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  1. FROM: “The Maturity Manifesto: A Hard Look at the Golden Years”

    “Getting old is not for sissies” —– Bette Davis
    “Sixty is the new forty.” —– Lauren Bacall
    “Act your age.” —- common wisdom
    “Why?” —– Zen insight

    Question: How can one drown in good advice on retirement, and still not be able to retire?

    Answer: One is broke.

    If one picked the wrong job, married the wrong person, made some financial mistakes, worked for small companies that offered zilch for retirement, had a medical disaster, was divorced or widowed and now finds oneself facing “the golden years” alone…one might read the retirement advice with the angst of the outsider.

    This is one who is guilty of not having kept up with the rising cost of everything enough to put aside a nest egg for retirement. This one feels ashamed. Anxious, too.

    And this one….is many.

    Opening words (fighting words?) from “The Maturity Manifesto.” Okay, not everyone is poor. But not every one of us is rich, either.

    Even if you were sensible and fortunate and put away a nest egg, you may be amazed at how paltry that little treasure seems today. I remember back when we thought 250K was a lot of money: twenty years ago, a friend claimed she would have “a quarter of a million” upon retirement and the rest of us were slobbering with envy. Today that friend is pushing seventy, still working, and broke after an old house and three children from a deceased ex-spouse and his last wife ate up the 250K with barely a burp.

    The fact is, retirement is a dismal prospect for a bigger portion of boomers than want to admit it. Many have houses to sell….oh dear. Some would like to do a reverse mortgage on their homes….oh dear, the market is down and they don’t have the equity. Investments aren’t what they were before the market took a dive. Real estate isn’t what it was. Costs of living aren’t what they were.

    In sum: you need a lot of money to get by these days.

    This article, and the many to follow, is dedicated to those boomers who are pondering retirement with…wonderment.
    Please tune in. And please share your comments; they are more valuable than you may think.


    Scenario: you will get social security, about 1400 per month. You have about 100K in a retirement account. Transformed into an annuity, that gives you about $600 a month. So you have about 2K income. Let’s look on the bright side and say you have a piece of real estate to sell that will yield a profit of 100K. And, you own your car.

    You can move into a mobile home park for seniors, buying your trailer and able to make the space rent.

    You can try to get a reverse mortgage on your home. Got the equity? If so, you can live rent free except for taxes, insurance, and repairs. If your home is big enough, you can take in a boarder or two and maybe pay those expenses.

    You can liquidate. Yield: social security plus about 180K – 200K in cash. With this cash you can buy a good used motor home or a “Tiny House” and try to live on social security plus the interest on the cash. If you grow some of your own food, this may be possible. Don’t plan on doing much touring in the motor home, though; you can’t afford the gas.

    You can combine any of the foregoing with working part time. More and more boomers are doing this. We would like to say this is by choice, but let’s not kid ourselves. Volunteer work is by choice. Being a greeter at Walmart or working in a supermarket is by necessity.

    Of course, the foregoing is based upon facing the last stage of life alone. A disturbing statistic is that 97 million people over 45 are single, but that’s still not all of us. For those of us partnered up, multiply everything by 2. And guess what?….two can live more cheaply than one.

    There are more options, no doubt. Can you think of some? I’d love to hear from readers with retirement ideas for the above scenario. Let’s say this is you: a house with a mortgage, 1400 in Social Security, 600 in annuity or 100K in cash, and a car that runs. What would you do?

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  3. Technology: Friend or Foe? Part I

    Do you have iFear? Do you shudder at the thought of having to buy a new computer or replace a dinosaur cell phone? If I was to say “zebibyte” or “disambiguation” or “polymorphism” would you have a clue what I meant? Do you own a computer and/or a cell phone but never really use them? Do you feel almost proud of the fact that you don’t (won’t) rely on electronic gadgets that could enhance your life?

    Well, friends, you are not alone. I have found that, as seniors, how much new technology we embrace depends on a number of factors. How much techie stuff was involved in your job and how much have you wanted to get away from it now that you’re retired? How much do you need/ desire to play games or listen to music anytime anywhere? How important is it to stay up with your kids and grandkids who purchase and rely heavily on the latest technology?

