Tag Archives: Retirement

5 Considerations When Taking the Expat Plunge


Are you considering moving outside of the country and becoming an expat after you retire? You may be dreaming of new adventures, the excitement of living in and experiencing a new culture. Or maybe you are looking to find a place where you get more bang for your buck.  Whatever your reason, the world awaits. It is a big world and making the decision as to where to land is difficult at best.  You may decide to move to where every other expat is moving these days – the “latest” location touted by those expat retirement blogs – or you may do a personal search to find the location that works best for you.

In my search for the “right” location I have found a few cities that would offer me much of what I look for. I fell in love with Antigua, Guatemala years and hoped to live there someday. Then there is Cuenca, a beautiful, colonial city high in the Andes of Ecuador, that captured my heart as I wandered through el Centro on my very first visit. They are both viable options, but I am not yet convinced where I will hang my hat and I plan to continue my search… Guatemala, Chile, Spain, France, Sicily, Greece, Malaysia, Thailand…the list goes on and on.  So many locations to consider!

If you are thinking about becoming an expat here are five things to consider, besides location, before making your move:

Dig deep and ask the tough questions.

Why are you thinking about doing this? What is important to you? What do you need vs. what do you want?  Can you be happy with only the needs being fulfilled?  Are you willing to accept they way they do things in your new country or will  you expect they do it the way to which you are accustomed? Can you live without that red licorice or your favorite barbeque sauce?

Friends and family. How will you keep in touch? Will you be happy not seeing them in person on a weekly or monthly basis? Can you be such a long way from your grandkids?

Is this a forever move or will you only be going for a few years and returning or moving on?

All these questions and more need to honestly answered.  A trip to explore your potential expat city will help to answer some of these questions.  Digging deep and reflecting on your values, adaptability and flexibility will help clarify your reasons, expectations and likelihood of success.

Do your research.

Blogs abound about moving to and living other countries. The bloggers share their experiences and offer a myriad of suggestions for you to chew on.  Then there are sites like numbeo.com that provide costs and living expense comparisons, a very useful tool in seeing how far your resources will stretch.

Facebook has many groups for expats living in different locations around the world.  It’s a great place to interact with and ask questions of people who have already made their move. You will find those who have adapted well, some who are less than happy for numerous reasons, and still others who after a couple of years are heading back to their home country.  These pages generally give a pretty balanced perspective on living in that city or country and honest answers abound to any question you may ask.

Think about visas, residency requirement, and citizenship, if you are interested in going that route.

Healthcare. What are the options? Is there a government program with an option to purchase private insurance instead? What will it cost out of pocket and would that be within your budget?  Will you keep supplemental insurance for when you go back home to visit? Or will you just have travel insurance?

Then there is your best bud. Are you able to bring your beloved pet? What are the requirements to make that happen? Are there vets available and what does their practice look like? What is the culture of pets in the community?

Is the expat community active and welcoming? Starting by making some expat contacts and broadening your community to include the locals as well will only enhance your experience.

Make a plan.

A solid plan will take before, during and after the move into consideration.

Long before ever packing your bags, make a plan. How will all the “at home” requirements be handled? Will everything be handled by electronic mail?  Banking, credit cards, taxes, financial planning all need to be considered. How will those be handled? When will you move?  Do you need to sell a home before you leave? Or will you rent it…just in case?  What will your move look like? Will you only take a couple of suitcases and start fresh?  Or will you pack up your entire household and all your belongings and arrange for them to be shipped?  How will you stay in touch with family and friends?  Will emails and Facebook suffice or will you want to have more personal contact through Skype?

There is so much to consider and a written, detailed plan will only make things go so much smoother. The logistics related to the move need to be considered and fully understood. Stress mixed with excitement and anticipation will be high, so having all your ducks in a row before you hop on the plane will be critical to a smooth transition.

Set a few routines.

Set a few routines when you arrive to get you out into the community so you can begin to make connections with expats and locals alike.  Each morning after breakfast while living in Peru I would enjoy a leisurely cup off coffee in the house courtyard, and mid-morning I would stroll across town to the open air market to get exercise, enjoy the sights and sounds of the city and inevitably I would run into someone I was acquainted with.

While living in Guatemala City I had a routine on the weekends. Having taught school all week, I liked to take the bus to a nearby town, Antiqua, for the day and occasionally overnight on the weekends.  It became a favorite place to go to unwind, and I became familiar with the town and it with me.

If a weekend getaway isn’t an option, consider a Saturday morning walk along the river, ending with coffee and pastry at that quiet little bakery on the other side of town. Or maybe you will join a group with like interests, volunteer to read to children at the local school or help out at an animal shelter.

Setting a few routines at first to get out and about in a normal ‘I live in this town’ kind of way, not ‘I am here as a tourist’ kind of way can normalize your new life. It will provide you opportunity to meet people in those shops, restaurants, schools, clubs and overtime relationships will evolve and friendships will grow.

Create community.

For some this will be easy.  For others who may be a little more introverted or reserved this may feel like a daunting task.

Most cities where expats reside have welcome lunches or gatherings that are held weekly or monthly. Go to the expat hangouts to start the interaction.

Get to know the locals in your neighborhood. Understand that some cultures, though very friendly, may not invite you to their home for a long time. I lived in Peru for two years and I never made it past the parlor in friends homes where guests were welcomed to visit.

Walk softly, observe and learn. Local friendships will evolve naturally over time and more often than not, expats will welcome you with open arms.

Moving to another country can be a real adventure.  Having a well thought out plan and having fully considered your reasons for moving and expectations of the experience can make this new adventure fun and exciting.

What have you done or what are you doing to make your expat move smooth and successful?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

5 Ways To Stay Happy and Healthy In Retirement That Don’t Cost A Penny


Happiness in retirement doesn’t require a huge bank account, but it doesn’t hurt, as the saying goes.  But not everyone has a healthy stash of funds tucked away. Savings in the bank can increase your options, for sure, but it doesn’t make you happy or healthy.  Happiness comes from within yourself and health, well, that comes from choices that you make regarding nutrition, attitude, and life in general.

Focus on good nutrition

iStock_saladSelecting and purchasing quality food that provides good nutrition, without all the harmful chemicals, preservatives and additives will provide your body and mind the vital nutrients to stay healthy and sharp in retirement.  A neighbor in her 80’s, who was an artist living a very simple life once told me that even though she and her husband lived simply, they never scrimped on nutrition. I have always remembered that advice. Forget the pre-packaged and processed foods. There is nothing good about them, except they are easy to prepare. It’s better to eat smaller portions of healthy, nutritious food than to have a plate piled up with no-nutrition boxed, processed “foods”.  Not cooking a lot these days?  Create a lovely salad loaded with veggies, fruits, beans, nuts and seeds. If you like, chop a little egg or chicken and add to the salad.  It’s easy. It’s fresh. And it’s packed with nutrition.  Add to that a freshly made vegetable soup and you have a great meal loaded with vitamins and minerals. You can make enough for several days, so it is just a matter of plating the salad and heating the soup.  Eat well, make good choices for your food, and the rest will follow.

