Category Archives: Things We’ve Learned

Living For the Weekend? Not Anymore!

The strangest thing has happened to us as we have adjusted more and more to the Encore Voyage.  Just this week a friend posted yet another, “It’s Hump Day!” photo on my Facebook timeline.  I skimmed right past.  I remember how we could hardly wait until Friday night got here.  For most of our working lives, TGIF was a big deal!

But now, NOT SO MUCH!

Most people can hardly wait for the weekend to arrive because

a) They need a couple of extra days to catch up on a mountain of chores and tasks, and

b) They are exhausted from their Monday through Friday stress ridden working careers, and just need time to recuperate.

I have decided that one of the best things about this Encore Voyage, whether it be retirement, or just working for ourselves is that

THE WEEKEND NO LONGER MATTERS TO US

Yep, that’s right.  All of those jobs that we used to cram into Saturday afternoon have been done, a little here, a little there, throughout the week.  I can go to the grocery store on a Thursday morning.  I can hardly collect a full load of laundry these days.  I do it when it’s convenient.  The house pretty much stays clean with daily attention.  I can write on a Saturday morning, or at midnight on a Tuesday.

And we’re not constantly exhausted.  One of the most prominent things I tell people when they ask me how I’m liking retirement is that

“You don’t realize how exhausted you were until you’re not anymore!”

And since we’re no longer bone tired, we don’t feel the need to “catch up on the weekend.”

What we do notice about the weekend?

  • Everyone ELSE is out running their errands – so we don’t want to.
  • Everyone ELSE is going out on the town – we now prefer to go out during the week.
  • We no longer experience the “Sunday night blues.” – You know those, right?

And here’s the biggie –

  • We forget what day of the week it is! 

Every single day opens up to us with opportunity.

So here’s to a wonderful Monday. At least, I think that’s what today is…

Lynn

Cover photo: Eric Rothermel ~ Unsplash

When the Heck Did This Happen???

If it has not already happened to you, you need to get mentally prepared.  At some point along your Encore Voyage this WILL happen to you.  It will come as a shock.  You will not expect it to happen.  It will cause concern – nay, even some distress.

The events that happen occur at different ages, and under a wide variety of circumstances, but will look something like this:

You get down on the floor to fetch dog’s ball which has rolled under the sofa, and YOU CAN’T GET UP! 

You do a modest amount of yard work, perhaps pulling weeds, and the next morning, your lower back screams, “WHAT THE HELL HAVE YOU DONE!?”

You are on a ski hill, all set to enjoy a beautiful run through the cedar trees, and suddenly, you’re sucking wind, and you find yourself thinking, “GOOD LORD, PLEASE LET ME MAKE IT TO THE LODGE!”

And you find yourself questioning life:

When did it happen that I can no longer do 10 pushups?  Or 5…Or 1?

When did it become a problem to park too far away from an event?

When did it become impossible to stand on one foot to put on my jammies?

When did picking up a dropped item from the floor BECOME AN EVENT???

Sadly, this phenomenon happens to each of us eventually.  And then, the real question becomes:

Are you gonna Cowboy UP 2

 

Yes, while we know that none of us gets out of this life alive, we have considerable control of how we react to the changes along the way.  A brisk walk here, a yoga class there, and lots of healthy eating in the middle certainly will help to fend off at least a part of the aging process. Surely it must be helpful to attempt as many activities as possible that will help me to stay active, vibrant and healthy.  A fellow blogger recently posted that

“Attitude is the difference
between an ordeal and an adventure.”

I, for one, am planning on fighting like crazy so that I can continue having adventures without too many ordeals! How about you??? Are you planning to Cowboy Up?

Lynn

Cover photo credit: Julia Ceasar – Unsplash

Yet Another List – Needs vs. Wants

Recently, Kathy Merlino over at Kathy’s Retirement Blog, wrote a post called What Is Your Relationship with Money?  It seems that some folks really took exception to Kathy’s use of the term ‘Blow Money’ for that money which has been earmarked for “discretionary spending.”  She and her hubs allot a certain amount each month to spend as they see fit – without questions!  I think it’s great – It’s not “Money Blown” as her next post suggests, but rather money which is spent making their lives wonderful!  Yep, actual money for LIVING!

