Lunch at the Eiffel Tower

Lunch at the Eiffel Tower

Note: This is part a Saturday Bucket List series I’m doing throughout 2015 that is focused on fun things to do during retirement (i.e. bucket list items). I hope you enjoy them and use them as inspiration for your own adventures.  I’m also doing a giveaway in conjunction with the series that you can read more about below.

Part 1: The Trip

The moment I stepped off the private elevator, I knew I was in serious trouble. I knew it in the way that a dog knows he’s in trouble after pulling the Thanksgiving turkey off the counter or the little-leaguer knows he’s in trouble when he line drives a baseball through the picture window. It’s that slow motion, “Oh No!” kind of trouble. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let me start from the beginning.

My wife and I love to travel. We’re not trust fund babies or high earning executives, however, so we scrimp in some areas (housing and cars) so we can afford to spend extravagantly in others (travel and experiences).

For Christmas in 2007 I surprised her with a trip to Paris for the following April. As is usually the case, we tried to keep things on a budget, so when it came to food the plan was to opt for the prix fixe meal at cafés or a baguette and bottle of wine rather than pricey restaurants.

You have to splurge a little in a foodie capital like Paris though, so several months before we left I flipped through my guidebook looking for a good culinary candidate for a romantic lunch or dinner. That’s how I came across Le Jules Verne restaurant. It’s a Michelin starred restaurant run by world famous chef Alain Ducasse. It’s located on the second level of the Eiffel Tower and has amazing food with views to match. I assumed that dinner was out of my price range, but my guide book indicated that lunch for two was in the “$50 and up” category. I chose to focus on the $50. This story, as you’ve probably already guessed, is about the “and up.”

The book said reservations are difficult to get, but my credit card company has a concierge service that prides itself in being able to line up difficult travel details, so I called them to see what they could do. A few weeks later, they called me back and said that we had a reservation for two for lunch. Woo-hoo!

Part 2: Credit Card Crisis

Fast forwarding a bit, the day of the big lunch arrived. The trip had gone great so far and we were having a wonderful time. Since we both expected to gorge at lunch, we decided to have a light breakfast. We skipped our normal pâtisserie pig-out and instead walked to a local grocery store called Hediard and bought some raspberries and a few other snack items.

From there we walked to the metro station so we could buy tickets for our planned trip the following day to Père Lachaise Cemetery (where Jim Morrison, Chopin, Oscar Wilde and many others are buried). I walked up to the counter and in my very broken French said “Un carnet, s’il vous plait” which simply means “A 10 pack of tickets please.” I took out my wallet to pay and was surprised to see that my credit card was gone. The person at the ticket counter stared at me while I stared into my wallet.

“I think I lost our credit card at Hediard,” I told my wife. We bee-lined back to the grocery store, but the card was, of course, already gone. We spent the next hour at the hotel calling the card company to cancel it and see if there was any way they could get us another one within a few days.

Part 3: Lunch at the Eiffel Tower

After dealing with the credit card fiasco, we showered, put on our Sunday best and took a cab to the Eiffel Tower. The tower has four legs that the French call “Piliers” and each is helpfully labeled with Nord, Est, Ouest or Sud. Le Jules Verne has its own private elevator located at the base of Pilier Sud, which allows you to bypass the enormous lines at the other Piliers.

We walked up to the door, gave them our names and were ushered into a small dark room with a dim, Thomas Edison style lightbulb hanging from the ceiling. An attendant walked us into the elevator, pushed a button and we started to rise. Which brings me back to where this story started, dressed to the nines and ready to step off the elevator into the nicest restaurant I’d ever seen. The doors slid open and we were immediately greeted by name and ushered to our table.

As we walked, my first thought was of the guide book. No longer was I focused on the “$50.” Now (like all of you) I was painfully aware of the vague “and up.” My second thought was that I had no credit card, about 60 euros of cash and a debit card with a $250 daily limit (to protect against theft), roughly $135 of which I had already used up by withdrawing 100 euros earlier in the day for walking around money.

Once seated, we were greeted by our waiters (plural), given menus and asked if we wanted a champagne apéritif. I looked down at my menu and saw that a glass of champagne was 22 euros or about $30 at the existing exchange rate. I started to form the words “Non merci,” but before I could get them out my wife said “Oui, s’il vous plait.”

With those four words, we shot through the “$50” and started into “and up” territory. And just to be clear, it wasn’t really about the cost of lunch. I’m all about spending on experiences. It was more about the fact that I didn’t have a credit card or enough cash to pay for it. Oh well. C’est la vie!

