Buy Less and Be Happier!

No stuffThe notion of buying less and being happier runs contrary to the more popular concept of 'more (and bigger) is better'. As more and more people become disillusioned with all their 'stuff', the idea that buying less can actually make you happier is beginning to take hold. (And, let's face it, with what's happened to pensions and interest rates over the last few years, some retirees just don't have a choice!) 

Here are some suggestions on how you can buy less and be happier:

1. Distinguish between needs and wants. Before making a purchase, ask yourself why you're buying it. How will your life be better with that particular item in your home? Can you afford it? Does it have a practical use?

2. Spend time, not money, with your family and friends. This is the key to being happier with buying less - you will cultivate more meaningful relationships instead of spending money on stuff. Think in terms of relationships, not things. This may require a shift in priorities and, for some, may mean learning to put people ahead of material items. If you accomplish this, life will be much more fulfilling.

3. Learn (or relearn) to refurbish and fix used items, and learn to create and build. Often, these times of creativity can also be times when you come together with friends and family to get a job done. In other words, DIY can help you be happier! 

4. Pay cash or write a cheque whenever you buy something. This is a safeguard against debt, which is, of course, one of the biggest robbers of happiness there is. You'll be much happier buying less if you can also look at it as way of incurring less debt.

5. Change your perspective about the role of stuff in your life. Think about the big picture before making purchases - will owning this item make me a better person? If I buy this electronic gizmo, will the world (or even just MY world!) be the better for it?

6. Take time to find out what true happiness means to you. When you're not trying to fill some imagined void with material things, it gives you some breathing room to figure out just what makes you tick. Accumulating stuff is probably not what really makes you happy. Dig deep and learn something about yourself. Keep a journal, meditate, spend time alone...

When you begin to cultivate relationships instead of buying more and more stuff, you might just find that you become much happier.

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If you're due to retire in the near future, my free eCourse, The 6 Stages of Retirement, will give you a birds-eye view of the retirement process so you know what to expect. It includes a list of the major pitfalls at every stage of the process and self-coaching questions to help you avoid those pitfalls...


Coping strategies for when an elderly parent moves in with you

It can be really hard to cope when you have an elderly parent move in with you. Even if you're fortunate enough to have separate quarters for your aging parent, it's still stressful. For those who have their parent move into a small home that already has little room, it can seem like torture.

What can you do to cope? Here are some tips that may help.

Respite Care

'Respite care' basically means that you get someone to take over while you get some respite. Depending on your aging parent's needs, you may need this daily, weekly, or monthly; but it can be a great relief to have someone else step in for a while.

You can employ a professional caregiver or a trusted friend, once again depending on your parent's level of care. However, experts agree that you should always ask for references before leaving someone alone with your parent.

Find a Creative Outlet

Maybe you could take a dance class, or spend an hour or two each week writing or drawing. Maybe you like making jewelry. Try to find something that you enjoy and make a point of engaging in it regularly. Here are some other ideas:

1.   Start a blog. It doesn't have to be about your experiences with your aging parent (although it certainly could be); it could be a stargazer's blog, or an outlet for humorous writing. Maybe you want to showcase your photography or poetry. Blogs can act as an online journal.

2.  Join a Yoga, Pilates, or belly-dancing class.  Or take up pottery and work out your frustrations on a lump of clay!

3.  Let Go of the Guilt.  You may need counseling to help you with this one, but experts agree that many older children feel guilty about their aging parents' situations. It's natural to feel guilty, but it can be detrimental if you live in the guilt and beat yourself up all the time. Forgive yourself for not having the perfect solutions (no one does), and recognize that you're just doing the best you can.

4.  Find a Support Group.  Connecting with others who are in similar situations can be a wonderful coping mechanism. Such groups can also be excellent resources for other forms of help, such as respite caregivers.

5.  Listen.  If your parent's mental capacity will allow it, take time to talk to and listen to them. Ask your dad how he feels about living with you, and listen to his answers. Ask your mother about what she's thinking about being in your house. Really listen to their concerns and be sympathetic to their situation. They may not want to be burdening you at all, and may have their own sense of guilt about what's going on.

As you talk and listen, you can hopefully work out some 'ground rules' too (again, depending on your parent's mental capacity). Boundaries are important in all areas of life, but they're particularly important when you have to share time, resources, and space with another person.


Do you have a housing plan for your retirement?

When it comes to where we'll live in our later years, we can, apparently, be divided into two categories -'planners' and 'reactors'.  Planners tend to be in control of their move whilst reactors are forced to move because of family or health issues. 

An academic study carried out by Boston College's Center for Retirement Research found that there are definite advantages to being a planner - which include choice, control and gains in home equity.  Find out more.


Keeping an eye on the future

Now that you're retired, you're probably anxious to get on with living your life and doing all those things you never had time to do when you were working.  And, although it's important to be present and enjoy the 'now' of your retirement, it's also important that you look towards the future and try to anticipate what your needs will be, so that you can prepare accordingly.

