Jan 31, 2014

Infographic: How to Plan (Pay) For Your Retirement by Mark Johnson

Going to retirement someday? Here are some fact you might need. This infographic from Mark Johnson compiles statistics and advice from the experts on what actions you should be taking if you are going to retire using using your own nest egg. He has also included a list of his sources so you can do a little checking of your own. Of course, the piece of advice I thought to be wisest...SPEND LESS THAN YOU EARN! Other key points:
  • Avoid acquiring more debt and pay off high interest debts first.
  • 36% of income should be used to pay off debt. And 28% of total pre-taxed income should be going toward your mortgage.
  • Take care of your IRA and 401k plans. 
  • 10% of your income should go to an IRA or 401k retirement plan.
  • Plan to have saved 8x your yearly income by the time you retire.

What would you add to this infographic if you had a say? Here it is...only on Retire In Style Blog. Take a look!


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Jan 28, 2014

When the Dog Dies...Saying goodbye to Teagan!

She wasn't even my dog. My daughter, her husband and two children brought her home from Canada so many years ago I cannot remember. The children that were small then are now 20 and 16.

My husband and I were just people that showed up at her house periodically so she could bark. Surprisingly, when I found out she was gone I felt very sad. She was a part of every family gathering.

Teagan didn't care much what you wanted, never came when you called her and ruined so many screen doors her family gave up and just swatted the flies.

She was a mass of nerves and barked incessantly so she required a bark collar. She liked to come and go at her own pace. She ran away at the blink of the eye, moved so fast you could never catch her. She required an invisible fence.

In fact, it seemed her goal in life was to prove that, although you needed her, she did not need you.

The neighbor's dog was her friend and she would go to their house and ask to be let in so she could play. Racoons kept her entertained and the feral cat that came to live was a constant companion. She did not know how to walk but seemed to lope everywhere she went. Her cousins lived at Bill Cosby's house.

But she did love us all. Her head would appear under our hand so we could pet her and she begged to be scratched. No space was too small for her to find a way to get the attention she wanted. Tables moved and people got out of her way.

Beautiful, regal, goofy, hyperactive, brilliantly pea brained and much loved. We will always miss that funny old dog. How did we get so attached to her?

Be well,

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Jan 24, 2014

Google's Blogger: Afraid to Ask the Questions!

Retire In Style Blog header created by Barbara Torris for Blogger
I do read the fine print on Google because I love to write on my Blogger account.  But the fact is I might be breaking the rules when I link to a business in a post. I do vet the articles and make sure that I can support what they propose but it is a gray area that I often wonder about. I often wonder why Google doesn't go into the business of offering a paid option for their clients. It would be wonderful.

Blogger is the most wonderful service a writer could ever have.  The simplicity of the website is something I love. I even think that the Adsense ads add a lot to the page. But if the Adsense doesn't work and bring in income, why even use it?

My husband points out that we don't need the money and he is right.  I guess it is just a little validation for what I do...with the emphasis on little. And, if I begin to earn more, I gain the spotlight which is not going to make things easier for me.

As for the title, Afraid to Ask the Question, I went ahead and sent a note to Google feedback with a screen shot of my blog. Will I be sorry?  Maybe!

What do you think?

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Jan 22, 2014

The New York Times and the 99 Cent Deal!

The New York Times logo
The New York Times logo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
or Please, Cancel my Subscription

Oh my gosh, I think I need a good rant...no, I know I need a good rant. You see, I love the NYTs but I cancelled my online subscription today anyway.  My ongoing love affair with the newspaper may be coming to an end soon. After this latest experience I have decided I just don't like the way they treat their subscribers.

The NYTs was costing me $20 a month and I really don't make that much money online. I knew they didn't play fair with subscribers but I didn't realize what their game was.  Imagine my surprise when I found out how much I could have really gotten it for if I had known the rules and called sooner.

I decided to take the online version twice in the last few years. I think the first time I took them up on the $.99 a week offer I ended up paying almost $30 a month when the grace period was over with. After I called the paper at the mystery number hidden on a page with many Q&A options and tried to unsubscribe they reduced the price to just under $20. I complained about the price. I should have just quit loving the paper right then. Later I did quit taking the paper.

Last year I re-subscribed (I know, I am nuts) and was actually offered the $20 deal after my $.99 a week grace period elapsed. Today I decided to unsubscribe AGAIN. This time when I called, the very nice lady offer me the .$99 a week deal for 10 weeks or more. I have paid $20 a month all of this time when all I had to do was cancel and they would offer me the $4.00 a month rate for 10 weeks? My goodness NYTs, do you really understand what you are doing?