    I have also found it’s not an ‘across the board’ kind of resistance. Some people refuse to have anything other than the most basic cell phone but will purchase and learn all there is to know about Kindles and like products in order to more easily and cheaply acquire and enjoy books. Some people have the most advanced iPad available but never own and/or use a computer at all. Many seniors, including me, get to a point and say, “Okay, this is as far as I’m going with new electronics. I don’t need nor will I purchase another computer or cell phone (because you know they come out with new ones every few months!) unless I’m forced to.” All the learning, expanding one’s mind in the electronic arena, and, yes, frustration stops at the current level. We make do from then on.

    Not too many of my friends who avoid new technology want to admit it is daunting. Sure, we probably don’t need electronics that automatically sync our calendars with our computers/iPads/iPhones now that we’re retired. Just trying to figure out some of the newer (and even older) gadgets can require a PhD it seems. Visiting dealers like the Apple store, AT&T, Verizon, Best Buy or taking classes at the JC often times doesn’t seem to help much in really increasing our understanding of a product. Doing this can merely increase our frustration with how little we are able to grasp the concepts of how to work these expensive electronics. My mind works linearly and some of the concepts and applications aren’t structured that way. Multi-tasking younger people don’t need to understand an A + B = C thus B = C – A concept in order to get the most out of new technology.

    And don’t even talk about the cost of electronics. We all know about the vice grip of new hardware and contracts. How much sense does it make to have a gadget that lets you do some basic stuff (e-mail, internet) but costs more than we pay for groceries in a month?

    Having said all this, I must admit I’m pretty plugged in. In addition to a laptop that is just a year old, I recently purchased an iPhone (so I could take better pictures!). I am just at the beginning of the learning curve on the iPhone so my frustration levels are running pretty high. I could live without all this new technology but I must be getting something out of it or I wouldn’t so eagerly participate.

    What do I get out of a solid computer and a phone that connects me to the world through a couple of clicks? First of all, I love having social connections available to me on Facebook and at other sites that feature things I’m interested in. I do my banking online because it is easy and safe and keeps me from having to drive across town and stand in line. If I miss a Sunday at the Center for Spiritual Living, I can watch the talk online. I love Pinterest when I’m bored or in avoidance of other things I should be doing. I’m not a big phone talker, thus I absolutely LOVE texting, a shorter mini-conversation rather than a protracted diatribe, but it doesn’t work for all conversations. I thoroughly enjoy Words with Friends; it’s the only game I play on my phone. I do tweet on Twitter but mostly as part of this blog. And then there’s all the information that is virtually in the palm of my hand. I enjoy learning, whether it’s what’s on the menu at Rosso or the date of the next haiku festival in Ukiah.

    So, you see, I don’t look at it as learning how to use an electronic contraption. I look at it as learning how to mine the information I need and want and reap the benefits that might, at best, entertain me but hopefully enhance my life, as well.

    I’m sure you maintain the technology level that works best for your interests, needs and budget. I do, however, encourage you not to give up on this fast-paced and often frustrating area of life and to overcome your fear of technology. It can bring you delight.

    Oh, as for those words at the beginning of this piece: a “zebibyte” is a standards-based binary multiple of the byte, a unit of digital information storage, “disambiguation” is the process of resolving the conflicts that arise when a single term is ambiguous and “polymorphism” is the ability (in programming) to present the same interface for differing underlying forms (data types). Aren’t you glad I cleared that up???

  4. I love the post. It is sentimental, thus something easy to chew but difficult to digest.

    Letting go can be a soul-wrenching moment in anybody’s life, especially if it is about an experience so traumatically painful that it has etched deeply into the deepest part of one’s soul.

    They say that I have to let go of the day my wife died in my arms more than 7 years ago. They say that I have to forget and move on. They say that it was her time and I couldn’t have done anything to save her.

    They. But have they experienced what I experienced? Have they had a spouse dying on their arms as my wife died in mine?

    Letting go is so easy to say but so difficult to do.

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