Thursday, January 29, 2015

Taking stock and investing

Almost everyone starts to look ahead and plan for retirement at some point before retirement actually arrives.

This is practical and downright necessary. 

Advance preparation for the post-career years is an intuitive step as well as a practical one.

It's a kind of natural planning. It's an instinctive scan of the wide horizon as we see our working days winding down. 

The future has wealth in it. We know this from all angles. The richness waiting for us is more readily available when we give retirement planning its due. 

This is done when we take stock of present means, talents and interests, and put thought to how these assets can be invested when this later time is ours. 

When retirement gets here many of us (no matter how well our time and interests are currently invested) have an itch that needs to be scratched. This itch stays with us until we come up with a remedy for it. 

The itch is often specifically the desire to relocate. The general remedy is to acknowledge the itch and to follow through and do something about it.

Moving houses is a big retirement topic. Some of us start thinking about where we want to live when we retire long before we retire. It becomes a more urgent subject when the alarm clocks for getting up for work have been permanently silenced.

Retirees change locations for many reasons. The homes where we raised our families and know everyone on the block often no longer fill the bill when we own all our days. 

The view out the window, so to speak, isn't quite the same. This is certainly one factor in deciding to move at this time in our lives.

It can also come from a desire for a different kind of house. After years in a colonial with the sleeping area separated by stairs from the living area there may be great interest in a ranch-style with everything convenient on one floor. 

Or we wonder what it'd be like to be a condo owner and its ease of closing up and spending part of the year elsewhere.

Sometimes the desire is connected to our present lifestyle. Some of us upsize. This can amuse or surprise those who know us. They figure we're not getting any younger. They assume we'd opt for more compact space.

Retirees who choose to go bigger are very likely looking at the big picture. We want plenty of room for when our adult children and their families visit. 

Extra house space can be welcome on any basis. Many partners appreciate area to spread out when both are fulltime at home.

Affordable housing is critical at this stage, more so as retirement dollars don't stretch as far as the career paychecks we've been accustomed to. Shrinking incomes lead many of us to do something about reducing our living space.

The decision to downsize can come from financial aspects but also from a strategy to reduce the responsibilities of home and yard tasks. 

Being finished with home maintenance can be such a relief for some. Goodbye snow blower, raking and storm windows to put on! 

Others downsize because keeping up a home is more than we can continue to take on. This tends to be a sobering reality but it can lighten our mental burden to set aside what no longer fits.

The chance to relocate opens to retirees as perhaps never before in our lives. Whether relocation entails setting up house across the street or hiring a moving van to haul our goods cross country we can line it up and make it happen.

My hunch is that economic factors, a more suitable climate, a thirst for change and hankering to move closer to family or our roots are factors that trump all others in why we pick up stakes and actually relocate.

The January/ February 2015 Where to Retire magazine has an article called "Finding the 'Perfect Distance' " which caught my eye. 

My husband and I occasionally wonder if we'll ever try relocating closer to our adult working children. You miss your kids even when it's you who give them the wings to fly.

The article suggests the perfect distance from family differs for each of us. We come out ahead by being as flexible as possible when deciding what "perfect" is on our terms.

When relocating takes us further from family than we prefer, but the move is important to us for sound reasons that add substantially to our quality of life, this is a comparison of values we do well to take time to contemplate. 

We make a healthier decision when we have support from our family, We benefit when they are our cheerleaders. 

By perceiving the positives, as well as noting what may have to be negotiated for our decision to be a good choice for all concerned, we walk away having forged a better understood decision.

All who give even minimal thought to relocating are struck by its personal impact. A move of our own choice recharges us. It revs up our engines. 

Likewise, relocating can feel scary. All the ramifications that come with significantly altering our lifestyle start to dawn on us.

Relocating can mean moving away from family and close ties of longstanding nature. This can mimic, at least at first, the effect of being washed onto a deserted island in the middle of the ocean. 

You can feel temporarily shipwrecked despite knowing your move puts you on a beach abundantly supplied with all the wonderful fruits to pick by hand that will nourish you.

Moves are major decisions. They deserve to be treated as the important life transactions they are.

It's recommended to gather information beforehand. One method is to make a list of "wants." This is a list of  the things you want in or from a new place, or expect to gain from the move, or why the move is important to you in the first place. 

This want list sums up the kind of home and setting your daydreams take you to. They spell out what is desirable about a new place and the environment it will put you into.

We probably many times picture our ideal home. We build in our heads an image of what we want our neighborhood to be. 

We add touches each time we revisit these held images. We refine the pictures as we go along. These are the details that should go on this list.

