Achievement in Retirement

It has been a while since I posted to this blog.  Life gets in the way sometimes. However, I have accomplished something: the publication of the long-promised book “Where Shall I Live When I Retire? It is available from Amazon.com in both print and ebook form. If you are mulling over the decision to age in place or to downsize and move to a new home, read this book.  Click here for the link.

Although it feels good to have this long term project finished, there is a void. There is nothing to fill the time. I need a new challenge.  That got me thinking about achievement, and what it means for retirees.

Back in the 1980’s, a psychologist named David McClelland studied worker motivation. He proposed that people at work were motivated by three primary needs which arise out of life experience:

  • Achievement: These people need to master complex tasks, to meet goals that offer challenges, and to accomplish those goals.
  • Affiliation: the need for friendly harmonious relationships, to be liked and held in high regard.
  • Power: the need to influence and direct others, to make an impact, a need to lead.

McClelland’s theory states that most people hold a combination of these needs, but that one of them will be dominant.

When we retire, how do we satisfy these needs?  I suspect that many people who struggle with the adjustment to this new stage of life are having trouble with at least one of them. I know that I am achievement-oriented, that I need new challenges to keep me going. Those challenges need to be achievable but not too easy.  The book project involved researching the content, which was interesting but not particularly challenging (the internet is a wonderful thing). The challenge came from researching and learning how to format and upload an e-book and negotiating the self-publishing process for the print version.

It seems to me that the affiliation need may be the easiest to fulfill in retirement.  It involves getting out and meeting people, and getting involved in activities. People who have a strong affiliation need are probable ‘people’ people, and seek the company of others easily.

Power needs are probably the most difficult to satisfy in retirement. As one executive told me once “I don’t have the corner office, the support staff, the title or the big paycheck.” People who have a need to lead, to be in charge may find their niche on a nonprofit board, or even going back to work and running a nonprofit or starting a new business.

Which of these is your predominant need? How are you satisfying it?  As for me, I have some ideas for new projects. We’ll see where they go.

Carol


Look For Your MBI

What’s an MBI?  In an effort to reduce identity theft, the Social Security Administration will be issuing new Medicare cards that will not have our Social Security numbers on them. Instead, they will have a randomly generated Medicare Beneficiary Identifier or MBI number. Cards will be mailed between April 2018 and April 2019.

No doubt, the scammers will be trying new ways to cash in on this change. Here are a few tips from the Scambusters,org newsletter to help you avoid them:

  1. Medicare won’t phone or email you about the new card, so if you get a call, it’s almost certainly a scam. On the rare occasions that they make customer service calls, they never ask for confidential information.
  2. The cards are free, so anyone asking you to pay is a scammer.
  3. Medicare never asks for your Social Security number and, when the new cards are issued, they won’t be asking you for your MBI either. They already have it!
  4. There won’t be any changes to your Medicare benefits as a result of issuing the new number and you don’t have to do anything to “activate” your new card. Anyone saying you need to take certain actions to remain covered is a scammer.
  5. Watch out for fake websites offering to issue new cards or help you secure your card. As we said, you don’t need to apply. But if you want to check any Medicare questions online, the only site to use is www.cms.gov
  6. Be particularly alert if you’re not yet in Medicare but expect to enroll during the interim period. When you submit your application, it’s possible Medicare will contact you but they normally do this by letter. If someone phones, carefully check their identity — don’t take their word that they’re who they say they are.
  7. The cards can be used as soon as you get yours — it will come with instructions. However, it’s not clear whether all Medicare service providers will be equipped to use the MBI at the outset. They may ask you for your old, SSN-based number — but usually only in the payment office.

For more information, see the CMS website at:   https://www.cms.gov/Medicare/New-Medicare-Card/index.html


Where Shall We Live When We Retire, Continued

Richard Leider, in his book Repacking Your bags: Lighten Your Load for the Good Life, says the Good Life is:

Living in the place you belong
With the people you love
Doing the right work
On Purpose

