Retirement = Free time …. not necessarily

Before I retired, I never really gave much thought to what I’d be doing with all of the “free time” which retirement was supposed to place at my disposal.  Based on the number of hobbies and pursuits that I have: such as ham radio, reading, photography, writing, etc., I suppose I assumed that I would occupy most of my time in the pursuit of those activities.

After nearly six months of retirement, that’s not been the case.  Bummer? Well, maybe.

raquel-martinez-96648-unsplWe all know that those two evil twins, Accountability and Responsibility, will raise their ugly heads when and where you least expect them!  Paying bills, balancing the checkbook, buying groceries, doing laundry, cutting the grass, running errands around town, and other mundane, yet very necessary tasks, fill as much of my “free time” as those aforementioned hobbies and pursuits.

Quite frankly, I believe that’s the way it should be.

It turns out that retirement is not like being set free on a giant playground with no responsibilities and no time constraints.

That said, I’ve recognized that retirement grants you, and you alone, a great deal of freedom in determining when and how you choose to address those things which still demand your attention and for which you are still responsible.  It’s a tough job, but somebody’s got to do it.

It took a while, but over the past few months I’ve come to the conclusion that the greatest reward of retirement is simply having:

           Freedom of choice when it comes to the deciding when to do those
           tasks you need to do versus those activities you want to do.

toa-heftiba-362237-unsplashIf you manage that freedom properly, it’s still possible to find yourself with an abundance of free time to do whatever it might be that you want to do each day; or conversely, to elect to do nothing at all!

And what a joy that last option can be!

I’ve come to believe that success in having an enjoyable and rewarding retirement will be determined by how well individuals balance this new found freedom with their on-going responsibilities.

In retirement, you really do become your own boss and take it from me, that’s real freedom!

That’s why, when others ask how I’m enjoying retirement, I tell them that I feel as if I’m residing in a very pleasant Alternate Universe from the one in which I existed during my working life.

And make no mistake, it’s a very satisfactory universe at that.

Photos by Toa Heftiba and Raquel Martinez on Unsplash

Principles vs Personalities

In church this morning, our minister asked us a very straight forward question, “Can you name someone who you look up to?”

I’ve been thinking about that question ever since, for the simple reason that I have a difficult time thinking of anyone who I can easily single out for that honor.  It’s not that I haven’t had people in my life who have had a significant impact on me.  It’s just that my life experiences have led me to place more value on the principles which people regularly practice than on the individuals themselves.

During my career, I spent several years working in a long-range planning and development role with the objective of not only ensuring business success by focusing on the things all businesses seek: ensuring product quality, profitability, and customer service for example; but perhaps more importantly on building an organization which would support and sustain long term, on-going world class performance.

Over time, we recognized that we were attempting to develop a Principle Centered organization, rather than one which was Personality Centered.

TeamworkOur model of a Principle Centered organization was one in which all employees knew, understood, practiced, and embraced the values and core principles of the organization; as well participated in the identification and achievement of the organization’s long term goals and objectives.

By contrast, a Personality Centered organization was one in which business success was largely a function of the ability of a limited number of key individuals to determine its goals and objectives and then to lead the rest of the organization in achieving them.  The problem with Personality Centered organizations is that it’s not often clear to the rest of the organization what, if any, principles guided the decision making process.

In a nut shell, we recognized that well defined and understood Principles can have an extraordinarily long life, whereas the Personalities within an organization typically change with surprising speed and regularity.

In other words, the goals, objectives, and vision of Principle Centered organizations were more likely to remain in tact in the event of personnel changes, while those of Personality Centered organizations were very likely to change as new leaders exercised their managerial prerogative to take the organization in a different direction.

You might be asking yourself, “Were we successful in building this organization?”  The answer is, “Yes and No.”

We were working within a single division of a very large corporation made up of several other divisions.  The Personality Centered model outlined above was successfully implemented within that division and for a span of 10 or so years it resulted in significant performance and productivity improvements, as well as the development of a workforce which felt very empowered.

the-bossOver time however, key individuals within our division who had participated in the creation of the Principle Centered organization moved on and were replaced with individuals from other divisions who had not.  As they began to implement changes, the focus on our core principles began to erode, productivity and performance began to lag, and the organization slowly shifted back to the Personality Centered model.

