I RAPped!

blizzard

Blizzard, A. Goicolea, Phoenix Art Museum

Per the NWS, we’re getting a blizzard here this afternoon – three to eight inches of fluffy snow!

Don’t miss the retirement action calendar after ‘Rapping’.

Rapping

As part of my RAP (Retirement Activity Plan and Free stuff!), one of my goals is to remain socially connected. Connection is not usually a problem when you’re employed because you have coworkers.  I’m still employed 80% of the time and my coworkers are great (now, please tell me where my laptop is…).

Fortunately, for the 20% of the time when I am retired, the gentlemen from the old neighborhood have invited me to their weekly breakfast meeting. They are interesting and engaged people and the restaurant has excellent coffee and is extremely generous with the meat on the country breakfast. They are now one key part of my social connection in retirement. Excellent people and good food – what more could one ask for?

If you’ve seen the RAP template, it has areas for creativity, social, personal, and activity.

Looking back at last year, I give myself about a C for activity.  I tracked exercise and averaged almost 12 times per month.  My goal is about 17 times per month (4 times per week) or better.

I was pleased with my personal work. I made it through Pimsleur French I and most of II.  I watched a French subtitled movie.  I read a couple of investing books.  (The one I recommend is The Four Pillars of Investing by William J. Bernstein. Get the old version; it’s cheaper and has 99.9% of the content.)

I was also happy with my creativity. I continued the blog. I completed some house projects and fixed a few laptops.

Retirement Action Calendar

I borrowed a genius idea from Vanguard, Merrill, Kiplinger, and Forbes and synthesized (RAP – creativity!) a spreadsheet with key dates for pre- and post-65 retirees. Excel and Google Sheets versions are located here.

The one time events show some dates for my friends Rick and Jean (pseudonyms), but will likely be useful you, too. The one time tab includes Medicare sign-up, initial RMD, any initial pension payments, and starting Social Security.  You’ll need to research and customize your own dates. As an example, Rick will sign up for Medicare on, or soon after, 6/1/2020 because his Medicate will start 9/1. If Rick is too late (after 12/1), he’ll have a Medicare penalty.

The annual events tab includes Medicare open enrollments, estimated tax payments, a budget and RIP checkup, and a medical (Obamacare) open enrollment.

Actions you can take include:

Download and personalize your Retirement Action Calendar.

Do a check of your RAP for 2018. How did you do?  What will you change for 2019?

And if you have not seen the “Why you should read this blog…WIIFY” post, it’s here https://nosurprisesretirement.com/2017/07/09/first-blog-post/

Questions, comments, or suggestions for retirement surprise areas you want to know more about?
-Leave a comment
-Use ‘Contact’, above, to send an email.

Old and dangerous?

The Minnesota Marine Art Museum (Winona, MN) is hosting an ‘eagle’ collection for the National Eagle Center (Wabasha, MN).  MMAM is an outstanding museum which usually does not allow pictures, however they did allow the eagle collection to be photographed.  One of the eagle items that caught my eye was this 1918 WW I logistics poster from James H. Daugherty for the Emergency Fleet Corporation:

ships are coming

The AAA says…

Per the AAA, “With the exception of teen drivers, seniors have the highest crash death rate per mile driven, even though they drive fewer miles than younger people.” Part of this is due to the more fragile physiology of the older person, but part is from driving skill (or lack thereof).

Good news, there’s a class

A number of organizations offer senior driving classes which allow you to refresh your driving knowledge, learn some new tricks, and save some money.  AARP notes, “By taking a driver refresher course you’ll learn the current rules of the road, defensive driving techniques and how to operate your vehicle more safely in today’s increasingly challenging driving environment. You’ll learn how you can manage and accommodate common age-related changes in vision, hearing and reaction time.”

You save money, too

In my state, completing a state approved defensive driving course (8 hours) saves to 10% off your auto insurance for three years, and then you can take a renewal course (4 hours) to extend the savings.  The discount is on applicable coverages, which I think means collision.

More good news, you save you and others

Even more important than the cash you will save on your auto insurance is the flesh you’ll save by not getting in a vehicle accident.  At the minimum accidents are a huge inconvenience and eat up time and money.  At the worst, accidents maim and kill.  A defensive driving refresher could save someone’s life or limb.

Some defensive driving course links

The National Safety Council (Green Cross for Safety!)

(Look for discounts on the NSC class.  I know that the GEICO and the Minnesota Safety Council links to NSC cut the cost.)

AARP Smart Driver  There’s a 25% discount of the AARP class right now with the code ‘25OFF’.