The waiter returned and my wife proceeded to order the most expensive soup/salad/main course on the menu, the prices of which were about what you’d expect from a restaurant that just charged you $60 for two glasses of champagne. Thinking it would be poor manners to tell him that I was only having the champagne, I ordered as well.

“Isn’t this great!” my wife said.

“Yes, definitely,” I said. Then hesitatingly: “It’s pretty expensive, don’t you think? I’m not sure the debit card is going to cover it.”

“Where did you see the prices?” she said. “My menu didn’t have prices.”

We confirmed this later when the dessert menu came out and also when we struck up a conversation with the couples next to us. The men’s menus had prices. The women’s did not. Well played Le Jules Verne. Well played.

But there was no point in worrying. These things usually have a way of working themselves out. I just hoped the solution didn’t involve me doing dishes to cover our tab. The lunch was amazing, the service was exceptional, the view of Paris was really fantastic and, as I mentioned earlier, we ended up meeting the couples on either side of our table and had a really fun conversation. In one of those moments of travel serendipity, the couple on our left was from Alaska (where my wife is from) and the couple on our right was originally from El Salvador (where I had traveled to earlier in the year). We lingered for several hours (in Paris, the table is yours as long as you want it) until it was time to head back to the hotel, so I asked the waiter for the bill.

He brought it to the table, and let me just tell you, when a waiter hands you a bill that is beautifully printed on a 5”x11” piece of heavy card stock, you don’t really need to look at the total to know that lunch was expensive. I looked anyway. “And up” indeed. Doing a quick conversion in my head, I figured that the total was about $400. For lunch. For two people.

I handed him my debit card with a slight smile, which I’m sure he interpreted to mean “What a lovely lunch we had,” but which actually meant, “I’m sorry in advance that this card isn’t going to work.” A few minutes later he came back to the table, handed me the card and my receipt, exchanged a few pleasantries and was off. I’m still not sure how it worked, but it did. No dishwashing required. The rest of the trip went off without a hitch and I can’t recommend Paris highly enough. Just don’t lose your credit card.

Is Paris on your bucket list? Here are some other fun things to do:

  • Ride a Bateaux Mouche on the Seine
  • Get ice cream at Berthillon on Île St. Louis
  • Take a walking tour of Montmartre and buy a painting from a local artist
  • Visit the Shakespeare and Company bookstore
  • Walk through Pére Lachaise Cemetery
  • Visit Notre Dame Cathedral
  • Walk up the steps of the Arc de Triomphe
  • Find a good local bakery (boulangerie) and try some fresh bread
  • Find a good local pastry shop (pâtisserie) and try pretty much everything
  • Visit the Louvre and the Musée d’Orsay

Giveaway: I really like Woody Allen’s movie Midnight in Paris, so I’m giving away a copy this week to someone signed up for our 2015 Bucket List Giveaway (e.g. on our email list, Pinterest page, Facebook page, etc.). This week’s winner is Darla from our Pinterest page. I’ll touch base with her to get her the movie. Meanwhile, if you’d like to participate in future giveaways, you can read more about it over here.

Can you pass a basic retirement quiz?

Can you pass a basic retirement quiz?

Some people have the time, temperament, knowledge and discipline to handle their own finances, while others could use a little help.  Regardless of which category you fall into, you should seriously consider hiring an adviser to help you when it comes to retirement.  Why?  Because the financial issues facing a retiree are very different than the financial issues facing a pre-retiree.

Whether we do it or not, most of us are at least familiar with the concept of saving.  Saving is a pre-retirement issue.  We’re usually less familiar with concepts like cash flow management, determining how much we need to retire, pension payout options, retirement plan distributions, estate planning, maximizing Social Security, researching and obtaining health insurance and the tax consequences of certain distribution strategies.  Those are post-retirement issues.  Those are issues that most of us don’t deal with very often, so getting a little help is probably a wise move.

Retirement Quiz

To help people evaluate their retirement knowledge, The American College of Financial Services recently developed a retirement literacy quiz.  They gave the quiz to 1,019 Americans ages 60 to 75 who had at least $100,000 in assets.  How did they do?  Eighty percent of the people failed.  Ouch!  Fourteen percent got a Gentleman’s D.  Less than one percent got an A.  Those results reaffirm the point I was making earlier.  Most people aren’t familiar with the types of financial issues that they will be dealing with in retirement and could benefit from some help.