He puts the place piece first: it provides a space and community to support your work (meaningful activity – paid or unpaid) and your relationships, and space where you can find meaning or purpose in your life.
When I started to do some research on the topic of retirement housing, I found two types of books and articles. The first category is all about the geography of the destination – Worst States for Retirement, Top Metropolitan Areas for Retirement, etc. These cover what I call the externals – what does a particular place have to offer, or not offer in the case of negative reports.
The second group of articles concerned ‘where to put mom or dad’ — finding a living situation for an aging parent or relative who needs some level of care. Neither of these types of material deals with the psychological aspects and meaning of home and how they change as we age. Stephen M. Golant, in his excellent book Aging in the Right Place, uses the term residential normalcy:
When people find their right places to live, they have achieved residential normalcy. This happens in places where they experience overall pleasurable, hassle-free and memorable feelings that have relevance to them; and where they feel both competent and in control – that is, they do not have to behave in personally objectionable ways or to unduly surrender mastery of their lives or environments to others.
You probably will make several moves after you retire. While most people tend to stay in their own communities when they retire, preferably in their current homes, some will move to more suitable housing in the same community. Others will opt to relocate to areas with warmer climates, lower taxes and living costs, and amenities that they value. Florida and the southwest have been the favored locations until recently. Then, as they age, or as their spouses die, they move closer to an adult child. Even in multi-tiered senior communities, couples may move into a cottage or villa, and when one partner dies, the surviving spouse may move into a condominium within the community. If it is a continuing care retirement community (CCRC), the move may be from independent living (cottage or condominium) to assisted living, and then possibly to nursing care unit.
The fact is that you will need different types of housing and services as you age. Retirement has been described a sequence – the go-go years, the slow-go years and the no-go years. Ideally, your plan for retirement will be comprehensive, taking into account what your housing needs will be at each stage of the sequence. Housing that is appropriate for a couple in the go-go years could be totally inadequate for a single person in the no-go years. And at that point, you may be forced to make a move that will be much more wrenching than if you had planned for those needs up front. And, the older one is when making a move, the more difficult the adjustment. For frail elderly person, a move can hasten their decline dramatically.
Retirement choices are both a financial matter and a lifestyle matter. These issues are most closely related when it comes to housing – where you live may be driven by what you can afford. The choice is to get the best mix of services and amenities for your money at each stage of life.


Where shall We Live When We Retire?

In the retirement workshops and programs that I run, the question of “where shall we live when we retire?” comes up frequently. Housing decisions have a far-reaching impact on your life satisfaction and well-being in retirement. I have identified five big questions to be considered when deciding where to live in retirement:

  • Geography – what locations are you considering? Seashore? Mountains? Urban? Rural? What amenities are you looking for? What kind of lifestyle?
  • Sociology – where are your friends, family, social networks, activities? A social support network is one of the most valuable assets to one can have as we age.
  • Psychology – feelings about one’s home and home ownership. Is your home part of your personal identity? Are home-based activities such as gardening what give meaning to your life?
  • Physiology – preparing for aging. How will you live in your home as you age? Your housing wants and needs will be quite different at age 65 than at age 90.  What design features should you be seeking for the present and the future?
  • Financial – housing expense will probably be your biggest cash outlay going forward, and that can greatly impact your lifestyle. What can you afford? How can you get the best housing for the money?

For many people, there is no decision.  They are going to stay right where they are, that is, to age in place.  However, that place may not be the right place for the long haul, so for some people, the housing decision means finding a more suitable place in the same community.

Other people choose to move to another town, another state, or even another country.  The primary reasons for doing so are:

  • To move to an area where there is a lower cost of living, especially taxes
  • To move closer to family members
  • To live a different lifestyle such as the beach, a golf community, and enjoy a warmer climate, or even a different culture

In researching this question, and going through my own decision process, I realized that there wasn’t much material out there to help people struggling with this issue. So, I have written a book on this subject.  It is in the editing stages, and I hope to have it available as an E-book in the next few months.  While it is written for Boomers planning their own retirement living, there is information here that will be helpful for people helping aging parents or family make these decisions, especially when it comes to care needs.  One thing I found is that many people are unaware of the services and care levels provided in different types of senior housing.  I hope this book will remedy that. Look for it soon.

 


I don’t wanna live with a bunch of old people.

This post is part of a series dealing with the question of where to live in retirement.  Since I am in the process of writing an e-book on this topic, you will see more on this topic.

Most retirees  will say that they plan to age in their own home, and this may be the strongest argument one can have for aging in place. Let’s take a look at what is behind it.   Some people express a strong preference for living in a community with a range of ages. They enjoy being around young people and children.  This works well for all concerned, as long as the community continues to provide social support and interactions as the older person ages, and the needed services are available.  The children are exposed to older folks and young people gain from getting the perspective of their elders.

But behind this statement may be the stereotyped view that all people living in senior housing are frail, sick, demented and dying.  And, yes, people in senior housing do age and die, as do we all.  And the older housing developments tend to have an older population than the more recently built ones.  But you will also find a wide range of abilities, capabilities and disabilities in senior living, including folks who have had fascinating life experiences and are still vital and active.

Another factor may be the fear of labeling oneself as “old” – a matter of personal identity.  Who am I? Well, I am not an “old person.”  At some point, we need to face reality.  When will you do that?  When you have a major health crisis? At that point, it is too late to make plans for the next step, and you are forced to deal with the reality and the limitations imposed by the crisis.