Check with your agent to make sure a given course works for a discount with your insurer.

Ironically, when we researched the classes we found we’re both out of date, as you need to take the refresher within three years of completing the full class!  Mrs. NoSurprisesRetirement is signing up for the 8-hour AARP class right now.

We had the chance to visit the French monastery island of Mt. St. Michele in the off season. Here’s a picture of Mt. St. Michele with a helicopter ferrying out detritus from the cloister garden as it was renovated.  Last time they did it with hundreds of monks on the steps…

mt st michele

It turns out that Nationwide actually is on your side…

A friend of mine told me about a professional development class he took from Nationwide on their retirement health care estimator.  It is a free and interesting tool that your agent can have the Nationwide home office run for you. Nationwide worked with some actuaries to have a minimal set of questions that give some quality results back to you, like your overall monthly Medicare and supplement costs. Oh, and your life expectancy.  (Humming Nationwide tune…).

What, you don’t want to call an agent?  Nationwide also has a decent, free DIY tool to estimate your healthcare costs in retirement (and your life expectancy).  This one has a lot less detail, but you don’t have to talk to anyone.

Actions you can take include:

-Take a defensive driving class (or a refresher) and go get those auto insurance discounts.

-Try the Nationwide healthcare cost estimator.  Then call your financial professional and have them do the full version for you.

And if you have not seen the “Why you should read this blog…WIIFY” post, it’s here

Questions, comments, or suggestions for retirement surprise areas you want to know more about?
-Leave a comment
-Use ‘Contact’, above, to send an email.

Mid-year Check Point – Dollars & Sense

First, a picture of the best Ile Flottante in Paris, from Restaurant Georgette:

ile flottante

We travelled to Paris in the off-season, and before we left I checked Trip Advisor for the best Ile Flottante because that is Mrs. Nosurprisesretirement’s favorite French dessert. Ile Flottante is basically a delicious soft meringue (the ile or island) floating (French flotte – to float) on an even more delicious custard.

The overwhelming sentiment on Trip Advisor was for Georgette and they were right.  Take a walk from the Left Bank Sorbonne area across the Jardin du Luxembourg and you’re there.

Check Point One – Budgeting (Dollars)

Thinking back to our budgeting post,  ‘Oops, or New Year Fiscal Fitness’, we discussed using a spreadsheet for budgeting and tracking.  We ended up trying the ‘Personal Budget Planner – Extended’ and have been satisfied, especially because I did not have to develop the spreadsheet myself.

Positives:
-we have been tracking a very high percentage of expenditures, so the ‘actual’ portion of the budget v. actual tracking is accurate
-the budgeting experience was enlightening (a polite word for occasionally opposing and sometimes loud opinions) as we determined what to include and at what amount
-actual v. budget tracking is available for any given month.

Negatives:
-the comparison feature does not support a year to date comparison of spending to budget
-the available rows for budgeting may cause you to combine budget items on a single row (likely not a problem for most people, but I wanted a lot of individual tracking).

The tracking has been going well and I would recommend this spreadsheet.  In areas where we go over budget, we often learn we under-allocated at the budget level. Surprisingly, since we track ‘everything’, the ‘pocket money’ budget line is always almost 100% under budget!

So far it seems like our retirement budget could be appropriate and achievable, barring any bad surprises.

And now a picture of the finest Indian Taco in Phoenix from The Fry Bread House:

Indian taco

The Fry Bread house is a small but popular establishment in central Phoenix.  We can definitely recommend any of their fry-bread tacos (or ‘fry-bread sweets’ desserts!) and the rich and spicy green chile stew.

Check Point Two – Fitness (Sense)

In the ‘What Was I Thinking’ post I talked about exercise and flexibility.  On the plus side, I have been relatively active, especially with walking in the neighborhood since the weather got nicer.  I document my activity on a free phone app called Microsoft OneNote, so I actually know where I stand v. my goals.   On the minus side, I have not met my goal of 30 minutes 4 times per week as much as I wanted.

Here is ‘The Drummer’, (1989-90), B. Flanagan (Wales); Hirschhorn Sculpture Garden, Washington, DC:

The Drummer

Note – not a great sun angle on the photo, because we were there in the off-season!  No crowds, so it was like a private sculpture garden on the Mall!  Also, it seems like all the museums in DC are free – excellent deal!

Funtirement!

Funtirement is my daughter’s name for when I take a Friday off for my own three-day weekend.  This week for Funtirement, I used the firm’s preventive care benefit and went to the clinic for a science experiment. It turned out well and it looks like I only need the ‘experiment’ every five years now.

