Posted by: drdata921 | August 30, 2014

Learning to Relax

“Retirement: Something that should be arrived at in haste and should be lived at in leisure.”
– Dave Erhard – Retirement Coach

When you first enter retirement, the level of stress is reduced significantly. After all, you are no longer responsible for deadlines, for many the daily commute goes away, and every day is part of an extended weekend. After retirement that’s how it was for me. During those initial weeks I had a sense of calmness that I had not felt for several years. It was something that I was not expecting, at least of that magnitude, but it was very welcome.

Before retirement I had read several books that warned about “retirement inactivity.” The point was that if your days are spent sleeping late then getting up and watching TV all day, then retirement would be boring – life without a purpose – leading to an early death. I took this advice seriously and by the time that my actual retirement rolled around, I had mapped out a series of activities that would fill my days and give me purpose. I would write a couple of books that I had been thinking about. I would become one once again with my guitar and piano. And, I would engage in volunteer activities at the humane society and the local food pantry. It was methodically planned out and ready to execute just as soon as I pulled the trigger.

However, as I enter my third month of retirement, I have not started several of the activities that I had so meticulously planned. The books and musical instruments are still on the “to do” list and the parts of some days are spent in front of the TV, mostly news channels (this is a very news rich time). I am starting to question my will and productivity. Am I falling into “retirement inactivity?” Granted we are still moving into our new location and a house this requires more maintenance than we expected. But still…

So, as I have wrestled with these concerns it has occurred to me that I am looking at this whole situation in the totally wrong way. I am gaining some new perspectives. Let me share three things with you in this post:

In Retirement, There Are No Deadlines

When you were working, you had projects and deadlines. There were key dates that you could not miss. If you didn’t keep on top of things, you might lose. In retirement, there are no deadlines. You literally have all of the time in the world. Things get done in your time, not in that imposed by others. If you have developed an activity plan prior to retirement and are slow to start implementing those activities, consider the fact that they will happen in their own time or not. Don’t stress about delays. In retirement, they are irrelevant. You need to change your mindset from a hardworking player with deadlines to a person of leisure whose only job is to enjoy life – whatever that means to you.

If It Doesn’t Feel Good, Then Don’t Do It

The key in retirement is to enjoy your life. Just because you have developed an activity list does not mean that you necessarily need to do all of those activities. If some of those things on your list no longer interest you, then drop them and find other things that are more engaging. No one says that you have to do the activities on the list. There are many things that can be fun and challenging in retirement. You retirement list is a guide – it is not a bunch of requirements that you need to check off. If something becomes uninteresting, then get rid of it and find something new. In retirement, you are only responsible to yourself.

Some things are the Same – Attend to the Upkeep

Having said all of that, there are still some “rules” that make sense. Just as before, you need to attend to things to keep you healthy. Regular exercise is still a requirement. So, you still need to stay active. I am finding this even easier in retirement. Before, I would get up at 4:30a so that I could be at the gym by 5:00a so that I could be at work by 6:30a. Now, I leisurely rise at 6:00a a much more civilized hour. In addition, I have joined a Medicare advantage plan run by Humana. As part of this I am enrolled in the “Silver Sneakers” program which provides a free gym membership. In case you didn’t know, free is a very good price. So, they have made it easy for me to exercise. You need to continue (or start) eating more healthy. Perhaps one of your new activities can be to search the Internet for healthy, but tasty new recipes. Finally, I spend one day a week cleaning and straightening up the house. For me, a clean and neat house makes me feel better. There are some common maintenance activities that do not go away in retirement.

Like many other times of life, sometimes you just need to change your perspective on things. In retirement daily demands change and you are freer to choose how you will spend your time. Retirement should be a new adventure. There is nothing to stress over – just enjoy! As one person put it, “If you retire right the only thing you will worry about is when to eat and when to sleep.”

Posted by: drdata921 | August 16, 2014

Thoughts on Consciousness and Death

What is the link between death and retirement? Metaphorically, retirement is like the fourth quarter of a football game. You always wonder how it will end and what’s next. You may think I have too much time on my hands since I retired, but recently I have run into some very interesting internet content that has sparked me to think about this issue. In retirement, thoughts about death are always at the back of your mind and I have a profound interest in figuring out what this means.

Despite whatever religious beliefs you may hold, I think that most people still wonder what happens after your body dies. Believe what you will believe and hope for the best. Personally, I am not a particularly religious person and the literal concepts of heaven and hell do not make a lot of sense to me. They seem to be constructs that have more historical and political significance than anything else. They are a way to keep people in line according to the current status quo. If you have any doubt about this, did you notice that the Al Qaeda suicide bombers are told that by blowing up innocent people in a terrorist act, they would go to paradise? Really!!! And, with the atrocities of war by America we still believe that god is on our side. So, if we are to be judged as a culture, we are all going to hell because there is no moral justification for many of the things that we do and innocence is a relative term. I have always rejected the concept of heaven and hell because it seems to me it is more likely that if there is an eternal life it is meant to be a process of progression, growth and enlightenment rather than strict judgments based on a very limited lifetime.

However, heaven and hell are secondary considerations. The primary consideration is whether there is life or further existence after death of the body in the first place. In this context, I viewed two TED Talks that seemed to have a perspective on this issue. The first was a presentation by Graham Hancock, a writer and philosopher on the topic of consciousness. This is an 18 minute presentation that was ultimately judged to be too controversial to post on TED. Click this link and you will see why – although I think he has a perspective that needs to be heard because it challenges conventional thinking in a very effective way (The War on Consciousness).

The underlying concept is about the nature of consciousness that applies directly to the conversation about life after death. The question is whether consciousness is generated within the brain and therefore when the body dies, so does our consciousness. If this is true then death of the body is the finality. Or, is consciousness generated separate from the body, by let’s call it the soul, and the brain is only a receptor, much like a TV is a receptor of a broadcast signal. When the TV breaks, the broadcast continues – when the body dies, consciousness continues although in a qualitatively different form. The discussion by Mr. Hancock goes well beyond this topic, but this part of it was particularly relevant. He argues, quite effectively for an afterlife and the help needed (and available) to achieve growth of the spirit.