You don’t need to dwell on the future too much - especially if you've only just retired - you just need to keep an eye on it.

Keeping an eye on the future means, for example, that, the next time you do any updating or renovation work on your home, you take the opportunity to build in any features that will enable you to continue living in your own home for as long as you possibly can.  Maybe you could flatten out that steep slope in your garden or backyard so that you can continue to enjoy (and manage) it later in life.  Or maybe building a parking area closer to the door or installing a garage door opener would be a wise move. 

Keeping an eye on the future means not overspending now, so that you'll have enough money in the future. It means taking care of your health – eating well and exercising regularly, so you have the best possible chance of remaining fit and healthy as you get older. It means finding out whether it would be prudent to take out long-term care insurance now (and whilst it’s still relatively cheap for you do it), so that the cost of care won’t be depleting your savings or eating into your kids’ inheritance in the future. It means putting your affairs in order, making a will (and possibly a living will) and having important documents readily available – just in case.

Keeping an eye on the future means keeping your brain active and remaining curious and interested – working on the principle that, ‘if you don’t use it, you lose it’. It means thinking about the legacy you want to leave behind – not just your financial legacy, but what about that family tree that you’ve always wanted to compile or that biography about your war hero grandfather that's just crying out to be written? Or that organ donor card that you’ve always been meaning to apply for but never managed to get around to? Well, you’ll never have a better opportunity to do those things than right now! 

And the peace of mind you'll get from having that 'eye on the future' will only add to your enjoyment of the present.


Itsfamily Are you a Baby Boomer who is caring for (or trying to keep any eye on) an elderly parent?  If you are, you might be interested in our new product:

It's a Family Affair: Checklists for Baby Boomers Caring for Elderly Parents

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We have forms, checklists and trackers covering: driving, home safety, medications, medical history, bills and expenses, shopping... and many more.

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Whose Job Is That?

Most couples have an unspoken agreement about how they do things in their relationship.  This agreement has probably been in place since the beginning of the relationship and it covers who does what in the home - who cooks, who cleans, who takes out the trash, who cleans the car, who cuts the grass, who deals with the finances, etc. 

In more traditional, heterosexual relationships, much of the division of household labour will be along gender-related lines – in other words, 'his' and 'her' jobs.  He takes out the garbage and washes the car.  She does the cooking and the laundry.  He fills the gas or petrol tank.  She fills the dishwasher.

In other relationships, partners gravitate towards the jobs and chores that they're happy or best-qualified to do.  For example, one partner may have very little interest in cooking.  They can't see the point or pleasure in spending hours in a hot, steamy kitchen producing something that'll be devoured in just a few minutes.  For their partner, however, cooking could be a chance to be creative or an act of love.  In this case, it's each to his or her own, and everyone's happy.

Often the way that chores and household tasks are divided up just makes sense for the household - for example, if one partner works part-time and the other works long hours and has a hefty commute on top, it's probably only fair that the part-timer does more around the home.  Sometimes, though, the 'division of labour' can be a bit lopsided, with one person doing all the heavy lifting as far as housework is concerned and their partner managing to coast along and dodge doing their fair share - often for years at a time.

Retirement - when both partners have an equal amount of free time - is the ideal opportunity to look at 'who does what' in the home and, if necessary, to start to reassign jobs, either on a more equitable basis or just according to personal preference and values. 

It's often a good idea to draw up a master list of jobs to be done around the home and then have each partner choose the jobs from the list that they have a personal preference/aptitude for.  You can then share the rest out on an 'I'll do it one week, you do it the next' basis.  An old-fashioned, weekly jobs rota - the type that you had for the kids when they were growing up - makes it clear who should be doing what.

After all, no-one likes doing jobs when they could be doing something more interesting or exciting instead, but at the same time, most of us like our homes to be clean and our kitchen cupboards to be full.  And having constant arguments about whose turn it is to cook that evening just wears both parties - and their relationship - down.


Thinking of starting an online business once you retire?  You'll need a copy of our free guide: Working at home online - Is it for you?  Get it here.


The pros and cons of downsizing your home after retirement

Monopoly houses I've been thinking about the advantages and disadvantages of downsizing to a smaller home after retirement. This is what I've come up with so far... please feel free to add any more pros and cons that you can think of in the comments section below.

Advantages

The first and most obvious advantage is that, if your existing home is worth a lot of money because of its location and size, and/or you have a lot of equity in it, the sale of the home could give you a cushion of money to make life in retirement a little easier and fund some of those 'bucket list' adventures.

I'm assuming that you would be moving to a property that would be easier to manage as you got older - not one that's going to make life more difficult (although I accept that I could be biased because cleaning and other assorted, household-related tasks  are not really my thing and I can't imagine that ANYONE would CHOOSE to spend MORE time engaged in those activities!)