Now I am wondering if I called someone else and cancelled something, would they give it to me at a lot less? My internet service is very expensive. I might try them first. I don't know about you but it makes me mad!

I'm just saying.

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Note: Remind me to bookmark this post as a reference when I decide to take the NYTs again...because you know I will.  I love that newspaper!
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Jan 21, 2014

HOW ARE AMERICANS SPENDING THEIR RETIREMENT?

About 10,000 Americans turn 65 each day. While previous generations may have been content with a leisurely life after leaving the workplace, today’s retirement planning often places a heavy emphasis on staying active. In fact, in a recent Pew Research Center Study, 60 percent of adults 65 and older reported feeling younger than their actual age. Here’s a look at how they’re spending their golden years.



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Jan 20, 2014

Seniors and the wonders of the internet...finding out it's not magic yet!

My husband pointed out Bob Lowry's article about getting his wife's Affordable Care Act insurance policy with the government this morning. Healthcare.gov: Betty's Experience is the name of the article.

Many senior citizens are not a knowledgeable as Lowry is about the internet so when they are faced with this insurance dilemma, I can imaging that many will just give up. They will get frustrated because for them the online world is somewhat of a magic place where stuff gets done and no one actually knows how. Evidently, you must have access to a computer to sign up for the plan and there really are people that don't have one. Even if they do, they don't realize that the online world is NOT MAGIC!

Seniors and online stuff and magic...
Before Christmas a neighbor came to me with a question about his email account. Simple huh? Most of the people I know don't understand how it all works but somehow it does anyway. Well most of the time. In this particular case my friend had subscribed to an online newsletter and then could not locate his copies only to find them in his trash file. It seems that he did not have the correct address for the publisher in his email account. It was easy to fix. I explained that when he subscribes to something like this the simplest thing to do is just send the group an email reply to their contact. In this case the magic of your email account actually does save the address and also sends the newsletter, for example, to your inbox and not directly into the trash.

We talked about the need to keep an updated contact file somewhere on your computer. I love his question. "You mean my computer doesn't just keep all that information automatically?" All I could say was "my friend, your computer is really good but it is not magic." Sometimes you just have to take the time to create a contact list, add new address, etc. and keep it up to date. Wow!

My next experience was with a neighbor that had an iPad that she used for her email. When she came from Michigan to Arizona she could not retrieve her email like she could at home. I remember asking her last year how she got her email without a wireless in her park model. She didn't know but it works like magic she said. I set her up on mine and now she is able to do what little she does online using our wireless. She now understands that her iPad is not magic, not at all.

NOTE: She had a sim card as a possibility in the Bluetooth function but it was not highlighted. I cannot imagine that she even knows what a sim card is. I see that people have complained about the sim card failing on their iPads. My iPad has never had a sim card that I can recall.

I do these things all the time here in the park. People want to share books on their Kindle, print a Christmas newsletter, use text messaging and the list goes on forever. When they get stuck, they show up at my front door.

Coming back to Lowry's post, when you read the article, you will relate to the fact that sometimes the act of completing something online can be very hard. In the case of the Affordable Care Act the people that contracted to do the job failed us miserably. Unfortunately, the wonders of the computer age are being slow to take hold. People here in the park from Canada tell me that their country had the same problems when their plan was launched. See, people, it is not magic.

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You might also read Obamacare sign up is by computer...some of us don't have one! It has information on what Washington state is doing to help those that aren't computer savvy.
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Jan 17, 2014

3 Things about Changing Another Person

It is not all about ME!
Have you ever tried to change someone you know?  If you haven't then you are a saint...s-a-i-n-t! Honestly, the old adage "Everyone is crazy except me and thee and sometimes I wonder about thee." is true. Even those of us that see ourselves as tolerant and kind are not telling ourselves the truth...or at least that is what I think. I am as guilty as sin!

My mother was always trying to change people and I thought it was a bunch of bunk. I suppose I felt that way because she would plan and plot for days on end. I do not work that way. See, I don't really want to change people especially my friends because I liked them when we became friends. Still, I hear myself being cranky for things that they do, small behaviors usually. I still like them. I just don't want them to do a few things!

Then I get home and I am so mad at myself. After all who am to be trying to make someone else perfect when I am not perfect myself. I have to remind myself that it is not all about ME! Then I have to call and apologize.  Darn!

