• Monday, February 10th, 2014

In my previous post, I mentioned that I had an operation after downsizing to my new home.  What needs mentioning also is a subject that you don’t read much about in the articles on retirement planning.  It falls under the Estate Planning topic.  Having all your important documents in order in the event of your death is not something a lot of people want to think about.  But death comes to all, and sometimes sooner than planned.  I had already downsized so that my son would have less to deal with when that time came.  It only made sense to do something that had been on my mind for sometime:  create “THE BOOK” or the “Get Your Affairs in Order Book”.   Although my son had a general idea of where all my important papers were, they were disorganized.  So I bought a three ring binder, copied all documents that he would need, and organized them by category.

There was a list of all contacts:  doctors, accountants, lawyers, minister, condo association, cleaning help, handyman, etc., as well as friends and family with phone numbers.  A list of all computer passwords.  The financial section had information on checking and savings accounts, with information on bills to be paid, either electronically or by check, and a copy of things like the property tax bill which is paid only once a year.  The insurance section had a copy of the declaration page for each kind of insurance such as Medigap, home owners, auto, life and long term care policies, along with contact phone numbers.  A copy of my Social Security benefit statement was included along with instructions on how to contact them.  Another section had a copy of my will, the power of attorney that allows him to act on my behalf, designation of health care surrogate and living will, along with final wishes for funeral, cremation, hospice care, etc.  Many of these documents can be found online with those current for each state’s laws.  A document called “Five Wishes” can also be found online which gives specific instructions for your care if terminal.  Documents relating to the purchase and sale of various properties in the last year was also included for tax purposes.  Miscellaneous information included things like contact names of dealers for the sale of collectibles and information on how to sell an inherited home.

Wow!  That sounds like a lot, but just sitting down one Saturday and pulling it all together got it done, and made me think about what really mattered to me.  Using a three ring binder makes it easy to pull out and insert pages as information needs updating.  Finally, I included a series of memoir pieces I wrote over the last year about my life that I thought my son would find interesting to read sometime. My life now is a lot simpler than it would have been 10 or 20 years earlier or there might have been a lot more that need including.

Many people avoid thinking about their death, particularly young people.  As we get older, we get more realistic about the matter.  Even so, this is something that could get neglected and create havoc for children trying to handle matters later.  I was particularly sensitive to this since my son’s father had died three years earlier and it was a big job for him to handle by himself.  Before the operation, we sat down and walked through the book quickly.  While he probably hated thinking about all that, he knew where everything was, and that he didn’t need to worry about it again until the time came.  For my part, as a planner and a parent, I felt I had done everything I could to make it easier for him, sort of a last gift, as it were.  The best part?  I’m still here!

 

• Friday, January 31st, 2014

Several things happened this week to cause me to think more about downsizing.  Friends I hadn’t seen for many years dropped in on their way back to Ohio from the Florida Keys.  They loved my new home and we talked about “downsizing”.  It became clear that the husband was all in favor of it and living “lighter” and closer to doctors and cultural amenities.  Their home is on a lake, beautiful, but very isolated.  The wife, on the other hand, went on about how, the grandchildren loved visiting them and the “armada” of boats they had to entertain them with.  This conversation was an example of the problems married couples can have in reconciling their individual preferences when it comes to downsizing and where to live.

For myself, I was feeling very grateful that I had moved when I did, leaving the big two-story home with all the stuff, as I ended up having an operation the first week of January with a recovery period of 6 to 8 weeks.  So much easier doing that in a one story smaller place!

The next day I came across an article in the Wall Street Journal by Tom Lauricella titled “Downsize a Home Sooner, Not Later”.  My motivations for downsizing were multiple:  I wanted to make life easier for myself, I wanted to make it easier for my son to deal with things when I passed, I wanted to save money in living expenses, and I wanted to do it while I was strong and healthy enough since downsizing is hard work.  The article, however, while acknowledging all the reasons why people might want to downsize, focused heavily on the economics of making the move.

