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Jan presenting for AARP in Dublin, Ohio (Sept. 2013)

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Tennis as a Metaphor for Life by Jan Cullinane

Those of you who know me know I love tennis and play several days a week when I'm home.  I stumbled across a few quotes that reflect the larger meaning of tennis:

  • It's no accident, I think, that tennis uses the language of life.  Advantage, service, fault, break, love; the basic elements of tennis are those of everyday existence, because every match is a life in miniature.  (Andre Agassi)
  • Tennis taught me so many lessons in life.  One of the things it taught me is that every ball that comes to me, I have to make a decision.  I have to accept responsibility for the consequences every time I hit a ball.  (Billie Jean King)
  • The depressing thing about tennis is that no matter how good I get, I'll never be as good as a wall. (Mitch Edberg)

So, in addition to the social, physical, and mental aspects of tennis, it really is a sport that mirrors life.

 

 

Builders Learn the Importance of Women-Centric Homes

Single women are the second-largest group of homeowners after couples, and they purchase almost twice as many homes on a first-time and repeat basis than single men do, reports the National Association of Home Builders [2].

More women than men live alone, and single women are more likely to own their homes than single men (56 percent compared to 47 percent). Recognizing that in 91 percent of home purchases [3], women are the prime drivers of the transaction, more and more builders are creating “women-centric” [4] homes.

Research by Design Basics [6], a home-plan company based in Omaha, Neb., identifies four features and activities women tend to focus on when buying a home:

STORAGE: If a house has a garage, most people enter and leave their home through it, so it helps to have a garage-entry foyer with storage for shoes, keys, bulk items and papers. (Such an area can also serve as a place where a pet can hang out when home alone.) Since the kitchen is the real center of the home universe, provide storage in the form of kitchen garages (i.e., countertop storage that can be hidden behind a pull-down door when not in use), walk-in pantries with sturdy shelves, and pull-out drawers and racks for organizing (and hiding) stuff. Partitioned drawers in the bedroom bath and customized closets help house items in assigned spots.

ADAPTABILITY: It’s been said that houses are often designed as “Peter Pan homes,” meaning they’re built as though people will never grow up (and old). Women-centric homes built for people 50-plus integrate universal design principles [7], so the homeowner can age in place. Examples of universal design features include varied counter heights (to accommodate either standing or sitting), comfort-height toilets, rocker switches for turning on lights, wide hallways, at least one entrance without steps, and a first-floor bedroom, bath and laundry room. The most popular number of bedrooms? Turns out it’s three, because in addition to a master bedroom and a guest bedroom, women want the flexibility of using a third bedroom for exercising, crafting or as a home office, perhaps for starting a business. (According to research by Babson College [8], 1 in 10 women between the ages of 55 and 64 plans to work for herself.) Having two master bedroom suites on the first floor provides a homeowner with the option of taking in a similarly aged or older housemate.

RETREAT: A home should be a place for unwinding. Outdoor living areas (such as covered front porches or enclosed courtyards), indoor reading nooks, curbless showers with seats and perhaps an exercise room can help accomplish that goal. Relaxation requires feeling secure, which is why a home security system, good outdoor lighting and an attached garage are important as well.

ENTERTAINING: Spaces for hosting get-togethers are important ingredients in a woman-centric home. Open floor plans that consider the view into the kitchen (so someone working there can be seen but the dirty dishes won’t be), a kitchen island or bar that can accommodate having friends over for coffee and outdoor spaces conducive to conversation are women-centric ideas that designers and builders are integrating into house plans.

“Women-centric” wish lists include that a home be easy to maintain (inside and out), feature high-efficiency windows and appliances, contain heavy-duty insulation, use “green” building materials and systems (provided they’re not too expensive) and operate as “zero net” housing that produces as much energy as it consumes.

How the house and the elements inside it are located is also key. For instance, fixtures need to be installed where they are most likely to be used. (e.g. A bathroom or dressing area vanity needs a blow-dryer outlet.) Beyond the home, the larger community’s structure, nearby resources, safety and quality are of significant importance.

All square footage isn’t created equal, and builders interested in selling to the growing demographic of 50-plus female homeowners get the message. With apologies to Virginia Woolf [10], today’s women don’t just want A Room of One’s Own, [11] they want A House of One’s Own.

5 Ways to Retrain Your Brain to Save More for Retirement by Learn Vest

Be honest: How often do you really think about your retirement savings? Or maybe the better question is: How often do you actually do something to grow that nest egg?

If recent research is any indication, the answer is probably “not too often.” In fact, it seems like every other month a new study makes headlines that reveals how much Americans aren’t saving for retirement—and how stressed we are about it.