Hubs and I use a similar but slightly different “strategy.”  We keep what we call the Needs and Wants List:

Our Needs-Wants List

On the Needs side, we list things that are going to REQUIRE upcoming expenditures:  A new roof.  Tires for the car.  On the Wants side, we list things that come up that we would like to purchase, but are not actual necessities:  New tile in the guest bath, refacing the kitchen cabinets, those diamond encrusted wine glasses (OK…. Not really…. surely you know me better than that by now!)

The point is that the list accomplishes two things for us:

  • First, by putting an item on the list, we are forced to analyze our motives.  Is this something we really need, or is it something we’d just like to have?
  • Second, putting items on one list or the other allows us to prioritize our spending, while slowing down impulse buying (at least on larger items.)  Have you ever stopped to think something through like this – “Which would be more important to us…a new toilet or new carpet in the family room?”

The list is generally for bigger ticket items.  We have always had a shared bank account, and because we both have similar financial values, we don’t get crazy on the day to day splurges.  (Yep, occasional quilt fabric counts as day to day spending.)  Neither of us is a compulsive shopper – I repeatedly remind him that he is a lucky man, because clothes shopping is just not in my wheelhouse!  Our Needs and Wants list helps us to think about the question, “What do we need to save for, and what should we “blow money” on?”  In either case,  we believe that as long as it’s thoughtful, deliberate, and within the retirement budget, none of that money is actually “blown.”

Not a Burning…More of a Fizzle!

I remember it quite well.  I think it was during my high school years, or perhaps early college.  I can remember my dad being so excited because they were going to have a “Mortgage Burning Party!”  Yep, it was a big damned deal back then.  A fire was lit in the fireplace, this piece of paper was tossed in, and glasses were raised and toasts made to a bright future!  I can remember that my parents had invited all of their closest friends to the house – warm congratulations bubbled all around!

Jump ahead about four decades.   The last payment was made, and you’d think there’d be dancing in the streets and lots of hoopla!  We even have a little portable fire pit on the patio just for such an event.  Sounds like a great excuse for a celebration, no?

Patio fire pit 2

 

Except that it wasn’t…You see, in today’s digital age, funds were transferred electronically, and botta-bing, botta-boom – DONE!  No final paperwork, no actual mortgage arrived in the mail to be served up with the kindling…nuttin’!  Talk about anticlimactic!  After years and years, it was just sort of over.  And all we had to show for it was the knowledge that we are completely debt free.  And there’s a feeling something like this:

Yevgeniy Gradov - Unsplash

Photo credit : Yevgeniy Gradov – Unsplash
Cover photo: Josh Felise – Unsplash

Lynn

Not Completely Retired? 8 Tips for Working From Home

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about what actually “counts” as being retired. Obviously, times have changed, and “retirement” is looking a great deal different than it did during my parents’ time. In reinventing ourselves on the Voyage, hubs and I decided to start our own business, partly because we wanted the additional income stream, but also because we enjoy the creativity and opportunities we’ve discovered. Hubs will remind you that Frank Lloyd Wright did not actually hit his stride until he was 70 years old!

But we don’t pay for the overhead of an outside office space and instead, we work out of our home. In living and working together 24/7, let’s just say we’ve learned a few things as they relate to working from home. You might find these tips helpful:

1. Keep a workday schedule – If you want to operate a business, you need to treat it as you would a business outside of the home. Hubs gets up every morning, showers and is in his office generally before 7:00 AM. He recognizes that business is taking place out there, even across time zones, and he wants to be at his computer and participating in it!

2. Dress for the job – It’s a mindset. No, really it is. Hubs may start the day in khaki pants and a polo, change into jeans and a t-shirt to mow the lawn later in the day, then change back into “work clothes” when he returns to his office. Now I will admit that I’ve done some paperwork in my jammies, and occasionally I’m barefoot – but as a rule, we respect our business enough to dress the part.

3. Have a “space” dedicated to doing business – Perhaps it’s an office, maybe it’s a desk or even a table in a corner. The point is, it’s a space that is way different than sitting on the couch or recliner. It’s pretty darned easy to get distracted away from the task at hand if that TV flipper is too close! Wherever that space is, it needs to be functional for the demands of the job, with easy access to whatever materials and resources are necessary.