The second TED talk, which also was judged to be too controversial was by Rupert Sheldrake, an author and researcher in paranormal psychology. Find his talk at (The Science Delusion) . In his discussion, he questions the use of science to understand anything related to consciousness or spirituality. The belief systems and assumptions underlying science do not allow belief in a spiritual world or consciousness as we typically define it. The reason is that underlying our scientific belief systems is the assumption that everything in the world is mechanistic. That is, everything is fundamentally a machine. The task of science is to understand how the machine works. So, based on these assumptions, consciousness is created by brain structures and chemistry and all things (e.g. plants, humans, other physical phenomena) are guided by a process with no room to consider concepts like soul or spirituality. Spirituality and soul are not explainable as a machine and are certainly difficult to observe. He notes that a true scientist could not believe in an afterlife because that goes outside of the mechanistic view of the world.

Indeed, science is very limited in what can be observed and analyzed. Think of this analogy: For most of history astronomers could only comment on things that were directly observable. These were things where astronomical events and objects occurred within the observable spectrum and could be viewed by the human eye. As time progressed, scientist developed instrumentation that allowed observation across the entire spectrum, not just that directly visible to the human eye. This radically changed our view of the universe. However, before this we were only able to understand the universe in terms of things directly observable.

Now, fast-forward to today. Physicists have identified (at least mathematically) somewhere between 10 and 26 dimensions in the universe. We are privy to only four (length, width, depth, and time). Since, it is currently impossible to observe any other dimensions outside of these four, science is limited to these observations and hypotheses and theories cannot go beyond these four. It is equivalent to trying to understand the world around you without the benefits of sight or hearing. What you come up with will be very different from that if you had sight and hearing. That is our present situation in science. Science develops perspectives with a very limited view of the universe. However, since scientists are locked into these assumptions and limitations they write off phenomena that go beyond their view of the world. Spirituality and soul fall outside of the current scientific view. I am not arguing, for example, for intelligent design versus Darwinian evolution (i.e. god vs. the scientific view of human existence). I am just saying that there is a clear rationale to be more open to alternative possibilities.

However, what if the spiritual world exists in the other six to 24 dimensions? We see possible evidence of this among people who are psychics or when people have strong premonitions that come true. They are privy to something unavailable to the rest of us. What if the spirit or the soul after death migrates to a whole different set of dimensions – those currently unobservable? Scientists would contend that there is no consciousness or afterlife or migration of the soul because they cannot be observed. Yet, there is so much that we don’t know and can’t observe. Scientists are locked into current paradigms of thinking limited by a restricted range of events that are observable. This is to be expected, but understanding this opens up a host of possibilities. This does not preclude the existence of spiritual dimensions of existence only that they cannot be observed at present.

Carl Sagan had a great discussion of this in his Nova series. He talked about existence among a group of people called flatlanders who lived in a single dimension. Then along came another person who lived in two dimensions, but the flatlanders could only see what was going on in the one. Think of this story if there truly are 10 to 26 dimensions in our universe and we can only observe four. The implications are staggering. How much are we missing. What if one or more of these alternative dimensions are spiritual dimensions and death is nothing more than a migration by the spirit or the soul. We just need to keep an open mind.

So, is there an afterlife? Do people shift dimensions following death of the body? There is no way to tell until inevitable death occurs. Or, if there is nothing, maybe you will never know. View the two TED videos and see what you think. They sure got me thinking! But then again, I have a lot of time on my hands in retirement.

Posted by: drdata921 | August 11, 2014

The Power of YouTube

Before I retired, I discovered the power of YouTube, the internet site that allows you to access video content on nearly any topic. I had heard of this resource before, but never explored what it could provide. The topics available go from total fluff to some very useful instruction on whatever topics are of interest to you. Some of these topics can be practical, such as how to maintain a lawn mower. Some are very technical and mathematical and some, let’s just say cater to a teen audience.

In my job, I was asked to provide training to newbies in the department on statistical analysis. Typically you would search Amazon for the best textbook on the topic and that is exactly what I did initially. Then I found YouTube. As it turns out, you can find a video on nearly any topic of interest. Want a brief overview of probability theory – it’s there. Need instruction on various statistical analysis procedures, there are several videos to select from.

So, I built an entire instruction course on statistical analysis around these videos. Some of the videos were informative and others added an element of entertainment as well. For example, in one video, I learned how to calculate the probability that I would survive if I was being attacked by a large dinosaur, had a gun with two bullets randomly interspersed among six slots in a revolver, and had the time to only pull the trigger three times. This is an entertaining way to learn how to calculate conditional probabilities.

When I got to Pensacola, my first order of business was to buy a kayak. After all, the place is surrounded by water. I found several videos on kayaks. You can view a video on how to select the perfect kayak for your needs. There are a couple on proper paddling techniques and the list goes on.

It occurred to me that this might be a useful resource for retirement planning and I have done some research to see what is available. The possibilities are nearly limitless, but here are some examples of what I found. Note that this is only a small sampling of what is available:

Search Topic: “Social Security”
“Top 10 must know facts about Social Security benefits”
“Planning Social Security retirement’
“How to maximize Social Security benefits”
“Milton Friedman: The Social Security myth”
“How to take advantage of Social Security spousal benefits”
“Social Security Alert: Seven secrets to maximize your Social Security benefits and taxes”

Search Topic: “Retirement Planning”
“Five biggest retirement planning mistakes”
“Make your money last”
“Retirement income: Building an investment roadmap for your retirement”
“The secret to retirement planning with minimal taxation”
“Suze Orman shares how to plan for retirement today”
“Ben Stein talks retirement”

Search Topic: “Where to Retire”
“The best places to retire in the United States”
“Top 10 best countries to retire – 2013”
“Where to retire in Florida”
“Where to retire in Mexico and how to eat out for $15 or less”

Search Topic: “Retirement Lifestyle”
“Visioning your retirement lifestyle”
“How to create a meaningful retirement lifestyle and financial freedom”
“Retirement Lifestyle: Living longer and stronger”
“Support your RV lifestyle”

Search Topic: “Fulfilling Retirement”
“10 Key elements of a fulfilling retirement”
“Can retirement be exciting and fulfilling”
“Challenges of retirement”

Search Topic: “Happy Retirement”
“Secrets to a happy retirement”
“Happily retired now (the happy retirement song)”

To access this site, Google “YouTube.” The first Google entry will take you directly to the site. The main YouTube screen that comes up will have a search bar at the top and you can type in search terms according to what you are looking for and it will provide you with a lengthy list of videos on the topic. If you click the video thumbnail next to each entry in the list, it will play the selected video on your PC.

YouTube is a great resource for many needs. However, it could be indispensable for guidance on topics related to retirement. For me, as I explore various new interests in retirement, there’s a YouTube video for that! Just a warning: YouTube is highly addictive and you can spend hours exploring a wide variety of topics and watching the instructive videos. However, as they say, “the world is your oyster” and YouTube is one portal into that world.

