Skip to main content


Showing posts from June, 2017

How Can We be More Friendly to the Environment?

The post, from a few weeks ago, Being a Penny Pincher Even if You Don't Have To, had some excellent thoughts on being frugal without being cheap. Saving money is all about balance: cutting back where you can to be able to afford things you want. Retirement brings financial caution into focus, but it is also a time of life when we appreciate the difference between needs and wants, instant gratification and wise delays.

Several of the comments talked about being aware of our "footprint," those things we do that can have a negative impact on the earth's soil, water, and air. Being diligent about recycling, a focus on how much food is thrown away, composting, using rainwater for gardens, cutting back to one car - all are good for our budgets and our earthly home. 

That raised some questions for me about what small steps we can take to help be more friendly to the environment: the air we breathe and the water we drink, the landfills that we fill with our trash, and the chem…

Pulling Out Your Stake

First posted almost 6 years ago, it seems worthwhile bringing back for you.

There is a story you may have heard about a giant circus elephant and how it was controlled. The animal was huge and very powerful. It could knock over a brick wall with it's trunk. But, in between performances all the massive beast had to keep it secure was a simple chain around its foot connected to a 12" wooden post hammered into the ground.

Certainly the elephant could have torn the stake from the ground with one tug, but it never did. As a baby it was chained to the same post. Being small, no matter how hard it pulled the youngster could not free itself from the restraint. Obviously, as it grew in strength and size it could have yanked the chain free in an instant. But, the elephant had convinced itself the chain and post were unbreakable so it simply gave up trying.

We all go through life being taught things that can limit our growth. We are told something that makes us doubt our potential or our a…

A Reality Check

I have been lucky. Throughout my life I have had few health problems. I went to a doctor for checkups and an occasional medical bump in the road. Even spending 150 days  each year in airplanes and hotels rarely resulted in more than a cold or occasional case of food poisoning.

Things started to change about three or four years ago. Slowly, I began to notice strange pains, OK , strange to me. Some of my fingers seemed a bit stiff when I first woke up. A twinge in my lower back wouldn't go away after a hot shower. I had some shortness of breath after a bit of yard work.

Two summers ago things got a little more serious during a trip to Portland: I ended up in the hospital for a few days with a cardiac episode. It wasn't a heart attack, but a small vein was blocked, resulting in pain and a small area of dead heart muscle. Scary for me, my wife, family, and friends, but eventually under control.

A year later, sharp pains in my lower left side wouldn't respond to my normal treatmen…

Retirement Vacations: Worth the Time and Money?

First posted almost 6 years ago, it seemed appropriate to bring back my thoughts on the staying power of s vacation as we move through the summer season. This seems especially relevant because I have a busy set of vacation plans for 2018.

Betty and I returned from an 18 day glorious vacation on Maui a little over two weeks ago. Even now we are still sorting through the 2,400 photos. I have yet to wear all the T-shirts and Aloha shirts I bought, but the new flip flops are still getting daily use. We had perfect weather and a time of total relaxation. 

Several friends have asked what was my favorite part and the answer is always the same: sitting in a folding chair and watching the sunset every night from a different beach, until all the color faded from the sky and it was dark...the perfect end to a satisfying retirement vacation.

Virtually each evening, we were given a spectacular exhibition of  streaks of vibrant oranges, pinks, yellows, and various shades of blues. The show lasted almo…

Why Civility Is In Decline

I wish I knew. More to the point, I wish it would stop. As the recent shooting at the baseball practice in Washington demonstrates, things seem to be escalating in a very dangerous way. 

An article in Psychology Today said,  "There seems to be more and more rude, demeaning, insulting, and aggressive language and behavior in our society."  That sums up what most of us experience on a too-regular basis. The question then becomes, why?

Civility is defined as courtesy in behavior or speech. I'm pretty sure we all know it when we experience it. From holding a door for a stranger to helping someone reach a box of cereal on the top shelf, from disagreeing without disrespect to making a fresh pot of coffee after taking the last cup, civility makes life more pleasant and satisfying.

So why does civility seem to be in decline, maybe even dying from disuse?  I can offer a few possibilities. Your (civil) additions to my list are encouraged!

