• 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!

• Tuesday, March 02nd, 2010

Being semi-retired means having flexibility in lifestyle and freedom to try new things. Back in 2005, when I discovered that my inner desire was to have more adventures and less responsibility, I sold my accounts to a younger person and started a retirement coaching practice in addition to working part-time with that advisor to take care of my former clients. But I also had lots of new adventures, particularly in travel. One of them resulted in my travelling to Panama with my son to visit a client and then to travel around the country. As a result of that, my son ended up visiting Panama several more times and 3 years ago we bought a small house for $28,000 in a quiet village within walking distance of the Pacific Ocean and my son has gradually worked to make improvements.

But this year, at his suggestion, I rented my house in Boca Raton, Fl. to a friend escaping the winters in Connecticut and went to San Carlos, Panama, to stay in my son’s house while he went to India. My goal was to experience the town that he loves, improve my Spanish, visit different places and learn more about the country, to have time to work on an e-book on my experiences as a financial advisor, and, since the house is very simple, to experiment with living very simply. I was a little anxious about being in this place alone, and requested some improvements be made so I could be more comfortable: like a new bathroom sink, toilet and hot water heater for the shower, and a new bed.

Many Americans are retiring to Panama for various reasons. Talking with many of them, the primary reason is financial. Homes can be bought for less and the overall cost of living is less. English is spoken widely (but definitely not by everyone; an ability to speak Spanish is very helpful) and since the dollar is the currency, there are no risks in exchange rates. Travel back to the U.S. is an easy 2 1/2 hour flight to Miami, Ft. Lauderdale, or Orlando, so visiting relatives and friends in the U.S. is easy. In fact, many Panamanians have family in the U.S. and go back and forth regularly. Travel by expats to Europe and elsewhere is relatively easy, so there’s no sense of isolation from the rest of the world. Many of the TV stations are in English (I will be watching “Lost” tonight and movies on the Turner Classic Movie Station), internet service is good and mobile phones make it very easy to call friends in the U.S. However, most people use Skype for free communication over the Internet. With e-mail and Skype readily available, I’m able to keep in touch with clients everywhere.

If you retire here, and get a Pensionado visa, you also get many discounts that are substantial. Plane travel originating in Panama is at a 25% discount; hotel stays are 50% off during the week; discounts exist for all kinds of entertainment, restaurants and medications. For $2 I take a bus into the city where I stay at a hotel for $40/night and visit friends and attend various cultural events; go to a movie for $2 or have a great ice cream cone for $1.30.

But many of the Expats here have left the U.S. for other reasons. They are disgusted with the political environment, the financial debacle of recent years, the decline of community and traditional values, the increase in violence in society, and, most definitely, the involvement in war in Iraq. Many will never go back and feel much more at home here. This is a pretty peaceful place. Panamanians are friendly people with family being most important to them. The Expats, Americans, Canadians, Europeans, tend to be interesting people with an adventurous outlook. Panama is not a perfect place, but no place is.

As for living simply, I have a simply furnished one bedroom home with bathroom, kitchen and living room. I have air conditioning which I use only at night. This is the dry season (December – April) in Panama, the time of fresh breezes every day, so the windows are always open. I can walk to shops that sell fresh produce brought in every day from neighboring farms and stores that carry almost everything else once might need, including a pharmacy, a bakery, a hardware store, and I can walk to an emergency clinic and hospital. A woman comes in to clean once a week, and a yardman also comes once a week. My only real job is to water the plants and to pick up the fruit (grapefruit, orange, banana, mango, and cashew) that falls from our trees. Since there is no mortgage, the only expenses are water and electricity and food and the weekly help, one could live here for less than $300/month. Since the house is a duplex, when the other side is rented, all expenses are covered. We have no car. You can walk to everything needed, bike, or get a bus or taxi for very little cost to almost anywhere you would want to go. I have not felt deprived of anything. There are all kinds of Expat events one can go to, book exchanges for plenty of good reading, and good Panamanian coffee. Of course, many of the Expats live in the city or in gated golf communities in expensive homes. But my son believes in living simply with a small carbon footprint and can do it here. As he doesn’t have a lot of money, he felt he could never afford to retire in the U.S. Many people now feel the same way. Since I have a full and busy life back in Boca Raton, I have no plans to retire here, but I will probably spend part of every year here. It is peaceful. The world and it’s problems seem far away. Our society in the U.S. is a very stressful one, even without the added stress of the recession in recent years. I know when I go back, I will see that stress on people’s faces. Twenty-two years ago, I spent 3 months on Nantucket Island, the most relaxed, blissful summer of my life. When I went back to the mainland, I wondered why everyone looked so angry. Stress shows on your face whether you realize it or not, and I expect to see that when I return.