Actions you can take include:

-Do your own mid-year checkpoint.  What’s going well and what could you improve? Remember, perfect is the enemy of the good.

And if you have not seen the “Why you should read this blog…WIIFY” post, it’s here.

Questions, comments, or suggestions for retirement surprise areas you want to know more about?
-Leave a comment
-Use ‘Contact’, above, to send an email.

 

Carp time! (a play on Carpe Diem)

Well golly, we had a couple of bad retirement surprises this week.  One was that a father of some of the kid’s high school classmates passed away at a young age, only 66.  The other, less bad, was finding out that a relative would need surgery at a much younger age that we thought.

If you’ve followed No Surprises Retirement for a while, you know that we focus on avoiding bad retirement surprises.  No one can avoid every bad surprise (but you should be trying!), so remember to enjoy some carp time.  Carp time would be fishing for those who enjoy it, but others can carpe diem (seize the day) and enjoy their favorite activities.

There is a balance

One could completely abandon planning and work and instead seize enjoyment until the money runs out, then live like a pauper.  On the other hand, one could work like a dog, scrimp and save, plan, buy annuities, wait until FRA or 70 ½ for Social Security and then not live to enjoy it.  There is a happy median of enjoying what you have while judiciously planning for the future.

Savor what you have

Those of us who are not retired usually have to go to work.  Since it’s a requirement, what are you doing to savor and enjoy it?  Without going all Zen on you, I can tell you that in my job, I look for the good parts to savor in several areas:
-colleagues – their banter, their admirable traits which include technical skill and adaptability, their quirks which can be irritating and endearing at the same time
-customers – their ability to collaborate, their humor, their gratitude when we deliver for them
-routine – the gift of routine which provides a sense of stability
-change – the excitement of something new, like a new project (admittedly, not all changes have been fun over the past thirty some odd years…)
-coffee – our cafeteria makes a perfect Starbucks Pike Place and I REALLY savor that with half and half daily.

If you’re already retired, you likely have established some routine that meets your needs and, hopefully, provides opportunity for savoring.

I’d like to hear from you in the comments or by email to nosurprisesretirement@gmail.com on what you do to ‘carp time’ (or carpe diem) in your usual life.

A reader wrote in!

A couple of weeks ago a reader wrote in and shared Barry Ritholz’ ‘Retirement Pyramid 2.0’.  Thanks, reader, for sharing.  Barry’s pyramid focuses a little differently than mine, more toward financial behaviors, but it is excellent and I recommend that you click on the link and review it.  Barry and his team usually give very sound advice – I follow a number of them on the Twitter.

Funtirement!

Funtirement is my daughter’s name for when I take a Friday off for my own three-day weekend.  This week, the three days of Funtirement found us waking up about the same time as a work day, enjoying lunch at a British pub style restaurant, and cleaning up some paper work at home.  We also got our license plates updated, watched two episodes of Live PD, and had a pizza from the pizza place in the old neighborhood.  I read the latest issue of The Economist, economically sourced from my local library, an article on Faroe Islands food in The New Yorker, also from the library, and a retirement study from Aegon. (The Faroe article used the words ‘rank’ and ‘fermented lamb tallow’ in relation to the food – not going there soon ever.) Finally, we enjoyed a Father’s Day ice cream sundae gathering at my daughter and son-in-law’s house.  All the kids and wonderful grandchildren were there.

Next week’s Funtirement will be scientific!  I’ll be headed over to the clinic for some routine maintenance.  For those of you old enough to remember, it will be a replay of Fantastic Voyage…

Actions you can take include:

-Pause, reflect, and see what you can find to savor in life.

And if you have not seen the “Why you should read this blog…WIIFY” post, it’s here.

Questions, comments, or suggestions for retirement surprise areas you want to know more about?
-Leave a comment
-Use ‘Contact’, above, to send an email.

Interesting question.

The question will come a little further down, let’s think about Memorial Day first.

Memorial Day

It’s Memorial Day weekend in the US, commencing with Civil War remembrances of those who served and died for our country.  Many have served and died for our freedom and values since.  Take a moment and reflect and respect their sacrifice.  Many died in combat, many others as a result of combat; wounds visible and invisible.

We ask much of our defenders and they deliver.  We should first demand that our leadership use force only as a last resort, as the human cost is incalculable.

Off-season travel

Last month we were able to take an off-season trip to the Netherlands (note the link is an official Netherlands site in English; how polite and kind), Belgium, and France.  We were a little later this year than usual, early to mid-April, so the weather was warmer and there were more people.  I said more people but we did not really see crowds, except for the amazingly long line (1km?) to a ‘Fallout Boy’ concert at the Amsterdam ArenA on the way to our hotel.