Posted by: drdata921 | August 1, 2014

Life’s Tradeoffs

Having just moved to Pensacola, Florida I had to find a new primary care physician. This week we met for the first time. After the obligatory light chatter (where are you moving from, why did you pick Pensacola, how do you like it?), we got down to business. We discussed my family’s medical history and my lifestyle. We talked about how I handle stress and what I do to cope. Then he poked and prodded, breath in, now exhale, do it again. And, so it went.

Then he leaned forward in his chair and gave me one of those serious looks like he was going to tell me something really important (I am sure that they practice this is medical school). “Don,” he said,” there are three things that are very important that you do! I want you to significantly reduce your wine consumption. I want you to stay out of the sun. Finally, make sure that you consume as little salt as possible.” The salt thing is the easy one. If you cook at all, you will know that you can substitute lemon juice for salt and the taste is actually better. So, scratch that one off of the list.

The other two recommendations are the bewildering ones. Ok, so I do consume a glass or two of wine above the recommended limit each night. However, I exercise each day, I don’t smoke, and I watch my diet. I thought that three out of four was pretty good. Besides, I enjoy the wine. But, now my PC is saying drink less.

Next, he told me to stay out of the sun. But hey, this is Florida. The place is called the “Sunshine State.” It’s on the license plates. There is water everywhere. The outdoor lifestyle is why we came here. If I can’t go outside, I might as well live in a closet. Besides, I use sunscreen most of the time and I thought that a little tanning glow would make me look sexy. “Don”, he said, “the ozone layer has been depleted and the sun is especially intense in Florida. You need to protect yourself. Tanning means skin damage.” What a bummer!

This whole discussion was reminiscent of a quote that I once heard: “Eliminating wine, women, and song from your life will not really make you live longer, it will only seem like it.” I can’t remember the author, but there is some wisdom to that quote.

So, this whole conversation got me thinking about the tradeoffs that we make in life. Sure, I can stop my wine consumption and stay indoors. However, it’s the old argument about quantity versus quality. Are you willing to sacrifice some years from your life to live a more enjoyable life? I am not questioning my doctor’s wisdom. He is tasked with helping me to stay healthy. It is up to me to determine how to make that life fulfilling and enjoyable and the tradeoffs I am willing to make. If I shorten my lifespan somewhat, but it brings me more joy then so be it! It’s not like the choices are live forever vs. die young.

It was time to do some more research. Previously, I made a blog post about a website that would allow you to respond to questions about lifestyle, family history, and nutrition. After you filled out their questionnaire, you would be given an estimate of how long you would be expected to live and some suggested changes that would help extend your life. For those of your who are interested, you can look in the July 2013 archive of this blog or go to: (https://www.livingto100.com).

I went back to this site to see what it recommended I do. After completing the questionnaire I was informed that I would likely live until the age of 87. Since the average lifespan for males in my cohort is about 84, I was thinking that maybe three out of four was not bad.

However, there were some things that I could do to extent this. If I learned to control stress better, I could add about ½ a year to my lifespan. By the way, I think that I have that one solved; it’s called retirement!! Next, if I cut back on the number of my fast food restaurant visits each week, I could add another ½ year. Since, I currently frequent fast food restaurants less than once a week, this would mean never going. I can live with that. Finally, I could add another year to my lifespan if I cut back further in my red meat consumption.

Curiously, they did not mention wine consumption or sun as an opportunity. I am not questioning the wisdom of my doctor. He sees a lot of patients and has been trained in these matters. However, I think issues relative to quality of life are worthy of consideration. Besides, nobody will live forever and in the time scheme of a normal life, a couple of years seems inconsequential (although at the moment of death, I am sure you might want to reconsider).

I would be interested to hear your thoughts on quantity vs. quality (i.e. living longer vs. living better). These are choices that we all make. Perhaps it’s not always an either/or proposition. Sometimes you can have both. However, many times it is. What’s your perspective?

Posted by: drdata921 | July 27, 2014

Five Retirement Revelations

There is no doubt that life in retirement is an entirely different “animal” than life during the “career wars.” To be honest, I had some sense of what to plan for, but I had no real sense of what it would actually be like once I pulled the trigger. Some have been positive, while others have presented a challenge.

In that regard, there have been some surprises that are important to understand. Here is my list of the top five “revelations”:

#1: There are Ideals and Then there are Practicalities

What I found very quickly was past ideals were fine, but one practicality of retirement is that you need to cut costs whenever possible. The most immediate example of this has been shopping at Walmart. When I was working, I would not have considered shopping at Walmart. The company is notorious for poor treatment of its in-store workers, shoddy treatment of women and questionable treatment of its suppliers. I will also admit it, I am a bit of a snob (sometimes) and Walmart has a downscale image. However, Walmart is the closet grocery store to our new house and if you can save 10% to 20% on each shopping trip then you need to consider this option. Another example is that I go to a gym that is adequate for my needs, but there are better options available in the Pensacola area. However, my gym is free as part of my Medicare Advantage plan (called the Silver Sneakers program) and every little bit of savings helps. So, there are tradeoffs to be made.

#2: Finances Come Online At A Leisurely Pace

Retirement income, such as pension and Social Security are on a delay. Be prepared to survive for a one to two months without an income because these retirement income sources come online over time, somewhat unpredictably. My first pension payment arrived about thirty days after my retirement, quicker than I expected. However, the first Social Security check did not hit the accounts until two months into the retirement. Government benefits are on a somewhat self-serving schedule. Medicare premiums are taken out at the beginning of the month of coverage. However, Social Security is paid one month after. So, for example, the Medicare premium for June was due June 1st. However, the Social Security payment for June did not arrive until late in July. And, since the Medicare premiums are deducted from your Social Security payment, when Social Security was finally paid, they took out two months of Medicare premiums in the first check. So, it could be a couple of months into retirement before your income stabilizes. You need to plan for this and be ready to reduce your spending or pull money out of saving.

#3: Expect to be Unbelievably Calm and Relaxed

I had some sense that my level of stress would be reduced. But, some warn that there are several additional stressors that could give you grief – such as reduced income, relocation, a change in social interactions, etc. However, for me despite all of the hassles related to the bank and the physical move, my level of stress is near zero. Interestingly, all of the hassles with the bank and the move made me much more adaptable. I am better able to roll with the punches. In addition, I no longer have the stress associated with the job. Probably as meaningful, I have no commute and that was a significant source of stress that just zapped my energy when I was working. My freedom is substantial and I have assumed a very laidback lifestyle. I have a sense of inner calm and peacefulness that I wasn’t expecting. I haven’t felt this calm and relaxed in years. Needless to say, retirement is looking like a very good choice.

