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Be the Architect and Designer of your Retirement

Frank Sinatra made Paul Anka's song, My Way, a big hit!  We do want to do things our way and that includes retirement.  We retire to have more time and freedom to do what we want and when we want to do that.  It may be time to think about what that means.  What do we want to do?

Wade Davis, a Canadian writer and anthropologist, says "It takes time for an individual to create a new world of possibilities, to imagine, and bring into being that which has never before existed, the wonder of a full and realized life.  The greatest challenge is the struggle to be the architect of your own life."

Retirement is both WOW and YIKES at the same time.  It is a gift of modern times and a minefield of potholes.  It is a  paradox of both a challenging opportunity and a patchwork of possible problems.  We are all going to have a permanent change of address because we all die at some point.  What to do before that happens becomes the existential challenge.

Deal with the potholes of debt, finances, health issues, relationships, and fears. Get the good advice you may need. Imagine your future as best you can, get your ducks in a row, and look forward to a positive future of your choice and design!






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Retirement Tips

THE BEST OF RETIREMENT TIPS

Just retired folks and those who work as professionals putting retirement plans into reality with their clients often tell me about their best tips.  Here is a start to the list:

1.  Lighten up and Enjoy Your New Found Freedom

In this anxious age, we often worry about money, relationships, the state of the country or the world or any other thing that hits our fear riddled psyche.  It may be a time to find a kid or two and go and play, take yoga or do meditation, watch a few comedies, look up an old friend and reconnect, do what brings you joy and meaning.  Hang out with positive people with an emphasis on fun and good times.  This is your bag of rocks off your back time when you can rediscover what makes you happy.

2.  Get Active

Go for that walk in a natural setting, take up a sport, join a team, join a gym but get moving.  Your balance, sleep, self-image, breathing, can all improve with regular activity.  Your body, your doctor, your family will benefit from the effects of your regular get up and going routines!  Moods and memory improve along with strength, coordination and waistline.  Just do not over do it at first.  Build slowly to the Greek god/goddess that you really are!

3. Have a GO TO in Retirement

You will want to have a new life to go to and not just a work life to exit.  Lots of hours get freed up and you want to have meaningful, engaging, and positive activities to fill those hours.  Busy work and honey-do lists only last for a short time..usually.  Find some projects, causes, volunteer activities, and interests to look forward to.  You need something to get you out of bed in the morning looking forward to you day!

4.  Figure Out Who You Are Outside of Work

Many have their friends and social circles at work.  Many have their identities tied up with what they do for a living.  You will need to find new social circles, new friends, new folks to hang out with and work with in a whole new way.  You will also need to figure out your new identity as a retired person.  How will you introduce yourself now?  What will your retired calling card look like?

These are good tips from those who have gone before and those who help ease the transition for those entering retirement.  Planning ahead can help avoid those potholes on the road to retirement! 






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The Real Retirement

Fred Vettese, Chief Actuary at Morneau Shepell, and Bill Morneau, Executive Chairman of that same company, have written an excellent resource for Canadians.  They are reassuring but include a good dose of reality therapy as well.

They do not deal with relationship issues that arise with retirement like divorce, loss and grief, or the need to find new friends or groups to spend time with socializing.  They do not deal with leisure, the extra time a retiree has to fill, unless it is to keep working.  They do, however, give a good demographic, financial, and overall picture of  a Canadian style retirement.

The basic messages include delay retirement where possible, continue to earn money with part time work after retirement, and deal with depletion anxiety with vehicles like annuities and insurance. Then aim for a 50% level of replacement income for a couple and 55% for someone single by paying off debt and adjusting expectations.  The reassurance comes with the fact that Canada is a good place to age especially when you manage your lifestyle, take responsibility for saving for and preparing for retirement, and have realistic expectations.

Canada's rate of poverty for seniors is 5.9 % which does not sound great until you compare it with other countries like the U.S and Japan where it is 22 %, and we do have public pensions like the CPP and OAS with the GIS if you need it.  The other side of that coin they do not mention is that in some foodbanks across Canada there is a 20% rate of senior usage and it is rising.  Although they do present the health care concern as one that will require personal income, there is no mention of seniors not filling prescriptions because they cannot afford to do that.  There is no discussion of housing for poor seniors.  These are some of the realities of senior poverty that do not appear here.

Otherwise, they are very detailed in their presentation of the new realities of retirement.  It is more difficult to accumulate wealth given the softening of real estate values and the present market conditions for investment.  The taxpayer to retiree ratio is getting very low.  The penalities for taking the CPP early have increased, the OAS will be delayed for those 55 and under, health care costs are bound to rise, savings rates are quite low, household debt is way too high, we are living longer, and retirement can be 25 to 30 years or more long.  All these add up to get ready now!

The graphics are excellent, the Appendix contains useful information, the three phases of retirement and timing choices are included along with Home Care, Retirement Homes, and Nursing Homes.  The savings rates may appear daunting.  However, taking responsibility for your own retirement means funding it and this book points out the need for Canadians to get on board with the realities of twenty-first century retirement!






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The Real Retirement

Fred Vettese, Chief Actuary at Morneau Shepell, and Bill Morneau, Executive Chairman of that same company, have written an excellent resource for Canadians.  They are reassuring but include a good dose of reality therapy as well.