Since we were a little more towards Spring than Winter, the hotel prices were a somewhat higher, but still within our retirement travel budget.  Restaurants were open and uncrowded.  The best part was that most of the museums and parks were like having private viewings.

We have been fortunate to travel to Europe a few times and have already seen the more popular tourist spots.  The ‘few times’ comes from a discussion we had some years back on how peoples’ motivation and ability to travel declines over time.  We made a conscious decision to make the most of our ‘now’ and attenuate our spending in other areas in favor of travel.  We try to mitigate the cost of travel by going off-season, shopping for the best air travel price, and using public transportation.  Typically, we’ll have breakfast in the hotel room, have a nice lunch at a restaurant, and sandwiches and desserts from a local supermarket in the room for dinner (usually an Albert Hein in NL and BE, Carrefour and Marks & Spencer in FR, Waitrose, Pret a Manger, and Marks & Spencer in GB). Bob and Sarah from the Success story! post gave us that tasty and money saving hint.

Many museums and attractions are free or can be discounted with city cards (Paris Pass, London Pass, Antwerp City Card).

The smaller museums we enjoyed this time included:
-Museum Our Lord in the Attic – Amsterdam
-Jewish Historical Museum – Amsterdam
-Rembrandt House – Amsterdam
-Maidens House Museum – Antwerp
-Museum de Reede – Antwerp
-Museum Eugeen Van Mieghem – Antwerp
-Ruebens House – Antwerp
-Cognacq-Jay Museum of 18th Century Art – Paris
-Zadkine Museum – Paris
-Andre Jacquemart – Paris

Every museum was uncrowded and in some we had the exhibits completely to ourselves. My personal favorite this time was the Zadkine.  I had never heard of Ossip Zadkine before, but in my opinion he was an amazing and gifted sculptor.  I definitely recommend the Zadkine a part of any visit you make to Paris.  The museum is run by the City of Paris and entry is free.  The Zadkine is also very time friendly as it is compact – 45 minutes would be a very long visit.

Here are a couple of my Zadkine favorites. First, one I don’t have the title for:

zadkine lyre

La Foret Humaine (1957-58):

la foret

We also got lucky and were able to get an Antwerp harbor tour.  They opened a week early because of the excellent weather and we just made the 2:00 boat.  Great harbor tour.

We navigated a construction zone to get there:

on the way to the boat

The tour was great – plenty of giant industrial stuff:

on the boat

And the way back had its challenges:

finding our way back

The interesting question

I was reading a practicing financial advisor’s article in a financial planning magazine and ran across an interesting question; “Is your goal to be the richest person in the graveyard?”

Minor surprise here – I ran out of space, so we will (re)visit the interesting question in the next post.  In the meantime, see the actions you can take, below.

Actions you can take include:

-Consider how you might answer the question, “Is your goal to be the richest person in the graveyard?”

And if you have not seen the “Why you should read this blog…WIIFY” post, it’s here 

Questions, comments, or suggestions for retirement surprise areas you want to know more about?
-Leave a comment
-Use ‘Contact’, above, to send an email.

What was I thinking?

The other day I said to myself, “When I retire, I’ll spend more time on exercise and flexibility.”  What was I thinking?  If you want your best retirement, why would you not make the investment in your health well in advance.  (I know I’m probably not telling you anything you have not heard before here…).  In my case, and I am not a model for physical fitness, I am gradually upping my exercise goal from 30 minutes four times per week to 1 hour four times per week.  I already do strength and cardio and I will add in flexibility.  This will also go into my Retirement Activity Plan (RAP)!  Reviewer’s note – Mrs. NoSurprisesRetirement notes that a) the road to hell is paved with good intentions and b) not everyone will be able to keep this schedule.  She’s not wrong.  I’ll let you know how I do.

One part of my goal for being in better shape is to support the more or less standard flow of retirement; go-go, slow-go, no-go. The other part is to help me keep living, working, and travelling now.

Speaking of travel, here’s a picture of me, morphed with the other 13,500 or so visitors to the Kunsthal Rotterdam that participated in the digital image exhibit a couple of years ago. (Off season, literally had the place to ourselves!) In modern art museums you can frequently become part of the art.

