Why take the time to read my Blog? Because it's for you! I started this Blog for retirees because I’d like to share my story with you and help you make your retirement years the best chapter in the “Story of Your Life”. I don’t have kids, so I can’t begin to tell you what it feels like to be pregnant or have a baby; but having been retired now for 4 years I can tell you from my heart what retirement feels like for real (not what the professionals tell you it will feel like). I know firsthand what it feels like to go from being a successful Type A professional businesswoman for more than 37 years, to waking up one day and thinking “If you are what you do, and I do nothing, then am I nothing”? What goes on my business card when I no longer have a title?
Most articles, and even company sponsored retirement workshops, concentrate primarily on the financial aspects of retirement, which while a critical element of your retirement plan, won't even begin to cover what you'll experience when making the transition. I want to share with you some of the things I went through – the emotional, mental, physical, financial, medical and family issues that you too might face; I want to write about “all things retirement “ because it’s definitely different than what you may have imagined.
While I might not have all the answers, I’d love to help you make a smooth, satisfying transition from a full time work life to retirement; to keep you informed about relevant retirement issues; to write about my adventures; and most importantly, to answer your questions and discuss your concerns about retirement life. I’d like to help you creatively plan for your retirement so you can look forward to a fun-filled, rewarding retirement life. I just started this Blog in September and need your help. If you’re reading my Blog and find it amusing, interesting, helpful, funny or just like me, then please email the Blog link to your family and friends who are either retired or looking forward to it. http://www.myretirementadventures.blogspot.com/
What's your favorite charity?We all have something that tugs at our heart. It might be the homeless; child abuse or stray animals. As a retiree, you may not have a lot of money to donate, but consider giving your time especially around the holiday season. There are so many ways that we retirees can help out during the holidays -- knitting a blanket for a poor newborn; serving food at a Rescue Mission; inviting a needy family into our homes for a holiday dinner; contacting your local Ronald McDonald Home and hosting a family; or volunteering at your local VA Hospital and comforting soldiers who might be far away from their families during the holidays.
Let's face it, with the way our economy has suffered this year, it's going to be a very tough holiday season for many families who are facing unexpected major medical bills; have lost their jobs; or their homes in foreclosure. If you have the time or a little extra money to help out during this holiday season, but don't have a favorite charity, then I'd love for you to consider your local chapter of the Make A Wish Foundation which fulfills the wishes of children with life-threatening medical conditions; the Adoption Exchange which provides Christmas Stockings to teenagers in foster homes; or a homeless shelter for families. Do what you can -- it's so rewarding and will bring newfound joy to your holiday season. Curious about the ribbon colors? You all know the Pink Ribbon above represents Breast Cancer. Check out the others at http://www.craftsnscraps.com/jewelry/ribbons.html
I DID!!After waiting in line for over an hour in the 2004 Presidential Election, I decided to use the mail in ballot option and sent it in on Saturday.
I loved it! I didn't have to wait in line and could leisurely read through the amendents/bills on the Colorado Ballot. BUT I have a major complaint that we discussed at the dinner party last night and everyone felt just like I did. Why can't they write the ballots in plain English? You know what I'm talking about --- where a person of average intelligence can be certain that if I check "YES" then I am voting for the Bill and "NO" means NO. It's so frustrating, because the wording is meant to confuse us. The language on the Colorado ballot for some of the amendments took so many
S-curve turns in the wording that I wasn't sure if my "YES" vote meant I was for it or not.
At this crucial juncture in our history and economy many senior citizens are not going to vote --- I know because I've talked to them. I volunteered for my candidate and spoke to several older voters. They are so confused about who would be the best President for our Country that for the first time in their life many of them won't vote. One of my best friends, Gloria, is in her late 70s. When I was in St. Louis, we had a long discussion about the presidential candidates after she told me that she has seriously thought about not voting. I was shocked and suggested that if she was so undecided about the Presidential candidates, then look at the VPs and give serious thought to which one of them she'd like to see take over the White House. I felt like I talked her into voting. Regardless of your choice for our next President -- it's going to be a history making event!You have 150 hours left before the polls close on Tuesday evening, so get out and cast your vote. It's your duty!