#4: Establishing a Routine is More Difficult Than It May Seem

With all of the changes that happen coincident to retirement, you need to establish a routine. I have a number of blog posts previously pointing to the importance of proactively planning what you will do on a day-to-day basis. There is a huge danger of falling into inactivity that could have negative repercussions. Since the demands on you are minimal, it is all easy to spend you days watching TV. I am finding that if I don’t actively plan a schedule and stick with it, the TV option is all too inviting. However, we are still moving in and things have not settled down enough at this point to allow me to do this. So, the dead time is often being filled with the TV option. I am a bit of a news junky and these are very active times with the Russians and Ukrainians, Israel and the Palestinians. However, news channels are very repetitive and after the first 15 minutes, you pretty much have it and it is time to move on to the next activity.

To combat this, I have started to put together a schedule. I work out at the gym the first thing in the morning. I have explored volunteer activities at the local Humane Society and will soon be doing some part-time professional activities. The question is how you can fill the hours so that you are doing meaningful and interesting activities. This is a bit more of a struggle. In fact, it is much more of a struggle than I would have thought.

Some people retire and think that they can spend each day playing golf. The question is how long you can continue to do this without getting bored. My thing is not golf, but the beach. So that I don’t get too much of a good thing, I have limited my beach days to no more than twice a week. In addition, I am looking into buying a kayak and a sailboat. However, again too much of a good thing can get boring over time. It is important to find a diverse set of meaningful activities. When you are tempted to plop down and turn on the TV (particularly in the middle of the day), try to come up with an immediate alternative. For example, what things are around you that you have not explored yet. Turn off the TV and explore these things. Or, in my case pick up a musical instrument and play.

The difficulty is that you have probably spent many years regimented by a set work schedule. Now that you don’t have this structure, you need to proactively develop an activity plan. I am still struggling with this – much more than I would have expected.

#5: Establishing Healthcare Is Not Easy

Healthcare in retirement present its own set of challenges. There is Medicare Part “A,” Part “B” and Part “D” which are the standard options. You will be forced to sign up for Part “A” around the time you turn 65, although you probably will not use it if you are still working and on an employer’s plan (there is no Part “A” premium required). Medicare Part “B” includes things such as doctor’s visits and the like and can be delayed until you retire. Part “D” is prescription drug coverage. However, there is also Medicare Part “C” known as the Advantage plans. Under part “C” you opt for coverage offered by a private insurer. This plan may offer the same coverage as Medicare part “B” and part “D.” However, you may have some additional benefits offered such as limited dental and vision coverage. In addition, some plans offer free gym memberships as well. Part “C” plans can be “free.” Well, they are not really free – you just pay your normal Part “B” monthly premium and the government, in turn pays the private company. I found a really good Part ”C” plan though Humana.

Sounds easy, right? Well, it got a bit tricky. You see, Medicare has a base premium that they charge everyone. That amount currently is $104.90 per month and is deducted from your Social Security payment. However, if you have a relatively high income, that base premium can be increased by as much as 2.5 times. You are probably saying that your income will drop substantially in retirement and you fall well below the criteria for increased Medicare premiums. That’s what I thought until I got a letter from Medicare informing me that my premium would be double the base premium. How could this be? Well, in determining what your premium should be, Medicare looked up my income from 2012, provided them by the IRS. The problem was that this income was for a working year before I retired and was relatively high. When I called them to challenge this, they required that I set up a meeting with my local Social Security office to discuss this. I was able to back them down to the base premium by estimating what I thought my total income would be for 2014, but that was a guess and it was a hassle.

Then Humana told me I couldn’t be part of an Advantage Plan because I was not signed up for Medicare Part “B” (I was but it was in transition in the Medicare system). Then Humana informed Medicare that I might have been uninsured for over 63 days which would have triggered an ongoing premium penalty (this also was not true). Every day you can expect something.

So, don’t be fooled by “simple online signup.” There will be hassles and things are unlikely to go smoothly. If there is ANY possibility for a fowl-up, there will be. Expect this. That’s one way that I filled up my beginning days of retirement. The key is don’t get upset – take everything in stride and things will inevitably work out.

As you might have guessed, it hasn’t been boring. The challenges continue. However, I am absolutely convinced that the decision to retire was a good one – it is time to move on to this new life! If you are considering retirement, just make the call and adjust as you need to. If you are at or beyond the full Social Security retirement age, there is no reason not to!

Posted by: drdata921 | July 17, 2014

A Harrowing Tale About Dealing with the Banks

I am back at least for now. My last post on the journeyintoretirement blog was the end of March. In that interim period I have gone from planning my retirement to actually entering that golden period. We wanted to retire in Pensacola Florida and found the perfect house. We realized that if we don’t buy now, it would not be available, but I still had one year until I planned to retire. So, I approached my employer to allow me to work remotely and was told that it was not corporate policy.

So, I retired! It was a decision borne out of pure emotion. I am usually more rational and analytical, but it just felt right and I did it. Two months in and it appears to be one of the better decisions in my life.

However, the transition was not painless. Let me tell you about . . .

Getting a mortgage for your retirement dream house: A cautionary tale about dealing with the banks

I am going to tell you about my experience, a fiasco with the Bank of America. I am not sure if other banks are better or worse than B of A, but you can make the call. I toyed with not revealing what bank was involved, but they need to fess up – so, here’s to you Bank of America.

Since we were selling our house in the St. Louis area to move to Florida, I needed a bridge loan that would tide me over in case we had to purchase the house in Florida before we sold the house in Missouri. So, I talked with my local loan officer and he came up with the perfect solution: They would give me a home equity loan to the maximum they could and the rest would be funded through a mortgage. The home equity loan would be paid off when the Missouri house sold. He had it solved. Until I was informed by the bank a couple of weeks later that since they had been burned once in the past by people holding two mortgages, they no longer would allow this (ONCE in the past? I thought that they were a large bank).

However, it was still OK because I would use retirement savings to cover what was not available after the mortgage and replace this money when the house in Missouri sold. Unfortunately, the bank was not so accommodating. To wit:

The bank will require a LOT of documentation from you – expect to provide the exact same documents not once, but several times.

From February until May, I was required to provide not only updated documents, but the exact same documents a minimum of three times. Tell them that you already had provided something and they will tell you if you don’t provide it again, they can’t process the mortgage request.