Rotter - modern IMG_0279-cropped

Go-Go, Slow-Go, No-Go

Michael Kitces, the financial planner, in his blog , notes, “Michael Stein, author of “The Prosperous Retirement” first popularized the concept of a three-phase retirement: the Go-Go years, the Slow-Go years, and the No-Go years.  The approach was relatively straightforward: early retirement is represented by the “Go-Go” years and is characterized by an active phase, that may include a continuation of a lifestyle similar to pre-retirement, but with more time for spending and “extra” activities like travel; the  “Slow-Go” years are when health and energy begin to decline a bit, resulting in some spending reductions as the budget for activities like travel or even just eating out begin to decline; and the “No-Go” years are characterized by an almost total shutdown of activity-related spending, as consumption decreases to just the core expenditures necessary to maintain the household itself.”

My takeaway from the above is:
-understand the phases
-understand what your budget can support (a trip up North v. an 83 day around the world cruise or something in the middle)
-think about not only your cash budget, but your energy requirements in each phase and see what your personal ‘energy budget’ will support.

There is some argument about the timing and applicability of the three phases, but it seems like a useful model.  (Old saying, “All models are wrong, some models are useful.”). We have planned for go-go years until about 71, then the budget supports slow-go and no-go until ‘end of retirement…’

I know we watched the in-laws move through the three phases, some faster than others. Re-reading this before I posted it reminded me of the favorite saying of another friend, “Don’t postpone joy.” Genes, luck, and your version of the supreme deity will have a big say in the timing of each of our phases. We’ll likely return to look at the phases more in detail in later posts.  In the meantime, think about your RAP and what you’ll do in the go-go years.

Do as I do?

In the Free Stuff post post I mentioned taking classes from providers such as  FutureLearn and edX . I signed up for FutureLearn , but it’s for the past, the Cold War.  I enrolled in “From World War to White Heat: the RAF in the Cold War.” taught by a professor from the U of London and a PhD from the RAF Museum.

Actions you can take include:
-Check yourself – are you doing what you can to be in your best shape for retirement?
-Take a look at the free education resources, including YouTube.  An esteemed consultant once taught me, “We reserve the right to get smarter.”

And if you have not seen the “Why you should read this blog…WIIFY” post, it’s here.

Questions, comments, or suggestions for retirement surprise areas you want to know more about?
-Leave a comment
-Use ‘Contact’, above, to send an email.

Pre-retirement or retired, why not RAP?

Retirement – it’s not for the old, it’s for the tough, and the RAP is a Retirement Activity Plan.  Remember, No Surprises Retirement is about helping you avoid bad retirement surprises.

Fight Cognitive Decline!

The abstract of the Mental Retirement study in the Journal of Economic Perspectives noted, ““Some studies suggest that people can maintain their cognitive abilities through “mental exercise.”… In this paper, we propose two mechanisms how retirement may lead to cognitive decline. For many people retirement leads to a less stimulating daily environment. In addition, the prospect of retirement reduces the incentive to engage in mentally stimulating activities on the job.”  A RAP can help you minimize cognitive and physical declines, maximize your retirement satisfaction and avoid bad retirement surprises.

Finding a Plan

Many of you probably have some type of retirement savings or retirement income plan (I hope!). I looked around and I was able to download a number of sample plans from different financial planners but they were all financial. I could not find any sample Retirement Activity Plans, and I think that’s a big gap in ‘real’ retirement planning, so I started researching and outlining a plan for us.

Retirement Activity Planning – the Retirement Activity Compass

Take a look at our Retirement Activity Compass:

Retirement Activity Compass - v3

The Retirement Activity Compass shows that people have key points for which to plan:
-Activity, for physical health
-Creativity, for mental stimulation
-Social, for connectedness, with community, family and friendship
-Personal, for solitude and personal time.

We’ll talk about planning in each area in future posts.  For now, don’t run out and start frantically exercising, especially without getting clearance from your medical professional first, but do start thinking about what you want out of retirement and where those wants line up on the Retirement Activity Compass.

Actions you can take include:

-Think about each point of the Retirement Activity Compass; Activity, Creativity, Personal, and Social.  Consider what you want to do (or are doing) in retirement and what you need to do to start.

-Next, look at your gaps on the Retirement Activity Compass.  Are there areas in which you do not have activities or plans?  If there are gaps, consider what you might do.  ( I did start up an activity plan, after physician clearance, which includes exercycle or walking, situps, and pushup, er… pushups. (Get down and give me two, pre-retiree!)

-Find a place to get physically active.  If you’re on Medicare, you might be eligible for a ‘free’ Silver Sneakers health club membership.  If you’re retired Military, you might find a gym on base/post.  I use my basement floor (it’s carpeted!)

Questions, comments, or suggestions for retirement surprise areas you want to know more about?
-Leave a comment
-Use ‘Contact’, above, to send an email.