Category Archives: Retirement

The Ten Best and Worst States to Retire

My childhood friend was visiting me last month when she asked me, “Where do you want to retire?”

retirementWe both turn 56 this month, an age where boomers typically start dreaming about where they’d like to retire. Interestingly, we both reside in places known to be pretty popular for retirees.

My friend is from Asheville, North Carolina. She enjoys mountain biking in the scenic Great Smoky Mountains, the robust arts community – and since her late husband was a musician – she loves the live music scene that ranges from bluegrass to classical. Asheville consistently receives great rankings as a great place to retire for those reasons as well as its typically mild weather (with the exception of this year!) and unique art deco architecture. In fact, recently US News & World Report named Asheville one of “10 Best Places to Retire.”

My friend is currently retired and active in her volunteer work and she likes living in Asheville. However, she is considering whether that’s the spot she wants to settle in for good.

Me – I’m from the Palm Springs, California area, which has long been one of the most famous retirement communities. Snowbirds love this place with over 300 days of sunshine a year. Golfing, casinos, hiking, and cycling are popular activities. Places to shop and dine abound. In addition, a fairly strong economy and low unemployment rate make the Palm Springs area a popular destination for baby boomers and retirees.

But do I want to retire here? Not especially. Some people love the heat, but I’m not a fan of the long, hot summers with temperatures that exceed 115 degrees. However, I have time to consider my options. Like many boomers, retirement is nowhere in sight for me at the time being.

But of course, a girl can dream, right?

That’s why I found Bankrate.com’s survey interesting. It used six criteria to determine which states are the best and worst for retirees that included cost of living, taxes, health care, weather, crime, and residents’ overall well-being.

The results were surprising. Traditional retirement spots like Florida and California didn’t make the top 10 while other states, not usually considered as premier places to retire, like South Dakota and Wyoming, made the top five.

So, exactly what are the ten best and worst places to retire according to the survey and why?

The Ten Best States

Colorado came in at #3 as one of the best states to retire.

Colorado came in at #3 as one of the best states to retire.

Wyoming: Low taxes, a low cost of living, and a low crime rate puts this state in the top ten. The sheer beauty of this state is appealing with seven national parks, including the famous Yellowstone National Park, and plenty of expansive land to roam. In fact, Wyoming is the least populated state in the nation. Maybe that’s why this state scores so high in the well-being of its residents and is considered a “happy” place to retire.

South Dakota: This state scores high for its low taxes, living costs, unemployment rates, and crime rates. South Dakota offers a rugged retirement destination to those looking for new adventures, affordable housing, and a sense of seclusion. Nonetheless, South Dakota scored low for the well-being of its residents. Perhaps that’s, in part, because of its typically brutal winters and hot summers.

Colorado: What’s not to love? Gorgeous scenery with low taxes and living costs. Compared to the two states above, Colorado has fairly mild weather with few rainy days that is conducive to lots of outdoor activities like hiking, cycling, and skiing. In fact, the latest U.S. News & World Report recently ranked Denver as the best place to live in the country. Colorado Springs ranked fifth.

Utah: This state made the list with its pleasant weather and abundance of natural attractions and activities for outdoor lovers. Housing costs, however, are higher in Utah than the national average as is the state’s overall tax rate. Utah has recently began  attracting retirees, mostly in the St. George and Park City areas.

Virginia: This state rated highest east of the Mississippi. A vibrant economy and plenty of historic destinations put it on Bankrate’s top five list. According to their study, Arlington is the best place to retire in the state and nearby Alexandria came in second.

These five states were followed by Montana for its temperate weather that ranks above the national average and residents reporting being happy with their gorgeous surroundings, 
Idaho
 for its affordable housing, low crime rate, and many natural treasures, Iowa for its quality health care system and low crime rates, Arizona for its great weather and high scores in well-being, and Nebraska with its relatively low cost of living and low crime rates.

