Tag Archives: Financial independence

More than a few unanswered questions

Shedders is our favourite blog. It doesn’t hurt that the author is a long-time friend. Here she writes about one of the many great conversations we had when she and her husband came north for their annual visit last summer – their “Down Under” winter.

SHEDDERS, by Heather Bolstler

IMG_2890We had an interesting conversation at breakfast yesterday. Old friends Paul and Cheryl had met up with Rick and me in Powell River BC for a few days‘ exploration, and we were all relishing the Breakfast part of B&B existence. You may be amused by the familiarity of the threads of our discussion – except for the tragedy and frustration of it.

The conversation began as you might expect with compliments on the fine food served up by Yvonne, our hostess, and then drifted to the very social lifestyle of B&B proprietors. We found similarities with Rick and my Shedders’ co-housing arrangement, and that in turn led into co-housing communities that some of us had recently inspected, here on BC’s west coast.

From there, we fell smack into more dangerous territory. All these retirement communities, we lamented; where have all the children gone? Yvonne wondered why our children tend not…

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Broken, … or Declaring a Breakdown?

A serendipitous prod from WordPress has Paul taking a new perspective on an old problem.

Forty years ago, perhaps when I was more impetuous or simply less experienced, I ran for major political office with a fringe party.  We had some good ideas the country needed to hear, but that’s not my focus today.

While speaking at all-candidates’ meetings, or responding to interviewers’ questions, I noticed something very troubling.  Now that I’d put myself forward as “the one with the answers,” I was reluctant to admit that I didn’t have them all.  In fact, I wasn’t even close.  Yet I soon began to speak and answer as if I did.  It was becoming less than OK not to know, not to have it all figured out.  (This realization has been an eye-opener through the years as I’ve watched our political process at work.  I don’t think I was unusual.)

Paul contemplates spilling the beans - or ...

Paul contemplates spilling the beans – or …

I began to notice a few weeks back that I was feeling the same way about this blog.  Having made our declaration about what we were up to, I entangled myself in a pretense that No Pension, Will Travel was unfolding exactly as it should.  In recent weeks, it became apparent that I was shying away from the parts of that declaration that weren’t working so well.  I felt “broken,” and I was resisting it.  This culminated in a case of writer’s block for today’s post.

For the first time, I turned to the WordPress “Daily Post” for inspiration.  There it was: “Breakdown!”  Backed into a corner of my own devising, I had no choice but to tackle this subject.  Having made the decision to proceed, my mind started to turn over once more.

Years ago, I learned of a new way to think about “breakdowns.”  Developed as part of “Conversations for Action” by a Chilean engineer named Fernando Flores, and popularized by Landmark Education, this new context treats a breakdown as something one can creatively declare as an opening to a revised commitment to new, effective actions towards a goal.  Declaring a breakdown becomes the prelude to a breakthrough.  So, instead of hiding my “brokenness,” I’ll declare a breakdown regarding part of our declaration.

While I could declare breakdowns in any of several objectives we’ve set for ourselves, the one I’m focusing on is this:  I have yet to make financially measurable progress towards “post-retirement career options – part-time consulting, telecommuting, and making money from travel.”  The plan that I’ve been working with is focused in the same general areas as this blog, but despite hard work and considerable effort, I’m no closer to a sustainable income stream or “business model” than I was when I wrote Draft 1 of the plan about a year ago.  I haven’t figured out how to be “useful” to the people in my prospective market.  The even bigger breakdown is that I’m broken up about it.  I’m letting it bother me to the point where it’s taken some of the

Not driving Cheryl crazy -- priceless!

Not driving Cheryl crazy — priceless!

fun out of the whole project.  That’s the habit I need to break.  It’s not sustainable!  And it’s driving Cheryl crazy!

So, now what?  I’ve declared the breakdown, and recommitted to the objectives.  Now all that remains is to look for new ways to deal with the issues I’ve identified, and discover new actions to take.  Perhaps I need to develop some tighter focus, eliminate some possibilities, clear away some of the time-wasters and other clutter in my life.  I’m looking at ways to increase my confidence, and push my willingness to take some uncalculated risks.  With a renewed focus on taking actions to deal with the breakdown I’ve declared, a post like this one in my inbox offers me some ideas to pursue.  Having admitted that the way I’ve been “broken” has been generating some marital discord, we’ve agreed to find some more productive ways to work on this “breakdown” together.