Establish a close circle of friends

As one gets older it is easy to begin to stay at home more where it is comfortable and familiar. However, those who seem happiest in retirement lead full lives, are involved in groups of common interests, join activities, or attend events. They are out and about with friends. Friends are key. They are your support system.  Of course, if you have a partner or spouse, they are as well, but expanding your circle beyond your partner or spouse will provide increased interaction and connection with others with diverse interests and views.  When you are working you have instant friendships, but after retiring, if you don’t have a circle of people to connect with it can become very isolating.

Take the time to establish those connections that are supportive and active. Be selective. Find friends that make you feel good, make you laugh, that are interesting to be around, challenge your thinking, and have a positive outlook on life.  It will make life so much more full.

Get out of that easy chair and move everyday

couplewalklingWho doesn’t love sitting in a big ole lazy boy recliner that has formed to your shape. It’s so comfortable and cozy. Remind yourself that it will still be there at the end of the day when you want to cozy in and watch your favorite TV show, open that book to the dog eared page, or listen to some of your favorite music. Most of us won’t exercise strenuously each day, but we don’t have to. It is movement that is key to staying healthy, mobile, and strong.

Back in my 20’s and 30’s I would pay for a gym membership and several times a week I would go workout, lifting weights, playing racket ball and running on the treadmill. That was then and this is now. I am not interested in paying for a gym membership, let alone lifting weights, but I do love walking and walking provides movement.

There are so many way to fit a walk into your day. Walking in a park, through the woods, on the beach, through your neighborhood, or strolling a few blocks to a local restaurant for dinner with a friend are just a few. Walking doesn’t cost a thing and it is better on your joints than running.  Walk to town, get your groceries, and see what’s happening in the area where you live. Chat with your neighbors and local merchants as you go along.  Get to know your neighborhood and community. You may be in a for a fun surprise when your run across a street performer or see a flyer on a storefront advertising a fun and FREE event.

Most important is to just get up and move, and keep moving.  An object in motion stays in motion…an object not in motion …well, you know the saying.  And it’s amazing what life will send you if you get out into it.

Get involved and give back

Volunteering for a cause that is important to you feeds the soul.  Many spend their whole life working at a job that is just that, a job.  Being retired allows one to provide service to others. Find what you love and are passionate about and look for volunteer opportunities in that area of interest. Love animals? Volunteer at the local shelter? Like to cook? There are opportunities to volunteer at soup kitchens, church events, fairs and festivals for local clubs. Are you good at woodworking?  Maybe you could volunteer to work with teens as the local YMCA or after school program to teach kids this valuable skill.  Have you always loved the arts?  Consider volunteering at a musicial or theatrical venue in your town.  Children at the top of your list?  There are so many opportunities to give back in ways that help children, from hospitals to schools to churches to clubs.  Your heart will feel full when you give back and that is what happiness is made of!

Make a conscious decision to be happy

Positive thinking and being optimistic about life simply makes life better.  Have you ever been around someone who’s glass was always half-empty?  It drains and drags you down.  Simply by approaching life in a positive fashion, looking for best in people and expecting the best out of life, you notice that life seems better, happier and lighter. I just reunited with an a friend that I worked with 24 years ago. Now 90 years old, she is mentally sharp and physically mobile.  She finds humor in life, has plans for the future, dreams are aplenty and she radiates positivity.  Although she has had a rare blood disorder for quite some time, she approaches it as something that is, not something that defines her.  What an inspiration for a happy, long life!

What have you done to create a happy and healthy life?  Share your thoughts below.

Blame it on the Tiramisu


It has been a while since I have written anything in this blog.  I think writing is mostly inspired by our unresolved emotions, fears that haunt us in the quiet hours of the night, the stories of our past that create our now and future realities undefined. When I first started writing this blog, I started in a flurry. I was in a constant state of internal turmoil, circling my future life, the life that would be my retirement and, as a result, the words fell on the page in rapid fire. It was a time of questioning whether I would be able to live a good life when I retired. What would it look like and where would it be? I have to credit this blog and what could be called a public journaling experience to calm my soul and take me to a place of now. It’s good to be home again, in my mind, in my heart and in my soul.

A number of readers of this blog have asked me over the past few months why I had stopped blogging. The truth is that I never really stopped. I simply paused. I paused because of one cappuccino in a small café.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESIt was a few months ago that my blog postings paused.  And, coincidentally, it was also a few months ago that I traveled to Cuenca, Ecuador, a city high in the Andes that has been touted as the number one place in the world for US retirees to relocate. I had been planning to travel there 6 months later with a friend, but those travel plans were moved up so that I could get a taste of my possibilities, sooner rather than later.  I needed to know.  I needed to quell my uncertainties, satiate my curiosity and affirm that one of the many options racing through my mind was viable. Waiting 6 months to find out if it was an option was not reasonable for me, unless I wanted to waste 6 months racked with unknowns.

So, I hopped on a plane to find out if one of my potential retirement options was something that I could hold onto as an option or something that I needed to walk away from forever.

It was during my eight days exploring Cuenca, Ecuador that a shift in consciousness took place and for the first time since the market crashed and the shell of my nest egg cracked, that I felt at peace.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESAfter wandering the city for several days, meeting welcoming expats and locals alike, I found a little dessert café off Parque Calderon, at the other end of the block from where the cathedral stands. I settled in by the window to enjoy a tall Italian cappuccino and tiramisu. I sat with my thoughts and gazed out the window, watching life in Cuenca pass by. The cappuccino was tall, rich and beautifully layered. The tiramisu the best I had had. For the first time in a long time I felt at peace. I was present. I was in the moment. I was not searching for a solution to my future. I was living it. The cost of the cappuccino and tiramisu barely touched my wallet. I knew that I could afford to live here. I could be happy here. I liked the city. I liked the expats. I liked the culture and the locals. And, well, truth be told, I loved the tiramisu. Retirement would be just fine.

It was in that moment, sipping on that cappuccino, that I realized that not only did I have one good retirement option, but I had a world of options. I recognized that retirement can be anything I want it to be. It can be nomadic, moving from country to country experiencing this wonderful, culturally diverse world. It can be on a beach or in the mountains in a far away land. It can be in a small RV traveling around the US or in a park model nuzzled in with a community of other retirees. My options are unlimited.

I will be returning to Ecuador in the near future. There is so much more of that beautiful country that I would like to see, the smaller cities and villages, the hot springs, live volcanoes and waterfalls.

Truth be told, my reasons for returning are mixed. I guess on some level I want more of that delicious cappuccino and tiramisu in that little café just across from the park…or maybe, just maybe, what I really want is another dose of the peace that came with it.

Expat Retirement: Torn Between 2 Loves


Are you considering expat life as your retirement nears?  Maybe you already are an expat who has moved to the country of your dreams?  As I circle around all my options for retirement, I think about the allure of living the life of an expat.  I have lived outside the country before, so I have realistic expectations of what expat life in my retirement years will look like and get very excited about that option.  But then I think about my friends and family who would remain here, while I ventured on.  Conflict.  Torn between two loves.

I suspect if I were one half of a couple that this decision would create less conflict, but I am not sure.  Maybe it is even more difficult for a couple, because of the ties that each have.  There is a pull between affordable adventure that will allow me to save money, travel home for visits while putting money away for long term security, or living downsized on a tight budget, with little to no disposable income, but the closeness of friends and family.