Going into retirement magically morphs you from a valued customer to a BUM

When my company said no to the remote requests, I advised the bank that I would be going into retirement. That is when the hell really began. You see, from the perspective of the bank, people going into retirement have no income and they have no savings resources. I learned this bitter truth from a realtor. The perspective of the bank is that since you can fake or counterfeit any document on the internet (or through other means), any documentation you may provide is considered bogus. You have no Social Security or Pension – those documents can be faked. You have no 401k or IRA savings. Those documents can also be faked. So, although the bank asks for a lot of documentation, they believe none of what you provide.

I found it curious that they continuously questioned my ability to service the mortgage until I realized that they were not considering sources of retirement income. Savings also were highly suspect.

But, my loan officer once again had a solution. I was to shift a substantial amount from my 401K or IRA accounts into my checking account so that the bank underwriters could see that the money was there and could be used to pay the mortgage. I needed to do this for a minimum of two months. He indicated that this would “guarantee” approval of the mortgage. However, that money becomes taxable once it is shifted from your 401k to checking. In other words, the cost shifts to me with no real guarantees. So, I did this, but approval of the loan was still not forthcoming. I mentioned to my loan officer that if he didn’t believe the loan would be approved, I was quite willing to pull the funds from my retirement saving and fund the purchase of the Florida house with cash. He was adamant that I didn’t need to do that. “The mortgage will be approved – have faith in us.”

Pushed to the 11th Hour

We needed to close on the house in Florida by May 30. There was no wiggle room. I played this annoying game with the bank from late February up until about the middle of May. Finally, on May 23, one week before the closing mandated by the contract, the Bank of America loan processor told the lawyer who was doing the closing to schedule the closing for May 29 – Most would assume that this meant that the mortgage had been approved, but read on.

So, on Wednesday, May 28, the day before the scheduled closing, I got into my car and began the 12 hour drive to Pensacola. This is when it got really interesting. I was in the soy fields of Tennessee, about four hours into the trip when I got a call from my realtor in Pensacola. You see the bank had called the closing agent in Florida and said that the closing the next day was off. Over the course of the next three rest stops, I tried to reach the loan processor to find out why to no avail. Finally, at a rest stop in Mississippi I was able to reach my local loan officer in Missouri. He called the loan processor (apparently they accept calls from each other, but not customers). The reason for the holdup was that they needed another document (one that I had already sent to them at least twice in the past) – they were pretty adamant that I send it once again or they could not proceed with the application. So, I am on the road, at a rest stop in Mississippi, no document and certainly no fax machine available to me and there would be no closing unless I provided a document that they already had. The loan officer said that he would see what he could do and would call me back by the end of the day. Two months later, I still have not heard from him.

I arrived in Pensacola that evening at around 8:30 pm, tired, angry and stressed. It was enough to push me over the edge – I decided that I would procede the next morning to gather the cash that I needed from my retirement accounts. I did and the closing went off without a hitch one day later. In actuality, there will be a nasty tax implication, but we will be better off in the long run. So, I left the lawyer’s office after closing feeling really good. We owned our dream house free and clear. However, there was also another positive implication I didn’t anticipate. My closing costs went from around $11,000 when the bank was involved to a mere $375. Think the bank was making a profit? And yet, they were still sandbagging.

Understand the Incentives

So, what was really going on here? It turns out that the congressional legislation (Dodd/Frank) that was trying to stop the bank practices that caused the crash in 2008 was causing some internal strife for the banks. I found out that if the underwriters were to approve a loan and the loan defaulted within six months, the underwriter would be fired immediately. So, the attitude of the underwriters was “convince me that I should give you a loan” rather than “let’s see how we can make this work.” They were looking at nothing but negatives because they wanted to say no! You don’t lose your job if you say no. The local loan officer on the other hand was given a commission on any loan that he were able to get through. So, my suggestion that I would go to cash on the purchase was not in his interest. He pushed to the very end to keep me in the process if there was any possibility he would be paid. Pretty slimy practices on both parts.

How do you get the house you want when you retire

This again was advice I got from a realtor. Here you have two options. Option #1: Buy your retirement house before you retire. You will still have income from your current job and it will look like a vacation house purchase to the bank. Option #2: Lie!! In general, honesty may be the best policy, but when the bank is involved, not so much. Don’t tell them you are retiring and make it look like a vacation home purchase. You may have to carry two mortgages for awhile, but it will be much easier on your mental health.

Post Script

After closing on the house in Florida I heard NOTHING from the bank for the better part of six weeks. At that point, I got a letter in the mail telling me that I didn’t have the income to warrant approval of the mortgage request. I read this letter as I was sipping wine on the deck of the house we had just purchased – I was rather amused. About one week later, I got an e-mail from the loan processor saying that I had not provided additional information that they needed and that this delay could slow down the mortgage approval. I started singing the words to the song, “Bring in the Clowns.” One additional little tidbit: About that time, Bank of America announced a substantial loss in their first quarter earnings – brought about by a reduction in home mortgages that they were funding – Hello, is anyone listening at B of A? Didn’t think so!!

Posted by: drdata921 | March 21, 2014

The Key to Success in Life Is . . . .

What is the key to success in life? Let’s take your success in a career or business as an example. Is success guaranteed by an education at an Ivy League school? Certainly many of our successful business and political leaders were trained at these institutions. However, they are only a small proportion of graduates. And, there are a lot of counter examples. Take Bill Gates, arguably one of the most successful entrepreneurs of our time. Did you know that Mr. Gates was a Harvard drop-out? So education may help, but it is not a guarantee of success.

How about the idea that successful people are smarter and more knowledgeable than the rest of us? Certainly, there are many examples of smart people who have been successful. However, there are many more examples of smart and knowledgeable people who have not succeeded. In fact, I could argue that being highly knowledgeable could keep you from being successful. How many people have you seen in the business world who are so knowledgeable that the companies that they work for can’t afford to let them leave their roles? So goes the old adage, “if you are irreplaceable, you are unpromotable.” Also, there is the downside of strong expertise. One of the roles of our graduate schools is to socialize people into how professionals in their field think and behave. Often, when the situation calls for “out of the box” thinking, your professional training locks you into the box. So, superior intelligence and expertise do not necessarily guarantee success.

The Key to Success is Simpler Than You Could Imagine

What if I were to tell you that the key to success is much simpler, but less logical than education, intelligence, or knowledge? It simply comes down to attitudes and beliefs. It’s all about self-confidence and breaking free of the mental limitations you impose on yourself. You see, everyone has personal beliefs about themselves that define who and what they are. I am smart or I am average. I have certain abilities and limitations. The interesting thing is that we seldom test these beliefs and limitations. We, in a sense, construct a psychological cage around our mind. It’s a prison without bars. We just assume that the bars are there and we never test the reality. Psychologists have found that you can change not only who you are, but your successes in life by changing these attitudes and breaking free of untested limitations. Just pretend that they don’t exist and see what does or doesn’t happen. My god, where did the bars go?!