According to the Employee Benefit Research Institute’s 2014 Retirement Confidence survey, 52% of workers have less than $10,000 saved for retirement—and 36% have less than $1,000. Meanwhile, only 18% of those polled are “very confident” that they’ll have enough saved for their golden years.

So why do we have such a hard time stashing away even modest amounts? 

Part of the obstacle may be psychological: It’s hard to keep something that’s still decades off top of mind. “One of the biggest barriers to saving for retirement is just the idea of getting started, because it seems too big and overwhelming—or just too far away,” asserts clinical psychologist Andrea Bonior.

So what if you could retrain your brain when it comes to how you think about retirement? From ditching the “R” word to treating yourself to retirement “gifts,” here are clever ways to rewire your noggin to start building up that nest egg better—and maybe even have a little fun in the process. Yes, we said fun.

1. Rethink the “R” Word

When you hear the term “retirement,” does it conjure up some decades-off dollar figure or do you actually think of it as an important milestone in life—like, say, your wedding day, your first home or having your first child?

Chances are, it’s likely to be the former.

To troubleshoot this line of thinking, “instead of ‘retirement planning,’ adopt the term ‘lifetime planning,’ " suggests Jan Cullinane, author of “The Single Woman’s Guide to Retirement.” “This turns it into something to think about now, rather than 30 years down the road.” Case in point: Consider viewing your ideal retirement as really your second career life stage or your world traveler life stage—as opposed to merely the dollar amount you’ll need to get there.

2. Visualize Yourself in Your Dream Retirement Locale

Part of what contributes to the stress of saving for retirement is not knowing what your future cost of living will be. Will you keep an expensive pied-à-terre in New York City or a beachfront condo in Miami? Or would you prefer to stay put in the home where you raised your family?

Rather than try to prepare yourself for every conceivable option, do some research to figure out how much it costs to live in a place that exemplifies where you could see yourself. “Too many choices are paralyzing,” Cullinane says. “When it comes to where to live when you retire, narrow the choices down to three or four good ones, based on your ‘non-negotiables.’ Then investigate just those few possibilities instead of every one.”

West Coasters anticipate saving more than $1 million for retirement—that’s a significant amount more than those based in the South, who plan to save closer to $780,000.

Just keep in mind that where you live now will likely influence how much—or little—you’ll need to save. For example, “When you live in California, the cost of living generally means that you need to save more,” says Kimberly Foss, a Certified Financial Planner™ and the founder of Empyrion Wealth Management. “This differs quite a lot from someone in, say, Tennessee, who may have a much lower overhead.”

In fact, people who live in the West plan to stash away more for retirement than residents in other regions of the country, according to a recent survey by Merrill Edge. Overall, West Coasters anticipate saving more than $1 million for retirement—that’s a significant amount more than those based in the South, who plan to save closer to $780,000.

Of course, money is just part of the equation. Do you need to be surrounded by nature, or do you prefer the thriving pace of a city? Is not having enough golf courses per square mile going to hurt your game? Factors like the weather, local activities and accessible health care are also going to be important to you. So check out resources like this Milken Institute report, which ranks the best cities for aging, to figure out where you could see yourself growing old.

3. Give Yourself Retirement “Gifts”

Since the ultimate amount you think you’ll need to save for retirement may be intimidating—if not downright daunting—think about setting up smaller, more relatable goals for yourself along the way. A good way to do this? Consider tying your retirement savings to a holiday or birthday, which will give you annual guideposts to work toward—and associate saving for your golden years with something positive.

It’s easy to understand why the $25,000 car you’re saving up to buy by year’s end can feel more tangible than the fuzzy picture you’ve painted for your sixtysomething self. But saving for retirement is one of the cornerstones of basic financial security—and, priority-wise, should trump that new set of wheels.

For instance, “make a goal that, by New Year’s Eve, you’ll have X number of dollars in your account,” Bonior suggests. “Then bump that [goal] number up for the following year.” Or include a specific retirement savings amount as part of a birthday gift to yourself, Bonior adds. So maybe in addition to the high-definition TV you plan to splurge on, you also commit to contributing another $500 to your IRA.

If you haven’t yet opened a retirement account, the key is to simply get the ball rolling—even if it’s just a small amount—or get in the habit of adding more to your principal whenever you can. “The earlier you start saving, regardless of the amount, the better you’ll make out because time and compounding are your friend,” says Bill Losey, a Certified Financial Planner™ and the author of “Retire in a Weekend.” “It’s a lot easier to save $100 to $200 a month when you’re 20, then waiting until you’re 50 … and having to save $50,000 a year.”