Next go ahead and jot down a list of "needs." These are the items requisite to putting a foundation under your dreams. They're the things that tell you that relocating would be a solid gain for the effort expended.

A list comparing needs and wants astutely sums up whether relocating is the answer, or the correct answer for now. 

It can help you see you're fine just where you are. All it may take is to implement ways to give your current place some of the "wants" from off that first list.

But if relocating is still the itch that needs to be scratched, then this is the hour for action. Relocating allows us to be proactive with our curiosity. 

If we've ever wondered what it'd be like to live someplace different this is the time to wonder no longer.

Moving houses (cities, countries, etc.) lets us dress up our yearnings and turn them inside out. We're free to follow where this curiosity takes us, for as far as we have the interest, inclination or finances.

This fabulous chance to relocate elsewhere can take some getting used to. Up to this time career commitments and family priorities have largely determined the pattern of our decision making. 

Others first, as well as other things first, have largely influenced how our decisions have been come to.

With retirement this changes. It's like the floor suddenly shifts. We hold the reins. It can seem almost too much autonomy.

It sounds odd to now be able to say, "Here's where I'll move. This is where I want to be." But trust me. It'll sink in. A step at a time. 

Or it'll come as a leap of confidence. We'll simply know that relocating (or staying put) is the thing to do. 

We've done our homework. We've paid attention to our mental calculations and the equally wise urgings of our hearts. Decisions will come as they're meant to.

Perhaps it was easier when there were fewer options. Folks until not so very long ago retired without the benefit of the many planning aids that are our resources today.

We can be grateful these times let us try more possibilities, or at least let us be tantalized by them, knowing they're doable. 

In the meantime, in the buildup to retirement, and most certainly within the hopefully productive span of retirement years, it's smart to be cognizant of the guidance inside us that we tap into every day.

This guidance often yields itself only when we take action. It can be any small amount of action. Action of any kind is a signal that we intend to move forward and are doing so right now. 

This activates the help we need for that moment. It gets us there. It can be our truest guide for finding the gold in the years ahead wherever we are, wherever we choose to move or decide to stay. 

I believe each of us knows when we're living our best life. It comes from taking stock and investing in where we are now. This is certainly the case when careers are over and free time flows to us.

We still have some work to do. We should continually test the waters. We learn to have no regrets for what has passed. It involves focusing our best on the present moment, which is the front porch to the future. 

Our best life makes itself known. We feel happy deep down and all around. It's the happiness that puts to advantage everything we've worked and dreamed for. 

Ro Giencke - January 29, 2015

Monday, January 19, 2015

Some thoughts for MLK Day

We live in agitated times. There's unrest everywhere.

This sense of upheaval is palpable. 

It's on the surface where it can be seen and felt and affects the millions. 

Unrest is within us as well, and that can be where the most harm is done. 

Disgruntled lives are common. Many folks are seriously unhappy. Almost all of us are deeply concerned about the state of the world. 

We wonder about the place we're creating out of this one earth. We harbor environments where children can't play safely or freely, and human potential is cramped or goes wasted. 

Recognition of our failure, and the realization of our shortcomings, in dealing with real needs is great.

We turn on the news and see hatred rage. We're bowled over by or tremble at the violence in all its shapes. Harsh cries are a cacophony we cannot dodge.

We see continual protests. Someone is always protesting something. It may be an individual, a few persons or large marching groups calling attention to some concern. 

The media add their part to scenes of strife and discord with coverage replayed over and over. 

You begin to think these are the only happenings going on. You can be misled to believe there's no such thing as nice, happy and normal any more.

It's time to shake off this disordered existence we've made for us. Concentrating only on the negative, while not trying at the same time to counterbalance the actual ills of these times about us, is causing huge damage to the fabric of our daily lives. 

Even from sincere intent we're skewing perspective when we let fear and lashing out and loud voices raised for or against any situation be the guide for how we proceed in solving the big and many times smaller and always thorny or downright critical problems.

Keeping with this way is a detriment to the well-being of those for whom society was formed to protect, especially the young and those who require a sharing hand. 

For every angry shout-out, or clenched fist, for every smart-aleck comment or cutting remark, we're called instead to think and act with a fresh sense of the fragility of the framework by which we are all connected. 

The furor that seethes that has become part of our universal culture has need of a lot of mending if it's going to settle down. It takes some practice but it can be done.

We can begin by collectively lowering our tone. Lower the decibel and gained harmony is an instinctual response. 

Respect another's view. Hear their point. Let the other person have their turn. Be happy for another's success. Smile. It opens doors and hearts and lets the sunshine in.