They do not deal with relationship issues that arise with retirement like divorce, loss and grief, or the need to find new friends or groups to spend time with socializing.  They do not deal with leisure, the extra time a retiree has to fill, unless it is to keep working.  They do, however, give a good demographic, financial, and overall picture of  a Canadian style retirement.

The basic messages include delay retirement where possible, continue to earn money with part time work after retirement, and deal with depletion anxiety with vehicles like annuities and insurance. Then aim for a 50% level of replacement income for a couple and 55% for someone single by paying off debt and adjusting expectations.  The reassurance comes with the fact that Canada is a good place to age especially when you manage your lifestyle, take responsibility for saving for and preparing for retirement, and have realistic expectations.

Canada's rate of poverty for seniors is 5.9 % which does not sound great until you compare it with other countries like the U.S and Japan where it is 22 %, and we do have public pensions like the CPP and OAS with the GIS if you need it.  The other side of that coin they do not mention is that in some foodbanks across Canada there is a 20% rate of senior usage and it is rising.  Although they do present the health care concern as one that will require personal income, there is no mention of seniors not filling prescriptions because they cannot afford to do that.  There is no discussion of housing for poor seniors.  These are some of the realities of senior poverty that do not appear here.

Otherwise, they are very detailed in their presentation of the new realities of retirement.  It is more difficult to accumulate wealth given the softening of real estate values and the present market conditions for investment.  The taxpayer to retiree ratio is getting very low.  The penalities for taking the CPP early have increased, the OAS will be delayed for those 55 and under, health care costs are bound to rise, savings rates are quite low, household debt is way too high, we are living longer, and retirement can be 25 to 30 years or more long.  All these add up to get ready now!

The graphics are excellent, the Appendix contains useful information, the three phases of retirement and timing choices are included along with Home Care, Retirement Homes, and Nursing Homes.  The savings rates may appear daunting.  However, taking responsibility for your own retirement means funding it and this book points out the need for Canadians to get on board with the realities of twenty-first century retirement!






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The Real Retirement

Fred Vettese, Chief Actuary at Morneau Shepell, and Bill Morneau, Executive Chairman of that same company, have wrttien an excellent resource for Canadians.  They are reassuring but include a good dose of reality therapy.

They do not deal with relationship issues that arise with retirement like divorce, loss and grief, or the need to find new social groups to spend time with socializing.  They do not deal with leisure, the extra time a retiree has to fill, unless it is to keep working.  They do, however, give a good demographic, financial, and overall picture of  a Canadian style retirement.

The basic messages include delay retirement where possible, continue to earn money with part time work after retirement, deal with depletion anxiety with vehicles like annuities and insurance. Then aim for a 50% level of replacement income for a couple and 55% for someone single by paying off debt and adjusting expectations.  The reassurance comes with the fact that Canada is a good place to age especially when you manage your lifestyle, take responsibility for saving for and preparing for retirement, and have realistic expectations.

Canada's rate of poverty for seniors is 5.9 % which does not sound great until you compare it with other countries like the U.S and Japan where it is 22 %, and we do have public pensions like the CPP and OAS with the GIS if you need it.  The other side of that coin they do not mention is that in some foodbanks across Canada there is a 20% rate of senior usage.  Although they do present the health care concern as one that will require personal income, there is no mention of seniors not filling prescriptions because they cannot afford to do that.  There is no discussion of housing for poor seniors.  These are some of the realities of senior poverty that do not appear here.

Otherwise, they are very detailed in their presentation of the new realities of retirement.  It is more difficult to accumulate wealth given the softening of real estate values and the present market conditions for investment.  The taxpayer to retiree ratio is getting very low.  The penalities for taking the CPP early have increased, the OAS will be delayed for those 54 and under, health care costs are bound to rise, savings rates are quite low, household debt is way too high, we are living longer, and retirement can be 25 to 30 years or more long.  All these add up to get ready now!

The graphics are excellent, the Appendix contains useful information, the 3 phases of retirement and timing choices are included along with Home Care, Retirement Homes, and Nursing Homes.  The savings rates may appear daunting.  However, taking responsibility for your own retirement means funding it and this book points out the need for Canadians to get on board with the realities of twenty-first century retirement!






Email this page to a friend
Comment

The Real Retirement

Fred Vettese, Chief Actuary at Morneau Shepell, and Bill Morneau, Executive Chairman of that same company, have wrttien an excellent resource for Canadians.  They are reassuring but include a good dose of reality therapy.

They do not deal with relationship issues that arise with retirement like divorce, loss and grief, or the need to find new social groups to spend time with socializing.  They do not deal with leisure, the extra time a retiree has to fill, unless it is to keep working.  They do, however, give a good demographic, financial, and overall picture of  a Canadian style retirement.

The basic messages include delay retirement where possible, continue to earn money with part time work after retirement, deal with depletion anxiety with vehicles like annuities and insurance. Then aim for a 50% level of replacement income for a couple and 55% for someone single by paying off debt and adjusting expectations.  The reassurance comes with the fact that Canada is a good place to age especially when you manage your lifestyle, take responsibility for saving for and preparing for retirement, and have realistic expectations.