So where does that leave me?  Well, if I’m faced with having to make a choice between principles or individuals, I’ll go with the principles that I embrace every time!

(And also with the individuals who practice them!)

Photos by RawPixel on Unsplash and Lukas from Pexels

Residing in an Alternate Universe

As I’ve mentioned in other posts, I retired recently after being continuously employed for something like 42 years.  I recognize now that while I was actively working, I really didn’t expend much effort in considering the passage of time.

timeDuring those years, management of the here and now aspects of time was a much more immediate concern.  Time was a tool which I carried on my left wrist.  It reminded me that I needed to get to work every day by a certain time.  That I needed to arrive on time for meetings, to find time for lunch each day, to ensure that results were delivered prior to deadlines.

You know the drill; like sands through an hour glass time marches on and there’s no rest for the weary.

There were only a few periods during my career when I felt like those 42 years would never end.  I guess I just didn’t have time for such contemplative, non-value adding musings.

Now that I’m retired, all of those working years seem to have gone by in a flash.  Clearly the perception of time is based on where one is standing as they are considering its passing.

Looking back at my working years, time was very rigid taskmaster populated with a maze of ever expanding benchmarks, most of which were very securely set and which demanded strict adherence.

Now that I’m retired, time has become very fluid, extremely malleable, and only occasionally demanding – and then in a most friendly and wonderfully passive manner. These days I no longer think of time as being carved in stone.  It’s more like having an amiable Pillsbury Dough Boy who looks after my schedule.

I still have things that I plan to do each day, but I hesitate referring to those events as being “on my calendar“.  That implies far too much structure in how I manage my days.

If I want to go to the gym later in the day rather than first thing in the morning, so be it.  I can just as readily sweat at 11:00 am as I can at 7:30 am.  The stamps on those envelopes that I need to mail won’t expire if I wait until tomorrow to go by the Post Office.  And since the local grocery store no longer gives the Senior Citizen discount on Wednesdays (how dare they), I can just as easily restock the pantry on any day of the week!

I’m slowly recognizing that I’ve become a resident in an alternate universe where I control time, rather than it controlling me.  And it’s really quite a nice place to be.

I haven’t broken contact completely with that other universe in which I used to reside, but I find that I’m merely an observer of it, rather than an active participant.

traffic-jamAs I drive around town, particularly during the morning and afternoon rush hours, I realize that I’m awash in a sea of folks dressed in the now standard business casual attire and tightly gripping their steering wheels as they frantically search for any opportunity to gain just one spot ahead of where they find themselves in the endless lines of traffic.  No doubt their minds are swamped with the plethora of reports, meetings, and tasks that are dictating their schedule for the rest of today, tomorrow, and next week.

I suppose that once in a great while one of the residents of that other universe may glance over at me and momentarily wonder, “Why does that old codger look so relaxed and content?”  Apparently, they can’t see the Pillsbury Dough Boy sitting in the passenger seat whimsically wondering what we’re going to do with the rest of the day.

Photos by Rawpixel and Evgeny Tchebotarev on Unsplash

Another of Life’s Little Surprises

Have you ever had the opportunity to know, or as in my case, to work with a really memorable character?  One of those rare individuals who stand out from the crowd due to their life experiences, their sense of humor, or their easygoing curmudgeonry?

Well, I have.  His name was Bill and I had the good fortune to work with him for about eight years beginning in the late 80’s.  Bill was a human warehouse of humorous anecdotes regarding things that he had seen and done, the source of countless limericks learned in his college days, and wellspring of unique descriptive phrases which I came to realize were mostly of his own creation.

Bill was 15 or so years my senior and as he moved closer to retirement age he began to describe his problem with weight control as “Creeping Obesity“.  It’s a concept with which many folks who are in, or moving beyond, their middle years can readily identify.