Chill a bit. Don't take everything personally. Don't lightly take offense. Maybe you simply misread a signal or misconstrued what was said. Most of us are trying our best. Let's do our best to remember this.

Be the first to apologize. Don't be afraid to forgive someone when the chance is offered. It can settle a score or cancel a dispute quicker than any other attempt at resolution of an issue. 

Be more generous than you've tried before. Notice the generosity around you. Believe your day, and the next person you meet, is the bearer of good.

You know the right thing to do. The right thing to do is in each of us.

It's in us because it's the pilot system put into human nature to hold society together. The more we're aware we have guidance available to us to act for good the more we change our actions to follow along those lines. 

We determine whether we want to cooperate with this benevolent driving force within us. When we do, and this means many of us (not just a few), it starts having a major effect.

Be considerate is key. It's a form of hospitality. Kind actions spread when consideration goes wholesale. This is the forward movement we should strive for. 

Be kind and see agitation decrease. Be kind and you help everyone beginning with you. Together we can forge a new spirit from our agitated times. Together we can add to peace.

Ro Giencke - January 19, 2015

Monday, January 12, 2015

Cool and Awesome

We wandered onto the subject of cool when one of us noted its longevity among us.  

Cool has been in our vocabulary forever, it seems, as a handy filler and describer of things. 

Al and I agree cool was around when we were young. We've used the word cool since we learned (at about fourteen) that we weren't cool but there was hope that someday we could be. 

In the meantime, looking around, recognizing the coolness factor wasn't with us, there were obviously those who were cool, and many diverse things too, which did fit the cool bill.

To be considered cool was coveted then and it's the same today. But cool means more than being utterly enviable and having the world figured out. 

Cool signifies whatever you want cool to be. That's the genius part of cool.  It doesn't get much easier than that. It describes something suitably enough and you move on. No wonder cool hangs around.

We chuckled at the coincidence of timing. Shortly after commenting on cool's staying power cool made it into the daily comics. 

It was in Baby Blues that cool appeared. It's in a scene showing Hammie (my favorite comic strip little fellow ) and his grandpa. They're in the backyard and you get the impression the grandpa is at Hammie's house for a visit.

Hammie says to his grandpa something like this: "So then we're agreed. The only word we have in common is cool." 

That seals it as far as I'm concerned. Cool still reigns. A six year old gives cool his stamp of approval for millions of comic strip followers to read.

This led us to think about slang we picked up when young. These were the words popular around us. We learned these words or phrases from older siblings, or from peers far savvier than us, and ahead of the curve in fads, or through TV which was continually tossing out catchy phrases. 

Likely we ran our slang words into the ground. It must have driven our parents batty to hear phrases whose cool factor they couldn't see repeated all day long.

Interestingly, very few of those then cool words have stayed with us we find. Searching around, I came up with "it was a blast." Everything was a blast in those days as a statement of having fun. Another recalled  phrase was "far out"  - like in "far out, man."

For years "neat"  had the same connotation as cool. Then it sort of disappeared, or has withdrawn a bit. 

There we drew a blank until Al recalled groovy. We grew hilarious over that, so out of our heads has that word been.

Groovy was our generation's pet word for ages it seems. When we exhausted its freshness it evaporated into thin air. It got shelved with other former hard hitters like 23 skidoo. 

That pat phrase of the 1920s - the flapper generation's buzz line - merely drew guffaws from us as young folks when we heard it the first time. Groovy no doubt will have the same impact on those younger than us and we give them that, let them laugh.

Coming out of the era in which "sweet" as slang has had its dominance the handy bywords of the newest generation are now establishing themselves. We hear them most, and hear them best, at restaurants when we eat out and where we're served by a young wait staff.

Their words get served up along with the food and drinks for us to chew over. Give your order and the response is "awesome." Tell the person who tends your table that you've enjoyed the meal and "perfect" is the sure-to-be reply, In any restaurant, in any place, these stock responses are mechanically trotted out. You can bet on it.

Slang is the simple (some might say mindless) phrases that indicate we're in the conversation even when sometimes we actually aren't.. It lets us be friendly, noncommittal and connecting all at the same time. There's something comforting about a word so ready to work so generously for us and that's why slang is apt for most situations.

Frequently used phrases repeated by many catch a cultural moment. For what they're worth they help define us and our times. 

Whether we look on something as groovy, cool, awesome, sweet or perfect we're in the game. We use these words to nimbly keep up because in the end, no one wants to be left behind.

Ro Giencke - January 12, 2015

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Believe in good

Hello 2015! 