It doesn't matter whether you live in a mansion or a tree house when you retire -- GET OUT!! Depression is one of those topics that people don't like to talk about, but many senior citizens suffer from it once they retire, especially if they stay home too much. What happens at retirement is that you abrutly end a routine that you followed for years: get up, go to work, do this 5 days in a row, take 2 days off, and then repeat. That routine controlled both your work and social life. You just don't realize the number of social encounters you have in one working day --- perhaps you talk with 20 or 30 people, in person or on the phone. It might just be a "Hi, how ya doing" or a 5 minute conversation about your favorite TV show. Then another co-worker might ask you about your family. But you're interacting with people and socializing. If you're single and live alone in retirement, one day you'll wake up and realize that if you don't leave your home during the day, then you don't see anyone and frankly, that's not healthy. Many senior citizens become nesters when they retire --- they tend to stay home more, get up late in the morning, watch a lot of TV, sometimes staying in the PJs til 1, redecorate, garden, read, stay on the computer and do crafts. While some of those activities are good, you need to get out and see people. I love to go out as well as entertain. In the past few days, I met friends at the clubhouse for Happy Hour, went to church, played Poker on Saturday night, had brunch on Sunday morning with some other friends, attended a dinner party last night, and tonight I'm hosting a group of ladies for Poker.
GET OUT and JUST DO IT - do what you enjoy. If you like to read, start a book club. Like to entertain, start a monthly dining group and take turns hosting. Also, check out the website http://www.meetup.com/ It's a great website where you can type in your city, what you like to to and find a group doing what you enjoy. It can be anything from Speaking Italian to a Boomer's Social Group in your area. If you can't find what you want, then start a group. It's just so important for your mental health to GET OUT, do the fun things you enjoy and socialize.
Lack of money is the number one concern of all retirees. I had planned well to meet my monthly expenses in retirement and I'm fortunate that as a Federal Retiree I have continuing medical coverage, but I still feared an unexpected major medical crisis. How could I possibly handle that? I have been retired 4 years now and have been hospitalized 5 times, 2 of which were serious medical injuries and illnesses. Even though I have major medical coverage, I still have spent more than $30,000 during this time. While it was difficult at times to cover those unforeseen medical expenses, I managed by cutting my variable expenses like eating out and traveling. But without major medical coverage, I would have been faced with medical bills in excess of $160,000. I'm sharing this, because after my last hospitalization just 3 months ago, I found out that the #1 cause of bankruptcy in America, especially for retirees, is due to lack of adequate health coverage.
Since you don't have a crystal ball to predict how healthy you will be in retirement, you must plan for adequate major medical health care coverage. Some of the things to consider are: does your company offer health coverage in retirement; if so, how do you apply for it and how much will it cost per month? If coverage is not available, you might be eligible under a COBRA policy. An explanation of benefits can be found by looking up COBRA Insurance Plans online. Or, if married, can you be covered in retirement under your spouse's plan? The best time to be concerned about how you will cover your medical coverage in retirement is 5 years prior to actually retiring as some medical plans require coverage that far in advance. Above all, be prepared --- don't let unexpected medical expenses steal your financial security and retirement dreams.
Competent health care provided by doctors and hospitals covered under your insurance company is a primary consideration in retirement. Before you seriously consider relocating to another state, you should confirm that you can transfer your insurance coverage to that state and determine if there will be an increase in your rates. It's even more critical to check this out beforehand if you are covered by an HMO. I found out from some of my neighbors that coverage by their previous HMO was not available in Colorado. So they had to immediately find another HMO and for some, the cost increased as much as $150 per month. With so many people entering retirement without the benefit of health coverage, you might even want to consider relocating to a state with low health care costs. You can check out www.bestplaces.net/COL which will give you a total overall health cost comparison between your current city and the one you plan to move to. In my search for a retirement community, I seriously considered moving to active adult communities in Florida, South Carolina and Texas. One of the first things I did when visiting a community was to find out from the salesman how close were the nearest hospitals. Then I would call the hospital to find out if they had specialists in the health care area that I needed. For example, if you had heart problems, you'd want to live in close proximity to a hospital with a well-established cardiology department. Then I spoke with some of the people living there and asked about their doctors - were they satisfied with them; did they meet or exceed the care of their previous doctor; and most importantly, would you recommend them? Some of the active adult communities are so pro-active in health care that they have a small medical clinic in their community as well as their own EMTs and ambulance service. That's essential if a hospital is not nearby. If you're really concerned about the health care facilities in your area or where you're planning to move, you can get a hosptial report card http://www.healthgrades.com/ for less than $20.
