“All You Need Is Love” The Beatles

“Love is all you need”.   Turns out, those four British boys were definitely on to something.

This blog post is about that THIRD essential ingredient for a happy retirement — strong personal relationships.  Nothing new or revolutionary about that.  Erich Fromm’s book, “The Art of Loving” published more than 50 years ago, informed us that the key to a happy life is love and work.  (We’ll address the “work” part in the next post)

Fast forward to 2016.  Robert Waldinger’s excellent Ted Talk describes findings from a 75 year Harvard study on adult development.  Guess what?  Researchers discovered the most important factor in determining whether someone is happy is not fame or wealth, but the quality of their relationships.  Not only were people with strong, positive relationships happier, but they were healthier–both physically and mentally.

During the 30+ years I was in the workforce, I was lucky enough to have jobs that paid me for establishing positive relationships with other people.  (Which, of course, is very different from being paid to have relations with other people.  Not that I’m judging…)  So, when I retired, I was not only saying goodbye to my co-workers, but also to customers that, in most cases, had become friends. Unfortunately, most of them are long distance friends.  And are still working.

Although I still think of my husband as my “boyfriend”, I don’t expect him to fill all of my companionship needs.   Perhaps part of the reason we are still going strong after 4 decades together is we both understand our mutual need for other interests and for time apart. Our relationship is very much like a Venn Diagram–my interests – his interests, with a nice big intersection of OUR interests.  Surprisingly, I have encountered people that find this a bit strange.  So, when I read this  Wall Street Journal article shortly after retiring, I was pleased to find that there are others out there like us.  Why I find it gratifying to discover that we aren’t so different is probably a subject for a therapist, or at least a future post.  But I digress.   Which happens a lot.  

Anyway, I have spent the last four years figuring out how to exchange “work mates” for “play mates”, and I’m happy to share what I learned with you, my newly retired, soon to be retired, or hoping to one day be retired readers.

Here’s what’s been working for me:

  1. Meet-Ups This on-line application allows you to select by  geographic area and areas of interest.  After you make your selections, you get notifications of gatherings of like minded individuals.  You can get even more specific, narrowing it down by age or marital status.  I’ve made friends via book club, biking, and boomer dining meet-ups–and there are lots of other options.  Plus, if you are so inclined, you can start your own meet up group.
  2. The Local Y   It is indeed fun to go to the YMCA!  But don’t just  hang out on the treadmill.  Join classes, and attend regularly.  And don’t worry about being out of shape.  There are no mean girls here!  The women (and most of the class attendees ARE women) are friendly, welcoming and caring.  In many ways, the Y “family” has been a wonderful substitute for my workplace “family”.
  3. Volunteer I’ve made some incredible friends during my Global Volunteer Projects. See the world, make new friends, learn about another culture!  Check out that wonderful organization!
    If you prefer something local, AARP offers an on-line application designed to link retirees with nearby organizations in need of their skills, and aligned with their interests.
  4. The Local Library  Mine offers an array of programs, including book clubs and educational seminars.
  5. Welcome Wagon  Yes, I know, this is supposed to be for newcomers.  BUT the local contact can be a great resource for area clubs and gatherings.  It took me 32 years before I stumbled across our Neighbors and Newcomers Club, but I’m so glad I did!
  6. Reconnections  Maybe you have been too busy to stay in contact with friends from high school or college.  Why not reach out?  I attended my first college reunion five years ago, and am looking forward to the next one this spring.  It was a wonderful trip down memory lane, an opportunity to reconnect with old friends and a chance to make new ones.  Ditto for high school.
  7. Travel  Okay, so this probably isn’t going to help you with day to day connections, but we met some fantastic, fascinating people on our trips with Road Scholar, OAT, and Grand Circle.  In 2016, our new Zealand friends will be visiting us and we will be taking a trip with friends we met in Peru and on a Global Volunteer experience.
  8. Virtual Buddies I put this one last, because a computer relationship is no substitute for face to face, hand to hand connections.  Still, email, facebook and blogging can be wonderful ways to complement your other relationships.  I loved having pen pals back in the dark ages when I was a child.  My Blog Buddies to me are the 21st century version of pen pals. The best part, however, was when I met a blog buddy when we both happened to be in San Francisco, visiting our kids.  With luck, she and I will be able to synchronize travel again.

What about YOU?  What has helped YOU make the social transition from workto retirement?

“Get On Your Feet” Gloria Estefan

No, this post isn’t about Gloria Estefan’s Broadway musical, although that may be a future post, if I make my way into NYC to see it.  Nope, this  is about that second essential ingredient for a happy retirement:  Good Health.