William James, the father of modern American psychology, discovered this strange truth in the late 1890’s. His insights were years ahead of their time. James believed that you can become anything you want to be by simply changing your attitudes and beliefs, and playing the role of the person you want to become. Let me give you some William James quotes:

• “Belief creates the actual fact. Human beings can alter their lives by altering their attitudes”
• “Begin to be now what you will be hereafter.”
• “The greatest discovery of my generation is that a human being can alter his life by altering his attitudes.”
• “Success or failure depends more upon attitude than upon capacity. Successful men [and women] act as though they have accomplished or are enjoying something. Soon, it becomes a reality. Act, look, feel successful, conduct yourself accordingly, and you will be amazed at the positive results.”
• “Pessimism leads to weakness, optimism to power.”

It’s all about what you believe. One key element of success is to remove the self-imposed limitations that lead to a destructive pessimism about what you can accomplish in your life. If you never test these limitations, then they are real – you have made them that way. But, the key to unlocking your potential is to challenge these untested beliefs and limitations. What if you tried to walk out of the psychological cage you have built only to find that the cage didn’t really exist – it was all in your mind? It was just a lot of false assumptions. Think of the pain it has caused you all of these years only to be total nonsense.

Are You Rational or Rationalizing

Now, here is where it becomes really interesting. William James was right and there is a reason. The conventional wisdom about human behavior is that we act in response to internal beliefs or in response to something happening in the external environment. That is, behavior is willful and rational, cause and effect. But, what if the reality was turned around – it’s really effect and cause, behave and then rationalize. The area of “attribution theory” in social psychology has discovered some eye-opening things about beliefs and behavior. When asked why they acted in some way people actually construct an answer on the fly. Rather than saying that I acted because of a certain belief or because something happened externally that caused the behavior, they go in the other direction. “Given my behavior, what must have been the cause?” They search the external environment and then within themselves to construct a reason. You see, people don’t really know the answer. Sometimes we rationalize the behavior not to look dumb and we know that we are doing it. However, more commonly we really don’t know.

Let’s take William James’ advice. If I just start acting like the person I would really like to become, like an actor playing a role, in time the role will become the reality. As I reconstruct the reasons for why I am acting in this new way and I see nothing externally to explain it, I will begin to believe that I must truly be that way. You have reconstructed your own reality and astonishingly, it works! Are people really that malleable or, some would say oblivious? The answer is yes and you can use this to your advantage. As your role playing begins to bring positive results and people start responding to you according to your new behaviors, the role becomes ingrained. Professional actors know this. Many have reported that their persona on stage sometimes spills over to their real lives. Do I know that I am acting a role – yes? Does it stop the role from transforming me into a different person? The evidence would say NO!

Is it really as simple as changing your attitudes, playing a new role and watching the transformation? The answer is yes in concept. However, a lot of work is involved in making this happen. The biggest danger is the tendency is to fall back to the old you. Even if it is not really working, it is something you are accustomed to and the habits have been formed. You need to be ever vigilant against letting old habits re-emerge and take over. However, if you truly want to change, the effort is well worth it and you can make it happen. The key to success and happiness truly is within each of us!

Posted by: drdata921 | March 14, 2014

The Transition into Retirement

“How we perceive a situation and how we react to it is the basis of our stress. If you focus on the negative in any situation, you can expect high stress levels. However, if you try and see the good in the situation, your stress levels will greatly diminish.”

Catherine Pulsifer – Inspirational Author

Those of you who follow this blog might have noticed that there have been some recent gaps in the weekly posts. The reason for that is that we have just begun the transition from working life into retirement mode. We are in the process of selling our house in the St. Louis area and buying a house in our chosen retirement location of Pensacola, Florida. So, every spare minute has been taken up painting, cleaning and decluttering our current house so that we can put it on the market. Whatever free time we have had has been spent talking to bank loan officers, real estate agents, insurance companies, and of course negotiations with the seller of the Pensacola house. The net is that everything seems to be up in the air and life is happening at a frenetic pace. However, the pieces are beginning to fall into place. Three months from now everything will be settled.

Observations about the Transition

Moving into retirement is exciting. I am looking forward to this with great anticipation. Not only will I have greater freedom than I do now, but a major transition like this provides the opportunity to change course on many things in my life that have not been working. I look at all of the things that I have wanted to do over the years, but have not had the time or energy to accomplish. I have a great piano, but have been too tired or burnt out to sit down and practice. I have a telescope to star gaze, but have manufactured excuse after excuse not to go out and use it. I have outlines for books that I want to write, but sometimes struggle just to write this weekly blog. Think of how much better things could be and this is my opportunity to turn the corner – to avoid falling back to the usual routine and to move on to something more positive and fulfilling.

Life Stressors on the Road to Retirement

This time of transition got me thinking about some research I had read when I was in graduate school. Change as good as it can be sometimes, can also lead to stress that has negative health consequences. Thomas Holmes and Richard Rahe, two professors at the University of Washington, School of Medicine looked at life changes and how they affected the health and wellbeing of people. They were able to give several common life changes points in terms of how stressful they were, how they related to health problems and even accident proneness. Here are a couple of life changes pertinent to people entering retirement along with their stress related scores:

Retirement (45 Points)
Divorce (73 Points)
Business Readjustments (39 Points)
Change in Financial Status (38 Points)
Change in Line of Work (36 Points)
Frequency of Arguments (35 Points)
Spouse Starts/Stops Work (26 Points)
Change in Living Conditions (25 Points)
Change in Personal Habits (24 Points)
Change in Working Hours (20 Points)
Change in Recreation (19 Points)
Change in Social Activities (18 Points)
Change in Sleeping Habits (16 Points)
Change in Eating Habits (15 Points)

Note that some of these are negative and some are positive events, but all have a stressing effect on your body. Retirement is a time of substantial change that can affect what you do, when you do it, and even the quality of your relationships. I included divorce above because for some people, transitioning into a new phase of life can mean that they re-evaluate their relationships. Retirement is a natural inflection point for changes of many kinds.

