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Archive for August, 2011

A New Resource…FindtheBest.com

Wednesday, August 31st, 2011

I don’t often get excited about another place to spend my time on the Internet. But this site seems to be set up to actually help you spend less time. It’s new and it does something we all need done–compare options.

Their purpose, according to their website:
At FindTheBest, we believe that if consumers are presented with objective and focused information, they will be able to quickly choose the product or service that is best for them. Too often, however, marketers and affiliate sites team up to present carefully crafted advertisements as objective information. As a result, it has become difficult and time consuming to distinguish objective information from affiliate schemes aimed at promoting products or services that on a level playing field, would not be able to stand up to the competition. Our goal is to become the trusted place where consumers can find reliable information, free from hidden marketing schemes or other clutter, to make faster and more informed decisions. We will relentlessly innovate with unfaltering integrity to pursue this goal.

The site is set up so you can do comparisons of just the options that appeal to you. They even do charts for you! It all seems pretty easy to use–even for those of us who claim we hate trying to do anything on the computer.

The fact that they want to provide this as a unique source, untinged by advertising dollars from the companies whose products and services they assess, made me decide to do a shout out.

Check it out the site.  And watch the video! It’s really clever and very clear about what they do.
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Mary Lloyd is primary contributor to The Silver Mine Blog. She is a consultant and speaker and author of Supercharged Retirement: Ditch the Rocking Chair, Trash the Remote, and Do What You Love.

Nimble after 50?

Wednesday, August 24th, 2011

The idea of being “nimble”–agile and clever in responding–is not just for the young.

A writer friend used the word “nimble” the other day to refer to her strategy for running a business. I was delighted to rediscover the word. “Nimble” hasn’t been in the everyday lexicon of late. Maybe it’s time to reinvest in what it means.

“Nimble” per Merriam-Webster’s is “quick and light in motion” or “marked by quick, alert, clever conception, comprehension, or resourcefulness” or “responsive or sensitive.” Regardless of which of those definitions you choose, “nimble” sounds like a good idea these days. I want to be nimble.

Nimble is the combination of awareness and action that seems to have gotten lost in the scurrying of everyday life. We “study” things. We “take it into consideration.” The ability to figure out what’s going on and do something about it quickly is a lost art.

And it’s a particularly lost art for those of us over 50. Why? Because by then, not only have we gotten used to dilly dallying around “studying” things, we are assumed to have a diminished capacity for deciding at any point.

This does not have to be the case on either count. Let’s put some of our zeal into being nimble!

Being nimble is good at any age. Nimble in how we react to what Life throws at us. Nimble in how we relate. Nimble in what we do on our own behalf.

The excuses are easy for not getting on with things that really need to be decided. “It’s way too complicated to move quickly” sounds really convincing, but all too often it’s more a case of “I don’t want to think that hard.” Or…as seems to be the case with the political situation right now, “I don’t want to have to be the one to make the hard decisions and solve this impossible problem.”

This does not serve us at any age. But once the thinking demanded by a job goes away and thinking becomes even more of a choice overall, nimble becomes an even more important characteristic to cultivate on purpose. We need to choose to be nimble.

How?

Strive to make your low stakes decisions quickly. When you go out to eat, deny yourself the right to spend ten minutes figuring out what you are going to order from the menu. Look at what’s there. Think about what you enjoy–or what you know you can eat comfortably–and decide. Then let that go and enjoy some conversation with your tablemates. You can even make a competition out of it–who can decide on the most satisfying entre the most quickly.

Pay attention to what’s going on around you. This is wise on a lot of levels but it’s easy to ignore what’s going on once you don’t have to be engaged as part of what you do for a living. Staying aware of your surroundings will keep you safer, but it’s also essential to being able to act quickly if an opportunity arises on the spur of the moment. (i.e. If a friend drives up in a newly purchased 1967 Vette and is leaving town for three weeks the next day in it, being able to say “yes” quickly might get you a ride in it, or even a chance to go along on the road trip.)

Act as soon as you can. Knowing what you need to do but not getting on with it is procrastination and procrastinaion is the mother of unnecessary problems. But if you are buying in on what the culture thinks of your abilities, it’s tempting to wait until you can confer with six friends and your spouse or maybe even ask a younger family member to decide for you. For important decisions, getting advice and double-ch3ecking is certainly wise. But for the simple things in everyday life, get on with it. Decide what needs to be done and do it.

