Best Place To Retire Blogroll

There are several surveys that determine the best place to retire. Probably the two most notable come from AARP and CNN Money. I have most of the “winners” listed below. I am in the process of building a relevant blogroll with links to local blog sites in those locations. You can find the blogroll further down on the right side of this screen. My intention is to build a substantial resource list for anyone who is thinking about their retirement home. My criteria for site selection is that the site needs to be useful, have local stories, pictures, real estate and links to other local resources.

Phoenix AZ

Scottsdale AZ

Asheville NC

Cary NC

Sarasota FL

Naples FL

Prescott AZ

Walla Walla WA

Fort Collins CO

Bellingham WA

Raleigh/Durham/Chapel Hill NC

Fayetteville AR

Charleston SC

San Diego CA

San Antonio TX

Santa Fe NM

Gainesville FL

Iowa City IA

Portsmouth NH

Spokane WA

Ashland OR

If anyone wishes to be added to my blogroll you will find my e-mail address under the “contact” button above. Please feel free to contact me.


Retirement Planning – Important Dates

Below is a list of very important events by age for any retirement plan. I am certain there are others that pertain to certain individuals but these are the major ones. It is certain that some, but not all, will play a crucial part in your life going forward so plan carefully:

Your Age — Financial Event

55 ———- The earliest you can draw on a private pension.

591/2 —— Penalty free withdrawal of 401k & IRA.

62 ——— Earliest you can take your Social Security pension.

62 ——— Some companies offer medical insurance stipends.

643/4 —– Date you must apply for Medicare.

70 ——— Social Security pension is at its maximum if you haven’t taken it already.

701/2 —– Latest date you must start taking minimum withdrawals of your 401k & IRA.

80 ——– The age at which you start to earn more lifetime social security pension dollars if you start taking it at 70 vs taking it at 62.


Empty Nest Syndrome

Every marriage reacts differently when a child leaves home. For some the transition is an easy one where both parents adjust quickly and move forward into the next phase in their lives with joy and anticipation. For others it has lasting effects and causes feelings of worthlessness and emptiness for long periods of time.
What is Empty Nest Syndrome?
Empty nest syndrome is the term given to the general feeling of loneliness and sometimes depression that one or both parents feel when their children leave home. While it most often occurs in women it can affect either parent. It can present itself when the child leaves for college or after the marriage of a child but is always associated with the parent feeling less needed It can be compounded by other life events like retirement or menopause.

Why does it occur?
Many women, even working women see motherhood as their primary role. After spending many years in this role they find it difficult to make an immediate adjustment. Often they are left feeling that their most important job is over and feel useless when they are no longer needed or depended on in the same ways. She may also be going through other major changes, like dealing with menopause or coping with increasingly dependent elderly parents.
What Are The Reactions?
It is normal for a parent to feel sad sometimes after the child has left home. You have built many happy memories with them and it can be difficult to say good bye to that stage in your life. Some people feel a real loss of purpose and identity. It is essential to understand that these feelings may occur and that it is normal to go through a period of adjustment.
How Do You Cope?
To deal with this new challenge it is important for parents to be proactive in the following:

  • Stop worrying about loosing a child and work on establishing a new kind of relationship with your adult children.
  • After years of sharing the home with children you need to start working on becoming a couple again
  • Fill the void in the daily routine created by absent children by exploring hobbies, leisure or career pursuits.

Planning in advance
If one child has moved out and you still have others living at home with you, plan in advance for the day when your nest will be empty of all children. Small changes made over time will mean less of a shock when your last child moves out. You may find, with thought and careful planning, that the occasion of your last child leaving home will offer some excitement too as you move towards a more independent life with your spouse.
Parents should experience joy and pride at witnessing their children move onto adulthood. They should share their happiness in their new lives and treasure the new relationship that develops. They should also enjoy their new found freedom and use this time to reconnect with their spouse and pursuing their own goals and interests full of new beginnings.