Two events that I’ve experienced over the past two days caused me to recall Bill’s Creeping Obesity and to recognize a parallel condition that I’ll identify as Creeping Dotage; dotage being a nice word for senility.

Like most people, I have a smartphone, an iPhone in my case, and I carry it with me for nearly 100% of my waking hours.  If it’s not in my hand, it’s in one of my pant’s pockets, or sitting on a table or desk in front of me.

Two days ago, I was walking through my kitchen when I thought of something that I needed to check on.  I’ve known for some time that the answer to any and all questions can be found with a quick and simple Google, so I reached into my pocket for my phone.

But it wasn’t there! No problem, I must have left it on the desk beside my computer. Nope, it wasn’t there.  Maybe I left it downstairs when I was checking the weather on the TV.  Nope.  Did I leave it in the laundry room? Nope.  The bedroom? Nope…… and on and on and on!

I walked through and searched every room in this house at least 3 times without finding the phone.  As I was approaching total exasperation, I walked for a fourth time into the den where I had been watching TV.

As I was approaching the chair in which I normally sit, something in the deep recesses of the back of my mind told me to look down. There, laying in plain sight on the Persian carpet, but perfectly camouflaged, was my iPhone.  The phone, in it’s jet black case, presumably had fallen off of my lap as I had gotten up from the chair and had landed face down in an area of the rug which was equally dark.

Fast forward one day to yesterday.  Sitting in the living room, I remembered that I wanted to check on a baseball score from the previous night, so I reached into my pocket to get my phone, but wait, it’s not there!

Two days in a row!  Surely not! This can’t be!

By this point, I’m confident that you know the drill and will understand that after 3 or 4 circuits of every room in this house, my iPhone was still AWOL.

Equally concerned with the sieve that my mind was apparently becoming and with my inability to locate the missing phone, in desperation I walked one last time into the room which serves as my office.  I scanned the desk and moved everything that was on it.  No phone.  Then that same remote place in the back of my mind whispered to me, “Move the office chair!

iphoneI reached down and grabbed the arm of the chair.  But wait!  What’s this?  As my hand wrapped around the chair’s arm rest, I realized that it had also wrapped itself around my perfectly camouflaged iPhone which had been hidden in plain sight resting on the jet black arm rest.

I’m pleased to report that it’s after 2:00 pm.  It’s been over 24 hours since the last unfortunate incident and the iPhone is resting peacefully on a piece of lily white paper just to the left of my computer as I type these words.

Yes, Bill.  I hear you.  Undeniably, it’s Creeping Senility.

Photo by Tyler Lastovich on Unsplash

Give ’em an inch…..

redlightI’m old enough to remember when drivers did not have the freedom to pull up to a traffic light which happened to be red and then make a right turn after coming to a complete stop.

Generally known as “Right on Red”, this rule of the road was legalized in all 50 U.S. states way back in 1980.

I’m curious.  Is there any state in which drivers still routinely come to a complete stop before exercising their prerogative to turn right on red?  I didn’t think so.

It appears that most drivers currently interpret “Right on Red” to mean that it’s totally acceptable for them to cruise, drift, meander, careen, or roll through red traffic lights as long as they meet the minimum requirement of executing a right turn in the process.

stop-signAbout now, someone is probably thinking, “What’s the big deal?”  Admittedly, this may seem like a very minor bending of the “Right on Red” statue.  Except for the fact that many drivers, at least where I live, are now also applying the assumed freedom to cruise, drift, meander, careen, or roll to the act of making right turns at Stop signs.

From there, it’s a very short step to assuming that if one can make right turns when the traffic light is red, why isn’t it also permissible to cruise, drift, meander, careen, or roll straight through red traffic lights as well?  Assuming of course, there are no other cars attempting to make it through the same intersection at the same time under the auspices of a green light.

Based on my own casual observations while driving locally, it appears that most drivers have long ago deemed the yellow caution traffic lights to be a nothing more than a nuisance and the need to pay attention to them to be completely optional.  Gradually, that same mindset is being applied to red lights.