Cycling the beautiful Dalmatian Coast of Croatia

Cycling the beautiful Dalmatian Coast of Croatia

As I write these words, I see how past declarations of breakdowns – some made more consciously than others – have led to breakthroughs.  Our “travel crisis” while cycling Provence in the rain led to a decision to put together a group cycle trip the next time;  now we have 16 to 20 friends signed up for a biking trip in Croatia’s Dalmatian Islands next Fall.  Finding our friends feeling despondent about retirement prospects led to our starting a Meetup, which has brought new ideas and friends into our lives.  Running low on friends to hike with led to us joining an outdoor club – and now we hike and bike more than ever – and that’s where we’ve met most of our Croatian cycling travel mates.

Sometimes declaring a breakdown seems to have an almost magical power.

Not two months ago, we were unhappy with the unemployed status of one of our sons, a recent graduate still living at home.  After worrying in silence for some time, I chose to declare a breakdown.  Cheryl and I wrote down very specifically what we were saying wasn’t working, and what we wanted to see happen.  This led to a couple of deep conversations.  Next thing we

Working as a team again - but still atop a volcano!

Working as a team again – but still atop a volcano!

knew, our son had a full-time job, a part-time job, and an unpaid internship in his field.  As I said, … like magic!

Not every project goes like magic.  This income project may take some time.  I may find myself stuck again.  You can bet your car that, as I work on some of these new ideas I’m generating, I’ll once again reach a point where I don’t want to admit that there’s “No Pension and Not Enough Travel.”  If you happen to notice, would you remind me to declare another breakdown?

Postscript: while writing this post, I discovered that Flores’ work on Conversations for Action had been collected into a book:  “Conversations for Action, and collected essays.”  I’ll definitely check it out.  Once more, a breakdown has led me to something new.

Meeting Up

As described in our last post, Cheryl and I are looking at our options for finding or building a community to live in.  While working on that, we’ve made some progress in more limited community aspirations.  Here’s one of them.

Last year Cheryl and I decided to form a local Meetup.

Meetup.com claims to be “the world’s largest network of local groups.”  As the company advertises, “Meetup makes it easy for anyone to organize a local group or find one of the thousands already meeting up face-to-face.”  (Meetup’s mission is to “revitalize local community and help people around the world self-organize.”)

A beach bar at Las Terrenas in the Dominican Republic became our Meetup emblem

A beach bar at Las Terrenas in the Dominican Republic became our Meetup emblem

Paul had been attending Meetups related to his profession for several years.  Last year, we decided to investigate groups more in line with our hobbies, travel, and retirement plans  Since then we’ve joined about ten communities related to travel, travel writing, outdoor activities, photography, foreign languages, and small-business networking – in fact, so many that we have yet to actually meet with some of them.

There was one topic we had trouble finding, and that was the theme of creative retirement around which this blog is centered: “adventurous financial independence without waiting for a net worth of two million dollars.”  We didn’t have a lot of friends who wanted to investigate these kinds of ideas so we decided to form a local Meetup for just that purpose.

A year and a bit later, with very little direct publicity, our Meetup has over 100 on its mailing list, and – pretty much every month – some 15 to 20 of them get together in an informal venue for presentations and discussion.  We’ve covered topics such as Collaborative Housing, Financial Independence, Life Transitions, Making Travel Pay, Financing a Travel Lifestyle, Planning a Round-the-World Trip, and various other travel secrets.  In addition there have been social nights and photo nights with no set agenda.

Our AirBnB evening was at an official accommodation

Our AirBnB evening was at an official accommodation

Meetup.com has been a helpful platform for organizing, advertising, and managing these events.  By means of a suggested $5 donation at a member’s first meeting of the year, we have covered all expenses, including site fees, with a small contingency fund carried forward.