Two views of senior living:

One woman said “I like living with my peers.  We are all dealing with the same issues of aging. We understand each other, and we help each other.”

Another said “I open my door and see the walkers and wheelchairs going past.  That is my future, and it isn’t pretty.”  Both of these women live in the same community.

How do people in senior housing communities deal with this phenomenon?   I have come up with several strategies:

  • Keep involved with the wider community, and don’t get totally immersed in the senior development. There is a wider world out there and we need to keep it in perspective
  • There are active, vital and interesting people of varying ages living in senior communities. Identify them and make them your models.  I don’t like the phrase ‘young at heart’, but that is what these people are, and we can learn a lot about living from them.
  • View the frailer residents as reminders and motivators for healthy living – getting exercise, eating well, controlling weight, staying positive in our attitudes. While we all age, there is a lot we can do to, as one author put it “live young while growing old, and to die young, as late as possible.”

 

So don’t write off the possibility that there may be a better place to spend your older years that you present home.

 


Digital Assets and Your Estate

Recently, I was going over a list from my attorney of the papers one should prepare for end of life, and I was smugly checking off the list:
checkmark Last Will and Testament
checkmark Power of Attorney
checkmark Personal property memorandum
checkmark Health proxy
checkmark Living Will
checkmark HIPAA release
   Digital assets plan

Digital assets? HuH?
Well, when I stopped to think about it, there is a lot of stuff there, and some of it would be important to family members and whoever is your Power of Attorney and Executor.  Nolo.com, a publisher of legal guides, defines digital assets as any electronic record you own, license or control, including any online account or digital file, whether on a device you own or in the cloud.  Nolo lists the following as digital assets Nolo.com list:

  • Email accounts
  • Social media
  • Subscriptions
  • Market place accounts such as Ebay, Etsy or Amazon
  • Interest-specific chat rooms or boards
  • Apps
  • Photos
  • Music, books, videos
  • File sharing storage such as GoogleDocs, Dropbox, iCloud or OneDrive
  • Financial accounts such as checking, savings, investment
  • Gaming accounts
  • Online dating accounts
  • Medical records accounts
  • Insurance Accounts
  • Blogs and websites
  • Information, files and programs on phones, tablets or computers
  • Loyalty benefit programs offered by credit cards.

So, what we have here is information and software, and in some cases, cash and financial assets, and security of credit, all of which is wrapped in privacy concerns. And if you have a business, this list may be doubled for the business. What will happen to all this material when you are gone or no longer able to access it? The person you named as your financial power of attorney or your executor will need access.  That means passwords, pins and user names.  Since these can change, sometimes frequently, the strategy is to keep a list. The tech security folks tell you not to write down passwords, but that is not really possible.  Just keep that list up to date and in a secure place, and let the right people know where it is.  Do not put passwords in your will, which will become a public document upon probate filing.  You probably will change them many times before they are needed, anyway.

The legal status of a deceased person’s digital assets depends on the person’s residence state, and whether that state has enacted the Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act. This act allows executors and trustees access to the deceased person’s digital assets, and it overrides any individual website’s terms of service.  Check with your lawyer on the laws in your state.

Credit cards

Presumably, your executor will pay off your credit card balances and close the accounts. If there is no balance owing on a credit card, the card company will eventually close the account automatically; the same if there is no balance in a bank account.  You may have set up automatic charges to your credit card for recurring bill payments.  Your executor should be aware of those charges and make provision for the ones that will continue after your death.  For example, utility bills and fees to a homeowner association will continue until ownership of the home is transferred.

Some of those credit cards may have unused frequent flyer miles or rewards points balances.  Those are a cash asset.  On many cards, points can be applied to balances.  They may also be donated, but such donations are not tax deductible.  If you have a number of credit cards with rewards balances, you may wish to consolidate them now, by trading them on www.points.com.  That would make your executor’s job easier when the time comes.

Financial accounts

Depending on the way you have set up the accounts, either they will pass directly, or your executor will convert them to estate accounts, thus closing off any attached debit cards.  This should be done quickly to minimize the chance of fraudulent use. Also making your executor’s job easier is access to the passwords for your online accounts.  If it is only an online account or an out of state account, online access is essential. Forgotten or inaccessible funds will eventually revert to a state unclaimed funds account.