It should be noted some of these states (South Dakota, Idaho, Arizona, and Utah) made the top 10 Kiplinger list which also included the states of Florida, Washington, South Carolina, Alabama, Tennessee, and Georgia on its top ten list of places to retire.

The Ten Worst States

New York was the worst state to retire in, according to Bankrate.com.

New York was the worst state to retire in, according to Bankrate.com.

New York: Known for its high cost of living and high taxes, this state also had the lowest well-being scores in the nation, especially on feeling a sense of satisfaction with their lives and where they live, according to the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index.

West Virginia: While the state offers a low cost of living, natural beauty, and lots of activities, for the 6th straight year, West Virginia received the worst scores in the country for personal well-being by the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index. In addition, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality gave West Virginia its 7th lowest rating in the country for its high rates of hospitalizations for conditions such as hypertension, asthma and diabetes, as well as potentially avoidable hospitalizations for acute conditions.

Oregon: The state’s high cost of living and high taxes along with its stormy weather put this state as one of the worst places to retire according to Bankrate.com. However, it’s interesting to note that Portland, Oregon often tops lists of great places to retire with its beauty, ocean access, great food and wine, and lack of sales tax.

Arkansas: Arkansas received below-average marks for crime, health care and overall well-being. Arkansas has the 9th highest violent crime rate in the nation and the 6th lowest score for health care quality. The state struggles with hospital admissions for hypertension and diabetes, among other issues. Arkansas also received the 7th lowest happiness score in the nation among seniors, with especially low overall scores for physical and social health.

Louisiana: Unfortunately, one of the major problems with Louisiana, which also made last year’s list, is crime. The state recorded the 5th highest violent crime rate in the country in 2015, according to the FBI, and had a murder rate double the national average in 2014. In addition, The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality gave Louisiana the 2nd lowest score in the nation for health care quality.

Hawaii made number six. A lovely place to live except for the high cost of living. Honolulu is the 2nd most expensive place to live, ranking 2nd to New York City, according to the Council for Community and Economic Research. Residents of Hawaii pay an individual income tax rate of 11% — the 2nd highest in the U.S. If you can afford it, however, this state ranks high for happiness and personal well-being.

That state was followed by Oklahoma whose state’s health care system ranked as the worst in the country, according to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. Add a high crime rate and a low rating on the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being index. Alaska made the list for it’s a high cost of living, frigid temperatures in much of the state, and high crime rate. Connecticut ranked number nine due to its state’s income tax rate and property tax rate which are both 2nd highest in the country. Maryland rounded out the 10 worst states for retirement for its high cost of living and lofty tax rate which makes it hard for retirees living on a fixed income.

Where Should You Retire?

Where to retire is a deeply personal decision and you may not agree with this list. There are many things to consider.

For most people, retirement means less income, but more time to do what they enjoy. That means typically they are looking for a place with lower housing and living costs, good weather, opportunities for outdoor physical activities, cultural offerings, and volunteer work.

But there are other factors to consider too, for example, nearly a quarter said in the survey that being close to family is the most important factor in deciding where to retire. Other interesting findings from the Bankrate survey:

  • Three in five Americans want to spend their golden years in another city or state, but the desire to move away from home fades with age.
  • Women value a cheap cost of living more highly than men (59% vs. 43%).
  • Four in 10 Americans say locales with access to mountains, rivers and other outdoor recreation would be most appealing, while 25% prefer living near a beach.

In the end, you’ll have to consider all those factors before you put down roots. As Bankrate.com research and statistics analyst Chris Kahn said: “Warm weather may be an initial draw, but all the sunny days in the world won’t make you happy if you’re constantly stretching your budget or don’t have access to quality health care.”

True, true. But that doesn’t stop me from dreaming about retiring somewhere near an ocean with our sailboat docked in a marina. Or maybe some exotic land or a Caribbean island which are dancing around in my head. Why not? Like I said before, a girl can dream, right? And who knows where I’ll land? Only time will tell!