4. Take the Path of Least Resistance

Overwhelmed by the thought of having to follow through on yet one more financial to-do each month? “Set up defaults to help you save for retirement, [so that you] don’t have to make repeated conscious choices,” Cullinane says.

The most obvious way to do this, of course, is to participate in your company’s 401(k) plan, so you can have that contribution come directly from your pay before taxes. Or you can set up an automatic transfer that apportions a part of your paycheck to your personal IRA. “If all of your paycheck goes to your checking account, there’s a much smaller chance any of it will ever make it into savings,” Cullinane says.

Even automating 1% makes a difference—not only in actual dollar figures, but also because it bakes saving into your routine. “[Some people think], ‘I can’t save 10% to 15%, so why bother?’ ” Losey says. “But what about saving 1% of your salary? If you can, do it. It’s not so much the amount—it’s about getting into the habit of saving.”

5. Set Rules for Your Contribution Increases—and Stick to Them

It can be easy to forget about upping your retirement contributions as time goes by, unless something like getting a new job requires you to redo your paperwork. But in the same way that you’d schedule an annual health checkup, you should schedule an appointment with yourself to up your retirement contribution. In fact, we prefer to do this in July ourselves.

You can also consider tying your increases to a salary raise. If your pay goes up by 5%, then boost your contributions by 5%. Or if you don’t think you can devote the entire increase to retirement, then choose a percentage of that raise to allocate to your retirement account. “Say you get a 3% raise,” Losey says. “Save 1% of that, and spend the other 2%.” This way, you’re consistently saving more, while still enjoying the fruits of your hard work.

 

Wacky Retirement-Related Words You Won’t Find in Webster’s by Jan Cullinane

This is a guest post by Jan Cullinane, author of AARP’s The Single Woman’s Guide to Retirement.

Retirement is changing, and choice is the new normal. Continue to work? Start a new career? Relocate? Stay? Have adult kids live with you?

Women and men approach this transition in different ways, so it’s not surprising that new retirement lingo has blossomed. Here is a baker’s dozen of words/acronyms you won’t find in an ordinary dictionary.

Related to Relocation:

Fanby (find a new backyard) - People looking to relocate. Some are “serial relocators,” perhaps moving outside of the United States, followed by relocation to an active-adult community, and finally residing in a CCRC (continuing care retirement community).

Ruppies (retired urban professionals) - Having lived in the ‘burbs, Ruppies are moving to cities to enjoy the amenities this kind of living can offer.

Splitter - Those who split their time between two (or more) homes. About six percent of us own a second home, according to the U.S. Census.

Related to Children:

Kidult – People between the ages of 18 and 25, often financially and psychologically dependent on their parents. They’re caught in the transition between childhood and adulthood, also known as “adultolescence.”

Kippers (kids iparents’ pockets eroding retirement savings) Remember to save for your own retirement first, since the kids have more time than we do to save for the future.

Skier (spending the kids’ inheritance) - Travel, luxury cars, multiple homes, eating at expensive restaurants. Skiers are going to enjoy burning through their money before they die. It gives the word skiing a whole different meaning.

Related to Marital Status:

Freemales – A growing number of women worldwide who are single by choice. Delete “spinster,” “old maid,” and “crazy cat-lady” from your vocabulary NOW.

Gray Divorce - Divorce among those 50 and older (think Rhea Perlman and Danny DeVito). The National Center for Family and Marriage Research at Bowling State University reports that the divorce rate in this age group has doubled over the last decade, and now makes up 25% of all divorces.

LATs (living apart together) – Couples in committed relationships who maintain separate residences. LATs are often mature, divorced women who don’t want to uproot their lives because of children or a job. LATs are in contrast to LTAs (living together apart) – no longer a couple but remain in the same household because of finances, children, or the perception of social stigma.

Related to Working:

Jhobby – Turning a hobby into a paycheck. For example, my friend Janet designed jewelry for her friends and family for special occasions. Now she sells her exquisite creations to boutiques. Annie, a shopping addict, has parlayed her passion into a part-time job as a secret shopper.

Returnment – Going back to work after retiring from a primary career.

So, now you’re up to speed on the new retirement lingo. If I could only use some of these terms in “Words with Friends”!

Best-selling author Jan Cullinane is the author of The Single Woman’s Guide to Retirement. She has been featured on TV, on the radio, and in many newspapers and magazines. She is a speaker and consultant on retirement lifestyle issues whose clients include Ford Motor Company, Deloitte & Touche LLP, the federal government, and the Smithsonian Institution.