4. Professionalism on the phone is important – This was sort of weird for us at first, as we both use our personal cell phones. Decide, in advance, how you will answer your phone to take business calls or to answer numbers which are unknown. Your business persona is most likely quite different than the way you answer calls from your mom! In some cases, you may want a phone and dedicated line specifically for business. Either way, the current state of cellular technology has convinced us that “the world is flat” and that we can conduct business from nearly anywhere that we have a cell signal!

5. It helps to have a “hotspot.” – We’ve found that having a Wi-Fi hotspot, separate from our phones, has allowed us to have secure internet connection no matter where we travel. When we have traveled out of the country, we have put the hotspot on the international plan with our provider, allowing us to hook up as many as 5 different devices on the road.

6. Be aware of background noise – There is nothing that will make a business seem more questionable than a barking dog or a crying baby in the background! Do you want to do business with someone when you can hear the sounds of “Days of Our Lives” in the background? Didn’t think so…

7. Have a place to meet “clients” – Do you want to have clients come to your home? Early on, we laughed at having “Conference Room East” and “Conference Room West” – coffee shops on both sides of town where we would offer to meet and buy coffee for potential business associates. We also have several professional partners who have offered to let us use their business conference rooms when needed. Some cities have “incubator spaces” where a conference room could be rented on an as-needed basis. Once, when needing to meet with a members of a visiting out of town architectural firm, we had to scramble to find a professional place to meet! It would have been helpful to have a plan up front!

8. Know how to communicate, “I’m Working!” – This has been one of the trickier aspects of the Voyage, and while every instance will be personal, it is fairly universal for those working from home. It is easy for well-intentioned friends and family to believe that you should be able to set business pursuits aside in favor of other activities. “What do you mean you can’t go shopping this afternoon??? Can’t you just do that later?” It can be difficult to explain that while being your own boss does allow for some flexibility, business often must come first!

On the Encore Voyage, we claim to be one-third Frank Lloyd Wright, one-third Warren Buffet, and one-third Jimmy Buffet. We spend quite a bit of time on the Frank Lloyd portion of this gig…it’s not all Jimmy having cheeseburgers in paradise. And while we absolutely love being in charge of every day, stretching our entrepreneurial wings, working from home has been an interesting part of the journey. So how about it…any other tips you’d like to add? I’d love it if you’d share in the comments!

Lynn

Photo credit: Bench Accounting – Unsplash

Our Encore Career – 10 Steps to Success

If I had a dollar for every time someone has said to us, “I want to do what you guys did!”, we could retire all over again!  If you have read our history, then you know that we sort of got thrown into the voyage head first.  Even so, there are some things we learned along the way that we can share.  So if you are feeling crushed by your current job, and want to start your own Encore Career, here are some things that you might find helpful.

 1.  Have some sort of savings in place.  That’s right – If you are going to strike out on your own, you need a bit of a safety cushion to cover the cost of day to day expenses for a few months while you get things off the ground.  I’m not talking about your retirement account! Do Not Ever steal from an IRA, even if you think you’ll pay it back!  It’s highly unlikely you ever will!  I’m not talking about a business loan.  It may be the case that you will secure a business loan to get your ideas off the ground – but you need some funds to sustain you outside of business expenses, at least for a little while.

2.  Find your passion.  I asked hubs what his dream job would be if he could choose.  Figure out what the thing is that you would like to do every day, even if it didn’t make you a dime…then figure out a way to make money doing that!  The whole point of the Encore Voyage is not just to be self-employed, but to be on a soul fulfilling journey!  Decide what you want your dream life to look like.

The voice inside

3.  Create an SOQ – A Statement of Qualifications.  It’s where you sit down and write out all of the marketable skills you have that you wish to promote. What are those things you do particularly well?  What goods do you have to sell?  Here is where you showcase your talents and abilities, and describe them in a nice format.

4.  Determine some short-term, mid-term and long-term goals.  Where do you want to be in 6 months, a year, or even five years? How will you know if this voyage is working for you?  Yes, not starving is a good indicator, but it shouldn’t be the only one!  It should be observable and measurable.

5.  Establish your business identity. What will you call yourself?  How will you explain what it is that you do? Will you have a logo? A business name and website?  Do you need/want to register your business with your state? Do you need to establish a separate business banking account? These were all the nagging little details that made the voyage seem scary and intimidating at first.