When I lived in the Peruvian Amazon in my late 40’s, after an adjustment period of 6 months, I bought a very simple house outside of the city of Iquitos, in a joven community, a newly established community, near the little airport.  Most of the houses in that community were made of slatted boards with dirt floors, but mine was created of cement blocks, a little more upscale than the majority of the others in that area. It had belonged to a local judge who was moving to Lima. There was no window glass or screens and it was protected above by a corrugated tin roof that sang loudly when it rained.  I only paid a few thousand dollars for it, which I thought was reasonable, although local friends, on the other hand, repeatedly told me  “You paid too much. You paid too much.” I was a “gringa” after all, so I expected that I would pay more than a local.  I was fine with that.  I liked having my own home and that’s what mattered.  It was quite simple and required a dropdown ceiling be installed, only because rats racing across the cross beams while I slept was way outside my comfort zone.

I did enjoy living there, even though the community was located 15 minutes outside of town and I would need to hop the chicken bus, take a mototaxi, or drive my 20 year old beater of a Volkswagen Bug that I called “Broken Down” to get into town. Broken Down was guaranteed to die daily, at least once, as I went to and from the city center. I found myself running back and forth to town throughout the day, and most evenings, and often Broken Down and I would end up waiting for my dear friend Waldermar to come and fix my car that seemed to prefer sitting on the side of the road rather than moving down it.

In Guatemala, I lived in the city, in a hotel, not far from the center, that had been converted into small, but efficient apartments. Things were closer and buses were frequent, so reliable transportation was never an issue and I didn’t have a temperamental VW Bug to deal with.  The hustle and bustle and energy of the city was palpable. I loved urban living.

Eights years from now is my target retirement date, so I spend a lot of time considering what lifestyle would be best for me when retirement comes, as a single woman in my seventh decade of life and beyond.  I am healthy and get around easily and anticipate that will continue, so neither health nor mobility impacts my decision.

In this moment, I am leaning toward a secure apartment in a bohemian or artsy type neighborhood in a city, so that I can walk, have ease of access to transportation, easily visit the market, restaurants and entertainment. The idea of walking to the market, to my favorite coffee shop, arts and entertainment events, and an evening strolling along the river or malecon as the day comes to an end means a full life, daily exercise and continued health.  Those are important considerations.

I think I have decided that I will live in the city if I, ultimately, decide to live abroad.  But the song “Torn Between Two Lovers” keeps coming to mind.  Well, maybe not “lovers,” but loves.  My love for adventure and foreign cultures tugs at me.  It calls to me during my sleep and my waking hours. It never leaves me. It calls for me to come.  Those calls and tugs trigger my senses to recall international living, the smells of traditional foods being cooked in open air storefronts, the scurry of activity in the market as vendors set up for their day’s work. I hear the chatter of a language that becomes more familiar everyday and cherish the experience of being in a different culture, in a foreign land.  I love.

On one side of the coin the love of a new life adventure calls, while on the other side of that same coin there is a whisper in my ear asking about the love of my family and friends, tugging at me to stay.  I feel torn.

When I was in my late 40’s and early 50’s, I would just make up my mind to move, sell off all my belongings, hop on a plane, and be in another culturing living the life I dreamed of.  It was a blink of an eye decision.  It seems funny to me now, that in just a decade’s time, the same decision that was made 10 years earlier isn’t as simple and clear cut as it was back then.

If I stay in this country, then the question to be answered is equally complicated.  Sell the house and then what?  Will I still be around friends and family or will I move to a different state to live in a 55+ community or travel the country in an RV?

I know these questions will be answered over time, but for now…my head spins around my two loves…life as an expat in a foreign land or life here with family and friends.

Are you experiencing any of these same questions that tug and pull as you think about becoming an expat?  How are you reconciling the question of “two loves?”

 

 

 

This Fun Adventure Can Add $24K Or More To Your Nest Egg


Is your retirement savings less than you would like it to be?  Maybe another $24,000 dollars socked away would make you feel a little more secure.  Do you love other cultures and traveling to other countries?  Are you a helper?  Do you have sincere desire to make the world a better place?  If you answered yes to those questions, then I think this idea might be perfect for you!

An Idea Is Born

I lay in bed trying to fall asleep as wonderings of my retirement years dance in my head.  What will I do?  How do I build my savings so that I feel more secure?  At this rate I won’t be able to stay in my home and will have to move, but where will I go?  Can I downsize and cut costs by maybe living in a park model or RV or a 55+ community somewhere warm?  Am I ever going to be able to travel outside the country again?  Oh, I so love traveling!  Maybe I could become an expat and live in a country where my money goes farther. On and on the thoughts circle in my head, until – flash! – the light bulb switches on and a new idea is born.

Now, let me preface this by saying that this idea is not for everyone.  If you don’t like helping people, or traveling to another country, or saving money, then this might not be your cup of tea, but keep an open mind and see if the seed that is planted begins to sprout.

I have spent most of my life working to pay my bills, like most people, and I envision myself not working during my retirement years.  That would be my ideal vision of my post-work era.  A good number of my jobs have been in the non-profit sector where I have gotten a great deal of personal satisfaction knowing that in some small way I was making a difference.  In my retirement, I hope to continue to be able to do the same.

Before I share my – flash! – idea, let’s consider a few questions.

Question 1. Would you like to have another $24K in your savings?

I can’t imagine anyone saying no to this question.  Like many others, my retirement savings took a hit a few years back when the market took a nose dive and I am rebuilding, so I am open to considering all types of options to increase my nest egg.  “From humming bird egg to ostrich egg,” is my retirement mantra!

Pictures from Memory Card 442Question 2.  Internationally, what country do you dream of visiting or living in?

Imagine living in another country, maybe in Africa, Asia, or Central or South America.  Maybe it is a country that calls to you on a deep level, one that you have always want to travel to. Or maybe the country you dream of is one where you would like to setup housekeeping during your retirement, but you don’t know the culture yet and haven’t had a chance to visit.   I have always had an affinity to Central and South America.  I think I might choose Guatemala, Peru, Ecuador, or maybe even Chile.  What country would you choose?

Question 3.  When you retire, will you have the freedom, the desire, or the need to move?

Can you free yourself up from the housing ties that bind you?  Are you going to have a housing transition when you retire?

I realize that am going to have to sell my house when I retire, because my incoming won’t cover the outgoing.  I am going to enjoy my house for the next 8.2 years, and then my options will be wide open.  Are you planning on downsizing to smaller place?  Maybe you think about moving to a 55+ community in the land of the sun or buying an RV and heading down the road to destinations unknown?  If you are going have a “transition” period between the life you lead now and the life you will be leading after retirement, then this idea just might be for you.

Jungle house on the river peruQuestion 4.  Are you up for an adventure?

Retirement is a time to live the life you have always dreamed of. For some, that means having the adventures you have only read about in books or seen in movies. The exciting thing about retiring is that you can now create the life you want, including the adventures of your dreams.

Question 5.  Can you commit 2 years of your life to having the experience of a lifetime, while making a positive difference in the world at the same time?

If you could volunteer, save $1000 a month of your social security income, and have an international experience in the country of your choice, would you do it?  That would be a $24,000 increase to your nest egg in only 2 years.  Tell me, you aren’t just a little intrigued right now?

So, Here Is The – Flash! – Idea

Join an organization for a 2 year commitment, while volunteering and living in another country, and save money in the process.

First, you will need to figure out how to detangle yourself from as many bills as you can before you go.  Sell your house, rent it out to someone you trust, or plan the timing so your volunteering commitment coincides with the end of your lease. You now have the essential cost savings plan in place.