“When it comes to downsizing in retirement, “if it makes sense, don’t wait,” says Steven Sass, an associate director at the Boston College Center for Retirement Research.  Retirees may feel they are incurring additional expense by trading a home with a paid-off mortgage for a rental or condo with monthly maintenance fees, but Sass says just the savings in reduced property taxes alone could offset the new monthly fees.  In addition, there are the savings from reduced maintenance costs such as roof  or heating system replacement and landscaping costs.  Investing the difference in sales costs by buying a less expensive home frees up funds that could be added to savings enabling the retiree to withdraw additional funds for living expenses.  Those trying to assess the financial benefit of downsizing can go to http://squaredaway.bc.edu/ and click on the “housing” link to find a tool to analze the financial impact of making a move.  The Boston College Retirement Center website has a lot of other useful information also.

While certainly not a strong motivation for downsizing for most people, there is a macro economic factor also.  Downsizing to smaller homes, frees up larger, older homes, often in good school districts for young, growing families at prices that would be less than for new construction.  Certainly my move from a 2400 sf. two story home with space I didn’t use, made it possible for a young family with two children move into a lovely neighborhood with green spaces and a good school district for probably $100,000 less than a similar newly-built home in a less central location would have cost.  I got what I needed and saved at least $1000/month in living expenses plus the looming cost of a new roof, and the young family got what they needed.  Everyone wins.  Unless you are wealthy, for most people these days, maintaining an expensive property so that visiting children and grandchildren can enjoy it from time to time, is an expensive luxury.  Do the math!

 

 

 

 

• Thursday, November 07th, 2013

Many years ago, an older person told me that it was wise to bring younger friends into your life as you age, as, over time, we lose people from our lives. Many older people find that they no longer have friends to do things with, even just to play cards. By the time you are in your 90’s many people have left you. So, I try to do things that will bring me into contact and friendship with people younger than myself.

On the other side of things, however, is the need for us to have role models for successful aging. It is so easy to give up that tennis game or water aerobics session when we develop aches and pains. But, fortunately, here in Florida it is easy to be active into your 90’s. At any tennis club you will see people in their 80’s and 90’s playing tennis. Sure, they’re not as fast as they once were, and they do have braces on arms and legs, but they’re out there having fun. For those not able to run as much, we now have pickle ball which is played on a smaller court with a wiffle ball. A great inspiration to me in my water aerobics class was Fran. She was 92, and full of fun and liveliness. Not only did she cook and clean her own home, but she played cards, and went to every play and musical event she could get to, even driving at night! When I met her, she was in the process of buying a new home, a daunting task at any age.

Boomers, particularly, because of the attention focused on this “grey tsunami” our society is about to experience, may think they are entering new territory. But many people have successfully navigated the aging process and we need these role models in our lives. I recently came across a website titled “The Legacy Project”, created by a psychology professor at Cornell. He interviewed 1500 older Americans who have lived through extraordinary experiences and historical events who offer tips on surviving and thriving despite the challenges we all face. Find some of these wise and successful elders for your life’s journey. Role models are not just for kids!

• Monday, August 05th, 2013

I’m all settled in to my new home in an over-55 community in Delray Beach. I was unaware when I bought the unit that many of the unit owners are from New England, particularly Boston, Connecticut and Rhode Island, rather than New York or New Jersey. Probably this is because many people when they move to Florida, are following friends or family who have already blazed the trail. While I moved to Florida alone in 1994 knowing no one, most people, I have discovered, are not trail blazers. They want the comfort of having people they know around them. So, it’s been a pleasure to connect with people who know the places in Boston where I grew up, and have shared experiences.