One of the joys of retirement is the flexibility and time to travel more often to visit family and friends. I'm in St. Louis (my hometown) this week to celebrate my mom's 83rd BD and attend my niece's baby shower. It's been a fun week, dining out at some of our favorite restaurants -- the Pasta House Company and Rizzo's. Fall in St. Louis is the best, with cool temperatures and highlights of gold, red and orange coloring the trees. I had a wonderful time reminiscing with my friend Ruth who I had not seen in almost 20 years! We traveled together a lot during college and spent a month in Europe in 1970 using Arthur Frommer's Europe on $5 a Day as our bible. It wasn't easy, but doable and we visited 14 cities in 28 days never spending more than $5 for food and lodging. That's when I fell in love with traveling. If you're retired, don't forget that the cheapest days to fly and those with the least air traffic are usually Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. I've found the best travel bargains on those days using www.cheaptickets.com
Just like many baby boomers, my parents grew up during the Great Depression. Hearing stories from my mom about my grandfather losing his job, the lack of money and food, made me very aware of the value of money. It also made me financially responsible, so I’m tired of Government bailouts of corporate America. It’s like the Government is rewarding companies for being financially irresponsible and unaccountable to their stockholders. AIG was saved at our expense with an $85,000,000,000 bailout; now they want another 37 billion. And how about that AIG spa junket --- what a joke! Indirectly, we taxpayers funded that retreat. Like most retirees on a fixed income, I can't afford a trip to that exclusive California beach resort with its own spa and golf course. Now, other corporate executives feel entitled to a Government bailout! Some of them got mad because the Government refused and then started a probe into their financial activities. Take Lehman Brothers. I was furious when I saw Dick Fuld on CNN so smugly denying any wrongdoing. How could he sit there and refute so emphatically that he did not mislead investors? So, why haven’t those top corporate executives been forced to liquidate their assets, close out their bank accounts and give those funds to the Government before it bails a company out? The rampant fear and lack of trust created from these failures has driven down the stock market to the point where retirees have lost trillions of dollars in their 401K accounts, pension funds, and also face the loss of future Social Security benefits. Is that a cost retirees should have to pay for arrogant corporate executive’s gross financial neglect and misrepresentation? I don’t think so. Your thoughts?
Have you got the bug to move after you retire? If so, there’s several dollar factors to consider other than just the cost of the actual move, which will range from $1800 for an in-state move to more than $10,000 for a cross country move. For a quick cost comparison between cities, check out Sperling’s Best Places at www.bestplaces.net/COLIt’s free and easy to use. After plugging in your'Current' and 'Comparison' cities, the site will give you an easy to read chart with comparisons for food, housing, utilities, transportation, health and miscellaneous. Another great source for info on cost of living and retirement communities is 'WHERE TO LIVE' magazine at www.wheretoretire.com
Two factors you should consider before relocating are state income taxes and property taxes as the senior citizen exemption for each varies from state to state. Several states fully tax pension income. I live in Colorado which allows for state income tax purposes a reduction in pension income of the smaller of your income or $20,000 if you are at least 55. The reduction increases at age 65. In Adams County there are significant reductions in property taxes when I reach 65 and meet certain regulatory requirements. When I moved to my Active Adult Community, I used Amazing Moves in Denver - http://www.amazingmoves.com/ Their prices were in line with other movers, but it was their efficient, courteous workers that impressed me the most and actually made the move a very pleasant experience.
I love to read and was excited to discover that like most Active Adult Communities, mine has a book club. The club consists of 12 members who meet once a month with the hosting member selecting the book. Tonight the meeting was held at my home and since I enjoy knitting, I picked "The Friday Night Knitting Club" by Kate Jacobs. At right, is a picture of my table decorations and the baby blanket I just finished knitting for my niece Cindy. Just like a character right out of the book, one of our members showed up with her knitting and worked on her scarf during our discussion. I always find it interesting to hear what the other members have to say about the book and learn more about them as they reveal personal stories similar to events in the book. We had a lively discussion including what each of us felt was the main lesson of the book. To me, the book emphasized the value of having good woman friends and how at times, those friends are the only glue holding the threads of your life together. The theme of 'follow your dreams' was also central to the book as we see the strong female characters chasing their dream whether it's opening the knitting store, designing purses or making a film.
Like most Americans I watched the debate tonight. It's not important who I support. That's a very personal choice and I don't even ask my friends who they plan to vote for. But I am asking you to cast your vote in November -- a right still denied to many citizens in other nations. Having lived in Germany I've seen first-hand what it looks like when freedom is denied. I will never forget what I experienced during my first visit to Berlin in November 1989, just 11 days before the Berlin Wall came down. The U.S. Military Guards at Checkpoint Charlie told that me that Peter Jennings and Dan Rather were in Berlin covering this world-changing event and that with over 4,000 protesters on the Alexanderplatz, they could not guarantee our safety in the East. It didn't matter, I had to go in as I was more afraid of missing this moment in history than concerned about my safety. Shocked doesn't begin to describe the sight of armed soldiers on street corners or the East Germans with spirits so broken that they couldn't even look me in the eye when talking. But I truly knew in my heart what 'FREEDOM' meant when back in West Berlin I saw families who had already escaped from the East. Hundreds of people were herded together like fenced-in cattle, standing in the pouring rain, with nothing more than a suitcase but they were grinning like they had just won the lottery. WHY? Because they knew that they and their families were free. Just do it --- VOTE!