Yes, we all SAY we want good health, but what do we DO?  We overeat, and what we are stuffing into our mouths is usually the worst possible choice.  We smoke (well, I never did, but I am related to people that still do.  Yeesh.)  We act like The Cat in the Hat children.  “All we could do was sit, sit, sit, sit”.  We keep on electing NRA sponsored candidates that refuse to do anything about crazy people owning weapons of mass destruction, also known as assault weapons.  (Whoops, got carried away by current events–that too belongs in a different, possibly future, post.)

Yes, it helps to be born with the right genes, but research continues to uncover the very strong link between lifestyle and good health, which is something that we “lifestyle managers” believe and preach enthusiastically to anyone that will listen.

About those genes: If our parents’ lifespans are any indication, there is a strong probability that Mike and I have inherited “longevity genes”.  His made it into their ’90s.  Mine are close to that milestone.  But what about the quality of those later years?   I’ve seen first-hand what lack of exercise can do to a person–both mentally and physically, and it isn’t pretty.

So, why wait for the calendar to flip to do something wonderful for yourself?   Who says resolutions can only be made on New Year’s?

Full disclosure.  I hate the thought of exercising.  During my college years, I cut more of the required gym classes than I attended.  Lucky for me the gym teacher sucked at taking attendance.  So, when even an external requirement couldn’t get me into the gym in my younger days, how do I now get my sagging butt out the door?  Major psych up.  I tell myself I’m doing my part to keep Medicare costs down.  (You’re welcome, Gen X,  Y, and Millenniums).  I remind myself of the places that I want to visit and the things I want to do once I get there.  (Bhutan, Nepal and Tibet in the spring.  Yeah baby).   I look at what the total absence of exercise has done to my mother, and realize that I wouldn’t want my one child to have the responsibilities for care that are currently being shared by me and my siblings.

During my work years, I had a community of co-workers and a structured week.  By joining the YMCA, I discovered the retirement equivalent of both.  The variety of classes offered provides structure, and the friendly and welcoming  attendees (mostly women) have become part of my community.

Notice I didn’t mention six pack abs in my reasons for exercising.  Truth be told, if those three words appeared in a sentence about me, it would be this one.   “Check out her abs–looks like she drank a whole six pack in one sitting”.  No,  at my age, exercise isn’t about looking better.  It’s about staying the same.  And that’s a great goal for someone who will be 70 in 4 years!

How about you?  Wanna join me?  I’m off to zumba right after I push the publish button.

 

Mix These Four Essential Ingredients to Cook Up a Happy Retirement

Recently I attended a colleague’s retirement party.  It was the first time I had seen many  co-workers since I left the workforce four years ago.  I was surprised that so many of them were surprised by how happy and relaxed I appeared.  Several asked me what “my secret” is.  I didn’t have an answer then, because I hadn’t given the matter much thought.  But given my current abundance of free time,  I’ve been able to ponder the subject deeply and have come to the conclusion that the “secret” isn’t so secret at all.  It all boils down to four really simple ingredients.  I hope you are enjoying the cooking analogy–after years of “on my radar, teeing things up, drilling down, hitting the ground running, and pushing the envelope”, I figured it’s time for a change.

You ready?  The essential ingredients for a happy retirement are:

  • Strong personal relationships
  • Adequate financial resources
  • Good health
  • Oomph

I told you it was simple, but hey,  Tom Jefferson got a lot of mileage out of stating ‘self evident’  truths, so let’s see how it will work for me.  Besides, ‘knowing’ and ‘doing’ are two very different things.  I think we all know that family and health are important, but how do we behave?   I certainly was guilty of letting the work day spill over into family and friend time.  I skipped exercising and ate far too many fast, easy (and less nutritious) meals.  So, today’s post will start with the ingredient that has a tendency to crowd out the others:

Adequate Financial Resources
Isn’t that the reason we put in all those hours–to ensure that we have “adequate financial resources”?   Over time, I learned that the most important word in that phrase is “adequate”.

Although I benefited greatly from working for insurance companies that regularly flooded me with information about financial planning, saving, & pensions, what was probably most helpful was a wonderful book by Joe Dominguez and Vicki Robin, “Your Money or Your Life”.   This easy to read book helps you become aware of the trade offs that you unknowingly make by overspending. My favorite quote:

Rich only exists in comparison to others, but financial independence means that you have enough and then some.

Without trying hard, I’ll bet we can easily think of someone that has greater financial resources than 95% of the world’s population, but they always seem to want more.  They haven’t quite grasped the concept of enough.

Two of my closest friends have traveled all over the world on very little money.  For example, they managed to spend a month in Greece and two weeks in Ireland on what they had saved from two years of Peace Corp salary!  They know what is important to them, and their spending reflects what they value.

