“Funnest” Weekend For This Retiree

You talk about a Lemonade Retirement! The extended weekend we just completed will go down as the “funnest” I will have in 2017 for sure. This is the kind of weekend you can only have if you are retired and not working.

On Friday for lunch, Suzanna and I met with our Baltimore-St.Lucia friends. Since ’94 we have been traveling each year to St. Lucia with two of our very best friends, the Stoners. Eleven years ago while in St. Lucia we met two other couples who are also from Baltimore. All four of the guys graduated from the University of Maryland around the same time (a long time ago). We had never gotten together as four couples in Baltimore in all that time, so we decided to finally meet for lunch and see what we all look like “with clothes on.” This was an overdue idea and a lot of fun.

For the rest of Friday, and about half of Saturday I was able to prepare for my rotisserie draft, which took place on Sunday. If you don’t know what that is, I won’t bore you. But I believe it is great fun and I’ve been doing it for over thirty years. It revolves around and coincides with the Major League baseball season, so it lasts for six months. Being able to study and prepare for 25-30 hours will hopefully increase my level of play and enjoyment for the next six months! How fortunate to have the time.

Obviously I enjoy sports, and this weekend we had the Final Four beginning with the two Semi-Final games on Saturday evening. After squeezing in church at five pm and a bit to eat, Suzanna and I settled in for two great games. All four teams truly did themselves proud, exhibited their amazing talent, and played great basketball.

Then on Sunday twelve teams assembled at a nearby country club in the Baltimore area for our annual Crabcakes Rotisserie League Baseball Draft. It’s an all day affair and most of us consider it the best, most fun day of the entire year. Two guys traveled in from Florida, one from New York city, one from Roanoke, Va and one from Columbus, OH. Three of the guys are local on-air sports talk show hosts. So it’s a big deal to all of us involved. Yes, it does involve an investment of close to $1,500 per team, and there is a financial distribution, of course, at the end.

Then came Monday. While I could never top Sunday, Suzanna and I nonetheless did something pretty special. We got an early morning start and drove to Lancaster, PA for six hours of baby sitting with our 5- 1/2 year old grandson Luke. It was great fun. Luke and I invented a ball game we play in the living room. We are both very competitive! He beat me two out of three in the morning. Then for good measure, we played one short game just before we left to come home. Another close loss for me resulted.

As we got ready to go out to lunch I noticed one of Luke’s school papers tacked to a cork board. It read:

  • I LOVE MOMMIE AND DADDY.
  • I LOVE BASKETBALL.
  • I LOVE SOCCER.

We got in the car; and I told him I saw his paper. I said, “you love Marms (Suzanna) too, don’t you?” His reply: “Yes, and I love you, too.” Wow. What a way to spend a morning and an afternoon!

Oriole Mark Trumbo Hits homer in 11th inning to beat Toronto on Opening Day, 2017.

That would certainly have been enough for the weekend, but there was much more happening later on Monday.  At 3 pm, the Orioles opened the 2017 baseball season against a rival team, the Toronto Blue Jays. In a very exciting, well played game, the O’s won 3-2 in eleven innings on a walk off home run. In addition, in the top of eleventh inning Manny Machado made an incredible play to get an important out! I caught half the game on the radio on the drive home, and then watched the second half on television.

Finally at 9:20 pm the Final Game of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament tipped off. I thought the game was disappointing, and I’m not sure the referees had their best night. North Carolina beat Gonzaga, otherwise it would have been a perfect weekend, albeit a very, very long one.

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Since I continue to struggle with whether or not to work, and if so, what and how much, this weekend was instructive for me . It was memorable, meaningful, and just plain fun. How different it would have been if I were working.

Baby Boomers Retirement: The Value of Time

These next tmark-ozawawo weeks I am going to be writing about two people whose stories I have come across over the last few days. The first one is particularly sad and should encourage you to really think about the value of time.

Mark Ozawa, 58, went from having flu-like symptoms this past July to losing his life from a very rare form of cancer just 116 days later. From every account he was just a very good man who was in the prime of his life. He was married for 31 happy years to Linda and had two beautiful daughters, Katie and Sara. For the last six years of his life, Mark was Executive Director of the Five Star Windjammer Landing Villa Beach Resort in St. Lucia, British West Indies. This is where I met Mark, as Suzanna and I have vacationed at this resort for the last 22 years.

In July when his fever, chills, and sweats persisted and local doctors noted some unusual blood test results, Mark and Linda returned to Denver, their former home, to be examined by the doctors at the University of Colorado Hospital. It took weeks of tests, biopsies, and consults by several different teams of doctors before the diagnosis could be determined. It was finally concluded that Mark suffered from the very rare cancer called peritoneal mesothelioma.

