This question is usually first and foremost on people’s minds when they contemplate when they can retire and what sort of lifestyle they will be able to enjoy in retirement.  And it’s an important question – but one that’s not simple to answer.  Most important, there are a lot of other questions you need to ask – and answer – before you can answer this one.

First, an important disclaimer:  I am not a financial planner.  The purpose of the blog is not to dispense investment advice.  I wholeheartedly recommend that you work with a good financial planner to find the best investment strategy for your circumstances.

Instead, the purpose of this blog is to help you with all of the other considerations you need to think about in order to visualize, plan for, and ultimately enjoy a fabulous retirement.  But these topics are inextricably linked with financial concerns, so I will talk about money in these contexts.

The biggest concern I have with the vast majority of books, articles, presentations, and employer benefit plan communications, is that they don’t address these other questions.

If I told you, “In order to have a happy, comfortable life, you need to find a job that pays you $100,000 a year,” how would you respond?

You would probably tell me I’m full of crap, or at least you’d tell me that I’m being naïve and simple.  And you would be correct.  Why?

...continue reading "“How Much Money Do I Need to Retire?”"


If you’re like me, you’ve probably spent most of your life accumulating things.  A lot of it is stuff that we wanted or needed (usually wanted) at a particular moment in time, and then we would find some place to put it in case we need or want (usually want) it again in the future.  Of course, occasionally we do use something again, but mostly all this stuff just collects on our shelves and in our closets, garages and attics where it remains for years.

Sooner or later, we end up in bigger houses or we rent storage units just to hold all this stuff that we accumulate.  After all, we might need it again someday!

I admit it – I’m a pack rat.

I come by it honestly.  My parents were children of the depression and lived through World War II.  They were frugal throughout their lives.  They kept everything – and I mean everything.

After my mother passed away, my sister and I had one week to go through their entire house and disposition almost sixty years’ worth of accumulated possessions.  My father had been a land surveyor, and he had a rolled-up blueprint of every survey he had ever done in the basement.  My mother had dozens of glass jelly jars which she did actually use for making her own jellies and jams years ago, but had never discarded after she stopped.  A twelve foot long clothes closet upstairs in the converted attic was stuffed full of clothing which hadn’t been worn in years.  And they had faithfully stored every issue of National Geographic for decades.

I vowed that I would never leave that much stuff behind for someone else to have to disposition after I’m gone.  But alas, I haven’t followed through on my good intention.

So I have been conditioned since birth to save everything – because, after all, I might need it someday.  And besides, I paid good money for it!

The occasion of an upcoming move provides a great opportunity to go through all of your stuff and thin out your holdings – in theory.  When my husband and I moved into our current house in 2006 (50% larger than our previous home), we were so busy with other aspects of the move and other things in life that when the time came, we just packed it all up and moved it.  That was right about the time I looked around and asked, “Where did all this crap come from???”

...continue reading "Downsizing -or- “Where Did All This Crap Come From???”"

Happy crowd-orange sunset

Yesterday, I discovered this inspirational essay about Success, which has been published widely on the internet and in books, but is inaccurately attributed to Ralph Waldo Emerson:

2013-10-13 Success-Emerson

Upon investigation, it appears that this is an adaptation from this essay by Bessie Anderson Stanley from 1904.  She submitted this essay in a contest for inspirational writings and won first prize ($250, which at that time was a lot of money):

2013-10-13 Success-Stanley

Personally, I like the erroneous version a little better, hence my decision to include both.  But aside from all that, it hit home for me because I think it really helps to put perspective on making the transition from my working career into retirement (or as I prefer, “renaissance”).

As I wrote in my earlier posts Happiness Today AND Happiness Tomorrow and Encore! Encore!, some retirees are miserable after they retire because they lack of purpose and meaning in their lives.  These people (and it’s especially true for men) derived all of their sense of self-worth from their work accomplishments.  After they left work, they lost their validation and reason to exist.