6.  Establish a fee structure. Do some research to determine the going rates for services or products similar to yours, and to determine what the market will bear.  Get an idea firmly written down of what you will charge for your services or goods.

7.  Take as many steps as possible to minimize business debt at first. Just because you start “a business” does not mean you can take a trip and call it a business expense!  You still need to consider profit and loss.  Hubs and I have very little overhead, because we work from our home, and have no other employees.  We are careful to keep control of our costs.

8.  Keep excellent records. It has taken us a couple of years to wrap our arms around the record keeping.  From costs related to each job, to keeping receipts and filing, you need to be able to see the bottom line quickly and clearly.

9.  Network and advertise yourself.  I think this was the thing that sets Jeremy apart from many others. He has a huge network of people he has met during the years, and I don’t believe he ever burned a bridge!  He started smilin’ and dialin’ – letting people know what he was up to, what he was wanting to do, and what he could possibly do for them.  Sometimes he met colleagues for coffee.  He took others to lunch.  He attended meetings of professional organizations and actively sought out places where he could make an impact.  From helping others to volunteering, the idea is to stay in front of potential clients.  This is not the time to adopt the notion that, “I’m good at what I do, so people will come to me.”  We’ve known several fellow voyagers who followed this course, and have sunk!

10.  Don’t. Stop. Moving.  To be successful on the Encore, you need to have some hustle!  Those who fail are the ones with an “I’ll do it later” attitude.  If you believe that you can do this with a TV flipper in your hand, you are sadly mistaken. Success is not easy…and it is certainly not for the lazy!

Being an entrepreneur

I know what you are thinking…You’re saying, “Wait…I thought you guys were retired!!”  Well, we are…sort of.  We are designing a life doing exactly what we want to do, when we want to do it, where we want to do it, and with whom we want to do it!   All of the steps above sound like crazy hard work, and initially, they were frightening, and nerve wracking. That said, the end result is that

We get to decide what to make of each day!

And as we’ve become more comfortable on the voyage, we often look at each other and say,

“Dang…This is a really sweet gig we’ve got going here!”

Here’s to hoping that you, too, can end up with a “sweet gig!”

Lynn

Photo credit: Sergey Zolkin – Unsplash

Is Spring Break Better in Retirement?

A couple of days ago, I read a very endearing blog post written by Lauren over at The Stuff of Life Blog.  It seems that Lauren found herself traveling with her son to Miami for spring break!

First off, she gets some seeerioouuusss cool mom points, especially since she footed the bill.  And secondly, she got me thinking about why I was glad not to be my former, younger, wild thing self of (eh-hem…) just a few short years ago.

These days, the Encore Voyage definitely does not include spring break antics.  Here are a few reasons:

1. We don’t need to escape – Our daily life is pretty damn sweet!  Back in the day, we would count the days until we could ditch college and get some relief somewhere…anywhere!  Now, there’s just not that much to run from.

2. Sleeping in is no longer our priority – God knows I never thought anyone would hear me say this…I have become a lark.  This from a perpetual night owl!  I worked my way through college as a bartender – staying up half the night was part of the routine.  Spring break was when we dreamed of sleeping until noon.  But now – wait for it – I love the sunrise!  I believe this is because we are no longer exhausted as we were during our working careers.  Weird, I know, but true!

3. We don’t need to use spring break to catch up (on studies or other chores) – Remember when you would use spring break to start reading that 50,000 pages that you had put off reading?  Or would count on having the time finally to start that term paper? For us, those things that need to be done have either already been done, or they’ll keep until tomorrow…or next week.

4. The party of a few hundred thousand can go on without us – Spring break evokes pictures of beaches full of wall to wall young sweaty bodies.  Not my idea of a good time anymore.  Does it say something about us that on our recent cruise, there were few people younger than about 25?  And that we planned it that way?  I don’t think we’re old fuddy-duddies, but we sure as heck plan our springtime travels for the times when the little revelers will be safely back in their academic constraints!