Canada's rate of poverty for seniors is 5.9 % which does not sound great until you compare it with other countries like the U.S and Japan where it is 22 %, and we do have public pensions like the CPP and OAS with the GIS if you need it.  The other side of that coin they do not mention is that in some foodbanks across Canada there is a 20% rate of senior usage.  Although they do present the health care concern as one that will require personal income, there is no mention of seniors not filling prescriptions because they cannot afford to do that.  There is no discussion of housing for poor seniors.  These are some of the realities of senior poverty that do not appear here.

Otherwise, they are very detailed in their presentation of the new realities of retirement.  It is more difficult to accumulate wealth given the softening of real estate values and the present market conditions for investment.  The taxpayer to retiree ratio is getting very low.  The penalities for taking the CPP early have increased, the OAS will be delayed for those 54 and under, health care costs are bound to rise, savings rates are quite low, household debt is way too high, we are living longer, and retirement can be 25 to 30 years or more long.  All these add up to get ready now!

The graphics are excellent, the Appendix contains useful information, the 3 phases of retirement and timing choices are included along with Home Care, Retirement Homes, and Nursing Homes.  The savings rates may appear daunting.  However, taking responsibility for your own retirement means funding it and this book points out the need for Canadians to get on board with the realities of twenty-first century retirement!






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From the Front Lines

I just got back from a 3 week plus trip to beautiful Victoria, British Columbia.  The spring flowers and blossoms were a joy to behold, but what interested me was talking to people who work with and on behalf of retirees there.

Because of the moderate climate, many retirees relocate to Vancouver Island where they can walk, hike, ski Mount Washington, bike, take part in a dynamic cultural scene and enjoy an active retirement.  I did a presentation on Women and Retirement at the lovely Goward House.  Workshops coming up there include Financial Planning for Women and Downsizing Considerations.  It is a busy, light filled former home on stunning grounds that has a cafe, teaching and meeting rooms, its own art gallery on the walls and a rich program of courses and speakers.

I met a number of investment advisors including Pam Katunar who does her best to educate women about their choices and futures.  I had lunch with Vicki McNulty M.S.W. who has a counselling and consulting business called Boomers in Transition.    I had tea with Lowell Ann Fuglsang who does coaching and is involved with two other counsellors who work with retirement employment (retirementemployment.ca).  Many other services and small businesses exist to deal with the needs of the retirees market there.  Much of the rest of Canada is watching B.C. for how they deal with the retirees who have been heading there steadily.  Health care, professional services, recreation, cultural options and government policies at the city and provincial level will teach the rest of us across Canada a great deal.

I had the pleasure of talking with Mathieu Powell of Senior Living Magazine and learning about the demographic on the island and what that means for the area.  He invited me to the Elderly Friendly Community Networking breakfast that meets once a month so that the many professionals and business people who deal with the 55+ groups can keep an open dialogue and stay informed.  Many communities could benefit from such a face to face meeting on a regular basis.

I read an article by Jim Mann who travels across Canada to warn of the coming deluge of dementia sufferers we are about to experience.  In B.C. alone, 15,000 people are diagnosed with dementia each year and, with the Boomers coming up, that will increase.  Institutions are already overwhelmed and much of the burden of care is left to families and community care givers.  This is expensive financially and leaves our systems and family members exhausted!  There is no plan to deal with this deluge that I can find!

I also met with Brian Lambier in Calgary who has a company called Careervitality and does some of the same retirement readiness presentations that I do.  We found we had much in common in our approaches, philosophies, and observations.  One of the main ones was that lots of people need to plan and are avoiding the whole issue to their detriment.

All in all it was a worthwhile and interesting visit to the role model city for retirement! 






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WHAT ABOUT THE KIDS?

LATE TO LAUNCH

David Cravit of Zoomer Media has written a book called BEYOND AGE RAGE that looks at the trends and realities for the Boomer and Millennial generations competing for jobs, government funded services like education, health care and pensions, and, apparently, time in the bathroom.  According to Statistics Canada 2011, 51% of those born between 1981 and 1990 are living at home.  An American study found that 50% of parents were providing housing, 48% were helping with living expenses, 41% were helping with transportation costs and the trend continues for everything from cell phone costs to spending money.

The demographic triangle is still top heavy with the Boomers and skinny at the bottom with the results of the low birth rates over the last few decades.  The older folks vote way more than the younger and so advantage to Boomers in the competition for dwindling government offerings. Boomers are seriously underfunded for retirement, are working longer, and often supporting their elderly parents in some ways and their struggling offspring as well.

Cravit identifies the big picture like this: People are living longer and draining resources as a result just when the economic meltdown means trouble providing those resources, meaning Boomers will be in the job market longer and lobbying and voting to protect benefits just as the Millennials are arriving on the scene with their strong sense of entitlement and few skills.  Perfect storm for trouble. 

OUT TO LUNCH?

He also looks at the hapless and often helpless Millennials raised by helicopter parents, taught in a self-esteem based on nothing system, protected from consequences of any sort resulting in unfocused, ill-prepared, entitled, whining, infantalized young adults without the skills to compete or be productive in the present economy.  Boomers will need them to be tax payers and, so far, it is not looking good!