Where would you love to retire? Please share your dreams in the comments below.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles, J Frasse, and Troy Faulder at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

How to Find Yourself Again

Do you feel like you need to find yourself again?

Last week, I got a letter from the hospice bereavement coordinator that helped my family care for my mother in her final days. They acknowledged that family members who have spent most of their time caring for their loved ones for months or perhaps years often ask themselves after their death, “Where do I go?” or “What do I do?” 

Finding Yourself

That’s exactly how I felt after my Mom died.

I was the primary caregiver for my Mom who had Lewy Body dementia, a combination of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s that rendered her helpless both physically and mentally. Being a caregiver was the hardest job I’ve ever had – by far. When she passed away last June, I assumed that while I would grieve for my Mom, I would also feel a sense of relief that my job was finished and my life could get back to normal.

Instead, I felt lethargic, depressed, and yes, lost after she died. My life, my thoughts, and my feelings had revolved around the care of my mother. I discovered that when your roles change drastically, you lose a sense of who you are. Your self-image is shattered.

This uncomfortable feeling can happen whenever you go through a major change in your life such as a divorce or losing your job. Or perhaps you’ve recently retired or became an empty nester. After dreaming of all the things you’d do when you had more time after child rearing and working 9 to 5, you feel lost instead.

Remember, although you may no longer be a caregiver, part of a couple, an employee, or full-time parent, you are still 100 percent you. You just need to find that person again. 

How?

Allow Yourself Time to Mourn

GrievingIf you have suffered a loss, be kind and patient with yourself. Acknowledge your feelings instead of sweeping them under a rug. Everyone is different. Emotions can range from anger, loss, guilt, sadness, lethargy, regret, confusion, and depression.

Whether you lost a loved one, a spouse in divorce, or a job, you may have lost your lifestyle and identity as well. It’s okay to mourn that loss.

However, be careful not to isolate yourself during this process. You’ll need a network of support. Healing may mean lots of heartfelt prayer, talking out your feelings with a supportive loved one, and/or focusing your energy in a healthy activity you enjoy.

Let it Go

As I wrote in my blog, Moving Forward After Adversity, avoid getting stuck in all the “I should have…” or “I wish…” feelings that often comes with grieving but can interfere with your recovery. Don’t allow sorrow, stress, resentment, or bitterness to become a way of life.  Take all that negative self talk out of your head like, “I’ve lost everything” or “My life is over.” The fact of the matter is that your life isn’t over; it’s just a new beginning for you.

The goal is not to wallow forever in negative feelings but to move on, be there for the people who need you, have a meaningful and productive life, and enjoy living once again. Be grateful for what IS working in your life right now. Live in the present and focus on the positive. Learn from your experiences and prepare yourself for the next exciting chapter of your life.

Moving ForwardRediscover Yourself

It’s easy to get lost in caring for your family and children or elderly parents or nurturing a career. You may have given up a lot of things that you enjoyed. Make time to get to know yourself again.

“To move your life forward, it has to start by focusing on yourself,” wrote Mark Branschick, M.D. in an article, Seven Ways to Thrive After Divorce, for Psychology Today. “Use this precious opportunity to rediscover who you are. Think of this time in your life as an adventure to explore the real you.”

You can lose sight of your unique gifts if you’re focusing on what you don’t like about yourself or your life. Think about your qualities and skills and how you can best use them. What truly makes you happy? What really matters to you? What do you feel is your true purpose in life? What hobbies and activities did you enjoy before becoming a caregiver, a married couple, or a parent? What is it that will make you excited to get out of bed every day? Make a list of what you can do to reach your goals. 

Rediscover what brought you fulfillment, satisfaction, fun, and joy as a way of rebuilding yourself and your life.

Reinvent Yourself

My life changed overnight and that can be disconcerting. Last summer, we moved into a new home we had built to be closer to my Mom (who unfortunately died the week before it was finished). My husband and I went from being empty nesters to a house full of grown children and grandchildren. Plus, I had to find new clients as a freelance writer and begin working again.