....sangthe Beatlesand I can't thinkof a better title than "LOVE"for the Cirque Du Soleil production at the Mirage Hotel that showcases the music of the Beatles. After hearing about the various Cirque DuSoleil shows, I could hardly wait to see one and I wasn't disappointed. From the minute we entered the theater with the ticket takers dressed in London Bobby uniforms to the high flying trampoline artists, the show was just so electric. The show was created from a friendship between the late George Harrison and Guy Laliberte, the Cirque founder. The production brings together the passion of the Beatles music with the extravagant Cirque production sets to create a visual feast as soon as the music starts and the clouded curtains slide back. The aerial acrobatics performed in sync with the Beatles music were imaginative and colorful.I just sat there in awe as their timing is so precise that they passed within inches of each other as they flew through the air. The energy created by the athletic dancers performing to the timeless Beatles songs left me with such a high. It was a perfect way to spend our last night in Vegas!
There's something for everyone in Vegas! Whether you're a nature lover or prefer the night club scene, you can always find an attraction that interests you. Two of our favorite attractions were the Secret Garden and Dolphin Habitat at the Mirage Hotel created by the famous magicians Siegfried and Roy. It's the home for their famous tigers (photo on left), lions and leopards. The Dolphin Habitat, surrounded by palm trees and colorful tropical plants, is a research facility designed by them to educate people about these fascinating creatures. You never know what to expect from the dolphins as you leisurely walk through the pool area and watch them play and interact with their trainers.
Fornight owls there's nothing more visually stimulating than the Fremont Street Experience which is a world famous entertainment light show held every evening in the old downtown section of Vegas, where some of the original casinos like Binion's and the Golden Nugget are located. It's the biggest screen in the world with more than 12 million lights providing spectacular overhead moving images choreographed to blaring music. A different visual and song are shown on the hour every evening beginning at 7 pm. We saw very moving concert footage and photos of the British Rock Group QUEEN and their legendary deceased leader Freddie Mercury flashing across the screen to QUEEN's "We Will Rock You" & "We are the Champions". We had so much fun dancing in the street and singing along with strangers who were also rocking to the beat. Best of all, it's free! For more info on free upcoming events in the Fremont area, check out their website athttp://www.vegasexperience.com/
The days of cheap, mile long buffets serving crab legs, roast beef and tables of desserts are long gone in Vegas. With the influx of foreign tourists, Las Vegas has become one of the top travel destinations world wide so the hotels no longer have to serve discounted meals. The last time I was here was 2 years ago and it seems like meal prices have more than doubled since 2006. While there's a wealth of fine restaurants in Vegas, you'd better bring a fat wallet because it's going to cost you anywhere from $40 to $80 a day to eat here, unless you want nothing but fast food.
Some of our favorite restaurants in Vegas are Canaletto in the Grand Canal Shop area of the Venetian hotel for dinner. It's Italian dining at it's best, with dinners in the $15 to $30 range. Linda dined on sauteed swordfish served in lemon caper beurre blanc sauce with assorted vegetables and I had the spinach/mushroom ravioli. Both were excellent and left no room for dessert. For lunch, try the BLT Burger Restaurant in the Mirage Hotel. I tried the Caesar salad while Linda lunched on a 5 ingredient, spicy Asian salad. The prices are reasonable and the portions so huge, that we could have easily shared one. After the Cher show on Tuesday even, we dined at Wolfgang Puck's Spago at Caesar's Palace. The menu offers several interesting options for late night diners including Tuscan White Bean Soup, Mushroom Tortellin and pizzas. The server was friendly and attentive, the food excellent, but it's a bit on the pricey side.
We went to Vegas to see Cher. After arriving on Sunday we found out she'd been very ill and had missed 4 days of shows, so we wondered if she'd be a no show again on Tuesday night. We arrived early at Caesar's Palace and the crowd was abuzz with rumors and concern if she was better and would appear. When the 7:30 pm start time of the show passed, we all sat there nervously awaiting her cue music. 15 minutes later, Cher made one of her grand entrances floating down to the stage from an overhead silver swing. She gave a fabulous show, sounding hoarse on just a few numbers. She sang many of my favorites including "If I Could Turn Back Time" and ending the show with the crowd on it's feet for "Believe". It just wasn't a typical Cher concert, but a full-blown Las Vegas type show including numerous dancers and aerial acrobatic performers providing a great variety show, but for diehard Cher fans like me I would've loved to see her perform more numbers.
On Monday morning, we were strolling through the Venetian hotel and were surprised when we got to the main lobby. Both sides of the main hall were lined with employeees offering thanks and recognition to some U.S. troops staying there. It was so heartwarming to see the employees cheering on the troops and the joy on their faces as they strode down the foyer, shaking hands and greeting the employees. Fitting recognition for deserving heros!