Were they sold a bill of goods?  You are special, you can make your dreams come true, get a post-secondary education and all will be well, the world is yours on a platter.  Many are drowning in debt from student loans, easy to attain credit cards, high consumer spending, and expensive lifestyle choices.  This is the kind of ignorance of financial literacy and unrealistic expectations that can land you bunking back with Mom and Dad if you ever left.

Shrinking economies make tax resources disappear along with high salary start up positions. The job market competition is heated and unpredictable.  The median age is 42 in Canada.  The generation gap is morphing into one played out at home.  Will houses be redesigned to have a Baby Still On Board suite that will become the granny flat? Lots of questions and some answers in this book.

Cravit does a good job of presenting the trends and stats that we are all living with in Canada.  The book is published by BPS Books who also published It's Your Time .  It is $22.00 and well worth the read!






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Composing Your Future and Investing in Your Life

Some of us are planners.  We book flights ahead, put money aside for that rainy day, and have an idea of our goals.

Others do everything at the last minute, on a spontaneous whim, when the mood strikes.

The latter works for lots of things but not say building a house or heading into the next 15 to 30 years of your life when you retire. I talk to lots of about to be retired people and many just retired ones too.  The pattern seems to be clear to me.  Those who have put some thoughtful planning into this transition have a better experience that those who do not.  The transition is more pleasant and promising for the planners.

PLAN A AND B

About 45% of people no longer have their own choice of retirement timing as they have developed a health issue that curtails their career which is about 25% of those who retire.   Alternately, they have been given a pink slip, a buy out package, or their job has been "disappeared" which has doubled in the last few years from 10% to 20% of early retirees.  Many who thought that they had another few years to work, find themselves suddenly retired.  That is why not just one plan is required. A Plan B or a just in case scenario can come in handy as well.

MEANINGFUL RETIREMENT

Many want a proactive retirement, which is one where they have optimal levels of choice.  These forward thinkers often seed their retirement activities before they actually retire. They have started to plan how they want to spend their time, they are taking courses, have started singing in the Glee club, are considering their next business or career,  are meeting with coaches or mentors, or getting their financial realities into perspective.

They are considering if and how they will revocate during retirement.  They could be browsing retiredworker.ca or taking a small business course, visiting a volunteer centre, or looking into Third Age Learning or Continuing Education options.  Some are improving or enhancing their physical health by joining a club or a gym, starting a fitness routine, improving their nutrition, reducing stress, and getting more and better sleep.  Lots of folks are considering how to make their retirements authentic, engaged, meaningful, fun, and exciting.  It is a time of reflection and rededication to who you really are and what you really want from the rest of your life.

Mary Catherine Bateson has a book called Composing a Further Life: The Age of Active Wisdom where she discusses retiring with grace, elegance, and wisdom.  It is an excellent book for the thoughtful person discovering themselves and their new realities and options in retirement.  According to her, we are living longer and thinking shorter. 

What do you want your world to be like and how do you want to be a meaningful part of that world?






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The Retirement Biggies

I had a long lunch with Mary Gallinger in Victoria, B.C. recently.  She has done research and written a book, Strategies for Transitions to Retirement.  We both do speaking engagements and workshops on retirement.  Her book points out some of the themes and concerns common to many retirees.  Here are some of those heads-up issues.

1. The biggest issue and the biggest reason people retire is HEALTH.  A health crisis often initiates the retirement, concerns about the effects of stress may do the same, and some even find their health improves after retirement.

2.  SELF-AWARENESS  is the next as you recreate yourself and your new life.  Some feel they have flown off the treadmill and have to make concerted efforts to get their feet back under themselves.  After going through the honeymoon and readjustment period, knowing your values and passions and making them a part of that new life takes some soul searching.

3.  The third most important factor in a successful retirement is POSITIVE RELATIONSHIPS.  Turf wars can happen at home as each claims space, and good communication helps.  For better or for worse but for lunch everyday? Often the work companions need to be replaced with friends, old or new. 

Other issues have to do with time and how to use it, transitions and how to make them, finances and how to manage them, and being and feeling engaged and involved with your community or group.  Imagining a long vacation may be easier to do than visualizing retirement but spending some time getting ready to retire pays off!

Get ready 'cause here it comes!






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What do we do now Chicken Little?

If indeed the sky is falling for those about to retire, how do we prop it up or duck and cover?

In Gordon Pape's new book about the harsh realities of retirement, he lists nine heads-up for those heading into retirement.   He also does offer some ideas for countering the current situation.

"Retirement planning is not something you can kick down the road.  If you wait until you're fifty, it's too late." Gordon Pape

On the other hand, there is nothing like the present to get started.

1.)  The first step then is to make a plan!  Only about 1 in 5 Canadians have a comprehensive financial plan according to a Sun Life financial survey. Even fewer have a retirement plan.  Many expect to work past age 65 without factoring in possible health problems, the sagging economy, downsizing, and anything else the fickle finger of fate manifests.  Check his handy Worry Index to see where you fit in the 'just how bad is it for me' scale.

2.)  Pay off debt as fast as you can!  Only about 56% of this generation of retirees are debt free at retirement.