Retirement Relocation is challenging. There are so many factors to consider and many attractive options. Probably the best place to begin is with yourself and what is important to you. When I moved to Florida, I had already done a fair amount of homework. I didn’t just hop in a car and drive down. I had visited many parts of Florida over a space of nine years. I had experienced enough to know that I wanted to be guaranteed warm weather, so that meant nothing north of Vero Beach. I need to be near the water so that eliminated inland communities like The Villages near Orlando. I didn’t want to be in an area dominated by snowbirds who evacuate most of the year. It can get pretty lonely in some areas of Florida in the summertime! In fact, what I wanted was a community with a mix of all ages, proximity to universities and numerous cultural resources, and a promising area in which to develop a new business since I was still in my 50’s and wanted to work, for income, but also as a way of meeting people. I didn’t want a country club community because I didn’t want to pay for amenities I didn’t have time to use, because I didn’t believe in gated communities which isolate you from the rest of the world, and because those communities tend to be dominated by couples, and I was a single person. Even after all that introspection and checking out different areas, I wasn’t sure I would be happy with my decision, so I didn’t jump off the deep end without a life preserver. I rented out my home in Connecticut for three years, and rented in Boca Raton, while I started up a new business. When I finally bought a home in 1998, I was ready to make the move “permanent”. I lived in that new home for 15 years before deciding to move again.

In moving to Boca Raton, I got everything I wanted and needed. But when the time came to downsize, Boca did not have what I wanted in a small villa. In moving to Delray, I am only 10 minutes from my old haunts, my water aerobics class, my dentist, friends, etc. Now I’m closer to my church, other friends, a great library, and the liveliness of downtown Delray, which many people feel is a “happening” place. Yet, I have the peace of this small community and I’m on a lovely lake. As I write this, I look out my window at the ducks, birds, etc. that make this lake THEIR home. I believe I am becoming an expert on “duck behavior”! And my new home is the perfect size for me. After divesting myself of half my posessions, everything I kept fits perfectly. I kept only what I loved.

However, what this experience has shown me is that decisions are not for forever in this life we live. I’ve retired three times and each time have gone back to work. What this latest move has shown me, is that no decision is “forever”. We move along a continuum, making adjustments as we age. Many years ago I told my son when he was in high school and trying to decide on college that the most important skill we need to have in this life is the ability to deal with change. Since we don’t have crystal balls, all we can do is develop a plan for the forseeable future, and do what seems the right thing to do next. After all, even major corporations only have five year plans and adjust them to meet changing circumstances! The gerontologists tell us that we’re all going to live longer than we had expected. That means we’ll have even more opportunities to adjust to change.

A recent article discussed how now that more people will be able to sell their homes, the developers and builders are ready to build a new generation of housing aimed at seniors and aging baby boomers, active adult communities.  But these will not be the huge retirement golf course developments of yesteryear, but smaller age-restricted suburban subdivisions. John Sheleimer, a housing researcher from Northern California was quoted as saying “The days of the mega master-planned community with four clubhouses and 27 golf courses are dead”. Even here in Florida, golf capital of the U.S., many golf courses are dying for lack of players. While aging buyers may not want golf courses, they do want community amenities, such as walking trails, fitness centers, swimming pools and smaller clubhouses and proximity to restaurants, libraries, universities, cultural events.

Lo and behold, that’s exactly what I have in my new location, even though this community was built 30 years ago. It is not large, only 300 units, has a clubhouse with ping pong, card rooms, exercise equipment, a beautiful, large pool, shuffleboard courts (shuffleboard is coming back big time!)and regularly scheduled dinners and entertainments. All the other amenities that I desired when I first moved to Florida are still right there. So I’m content.

I read that one of the trends in retirement living is to sell the old homestead and buy in a retirement community nearby. Particularly if there is the desire to stay near family. Unfortunately, the younger family members don’t always stay put, so that gets us back to “what do you really want for yourself?” Some people have a hard time figuring that out. That’s where a retirement coach comes in.