I was reading an article today called (surprise) Can You Change People.

I learned that  I should not work on anyone else until I take a good look at myself in the mirror. After all, how can I expect someone else to change when I may not be able to change myself. The three basic ideas for the article were so simple.
  1. "When you act in the way you want others to behave, you are helping the people around you to unconsciously adopt the goals you are pursuing." from Can You Change People by Art Markman, Ph.D.  
  2. The person you find fault with must also see the fault in themselves and commit to a change.
  3. If you want to help then you and the person you are helping must talk and then you need to support them.
Now I don't know about you but I don't want to be the one that tells another person that the way they drive or talk or are always late is annoying. Guiding another person to see their faults without hurting their feelings is tricky. If I know one thing about myself, I know I am not tricky. I am more of a blurt-it-out-in-public kind of woman! Besides that, I don't want to talk about it. I am not good at counseling.

But there may be help...I can ONLY take responsibility for my own behavior and it may be me that needs help changing. I am going to start there. Like the author of the article pointed out, we help others by setting a good example. My first self-help project will be to quit being so darn bossy! There, I said it.
Be well.

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Jan 16, 2014

New Year's Resolutions, Promises and Chekhov's Gun

Anton Pavlovich Chekhov, 1860
I was looking at StumbleUpon this morning when a Wikipedia article titled Chekhov's Gun caught my eye.  The concept leading to the title came from Anton Chekhov, a 19th century writer considered to be among the greatest short story writers of all time. He was also a noted writer of plays. He lived from 1860 until 1904. The gun he talks about is a play prop that promises some action in the future. The idea is that when you place a prop on the stage during a play, it foreshadows what will come later in the play. His thinking was that if you place the gun on the stage, the audience will expect the actors to fire it. Otherwise why would it even be there? In a letter written to a friend he said,
"One must never place a loaded rifle on the stage if it isn't going to go off. It's wrong to make promises you don't mean to keep."
I suppose writers and livers of life have been thinking about that "rifle" since Chekhov wrote the words in 1889. Writers know that words are precious and should to be used with great care. Using word or object (Chekhov's Gun) to foreshadow what is to come is a very important tool used by successful authors. Those of us that write blogs know a promise made in the title should be delivered in the body of the article. But livers of life can take a different lesson from his warning.

I am talking about any announcement of intent. It might be a threat or a promises or even a New Year's resolutions. The promise (Chehov's Gun) is very like an elephant in the room. No one can take their eyes off it in the expectation of action. At this time of year we are all trying to live up to whatever we resolved to accomplish in 2014...a promise made to ourselves or someone we care about. There that big announcement of intent sits waiting for us to take it up and do something with it. Even the threat to take action can become meaningless if it is not acted upon. Chekhov suggests we have some choices. We can leave the loaded gun in the room unused until it means nothing, renounce it or actually take the action we promised we would. Our actions will say a lot about who we are.

It is just a thought.  Have a wonderful day!

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Jan 11, 2014

Capturing the Story: 5 Photographs that Tell a Story

I don't suppose I am doing this for you as much as for myself. The joy of taking pictures is one of my great loves. Being able to capture what I see with my minds eye and then bring it to my computer to make the image my very own is very satisfying. Adding my lovely iPhone camera to the mix and my life is perfect. Here are 5 images that tell a story.

Maddie just completed her horse show
which she absolutely loved...all of the pictures afterwards? Well not really!
Outside our favorite Mexican restaurant...a driving dog waiting for carry out?
Playing Scrabble with my daughter is not quite as modern as it could be.  The unabridged dictionary was her late mother-in-laws. We sat and played until the stars shone and the crickets sang.  It is one of my favorite memories. (iPhone)
He was walking on the sand near Cannon Beach, Oregon. His paraphernalia included a CD player, giant earphone, an umbrella and a spring in his step.  All he wanted was to "find a pretty lady to dance with". Oh, and he was nearing 90 years of age.
When to walk to the edge of Bald Peak State Park near Hillsboro, Oregon, you are treated to a view of the gorgeous Willamette Valley facing west.  On this fall afternoon the valley was shrouded in mist and the fall leaves glistened in the late afternoon sun. can't you smell fall in the air?
My youngest son had just graduated with his masters degree and we all gathered to celebrate. His baby loves her aunt a lot. She wanted to be just a little closer to Auntie so she grabbed her earrings...perfect kissing handles I think. (iPhone)


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Jan 10, 2014

Foreign Travel Myth? "I get a better exchange rate if I bring cash with me!"