It was a tumultuous year in other ways as well. As I’ve shared before, my mother-in-law lost her fight against ovarian cancer and my son began going through a nasty divorce and custody battle.

Let’s get real, between all these events and changes in my life, I was shaken. I felt fragile and fought depression for the first time in my life.

It’s been a journey, but I am beginning to recover and heal. In the process, I’m learning to embrace all the new changes in my life. My new job writing magazine articles does require meeting strict deadlines, but the subjects are fun and it’s exciting work. We are a multi-generational family living together, but I’ve come to enjoy having the cocoon of family love around me during this difficult time. My oldest son is going through many of the same emotions as I am as he finds his way after divorce and we’ve connected on a whole new level. When our three grandchildren are with us, they bring us joy and keep us young.

My friend, Cindy (left), me, and my husband getting ready to zip line for the first time.

My friend, Cindy (left), me, and my husband getting ready to zip line for the first time.

So, don’t be afraid of change. Get out of your comfort zone and discover a new side of yourself. Maybe that means a new career, trying a new sport, traveling to a new place, changing your hair, or taking classes. Shake things up a little.

A few years ago, I reconnected with a childhood friend, Cindy, who was also a caregiver. In the last few years, she lost her husband and both her parents.

Cindy is my inspiration. Talk about embracing change. She is traveling around the world, went back to school, and moved to North Carolina to be near her daughter and three grandchildren. We went zip lining together for the first time and are making plans to go up, up, and away in a balloon next time she visits.

Embrace Your New Role

You will go through several stages before this step can happen. However, the time comes when you make a choice. You can move on and discover possibilities that a life change presents you or get stuck in negative emotions.

Find a way to put one foot in front of the other. If you can move forward, eventually you’ll see the light at the end of the tunnel. I know this from experience.

In time, you’ll reconnect with old friends or make new friends, go to work, back to school, or volunteer, rediscover what once brought you joy, enjoy new adventures, and find your way. You’ll look at the changes in your life in a positive way, feel more confident and in control, and become more productive and optimistic about your future.

The time will come when you will find yourself again, embrace your new role in life, and feel like your new shoes are a good fit. You will breathe a sigh of relief. Life will never be perfect, but eventually, you won’t have to struggle so hard to “make it work.” It just will.

Images courtesy of surasakiStock, Ambro, and renjith krishnan at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

Retired Baby Boomers Experience Boost in Happiness

All of us baby boomers are familiar with the bleak studies about what we’ll face in retirement.

Skimpy savings combined with a decline in health and the emotional changes that come with leaving the workforce could make for some pretty dismal golden years, experts predict.

But hold on a minute.

RetirementA recent study found out that retirees experience an immediate boost in happiness and health actually improves.

And even better, some research suggests you don’t need a huge nest egg to be happy.

Keep reading to learn more…

Happiness and Heath in Retirement

Using data from the University of Michigan Health and Retirement Study, researchers at George Mason University and Utah State University discovered retiring is associated with an immediate increase in happiness and the positive effects last for four years after their last day on the job.

Retirees also experienced improved health. Health, however, took a bit longer to achieve – on average, four years.

“We suspect it’s because health changes slowly,” Sita Slavov, a public policy professor at George Mason University and co-author of the report says. “It takes time for lifestyle changes to show up in the form of improved health.”

“One other interesting thing,” he added, “[is] we didn’t find any evidence of long-term changes in health care utilization – i.e. doctor visits and prescription drug use – after retirement. So the improvements in health do not appear to be associated with increased health care costs.”

More good news! Love it!

Happy Older CoupleMoney Doesn’t Buy Happiness

So, according to these studies if you want to feel better emotionally and physically, you may not want to keep delaying retirement. But what if you have limited savings?

Don’t despair.

Chances are if you are an older boomer who has been retired for a few years, you’re feeling pretty good about your finances – even if you don’t have that million dollar-plus nest egg experts say you need.