Websites and market-place accounts

If you have monetized your website, there will be a continuing income stream coming into one or more of your bank accounts. If it is from ads, that will end when the site is shut down.  If it is from the sale of media, such as merchandise, books, images, music or other downloadables, those are of value to your estate.  Determine if you want to continue to offer them for sale, and who will inherit them.  That person will need to be willing and able to maintain the site.  Sites that you don’t own, but on which you sell merchandise, are included in this category, sites such as Amazon Sellers, Ebay and Etsy.

This is a brief overview of this complex topic.  More in a later post.  Meanwhile, two websites with good resources are  Nolo.com  and  everplans.com. Most of all, consult a  lawyer with expertise in digital asset estate planning.


On Flunking Retirement

I recently ran across an article by Mark Walton on Why We’re Flunking Retirement. Now, it has been my position that you cannot ‘flunk retirement’. I learned from personal experience after I retired, that it takes time to find your new ‘calling’. I tried various things, which did not work for me. But then eventually something clicked, namely developing and running programs for boomers on planning for their lifestyle in retirement. I concluded that if one thing does not make you happy, and provide meaning to your life, you can try something else – or two or three something elses. You are not building a career here, and you can take your time in finding out what works for you. And over time that can, and probably will, change. This is not failure. There are any number of opportunities out there waiting for you to discover them. And, as Thomas Edison said, “I have not failed. I’ve just found ten thousand ways that won’t work.”

Mr. Walton’s article caught my eye, however, because he cited Peter Drucker, who has been called the Father of Modern Management. Peter Drucker’s writings were required reading for us MBA students at New York University, and as a young manager, I found much in them that resonated with what I saw in my own organization. Drucker coined the term Knowledge Worker, one whose body did not wear out from physical labor, and who reached retirement age with a brain that was still working. For the knowledge worker, a retirement of leisure, referred to as The Golden Years, was not satisfying. These people need a new way of retiring, one that challenges the mind.

In Drucker’s 33rd major book, “Management Challenges of the 21st Century,” published in 1999, he proposed that the greatest management challenge of the 21st century will be managing oneself. To do this, we need to know our strengths, identify our values, and know where we belong – the result of the first two points. From that, we can approach the questions of what is my contribution, and where and how can I make a difference? For retirees, this line of thinking may lead into new careers or volunteer activity in the nonprofit sector. Success is redefined as making a difference in the world, or some corner of it, not achieving the top job or the highest salary.
What Drucker proposed has become the Encore movement, spearheaded by Encore.org, an organization dedicated to building a movement to tap the skills and experience of those in midlife and beyond to improve communities and the world. Encore looks to harness the experience and skills of boomers to address the problems of the modern world and create a better future for generations to come. You can read what others are doing in their encore careers at encore.org.

Dr. Drucker, by the way, remains a role model for aging. He was writing, teaching and consulting up until his death at age 95.

Mark Walton is Chairman of the Second Half Institute which offers courses to people who are approaching the second half of their lives.


Curiosity

Life must be lived and curiosity kept alive. One must never, for whatever reason, turn his back on life.
Eleanor Roosevelt

In my last post, I talked about doing, being and becoming. How does one continue to become – to grow, to evolve? I have been thinking about this question, and I think being curious is a big part of it. Curiosity can lead us into avenues we never thought to pursue before. It can open new worlds and possibilities and bring excitement into our lives. Recently, along with several million other people, I was curious about the lifestyle and birthing practices of giraffes, specifically a giraffe named April, living in an animal park in upstate New York. I watched her live giraffe-cam on YouTube religiously, and saw the birth first hand. Now, I am not about to take up a new career as an animal caretaker, but I did learn how big these guys really are – over two stories tall! And it was awesome to see the little guy, just a few minutes old. Within an hour he was standing on his own four legs, and already as tall as the caretakers.

A deeper experience was standing on the top of a mound at Jericho in Israel, looking down into a pit at a Neolithic stone tower 28 ft high. We were told it is the oldest known stone structure in the world, built around 8,000 BCE. That experience opened up for me a whole new avenue of exploration that has kept me curious for years – the study of ancient near-eastern history, which has enriched my life immensely.

Wikipedia defines curiosity as the desire to acquire knowledge and skill: it drives the process of learning. It is the urge to draw us out of our comfort zone, while fear is the agent that keeps us within its boundaries.

So how do we become more curious? I would say the first rule, the foundation, is to pay attention. Really see what is about you. Take time to look, to listen to what others are saying, look at the details, the shapes, the colors, smell the roses. So often, we blithely go our way and never see what is right in our own back yards. Curiosity is about seeing new things, and novel experiences, even in everyday life.

The website Lifehack.org suggests starting with the five basic questions of news reporters: Who, What, When, Where and How. Stopping to ask those question about something you have observed or read about can open up a whole new world and a rich life experience.

