interpretation as many will continue to work in some capacity whether they need to or because they want to.  But deep down I think we all believe that retirement is an American way of life just like owning a home or getting an education. Hmm – those are not such a given anymore either – these times they are a changing. At least it USED TO BE assumed that retirement awaited us all when age 65 rolled around so for the sake of this post let’s assume that things are as they used to be and you are among the retired masses.

Your calendar is open, you list is made, the day awaits – where to start? At your “ripe old age”, do you even remember how to have fun? And as we have been warned, the first six months of retirement are easy – the honeymoon period when we can finally do what we want to do when we want to do it. The new freedom is intoxicating but be aware the hangover. One morning you may awake and find yourself wondering what you will do with the rest of your retirement years and there are a lot of them!

Excitement in Retired Life

I believe we do in fact know how to have fun but we have insulated ourselves to survive an often unfriendly world. In retirement, this insulation can get in the way of us stepping out and really enjoying ourselves. Better safe than sorry is no way to enter a retirement that may be 20 or 30 or more years. What can we do to regain that free feeling we experienced during the honeymoon period? Where can senior citizens find excitement in retirement?

Watch hockey! Growing up I had never seen or had any interest in seeing a hockey game. Then a friend took me to a live Sharks game back in 1993.  Although I did not understand the nuances, the incredible energy of the screaming fans quickly raised my excitement level and I was hollering along with the rest of the faithful. When I came home that night, I lay awake for hours until I finally calmed down enough to sleep. I have been a fan ever since and the fact that my son and daughter are equally fanatical just adds to the experience for us all. I am sure other sports have similar impact on people but for me it is hockey. And with the San Jose SHARKS just one round away from the Stanly Cup Finals, now is the time to witness playoff hockey which is as good as is gets!

Take that trip and take a chance – my wife has traveled extensively over the years and is comfortable in pretty much any situation. Her past adventures include hiking alone through Guatemala for three months. So when we travel these days, I follow her lead. While in Paris she wanted to visit Montmartre, renowned for its Sacre Cour church and as a hangout for local artists. However to get there we had to wend our way through a less-than-desirable neighborhood asking directions if we dared from the always helpful French locals (!) Following her lead and holding her hand firmly we made the journey and arrived safely, and it was the highpoint of a very exciting vacation trip. You never know what some out-of-the-way neighborhood may have to offer until you walk its streets. Moral of the story – take a chance, step outside of your comfort zone a bit and experience the real world outside of movies and TV specials.

Buy and manage a hotel on a Caribbean island – the sun, the sand, freedom from crowds and incessant advertising, a steel-drum playing in the background with a fruity rum drink in your hand, a tropical island may be just the ticket. Put your entrepreneurial skills to work and watch the rest of the world go by. Actually before you attempt such an endeavor I recommend you read Herman Wouk’s Don’t stop the Carnival. Even if you decide against the tropical move, the book is a wonderful read!

Become a blogger – there is an amazing array of personalities in the blogosphere with interests spanning everything from retirement to reptiles. As you write and read other blogs, you will meet folks with similar interests and passions. You can share your thoughts in your posts as well as interact with others via their blog and websites. It is easy and rewarding and who knows where it may lead.

Retirement is only the beginning. Don’t be afraid to live. Don’t be crazy dangerous but also don’t be overly cautious. Live the life you have dreamed and if you are so inclined, share your adventures with the rest of us. We just might find the inspiration we need to step outside of our own safety zone and live an exciting retirement life.

Are you wasting time?

Does it ever feel to you that even in retirement life there is just not enough time in the day? How often have you paused for a moment to contemplate your accomplishments for the day and found yourself at a lack for anything of merit? It’s not so much that we have a lot to do but more about looking back as another sun sets to find our to-do lists have not budged. Obviously something must be “getting done” since at least 12 hours have ticked off the clock. Tell me if this sounds at all like your world:

– Do you get caught up in a frenzy of busy activity, overlooking the beauty and wonder that is right in front of your nose as you rush through your duties?

– When you look back at your day, is it just a blur with no meaningful accomplishments?

– Do you listen without hearing when your spouse talks to you caught up in other far away thoughts?

– When a friend calls on the phone and has something important to discuss, do you find yourself hurrying the conversation so you can get back to what you were doing?

– Do you scratch off one item on your to-do list only to add three more?

All of these can add to a day that is out of control as you react rather than act. Unfortunately it is often the case that we have no one to blame but ourselves.  Wasting time is too easy and as the saying goes, life is like a coin – you can spend it any way you want but you can only spend it once. And how are senior citizens typically spending their valuable time?


According to the Labor Department, senior citizens age 65+ spend 400 hours on average on “Other Leisure” time, which includes anything that’s not TV, socializing, relaxing and reading. Where is the rest of the time going? TV sucks up about 4.4 hours each day from the average senior citizen, more than the 3.3 hour Americans of all ages watch when the weekend rolls around.

Not only does TV dull your mind but as a sedentary event you get zero exercise (unless you are a fan of the Wii). And you can bet you are not honing your social skills as you sit zombie-like staring into the few minutes of content that are tantalizingly interspersed between hours of endless advertisements.

Just say NO!

Where can we spend “quality” time? The ‘ol clock is ticking away…

  • Give a call to your mom, dad, son, daughter, friend or acquaintance just to say hello. Out of the blue with no special occasion your thoughtfulness may just make their day. It is impossible to stay in touch with everything that goes on in the lives of those around us. But just showing an interest can go a long way.
  • Get away for the weekend or weekday since retired folks have that luxury. You can find great deals on sites like Travelzoo or in Via Magazine from AAA. A little planning ahead and you can spend for two nights what you normally pay for just one. And if there is no TV, so much the better! I find that having something on the calendar every other month or at least once a quarter keeps the excitement up as you anticipate the next adventure.
  • Donate your time – my step daughter has spent the past nine months in Haiti working with Grass Roots United to help local residents recover from the massive earthquake. You don’t have to go quite so extreme but there are local shelters and organizations that could use your help in an instant. Bob at Satisfying Retirement works with ex-convicts to help them adjust to life after prison. Bill at Adventure Retirement traveled to Peru for a year in search of volunteering opportunities. Retirees have the time, there are MANY worthwhile causes, if volunteering works for you everyone wins.
  • Share your expertise with the next generation – we all had careers in the “early years” and provided that the industry has not changed drastically our knowledge can still help others to avoid pitfalls we learned by experience.
  • Don’t waste any more time – do what you really like to do.  What is it that you do or have done in your life that REALLY gives you pleasure? Is there something that when you think about it brings an involuntary smile to your face? With my recent return to the working world (I found the perfect start up company with great people and am really enjoying doing it again) I find myself with less time to blog. But every now and then an idea comes to mind and with a smile on my face I endeavor to put it to words. I really enjoy it when I find precisely the right way to express a feeling I have and share it with my readers. Are you a writer? A painter? A hiker? A biker? Is photography your gig? Restoring old cars? Gardening? It is up to you and there are no rules!

24 hours in a day – 60 minutes in an hour – 60 seconds in a minute.

Don’t waste another…