At this point (Labor Day), weeks of chemotherapy and other treatments and therapies began. But this very difficult journey for Mark was not to last much longer. Mid-last week doctors told Mark and his family that they had done everything possible for him. There is no cure for this rare, very aggressive cancer and his time was short. Indeed, his effort to live ended in the very early hours of October 29th.

Very, very sad; tragic to have such a wonderful, valuable life snuffed out so quickly and so early.

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So what does this have to do with ‘retirement’? I look at everything through my retirement lens as I purpose to do my retirement well and attempt to help others to do the same. And I think there is much food for thought here:

  1. Time is very valuable, especially for Boomers, and is not to be wasted.  Every day we continue to work is one-day shorter our retirement will be.
  2. IMO decisions to continue working, or to return to work, due to financial concerns are usually bad decisions. A far better solution, IF POSSIBLE, is to come up with a plan to live off of whatever retirement income and savings we have.
  3. Many Baby Boomers are comfortable with their decision to work well into their retirement years. This is because of their uncertainty about how they will pass the time. They actually look at retirement with some dread. This is understandable, but because we cannot know how many healthy years we have, it is better to tackle the problem head on. This is the only way to maximize the quality and length of our retirement.
  4. Live for today. We are not promised tomorrow.dancing-in-the-rain
  5. And in the words of Linda Ozawa, Mark’s wife, “Experience something like this and what is important in life becomes crystal clear (can you say, family, friends, and love?). And the stuff we used to think was important becomes…..embarrassingly inane.”

 

 

Thought for the day: “Life is not about waiting for the storm to pass, it is about learning how to dance in the rain.”   – Anonymous

 

Retirement Challenge: Where to Live?

We raised our three daughters to be independent and self-reliant. Our “contract” with them was: 1.  We will put you through the college of your choice, 2. please complete your degree in four years, and 3. then please, please create the life you wish free of further financial support from us.

Happily, we all lived up to the contract. There has been one downside, however. None of them returned to Baltimore. Two of the three settled, and still live, in Montana. Our other daughter headed to the West coast and lived in southern California and Seattle for ten years. Luckily, she returned to the East coast about ten years ago and now looks to be entrenched in Lancaster, PA for the long term. As a result of all of this, six of our seven grandchildren live in Montana and one lives in Pennsylvania.

This poses a very interesting challenge for us in terms of where we spend our retirement years, as we would like to be near our grandchildren.

We have lived in Baltimore for fifteen years. Our life is here, our friends are here, and my mother is here. But financially speaking, Maryland is not a “retirement-friendly” state. In addition, Baltimore city is among the nation’s leaders when it comes to violent crime (and frankly, I find even nuisance crime to be intolerable). Consequently, we are feeling stress over whether to stay or to go. It would be extremely difficult, if not impossible, to leave my 89-year-old mother. She could come with us, but I don’t think she would.

It would seem that ultimately, though, Montana or Pennsylvania would likely become our home. But it is not quite that simple. Although not as bad as Maryland, neither Montana or Pennsylvania are “retirement-friendly” states. In fact, Montana has made some “retirement unfriendly” lists that I have seen. Perhaps we should just ignore this inconvenient information due to our grandchildren.

But here is why I am troubled by this. Lifespans are much longer today. When Social Security became law in the 1930’s the average lifespan was in the mid-’60’s. Today it is the mid-’80’s, but here is the kicker. Also today there is a one in four chance if you are a man you live to at least 92. And for women, there is a one in four chance you will live to at least 94. Heck, Suzanna’s mom almost made it to 90, and my mom just celebrated her 89thimages birthday. I’m 70 now and blessed with wonderful health, so I believe Suzanna or I or both of us, could easily reach or exceed the mid-’90’s.

My point here is that if we lived another fifteen to twenty years, I believe we stand a very good chance of not outliving our savings. But if we live another 25 to 30 years, I have my doubts. Was retirement intended to last 25 to 30 years? Consequently, I am seeing a future new home base where we can stretch our dollars. We believe that in a state such as Delaware, which is very much a “retirement-friendly” state, we could save $12,000-$15,000 per year, which over a long period of time is a substantial amount of money.

This certainlimg_3229y seems to be the most prudent decision. We would rather live where we only had to travel a distance to see one set of our grandchildren as opposed to all of them. However, if we do end up choosing Delaware, and further, we choose northwest Delaware, we will be less than a one hour drive to Lancaster, PA and our five-year-old grandson Luke.

That will mean we will be traveling two to three times a year to Montana, and Montana is surely a great place to visit. These trips, which I see being two to four weeks each in duration, hopefully, will see us staying in the rental cabin on our youngest daughter’s property. They rent it out and if we plan far enough in advance we should be able to lock it in. I do expect a family discount on the rate. Sounds like this will be a ‘lemonade retirement’ for Suzanna and me!