American Idol

Can the phenomenal success of American Idol be topped this year? Last year it was the top-rated TV series by far with a staggering 570 million votes cast in last season’s finale.
The contestants come out in the thousands to audition in the hopes of becoming one of the finalists. There is nothing like it that offers the same type of showcase for the young hopefuls. It gives them exposure, an opportunity to perform in front of a large audience and a chance to taste the publicity and media hype that comes with success. Will this year’s finalist far as well as those from 2006?
Taylor Hicks

Taylor Hicks was a singer and songwriter for ten years before appearing on American Idol. His grey hair and unique style set him apart from any of the other contestants and his devout fans dubbed themselves the “Soul Patrol” I felt that Hicks appeal was as much for his on stage energy and soulful performances than for any really strong vocals. I didn’t know if this could translate into a successful album. After winning Hicks was immediately signed to Arista Records. and his self-titled album debuted in November. The end result was a collection of comfortable but fairly bland, blue-eyed soul performed by a guy whose had some real experience on stage. Funnily enough I preferred “Soul Thing” and “The deal” which he wrote before his Idol success. Maybe there’s a moral here. The album finisher “Right Place” is refreshingly and a good fit for Hicks in part because I can visualize him performing the song. Taylor Hicks total sales to date are 559,000.

Katharine McPhee

Katharine was the attractive finalist with the great vocals who finished second to Taylor Hicks. Her fans caught “McPheever” There was some controversy because of a delayed start on the “Idol” tour caused by a fractured foot and bronchitis and laryngitis which caused her to miss performances. Her revelation that she had struggled with bulimia resonated with many of her fan base. The big question remained could she produce an album that would give her the fame and fortune she was looking for. She would need more than her striking looks to succeed. Her debut single “Over It” was fluffy and lightweight and didn’t highlight her talents at all. Hopefully her upcoming full-length CD which will be out at the end of the month will. She needs to find more depth and better material. Her striking looks however, have never been in question. She is looking more svelte that she did on Idol and reportedly has been approached to play “Wonder Women”
Elliott Yamin

Elliott Yamin began singing at the age of five and had no formal training. He was, however, a crowd pleaser despite being almost completely deaf in his right ear. Even Simon Cowell, usually gruff and hard to please complement him by saying Yamin is “potentially the best male vocalist on American idol“. He was the only one of the five finalists who wasn’t offered a record deal with Simon Fuller’s record company, 19 Entertainment, but that didn’t seem to faze him. After the idol tour he released a single “This Christmas” The Virginia pharmacy has undergone a make-over since we first saw him. Yamin recently announced a publishing deal with Sony Records and an album is expected by February 14, 2007.

Chris Daughtry

Many people were shocked when Daughtry finished fourth and didn’t make last years finals of American idol. His range, sensitivity and charismatic performances riveted his fans to the screen each week and they were dumbfounded when he got voted off. It didn’t hurt him though and he was immediately invited by Fuel to front their band. Daughtry declined, in part, because he wanted to write his own material and ironically, not winning gave him this opportunity His first CD is a collection of mostly his own stuff and is an impressive array of songs that manage to please his idol fans and stay true to his rock n roll roots. I was expecting something a little heavier but I’ve played the album over and over and it’s a great collection of songs. The opening single “It’s Not Over” is a very catchy, very commercial song that will cause comparison to Nickleback, although Daughtry more than holds his own. On “Home “he executes the song with controlled emotion that beautifully express the lyrics .The heavy guitar , Slash’s contribution on “What I Want” will appeal to the rock fans. In seven weeks, Daughtry has sold 1.18 million copies. My money’s on Daughtry to be the biggest star to come from American Idol


