Singin’ in the rain, or travel in the off season.

Dave and I

Here’s a picture of me posing with Dave, aka David of David and Goliath.  Dave is Michelangelo’s ‘David’ in Firenze (Florence) Italy.

Me and dave - cropped-2

There are a couple of things you can’t see in the picture.  First, it’s a very famous statue, but there is not a huge crowd and second, I’m wearing what I refer to as my formal fleece.  The lack of crowd and the fleece indicate that we’re travelling during the off (or off-to-shoulder) season. This post, we’ll talk travel.  Since statistics say many retirees want to travel, this post may help mitigate some surprises on the price of travel.

Off season travel

My formal fleece is the black polar-fleece jacket I use for sightseeing and as a (poor) substitute blazer when dining on vacation, because Mrs. No Surprises Retirement and I usually take our major sightseeing trips in the off season (or really close to the off season). Rick Steves suggests that in Europe shoulder season is April to mid-June and off-season is November through March.  As you might guess, this means that the weather is not always warm and sunny, so we pack for cool and potential rain. Overall, we’ve been lucky with the weather and it was only really cold and wet once and we were prepared for it.

Pluses

The pluses to the off-season include savings from lower air fares and lower hotel prices. There is little competition for trains, ferries, restaurants, or attractions. Walking down streets there are no tourist crowds, mostly locals with just a few tourists.

The best part of the deal for us is the lack of crowds.  We were almost alone on Omaha beach, reflecting on the sacrifice of the Allies and the French Resistance on D-Day. We have found that the museums we visit almost feel like we have private reservations, because there are so few people visiting. In major cities and major attractions (Louvre, British Museum), you’ll still find crowds in the off and shoulder season, but they will be smaller than high season and they will include a lot of school groups. Note that British children wear those fluorescent construction vests when out in school groups.

A plus for us is the weather. Cooler weather (40’s-60’s) is much more conducive for us to tour than the hotter summer season.

Minuses

On the minus side is the weather and access.  Weather in the shoulder season is somewhat unpredictable.  It can be comfortable one day (50 and sunny) and the next day less so (35, wind, and rain).  Layers, umbrellas, and rain jackets are lifesavers.  Access in the shoulder season can be a problem for some venues that simply can’t afford to be open year-round.  If one of those is your special favorite, perhaps shoulder season won’t work for you.  Also, at least in Europe, you will be at higher latitudes which means that daylight will be much more limited than during the high season.  We’ve experienced sunrise at 8:30 AM and sunset at 4:30, so you have to be comfortable navigating streets in twilight. (It’s safe, you just can’t see things as well.)

If you are empty nesters like we are and you like to travel on your own, we recommend the off (or near off) season for the price and the lack of crowds.  Also, you may want to Google ‘european school holidays’ before scheduling your trip to determine if you’ll be in the midst of a mid-term school break which can make attractions crowded and hotel prices increase.

Pick one, be first

Remember the picture of Dave and I, above.  That was part of Mrs. No Surprises Retirement ‘pick one, be first’ philosophy. Pick the most important attraction of that day’s itinerary and be the first ones there when it opens.  That prevents Mr. No Surprises Retirement from getting too much sleep. When you’re the first ones into one of the more important venues, you’ll have 15-30 minutes to really enjoy the major exhibits before the crowds start to clog things up.  That’s why we had breakfast as soon as the hotel breakfast room opened and were walking several blocks to the Accademia in Firenze (Florence) to be there at 8:00, 15 minutes before opening, to see the David unobstructed.

Actions you can take include:

-Think about the pros and cons of off (and near off) season travel and see if the pros make travel in retirement more affordable/achievable 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.

Dear Reader, please share your genius!

First, a thank you!

Thank you! From the visitor counts, apparently a lot of people stopped by to read one of No Surprises Retirement’s blog entries in 2017.  I hope they were entertaining and helpful.  Entertaining is sometimes a challenge with financial topics as they can be dry and directive, or, as some people call it, ‘boring’.

Share your genius

Please let us know what your favorite posts (post?, anything Bueller?) of 2017 were. Then, please think about topics you would like to see from No Surprises Retirement in 2018. Leave me a comment (click on ‘leave a comment, below) or send an email to nosurprisesretirement@gmail.com

What, me blog?

Think about perhaps doing your own blog in 2018 – maybe you have expertise or opinions to share on fishing, travel, dining, or something else.  A basic WordPress site is free.  Think of it as part of your Creative-Social Retirement Activity plan!

RAC - star LL

Actions you can take include:

-PLEASE – leave us a comment or send us an email on what you like, don’t like, and want to see in 2018!

-Check out WordPress and start blogging.

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.

Free stuff!

Who doesn’t like free?  This post should help you on the Creativity-Social area of the Retirement Activity Compass.  You will probably want to update your personal Retirement Activity Plan (RAP) when you’re done reading!

RAC - star LL

Remember back to the “Pre-retirement or retired, why not RAP?” post?  We focused on ‘creativity’ to help keep our retired minds sharp and ‘social’ to help keep us connected to each other and the community.   One way to get a toofer on that is to learn something new by taking a class – a free class.

Free #1

Mrs. NoSurprisesRetirement has completed a number of classes on various aspects of the history of the United Kingdom from her favorite free e-learning site, Futurelearn.  A couple her favourites (British spelling of favourites, get it?  Ha!)  were ‘A History of Royal Food and Feasting’ and ‘England in the Time of King Richard III’.   I looked at Futurelearn today and they have pretty much everything from anatomy to writing fiction.  Classes are available both anytime (Beginning Dutch, anyone?) and scheduled. Mrs. NoSurprisesRetirement likes the scheduled courses because of the interaction available when you comment on the content or questions.  Futurelearn is Mrs. NoSurprisesRetirement’s favorite e-learning site because of the diversity in class formats and the international audience. People in her Richard III class lived within a few miles of the key historical sites and provided really interesting comments.

Free #2

If you’re like us here in the frozen northland Minnesota and you are 62 or over, you can audit (sit in on the class for no grade, but it’s OK this time) classes at the U of M and MNSCU’s universities, colleges and technical colleges.  If you’re someplace warmer else your state likely has something similar to the Minnnesota benefit and you can find out here at A SENIOR CITIZEN GUIDE FOR COLLEGE. This is a really good way to learn those things you always wanted to but did not have the time/money before now.

But wait, there’s more!

You can go to Harvard, MIT, or the Sorbonne with edX  This is Mrs. NoSurprisesRetirement’s other favorite e-learning site and, similar to Futurelearn, edX has a wide span of classes. Introduction to German Opera from Dartmouth, The Rise of Superheroes and Their Impact on Pop Culture from the Smithsonian, and Urban Design for the Public Good: Dutch Urbanism from TU Delft are just some examples.

Don’t stop there – check the library

My local public library provides two different language learning programs, one of which is from Rosetta Stone.  They also provide Lynda (now from Linkedin) which has classes on just about everything, including Microsoft Office for that new computer you’ll get for Christmas and photography for that DSLR you got last year.

Sample Retirement Activity Plan template – free!

I put a RAP template out on Google Drive for you to download and modify to personalize as needed.  It’s in Word format, but let me know if you need one in Google Sheets format. Copy and paste this link:

https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/13rGYZR8yl5IwXciqzp7WuUOGNWX8_auP?usp=sharing

into your browser (I primarily use Chrome) and you should be able to see them and download.  Let me know at nosurprisesretirement@gmail.com if you have a problem.

Actions you can take include:

-Develop and/or update your RAP.

-Don’t forget about the social aspects of retirement – reach out to a friend and re-connect, especially now in the holiday season.

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.

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.