3.)  Know your sources of income.  Take a look at Jim Yih's blog for public pension information, the Service Canada website, your employer funded pension if you are lucky enough to have one, and your investments and net worth.

4.) Build your RRSP knowing that it will be taxed at some point. ( You may want to do a tax projection especially if you have a defined benefit pension and look at what happens at age 71.)

He has nine solutions altogether and you may want to buy the book to get the full impact of his explanations.  The ones that I think are very valuable include the Educate Yourself and Get A Trusted Advisor!  Lots of information is available on-line, at the Globe and Mail, Moneysense magazine, and your local bookstore.  It's Your Time is a guide to many aspects of retirement planning.

  Burying your head in the sand of "I will never retire"  is just not realistic. 






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Retirement Reading

I am about to flee this Canadian winter for a warm break.  I will take books and my Kindle and I want to leave some reading tips for those interested in retirement.  I see more and more of books related to retirement in the Top Ten lists.  Needless to say, I have read quite a number of them and can make some recommendations.

In August of 2010, Lyndsay Green's YOU COULD LIVE A LONG TIME: ARE YOU READY? came out and she took it to book launches across the country.  The sales are still strong and steady because it is a book about the rest of your life that does not just talk about money.  Her clear, common sense "Start now" message hits home with many Canadians.  Plan rather than panic and great advice from those who have gone before paint a thoughtful and doable approach to the future.  I had the pleasure of meeting Lyndsay and we had a drink on my deck and talked about the importance of community and self awareness as we age.  This is a must read!

David Chilton's  THE WEALTHY BARBER RETURNS came out part way through 2011 and is still topping bestseller lists across the country.  He has a humourous style to deliver cold, hard facts and insights about human greed and fantasy; he exudes common sense in  a cross between Mark Twain and  a read 'em and weep bank statement.  Did you know that the root word of mortgage means death pledge?  Obviously, not all bankers like what Chilton has to say but someone needs to talk about the Pavlovian responses we have to advertising and the neighbour's newest purchase.  A great read!

I always suggest Gail Vaz-Oxlade's books like NEVER TOO LATE or DEBT FREE FOREVER as I also admire her straight from the hip writing style and content.  After this post Christmas spendathon recovery period, I see her books everywhere and suggest picking one up.  She is easy to read and understand, and full of common sense approaches to money and debt.  She is on TV, in Chatelaine and Moneysense magazines, and on bookstore shelves. Pick up a copy and educate yourself!

If you want to learn on-line, go to award winning Jim Yih's website, retirehappy.com, because he has lots of topic specific information in an easy to access and understand format.  One of the best I have seen!

I'll be reading Gordon Pape's newest offering RETIREMENT'S HARSH NEW REALITIES.  I will have a review of that when I get back.  Now I am going to pack my bathing suit and sun screen.  I am with Arthur Black who says that in a Canadian winter the reason it is so quiet out there is that anything with legs, wings, and 2 brain cells has left!  Another perk of retirement!






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What Does Retirement Mean to YOU?

Retirement means many things to lots of people but there are some common threads that appear.  

As I have been teaching Retirement Readiness and Women and Retirement courses, I have heard many visions of what retirement will be for for those people.  I also interview everyone I can about what their hopes and wishes are for their next stages.  Of course, answers vary but certain themes do appear in patterns.  Here are  some that repeat regularly...

Less Stress:  Many want to relax and get their natural body clocks back, improve their sleep patterns, turn off the alarm clock, skip all those dreaded meetings or deadlines or job evaluations.  They want a rest period to recover from the stressors of work, and time to reset their own lives on their terms.  Many want to improve health with fitness programs, or  home made meals instead of eating on the go.  They want some time off for themselves to relax.   

Live MY Life:  This includes setting their own timetables, agendas, and goals.  They have more time for hobbies, fitness, interests, friends or whatever they want to spend their time and energy doing or not doing.  "I want my life to be my own to a much greater degree than it is now," is the common sentiment.  Many look forward to this freedom and the choices that will afford them.  They can travel on the shoulder seasons, head south for the winter or part of it, spend more time at the cottage, or go to more cultural events.  They can go back to part time work or not.  They can catch up on their reading or work on the tennis game.  They can sit on a Board of Directors or help out at the local Foodbank.  They feel more in charge of their lives without the demands of work.

Fulfill a Dream:  "I've always wanted to..."  It could be running a marathon, acting in a play, joining the Glee club, hiking the Bruce Trail, joining a book club, renovating the cottage or kitchen, moving to a small town, learning to tango, playing the guitar, joining Toastmasters, or coaching a sport.  Lots had dreams deferred with working or marriage or kids or health problems and now is the time for that to reach fruition.  This is the Grand Finale, the time to make it happen, to make that dream come true!   

What does retirement mean for you?






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Forever Young

So many Baby Boomers are blinkered by a denial wall of Forever Young.  The retirement concept usually starts creeping into language and consciousness around age 50 but 50 is the new 40 in many boomers' minds.  The largest group of boomers just turned 52 this year.  They are watching their fellow boomers head for retirement with mixed feelings.  Many do not want to associate themselves with aging, slowing down, or any of the realities they equate with retirement.