Retirement is an Evolution

I remember my parents longing for their “golden years”. Give up work and do what you want to. Only thing was my parents didn’t like being there all the time so that things they wished for didn’t seem so good when they attained it. It lasted just 10 years and they were gone. That is not something to long for. Most people think about it like there is a knife-edge or cliff you fall off sometime in the future. It doesn’t work like that, at least not for me. It is a long process of change both mentally and in the physical world. For example, I have planned for retirement but it was always something out there in the future. As I get closer I think about it more. The planning turns to preparation. Career moves become a thing of the past. In reality I have been on this trajectory towards a new life for the past 5 years and will continue over the next however many years. It is not a knife switch; it is gradual and constant change. Life becomes fuller outside those “normal” working days until it reaches the point where work gets in the way of my other stuff. So change continues and work becomes part-time. Eventually all those other things will consume me and “normal” work will go away. If that is retirement then so be it, but I call it just evolution to doing other stuff. If you wait for the “golden years” and the day you don’t go to work any more, you may be disappointed.


Marriage

Get this straight upfront; my testosterone levels are just fine thank you very much. In a moment of weakness I decided to do the unmanly thing and fess up to some great things I receive from this arrangement called marriage. If you think “little boy in big pants” you are on the right track. All men are exactly that:

A hug a day keeps the lawyers away. This is special.

Give and receive. There is no take. Whoever said “give and take” is a fool.

You’ve got to have laughs. She makes me laugh. See what I mean here.

“I love you” once a day keeps the lawyers away too.

Total partnership. There is no his or hers.

Total support. I’m never alone.

Never go to sleep mad at each other.

Sweetest-day is everyday. Hallmark didn’t invent it.

Your wedding is not the best day of your life. Today is.

It’s not your plan. It’s our plan.

Love, admire and respect each other. All the little bumps in the road will seem so much smaller.

There is no blame, just solutions.

I think I’ll keep this one another 40 years!


Running For Fun

I have been running for a few years now but it isn’t just the run itself that’s the challenge. There are hidden obstacles around each corner and fellow runners ready to distract and disarm you at every turn. In a word, it’s a mine field out there and it’s not surprising that I go out fully equipped with doggy bones, mace and a flask of whiskey (purely for medicinal purposes you understand) Here are some of my favorite encounters:

The Gazelle. I imagine every 5k, 10k, marathon and every running track has one. She is blond and beautiful. A mere wisp of a women, decked out in the latest in running fashion and so light on her feet fleet that you never hear her Nikes touch the ground. She wears a sweatband that matches her running attire but it never sports a drop of sweat. You cannot hear her coming but you feel the “whoosh” as she glides past you leaving nothing but a light breeze and touch of perfume in her wake. She is a Goddess and I am unworthy. She laps me.

Mr. “I’m Quite a man”. You can spot him 200 yards away when he is just a black blur. As he comes closer, you know that your worst fears have been realized. He is wearing tight black spandex biker pants and a T-Shirt that says “Nuts” My mind is telling me to overt my eyes, yes, overt my eyes but it is too late. Before I can turn away I have witnessed the jingling and jangling that’s going on inside the “athletic wear” As he passes me he mistakes my huffing and puffing for erotic groans and gives me a wink and a thumbs up. Before I can fully compose myself, he will lap me.

The Dog Lovers. The excited yelps and barks can be heard long before you turn the corner and encounter them. There are three adults and about twenty dogs (well it could be four it just looks more) three of the dogs are on very long leashes and they are criss- crossing each other so everything is getting tangled. The other dog is running loose and his owner laughs and says “don’t worry, he’s very friendly” You are not worried but his attention to your personal parts is causing you to run with your butt cheeks together. This makes it impossible to jump the entangled leashes without stepping in the large mound of “doggy do” that they have just left. You plod on. They lap you and the dog once again snorts you. Dam he’s quick.

Mr. “I Have Not Exercised In 20 Years”. There is justice in the world. Someone out there is more out of breath than you are and is sweating more too. Although I doubt that his eyeballs are shaking in their sockets like mine are. He is the person who has not exercised in 20 years but decided that today he would run 2 miles and loose 20 lbs. He runs at the hottest part of the day and he is running in jeans and a long sleeved t-shirt. His gym shoes are just as uncomfortable at pounding the hard pavement as he is and would much rather be in their usual position propped up on the coffee table. He is sweating profusely and he will never come again. He laps me.