Notice that nothing in either of these versions has to be fulfilled by what you do on your job.  Of course, you may make significant contributions on your job – either to the world or to the life of just one person – but that’s not the single path to success.

I’m sharing these essays today with the hope that they will give you a fresh perspective on all that you do with your life today and will do with your life in your retirement or renaissance.

...continue reading "Success"

Yoga on Mountaintop-Sobek

2013-10-09 Alfred Polgar

I recently finished reading “How to Retire Happy, Wild, and Free” by Ernie J. Zelinski.  Subtitled “Retirement wisdom that you won’t get from your financial advisor,” this is a sequel to his earlier bestseller “The Joy of Not Working.”

Overall, I enjoyed the book and I can enthusiastically recommend it.  Zelinski shares many of the same philosophies about being happy and finding fulfillment in retirement as I do.  The book is profound in some areas, but merely states the obvious (at great length) in others.

If you are still clinging to notion that retirement is a time of decline or boring years of purposeless idle time, much of what Zelinski offers in his book will destroy those perceptions and replace them with a vision that’s much more positive and optimistic.

Zelinski offers four fundamentals for attaining personal fulfillment during retirement:

...continue reading "How to Retire Happy, Wild, and Free"


House with incredible view

2013-10-05 Ansel Adams

It’s fun to think about where we would like to retire.  This sort of “possibility thinking” is especially likely to happen when we’re on vacation, and we’re enthralled with a new place that we’re discovering and enjoying.

I got swept up in this big-time in February, when my husband and I visited New Zealand and Australia.  On our recent cruise from Amsterdam to Barcelona, several cities and towns appealed to us as well (Lisbon, Portugal and Seville, Spain in particular).

Before you get too swept away by a new place you’ve discovered or too committed to moving to a new destination for retirement, there are some more practical, down-to-earth things to consider.

...continue reading "Deciding Where to Retire"

100_33782013-08-25 Evan Esar

In October, 2012, MoneyRates.com published their annual “10 Best States to Retire” article, along with their ranking of all 50 states.  While the author of the article readily admits that much of what makes a good place to retire is subjective and will vary from person to person, any attempt to generate such lists using statistical data usually produces results ranging from random and curious to bizarre and downright laughable.

This is illustrated by the fact that Idaho came in at #2 and South Dakota came in at #9.  Not that there aren’t nice people or nice attributes in these states, but I doubt that anyone would consider these places to be retirement havens.

Most attempts to rank places to live using statistical data produce questionable results. 

First, states are not homogenous.  Within California, living in San Diego would be night-and-day different from living in, say, Stockton.  In my home state of Arizona, Phoenix is considerably different from Bisbee or Yuma or Kingman.

Second, all one has to do is alter the criteria or tweak the weighting of the criteria to get different results.  In this MoneyRates survey, they weight their five categories (senior population growth, economic conditions, crime rate, climate, and life expectancy) equally.  The single category "economic conditions" encompasses cost of living, tax rates, job growth vs. unemployment - all lumped in together.

So, I place about as much credibility in surveys like this as I would put in my daily horoscope.  And certainly, one shouldn’t make any life decisions based on either.

...continue reading "Places to Retire Statistics Can Prove Anything – and Nothing"


Globe with Europe facing

2013-08-20 Franz Kafka

One thing that is clear from the responses I have received to my recent readers poll is that most respondents are either giving serious consideration to moving, or at least considering the possibility.  Over a third are considering either moving out of the United States entirely or maintaining a second residence (perhaps an apartment or condo) in another country.

Moving anywhere is a big decision involving a lot of factors, but the decision to move overseas adds several new dimensions.  The biggest of these is immigration laws.  Immigration laws vary widely from country to country, and in many cases it’s harder to immigrate as a retiree than it is for a younger person who has some years of work life remaining.