 I hear, "I am never going to retire!" and wonder if that means a total dedication to their work lives, a debt hole they feel stuck in, a future or new identity they cannot imagine, or a refusal to consider that there is another, possibly better, way of living.   I also hear, "I am not the kind of person to just sit around!".  Who say retirees are just sitting around?  I also hear, "I am too young to think of retirement." Really?  Seriously? 

In workshops, I suggest that the participants bring in Wiley Coyote and the Acme explosives and blow up the wall of denial that keeps them from looking into the future.  Those with a financial plan do better than those who do not have one, and those with some preparation for retirement do better than those who do not.  Transitions are smoother with forethought.  Stop the ageism in attitudes.  Take a look at the Zoomers around you.  Figure out how to live the life you choose, at the pace you choose, living out the dreams you have, on your terms.

Denial ain't a river in Egypt!  If you are lucky, retirement happens.  Get positive about your future!  Imagine the possibilities!






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Freetirement???

I am still looking for another word for the new retirement, the next stage after the world of Must Work.  

This may still mean Can Work if that is the choice.  This is the intention and the action of the majority of Baby Boomers as they go to full or part time paid employment, consulting work, contract work, or self-employment as new businesses pop up regularly.  This may be a revocating move, a desire for an income supplement, a reaction to retirement shock or boredom, or a passion or dream realized.  We want to regenerate in our own ways and this fits for many. The term needs to take these options into account.

I have heard Retread  but it sounds like a tire or old shoe to me.  Not my idea of a good time or an image I want to be associated with!

I have heard Refire but, with so many layoffs, pink slips and buy out packages being handed out, I do not think it hits the right positive note.

I have heard Freetirement and I kind of like that one because it implies more choices, options and a feeling of the bag of rocks being taken off your back.  However, retirement is not free.  It costs like any other stage of life.  More travel time, shopping time, higher health care costs, possible caretaking of loved ones in need, and leisure pursuits do not come free.

I have heard Go-Go stage and try not to picture dancers in cages wearing mini skirts and sixties bouffant hairstyles.  I like the energy of the term but I have a three year old nephew who is in this stage now!  It does not speak to this age group particularly.

Still open for other suggestions and ideas.  Put out to pasture does not count either! Neigh nay!






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Retirement? We need a new Word!

We need a new word for retirement.  Too many of us associate that word with STOP signs, rocking chairs, gold watches, rapid aging, impending death, uselessness, losses and the end of our working lives.  Baby Boomers do not have a self-image that includes retirement in those terms.

Luckily, we can make up our own styles of retirement just as we did by breaking stereotypes in other life stages.  Many of us are healthy, energetic, engaged, and dynamic people who have so much to offer.  But does it need to be in the workplace that we have been in?  Could it be in our communities, in new workplaces, in our own businesses, or someone else's?  The answer is OF COURSE!!

So what do you want to be when you grow up this time?  Or not?  Where do you see yourself having fun and contributing with your skills, interests, values, personalities, and experience?  How about a new career?  Part time work?  A new business venture?  A stint sitting on a Board of a charity organization?  Working in a Third World country?  Fundraising for favourite causes?

Zoomer magazine is creating new images for our age group. The demographic realities of this generation and our spending power has not gone unnoticed except perhaps by most advertisers.  The one exception there may be the drug products like Viagra.  Sex, Drugs, and Rock and Roll...still.

Refirement?  Reigniting passions perhaps but it sounds like someone is being fired again...who needs that?

Any ideas for a new word for the next stage?  Help us out here!






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If not NOW, When?

I met an Irish fellow at a recent event who reminded me, "Time's atickin'!"  He also said that he had never seen a U-haul behind a hearse. Come to think of it neither have I.  So what do you want to do when you grow up this time?

If we are lucky enough to get to retirement....remember health is the wild card....we are likely to go through three stages:

1.  Go-Go

2. Slow-Go

3. No-Go

The first stage has your honeymoon period where you do those things you have been dreaming of prior to your retirement...taking that dream vacation, renovating the house, moving to a new community, golfing, taking courses, and just generally being your own time manager.  You have your health, your resources, your energy and enthusiasm bounded only by your imagination and pocketbook. You can  U-haul anywhere you wish.

Then you settle into your new life, new routine, and enjoy the fruits of your labour, with your family, in your community, and go about making your dreams come true and your world go around in retirement.  This can mean a part time job, international travel, volunteer opportunities, a flowering of interests and talents that you pursue and explore.

In the slow-go stage, insurance costs may curtail some travel, health issues may have challenged you or a loved one, the market forces including inflation may have burst some balloons, and energy levels may have fallen.  This could keep you closer to your home, the services you need, social or family support, and the simpler things in life.  You may be looking for age appropriate housing as you reevaluate and adjust to new realities.  We are always in the process of recalibrating to maintain the best quality of life we can have.

The final stage may have us in a retirement or nursing home or getting the services we need to stay in our own homes.  We find the supports we can from whatever sources we can access.  This whole journey is easier when we have an understanding and awareness of ourselves, our resources, and a realistic handle on our situations.

Time is ticking.  Get ready to make dreams come true now.  