Retirement means we have more time for whatever we choose to have in our lives. It doesn’t have to mean using a huge chunk of it to make decisions that could be made a lot quicker with no significant risk.

Nimble is good. Let’s go for nimble…at 50…65…80….90.

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Mary Lloyd is a speaker and consultant and author of Supercharged Retirement: Ditch the Rocking Chair, Trash the Remote, and Do What You Love. For more, see her website.

Retirement for Couples

Thursday, August 11th, 2011

When you’re spending most of your waking hours at work, spending 24/7 with your spouse or partner sounds like heaven. It’s not that simple once it’s time to actually pull it off.

One of the the most unexpected challenges of retirement planning is figuring out how to do it together.  I’m not talking about synchronizing departure dates and retirement party calendars.  I’m talking about how to create a mutually satisfying new lifestyle once work is no longer the central focus of your lives.  And if you are a single-earner couple, this might be even more challenging than if both of you are giving up outside work.

The surprising truth is that while one–or both–of you were enmeshed in getting the job done as a career, the other was doing something else.  And that “something else” is an important part of what you plan together for what comes next.  Assuming all you need to decide is when you stop working is like deciding you are going to have fish for dinner because you got your fishing pole out of the attic.

The key, of course, is honest conversation. That, too, is not as easy is you might want to believe. If you are expecting to resume the carefree fun of when you first fell in love without any effort, please stop and take a look at reality. Neither of you is the person who said “I do” (or even “I would if I could”) so long ago. To get to the good stuff in the future with this person, you need to figure out what’s going on now. With her (or him). With you. With the living situation you’ve been content with for the last umpteen years.

There are a few questions you’ll need to find pretty solid answers to if you want to get this right.

Who am I? A lot of who you really are has gotten buried under what you have had to do to make a living and function as a responsible adult. Getting a solid sense of what the Real You needs to thrive once you retire is going to be a bigger job than going back to the guitar lessons you gave up when you started med school. Find a way to help yourself explore who you are now. ((Supercharged Retirement: Ditch the Rocking Chair, Trash the Remote, and Do What You Love has an extensive number of fun exercises to help you do that.)

Who is she/he? (your spouse/partner) Unless you have been having long, deep conversations about personal needs and dreams for years, you have a lot to learn about your sweetheart before you step into the next phase of your lives together. This is not the same person you married (or committed to). Your buddy for retirement is that person plus all the experience, insight, and foibles acquired between then and now. Assuming she’s still the same innocent angel when she’s been negotiating deals for the non-profit she volunteers with is naive. Plus, we change as we age and our hormones rearrange themselves. Women tend to become a bit more assertive, and guys are more inclined to nurture than when we were younger. New stuff all around.

What is important (to each of you)? It’s really really important to figure this out. It’s also really really important not to assume you know what’s important to your significant other. Many who have served in support roles are ready to step up to challenges they design for themselves. Some who have been “top dog” are ready to be the support for those who have had their back for decades. But not all. What’s important is unique for each of us. Effectively combining your priorities and your “other’s” for a satisfying new lifestyle depends on each of you knowing what they are for both of you.

How/what do you want to change? What do you like and want to keep or add? What do you want to not have to do anymore? Figure this out.

How/what does she/he want to change? Same deal for your sweetie. You can’t have it all your way all the time. Find the give-and-take and get creative in finding ways to include both sets of dreams.

What are your trade-offs?” Okay, this is something we need to be very candid about. Sometimes, not only do you not get what you want, you don’t get any sympathy for even wanting it. Be authentic in what you decide to do about that. If she (or he) absolutely refuses to do something you want to do, assess where your trade-offs are. Is keeping her (or him) happy more important to you than what you wanted to do? Is doing it on a less grand scale as a solo adventure while she (or he) does something else a good compromise? What are you willing to forego for the sake of keeping the relationship on solid ground? What do you truly have to have to be true to your self?

Where are the log jams? This is the one that no one wants to admit might occur. Either we will agree happily in the first place or we will work in out. But sometimes, that’s not where the conversation goes. In fact sometimes, the conversation goes nowhere simple because the other person doesn’t want to talk about.