Retirement’s Greatest Pleasures: Family and Traveling

I have just returned from a wonderful trip to the beautiful state of Montana to visit with children and grandchildren. Suzanna and I were gifted with our seventh grandchild recently. Gustaf (Gus) Pierre Krutar was born in March to our youngest daughter Meredith and her husband Eric in Helena, Montana. Suzanna was there in March for his birth, but I wasn’t. So this trip was planned for the purpose of my meeting Gus for the first time. He is a handsome one, I must say with some prejudice.

This trip was certainly a great example of two of retirement’s greatest pleasures, family time and travel. Two of our three daughters and six of our seven grandchildren live in Montana. Meredith and Eric now have five children (all under the age of four!). Alison, our oldest daughter, and Maddie, our oldest grandchild at fifteen, live two hours away from Meredith in Missoula. We witnessed Maddie with a learner’s permit driving her mother’s car. It certainly seems too young to me, particularly with Montana’s 80 mph speed limits! But what do I know?

Adding greatly to our pleasure was the fact that Ashley, our other daughter, and Luke, our other grandson, were able to join us from their home in Lancaster, PA, making it a great family time. Son-in-law Eric’s parents, Diane and Jon, split their time between their home in Helena and their ranch in Ovando, MT, which is located about halfway between Helena and Missoula in southwestern Montana. We stayed at the ranch, which accommodated us all perfectly between The Homestead and the ranch hands’ cabin. The Homestead, which I would encourage you to look at (khomestead.com), is a trout fishing/hunting rental cabin. It is also a testament to the talent of my son-in-law, who built the cabin with the help of his father and brother. The Homestead housed everyone but Suzanna and I. We had our own space in the ranch hands’ cabin about a half mile away. While a bit more rustic, it worked beautifully for us, except that it lacked a shower. Maybe cowboys don’t shower, I have no idea. In any event these were my first baths in forty or fifty years.

Besides just being together as a family for quality family time, which is way too infrequent, there were many highlights on the trip. Here are some of them;

  1. Playing “baseball”, actually wiffle ball- variety, with my three and four year old grandchildren. I’m thinking we’re going to have some real good hitters come out of this group; I’m just not sure how many Major League ballplayers come out of Montana. However, I do remember the Orioles did actually have two left handed pitchers, Dave McNally and Jeff Ballard, who were from Billings, MT. So maybe there is some hope.
  2. A picnic in picturesque Seeley Lake on a beautiful day (we had temperatures between the mid-60s and mid-70s everyday). We did end up with a flat tire on my rental van, but were fortunate to be a few doors from an auto repair facility in the town of Seeley Lake. In this part of the world where there are lots of wide open spaces and stretches this was most fortunate.
  3. A lunch in Missoula with Ali and Maddie at a craft beer brewery. It was a great visit, a decent burger, and a couple of good cold drafts.
  4. A nature walk with Grandpa Jon, Owen, CeCe, and Luke. The walk was highlighted by a visit to the outhouse and the fishing house.  In addition, Owen (under four years old remember) identified for me several different species of weeds and also new growth on several trees!
  5. A whole lot of terrific conversation on all matters of world affairs, economics and politics (especially politics) with Eric’s dad Jon. While we do not share political views, we strive to understand one another and actually end up agreeing on several points.
  6. Watching my beautiful wife have the time of her life just being with all of these grandchildren and helping Meredith care and cook for the clan. She was in her element, no doubt about it. And Meredith, of course, can use all of the help she can get.
  7. The cows. Besides the fishing lodge, another profit center on this working ranch is the lease of lush pasture to ranchers from further east where it is much dryer and grass doesn’t grow as well. So pasture is leased to ranchers who bring their cows to fatten for slaughter. It was an experience for this eastern boy to witness the moving of cattle, the gating off of pastures and the like. I think it is mating season and a bull was among the herd, although I didn’t witness him in action.
  8. On Sunday, the 12th, Gustaf was baptized at the little country church in nearby Helmville in a Catholic ceremony. It was a wonderful experience to witness that, and then to meet and interact with some of the locals in the church hall after the service. The Priest was pleasant when he thanked Meredith and Eric for having Gus baptized here instead of at the Cathedral in Helena, their home church. And then he commented that he enjoyed just saying “Gustaf Pierre” ten or twelve times. It is an amazing name, no doubt.

 

The only part of this trip which I dreaded was the the flying from Baltimore to Helena and back. TSA and airport security have been in the news much lately, and flying is much more like a cattle call today than some years ago when there were open seats and everyone got their choice of a hot meal. But I must give big kudos to Delta Airlines. Thanks to my TSA/ Precheck and five total flights that all took off and landed right on time, I have nothing to whine about. It was smooth sailing in both directions.

In conclusion, you might wonder why we would not simply relocate to Montana since most of our family is living there. That’s a fair question. But unfortunately, Montana is not a “retirement friendly” state and their weather is harsh (putting it kindly) for about seven months of the year. Nonetheless, it is hard to rule out Montana completely! Again, to get a feel for our experience visit khomestead.com.

