Tag Archives: volunteer

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.

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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The Day that Ricky Martin and I Met the Amazon Queen


Living in the heart of the Amazon rainforest, in the city of Iquitos, Peru, I stood in the living room of my traditional house with Ricky Martin hanging on my neck.  No, not the singer Ricky Martin, instead a baby monkey that the neighbor girl had brought to me.  It clung to my neck, and clung, and clung…continuously clung.  It was apparent that I had become the baby’s new  mother.  Every few minutes, I would feel a dampness running down my chest and back.  I was sweating ferociously because, well, I was in the Amazon after all, but I knew this particular warm stream of dampness was not sweat and this was not something I could live with until Ricky reached adulthood.  I had to do something.  A few days later, it became apparent while showering, with Ricky still attached to my neck, that I needed to return him to the jungle.  He belonged there.  It was his true home.  And, to be honest, I just couldn’t handle the intermittent trickle down my back any longer.

I spent several days with Ricky attached before I learned that there was a non-profit lodge in the jungle, near the source of the Amazon, that rehabilitated monkeys and returned them to the jungle. Perfect!

If I said it was an adventure getting Ricky to the lodge, it would be grossly understated.  Leaving in the early hours of the morning, I hopped on a launcha, a barge type boat with hammocks hanging all over, and up the Amazon River we went until we disembarked in the darkness of night.  I say we, because not only was I traveling with my sidekick, Ricky, but I was accompanied by a so-called jungle guide. I found out not much later that he had taken guide training in Lima and had never been to the jungle before.

dugout canoeAfter the launcha docked and we made our way to shore, we hiked about an hour through the jungle in the darkness of night (not the best idea under any circumstance!) until we arrived at a tributary.  The mosquitoes were the size of Volkswagens and all I could hear was the incessant buzzing around my head.  On the edge of the tributary, hidden in the overgrowth near the shore, we located a dugout canoe.  The guide climbed in, followed by me.  We adjusted our seating, so as to balance ourselves. In this carved out log, we headed off into the a darkness like I had never seen before.  As he paddled the canoe forward, all that I could think was that this was not the best idea.  Really, not the best idea.  Here I am being guided by a city guide through crocodile and piranha infested waters.  If we were to tip over, it would be all over, except for the crocodile’s burp and a smile on the piranha’s face.

After about a half hour of slowly moving down the tributary, we arrived at the lodge.  By this time it was about 4 o’clock in the morning.  Down the steps came the lodge manager.  “What are you doing here?” he asked.  “I was told you would take this baby monkey.”  He looked confused and said, “I know nothing about it.  Follow me.  I’ll take you to a hut to get some rest.  We can talk about it at breakfast.”  Oh, this is great. He didn’t even know I was coming.

After a few hours of restless sleep, I arose with Ricky still attached to my neck, and after a very much needed shower we headed to the main lodge for breakfast.  I was offered pancakes.  Ricky got a banana.  We were both starved.

I looked up from my pancake to see a beautiful woman entering the dining room.  She seemed kind and gentle.  She greeted me warmly, quietly sat down and began eating.  An American, I thought.  She seemed very calm and content.  I, on the other hand, was in the process of a heated circular conversation with the lodge manager.  “I was told that you would take this monkey,” I said.  “No, I will not take that monkey.”  “But I came all this way…so you have to!” It continued. He said firmly this time, “I am not taking the monkey!”  Yes, you are.  No, I’m not. Yes.  No. Yes. No. There was a long pause.  We were at a standoff.  I didn’t know what I was going to do.  I was annoyed and frustrated.

Ricky Close UPFinally, after some time of staring each other down, he looked at me and said, “OK, fine.  I will take the monkey.”  I responded immediately with “No you won’t.”  “Yes,” he said,” I will!”  “Well, you didn’t want him a minute ago, so you I am not leaving him now.”

Finally, I bolted from my seat to leave with Ricky, my permanently attached monkey, and a very confused jungle guide.  As we exited the dining room, the woman who had entered earlier and who quietly watched this contest of wills said, “Do you mind if I go back to Iquitos with you?” I turned her way and calmly replied,  “Sure. Not a problem.  Are you ready to leave now?”  She collected her belongings from her hut and for the next 18 hours we reversed the sequence to get back to Iquitos…dugout canoe, jungle hike with giant mosquitoes and a very long and very hot boat ride back to Iquitos on the launcha.

It was during this time, as the boat moved slowly along the Amazon River, that the woman that I came to call the Amazon Queen and I had a chance to talk.  She had spent a month at that jungle lodge, volunteering at a local clinic, and I was in Peru doing startup work for a non-profit that I had founded.  Diana and I talked endlessly throughout that journey about life, the jungle, the needs of the people in Peru, and volunteering.  I ultimately returned back to the United States after coordinating a nutritional program for 12 communities along the Amazon.  And, the Amazon Queen?  She stayed on. She made Lima her home base and created a successful ONG that provides very much needed medical education and community medical care through volunteer efforts for the people of the river communities of the Amazon.

And that is the story of the day that I met the Amazon Queen.

What happened to Ricky Martin you may ask?  Well, upon my return from the jungle, I connected with a young man who was involved with the University of the Peru in the Amazon.  He arranged for Ricky Martin to be returned to the jungle to live out his days.  I guess that would have been the easier route to get him back to the jungle in the first place, but then again, if I hadn’t taken the route I did, I wouldn’t have met the Amazon Queen!

Have you volunteered in a foreign country?  What was your experience like?  Comment below.

To learn more about Diana Bowie and DB Peru’s medical projects and volunteer opportunities in Peru, CLICK HERE.

Copyright 2014 Budget Retirement / Debra Zulawski All rights reserved. 

 

 

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.