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Retirement in 3-D

Here is the 3-D hurricane heading our way...The first D is Demographics.  You know, The Pig in the Python, or Boom, Bust and Echo, telling us that Baby Boomers are a huge generation followed by a small one. This means that as we age, the pressures on health care, seniors' housing, and other services will be stretched to the limit.  The price tag is mounting as is the tax pressure.  Too few tax payers make this even worse.  The Grey Tsunami is sweeping in whether we are ready or not.  Where there were once 5 taxpayers to 1 senior, we now have a falling ratio that may even go to 2 to 1.  Who pays for what and when is already being debated in the arenas of pension reform and health care.  And we only have just begun.

Another D is Debt, including both personal debt and government deficits.  Forty per cent of retirees carry debt in the form of mortgages on principal residences or cottages or investment properties.  Seventeen per cent have consumer or credit card debt,  7 per cent have cosigned for loans or carry their own loan payments.  Between 25 and 33 per cent of Canadians do not have the money to maintain their lifestyles in retirement.  The falling markets in 2008 wiped out many assets and the market has not recovered yet.  In fact, it is still pitching and plunging with uncertainty in the U.S. and Europe.  Debt reduction may beat the markets as a money saving strategy even with low interest rates!

Deficits mean cuts in services and, quite possibly, higher taxes.  Again the timing is not great for those heading into retirement and reduced incomes.  No wonder many are hanging on to jobs or returning to part time jobs.  According to an RBC poll, 44 per cent of retirees who go back to work do so because they feel that they need the money.  This is up from 32 per cent last year.  Uncertain times also bring lay offs and downsizing making job security no sure thing.  Many say that they need to take care of themselves as government programs shrink because of cuts.

The third D is Divorce.  Maria Shriver and Arnold Schwarzenegger are not the only couple calling it quits after years of marriage.  For those in the 50-54 age group, the divorce rate is up to 34 per cent, but for those 55-59, it is up by almost 50 per cent!  For those in their 60's, it is about 32 per cent.  Approaching retirement and splitting assets can create financial  problems for one or both previous partners.  The last chance to live the life you want in retirement gets people reevaluating their lives and the quality of their relationships.  

This is the 3-D retirement reality therapy session.  The sun does rise after any hurricane though.






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Advice from those who have gone before

According to the survey study done by TD Waterhouse Canada wide, 53 per cent were content with the retirement they were experiencing but that leaves 47 per cent who are not. This advice is from this selection people who were surveyed.

1.  Take care of your health.  

Health is the wild card when it comes to retirement timing as a health issue can put you into a disability situation or an early retirement one. You may also want to consider you insurance coverage for disability or critical care.  Exercise is still the best defence against health problems and so get moving.

2.  Take time to understand and prepare for your retirement.

This may be consulting professionals, taking seminars, reading books, taking courses, or talking to retirees.  You want to make informed decisions, know and consider your options and challenges so that you can proceed confident in your path and choices along the way.

3.  Pay off your debts and save for retirement.

Of Baby Boomers, one third are still in debt in retirement with an average debt of $60,000.  Beware of hope, blind optimism, and luck as retirement strategies.  Many return to some form of paid employment but not just for financial reasons.    Projections suggest that 20 per cent of the workforce will be 55+ by 2015.  Many look for flexibility as opposed to 'jobs that bind'.  Many Canadians are under the debt burden with the about to be retired ones included.

4.  Work with a professional.

This may be a financial advisor, a retirement specialist, a counsellor, your HR department or union or association or some combination.  They have seen this process before and can help to guide you through it.  They will have the preflight checklist you could use.  It's Your Time is a workbook that will take you through this process as well.

5.  Do not leave too early.

If you are tired, take a rest, go on leave or vacation if you can, or a medical leave may be in order.  Think and plan the timing rather than retire in anger, frustration, or boredom.  Every year you work, you build more income into your retirement through CPP contributions, savings and investments, and your private pension if you are one of the 40 per cent of Canadians who have one.  Your income flows from your work rather than your savings while you are employed.  Calculate your financials needs, net worth, sources of income in retirement and get a good realistic picture before you make the leap.  You will also want to have some plans about what you will actually do in your time available.  A forty hour workweek will give you 2000 hours a year to do something else.  What will that be? 

Food for thought from those who are living the dream!  What is yours? 






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Gearing Up To Downshift

Forty per cent of retirees 5 years out say that retirement was the most difficult transition they ever made. So how can you make it easier?

Likely the first step is to get out of denial mode. This is the “I’ll think about it tomorrow” approach.

Then the 6 areas that need attention are finances, health, leisure, relationships, identity, and transitioning.

Finances: Pay yourself first, set your savings goals, do your budget and figure our your financial position, visit Service Canada website and do the Canadian Retirement Income Calculator, get your CPP estimates from Service Canada as well, meet with your financial advisor to get an idea of where you are at and where you would like to be. Reality therapy may be in order along with guerilla frugality. You may try living on 70% of your income now. Use the extra for debt reduction or investment. You may want to get the dental work done now, the roof replaced, or deal with the big ticket items while you are employed.