1) Social mediaFacebook and Twitter, Instagram…

How To Guarantee a Satisfying Retirement

If only that were possible. Except for knowing you will die at some point, life doesn't come with a guarantee, and that includes retirement. 

After 17 years of experience, there are a few key concepts I'd be glad to share. Maybe I can help you eliminate some of the risks involved, though there is no guarantee.

1) NumbersAll sorts of numbers will determine the extent to which your retirement is satisfying: figures in your budget, income, outgo, the size of your investments and pension or IRA, the age you decide to start Social Security, and how you spend the hours in a day.

Not completely under your control but still important is how long you will have good enough health to do what you like to do. Days and nights spent in front of a TV or in an easy chair aren't very satisfying if you have other options. 

2) Assumptions
No one really know what the government will do with Medicare, Medicaid, or Social Security payments, or what will happen to the health insurance markets. Inflati…

Being a Penny Pincher Even If You Don't Have To

Voluntary simplicity, frugality, simple living, down-sizing....all have their genesis in trying to cut expenses. Less harm to the environment is another motivator, but the financial aspects are usually key. 

Certainly, for many of us, spending less money, living within or below our means is necessary. A faltering, or failed pension from work, a job loss at the wrong time, unexpected medical, housing, or caregiving expenses can force our hand.

For others, money isn't the overriding concern. Sure, we worry the money will run out before we do, and we can't predict some future financial disaster. But, overall, we are in good shape. There is something else that motivates us to reduce.

Interestingly, being in the first or second camp doesn't seem to be a solid predictor of our urge to cut expenses, pinch pennies, and find a less expensive way to accomplish a goal. Maybe it is a gene many of us carry. Maybe it is lesson we learned from a parent. Or, a rough patch in our past has lef…

I Want To Retire Someday: How Do I Get Ready?

What if you eventually want to retire, just not now? You are not there yet. Maybe it is a savings and money issue. Maybe you enjoy your job and the stimulation it gives you. Maybe your responsibilities with your family must be front and center for now. Maybe retirement scares you a bit. That just makes you normal. For whatever reason, you want to remain in the workforce, but would like some suggestions on how to prepare for the day when you are ready.

Here are some important concerns:

A) Make Your Financial Projections: Get a paper and pencil, spreadsheet program on your computer, or anything that will help you with the following:
What is your projected income from now until you retire. Obviously, this is a guess. Your job might disappear tomorrow. But, based on your past situation, you should be able to make an educated guess of what you expect to make from now until you do retire. What do you expect to receive from Social Security? Avoid the "it won't be there for me" pan…

The Mouse in The Attic

The faint click of tiny nails, the rapid patter of small feet, woke me up. It was probably the middle of the night, though with no bedside clock there was no way to know. I recognized the sound, a field mouse most likely, running in the attic over my head. The sound no longer scared me, in fact it was kind of comforting since I heard it most every night.It reaffirmed I was in a favorite place for our family vacation: my grandparents' summer place, a rural farmhouse, out buildings, and 36 acres of fields and trees north of Pittsburgh, a few miles from  the small town of Butler. Hearing nothing more, both the mouse and I relaxed back to sleep.My dad would work the day before we left on our annual trip, then drive all night to arrive the next morning in this magical place. While mom sat next to him during the long, dark, drive to keep him awake, the three boys were in the "back-back," the rear of the station wagon, sleeping on blankets and pillows. An occasional stop at a g…

Retirement & The Middle Class: Still Possible?

First published a few years ago, the discussion about the fate of the American middle class and the growing economic inequality in this country has not gone away, in fact it has intensified. I'd welcome your thoughtful comment on this issue.

There has been a lot written recently about the decline, if not outright impending disappearance, of the middle class in many countries around the world. The original premise was that hard work and perseverance would result in a comfortable lifestyle and asatisfying retirement. That vision included decent retirement funds, health care coverage at an affordable cost, a home, a car or two in the garage, and enough money to send kids to college. It assumed that each generation's standard of living will be better than the one before.

In reality, that picture began to go out of focus at least 15 years ago. The stock market crash of the late 1990's damaged the hopes and dreams of many. It exposed the true risks of betting that the stoc…