I return to Florida the end of April. However, it’s been a wonderful experiment, and reinforced for me, the wisdom of staying open to new experiences in life and, particularly, in retirement. Initially, when my son suggested that I stay here, I was anxious, and a little fearful of being alone, of bugs, etc. I’m glad I let him convince me. It has reinforced my sense of being able to cope with new challenges which is part of growing older successfully; it has brought me into contact with interesting new people and one of the important things we need to learn to do as we grow older is bringing new people into our lives to offset the losses that will inevitably occur; it has shown me once again how little I really need to be comfortable; and has opened up the possiblilty of living in another country part of the year while maintaining my coaching business. Life sure is interesting!

• Friday, September 25th, 2009

In my last posting about retirement success factors, I talked about how that success depends upon no longer taking our personal identity from work, from thinking of ourselves in terms of what we “do” to focus on the “being” part of ourselves. Even developing a new career in retirement or part-time work, shouldn’t distract us from this opportunity.

What images of retirement do we hold in our mind? The way we think, or our retirement attitudes, shapes how we approach this change. For those who haven’t spent a lot of time in self-reflection, or in learning who they are “underneath” the work, retirement thoughts can generate personal tumult and anxiety. Part of the problem is that the traditional view of retirement as a permanent vacation, or filled with activities just to keep busy, is changing. There may be those for whom this is the desired retirment. But many retirees today are looking for answers about life purpose, direction, and meaning.

If you feel you have no real purpose in retirement, mindless activity, boredom, and depression could result. There are studies showing an increase in excessive drinking in those over 65, a result of boredom and lack of focus. Thirty-five years ago, when I was working with a program for senior volunteers, I met men (mostly) who were wasting away because they felt useless and several committed suicide.

To deal with this anxiety there are two things you could do. The first is to find a role model, a retired person who is a model of healthy and fulfilled retirement. The other is to explore the options available for expressing your true self. Retirement coaching offers the time, the space and the insight to help accomplish this.

So here’s the assignment: Think about your parents’ retirement experiences. What can be learned from them? Is that what you want? Do you have better role models for retirement? Take quiet time to listen to your heart for clues to what’s next for you.

• Wednesday, August 19th, 2009

In order to have a successful transition from work to a “new retirement” lifestyle (whatever that may be for you), we have to redefine who we are. For many this may mean retiring early to pursue a new career. A Cornell Retirement and Well-Being Study found that 89% of retirees who returned to work gave “keeping active” as one of their top reasons, followed by “maintain social contacts” and “desired additional income” as a distant fourth reason. Our culture bombards us with the notion that we are what we “do”. Work reorientation involves emotionally distancing ourselves from taking our identity from work. While the “doing” part of us is still important, we need to focus more on the “being” part of us. If we don’t, we stop growing and lapse into the “old” retirement definition of perpetual leisure and withdrawal.

Working with clients to plan the “new” retirement, we begin with taking the Retirement Success Profile which measures 15 factors that contribute to success in managing this transition. A profound self-evaluation, it should be taken several years before retirement, and then again after your “first” retirement, and should be taken at five year intervals thereafter. This will keep your goals, life purpose, and your personal fulfillment fresh, as well as keeping your energies focused on what’s truly important.

Let’s look at an example of how one person handled the dilemma of being over-invested in work. “Bill” is a 58 year-old man, who recently sold his business and is now working for the new company. A life-long workaholic, he’s frustrated because he no longer has much control over how the business is run. He’s trying to decide whether he needs to find satisfying work if he leaves this current position. But he’s not sure what type of work would fulfill him, or whether he wants to work part-time or full-time. Since work had absorbed him so much, he had made little time for hobbies, and wants to explore that possibility. He has some health issues and is concerned about his health and happiness. Bill is not a happy camper. He questions where his life is going. He doesn’t know how to create new interests and his health issues make him feel older than he really is. In the coaching relationship, he finds a sounding board to discuss his concerns. He gets help generating some options for new directions and getting involved with some leisure interests, along with his wife. He has some homework: finding out about his travel interests, exercise activities and finding out about agencies where he could focus his volunteer interests. The coaching also looks at how to interact with his new bosses so he can develop a phased retirement over the next three years. He now has a game plan to prepare him for when he stops working altogether. When he gets closer to the time of full retirement, he may start up the coaching process again for support during the transition, and to make sure his game plan is still relevant.