• Friday, March 15th, 2013

Last Fall I made the big decision, one which many people will make in retirement: time to “downsize”. I had gotten to the point that I didn’t want to maintain a 3 bedroom, 3 bath home any longer, since I was using about half the space. My experiment a couple of years ago, when I spent 4 months living in the small house in Panama, had shown me I could be happy with less. But I hadn’t gotten around to doing anything about it. I was just too busy. But by the end of 2012, I had wrapped up a number of projects and could focus on making a change. But, a change to what? I considered the various options: a continuing care commnunity such as my friend Maria had moved to? I felt I was too young for that. An “Active Adult” community with a golf course and fancy club house of which there are many in So. Florida? No, I didn’t want that to be my whole world as it is for many. I’m involved in lots of activities already. A condo? No, I had already decided I didn’t like having people live above, below and all around me. I’m too used to living in a house. I finally settled on finding a small two bedroom, two bath villa in an over-55 community, but without the gates, walls and organized activities. So I put my home on the market and set out looking. Recently I received an offer on my home, so now I’m ready to make an offer on a new home for myself. In the meantime, I’m going through closets and contributing items to garage sales, goodwill and various thrift shops, books to the libraries, etc. I’ve made a list of furniture to sell or donate when moving time comes. Like many decisions that will face the retiree, this is one that’s best not left for too late in life. Moving is hard work, and doesn’t get easier as you get older. Many people will have to decide where they will want to live. I made the decision in my 50’s to move to So. Florida while I was young and active enough to create new work, play golf and tennis, make new friends, and get involved in a community. Mostly I moved for the weather and have never regretted it, so I’m not going anywhere; my next home will be right in the community I live in now. In deciding to move to a smaller home, I also wanted to save my son the trauma of cleaning out a home filled with “stuff” when my time comes to depart this world. I saw what a burden it was for him to deal with his father’s “stuff” when he died. This move might not even be the last, should the day come when I can’t live on my own, but, then, I have my long term care policy for that! My decisions and experiences are universal, ones which most people will face in retirement. Change is never easy, but is exciting, and best done when one is strong and healthy.

• Friday, March 15th, 2013

For 2013, I thought I would finally do something I’ve thought of many times: writing my memoir. The word “memoir” seemed pretentious to me. I’m not famous, who would want to read what I had to say? But I wanted to leave something of myself for my son for when I’m gone, something that would tell him who I was before he came along, something about the family I came from, my view of who I am and the events that made me who I am. Our children have their view of us, but they can’t know our perspective of who we are. So writing a memoir is one way of understanding ourselves. Reliving past victories helps us regain spirit and confidence that might have ebbed over the years. Rethinking old failures can help us work through long-suppressed traumas. Writing your memoirs before retirement can help you remember what was important to you, things you always wanted to do, but didn’t have the opportunity to do. Writing your memoir after retirement can spark long-forgotten memories that can bring new joy to our lives and give us direction for new adventures. Seeing in my local paper a course offering on how to write memoirs led me to Justine and our weekly class. Some people in the class are really creative and are writing for publication. Justine teaches from Denis Ledoux’s book “Turning Memories into Memoirs”, a really fine text. Check out turningmemories.com for more information. Each week we read our stories to the group and I have been excited each week to share my latest. I am eager to hear other people’s stories. I’ve lost a lot of sleep because of the memories that keep bubbling up!

• Sunday, October 14th, 2012

It seems that this is a question I’m always asking. In other words, we always have to keep figuring out the next steps in retirement just as in our previous work lives. Three things I have been involved with have come to an end, and new things lie ahead. When I sold my accounts at Ameriprise back in 2005, it was because I had had a dream in which my inner self told me that what I wanted then was less responsibility and more adventures. Seven years later, that is still the answer to the question of what’s next. The challenge of creating the life you want doesn’t end with retirement from work. After two years with an independent agency doing financial planning, and selling annuities, life insurance and long term care insurance, I have decided to refocus my energies on retirement coaching. Also, after eight years fighting the development of the golf course in my community, I spent the last year negotiating a compromise development in which the owner of the golf course donated the bulk of the land to our association for the building of lakes and pathways to preserve the land, with maintenance paid for by the new development on 1/3 of the land. With the passing of responsibility for negotiating details to our Master Association, I have retired from the fray! Also, I just completed a month-long series of programs on financial planning issues at my church, and I’m contemplating selling my home to downsize into something smaller. This is a challenge many people face in retirement, so I’ll be experiencing that also. As for the adventures, I’m going to work on my bucket list! Keep you posted!