If all of the things above were to happen to you as you retired, you would have a total of 429 points. What does this mean? Holmes and Rahe found that if you had 300 or more life change points over a relatively short period of time, your risk for illness or accident was substantial. This could involve anything from a bad cold or the flu to a heart attack, stroke, or even cancer. Accidents become more likely because high levels of stress reduce your attentiveness to what is happening around you. You are more likely to crash your car or walk into a wall.

If you had between 150 – 299 life change points, your risk became moderate and less than 150 points meant that your risk was slight. So, even good change can be stressful in terms of how your body reacts. Many of the items in the list are likely, so you have a heightened risk as you enter this period of your life.

Calming Influences

All changes are not stressful. Some will actually act to calm you down simply through the avoidance of bad situations. Think about life without the hassles of a morning and evening commute. What if you no longer needed to worry about deadlines and the requirement to be highly productive all of the time? What if you move from a sprawling urban location to one with great natural beauty? Would your stress level not go down?

There are clear offsets, but in the intermediate term as you are making the changes, stress is likely to be elevated. The interesting thing that I have found is that these negative health consequences don’t happen as you are in transition and accumulating life change points. It happens as you are exiting the transition. It is the cumulative effect of the changes that cause the problems and this builds over time before they release.

Protect Yourself

What can you do to protect yourself during this transitional period as you enter retirement and incur these big changes? The answer is the big three: Diet, Exercise, and Attitude. I went onto WebMD and here are some of the recommendations for how to control stress:

Diet can be used to control stress by increasing brain chemicals that have a calming effect, such as serotonin, and reducing stress-related hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline. Carbohydrates, particularly of the complex variety can increase serotonin which will have a calming effect. Eat whole grain breakfast cereals, breads, and pasta. However, stay away from simple carbohydrates such as sweets, soda, and definitely dial back on alcohol. Oranges and fatty fish (Omega-3) are very effective at curbing the harmful chemicals produced by stress. Spinach and avocados have high levels of potassium that can lower blood pressure. Tea has been found to be effective for recovery from stressful events and nuts like pistachios, walnuts, and almonds provide clear cardiovascular benefits. So, diet is a very important element for managing stress.

Exercise has well-documented benefits as a stress buster. The recommendation is for 30 minutes of moderate to vigorous aerobic exercise at least three to four times a week. This could include running, walking, stair climbers, etc. Some people are waiting for actual retirement to begin an exercise regimen when “they will have the time.” However, don’t wait – you need the benefits now.

Attitude is an important component of stress management. Psychologists discovered years ago that stress is largely an internal, not an external process. It is not so much what is happening around you that causes stress. It has more to do with how you interpret these external events. So, if you can stay focused on the positive and look at the good that will result from your transition into retirement, stress will magically decline. Treat each day as an adventure, not as something to be endured as you move closer to retirement. I envision myself paddling a kayak through the inter-coastal waterways of Pensacola and this image brings a smile to my face and incredible inner serenity. So, create a calming vision to focus on for yourself as you move through these changes. Have confidence that it will all work out in the end and enjoy the journey.

As you transition into retirement things could get a bit frenetic. However, take things one day at a time, use diet, exercise, and attitude as you move through this period, and most of all, ENJOY YOUR RETIREMENT when it finally arrives!

Posted by: drdata921 | February 28, 2014

THE YIN AND YANG OF DEMOGRAPHIC WAVES

Recently, I was introduced to the very interesting concept of “demographic waves.” The current demographic wave is represented by baby boomers. Think of this as a group of people moving through time with people ahead of them and people behind. Metaphorically, it is sort of like a large rodent moving through the digestive tract of a snake. It is not that the baby boomer phenomenon is a new concept. However, the image of groups of people moving through time is an interesting way of framing it.

Groups of people, such as boomers, represent a large wave that has exerted significant influences as they have passed through various life milestones. These influences are political, economic, and social. Some of the influences are positive for the society as a whole and some could be relatively negative. On the positive side, I would attribute much of our progress on civil rights and women’s issues, sexual attitudes, development of a multi-ethnic culture and preferences, and the legalization of marijuana to the boomer demographic wave. On the other hand, liberalized attitudes towards drug use may have come back to bite us as the Mexican drug cartels have clearly illustrated.

Demand for Services

Think of an aging wave passing through time and their impact on the economy and the demand for services. Let’s say that you are managing a school system. As the wave of boomers entered school age, there was pressure on local governments to ramp up the system to handle the greater number of students. However, here is the rub: Once the wave passes through their school years and the number of kids entering the educational system diminishes, you are left with excess capacity. How do you deal with this and how do you anticipate the next demographic wave. Think of the implications for teacher training, hiring, and layoffs. Boomers are defined as people born in the years 1946 through 1964. That means that the back side of the boomer wave was leaving high school in the early 1980’s and leaving college in the late 1980’s or early 1990’s.

Just like in business, if demand for goods and services is constant over time, planning is relatively easy. The challenges come when there are periodic changes and particularly if they are of the magnitude of the baby boomer wave. But, it doesn’t end there. We saw another wave as boomers aged into their child bearing age years – the Junior boomer wave. The pattern of demand changes once again putting pressure on the best planned and managed of systems.

As the wave ages through various points, the demand for goods and services change. Think of the implications for health care and nursing homes as the boomer wave moves into their senior years and retirement. Think of the opportunities and challenges for marketers as this wave passes through various life stages. Some goods and services come into demand and some decline. An astute marketer will anticipate these changes and step out in front of the wave. Others will be crushed by it.

Economic Repercussions

There was a very interesting article in our local paper last weekend about the implications of the boomer wave on the economy and the labor force. Think about this:

• Monthly reported unemployment rates are based on people who are looking for work as a percentage of those available to work (actually working + looking for work). This number is called “labor force participation.” The other side of the coin is people who are not participating in the labor force. According to this article, in 2012 and 2013, 80% of people dropping out of the labor force were due to retirements as opposed to people giving up the search. But, here are the implications: currently only 63% of the adult population are labor force participants, nearly the lowest point since the late 1970’s. Will this accelerate as boomers enter retirement?

• Notwithstanding the relatively high unemployment rates currently, there is an anticipated labor shortage in the future. However, there is more to this than just the raw numbers. At present, there are frequent reports by employers that they have openings, but can’t find workers with the skills to fill them. Even now, it is much more than just more people vying for fewer jobs. However, consider this: many of the boomers who are moving into retirement are experienced, skilled and knowledgeable workers. When these people leave the work force it is equivalent to the proverbial brain drain. Sure, you are dropping off some of the highly compensated workers to be replaced by those with lower salaries. Companies are very happy about that. However, a company does not hire workers just because they can pay them less. They hire for experience, expertise and knowledge. So, you may lower your payroll, but also your capabilities and productivity.