Retirement – “Work is Over-Rated!”

One of my passions in retirement is reading. For the most part the twenty plus books I’ve read so far have either been  non-fiction for the education and entertainment value or they have been on the subject of retirement. I have thoroughly enjoyed this part of my retirement experience. Reading always feels like a great use of retirement leisure time to me. How does this sound for an interesting book?  I have just begun a 456 page book on the subject of Calvin Coolidge (“Coolidge”, by Amity Shlaes).

But I want to talk about another book I recently read, not once but twice. I am talking about “The Joy of Not Working” by Ernie Zelinski. Subtitle: ‘A book for the retired, unemployed, and overworked.’  My expectations for this book were not high because it has a cartoon-ish cover and because I paid $0.01 + shipping for it at Amazon even though it is in “like new” condition.

But I was surprised and found this book to be very powerful and to be the most meaningful, helpful book on retirement I have yet to read. Although very boring, I believe a more appropriate title for this book could be “Retirement Psychology 101”.

I was raised to believe that hard work and a strong work ethic were what life is all about. If my recollection is clear my father cut off my allowance at the age of twelve stating that I was ready to go out and earn money. We had a Fuller Brush salesman who lived on our street. My first job was delivering catalogs throughout the neighborhoods on his route. Then when I turned sixteen I recall my father putting me in his car and asking me where I wanted him to drive me to apply for a job, since I was now of working age. From that point to retirement I was never without a job.

One Christmas season while I was in high school I had four different part time jobs at the same time,  my regular part-time job making blueprints for an engineering company,  delivering mail for the U.S. Post Office,  retail sales for The Hecht Company, and jewelry sales for a wholesaler in the area.

Summer jobs included 1.door to door sales of subscriptions to the Sunpapers (2 years), 2. a route sales position driving a 7 UP truck (2 years), 3. accounting work for a home builder, and 4. Johns Hopkins Hospital purging patient files in the medical records department from midnight to 8 am.

I remember a few other interesting jobs from my youth. One was working the snack bar at the Edmondson Drive-In movie theatre. That job paid $8 a night for a 6 PM to midnight shift and then I would walk home a distance of about three miles. My only union job was as “seafood clerk” at the Food Fair where thanks to the union I was able to make $2.12 an hour (big money) for cleaning fish. And then for several years I was a commissioned salesperson selling ladies shoes for Baker Shoes.

I’m sure you get the point. Then upon graduating from the University of Maryland and going to work for Black and Decker there was a time when I was working significant overtime. Since I was salaried, it was unpaid. Nonetheless there were times when I was given the weekend off, but I really felt bad that I was not needed.

So I am a part of that segment of the male population who are instilled with the belief that there is real value and dignity in work. Our self esteem is rooted in our work. We retire at 65 or 70 with the hope of twenty years or more of good health, but we are overcome with a lot of different negative feelings about retirement. We may feel that we do not deserve to leave the work force and stop working. Or we may just feel lost without the structure and discipline of our job or career. Or some of us feel diminished as people without a certain status that our position gave us. A retired friend recently told me he feels worthless. Finally, many people have their socialization needs met in the workplace. They end up with a significant void in their life when they retire and leave their job and their social life behind.

I think I have experienced a little bit of each of these feelings, but the feelings were much stronger a year ago at the beginning of my retirement than they are now. And that is where “The Joy of Not Working” comes in. Ernie Zelinski essentially posits that simply put, work is over rated. That sounds like blasphemy to people like me. Certainly there is no way I could buy what he is selling in this book! Wrong.

Actually he did prove to me that leisure is more valuable than work! I literally have had a paradigm shift as a result of this book. And thankfully it has come at the perfect time. As I stated early in my blogging, I am working out everything about my retirement life, or plan, as I go. This book will be a text book for me. I plan to totally embrace its teachings.  I can tell you that my views on work were skewed and out of whack. And further my family and I have paid a price as a result. I am sorry that I did not have a healthier, more balanced view of work at the age of 23. However, in fairness my focus was really just about supporting my family of five, and I didn’t know any other way to do it.

Zelinski makes so many valuable and important points that I will be writing a series of blog posts centered around the book. The title might imply that it is primarily about the value of leisure versus work, but it goes much further than that. Just a couple of points he drives home are 1. the value of living in the now. This moment or day only, 2. we can really live well on far, far less money then we currently make, 3. the real cause of boredom, 4. getting to know yourself, 5. money will never make you happy, 6. the beauty of solitude, and too many more to mention.

Obviously, I highly, highly recommend you purchase this book. If it doesn’t help you in some area of your life, I will be shocked. And I promise you that you will want to pass it on to several of your friends who you know will be helped by it.