Just the other day, I observed three cars driving back-to-back through the red light at a very busy intersection near my home.  To be clear, they were not attempting to sneak through the yellow light only to be a bit late in doing so.  No, all three cars drove straight through the traffic light clearly after it had already changed from yellow to red.

Seeing one car zip through a red light has unfortunately become commonplace, but to witness three at the same time left me utterly dumbfounded.  It’s one thing to care so little for your own safety and well-being, but to rashly jeopardize that of other people is totally unacceptable.

I’ll complete the well known axiom that I used in the title of this post, “Give ’em an inch, and they’ll take a mile.”  Or maybe it’s two.

Human nature is alive and well and, often to our detriment, being generously applied in the interpretation of the rules of the road.

Be safe out there and remember to drive defensively!

Boomers R Us

I can’t figure out how to turn that “R” around in the title of this post or I would.  Then again, it’s probably for the best that I don’t, if for no other reason than to avoid unwanted conflicts of interests with the other more well known users of that reversed letter.

I’m a Baby Boomer.  I’ve known that for over 6 decades, but I’ve never really thought about what the definition of a baby boomer is until today.  So I looked it up.  The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines baby boomers as those who were born between the years of 1946 and 1964.  I was surprised to learn that the “boom” didn’t last longer than 1964, but there you have it.  I found it on the internet, so it must be true.

Wikipedia adds an additional distinction, stating that those who were born between 1946 and 1955 are classified as Leading Edge Baby Boomers.  I had no idea, but it’s nice to learn that I’m finally on the leading edge of something!

I guess that also means that I’m on the front end of that much anticipated bubble of baby boomers who are already retired or who are in the process of planning to retire within the next few years.

retirementI retired a little over six months ago and have found retirement to be a state of being for which I may be uniquely qualified and certainly one which I am finding to be very enjoyable and rewarding.

The process of transitioning from full time employment to full time retirement is a subject which is deserving of its own blog post, so I’ll save that topic for another day.

What’s really on my mind as I write this installment is the subject of what it takes in terms of available assets to be financially able to retire.

In the process of meeting with my financial advisor prior to reaching the decision to retire, I was very surprised to learn from him that studies indicate that roughly 60% of all baby boomers are currently not financially able to afford retirement.

This immediately reminded me of several commercials I’ve seen on TV recently in which people (actors) are asked to project how much money they believe they’ll need to retire comfortably for the remainder of their lives.  They are then shocked when they see the projections which indicate that those funds will be totally depleted after just a few short years.

I remember a good friend telling me that if she and her husband could only get their savings up to $200,000.00, they would be in good shape for retirement.

Financial-analysisDetermining what it will take to be financially able to retire involves a very thorough understanding of one’s current assets, current liabilities, current income, as well as projecting what one’s liabilities and income will be during retirement, projecting the costs involved with the activities one wants to do while they are retired, and just how long one expects that they will be retired (the somewhat touchy subject of one’s life expectancy).

It’s extremely unlikely that there are many healthy baby boomers out there who will be able to afford to retire for any length of time with as little as $200,000.00 socked away in their cookie jar.

Interestingly, the Merriam-Webster dictionary adds this caveat to their section defining baby boomers:

Industry experts predict that reverse mortgages will play an increasingly important role in the coming years as some 70 million baby boomers hit their 60s—often with a lot less saved than they’d hoped.

I’m confident that this will be true, but I can’t see how reverse mortgages will even come close to bridging the gap between the assets required to fund retirement and the assets that are actually available.

In this regard, the next 20 or so years are going to be very interesting; politically, economically, and culturally.

 

 

 

Vehicular Graffiti

While driving across town running an errand this morning, I pulled up behind this truck at a traffic light.  I was so taken by the truth of the sentiment being expressed on the back of the truck that I threw caution to the wind, whipped out the trusty iPhone, and fired off a shot with it’s camera.

12EAD653-3001-4646-AEDF-AC26D34747A2

I’m equally impressed with what must have been the steadiness of the anonymous scribe’s hand as he was applying his message with a can of spray paint.

The words of the prophets are written on the subway walls….

Simon and Garfunkel
The Sounds of Silence

…. and also on pickup truck tailgates.