5. We know our limits –  Ahhhh, that dancin’, loud music, beach filled, booze fest attended by thousands of our new best friends.  Back then we could hardly wait.  Older – wiser – I can’t remember the last time I puked on my shoes!  Perhaps it’s because we can now afford better cocktails and good wines?  Or maybe we just grew up enough to know that needing to shave your tongue or hold your eyelids open with toothpicks is not a great feeling…

6. THEY come to US – I don’t know about the rest of you, but when I was in college, I couldn’t wait to go HOME for spring break.  Most years I was out the door and headed for good old mom and dad’s!  Laundry in tow and expecting a paid for, home cooked meal was about the best thing ever.  We don’t have kids, but my friends tell me that one of the perks of retirement is getting to spend time with children and grandchildren on their spring breaks – On your own terms!

7. No more bikinis! – Lauren truthfully points out that it is difficult to walk around all day with your stomach tucked in, but that if she had to, she could – She just doesn’t need to anymore!!! I couldn’t have said it better myself!

So how about it, fellow Voyagers?  Got any other reasons why retired spring break is better for you?  I’d love to hear!

Lynn

What Counts as “Retired?”

Today I stumbled upon a lovely blog over at Low Country. Felicity. Life,  where Sandra described her retirement circumstances as “life lived in sabbatical.”  I absolutely love that expression – I think I’ll steal it.  Sandra won’t mind.  What Sandra means is that there is so much more to experience and share in this post-career stage, and that she “refuses to be branded” as “retired.”

When I started the Encore Voyage, it was because, during the summer break, my school district decided to cut Special Education support even more, making my job essentially impossible.  And if you’ve read any of our back story, you know that hubs and I made a decision for me to end my teaching career early – Give it up.  Pack it In.  Call it a Day!

Now here’s where it gets dicey.  When I told my closest of teaching friends that I had decided to retire, what some said was,

“You didn’t retire…You QUIT!”

OUCH!!!  I had dedicated nearly 30 years of my life to teaching other people’s children, with crappy pay and very little acknowledgment or respect.  And when it was over, I didn’t get so much as a “Hate to see ya go – Bye!”   or a “What’s your hurry…Here’s your hat!”

Nope…No retirement party for me.  No celebration. No obligatory teachers sitting in chairs in a circle in the school library, eating Costco cake when they’d really rather be grading papers in their rooms. (If you’re a teacher, you’ll get the reference…)

This was all well and good, until some of my older teacher friends found out that they, too, could start collecting their teacher’s pension (at a reduced rate) without exactly waiting until full retirement age – and as teaching conditions worsened, suddenly everybody started “retiring!”

So it got me to thinking…

What Counts as Retired-

I’m fairly certain now that it has absolutely nothing to do with reaching the full retirement age according to the Social Security Administration.  It’s not about being able to collect an employer’s pension plan.  It’s not about being of age to draw from your IRA.  Our many blogging friends have shown us lots of different paths to “early retirement.”

Merriam-Webster describes retirement as “the act of ending your working or professional career.”  But I’m not sure that does it for me either.  In discussing it with the hubs, we both continue to do some outside “work,” which is much different than when we were actually on a payroll.  He claims that architects never stop working.  Frank Lloyd Wright didn’t hit his stride until he was 70!  And I know I will keep “working” and learning and doing new things until I draw my last breath!  Hubs describes retirement as

“Being in a financial position that I can do what I want to do, when I want to do it, where I want to do it and with whom I want to do it!”

And within certain financial realities, I think he’s pretty close.  No, we can’t rent a jet and fly off to Paris any time soon.  We need to be cognizant of our spending habits so we don’t do something stupid.  But the world is ours to work, learn, and experience for pay, for personal gain, or for just plain fun.

For all of you out there, retired by your company’s definition, or like I did, by just plain QUITTING, I raise my glass to you.  Let’s have a Retirement Party!  And for those of you yet to retire – You just decide when that is…I’ll buy!

Lynn

 

Retirement Do-Overs Can Happen!

Do-Over

Yesterday, I was doing some freelance work which involved looking through a college search engine which is being developed.  The search engine provides a simplified way for students to get information about applying for our state’s colleges for the first time.  As I meandered through all of the college websites, I found myself thinking, “Dang!  It would be so fun to go to college again!”  Which got me to thinking about what I would have done differently.  And then that train of thought headed down the ‘would you choose a different career?’ track.