Health: It may be time for a that physical assessment, new exercise routine, the best nutrition plan you know, and it may be a fine idea to take a look at genetic health risks, and lifestyle health risks. “If I’d known I was going to live this long, I would have taken better care of myself.” No time like now to start looking after yourself. The reveal in the full length mirror may give you some insights as to the next steps. If you have health benefits, this may be the time to take advantage of the services covered.

No matter what first steps you take, get started now to gear up to downshift. Shift happens.
 






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Try Retirement on for Size

Think of ways to get a taste of retirement while still working. Try a leave of absence or reduced pay leave or an extended vacation for at least 6-10 weeks or as long as you can manage. Go to the cottage, the old country, a cruise, an adventure holiday or on an international exchange where you can avoid the alarm clock, break the cell phone and email habit, the whole 9-5 routine. Get your natural rhythm back.
See how it feels. Are you reinvigorated or lost? Are you sure of your decision to retire or do you want to keep working or are you confused and ambivalent about the whole thing?
Look at the pros and cons of retirement during your time out. Look at your options. Is phased retirement an option? Or what about part time work where you are employed? Could you figure out the best timing for your retirement?
If you choose to return to work, pay attention to what energizes you and keeps you engaged. Also watch for what irritates you or exhausts you at work. How is going back to work after an off duty period?
Is it time to visit HR to find out about the retirement process or to readjust your work circumstances?
Take a physical, emotional, and mental break from work while still having job security to try retirement on for size. It is not for everyone. Check it out first.






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Be Ruthless with the Stuff

Remember George Carlin’s routine about dealing with your stuff? Whether it is cleaning out a closet, a room, or a home, we all have to deal with our stuff and, at times, other people’s stuff. Many of us are helping our parents downsize or doing it on their behalf. It can be a very difficult and emotional project.

What goes to family members, or to an auction, or to the dump, or the consignment store? The potential for hurt feelings and disappointment, or sadness and loss abound in what can be an emotional minefield. Decisions have to be made and sometimes quite quickly. Someone has to take charge.

One way to sidestep a bit is to hire one of the relatively new businesses that do the hard stuff more objectively than family can. These ‘smart-sizing’ companies have their areas of expertise, connections to collectors, charities that welcome donations, and appraisers that the rest of us may not. They can provide everything from expertise to boxes to buyers or the insight that the family silver is not worth what you may think.

Some of us take the one box or room at a time approach while others do a quick and intense blitz. Some catalogue every dish while others just want it all to go away quickly. The time to start may be now so that you do not have to face the deluge of stuff at a time of crisis.
 






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Retirement: The Final Frontier

So what do you want to do when you grow up this time? That is what a whole lot of us are asking ourselves. To make it more of a challenge, the whole experience of retirement seems to be changing and changing quickly. We’ve gone from Freedom 55 ads to Freedom 75 if you are lucky for many Canadians.

Pension reform is being kicked around as a political football but little is actually being done to improve public pensions and 60 per cent of Canadians do not have another pension! And we just want to have some fun!

Skip the snooze button and sleep in when we feel like it. Join the local gym, hiking club, or yoga class. Take off for parts unknown, preferably sunny and warm in winter. Stay home for some well-deserved R and R. How do we do it? How do we connect the dots on the road to retirement? How do we make those retirement fantasies real? I know. We should have started saving from the time we had a paper route or a babysitting job. Most of us did not. Then came student loans, mortgage payments, car repairs, blips in the old career path like downsizing or kids.

The budget did not have a whole lots of wiggle room and we were never going to get old anyway. And now? Real income has not really skyrocketed, the cost of living and credit card interest rates do not go down, and the kids keep coming back!

Many of us are in various squeezes like the sandwich generation between the late-to-launchers and the long living parents. About 1 in 4 twenty somethings live at home and seniors need more and more support. Then there’s the health care system about to be shoved to the wall with the crush of the crowd of Baby Boomers.

So how do we create a path to a comfortable retirement with any confidence in these uncertain times?

Sign up for a course on Retirement Readiness? Order all those books from

Amazon.com? Attend a workshop on Retirement Planning? Make an appointment with a financial planner?

Stay tuned for more on you and your retirement.






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Getting Started

Never Too Late Book CoverI know that it can be a bit overwhelming. Many of us just try to make it to the end of the week never mind the end of the work-focused world as we know it. Let’s be optimistic and get ready now.

Take a look at the very down to earth and practical financial planning books by Gail Vaz-Oxlade…Debt Free Forever or Never Too Late. She now writes a column for Chatelaine, does the TV program Til Debt Do Us Part and is easy to understand and apply for basic money savvy.

Get a focus on your financial picture with the help of your banker, financial planner, accountant, or book keeper sister-in-law. Just track the what comes in and what goes out for a couple of months. While you are at that, find out your burn factor or Latte factor. Google these for a look.

Get a copy of It's Your Time by Donna McCaw which is a workbook that you can use to work through your financial picture, health issues, lifestyle choices, identity heads up, and other information for Canadians heading for retirement.

To keep it simple, you need to

1. Find your ducks.

2. Get them in a row.

3. Keep them in a row.

Herding ducks. Who knew?

It may be time to start envisioning what your retirement might be like as

well.

Where will you live?

What will you be doing and with whom?

What will your day or week look like? How will you feel about giving up

your work identity?

Stay tuned for more on your retirement.






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