Now, join the Peace Corps!  Yes, the Peace Corps.  It’s not just for young adults anymore.  More and more retirees, couples (straight and same-sex) and singles, are joining the Peace Corps well into their retirement years… their 60s…70s and even 80s!  The application process has been simplified and the wait time for acceptance has been shortened to about 6 months.  You can pick the country you would like to serve in from a list on their website, as well as the kind of service you are interested in doing.  You choose!

For the 2 years that you are living in a land that you have dreamt of, while providing service to the community, you are not paying any rent, mortgage or utilities back home.  The money you would have spent from your social security check toward those expenses can now be dropped directly into your retirement savings!  Estimate a $1000 a month savings (yes, probably on the low side for some) for 2 years and wha-lah, your savings will have a $24,000 boost. Oh, and did I mention that they pay returning volunteers a readjustment allowance of a little over $7000?  Add in 48 days of vacation, full medical and dental, family leave in emergencies, travel to and from the country, training and more, and you have a perfect package for overseas volunteering.  What are the Benefits?

heartThe Most Important Consideration

Beyond the financial benefit, I think the most important consideration in this equation is, do you want to be of service on a global scale? Do you want to give back and make a difference in another culture?  If you do, then the financial increase to your retirement nest egg is only a small bonus. The biggest bonus is how much the experience will fill your heart and the hearts of those you encounter. It’s overall a win-win, wouldn’t you say?

Would you consider volunteering outside of the country when you retire?  Where would you like to go?  Your comments, as always, are welcome below.

 

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A Tight Budget Doesn’t Have to Mean Disaster for Hair, Nails and Body


Have you ever had your hair cut and in the middle of it screamed, “Nooooooo!!!” and you knew, in that moment, that it was just too late?  Me too.  Mine happened in a small town on the Amazon River, just over the border of Peru, in Colombia.  May I say right now that my spontaneity and impulsiveness can sometimes get me into trouble.  This was one of those times.

Passport Renewal

I was living in Iquitos, Peru, in the heart of the Peruvian Amazon, about 4 hours from the river’s source. I needed to get a new stamp in my passport to be able to stay in Peru for another 6 months and heard that all you needed to do was take a “rapido,” a speed boat, down the river to Leticia, just over the Peruvian border in Colombia, where the countries of Peru, Colombia and Brazil meet. I could have flown to a larger city in Ecuador or Chile, and looking back that probably would have been a better choice, but I decided that a ride on the river would be fun. I bought a ticket and planned to be at the Embarcadero, where the boats, fish and bananas arrived to Iquitos, early the next morning.

The Embarcadero

I walked through the vendors that had their bananas and fish on the cement floor for sale to locate the boat.  The stench of fish first thing is the morning caused my stomach to churn, so I held my bandana over my nose, as I moved quickly through the busy merchants, trying not to slip on the fish fluids that covered the floor.  I arrived to the other side of the dimly lit cement building to the river side where fish and banana were being grilled and sold to locals and workers for breakfast.  Locating the boat, a battered mess that I wasn’t sure would hold up for this long trip, I climbed on board, found a seat about 3 rows back from the driver, and settled in for a long ride.  The boat had a somewhat tattered canvas roof, which I thought would be good protection from the sun or rain and there was also plastic sheeting rolled up on each side, held up with rope, that would be dropped down in the event of bad weather.  With my fruit, cheese and a couple of freshly made rolls from the local bakery tucked carefully away in my backpack, I was ready to go.

10 Hours

Aerial PhotoThe rest of the passengers arrived, found their seats, and after waiting and waiting and waiting in the heat of sun, we took off down the river. Waiting is a way of life on the river, a different pace in the jungle.  I had been on a speed boat before, back home on the lake, and preparing to venture out on this adventure brought back memories of the wind racing through my hair and the lift off the seat when the boat hit a wave, but I had no idea what that would feel like for 10 straight hours.  Yes, 10 hours of a contant churning engine, hot wind burning my face and drying my eyes, and the ongoing assault to my back and my body as the boat attempted to maneuver the river’s everchanging mood.

Our second stop enroute was a small town on the Peruvian side of the border, before we entered Colombian and Brazilian waters, about 9 hours into the trip.  Passports were stamped as we exited the country. I wanted to kiss the ground I was standing on.  It wasn’t moving, bumping or spraying water in my face, but back into the boat we reluctantly climbed, knowing there was only a small distance to cover before arriving to the small river town of Leticia, Colombia.

Feeling Grimey

We finally pulled up to the dock in Leticia.  I was worse for the wear, exhausted and feeling a little more than grimey.  The heat of the day, the whipping of the wind and the river splashing on me for 10 hours had made me crave a shower.  Needless to say, I was feeling less than my best.  I wandered town for a while before finding a tiny and somewhat rundown little hotel to stay at the for night. Just a bed, that’s all I needed.  As I moved through the streets of Leticia trying to get my barrings, I noticed a little storefront offering haircuts.  Feeling less than optimal, I considered getting my hair groomed. A shampoo and cut would make me feel refreshed, I thought.  After checking into my hotel and enjoying a lovely meal, my mind kept returning to that little store where the woman was cutting hair.  I wandered the streets, until I came across the same sign that had grabbed my attention earlier.  To my surprise they were still open for business and I went in to inquire about a cut.

“No Tocar” Means Do Not Touch

As I sat in the chair, in my best Spanish, I explained to the woman with scissors in hand that I wanted my hair cut to the length of my ear lobes, a nice bob of sorts.  She nodded.  I assumed she understood.  I told her that I have a cowlick at the nape of my neck and this absolutely must not be cut, trimmed, or in anyway touched.  I pulled up my hair that was down to the middle of my back and said, “No tocar, no tocar.” Do not touch. She must not have heard the word no, because within a split second she dropped the scissors in her hand, grabbed the now buzzing shears that moved from counter to neck at lightening speed. Bzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.  And, in the blink of an eye, the hair that was not to be touched was gone. “Nooooooooooo!” Too late.

She finished the haircut, shaving both sides at the nape equally, creating a bob with bangs and a neck that reached up far beyond my hairline.  As I bowed my head to count my money to pay her, I could feel the movement of air on my newly shaved head.  This, I said to myself, is not a good look.

I learned that getting a haircut on a little obscure side street in a small town, in a developing country, with my limited language skills was probably not the best decision I had ever made.

You, on the other hand, can make better decisions regarding your self-care options and not break the bank.

AFFORDABLE SELF-CARE

Fortunately, there are cost saving options for haircut, color, manicures, pedicures, massage and acupuncture, all to make you feel renewed and wonderful, without the results that I had that day in Leticia.

There are many ways that you, in your own city, can find wonderful bargains on all those special services that elevate you and nurture you. Once I returned back to the United States, I couldn’t bear to pay the cost to go to a high-end spa or salon for hair, nail and body work, so I found other ways to get an affordable quality haircut or wonderful massage that would be perfect for anyone on a budget.

Here are some ideas to consider:

Hair Care and Nails

Woman getting a back massage in front of the white backgroundSchools of cosmetology require students to have a certain number of hours in hair and nails before they can graduate.  They just aren’t going to set them loose on the public without supervised practice.  I have gone to the local school in my town and have received great haircuts for a great price.  Schedule someone who is closing in on graduation, so they have some experience under their belt. A supervisor is observing from a distance as the hair is cut and comes over at the end to check for quality. Hair color, manicures and pedicures can also be had at a very reasonable price.