What you do in that situation is a function of three things: How much do you want to stay with that person? How hard would it be to go around the objection to do what you want/need to do anyway? How much of an imbalance are you willing to settle for? The situation may change over time, but if the person you love isn’t willing to look at retirement planning issues now, you need to decide what that means for you. (For the record, taking important topics of conversation “off the table” when the other partner wants to discuss them is a form of verbal abuse.)

This is just the tip of the iceberg on living well as a couple as we age. But starting with the tip will at least let you know which way the thing is floating.
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Mary Lloyd is a speaker and consultant and author of Supercharged Retirement: Ditch the Rocking Chair, Trash the Remote, and Do What You Love. For more, see her website.

What You Can Do about Gridlock

Wednesday, August 3rd, 2011

There’s a lot to be unhappy about in the way things got done this week on Capitol Hill. But dwelling on what someone else did wrong is a useless exercise in terms of getting things to go right.

The brinksmanship. The intractability. The sense that “they win” if either party got less that all of what they wanted. The overwhelming frustration that it came down to the last day before Congress and the President even got far enough to do something to avert the immediate crisis. All of  it is…well…nauseating. Did it really have to play out that way? Who’s to blame?

That’s the crux of this and most of what has gone wrong on Capitol Hill of late — who should we blame? Toward whom can we point the accusing finger and say “Shame, shame, shame!”?

Sorry, but I think we have to point it at ourselves. This is no different than when your kids are acting up and making you crazy. If you let them keep doing what they are doing, it’s your own damn fault.

Some pundits have been quick to explain that this is not the most intractible members of Congress have ever been and not the most uncivil toward each other. That’s hardly news for rejoicing. The fact that they have not been able to work together to get the job done remains the biggest risk to our national future of anything we currently face.

But we need to stop pointing at them and look to what we are doing ourselves. How much do they mirror what we are expecting of them in the bad ways as well as the good?

Let’s get one thing straight:We cannot get everything we want. As a country, we simply don’t have the money for it. Pretending that if we just wait a few months, the money will be there is like thinking the herd is going to come back if you just leave the barn door open and wait.

So here are some things to ask yourself rather than bad-mouthing whoever you think “won” the most recent budget battle (which in truth is “no one”):

What do I take for granted from the government? How much am I expecting to be there simply because that works for me? Medicare? Social Security? Military might to protect our borders and our ideals? It’s highly likely every single one of us could do with less from the government than we are willing to admit.

How many ways have I condoned spending other people’s money for things they don’t believe in? There are some things we simply have to do as a country whether we like them personally or not. We need to pay taxes so that the true functions of government can be maintained. We need to protect our borders and educate our kids.

But when we start to do all sorts of other things for all sorts of other reasons, we are on much less solid ground. What are the real functions of a democratic government? Social Security, Medicare, foreign aid, and assorted tax breaks would be foreign concepts to those who crafted the Constitution. Yet we have come to see them as inalienable rights.

Even worse, as a nation, we’ve gotten comfortable with extending many of these entitlements to people who aren’t even citizens. Why is okay to do that with other people’s money?  Government is not the best mechanism for “Doing good.”  Yet we have delegated that responsibility to it in many guises.

Am I “looking the other way” when I see fraud or abuse within government programs? The thinking is that “the government” is fair game. It’s okay to cheat Uncle Sam as long as you don’t get caught. “Uncle Sam” is all of us and the cheating is putting our kids in the collective poorhouse. Yes, there are organized rings of crime that steal millions. But when you go to the doctor more often than you need to and Medicare picks up the tab, that’s abuse, too. We need to stop ALL of it.

What one benefit am I willing to give up that the government currently provides for me? Sorry, folks, but this is where we are going to have to go to get this done. Everyone is going to have to do without something. So lets suck it up and get serious about getting on with it instead of waiting for the next deadline and another 11th hour half-assed temporary patch.

We are spending more than we are earning as a nation. It has to stop. And each one of us has a role to play in that.
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Mary Lloyd is a speaker and consultant and author of Supercharged Retirement: Ditch the Rocking Chair, Trash the Remote, and Do What You Love. For more, see her website.