Downsized would, presumably, mean cheaper as far as heating, cooling and property tax bands are concerned.

If you like decorating and/or DIY, you might relish the idea of 'doing up' another home and putting your personal stamp on it.

You could have a fresh start and get rid of some of the clutter and 'stuff' that you've accumulated over the years.  (Although having to get rid of much-loved stuff because you can't fit it into your new place could also be a disadvantage...) 

And, of course, downsizing would also bring the opportunity to look for a neighbourhood with close proximity to the amenities and services that will be useful in later life if your health deteriorates and you can no longer drive.


Disadvantages

The most obvious disadvantage that springs to mind is leaving your old home, neighbourhood, and friends and neighbours behind...

...which means acquiring new neighbours - which could be a good thing or a bad thing, depending on the personalities of those new neighbours.

There is, of course, an emotional cost to leaving a home where you raised a family and spent many happy years of your life.  If you're downsizing from the family home, you may also meet some resistance from your kids for the same emotional reasons. 

Another big disadvantage MAY be that a downsized home may mean a 'not-as-nice-as-the-old-one' home... or a 'not-enough-room-when-friends-and-family-come-to-stay' home (although this could, equally, be an advantage and a useful excuse if you don't particularly enjoy the company of some of your friends and family members).

A smaller home might mean a smaller or non-existent garden (again, not a problem for someone like me - I hate gardening and it would save me the cost of having to pay someone else to do it for me!).

Moving home can be stressful at any age and, I suspect that, the older you get, the more stressful it feels.  And, of course, the costs associated with selling a home and buying another will only add to that stress!

I've moved 8 times in my adult life - twice, temporarily, to apartments which brought me into close proximity with my neighbours.  In my experience, the worst thing about downsizing to a smaller place is the fact that you, very often, put yourself closer to other people and their noise. The thing that I love best about living in a detached house is the fact that I don't have someone else's noise (from blaring music, social activities, domestic arguments, etc) coming through my walls.

I think if I was considering making a permanent move to somewhere with a party wall, I would, at the very least, have to ask my potential new neighbours (as nicely as possible) if they were likely to be noisy, and I'd probably go around the neighbourhood, knocking on doors and canvassing the opinion of the inhabitants about the peace and quiet of the area. I think that, when you're downsizing to a place that you hope to stay in for the rest of your life, you need to be more discerning than you have ever been at any other time in your property-hunting life - particularly if you're buying a home.  (If you're renting you can, at least, move on again after the initial rental period is up!)

Many people who like to have access to theatres, cinemas, restaurants, etc, consider moving to city centre apartments in retirement. I lived in a city centre apartment for six months and, whilst I loved the bustle, buzz and convenience of city centre life, I definitely didn't love being wakened every Friday, Saturday and Sunday morning at 3 am when the casino around the corner opened its doors and disgorged, en masse, its patrons, who then either tried to extend their evening's entertainment by continuing their conversations on the street beneath my window or roamed the area, noisily looking for taxis to take them home.

Maybe the key to all this is to rent a home (of a similar size and quality to the one you're considering downsizing to) for six months, before committing yourself to a permanent move.  At the end of the six-month period, you'll have a much clearer picture about the viability - and sustainability - of such a move, and, if you've hated every minute of living there, you can lick your wounds in your old pad and re-adjust your downsizing plans in the light of the knowledge gleaned from the experience...

Any thoughts?  Just leave a comment below...

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If you're due to retire in the near future, my free eCourse, The 6 Stages of Retirement, will give you a birds-eye view of the retirement process so you know what to expect. It includes a list of the major pitfalls at every stage of the process and self-coaching questions to help you avoid those pitfalls...


And you thought you were rid of them...

Mug New statistics show that record-breaking numbers of adults are returning to the family home because they are unable, or, in some cases, unwilling to pay for their own place.

Government figures indicate that the percentage of men in their 20s living with their parents has increased from 59% to 80% in the past 15 years, while the number of women has risen from 41% to 50%. ­

Psychologists have even begun to identify the different types of adult child returning to the family nest, giving them names such as the 'Mummy's Boy', the 'debt-ridden student', the 'perpetual child' and the 'cash-strapped business woman (or man)'.

Read more.


10 Key downshifting questions by Sally Lever

Sally Lever Do you like the idea of simplifying your life?  It's my theory that many of us become attracted to the idea of a simplified life as we hit middle age and, if that sounds like you, checking out Downshifting expert, Sally Lever's 10 Key Downshifting Questions should point you in the right direction.


Don't let Facebook invalidate your insurance!

Martin Bamford With more and more of us baby boomers joining social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter, you might be interested in a recent post on the Informed Choice blog.  In it, Martin Bamford writes about Facebook Places - a feature on Facebook which enables users to add their exact location to a status update, and points out that, "whilst these tools and features have some useful applications, it is important to be aware of the dangers they pose as well".