If you are traveling the country in an RV, or living in park model, you will find that often in 55 and over retirement communities you can find someone cutting hair in the club house or a trailer in the park.  Ask around and you will get a good cut at a good price.

Spa Days

Going to a high end day spa when you are living a on fixed income or limited budget can take a big chunk of your living expenses.  If you put a little money aside every week in a few weeks you will have enough money saved to go to a day spa that won’t require using your grocery budget for the month.  In the area where I live there are lower cost days spa called Korean Spa.  There are many of these located around the country. You can spend the day for about $30.  If you are lucky enough to find a Groupon coupon, you can get a massage at a greatly reduced price.

Massage

treatmentroom2If you don’t have a day spa that is affordable near you, then look to see if there is a massage school.  Massage students are required to log a certain number of practice hours to graduate and become licensed.  Often massages are provided at the school clinic for a fraction of what you would pay to see a masseuse in a clinic or spa.  When booking an appointment, request a massage therapist who is close to graduation.  You can often get a really lovely massage for a very moderate price.

Acupuncture

Many consider acupuncture as part of their selfcare regime and find it not only balancing and healing, but also extremely relaxing.  If you are fortunate enough to have an acupuncture school in your area, check out clinic appointments at the school at a very affordable rate.  Again, request to be scheduled with those in their last year of school.

Groupon, Valpack and Local Specials

Remember to double check those value coupon books that you receive in the mail.  Often there are new businesses opening that offer new client specials for hair, nails, massage and acupuncture.  Groupon is a great resource for discounted services.

Do you have other ideas for affordable self-care? Please share your thoughts below.

 

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Copyright 2014 Budget Retirement / Debra Zulawski  All Rights Reserved.

 

 

 

 

 

Cheap Thrills: 25 Low or No Cost Entertainment Ideas


Do you know anyone who doesn’t love something for free or at a discount?  Retiring on a budget doesn’t have to mean that you can’t go out and have a great time.  It just requires a little creativity and some online research to find activites and entertainment at low or no cost, so you don’t need to spend your entire month’s entertainment budget in one evening.

Lucky for me and a group of friends, a good friend of ours, Karen, takes the initiative to do all the research online and compiles a list of things to do that are free or are quite inexpensive. Every few months she sends an email called, “Cheap Thrills,” inviting friends to come along. The list of cheap thrills ranges from music to festivals to garden shows and community garage sales.  It makes for a fun circle of people joining together to share in a common experience, while being budget conscious.

Go online and type Free Events (Your City) (Month) and you will see sites that post free and low cost activities that won’t bust your budget.

Concerts – Part of the Cheap Thrills list that Karen sends out is a series of musical shows that cost $45 for a series of seven shows. The entertainers are excellent, and are as diverse as the old time do wop of the Diamonds and a traditional Japanese dance troupe. We also have a free summer concert series at the marina in my town weekly throughout the summer.  At the local casino, there is an outdoor amphitheater where some pretty big name musicians come to play.  Many people show up with lawn chairs and sit on the lawn “outside” the venue, enjoy a picnic dinner and listen to the music for free! Check out your marina, city center and local casinos for free concert schedules.

Music – Some of the best music can be found for free or for a small donation or cover charge at small local pubs, taverns,  and coffee shops.  Don’t miss this great opportunity to enjoy unknowns before they are discovered or  end up on American Idol or The Voice.

Theatre in the Park – Keep your eye out for Shakespeare in the Park or other outdoor theatrical productions for an evening of performance under the stars.

Community Theatre – Small play houses can put on some pretty wonderful shows at an affordable price.  I have seen some pretty good shows for $15-20 a ticket.

Outdoor Movies – Many cities have begun offering a free movie night outdoors in the park.  It’s a great way to spend a beautiful summer evening.  Bring a picnic dinner, a bottle of wine and romance abounds.

Summer Festivals – Festivals come in all shapes and sizes, each with their own flavor. They can be cultural, musical or celebrating something specific, such as the lavendar festival and cheese festival in our area, among many others. With festivals come festival food, great people watching, and always a surprise or two.

Farmer’s Market – Head out to your local farmer’s market. Pick up your veggies and flowers for the week and enjoy your community.

Street Fairs – Summer time is the time of the street fair.  Food, art, crafts, music.  Summer fairs provide everything you need to fill a day with fun and entertainment.

Gallery Art Walks and Gallery Openings – Think free wine and hors d’oeuvres while enjoying beautiful and interesting art.

Free Yoga and Tai Chi in the Park – In many locales you can find group tai chi or yoga classes in the park during the summer for free or a nominal charge.

Brewery and Winery Tours – Wine and brewery tours are often free.  The tasting that follows may have a nominal fee, but there is no requirement to purchase wine or beer to take home. So go, learn and enjoy!

Happy Hour – Smaller portion bar menu foods and discounted drinks, sometimes featuring entertainment, can make for a great evening with friends.

Library Presentations – Many libraries offer free classes or book discussions. It’s a great place to connect with others who love reading.

Book Signings – Bookstores bring in authors who are on a promotional tours to help promote their books.  It’s an opportunity to meet the author, possibly hear a reading and get the book signed.

Museums – Some museums allow you to visit certain parts of the museum without paying an entrance fee or they may offer a senior discount.  Call around and see what kind of deals you can find.

Local Community College and University Events –  The local colleges and universities sometimes offer free presentations, discussions, music etc.  At one of these events, we had an opportunity to listen to a Tibetan monk talk about his experience of being imprisoned by the Chinese government, which was both emotional and informative.

Dancing Under the Stars – Summertime is a time to dance under the stars.  Find out if your town or city offers this type of event.

Nurseries – On occasion nurseries and garden centers will host horticultural and gardening demonstrations and talks.

Parades – There are the standard 4th of July parades all over the country, but there are also many traditional cultural celebrations that include parades and performances.  Check with your local international district to see when they will be having a parade.  Think Chinese New Year!

Travel Stores – Some stores will offer free presentations on travel topics or talks by travel authors.  I recently attended a presentation at REI on El Camino in Spain and also one at a small independent book shop presented by a new author.  Both were equally interesting and free!

Senior Center Think bingo! BINGO! The senior center often has other activities besides bingo, including dances, local day trips and other special events.  Stop in and check out their monthly calendar.

Pow Wow – Often at the end of summer and into early fall there will be Pow Wows around the country.  What a great opportunity to join with the Native American community and watch traditional dance while enjoying some flat bread and other traditional foods.  This is an annual Cheap Thrill that I always look forward to.

Free Day at the National Parks – This a day when entrance fees are waived.  So, if you don’t want to buy an annual or day pass, plan to go on the free entry day.  This year it is August 25th, September 27th and November 11th, 2014.

Dining Out – Many restaurants offer discounts for seniors or early bird specials. Before you head out, check the restaurant’s website and do a general search on the internet to see if there is a coupon.  A local Mexican restaurant that a friend and I really enjoy going to has a coupon right there on the website.  As we sat in the restaurant enjoying our meal, we have wondered how many people there did not know they could have gotten one of their dinners for free.

