Find Your Passion OR Just Enjoy Retirement?

This past Sunday, April 9th marked the two year anniversary of my retirement. Boy does time fly!

As I hit that milestone and ask myself how well I am doing in retirement, I find that I am struggling with an interesting question. Do I need to discover and define my purpose in life in this new season OR is my purpose simply to enjoy my retirement years?

In these past two years, I have been searching for a mission, discovery of what inspires me, what gets me out of bed each morning.  Truthfully, I don’t know if I am any closer to this discovery than when I began.

Most of my friends are all retired at this point. I don’t know of any who have either searched for or found a defining new purpose for their life in their retirement years. Without exception from the outside looking in, it simply seems that for all of them their purpose is to enjoy their retirement. I see nothing wrong with that, don’t misunderstand. Most everyone certainly earns their retirement, and the right to do it as they see fit.

My friends, as well as most everyone else I read about in retirement, are all staying active first and foremost. More specifically, their days and weeks are filled with travel, fitness (usually at the gym), golf (mostly a male thing), reading, and for some, volunteering. The other focus of most retirements I’m familiar with is relationships. Retirees enjoy the ability to invest more time into their relationships both with family and friends. Put all of this together in some combination and retirement seems to be working very well and is being enjoyed by those whom I know. Personally my retirement is comprised of the same elements: relationships, exercise, reading, and travel. I’m enjoying retirement much of the time, but I feel my retirement is a bit incomplete. This explains why I have been involved in some introspection looking for what inspires me. It also partially explains why I have entertained the idea of finding a part-time position in the workforce.

When I began this blog I commented that I was entering my retirement without a plan, but that I hoped to come up with a plan for making my retirement the best season of my life. I also said that it would probably take me three years to figure it all out. So I feel that I’m right on schedule.

Thus, in year three of my retirement I’m going to continue to try to identify where my true passion lies. I will be patient. But failing that, I will redirect my focus to just enjoying a Lemonade Retirement, as my friends all seem to be doing!

Actually, I think my friends may all have the right idea – first, enjoy every day of the gift which is retirement. Why? Because just this week alone I learned that two of my friends who I haven’t seen or heard from lately are battling a very serious heart issue and lung cancer. Another close friend has been diagnosed with leukemia this week. And finally an acquaintance who got the school bus at my stop passed away at 69. Every day we and our family have our health is a blessed day, another day in our retirement to be thankful for.

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Folks, if you have been reading this blog for one month or 13½ months (the whole time), I want to thank you. This will be my last post, I am stepping away from the blog at this time. To be totally upfront, the blog simply has not gained the traction I had hoped for. My lack of social media skills was a significant contributing factor. But I’m sure the copy could have been more interesting as well.

Thanks for reading! Have a Lemonade Retirement and be healthy!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lemonade Retirement: 2016’s Final Chapter

To be happy in 2017:
Let go of what’s gone.
Be grateful for what remains.
Look forward to what is coming next.

This wisdom is perfect advice for me this week, and I suspect many Baby Boomers who are in their sixties. Is it of any value to you?

In just a couple of days we will close out another year, this time 2016. And then, of course, we will welcome in the New Year. It blows my mind  that this is the 70th one of these for me. Good gosh!

“Dear Lord. Please help me to slow this train down. Its speed is dizzying. Can we not apply the brakes? Just a little bit; please!”

I have said before in these pages that I expected life to slow down in retirement. I am not that busy, so why hasn’t it slowed down? Instead the opposite is true. I will never understand this.

So we are about to turn the page on the calendar and begin the year 2017. But first, 2016 was significant for me for two main reasons. 1.)  As I mentioned earlier, I turned 70 years of age in 2016 (I am part of the oldest Baby Boomer class, the class born in 1946). Obviously, 70 is quite a significant mile marker in anyone’s life. It is probably the last decade where many of us can hope to have a full ten years of relatively good health.

And 2.) 2016 was my first full year of retirement. My adjustment to this new season, which began in April, 2015 continued. So how is it going? Not badly; but I’m not “there” yet. Twenty-one months in, I still miss the structure which work gave to my life. And admittedly, I also miss the window envelope which I received every Thursday.