When I was growing up, my dad  used to tell me  “Your wants are many, but your needs are few”.  He was so right.

So, for all you young ‘uns out there, before you slap down your credit card, you might want to take a minute to think about to how you are allocating your dollars and your “life’s energy”, as Dominguez and Robin put it.

How did we get those resources?
I’ll admit it–we have been lucky.  We haven’t had any major illnesses or financial catastrophes.  And, although we both were impacted by mergers and acquisitions, we were able to find other employment relatively easily.

We also decided to give Lady Luck a helping hand.  As our incomes rose, we didn’t increase our spending.  Instead we opted to increase our contributions to our no-load mutual funds.  We didn’t run up credit card debt, only charging what we could pay off by the time the bill arrived.  We saved so that we could pay cash for our cars, maintained them and kept them well past their first decade.  Instead of a monthly car payment, we made those “payments” to ourselves, so we weren’t paying interest, we were earning it.  And guess what?  We never felt deprived.

It all goes back to knowing what is important to you, and making sure that your behavior aligns with your objectives.  Simple in concept, sometimes challenging to do.  But SO very worth it!

Next post–Good Health!

Just what exactly does a Lifestyle Manager DO?

On December 1, 2015 I started my fifth year as the CEO of Destination Now, a Lifestyle Management company.  In honor of this milestone, I thought I’d create what in the business world might be known as an annual report.  Except in THIS case, there are qualifiers: I didn’t do one for the past four years –so much for annual–I and don’t expect to do another one ever again. Plus it is REALLY, really short.  You ready?

Mission statement: To make the most of every day, occasionally to enjoy both walking down memory lane, and peering into the future, but to stay fully focused on and present in the PRESENT.
Number of Employees: ONE (that would be me)
Customers:  One MAIN customer (my loving husband), plus a very select group comprised of family and friends (who are willing to let a control freak take charge)
Revenue:   Cash: $0.00;
In Kind: Caboodles of wine, dinners, memories and friendship (all tax free!)

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Okay, so that’s a long winded way to say that I’ve been retired for 4 years, and am having a fantastic time planning and executing fun, food, and travel for my husband, my family and friends.  It’s just that occasionally, when asked the inevitable question “what do you do”,  I feel compelled to get creative.  Be honest–which version did YOU prefer?

More free time has allowed me to become more self aware, and I have to acknowledge that I do better with goals and objectives.   Before I retired, I took to cyberspace to see what I could learn from those that had trod that path ahead of me, and I benefitted greatly from their words of wisdom.  So, over the coming weeks, as a way to ‘pay it forward’,  I have set a goal to post more regularly, sharing what I have experienced/learned over the past 4 years, in the hope that doing so will help others more easily transition to this new life stage. As a bonus— we will ALL learn whether I can emulate the discipline shown by some of my favorite bloggers who post regularly.

 

 

Why Blog?

Three and a half years ago, I discovered blogging can be a really great alternative to sending postcards.  No need to have the correct currency for purchasing stamps, no  searching for mail boxes in unfamiliar places, plus the images you share are what you have actually seen while traveling.

Blogging is far easier than emailing, especially if you are sending photographs.  I learned the hard way that if you send a photo in ONE email to multiple recipients, your usage is calculated by multiplying the size of that attachment times the number of recipients.  When you blog, you only burn through the MBs it takes to upload and post the attachments. BIG difference, especially if you are blogging from someplace without free internet or with a very SLOW connection.

My blog has become a way to stay in touch with my family and friends while traveling–to share the excitement I feel when discovering new places, people and cultures with those who, for whatever reason, don’t wander as much as I do.

I will confess to being concerned that my blog might appear to be too “look at me, look at ME and what I’m doing”.  I also recognize that my life might not be so fascinating to others.  Sometimes it isn’t all that fascinating to ME, if the truth be told.

Then I discovered other bloggers.  It took a little effort to slog through all those financial blogs to find the retirement ones focused on making the most of this wonderful and exciting stage of life!  And I realized that I thoroughly enjoyed how my new virtual buddies shared their thoughts, experiences, travels, photos.  I’m following a diverse group of essayists, humorists, travelers and photographers. That made me think that maybe, just maybe, others would enjoy my contributions as much as I enjoy theirs, and helped me get over my New England reticence.

An unexpected blogging bonus was meeting one of my favorite bloggers face to face when we both happened to be in San Francisco at the same time.  (If you ever wondered why any one would want to visit Antarctica, just spend a little time perusing her posts on Travelpod. )  One of these days, with a little luck and a lot of planning, Nancy and I will share an adventure that won’t be virtual.

Next week I’m off to Mexico for another Global Volunteers adventure.  I hope you’ll come along!