• Wednesday, August 19th, 2009

Retirement coaching begins with the client taking the Retirement Success Profile on-line. This is an assessment survey which gives you a clear picture of how you “stand” on 15 areas you need to think about before you retire, and for the first 3 – 5 years after you retire. These areas include: career reorientation, attitudes about retirement, how self-directed and flexible you are in dealing with change, physical wellness, financial situation, expectations of the quality of life in retirement, spiritual values and sense of purpose, leisure interests, personal development plans, care-giving responsibilities for yourself and others, relationships and getting and staying connected with others, aging gracefully, and replacing the benefits of work. As you can see there’s a lot to think about! Once you take the Retirement Success Profile, a report is generated which gives us an idea of the areas in which you have concerns and gives us a place to begin working together to develop your “on-purpose” plan for your “best” retirement.

• Friday, June 26th, 2009

The Social Services Administration estimates that every day for the next 20 years 10,000 Baby Boomers will turn 62, “retire”, and start collecting benefits. Studies also show that 75% are not confident they can afford retirement. Most don’t have a pension and are not sure how much retirement income they can generate from money saved and invested.

The Employee Benefit Research Institute (ebri.org) estimates that those nearing retirement should expect to work for another 4 years (the typical length of a stock market cycle) to recoup recent investment losses.

But, what if you can’t continue at the current job and you need to work? With the loss of 12,000,000 jobs in our economy (many of which are not coming back), and unemployment expected to hover near 10% nationally for another 2 years (Florida is expected to reach 11.2%, the highest in 33 years), are we headed for a train wreck for retirement expectations?

Retiring boomers today are the healthiest, wealthiest, best educated and more skilled than any generation in our history. With a potential 30 years of post-retirement life expectancy, most Boomers will want more than a life of leisure. The challenge for our society and for Boomers themselves is how to harness this potential talent in order to solve some of the cultural problems in our society today. There are no lack of problems that could use the skills, problem-solving abilities, wisdom and focused energy of this group of citizens.

Planning for retirement needs to begin with a realistic assessment of one’s financial situation and health, and thinking about how you can “course-correct”, if necessary. There have been worse times in our history, but this is also a time of opportunity. Creating something new requires an assessment and sharpening of skills and an openness to change. For some with fewer family responsibilities, the ability to make changes may be greater than ever before.

Creating an “encore” or new career in retirement may require the skills of an entrepreneur.

Rather than chasing after scarce or non-existent jobs,
we need to identify needs in our communities and “create” work to meet them.

Is the generation that re-invented almost everything in our society up to the challenge?

• Friday, May 01st, 2009

Yes, I know we’re in the midst of a recession. Jobs are scarce, and post-retirement work (whether the retirement was planned or not) may be harder to find for the older person. But I believe there are possibilities all around us. The fact that we don’t see them, may have more to do with our lack of imagination or closed minds than anything else. We may need to sharpen our intuitive skills in order to receive the “signals” from the universe. Let’s face it: most people sleepwalk through life, following a routine, taking the same route to work every day, dulling our senses with television, etc.
Unless you are in a desperate situation and need to find a job NOW, take the time to do a little intuition training to cultivate alertness to the signs and signals all around us. What is intuition? It is the capacity to KNOW something without rational evidence that proves it to be so. Sarah Ban Breathnach in her book, “Simple Abundance”, states that intuition is the subliminal sense that enables us to maneuver through the maze of life. “It is only by following your deepest instinct that you can lead a rich life and if you let your fear of consequence prevent you from following your deepest instinct , then your life will be safe, expedient, and thin.”
The messages come to us in many ways: a physical excitement upon encountering an idea or experience or conversation with a stranger: or an inner KNOWING that helps us arrive at the right place at the right time. For me, it is often a coming together of two reinforcing incidents, one right after another. For example, one day this week I was talking with someone about a previous experience finding a job. I wondered if it had been luck or whether I had simply been alert to a possibility I hadn’t envisioned. The very next day, I was in a workshop and the discussion was about how we go through life asleep and are not alert to the signals from the universe. The second incident reinforced the learning from the first. Coincidence or synchronicity?
Information often comes to me in a dream. An example: Four years ago, I had a dream in which a person (probably my unconscious self) asked me what I really wanted. My response was “more adventures and less responsibility!” Two days later, a fellow financial advisor called and asked if I was willing to sell my accounts. Fortunately I did, and was paid a lump sum, which could not possibly happen in today’s economy. Was I lucky or was I alert? Try keeping a notebook by your bed and jot down strong thoughts about direction for your life that comes in dreams. Often I will get a very strong intuitive nudge in the shower, usually about some forgotten skill or experience I can bring to bear on a situation confronting me. Use these experiences! Don’t ignore them! You are training your intuitive muscle!
Thirty-eight years ago, I had finished graduate school and was looking for a job in government. I had recently moved from Boston to a small town in Connecticut because of my husband’s job and was living 45 miles from any major city. Job opportunities were scarce; it was the recession of 1972. I had even been told as an applicant for several jubs, that I had a husband, therefore didn’t “need” a job. I was discouraged, but knew I “needed” to work in order to use my skills and intelligence. I drove to a counselling center 45 miles away in Hartford, and was telling the counsellor that I really wanted to work. At that moment, the phone rang. It was a non-profit agency that had received a grant to develop a program for senior volunteers. It wasn’t what I had in mind for myself, but I went to the interview, got the job and over the course of the next 17 years, one job led to another, none of which I had planned to do.
Part of intuition training is learning to be open to the opportunities we hadn’t envisioned. If you want to learn to develop this power, you must learn to trust it. Put it to use in little ways, every day. It is a sense like your other senses and can be cultivated just like taste, touch and smell. Find time to be quiet so the signals and nudges can be felt. Spend time with people who believe in inner KNOWING, whether they call it intuition or divine guidance. In a world where the options SEEM to be diminishing, we need to develop patterns of thought that continually open up new possibilties for our lives. Become a “intuition entrepreneur”. This is called “creating” your life!