"I am taking a trip to Thailand, Cambodia and Laos going through Vietnam. My friend told me to bring cash and I would get a better exchange rate. "
I was sitting in the chair with the back rub device running. I had slipped into the coma I always experience when I am getting a pedicure when the woman next to me began talking to her pedicure girl.  Everyone in the salon is from Vietnam so when the lady announced that she was flying into "Saigon" the next day, the girls were very excited.  I sat up and took notice. Of course I wanted to know what her plans were because my husband and I had been in Vietnam a couple of years ago. That was when she told me that she planned on taking cash so she could get a better exchange rate.

My radar went up immediately. She had already had the conversation about not taking expensive jewelry and the girls in the shop warned her about con-men but I don't think she was really focusing in on what she was proposing to do. It sounded very iffy and even dangerous to me.

Here is what we have always done:
  1. We take two or three credit cards but only carry one and we put the other two in the hotel safe (along with our passport). We make sure they are international credit cards that charge no foreign exchange rate. Photo copy the cards and keep that in a safe place. Then, if you have it stolen, you will know who to call
  2. We go to a reputable bank and get enough cash to last a day or two.
  3. We bring very little cash into a country...just enough to get us through airport, etc.  Usually taxi drivers don't even want our US dollars. Our first stop is usually a bank machine. You need cash for taxis, etc.
  4. We haven't carried travelers checks for years.
Shanghai, China 2007 by b+ (Flickr)
See the thing is, I had my wallet stolen by gypsies in Spain. I only had a few Euros but the one credit card I was carrying was gone. It was a big hassle! Thankfully we were prepared for that to happen.

Check your travel guide and online to see what customs about money are in the country you are visiting. Don't plan on saving big money by playing the "exchange rate" game. MSN says that even the big players in that area only save a few dollars. But most importantly, do not carry a big amount of cash. Even the savviest travels can be tricked.

I have one last tip that will save you a lot of time and maybe even money...when you arrive and are walking through the airport, never, never stop until you are standing at the taxi stand. Scam artists are allowed to set up shop in many countries. The scam artists look very official...don't be fooled!

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Jan 9, 2014

How to Make Overseas Pension Transfers

If you are in one country and your pension fund is in another, it’s time to consider making an overseas pension transfer. Today, we invite Dan Abrahams, Co-Founder of MyCurrencyTransfer to help out with some expert advice

British expats can take advantage of a Qualifying Recognised Overseas  Pension Scheme or QROPS for short. You have worked hard for your money over the years and it is important to ensure you get access to your money in the best possible way. 

QROPS are often referred to as offshore pension schemes because the companies supplying them are based outside of the UK. There are over 3000 different schemes running in over 46 countries and that’s great news for those shopping around for the best scheme to suit their needs.

The First Step - Finding A Good Financial Advisor

A professional financial advisor experienced in both UK and overseas pension schemes will ensure that you have access to the most suitable and profitable pension transfer deals available to you. Your advisor can give you tailored advice that takes into account the tax rules for the country you are in and any other aspects of pension transfer that you need to be aware about. Conditions and benefits often vary between countries.

Thinking Of Taking A Lump Sum?

The majority of UK pensions offer a lump sum but limit this to 25% of the pension fund value. However, many QROPS can stretch that to 30% as long as the pension scheme retains 70% of the original pension pot to provide a regular retirement income.

Lump sum flexibility like this can help if you are looking to buy a car in your new country or pay for another big purchase.  Again, your financial advisor will be able to ensure you know the options available to you so that you can make a sensible and informed choice.

Income Tax On Your Pension Payments

For any QROPS taken out in the same country where you are based, you will be taxed according to the local tax rules for that country. And if you take out a QROPS in a different country to where you are based, the tax you pay will depend on whether your country and the QROPS country has a tax treaty between them. If they do you might be able to take advantage of some tax breaks. Another option is to choose a pension company offering QROPS that can be moved to another country without having to pay hefty entry and exit fees. 

How To Beat Fluctuations In The Exchange Rate

Your UK pension can only be transferred in Sterling no matter what country you are moving your pension to. That means you need to time your transfer well so that you can make the most of fluctuating exchange rates. Exchange rates trade every day and can change quite dramatically during the course of a day’s trading. The good news is that you can monitor these changes by using an exchange rate comparison website.  A good financial advisor can also give you advice on how to get the best exchange rate by using an FX broker that offers bespoke money transfer services.