That’s what Ameriprise Financial discovered in a survey earlier this year. Turns out 76 percent of boomers with $100,000 in investable assets who retired in the last five years felt “in control” of that decision. Some 57 percent say they are very satisfied with their financial situation in retirement.

“I was pleasantly surprised by how happy they are,” said Marcy Keckler, vice president of financial advice strategy at Ameriprise.

“Happiness is a positive cash flow,” says Ken Moraif, founder and senior advisor of Dallas-based financial firm Money Matters. He argues that people with modest means who keep their expenses low can be happier than those who have more money coming in each month but spend it all. “You can have fancy cars and fancy houses, but you’re going to be miserable all the time,” he says of the latter group.

Andrew Meadows, producer of the documentary, Broken Eggs, says he sees seniors getting creative with figuring out how to stay happy while also making ends meet after leaving their careers.

“When I worked on ‘Broken Eggs,’ I found so many people living in their RVs in semi-permanent spots,” he says. While living out of an RV saved money, Meadows says it wasn’t a desperate move for the retirees he met. “It never seemed like [they] were forced out of their homes. It seems like people planned on that life in retirement.”

Planning for a Happy Retirement

I love these studies, but it’s important to remember that you shouldn’t expect retirement to magically improve your life.

Taking steps now can help boost happiness and health when the time comes. Save as much as possible while you’re still working, make plans to stay active and engaged in a wide variety of activities, and take care of your health.

If you do so, for many of you baby boomers, the golden years can be just that.

Images courtesy of bplanet and photostock at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

 

Retired Baby Boomers Becoming Happy Entrepreneurs

After retiring, baby boomers are not content to sit in a rocking chair. We are changing the rules and redefining old age. Growing up during a time when everything seemed possible, perhaps it’s not surprising that we refuse to grow up and grow old, feeling a bit like Peter Pan. 

Retired boomers can be seen white water rafting, running marathons, zip lining, and traveling to exotic and adventurous places. 

And, perhaps surprisingly, many approaching retirement are starting our own businesses. Many boomers want to continue working – but on our own terms.

Starting New Business

A new Gallop study showed adults over the age of 50 are one of the fastest-growing groups of entrepreneurs in the U.S. In fact, boomers are twice as likely as millennials to say they plan to start a business in the next year.

What’s surprising about this study is that the majority of boomers are working a full decade longer than their parents. So, why do boomers, who have already worked years and years for established businesses, want to start over and launch an “encore career” as an entrepreneur?

When Gallup studied nearly 2,000 U.S. baby boomers, including entrepreneurs and non-entrepreneurs, they found that an overwhelming majority — 83% — say their main reason for launching a venture was a lifestyle choice or to increase their income.

This poll suggests that we’re searching for independence and want to pursue our interests and passions before it’s too late. Money also plays a role. Many boomers haven’t saved enough for retirement and are looking for ways to make some extra money.

Yet, it seems that our desires are outweighing practical choices when it comes to choosing a new business.

Clearly, I’m in that category. I love working as a freelancer writer, but I’m not exactly getting rich. But still, I wouldn’t trade my freedom and happiness following my creative passions for a bigger paycheck.

Likewise, boomers typically aren’t looking for a grueling, high-intensity, high-growth venture. “Very few are pursuing an idea for a new product or service that solves a problem or meets an unfulfilled need in the market — the type of business that would typically have immense growth potential,” the study’s authors wrote. “Perhaps for boomer entrepreneurs, these reasons reflect their current stage in life.”

Therein lies the hitch. Although we’re experienced in our careers, we boomers still have the same challenges and face the same risks as younger entrepreneurs. In addition, we’re looking to start businesses that will bring fulfillment and excitement to our lives which unfortunately doesn’t always equal income.

Start New Business With that in mind, if starting a new business is one of your dreams, here are a few things to keep in mind:

Consider the Challenges

Remember that running your own business is considerably different than working for a company.