Take a Hike! by Jan Cullinane

I live in a state with swaying palm trees, the second longest coastline (after Alaska), no state income tax, and a place that made the expression “hanging chads” popular.  Yup, you guessed it - Florida.  My husband and I love the warmth, glittering sea, and verdant greenery of the Sunshine State, but the mighty West, with its desert beauty and incredible rock formations beckoned.  So, off we went in late June/early July on a ten-day trip to tour the “Big 5” national parks of Utah: Capitol Reef, Arches, Canyonlands, Zion, and Bryce Canyon.  In addition, we visited Dead Horse State Park, Natural Bridges National Monument, Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park, and Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park.  

Our itinerary: 

1.  June 22: Depart Orlando, and arrive in Las Vegas. MGM Grand. 

2.  June 23 - 26: Visit Capitol Reef, then drive to Best Western Canyonlands. (Explore   Canyonlands, Dead Horse State Park, and Arches National Park.) 

3.  June 27:  Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park.  Go to Natural Bridges National Monument en route.  Stay at the Hampton Inn in Kayenta.  

4.  June 28:  Coral Pink Sands State Park, then on to the Best Western Plus Bryce Canyon.  Explore Bryce Canyon in the evening. 

5.  June 29/30:  Bryce Canyon in the a.m., then drive to Zion. Stay at Best Western East Zion Thunderbird Lodge in Mt. Carmel.    

6.  July 1:  Drive to Las Vegas, stay at MGM Grand 

7.  July 2:  Depart Las Vegas for Orlando 

A few thoughts for saving money on a trip like this: 

1.  We flew into and out of Las Vegas on Southwest Airlines. If something unexpected had come up, and we needed to cancel, I liked that we could bank our miles on Southwest without a penalty.  The flight was non-stop, which has become a high priority for me. And, with about 150,000 hotel rooms in Vegas, there are lots of choices (we stayed at the MGM Grand for right around $100 a night.  It was great, other than the long check-in line).  

2.  When possible, we stayed in Best Western Plus hotels or Hampton Inns.  Free breakfast, newspaper, and Internet, and proximity to the parks.  We did this in Moab (close to Arches, Canyonlands, and Dead Horse State Park) and Mt. Carmel (close to Zion) and in Kayenta (close to Monument Valley).  

3.  If you or a travel companion is 62 or older, get a “Senior Pass” from the National Park Service. This is a $10 lifetime pass, which allows you and everyone in your vehicle (or admission for up to four people if the park charges by the person) admission to the park.  The Senior Pass provides access to more than 2,000 federal recreation sites.  Go here for more info on this great deal:  http://www.nps.gov/findapark/passes.htm.       

4.  Reserve a car early, then check back to see if the price goes down.  We do this whenever we rent a car; for this trip, the price of the car decreased from about $400 when we first reserved it to $220 for the ten-day rental.  A big savings for a small investment of time.  We use www.carrentals.com and www.kayak.com.  These sites provide you with a wide range of prices and car rental companies.  We drove almost 2,000 miles during the ten days.  The scenery was spectacular on many of the roads, so the driving was an integral part of the trip, rather than just a means to get to our destination. 

5.  Use your AARP, AAA or other loyalty cards.  We were able to snag better lodging rates (usually a $10% discount) on most of our hotels.  

6.  Other than seeing “Man of Steel” in the Moab movie theater one night and entrance fees to the state parks and Monument Valley, there were no additional entertainment costs, since the hiking was free (unless you count the few souvenirs we purchased).  Speaking of hikes, all abilities are accommodated.  From paved, wheelchair-accessible paths, to strenuous 5-mile, 5-hour hikes that ascend more than 5,000 feet.  

7.  In Vegas, at the MGM Grand, we participated in a “focus group” at the CBS Television research facility.  We watched a new television show and answered questions about it.  Fun, free, and fascinating.  

 

Do-overs?  I’d make these changes: 

  1.  When visiting Zion, stay in Springdale rather than in Mt. Carmel.  More traffic in Springdale, but also more choices for dining and lodging, and closer to a park entrance.  And, entrance to the park includes a free shuttle to the visitor center from Springdale.  

2.  If you have to skip one of the Big 5, I’d say eliminate Capitol Reef.  Although it’s beautiful, the scenery is similar to Arches, and Arches is more accessible.  You’ll be exploring Arches from Moab, a cute walkable town.  

3.  We drove long distances to see Natural Bridges National Monument and Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park.  If time is no concern, great.   If it is, I’d suggest you pass on these two parks.

Damages?  Hotels, food, and transportation: right around $4,000 for the two of us for ten days.  But, as the Master Card commercial says, the experience was “priceless.”  It truly is “America the Beautiful.” 

 

 

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