Along the way, we made several discoveries.  One thing we learned was that most of our peers were not familiar with Meetup.com.  Many of our new members had never joined a meetup prior to ours.  As such, they are sometimes hesitant in coming out to their first event.  We’ve found that pre-screening new member profiles and requiring pictures helps put people at ease.  (Before we started pre-screening, we did have one or two incidents involving inappropriate spam from new members.)

Another surprise was how far people were willing to drive to attend a meeting.  We’ve had participants from as far away as a 90-minute drive – and return the next time!  For Cheryl and me, a 90-minute drive usually leaves us scanning AirBnB for overnight accommodation.  There is clearly a real hunger for this kind of face-to-face connection.

Writer Darlene Foster introduced members to the joys of travel blogging

Writer Darlene Foster introduced members to the joys of travel blogging

The most pleasing discovery was how well people fit together.  Our Meetup members coming together around a common theme seem to feel relatively at home, and open up quickly.  Many of our meetings have the flavour of old friends coming together, even when half the participants are first-timers.  We’ve been able to schedule events with no agenda and expect that good conversation will develop.

Of course, it takes some effort on our part to make sure new people feel welcome, and are introduced to others when they arrive.  We also make sure that everyone has name tags – a helpful icebreaker.  A realistic program and agenda helps manage expectations.

Thankfully, we’ve had several members offer to host meetings.  Most of our events have taken place in private homes, or sometimes in apartment common rooms – although we have rented rooms for larger events.  As the number of members continues to increase, we expect to investigate other venues such as area restaurant meeting rooms.  We know of some that only have a $5 minimum per person for such uses.  For now, we can usually squeeze 18 or 20 into most of the living rooms in the area, even if some of us are on the floor.

Even more important, most of our presenters are “home grown”.  While we have brought in outside experts for some topics, many have been ably handled by members.  Often we’ll have two shorter presentations in one evening.  We’ve attracted an eclectic mix of people in various stages along the retirement path, and many of them have complementary skills or learning that they are willing and able to share.

One of our speakers described a tiring retirement project

One speaker described a tiring project

For our minimal troubles, we’ve met a collection of interesting people – and get together with some of them on a regular basis.  We’ve learned some very helpful information about traveling cheaply and making money on the Internet.  We’ve had a chance to reflect on some of the deeper issues of ageing and retirement.  We have a sense that we’ve helped others expand their retirement horizons.  All at very low cost, and with a good helping of fun.  In the future, we envision  joint travel opportunities, and maybe some long term friendships.

Starting a Meetup was definitely a good idea.  We’d definitely recommend joining one or two – or a dozen – and if you can’t find what you’re looking for, then why not start your own?

Meetup:  “using the Internet to get off the Internet.”

Let us know how it goes.

Why Live Alone

A few years back, we learned of a successful experiment in communal retirement living pursued by some old friends of ours in Australia.  They had joined with two other couples, and built a special home to their requirements.  While each couple has private sleeping quarters, they share most of the 3500 square-foot house.  They love it!

Collaborative retirement household featured in "A group solution to growing older", Sydney Morning Herald, June 3 2013

Collaborative retirement household featured in “A group solution to growing older”, Sydney Morning Herald, June 3

What first caught our attention was the possibility of saving money, retiring sooner, and traveling more.

However, the more we looked into it, the more we discovered that the real value of their arrangement was the new community that came with it:  something equivalent to a new family.

As we approach the next phase of our lives, we can feel our old communities slipping away.  Our kids are preparing to leave home – we think.  When we retire from our current jobs, we will quickly lose touch with former colleagues.  Our friends are beginning to retire and move away – some to the countryside, some overseas.  We ourselves plan to move out of the City, and expect to spend more of the year abroad.

We watched what had happened to our parents, aunts, and uncles.  Many of them ended up living alone for the final years of their lives.  Some of them were shepherded into assisted living complexes when living alone became too uncertain.  Even for those who managed to stay independent – often with the help of several nearby grown children – the solo years struck us as missing something.  Was there a better way?

The tranquil view from our former island cabin - too much solitude now?

The tranquil view from our former island cabin – too much solitude now?