Hikes – Well, this isn’t exactly “entertainment,” but I had to add it in, because nothing tops being out in nature.  Nature calls for you to come outside, get some exercise and enjoy the beauty that is our world.  Bring a picnic to enjoy at your destination, before turning around and heading back.

So, look for the Cheap Thrills in your area.  Make a list, invite your friends and then head out and enjoy!

Help grow this list. What Cheap Thrills have you found where you live?  Please comment below.

 

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8 Ideas to Help Reduce the Worry Around Retiring


Feeling a little insecure about being ready for retirement?  You are not alone. Insecurity about having enough money to retire is high and most people are retiring later because of it.

A recent Gallup poll found that 59% of Americans are worried that they won’t have enough money to retire.  Worries of having adequate savings to retire isn’t just for those in their 50s and 60s, it also includes those in their 3’s and up.  The older, pre-retirement population has more immediate concerns regarding the ability to fund their retirement years, including having sufficient savings to cover basic living and medical expenses, and long term, wondering if they will be able to make the money last.  On the other hand, those in their 30’s worry about Social Security being around when they reach retirement age.

Due to these concerns and insufficient funds in their retirement accounts, the average non-retired person expects to retire at age 67, whereas in 2004 people were retiring at age 60.  Times have certainly changed.

I started this blog because I am one of those people who expected to retire at age 62, then it moved to  65; a more recent consideration was 67, but ultimately I landed on 70 as my age of retirement, in order to get the maximum from my Social Security benefits.  I circle around my options and what I can do to increase my retirement savings before retirement and consider a wide range of options for affordable living and making my funds last.

Here are 8 things to consider that can help reduce that worry:

Work a little longer and retire a little later

Of course, I don’t think this is the preferred solution for any soon-to-be retiree, but holding out longer to retire is one way to maximum your social security benefit, while increasing the size of your nest egg.  The extra few years can make a considerable difference.

Maximize your funds

Those readying to retire or those who already have need to look at all their potential options for maximizing their funds. Talk with a financial planner to ensure that your funds are reaching their growth potential.

Consider living where your money goes further

Move to an area of the country where the cost of living is less, in retirement communities where housing is more affordable, or stretch your income and savings by living outside of the country. There are a number of very popular international retirement destinations for expats where a couple can live very well on $1500 a month.

Downsize

You may want to consider cutting costs by moving from your present location to something smaller and less expensive before you retire, so you can put the savings from decreased mortage or rent payment into your retirement account. When you are ready to retire downsizing may mean a smaller home or apartment, a park model in a 55+ retirement community, a “tiny house,” or a house on wheels.

Refinance your home

Interest rates are still low, so if you haven’t refinanced, now might be the time to consider finding a lower interest rate.

Supplement your income

Find a means of making money to supplement your monthly fixed income.  Think about what you enjoy and find a means of increasing your income by doing what you love.  Do you have a hobby that could be turned into a business part-time?  Maybe you have a skill or expertise that is marketable.  Even a few hours a week working in a business that interests you, or is enjoyable, is something to consider. Identify what you love, your skills and interests and then create an income-generating activity that provides you social engagement, while paying you a wage.

Reduce your monthly living expense

If you are pre-retirement, you can increase your nest egg, which will open up your options down the road.  For those who have already retired it will increase the ability to travel, enjoy activities you love, or put money away for future emergent needs.

Share living space

Some retirees are turning to living with others in intentional communities, retirement communities, or living with family or friends.  Many retired people are living with their children and watching the grandkids while the parents work. People are turning to each other. Through rough times comes increased community.  The light in all of this is that people are returning to family and joining together with friends.

Worry is born out of fear and fear is the result of the unknown.  Researching the different options and sharing those ideas with friends and family can release some of the worry that builds up and can generate new ideas and options.  I have found this blog to be helpful for me in thinking “out loud” about what my options are, how I can cut costs, and how I can create a retirement of my dreams, while living on a limited budget.

What are your dreams for retirement?  What ideas have found to help you reach that dream?  Please leave your comments and thoughts below.

 

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Keep in Touch By Meeting Grandkids Where They Live


Are you living a distance from your grandchildren and communication is less than optimal? Do you call your teenage grandchildren and it takes them forever to call you back, if they call back all?  It can be frustrating and disappointing to say the least.  You remember when they were little.  They would run up to you filled with glee every time you walked into the room. And now that you aren’t living close to them it makes seeing each other difficult. You wonder what they are doing. Are they happy? You miss that connection. Keeping connected with grandchildren can be a challenge, especially if you don’t live close enough so that you can see them once in a while. So, what are you to do?

Consider The Trends

Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and Pinterest are the main social network sites that teenagers and young adults are using today to keep in touch, communicate and share information. Many seniors use social networks as a means of capturing snippets of the lives of family and friends and staying in touch with old classmates and past co-workers. According to a Forbes report, “For Facebook, the trend was clear: User growth is fastest in the oldest cohort. Among survey takers 65 and older, 45% identified themselves as Facebook users in the new survey. That’s up from 35% a year ago.” It is clear that social networks are one of the preferred means of communication for the younger generations, while the older population is jumping on the band wagon and catching up.

With the onset of smart phones, communication has become more technologically based and from looking at the younger population you can see they are almost always attached to their phones, communicating constantly through social networking and texts.

Recognizing A Cultural Shift

I am so fortunate to have a lot of younger adults in my life that I interact with on a daily basis.  They keep me young, informed and fill me with joy and laughter.  There is one curiosity though.  Frequently, I have shared a meal with them, only to find that when there was a pause in conversation, or when that buzz or vibration calls out to them in urgency, their phones are immediately lifted from the table where they had been safely kept within reach, and what follows is an abrupt end to conversation.  It reminds me of the 1960 movie, The Time Machine, where the alarm goes off and all the young beautiful people in a trance are drawn into the open doors of the sphinx.  Maybe that movie was a prediction of things to come.

During those meals, I noted that once one person broke from the face-to-face conversation into the world of technology, others quickly followed suit, until all, except myself, were face-to-phone, mesmerized by the latest post or tweet or text. I find this behavior so curious. I use to find it rude and annoying, and I guess on some level I still do, but then I began to think about cultural shifts that take place from generation to generation, be it in fashion,  music, language, or communication style. And in that moment, it occurred to me that what I was observing was a cultural shift of this new generation.  I didn’t want to place judgment on this shift that I was observing,  so I just made a mental note of it. The question I asked myself was, did I find benefit from participating and meeting them where they live, deep in their world of technology?

The simple recognition of this cultural shift may be the beginning of a solution to the communication challenge.

One in three teens sends more than 100 text messages in one day, or 3000 texts a month. 

 

~ Pew Research Center

According to Pew Research Center, “text messaging explodes as teens embrace it as the centerpiece of their communication strategies with friends.” The frequency with which they text has now overtaken the frequency of every other common form of interaction with their friends, including face-to-face conversation, calling on the cell phone, social network, instant message and email.  Statistics say that 58% of teens contact their friends through text on a daily basis vs. 38 percent who call on the cell phone.  Texting wins overall.

So, if you having trouble connecting with your grandkids, and the phone or social networks don’t work, try texting.  It appears that is where they live.

What other solutions have you found that increase communication with the teenagers and young adults in your life?

 

Savings Saturday! 20 Simple Ideas To Make Your Money Go The Distance!