Consider the implications of that. If I am a retiree with several years of experience in a field, I should be feeling pretty good. If I am considering part-time consulting or freelancing when I retire, particularly in fields where a high level of technical competence is required the sky could be the limit. However, as a retiree, I come back on my terms!

• For the society as a whole, there are some potential economic downsides. One of the most talked about is the ratio of workers paying into Social Security compared to recipients. In the 1940’s, when the Social Security system first started, there were 42 workers paying into the system for each recipient. In 2011, that number had shrunk to 2.9 workers for each recipient. However, the economic implications of the baby boomer wave go well beyond just the stress on the retirement safety net. The loss of a massive number of workers into retirement goes right to the core of economic growth in the US. Most economists believe that growth rates in the gross domestic product (GDP), a measure of productivity, must be above an annual rate of 3% for the economy to be healthy. However, the exit of baby booms into retirement and its impact on the labor force, at least for the next couple of years, may limit GDP growth to only around 2.6%. For many years boomers where a major factor in the work force and now they are exiting. Will we see a reduced work force and lower economic productivity as a result? Do you see the emerging picture?

“Politics is local”

The political implications of the boomer wave is enormous. Think of the looming fights over Social Security and Medicare and the huge voting block that boomers represent. Social Security used to be the “third rail of politics.” Smart politician stayed away from any changes. Now it has nuclear implications, particularly in the voting booth. Improvements in health care and health in general are boomer issues. So health care will be part of campaign platforms like never before. The need to provide financial security through regulation of the banks and the huge Wall Street institutions all could be boomer issues with political ramifications. At present, the lobbyists control the game, but how much longer will that continue?

So, boomers through their sheer size are a force to be reckoned with. And, one thing is clear: the demographic wave of baby boomers will have an impact on the social, economic, and political landscape of American society for years to come. Politicians, marketers, and economists take note – “HEAR US ROAR!”

Posted by: drdata921 | February 22, 2014

Retirement Relocation Confusion

If you are like me, you spend a lot of time reading articles about retirement. One of the really interesting topics has to do with where to retire. The question is how to find a place to live in retirement that “checks off all of the boxes?” That is how do you find a place that provides all of the things you are looking for?

I subscribe to a magazine called “Where to Retire” that provides some interesting perspectives. I would recommend this magazine wholeheartedly if you are considering a move:

WHERE TO RETIRE MAGAZINE LINK

If you go on-line you will find a multitude of articles on the topic. The problem is that nearly every day there is another article entitled “The 10 Best Places to Retire.” I find these articles on Yahoo – Finance and on several websites that I subscribe. While some locations are common to most – you find Madison, WI, Austin, TX, and Seattle WA on at least half of the top 10 lists – there is a huge amount of variation in terms of which locations make the list. In some cases, I scratch my head. I am sure that Dayton Ohio is a lovely place, but as a top 10 retirement location . . .?

As useful and fun as these top 10 articles are to read, they reinforce one basic fact: One person’s nirvana is another person’s place to be avoided. Preferences are very individual. What is critically importance to you in a retirement location could be totally irrelevant to someone else. So, I can provide you with a list of the top 10 places to retire, but the list will be little more that suggestions for you to consider – agree with or make fun of (sorry Dayton). If you really want to know the best place for you, you need to do a personal analysis.

This sounds a bit complicated and it will require some research, but the results will be helpful and provide you with some peace-of-mind if you are considering relocation. Here are the steps to follow:

1) Develop a shortlist of locations you would consider. To keep it manageable, I would limit this to no more than 10 – 12 locations. This may be based on places you have been thinking about or locations you have always wanted to live, or your favorite vacation spots. For me, I have always wanted to live in Denver, but there have never been the opportunities. Seattle is my favorite city in the country and made my shortlist. You can get some ideas from the top 10 articles and other information on the internet. You can also get some great guidance from the book “Retirement Places Rated.”

Just a side note: Some will ask if Seattle is my favorite city in the country, why not just retire there. That is an excellent question. The answer is that in retirement, you have to consider an array of factors. The ambiance and amenities in Seattle are phenomenal, but the cost-of-living could put a strain on retirement finances. When I was younger, “if it feels good, do it” was my mantra. In retirement, you need to be a little more careful.

2) Next, determine which factors you are going to use to rate the retirement locations you have identified. “Retirement Places Rated” can be a very helpful guide here. However, it is not the only source. So, I would consider factors such as cost-of-living, recreational opportunities, educational opportunities, the local economy (part-time jobs, etc.), ambiance, health care, the tax situation, etc. Include whatever factors are important to you and will influence the quality of your retirement. I would also include a final category called “intangibles.” For example, we at one time considered Tucson AZ as a potential location. It had a lot going for it. The city has a very nice desert/ southwestern flavor, housing was cheap and very unique, it had a vibrant and accessible college community, and it was a haven for sports activities. However, we had to eliminate it from the list because of one intangible: It had a lot of predators (both in the air and on the ground) and it seemed unlikely that our precious kitties would survive. They are our “kids” after all. What are the intangibles for you – the deal makers or breakers?

3) Now comes the fun part! On a sheet of paper (on in a spreadsheet) list the locations you have identified down a column. Across the top of the page, list the factors that you have identified to rate each of these potential locations. As an additional step you might want to create some sort of weighting system to signify which of these factors are more or less important. I have found this to be helpful, but it is up to you.

4) Evaluate each of your potential retirement locations on each of these factors. List the pros and cons. For example, let’s say that you selected Tucson. What are the good and bad things from a cost-of-living, local economy, recreation, etc.? Fill in each cell with the information you could find. As you review these pros and cons consider how important each is to you. Determine how all of these potential locations stack up. In addition to being a useful way of assessing various options, it is a great tool to spark conversation between you and your spouse. You can come to a better understanding of what is important to each of you so that you can strike a workable compromise.

I, at one time, tried to do a much more mathematical approach. I found ratings on the important factors on-line and from sources such a “Retirement Places Rate.” I then multiplied these rating by the important of each and summed the total across the factors I was using to rate. In theory, the locations with the highest overall ratings should be your prime choices. However, in some cases, the results just didn’t feel right. So, I think getting too numeric is overkill and could lead you down the wrong path. After all, this is as much an emotional decision as it is rational.

Retirement relocation is one of the important decisions that you could make. This a new phase in your life and you may be selecting a new home for the next 20 to 30 years. It is a decision worthy of a lot of research and discussion. In the end, it will be an important component of you retirement satisfaction.

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