Cheryl and I have valued our privacy over the years.  We started our family in a development of five and ten-acre wooded lots.  We later enjoyed spending time with our boys at our off-grid island cabin.  Our retirement dream at one time included a 40-acre spread of wild countryside.

Now our perceptions are changing.  Selling the island cabin may have heralded this change;  we thought it would be too isolated as we got older.  Our experience with our own parents was pivotal:  we would probably live longer than they did, and – like most boomers – we have fewer children to rely on, children who are unlikely to live in the neighbourhood.  The same demographic shift likely means that the cost of assisted living will escalate while the quality of life in those complexes will decline.

Our reading has also underscored the importance of community.  The declining birthrate worldwide will make it harder to replace the old networks of support we are losing as we transition into the next phase of our lives.  Initiatives such as Blue Zones have shown how critical maintaining community is to our health and happiness as we age.  This aligns with advice on nurturing your communities in books such as Flourish and Younger Next Year.  We have all read by now how we can keep our brains younger by engaging in mental activity such as language skills and problem solving.  Living with other people is one way to ensure that kind of mental workout.

We recently joined an outdoor association, and were surprised to find so many retired or almost so.

We recently joined an outdoor association, and were surprised to find so many retired or almost so.

We’re now in the process of realigning our personal tradeoffs between privacy and community.  Can we construct a future for ourselves that replaces the communities we are losing?  We’re taking steps to reach out and join or create new communities for various activities.

What about collaborative living?  Is there a solution that will work for us?  Our friends in Australia had known their housemates for many years before moving in together.  When we took inventory of our own circles, we found very few possible candidates – when we broached the subject with some of those, they soon announced they were moving out of town.  Coincidence, we’re sure!

Can we find new partners for such a venture?  Perhaps.  It’s not a trivial exercise.  The householders and our friends call themselves The Shedders – primarily because of the physical and emotional baggage they had to “shed” in order to make living together work.  Will our circumstances dictate a different form of collaboration?  How far are we willing to go in trading our privacy for community?  We are grappling with now with these questions.  We’ll share some of what we learn over the months ahead.

Solitude or community - in the Marais district of Paris.

Solitude or community – in the Marais district of Paris.

Here are some of the sources that have influenced our journey.

  • Shedders:  This is Heather Bolstler’s personal blog about the journey to their collaborative retirement home.  The earlier entries are now available in this eminently readable Kindle eBook.  The Shedders are by no means the only ones to have made this work.  “My House Our House” profiles a group of three women who turned a preexisting house into a collaborative housing venture.  With an ageing population and lingering economic malaise, we predict a lot more of these in the coming decade.
  • A quiet home on a private acreage no longer the ideal?

    A quiet home on a private acreage no longer the ideal?

    Our own recent experience – such as our recent cycle trip in Provence – has underscored our own need for community.

One of our reasons for starting this blog is to reach out to a wider circle in our search for community.  We’d love to hear from you on this subject.

Where are we traveling?

Financial Independence Day came and went.  Financial independence was nowhere to be seen.

Ten years ago, my Cheryl and I crafted an investment plan that had us reaching job-free living and travel last year.  A decade of dismal investment returns, and we were not even close.  Our financial advisor agreed far too readily.

Fleeing the Bulls?

Did we miss out in the running of the stock market bulls?

We are embarking on a journey to construct the lifestyle we had in mind without waiting for the assets we thought we’d need – or the pension we’d never have.

Hearing an echo from many busted boomer friends, we thought we’d share our journey to inspire and perhaps enlighten others.  Or maybe warn of our mistakes.

Our lines of action and investigation include the following.

  • Traveling more for less.
  • Lowering our expenses without sacrificing quality of life.
  • Creating “post retirement” careers to make up the shortfall – and to maintain our sense of purpose.
  • Starting new activities, projects, and friendships to carry us into our “third age”.
  • Most of all, finding or building a new community – a group of us with similar objectives and who can support each other in achieving them.

We’re paying special attention to the community aspect.  We want to expand our ability to embark on adventure and cultural travel with small groups.  We’re looking at various ways of collaborating on housing.  We value the input on all these themes from both our local and virtual communities.

If this is your journey, we’d love to have you travel with us.