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Jan 6, 2014

Find the Travel Guide Book that Fits Your Needs

We posted an article about the best places to travel in 2014 as suggested by Lonely Planet the other day.  Lonely Planet is one of those travel guides that take you down the back street of some of the most popular places in the world.  They have been a go-to source of information for my husband and I for many years.

Yucatan Wild Life
It has occurred to me that the travel guide you use and feel comfortable with is very much an individual thing.  For many years we used Fodor's because when we traveled here in the USA, we wanted to find very good food in every town and we didn't want to depend on taking advice from someone that had a relative running a diner down the road.  Fodor's guided us to great food in Lincoln Neb, Orlando Florida and every where in between. We have even used their suggestion in our home city of Portland Oregon.

Yucatan Penisula, Mexico
But when it came to traveling in the far east, we knew we needed to come up with a new guide that told us how to act and where to go. Lonely Planet was one of our favorite because we could depend on their tourist information.

When we visited Vietnam a couple of years ago, online Trip Advisor was the source our family used to connect with hotels and tour guides in North Vietnam, Hanoi north to Sapa. While we connected with our hotels personally, without TripAdvisor we would never have known where to start.

If you are the kind of person that likes a little taste of jet set life, I think that Conde Nast may be the source of travel inspiration for you. When they came out with the 25 best cities in the world this last fall, we immediately looked at taking a vacation based on their Reader's Choice awards. For Mexico the award went to San Miguel de Allende.  We have our reservations for next September.

It is a lot of fun to dream about your next vacation but if you want your dreams to come true, finding a travel guide that suits your personality is very important. Trip Advisor will tell you what they think is the best but it will not be the same as Conde Nast or Fodor's. Shop around for what works for you.
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Jan 2, 2014

Five Places to Visit in 2014

 
Every year various lists of ‘places to see’ are released, intended to inspire travelers and shape holiday plans. Lonely Planet publish the most well-read of these lists and 2014 is no different; as ever there are plenty of countries and cities to get the travel juices flowing, many of which are chosen in accordance with big, international events and some of which are chosen because they’ve just begun to emerge as new, exciting tourist destinations.

For those of you who haven’t yet decided on your travel plansfor 2014, here’s five of the countries being cited by Lonely Planet as the places to be over the next 12 months:

Scotland
On the back of the 2014 Commonwealth Games being held in Scotland’s Glasgow and the Ryder Cup in Gleneagles, the country has been chosen by Lonely Planet as one of their top countries of the next year. There’s so much to see here, from ancient castles in the Highlands to stylish cities like pretty Edinburgh. To see the best of Scotland, aim to travel in summer, as the winters tend to bring lots of wind and icy rain – and as so much of Scotland’s finery is outdoors, it would be a shame to miss out. Visit lochs, sip whisky, try haggis, and hike snow-peaked mountains.

Brazil
Brazil has been chosen due to its hosting of the soccer World Cup, but unless you’re a huge soccer fan, the summer (the northern hemisphere’s winter) is the best time to see cities like Rio de Janeiro at their best – although it’s never freezing during the winter, it would be a shame to visit Copacabana Beach and not be able to sunbathe! And what better place is there from which to call home and make everyone a little bit jealous? Lebara makes those international calls easy and inexpensive. 

Macedonia
 9–10-year-old boys of the Yao tribe in Malawi
participating in circumcision and initiation rites.
One of the up-and-coming countries of Eastern Europe, Macedonia is getting a facelift and has a burgeoning party scene, as well as countless new bars and restaurants popping up all over the capital Skopje, and spa, wine, and skiing holidays to be had. This is definitely one of those countries to visit now, before the rest do! Let everyone else know what they’re missing with a pay as you go SIM with Lebara.co.ukfor keeping in touch with people back at home.

Malawi
Thinking of a safari holiday, but not sure where to go? Well, if solitude and off-the-beaten-track adventure appeal, Malawi is being pegged as an excellent new safari destination, after an intensive wildlife relocation effort and national park restoration following years of poaching. Now you can spot the Big Five without the crowds that more well-known regions attract.

Seychelles
If you’re after a beach holiday (and the winter does tend to have that effect!), the Seychelles might be exactly what the doctor ordered. These Indian Ocean islands don’t just have sun, sea and sand to offer (although those things are certainly highlights!), but they also afford gorgeous rainforest and mountains in which to hike, alongside a plethora of wildlife.