I’d encourage you to take the retirement quiz and see how you do (Full Disclosure: I got 100%, but hey, this is what I do for a living!).  Hopefully long time readers will do better than most since I’ve written on many of the topics before, but if you miss your fair share, consider reaching out for some help.  Maybe that means hiring an adviser.  Maybe it just means browsing past articles in our Archives or picking up a resource from our Store like The Ideal Retirement Design Guide.  Bottom line: get some help if you need it.  Don’t let mistakes derail your retirement.

~ Joe

How to find purpose in retirement

How to find purpose in retirement

Greetings from the Vee Bar ranch in Wyoming. The family and I came here for a long weekend to do a little skiing at the Snowy Range and to check Wyoming off our list of states visited. We’re trying to get our daughter to all 50 before she graduates from high school. The Cowboy State is number 21.

I’ll write more about that in a future post, but today I wanted to write about something a little different: how to find purpose in retirement. One of the most popular posts I’ve written at IR is 15 Practical Ways to Live a Purposeful Life. One of the most popular books in recent memory is The Purpose Driven Life. Neurologist, psychiatrist and holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl said that the striving to find meaning in one’s life is the primary, most powerful motivating and driving force in humans.

In other words, we’re hard wired to want purpose and meaning. That need doesn’t somehow vanish when you enter retirement. If anything, I’ve noticed that it gets stronger. When I talk to clients that have been retired for awhile, the desire to find purpose and to leave some sort of legacy that outlasts them is important.

I’m starting this series of Saturday bucket list posts and I want them to be fun and encouraging, but with this first one I thought I’d just point out that your list doesn’t need to consist entirely of bungee jumping and exotic travel.  As Shakespeare once said: “Leisure is a beautiful garment for a day, but a horrible choice for permanent attire.”

Don’t get me wrong. You should absolutely do fun and interesting things. Splurge on yourself. Be a little selfish. Those things are great, but don’t forget to add items to your list like giving, serving and volunteering as well. Maybe that means doing something like my retired friend Dan who spent three months volunteering on Mercy Ships in the Congo. Maybe that’s building houses for Habitat for Humanity like my client Bill. Maybe it means volunteering in your church or running for town council. Whatever it is, be thinking of ways to use your time, treasure and talents during retirement that will have a positive impact on others and will bring meaning and purpose to you. Visit our Pinterest page for more ideas on volunteering during retirement.

Since this series will cover things on my list, I picked an item that matches up with the ideas above. Over the years my wife and I have given to an organization called charity: water that brings clean water to communities in need around the world. The wells have huge health ramifications and also free people to use their time more productively than walking miles every day just to get enough water for drinking, cooking and bathing. In 2015 I’ll take revenue from the store at IR and fund one of those wells in the name of you, my much appreciated readers. I’ll update you later in the year on progress toward the goal. In the meantime, be thinking about what you can add to your own bucket list that would be fun but would also help you fulfill your purpose in life.

Have a great weekend.



The 2015 Bucket List Giveaway

The 2015 Bucket List Giveaway

Success in just about anything can be boiled down to two things: 1) Knowing what works and 2) Doing what works.  At Intentional Retirement I try to balance my writing between those two things. Sometimes I write about what it takes to have a secure, meaningful retirement.  Sometimes I put those things into practice and then write about my experience.

Not surprisingly, I plan on doing more of that in 2015, but with a small twist.  During the week I’ll continue to write about the nuts and bolts of a great retirement, but each Saturday I’ll write what I call a “Bucket List” post.  It will be a short story about something fun or interesting that I’ve done (or am in the process of doing) from my Bucket List.  I’ll include a “How To” with each article in case some of you want to try it out.  I’ll post them on Saturday to give you a little weekend inspiration and also so you can feel free to pass over it or save it for later if you’ve had a busy week.

To make it fun, I thought I’d do a little giveaway with some of the posts.  And by little, I mean I’ll be giving stuff away all year and it will include small things like books and big things like plane tickets.  I’ll post more on the prizes and rules below.

I hope you follow along and enjoy the articles, but more than that I hope you’ll use them as inspiration for your own adventures.  We’re not designed to just sit around and think about life or endlessly make plans for “Someday.”  We’re designed to live life.  The only way to make that happen—to make 2015 different and better than any other year—is to make plans and execute them. Knowing what works.  Doing what works.