You will face uncertainty and failure, the study’s authors point out.

Consider how hard you are willing to work, how you will acquire clients, how willing and adaptable you are to learning new skills, and how you will persuade others to buy your product or service.

Understand your strengths and vulnerabilities before diving in.

Make the Right Connections

Connect with local resources and network, network, network.

In most cities, the AARP and Small Business Administration offers information, services, and training to help older entrepreneurs grow their businesses. Also connect with other “encore” entrepreneurs’ professional networks.

Form a support group to get you through the rough times.

Take advantage of social media sites. Networking isn’t easy but it’s an essential key to success.

Seek Advice

Even though you may have a lot of work experience, entrepreneurs over the age of 50 will still benefit from working with a coach, mentor, or business adviser.

An established business owner can help you navigate through regulations and legal issues, develop marketing ideas, and learn how to promote your business in both traditional and new ways.

With all these challenges, will launching a new successful business make you happy?

Quite possibly. Despite the hard work and dedication required to start and run a small business, 94 percent of U.S. entrepreneurs are happy being small business owners, according to a new survey by the online small business community, Manta.

Now, that’s good news for you boomers with an entrepreneurial spirit!

Images courtesy of Ambro and Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

How to Find Happiness in Retirement

At age 54, retirement is not yet in sight for me. In fact, without pensions, my husband and I will likely work until we are 70. Am I depressed? No. If you’re in the same situation as us, check out my articles: Why Boomers Can Be Positive About Working Longer and Finding Contentment in Your Career.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

However, I realize that some of you may be fortunate enough to retire in your 50s or 60s. And since this blog is targeted at baby boomers, which includes those born between 1946 and 1964, the oldest of this generation are now approaching 70 years old.

Interestingly, according to a recent study based on data from the MetLife Mature Market Institute, more than half of the 1946 boomers are not working until they drop as predicted, but are now fully retired. Although 21 percent of this group remain employed full-time and 14 percent are working part-time, most of those plan to retire fully by age 71.

So if you are retired or approaching retirement, what are the keys to happiness during this stage of life?

While planning properly and saving for retirement so you don’t have to struggle to get by can contribute to happiness, there are other factors involved as well. Here are a few tips to help you find your bliss:

Focus on Your Spirituality

Along with a positive attitude, studies show that the older generation’s willingness to embrace their spirituality side contributes to their happiness. In fact, people who attend religious services regularly frequently live longer than those who do not; thanks, in large part, to faith, hope, and a sense of meaning and purpose in life. In addition, the social support that comes from being part of a community with shared values and beliefs can also contribute to happiness.

Find New Challenges

Retirement is no longer a word used to signal the end of a productive working life. Now many see retirement as a transitional point for the beginning of a new phase in life. Challenge yourself through meaningful volunteer work, starting a new business, learning new skills, or trying new activities.

Image courtesy of photostock at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of photostock at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Take Care of Your Health

No surprise, studies show that good health is an essential component of a happy retirement. The fact is that people who suffer from chronic, severe illnesses tend to be less happy. The good news is you’ll have more time to focus on your health. Use some of your extra time to plan and prepare healthy meals, exercise, and stay mentally active.

Nurture Your Relationships

Nearly 20 percent of retirees say they are experiencing lower levels of overall well-being than they were before they retired. Although insufficient funds can contribute to depression, isolation can also be a factor. Married people tend to be happier during all stages of adulthood and retirement is not any different. However, retirement and being together 24-7 can put stress on your relationship, so you may want to plan for some time for individual activities. Interestingly, a recent Pew study showed that having been a good parent plays a large part in being happy during retirement. You’ll also find that children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren can be sources of much happiness when you’re retired. Find ways to let them know they’re an important part of your life. And of course, now that you have more time, nurture your friendships as well.

So if you’re already retired, try some of these tips. If you are still working, start planning now for your retirement and you’ll be happier.

For those of you with experience with happiness during retirement, please share your secret to success in the comments below!