Are you trying to increase your nest egg for retirement? Are you already putting money away into savings or a retirement account on a regular basis, but you know you could be doing more?  Or maybe you are living on a tight budget and you just need to find ways to make your money go father. Making simple changes to your lifestyle choices can make it easier to save more.

  1. Volunteer at a theatre. Often they will allow you to go in and watch the performance in-between your volunteer responsibilities. Check with the local theater in your area to see if they have this type of program. This way you provide a service and get to see a show for free!
  2. Reduce the number of times you eat out each month. Homemade food always tastes better than restaurant food, you know the ingredients are fresh and you don’t have to leave a tip!
  3. Party the old fashioned way. Have a potluck! Putting on a full-blown party can add up quickly in the cost department. Ask everyone to bring a dish to share and the beverage of their choice.  Everyone enjoys contributing to the event and feels part of the community. It’s a win-win!
  4. Skip the brand name foods and household products at the grocery store. Private labels products are generally made by the same manufacturers as the well known brands, but cost less.
  5. Save on gas. Combine your trips to run errands with other appointments. If you are close enough to walk to shopping, work or your volunteer activity, well, why not walk and get some exercise at the same time?
  6. Shop around for the best gas prices. Some gas stations offer a discount for paying cash or using a debit card for your purchase rather than using a credit card. Some grocery stores have an associated gas station and using their loyalty card will provide you an additional discount, and some of the big box stores have pumps with good prices right outside in their parking lot. But weigh the distance traveled to get the best price against the amount you would be saving. Check out the phone app, GasBuddy to find the cheapest gas on the go.  The prices shown in the app depend on a community of users updating gas prices, so I am not sure how current the information always is, but it’s worth checking it out.  It’s free!
  7. Go the inexpensive route when cleaning your clothes. Do it yourself vs. using a laundry service, and make it easy on yourself and buy the no-iron shirts.
  8. Shop at the outlet mall. If buying clothing in thrift stores or garage sales (some of my favorite items came from there!) are not for you, then find a local outlet mall near you. They carry brand names with greatly reduced prices.
  9. Get the basic cable package for your television viewing.  Many weekly TV shows can be watched on the computer the day after it airs on TV and some movies can be watched. Netflix can provide you the ability to watch movies with money left in your pocket. Cheaper than going to the movie theatre! If you like the idea of saving a few bucks a month then basic cable may be well worth it to you.
  10. Wait for the latest movies to come on TV, rather than heading to the theatre.  But if you do go to the movies, take a snack in with you.  The prices of food at the movies is out of this world.  OK, so you aren’t supposed to take your own snack in, so if you do get caught, don’t say you got the idea here!
  11. Skip those fast food chains. Although you may think that they save you money in the moment, a cheap meal on the run now can, in the long run, because of the lack of nutritional content and high fat and sugar content, be the cause of an increase to your medical expenses. Be smart. Eat well.
  12. Have snacks with you at all times! This will keep you from running to the fast food restaurant, local coffee chain or convenience store to buy something that won’t satisfy and isn’t good for you. Bring along a travel mug or jar with water, coffee, tea or juice when you head out for the day. A piece of fruit and a bag of chopped veggies, nuts, trail mix or granola will come in handy for those moments when you feel hungry.  Think picnic!
  13. Get a roommate if you live alone and if you have the space. Think of the savings on rent or mortgage payment and utilities and the potential fun! Golden Girls anyone?
  14. Learn what days and at what stores they offer senior discounts. Even the thrift store in my town has a senior discount day. Most shopping discounts for seniors are during the week.
  15. Do it yourself. Using a lawn maintenance service? Start mowing the lawn and weeding yourself. It’s great exercise and you will save a pretty penny.
  16. Sign up for those online sites that send emails of discounted services and activities in your area, such as Groupon, LivingSocial, and Amazon Local, to name a few.
  17. Be careful of the “it’s on sale, so I have to buy it” mentality. If you don’t really need it, then is it really a savings?
  18. Reducing the temperature on your thermostat in the winter just a few degrees can cut down your bill each month. Remember to weatherproof your home by caulking holes and cracks and replacing old weather stripping on the doors, if needed, before the cold weather hits.
  19. Skip the bookstores and head right to the library.  Books are expensive and the library is free.  It’s easy to see that this is a huge savings for rabid readers.
  20. Don’t window shop. It seldom works out well in terms of saving money. Don’t wander around a mall just to kill time.  Head to the mall only when you have something you need and that needed item is on your list. That way temptation doesn’t creep into the saving equation.

This is just a starter list.  Take some time to look at your lifestyle, your monthly expenditures, shopping habits and entertainment choices.  Ask yourself, is it important that I have more in my retirement account or savings as I move into retirement or now that I am living on a limited budget?  If you deem it important, then make the choice, make the change, and save some money!

What have you done to reduce your monthly expenditures?  Was it hard to make those changes?  What made it easier?  What other things have you done to cut costs?   Please share in comments below.

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3 Easy Steps To Saving An Additional $20K In Less Than 10 Years


Are you closing in on retirement and your nest egg could use a little boost?  Mine too, so I came up with a plan to increase my savings by just making a couple of small changes in my life.

Step 1. Take an honest look at your spending habits.

Most everyone I have talked with has lost a considerable about of their retirement nest egg over the past decade, or two, due to economic shifts. I know that I am right there with a lot of other hard working and hard saving people who got caught in the crossfire. The challenge for me was that without a huge increase in salary, or moving into a hut in the woods until I retire to cut down on housing expenses, I wasn’t sure how in the world I was going to increase my retirement savings.  What a dilemma, it seemed.  That’s where I took control of my future, taking an honest and detailed look at my spending habits.  What an eye opening exercise that was!  Yikes.  My money was slipping away like water through a sieve.  The next logical question was, what can I do about it?

So, this is what I did and it is going to result in a pretty nice payoff.

Step 2. Replace unnecessary spending with less expensive options. 

When looking at your monthly expenditures, find a daily expenditure of about $5, one that can be eliminated or decreased substantially.  I decided to say good-bye to coffee shop coffee and hello to coffee at home.

I started by cutting out the $5 cup of coffee, one day a week to start.  Overtime, I eliminated the number of trips I made to the local coffee shop during the week, and made my daily order of a grande, soy, extra hot, no whip mocha a special treat on the weekend.  Goodbye baristas!  Hello retirement savings!  I decided to replace those $5 daily trips to the coffee shop with a more cost effective morning coffee tradition.   Now, I make a nice cup of coffee in the morning at home.  It took me a while to find the perfect coffee combination that felt just as special as the one that my favorite barista would make for me, but I did!   I take my freshly brewed cup of joe, pour it into my favorite feel good ceramic mug, and top it with a splash of delicious hazelnut coconut creamer.  I get up just a little bit earlier in the morning,  and after preparing my new favorite coffee drink, I settle into my cozy recliner by the front window where I can watch the sky shift color as the day begins. It has become a lovely tradition and I wouldn’t trade it for waiting in line at a noisy coffee shop for anything!   At work, I switched to tea, just regular tea.  I got used to it.  It’s my new “habit.”  And, that new habit, plus my new morning coffee tradition, is saving me a lot of money.

Making My Morning Coffee At Home: 

Savings per week = $25.

 

Savings per year = $1300.

 

 

Amount saved by the time I retire in 8.2 years?  $10,660!!!