Becoming 100% comfortable with being fully retired takes some people longer than others. For me I’m guessing it will take about three years. I read and write, I get quality time with family and friends, and I exercise regularly. But that is not quite enough, and I feel that something is missing. I have not totally given up the idea of working part-time. At times part time work seems like  it might be the missing piece of my puzzle. At other times it seems unlikely to happen. 2017 many hold the answer.

In the “prescription” for happiness in 2017 which began this blog, step 2 is “Be grateful for what remains.” I have been thinking about this this week with a very thankful heart. “What remains” for me is truly overwhelming! Suzanna and I have three daughters, each of whom are flourishing in their own lives and with their own families. While we well know that this may not continue forever, we are extremely thankful for the present. In addition, our marriage is strong and wonderful, and we both have our health. With these blessings in hand we feel certain we can figure out the rest.

I sincerely hope that in your life, like mine, much remains to be grateful for, and that 2017 will be a wonderful year.

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Two weeks ago, in “Shooting Holes in the 80% Rule” I listed many of the savings we will all enjoy in retirement, allowing us to live well on less than 80% of our pre-retirement income. I invited readers to let me know of additional areas of savings beyond those I listed. Here is what I received:

  1. Downsized home.
  2. Exit cities and/or states which are expensive to live in.
  3. Stop providing financial support to adult children who are out of school.
  4. Give up pay TV channels and packages.
  5. Take out telephone land lines.
  6. Travel at off peak times and take advantage of last minute deals, both of which can easily be done in retirement.
  7. Create a budget, your money is precious!

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  With that, thanks for reading in 2016 and please consider returning in 2017.

Happy New Year. God bless!

 

 

 

Another Retirement Gift: Continuing Education

My retirement has been much busier than I expected it to be with three main activities filling most of my hours. Those activities include reading, writing a blog, and visits with my 89-year mother, all of which have, for the most part, been quite enjoyable.seniors picture on a small bus

Nevertheless, I have expressed to most people who have asked, that I feel like I need one more thing to round out and give a bit more structure to my retirement schedule. Structure is something working all those years gave me, which clearly is something I enjoy and prefer.

About a month ago I was asked by a friend if I might be interested in taking a course in Taxation. Although I am aware that many seniors enjoy going back to school in retirement either for credit or non-credit courses, I had never given it any thought whatsoever. Several of my friends, in fact, have also gone back to college in teaching capacities as Adjunct Professors. Rather than going back to school in any capacity, my thinking has instead been focused on whether I wanted to find some part-time work, for pleasure and/or income.

This idea of taking a course on Taxation intrigued me at several levels, even while recognizing that normal people would prefer a root canal to a course on this subject. My thinking was as follows:

1.  My degree is in Accounting, and while I took the mandatory  Tax course back at the UM, I never used it after graduating. Hence, it has always been a “part of my game” which is badly lacking. This would be a chance to shore that up.
2.  As anyone who reads this blog knows I consider myself a student of Retirement. I want to do my retirement well and hopefully be of some help to others. There are many tax issues facing retirees, and so this course would most certainly be useful in upcoming decisions.
3.  Perhaps I will be comfortable and competent to do my own tax return, which I haven’t done since 1977. This will save us several hundred dollars, which certainly has appeal.
4.  And finally, by taking this course and then passing an exam with the State of Maryland, I will have the option to work in the field, either for myself or someone else on a seasonal and/or part-time basis. I do not know for sure at this point if I would want to do this, but I am sure this will become clear to me in due time.

So, it felt like “the stars lined up” and I enrolled. At this point, I am beyond the midway mark and it’s been quite intense. But I’m enjoying the experience of being in the classroom setting, learning, and being tested (every chapter ends with a test). Of course, I also like the structure taking this class adds to my retirement.

While I haven’t completed the course as yet, it is crystal clear that the U.S. tax code could hardly be more convoluted and complicated. It is crazy. You may remember that during the recent Presidential campaign candidate Trump promised among other things to simplify the tax code. Great idea. He said H&R Block may be put out of business as it was his goal that taxpayers could simply file their taxes with a postcard. I don’t know if that can be achieved, but simplification does need to be a priority. People shouldn’t have to hire professionals and pay hundreds of dollars to file and pay their taxes.

I believe I will be open to the idea of taking other courses in the future. If the subject matter resonates with me like the Taxation course has, I’ll give it a try.

P.S. Through chapter 18 my average is 84 – not too bad considering the subject matter and my rustiness.

 

 

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.