The Old man. He is at least 110 years old. His shorts hang on his bony frame and billow in the breeze as he snails along. He is running bare chested and looks frail and fragile. You cannot hear him breathe and wonder if you should drop him to the ground and give him mouth to mouth. He runs every day, rain or shine, He looks like he is barely moving and he is my hero. He laps me.

Go for a run and see life!


Health Clubs – 6 Tips to Save Money

My career has spanned the gamut of fitness disciplines and includes personal training and club sales. During this time “on the inside” of a multi-billion dollar industry I have learned secrets that can save you big bucks. I’m certain there are variations between clubs but the basics are all true. Here is your money list:

  1. Everything is negotiable. Membership salespersons earn their living by commission in this industry. They earn a small base that nobody can live on. This means they must close sales to eat. They will do anything within their power to close the deal, which means everything is negotiable. Do not sign up immediately. The longer you negotiate the more they will give you
  2. Use that free trial membership in its entirety and keep telling the salesman that memberships are too expensive. Close to the end of your trial he will be the most desperate to keep you coming back so that is the time to close the deal for yourself.
  3. Join in January. Clubs know that a high percentage of new memberships occur in January after those New Year resolutions. This is the best time to join and the clubs will all be trying to outbid each other.
  4. Get the price you negotiate, not the one that is “right for you”. Salesmen will have a list of prices that vary depending on who you are. If he needs a sale you can get special pricing even if you don’t match the description on his price sheet. A few examples of price variances in my experience are these:
    • Doctors and Therapists often have relationships with gyms or health clubs that get their patients “preferred” pricing if they join the club.
    • Senior citizen prices.
    • Seniors have special prices based on health insurance. Check my previous post about Silver Sneakers.

    The salesman will offer you one of these deals rather than let you walk. His management will not look on this favorably but he will do it to eat. That trumps management.

  5. Join at the end of the month. Salesmen are paid commission monthly and they will have a quota to make. Some clubs penalize the commission rate severely if the salesman doesn’t make quota. This makes every salesman very hungry at the end of the month, especially the worst salesman.
  6. Personal Trainers are salesmen too. They are trained to sell you, and up-sell you. Make no mistake about that. Clubs will usually give you a couple of “free” sessions with a trainer but those two free sessions are nothing more than an opportunity to sell you services.

The old saying applies; “you get what you negotiate, not what you deserve”.


Royal Engagement?

The big news in England this week is whether Prince William is going to announce his engagement to longtime girlfriend Kate Middleton It is reported that Britain’s Prince William is under pressure to pop the question because he is about to embark on a military career which would mean he would have to live the life of an officer on an army base. For the onlookers it seems that William needs to make a decision. Therefore, everyone and the press are making their predication about his future with Kate
If you have not already heard, Prince William is 24 years old, handsome, tall and sensitive and the eldest son of Diana, the late Princess of Wales and Charles, Prince of Wales. He is second in line to the throne. This is a hefty mantel for any young man to carry but he has managed to remain immensely popular with the public and press and this is due in part to the fact that he embodies many of the qualities they coveted in Diana .Her influence in his life, even after her death, is obvious in his outlook on life and the need to lead as normal a life as possible given the extraordinary circumstances his blood line has given him. It is worth noting that he was the first future monarch to attend Eton college .His penchant for sport was obvious here and he excelled in sports, particularly swimming. He also did well in academics and after graduating from Eton decided to study art history at the University of St Andrews in Scotland. Not surprisingly, admissions to the University went through the roof! He decided to take a year off to travel and spent time doing community work in Chile, followed by 15 weeks in Africa. This was influenced by Diana’s desire and determination to show her children the plight of the poor across the world. University was not all plain sailing though and he wrestled with the issue of whether to continue his education or not. However, his decision to continue resulted in an upper-second honors Art degree, which is the highest academic achievement of any heir to the British throne. It was during his time at University that he met his girlfriend and cause for all the recent media attention, Kate Middleton
Kate is a bright, down-to-earth and comes from a middle-class family. The fact that she has only just secured a job and that it was from family contacts has raised eyebrows. However, she is well liked by her colleagues, and more importantly, by the Royal family. She appears to have gained the Queens approval and is a favorite of the Duke of Edinburgh. Charles and Camilla seem genuinely fond of her and want the couple to be happy and perhaps their own history and experiences play here. The British press has not subjected Kate to the intense pressure and scrutiny that was the norm before Princess Diana’s death. However, the press is in a frenzy. Will Prince William finally get engaged to Kate Middleton? If the answer is yes then it will be the beginning of preparations for what would be the wedding of the century….apologies to Tom Criuse and Katie Holmes!