Next, find a $10 expense that you have on a daily, or almost daily basis. Maybe it’s buying bottled water and pop during the day and making a run to the vending machine for an afternoon pick-me-up snack.  For me, the next savings opportunity was not going out for lunch.

Let’s see what the savings amount to with this change.

I easily fell into the “Where do you want to go for lunch?” mode at work.  It is a social time for me, a time when I can sit and enjoy some good conversation and laughs with my co-workers.  The restaurants we go to are middle of the road with lunches running somewhere between $8-10. Usually, we go for Thai or Vietnamese, so the food is healthy, and that was part of my justification for eating out.  Healthy food!  Eating lunch out became a regular pattern for me, as not only was it a time to nourish my body, but also my social soul.  As I looked at my bank statement closely, I noticed just how many times I was going out for lunch each month.  It hits hard when you see the numbers in print!  So, I decided that I would started bringing my lunch, a good healthy, fill-me-up, well balanced lunch and only go out for lunch one day a week.

Making My Own Lunch:

 

Savings per week = $40.

 

Savings per year = $2080.

 

Now, for the grand total, the increase to my nest egg over the next 8.2 years?  Are you ready for this?

 

A whopping $17,056!!!!

Step 3. Redirect that money to an untouchable savings account.

Increased savings, the result of cutting down on coffee and lunches out over the next 8.2 years until my retirement begins, totals $27,716!!!  Woah!  That’s a nice chunk of change with just a couple of small lifestyle changes!

After identifying what expenses I could reduce or eliminate and putting those changes into action, the critical last step was to put that money away somewhere where I couldn’t easily access it.  Under the mattress or in a jar in the kitchen cupboard came to mind, but I knew I wouldn’t be able to keep myself from just “borrowing” a little of it and, well, you know, promising to put it back.  I had to chuckle to myself that I had even considered that might be an option!

It seemed to me that the best way to keep my hands off that money was to put it in a place where I couldn’t just open the jar and borrow a little of it.  So, I decided to have my payroll deductions adjusted to the amount I was now able to save, as a result of these small changes, and have that amount automatically deposited into my retirement account.  I was already spending it, now I am just redirecting it!

The end result of this redirection of funds gives me an increase of over $25,000 dollars in my retirement savings account when I retire.  The long term results make me smile, as I sit here in my cozy chair watching the sunrise, with my little dog, Maggie Mae and a delicious cup of coffee.

Redirected to Retirement Savings:

 

Coffee shop annual savings = $10,660!!!

 

Eating lunch out annual savings = $17,056!!!!

 

Money redirected to my retirement account in time for my retirement in 8.2 years = $27,716!!!

Have you taken a close look at how you spend your money? Maybe for you it is dinners out, getting snacks at the movies, daily visits to the vending machine, drinking sodas, bottled water or those expensive energy drinks.

What is your money sieve?  With a couple of small changes to your lifestyle, how much more money will you be able to contribute to your retirement savings?  Share your ideas and thoughts in the comment section below.

And, remember to click the blue Follow Budget Retirement and Follow on Facebook buttons in the right column!  If you are on Twitter follow @Road2Retire. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Visions of Retirement


One of the hardest things I have tried to do is define my retirement.  What am I going to do?  What will my life look like?  If you are like me, and you are nearing retirement age, the unknown of what is to come can send your head a spinning.

Will you live as you always have, just not heading to your job everyday?  Or maybe you will work part-time doing something you love. Is downsizing in the future?  Will you be moving to a smaller place to live? Maybe you plan to travel around the country or see world.  Are you thinking about volunteering at your church, the local food bank or for an international non-profit? Maybe personal growth is a desire, taking a course or two online or at the local college or your preference is taking care of your wonderful grandchildren a few days a week.  There are so many options. When it comes to defining retirement it will look different for everyone.

The one thing I am allowing myself to do is change my mind daily.  One day I am trying to figure out a way to stay in my house and continue living life as I have, without working, of course!.  The next minute I visualize myself heading off to the Peace Corp or becoming an expat in a culture that calls out to me.  Everyday day is an adventure in defining my retirement and I am finding joy in the exploration and creation.

Things to remember when defining your retirement:

  • Visions of your retirement will change and evolve over time, until you find the one that will work for you, and then, who knows, maybe it will change again.
  • This is your life and your time.  Create a life that will make you happy.  There is no right and no wrong.
  • Consider your budget. (We’ll talk more about that in another post.)
  • Look at all your options. Think outside of the box.  Don’t be afraid to try something different.
  • What is on your bucket list?
  • Remember that any decision that you make can be reversed.  Nothing is set in stone.
  • Retirement is your oyster.  Open the shell and find your pearl.

Comment below on how your define your upcoming retirement.  But before you do, check out how the kids describe what retirement is, how much money you need, and how long it lasts.

 

Countdown to Retirement


How Much Longer?

A few years back, I lost my retirement nest egg, not unlike many others, due to the stock market crash, banking debacle and housing market bust. Closing in on retirement age, I started to wonder what retirement would look like for me. Most everything that I had saved was severely diminished by those events – Poof! Nada! Gone! Well, not completely gone, just reduced to a laughable amount. And now, at the age of … well, closing in on 62, rebuilding that nest egg seems like a daunting task. How in the world am I going to make this work? Will I ever really be able to retire? Will I have to work the rest of my days?

One day I realized just how many of my friends were retired. Lots! I would hear of their plans and how they spend their days. They are having a ton of fun! Living the life! Having worked from the age of 13, I am more than ready to move into a life of NOT getting up before the crack of dawn to ready myself for a long commute in the dark, a high paced day of work, and a long exhausted commute home. How long until I can retire, I would think to myself, how much longer? I started obsessively thinking about how to rebuild my nest egg in time for retirement and how long until I can make that shift. Age 65 was no longer an option. Neither was 67. So, 70 it is, I decided! I can do this! I can!

The Countdown

About 30 years ago I remember a high level manager who worked for a large corporation who was getting ready to retire. He would walk through the factory every day of that last year prior to his retirement and yell out to the workers…365! 364! 363! Each day the number would decrease, until it was 9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1! And retirement began! What a brilliant idea!

It was a few years ago when my retirement fretting began. Looking back, it started just a year or two before my 60th birthday. I wonder if that is the time when retirement creeps into the thoughts of most people. Anyway, I decided that having a countdown would help. How could I start my count down, I wondered? A little over 11 years seemed like forever! I thought of counting down in hours, but that seemed a little excessive. Days? Way too many! I tried working the numbers in a variety of ways, until I finally arrived at months! I decided that counting months seemed to allow for a more rapid countdown, and once I broke the great 100 mark, it would be smooth sailing from there. I first started my countdown at 136 months. As of this post, I am at 100 months and counting. I see the future ahead. I have my destination date. Now, I just need a plan.

Birth of a Blog

And so, this blog was born…out of fear, anxiety, trepidation of the future unknown, as well as a lot of excitement, anticipation and dreams for the years to come. I focus on the anticipation and excitement, in order to overcome the less than productive emotions of fear and anxiety. Positivity and problem solving are my friends!

On this page, I will take you on my journey to and into retirement on a budget. I will share ideas – the pros and cons – the traditional, as well as the out of the box ideas that arrive without thought, in both my night time dreams and my waking hours. Join me on this journey and please feel free to share your ideas in the comment section below!

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Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the harbor.
Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.
~ Mark Twain