It was recently pointed out that, with the new year in, we're now as close to the year 2030 as to 2000. 

Yikes was my first thought, and then I thought about it some more. 

Most of us remember the millennial year and the fears which preceded it. We hoped electricity grids would continue to work and that computers would prove digitally capable of transfer to the new century along with the rest of us. 

All that feels an astonishingly long time ago. It registers, in a way, as ancient history and at the same time it was gone in a flash. 

As a grade-schooler in the 1960s the year 2000 seemed light ages away. It was a date so far in the future it had the magic of the almost unobtainable.

It was so distant you could imagine anything about it. No one could tell you it couldn't happen. No one could tell you the wildest idea about it couldn't come true.

If thought about at all, 2000 was presented in terms of futuristic travel and marvelous inventions. Cars would self-drive is one of the things I remember reading about. 

This particular prognostication was perhaps written up in a scholastic newspaper, distributed weekly in the elementary classes in those years. The article came with an illustration of a dad at the steering wheel of a moving car.

He was depicted looking very carefree. He was taking his turn at a board game being played by the kids on a kind of table or console between the front seat and back seat, where they were. 

Perhaps he was simply looking on with affable interest but the thing is, his eyes weren't on the road. 

Mom had her own relaxed expression as the family drove along. Incredibly, not one of them showed any concern about where the car was going. It impressed me sufficiently to really stick.

Fifteen years by fifteen years time moves on. Each year begins a new slate bringing us ever closer to a new defined future. At the same time the old year and its undone business comes along with the switch of the calendar. 

Entry into the new year begins to shift meaning for lots of us as we move on in life. Dread of change, which can feel like undue upheaval, can come with the approach of new times.

This is a reason for lack of enthusiasm about the new year for some folks. The new year is unknown. It represents uncharted territory which, as you get older, forecasts an increasingly more challenging course.

Perhaps it's a subconscious wish to hold on to what's familiar. At any rate, numbers of us aren't giddy at prospects of a new year ahead. 

It's my hunch many are actually sad to see the old year go, even with its rough patches, which a year will give.

It's takes courage to expect good in change. Maybe that's what some of us run low on. It can require plenty of stamina to trust that good often comes with the new.

A few days into January a friend and I exchanged New Year's greetings. I.'m one who likes to say Happy New Year as often and to as many as I can. It's a friendly wish that helps to usher in January. It puts you on solid footing with all that is to come. 

She followed up by wondering aloud what, exactly, 2015 would bring. "It'll bring good," was my prompt assurance.. 

My automatic reply surprised me by its intensity. It was such an emphatic pronouncement. And yet it seemed right when I reflected on it. It's absolutely right to believe the new year will bring good.

It reminded me of a message on a tee-shirt I'd seen at the New Year. I noticed it because it said "Believe." 

Believe is a word which always makes me take note. Underneath "Believe" was the image of a butterfly and two words: "Butterfly effect."

Here's a young idealist was my thought as tee-shirt girl went by. She could have been me that many years ago.

My slogans for living weren't printed on tee-shirts back then but my philosophy was a similar match to hers. And they're still my slogans for living well, my own perspective for navigating this interesting world.

"Believe ... Butterfly effect " didn't stay on the tee-shirt, It began to accompany my thinking as it was intended to transmit itself.

The message iterates the theory that seemingly insignificant actions repeated over and over can have dramatic changing results.

It's like suggesting that the gentle flapping of butterfly wings can start a long chain of air disturbances that can cause a tempest of global proportions.

If something so gentle as myriads of butterflies can ultimately have widespread consequences, then surely repeated persistent actions of belief, good will and kindness can work their power too. 

These actions of will and choice can generate momentum that becomes positively sustained movement to impact and bring regenerative well-being to the face of the earth.

"Believe . . . Butterfly effect" has already traveled beyond tee-shirt girl. Just today I overheard snatches of conversation between two women who, running into each other in a supermarket parking lot, were.wishing each other a happy new year.

Their exchange was like between my friend and me. It ended with one of them saying, with conviction to her statement, that the new year would certainly hold good.

Maybe their visit drifted to me, which otherwise might have been missed, because "Believe . . . Butterfly effect" is a radar switched on to pick up and to absorb the good that is going on around you. 

This is how I interpret, anyway, the chance to hear my belief in the good 2015 will bring repeated by the stranger in the grocery store parking lot.

One person by one person the world can benefit from belief in good. 

It's advantageous to all of us to say good things and do good things. We can think of these actions as butterfly wings that can change events if not the entire world, 

Ro Giencke - January 6, 2015