The important thing is not to stop questioning; curiosity has its own reason for existing. One cannot help but be in awe when contemplating the mysteries of eternity, of life, of the marvelous structure of reality. It is enough if one tries merely to comprehend a little of the mystery every day . . . Never lose a holy curiosity.
Albert Einstein


Listening to the Silence Part 2

Debra Lambo M.A.  LCSW
Guest Blogger

When I turned 60 I asked myself how I wanted to live the “bonus years” of my life, a time in which I am still healthy, have financial security which offers an opportunity and freedom in which to choose how do I want to live? I wondered are there other people out there that are asking themselves the same question.

Mary Catherine Bateson’s book Composing a Further Life, An Age of Active Wisdom, proposed that the boomer generation needed consciousness raising groups like those that women that formed in the 60’s and 70’s in order to “free themselves from limiting stereotypes of who they were and what they wanted out of life.”  Would such a process help to break out of old stereotypes about aging and help us create lives that reflect how we want to be in the world?  What is life asking of me at this stage of life  and how do I want to respond?

My response to this mandate was to start a group called In Search of Active Wisdom: Consciousness Raising for Adulthood ll. The group would meet at the local Senior Center for four weeks.  Our search for answers would not to be found with one of the many gurus who are proposing solutions.  A solution wasn’t what we needed, since it wasn’t a problem that we had. Instead the group would use the wisdom to be found in poetry, psychology, Op-Ed writers, and mostly in the dialogue we had with each other. Using the group discussion to reflect on the readings and our own life experiences. The readings and discussion helped challenge us to move out of old established habits of mind and allow us to imagine alternative ways of thinking and possibly living,  during this stage of life.  There were no promises made to find more happiness, satisfaction, or spiritual growth.  What such a process did offer was a time and space in which we would live with questions, an opportunity to loosen tightly held beliefs about ourselves and the world.

Our Active Wisdom group has been meeting for four years and is more about our questions than acquiring more information.  Using a process of reading, reflecting and dialogue, we explore together new ways of being and living during this phase of life.

Research by Keith Oatley and Maja Dojkic at University of Toronto (NYTimes, Dec. 21, 2014)[1] shows that reading can transform us.  The more artistic the writing, more powerful it is in getting us to think of about ourselves anew. If we are seeking new ways of being at this stage life, a time when many of us may find ourselves living with freedom that that was not available in the past,  what do we do with it?  Is the current paradigm of aging well, with its emphasis on health and financial security the only possibility for “happiness,” another promise held out by current models of the good life?  Can we imagine something other than what is available through our culture?  Holding a space and time to re-imagine life after 60 creates the possibility to continue the human potential movement that  many boomers were a part of in their youth.

[1] https://www.nytimes.com/2014/12/21/opinion/sunday/how-writing-transforms-us.html


Listening to the Silence Part 1


Debra Lambo M.A. LCSW
Guest Blogger

The poet James Richardson tells us nothing important in life comes with directions. The phenomenon known as the “longevity revolution” has added additional years to the life span, and these “bonus years” before old age leave us with questions about how to live and make these years matter. Until now the tasks of a healthy human development have been laid out for us, we find work, select a life partner, raise a family. But what do we do with these bonus years? The freedom that comes at this new stage of life, freedom that we may not have experienced before, can be experienced as exhilarating or fill us with dread.

Turning sixty led me to questions about how I want to live the next twenty or thirty years of my life. That question propelled me into a whole new world of the aging industry, a world I did not know existed. There are many books, magazine articles, policy discussions on this subject aimed at the more than 70 million boomers approaching or in retirement, the oldest of whom are now over 70. What I discovered were the many dimensions of aging that were being addressed: health care, healthy living, with its concerns about diet and exercise, how to age positively. What was available felt unsatisfying — the assumption is by staying healthy and finding the right recreation, hobbies, a new career or volunteer opportunity, you will age positively. Yes, good health is important so is financial security. What was missing was one important dimension about aging was any discussion of the finiteness of our lives — our aging bodies will give out one day. This is not a sickness that needs to be cured, but part of the cycle of life. We choose to ignore and deny the subject of death except when discussing costs and end of life decisions.

Denying our own death was what Ernest Becker wrote about in this 1974 Pulitzer Prize book, Denial of Death. I cannot remember how or why I started to read a book about death when I was still only in my thirties, but I had a sense, a hunch, that there was something important here, and it has taken me thirty years to fully grasp what it was. We are all finite creatures and we will die one day. Deciding what is important to us, and our response to that decision will inform how we choose to live our lives from here on. When I turned 60, the awareness that one day I would die led me toward being the person I wanted to be, and the life I wanted to live in my remaining years.