Jamaica Vacation

I should start off by saying that Jamaica is probably my favorite island in the Caribbean. It is one of the larger islands and has more diversity because of that size. After landing in Montego Bay there was certainly culture shock having just left a very modern Atlanta airport to arrive in the third world, at least that was my first impression. It was bedlam of course as everyone, and those before us, was trying to locate tour operators and buses. Now by “bus” I’m thinking comfortable coach but it was more of a school bus experience…ah but this is vacation….relax! That worked. Jamaica is a part of The West Indies, a world power in cricket of all things. I expected to see cricket being played everywhere but in my week on the island I don’t recall seeing it at all. It takes an hour or two to drive to Ocho Rios where my all-inclusive vacation spot is located. There are several things every visitor to Jamaica will experience; great weather, turquoise seas, white sand beaches, friendly people, people who expect to be tipped for everything, colorful buildings and women sunbathing topless. That last one was a bit of a shock to me…but I got used to it. Besides those things, following are the highlights of my stay:

Jamaica Couples.jpgCouples all-inclusive is a very romantic way to go. Tucked away, a short drive from Ocho Rios, is a small private resort with a private beach and it’s own Private Island. This is more secluded than other resorts in the area but comes with all the usual trappings of open bar, meals, entertainment etc. Because of the seclusion you will need to get out to see the rest of this beautiful island:

jamaica-blue-lagoon.jpgThe Blue Lagoon near Port Antonio of course. About an hour south is a beautiful spot and the location of a large house on a small island. Errol Flynn, as his special getaway, once owned the house. The Blue Lagoon is right next to the main beach and worth a swim or watch as locals jump from high branches on very tall trees. I’ll stick to swimming.

jamaica-rafting.JPGRafting down the Martha Brae River is a fun time. Each raft comes with its “expert” rafter to do the heavy work. One of the raft handlers could sing and he did that all the way down. It was very cool.

jamaica-mountains.JPGThe Blue Mountains and central highlands are greener than the coastal region. It is a surprising change of color as turquoise and white gives way to green. This region is not touristy like the coastal area.

negril.JPGNegril has the best beaches on the island although this picture doesn’t do it justice. This is an area I may want to spend winter in my retirement. Negril boasts a lighthouse as an attraction so you can see there isn’t a whole lot to do here.

montego-bay.JPGMontego Bay, the main port of entry/exit is also the home of “Swim with the Dolphins” It’s worth a visit but there are more beautiful places on the island.

ocho-rios.JPGOcho Rios itself is a tourist trap with the usual stores. Its claim to fame is the Dunns River Falls that many people climb up so they could climb back down again I guess. Ocho Rios is popular with tour ships and anyone wanting to shop. This would be the place to get your t-shirt.

We did visit the capital, Kingston, but were disappointed by it. Driving past a shantytown on the way in gives a clear perspective of the poor side of this “playground” for the wealthy.

What I really like about Jamaica is the diversity of scenery, from beaches to mountains; from pastoral farms to banana plantations. Then back to the all-inclusive to wine and dine until my heart is content. Jamaica is a must go island.