Several countries, particularly several in Central America, are very welcoming of American retirees.  Others, such as Australia, New Zealand, and Canada don’t want retirees at all, unless they have a sizeable amount of money to invest.  Countries such as these are no doubt concerned about the impact of retirees on their more socialized health care systems.

...continue reading "Thinking of Retiring Abroad? Here’s What You Really Need to Know"


Leap of Faith - Aug 05 2013

2013-08-05 Andy Warhol

Most days, we can comfortably stay on course throughout the day without having to make choices that are any more difficult or consequential than where to eat lunch or which shirt to wear.  (For me, the latter choice is especially easy.  If I’m having any trouble at all deciding, I just go with purple!)

But every now and then we arrive at an inflection point, where the choice we make will have a profound impact on the course of our life.  Such monumental decisions include whether to move to a faraway place, whether to take a new job, whether to commit to spending the rest of your life with someone, or whether to end a relationship.

I have been confronting such a choice for several months now.

...continue reading "Today I Took a Giant Leap of Faith"


Hiker relaxing in New Zealand

2013-08-02 Laurence Peters

I like the word “retirement.”  I always have, because the more I plan for and anticipate my retirement, the more optimistic about it I get.

Don’t get me wrong, it won’t be a panacea, any more than everyday life during our working years is.  There will be good days, bad days, and average days.  Good things will happen, bad things will happen, and sometimes it will seem like nothing is happening.

More than anything else, I am going to cherish my freedom, which will be there no matter what kind of day I might be having.

But the word “retirement” carries baggage for many people.  For many people, “retirement” screams “has-been.” 

Many people visualize retirement as those sad last few years of life, when your health deteriorates, you have little money, nothing to do, no reason to live, and you ultimately move into an assisted living or nursing home and die.  Most of the people you see are doctors and caregivers, and your primary mode of transportation is a motorized wheelchair.

People of this mindset would rather not think about their retirement at all.

Others have a hard time believing they will ever retire at all, probably because they believe they’ll never be able to save enough money.  To them, retirement is a cruel joke;  it seems like that luxury item in the store window that they will never have.

One of the main reasons I write this blog is to encourage people in either of the latter categories to visualize their retirement in a more optimistic, possibility-filled light.

...continue reading "Is It Time to Retire the Word “Retirement?”"

Two guys juggling

2013-07-23 Brian Dyson

I discovered this quote about ten years ago.  It resonated with me then, and it resonates with me now, but in a whole new way.  (By the way, this quote came from a commencement address that Brian Dyson gave at Georgia Tech in 1996.  Read his entire address here – it’s full of wisdom.)

In my last post, I spoke of men and women (but especially men) who are miserable in retirement because they derived all of their sense of self-worth from their work accomplishments.  After they left work, they lost their validation and reason to exist.  They devoted so much of their time, energy and focus on their work that they abandoned all of their hobbies and interests, and their non-work talents atrophied and died.

The same is true of parents who devote themselves so much to their children that they lose themselves.  Then they suffer from “empty nest syndrome” and purposeless retirements.  They may claim that they have no time for themselves, and they may feel selfish and neglectful if they allow any time for their own interests and not their children’s.  A recent article on Gay Star News refutes that belief by claiming that “gay or straight, if you want happy kids, be a happy parent.”

This makes perfect sense.  Kids look to their parents as role models in everything they do.  If their parents are living full, happy lives, their home environment will be happy, and the kids will learn how to live full, happy lives.  If kids see their parents as workaholics or empty, unfulfilled shells of people (or both), the kids will be less likely to grow up to be happy and well-adjusted.

What does this have to do with retirement?  If you choose to live a balanced life during your working years, you will allow time for and nourish your talents and interests.  You’ll have rewarding things to do during retirement.  You will already be in the habit of balance and happiness.  You will have learned to define yourself and value yourself in ways beyond your work accomplishments.  You will be living for your family, health, friends and self more than for your work.

...continue reading "Happiness Today AND Happiness Tomorrow"