• Monday, February 09th, 2009

When I moved to Florida at age 55, I visualized a sort of semi-retirement.  Like most emigres to Florida, all I was sure of was that I wanted warm weather year-round.  But, because I had no pension or large 401K, I knew I would need to work, but was determined to make time for golf, tennis, and fun in the sun.  How I was going to do that, I wasn’t quite sure.  If I was going to create this lifestyle, I had to do it while I was young enough to work and make new friends.  And so I did, entering into a new career as a financial advisor, while still enjoying the pleasures that the retirement ads promised.  I also chose to live in a community of families of all ages and backgrounds.

What I observed, however, was that many who retired to Florida were buying the packaged “active adult” version of retirement, buying a lifestyle in a gated community with a big clubhouse and loads of recreational amenities.  Many times, they were purchasing homes where their old friends from “up North” had moved.  While this was not for me, many people are happy with this choice, and, of course, they have a right to live as they wish.

But, I wondered:  when you buy the retirement house, do you really get the life you envisioned?  Richard Bolles in his book “What Color is Your Parachute for Retirement” also questions the idea of “buying” the retirement lifestyle idea versus designing your own retirement “well-being scenario”.  In his chapter titled “Retirement Hogwash”, he notes that the huge numbers of boomers are also a huge target market for those wanting to sell something.  They have plans for your cash, “to keep you consuming to infinity and beyond (if possible!)”.  Lifestyle marketing and psychographics are based on the idea that when you buy the product, you get the lfestyle implied.  The marketers know all about “The New Retirement”.

Therefore, in retirement planning, a fundamental question to consider is:  “Do you want to be sold a lifestyle dreamed up by an advertising agency to sell a product, or do you want to choose a way to live based on your own core values and then make conscious purchases that support your choice?”  Of course, this means you will have done the self-analysis to know what your core values and preferences are.  This is where retirment coaching comes in.  You may be able to do this on your own with a book to guide you, but most people will need a coach to keep them focused and effective in their planning.

You, the Boomer about to retire, are being targeted by 6 major industries:  investment professionals, insurance salesmen,  real estate purveyors, travel merchants, retailers and anti-aging “experts”.  Advertising by these industries benefits you by making you aware of things you really do need, as well as influencing you to buy things you really don’t need.  To discern which is which, you really need to have developed self-knowledge.  This is doubly important because many Boomers and those already retired find themselves with diminished finances because of stock market losses.

Bolles encourages us to develop a “hogwash detector” to make major purchasing decisions, because marketing is so pervasive and subtle, it’s sometimes hard to see clearly.  Training for this “detector” needs to begin while you are still working:  learning to reduce expenses and consume less so that you have a sense of control over your life, so that you can be resistant to the siren messages of what constitutes “the good life” in retirement.