• Wednesday, March 21st, 2012

What to do in Retirement?

So, it’s been 8 years of struggle to fight development on the golf course I live on, but I think we’re moving into a creative phase, not just opposition. My Co-Chair and I have finally met with the owners of the golf course, and we have a dialogue going about our proposal to convert the 143 acres into a permanent green space with streams and lakes as part of a water retention program. We have gotten encouragement that the government entity for moving water in South Florida is interested in the concept. And we recently organized a volunteer effort to oust the President of our master association who has been in office for 23 years and who was in favor of development. We collected over 1,000 signatures to get our candidates on the ballot and over 2,000 people voted our candidates in. We have been told this is an astounding accomplishment in a time of voter apathy. This effort has given me more satisfaction than any job could. This is what the new retirement looks like!

• Monday, May 30th, 2011

I can’t help but feel fortunate that my life is full with work, family, friends, and various involvements. As I approach 72, I see friends who are slipping into early Altzheimers, people losing their homes because of the real estate situation, but I have a roof over my head, plenty of food, my son is healthy and happy, I’m healthy and happy and I live in an area with plenty of cultural resources and everything I need.

I choose to Create Life in Retirement!

I find that part-time work is a great gift. I learn new things from younger people and I feel I am helping people while making a little money. I’ve been focusing on guaranteed income benefit annuities for clients who want something they can count on for income in retirement. I think it is a great idea for the right clients.

My new investment condo is renovated and rented to a nice couple. Our neighborhood coalition fighting the development of the golf course we live on scored new victories with the County Zoning Board and the County Commission rejecting the proposed development. However, we’re not out of the woods yet. The developer is coming back with a smaller project and we must go through the political process again, but this time we have a counterproposal to buy the land which we hope will bring this process of the last 8 years to an end. This effort has brought me new acquaintances which I was told a long time ago is important as we age. Summer reunions with old friends and family and a trip to Ireland with my niece round out the activities. I need to finish my book, but finding the time for that has been difficult. As I plan to spend the month of December in Panama, perhaps I can work on it there. Life is good!

• Monday, January 24th, 2011

I have always been involved as a volunteer in community activities, but most often as a political activist. I grew up at a time when I was inspired by President Kennedy to give to my country and my community. I have been active with the League of Women Voters; I have trained women to run for public office; I have run for local office myself (defeated twice!); I have run campaigns for others and done my share of calling for candidates; I have sat on the Boards of universities and non-profits, my church and homeowner associations; flipped hamburgers for Kiwanis and camped out for Relay for Life, among others. So, it is always natural for me to respond to situations of injustice. That is how I have found myself spear-heading a coalition to defeat a proposed zoning change to allow housing to be built on the golf course I and others live around. This work has gone on for five years, but we are close to victory! With a denial of the development application, we will begin a process to find a permanent solution that will be for the benefit of the community as a whole. My vision is that we will create something that will result in a more cohesive and caring community, something that is often lacking in South Florida.

Along with this and my on-going coaching practice and financial advisor businesses, I have been working on what I hope will be an e-book on Planning for a Financially Healthy Life. It is close to being ready for an editor, and a series of podcasts. Finally, I have just signed a contract to purchase a condominium which I will rent out to supplement my retirement income, taking advantage of the decline in real estate prices.

I have found great support for my philosophy that we can create whatever we want for our lives at my Unity Church and love our workshops on prosperity and abundance. It is true that “the world is full of wonderful things; we should all be as happy as kings!” (Rudyard Kipling) Thank you, God!