Now don’t get me wrong.  I was a special education teacher for almost 30 years, and I can honestly say it was my true passion.  But have you ever asked yourself,

“What would I do for a career
if I could do it all over again?”

I worked my way through the college websites, looking at all the degree and program offerings, thinking, “Oh, that would be cool” or “I’d like to study that,” and even, “Oh, yuck! That doesn’t sound fun at all!” And then it hit me…There’s not a reason in the world that we retirees can’t study anything our hearts’ desire!  It doesn’t have to be a commitment to an entire college degree program.  I’m not planning on starting a new career anytime soon. What I discovered is that most colleges and universities offer a reduced per credit rate for seniors over 60. (It ticks me off that I’m not quite old enough! – Yep, I’m too young for college…who knew?!)  Many postsecondary institutions have adult learning and ‘not for credit’ programs at a greatly reduced cost.  And for that matter, there are lots of web-based learning opportunities out there that are totally cheap!  A quick Google search brings up plenty of opportunities from campus based programs to YouTube!  All that is required is curiosity and a little time!  And we retirees have nothing if not time, right?  So why not?

Is there anything that you have always wanted to learn how to do?  Any topic that has always peaked your curiosity?  Something that you’ve always wanted to try? There’s no time like the present.  I’d love to hear your stories!  Have you tried any adult learning options or are you planning to do so?  Leave a comment, I’d love it if you’d share!

Lynn

Photo credit: Kazuend – Unsplash

 

Retirement Rituals

Retirement Rituals-What are Yours-

Before the hubs and I started this retirement phase, we got up every morning and headed off to our respective jobs.  Patterns emerged…we sort of fell into a routine of who did what each day, each week.  He got up early and made the coffee.  I figured out what we were having for dinner and made arrangements.

Out the door we went, where we put in our 8 hours working for the man…(ha ha ha – Who am I kidding!  I was a TEACHER for cryin’ out loud).  But wait…I digress…When we finally did arrive home after work, we again settled into the motions of getting all of the required tasks done so that we would be able to successfully get up and do it all again tomorrow.  After 30 years or so, let’s just say

We settled into a routine!

But after just a short time on the Encore Voyage, guess what happened?

The routine got shot to hell!

You see, now, nobody absolutely must be out the door by 7:00 AM anymore. The entire house does not need to be cleaned on a Saturday because we have plenty of time over the course of several days.  We can shop for groceries…together…at midnight…on a Tuesday!  We can read books all night and snooze in the afternoon if need be.  Even our Encore Careers which we’ve developed have flexibility of schedule.  So many times, we just look at each other and say,

“This is a sweet gig.”

We now have time to pause, to reflect, to live our lives with more intention.  We enjoy being together, and are paying attention to what that really means.  Many different sorts of “routines” have started to emerge.  They are ours, they are personal, they are subtle. Some are just plain goofy things we do, some will probably make you gag – and they are all the exact opposite of rushing out the door.

Here’s a few to show you what I mean:

  • When we get up, hubs now comes around to my side of the bed, tucks the covers in around me, and tweaks the end of my nose. (Sickeningly sweet, I know!) I wake up every morning feeling cherished.
  • Often in the evening, we have a glass of wine before dinner.  I don’t know why or when it started, but with every glass of wine I drink, I now hand him my glass and give him the last sip.  My way of saying, “I’d give you everything?
  • Hubs often needs to fly to different project sites.  Not that I worry about his flying, but still…every time he lands at an airport, he sends me the following text – “Tranquility base, the Eagle has landed.”  I am his tranquility base.
  • Now, every morning, because we don’t have to rush off to our respective employers, our dog, Roxy and I head into hub’s office, where we both climb onto his lap for a second and be “daddy’s girls.”  Alright, I know you’re thinking that one is a little over the top…

My point is, we are developing new rituals – new ways of being with each other – that our working lives would not have allowed.  We are creating new life patterns that are based not on a hurried routine, but rather on lingering in the moments that matter.  Who knows – perhaps in retirement we have developed cases of “terminal mushiness.”  When I asked hubs about it, he said, “I don’t know…but I love you, and I appreciate you.”  I am confident that he always has!  But the Encore Voyage has given us time to delight in our new routines.

Lynn

Photo Credit: Emanuel Feruzi – Unsplashed