Bucket List Giveaway Rules

How do I enter?  There are two primary ways to enter.  First, you can follow one or more of the Intentional Retirement Social Media sites.  For example, like us on Facebook and you’ll get one entry.  Follow our Pinterest page and get another entry.  Ditto for Twitter and Instagram.  If you already follow us on one of those then you’re already entered in the giveaway (see how easy that was).

Second, you can tell your friends about the site and encourage them to sign up for our Free Retirement Toolkit.  If someone you refer signs up for the Toolkit, I’ll give each of you 5 entries in the giveaway (note: if you’re already signed up then you’ve already got 5 entries).  For example, get 10 of your friends to sign up and you get 50 entries and they each get 5.  The only catch is that I need to know who to give credit to, so you just need to let me know.  There are two easy ways to do that.  You can CC (or BCC) on the email when you tell your friends about the site.  Then if any of the people in that email sign up, I’ll give you the credit.  You can also just have your friend respond to the “Welcome” email they get after signing up to let me know who referred them.  Bottom line, just let me know who to credit.

Can I enter more than once?  Yep.  Every time you do the things described above you’ll get an additional entry (or entries).  And no, you can’t “like-unlike-relike” or “subscribe-unsubscribe-resubscribe” to get multiple entries.  All of the entries will be cataloged in a spreadsheet and maintained throughout the year.  Winners will be randomly drawn from that spreadsheet, so the more entries you have, the greater your odds of winning something.

What are the prizes?  The grand prize is $1,000 plane ticket on your airline of choice, anywhere you want to go.  This will come in the form of a gift card on that airline, so you can use it for multiple tickets if you prefer.  I’ll give that away on New Year’s Eve of 2015 so you can ring in the New Year by going somewhere awesome.  Throughout the rest of the year I’ll be giving away books that I’m reading, books or guides that I’ve written, gear associated with certain Bucket List items and things I pick up on my travels.

Legal mumbo jumbo.  Void where prohibited.  No purchase necessary.  See the official rules over here.

Five-second summary: Follow along throughout the year.  Get your friends to do the same.  Win cool stuff.  Repeat.

As always, thanks for following along.  I’m excited for 2015 and I hope you are too.  Touch base if there’s ever anything I can do to help.

~ Joe

Photo by Ben Carr. Used under Creative Commons License.
What one man’s wilderness adventure can teach you about retirement

What one man’s wilderness adventure can teach you about retirement

Some of you know that my wife is from Alaska.  Her dad (pictured above) was a fighter pilot in the Air Force and Alaska was the final posting.  Until my in-law’s recent move to Washington, we would visit the 49th state almost every year.  It is a beautiful place and I highly recommend it, but it can be a very harsh place too.

Alaska often presents you with unusual situations that don’t come up in the Lower 48.  For example, when playing golf and your ball rolls against a freshly killed moose (unfortunately this is a true story), does the rule book say that you should a) Dislodge your ball and take a drop, b) Take a one stroke penalty and hit again from the fairway or c) Pick up your ball and slowly back away to the next hole because you can hear the moose murdering bear huffing angrily just beyond the tree line?  If you said C, you should start making your summer vacation plans now.

I share my connection to Alaska by way of explaining how I came across a book that I read over the holidays.  On Thanksgiving our post-meal conversation somehow meandered to the topic of the Alaska bush and my father-in-law told me about a book called One Man’s Wilderness.  It is the story of Richard Proenneke who, at age 51, decided he had had enough of “electricity” and “indoor plumbing” and moved out to the bush.  Using a few hand tools, a sharp mind and a strong back, he built himself an amazing little cabin, doing everything from felling the trees to carving the door hinges out of tree stumps. (!?!)  While building the cabin, he had to grow/shoot/catch his food, cut his own firewood, and generally be a backwoods superstar.  He lived that lifestyle from age 51 until he decided it was to time to return to civilization at 86.

His retirement was almost certainly more physical than yours and mine will be (hallelujah!), but something he said really struck me.  He talked about how he needed some money to pay the material cost of his time in the bush (he’d have a pilot periodically fly in certain supplies), but more than the monetary price, he learned that the things he wanted to do had a physical price tag.  From his journal:

“After a supper of navy beans, I sat on my threshold and gazed off toward the volcanic mountains…I thought of the sights I had seen.  The price was physical toll.  Money does little good back here.  It could not buy the fit feeling that surged through my arms and shoulders.  It could not buy the feeling of accomplishment.  I had been my own tour guide and my power had been my transportation.  This great big country was my playground, and I could afford the price it demanded.”

I’ll concede that you probably won’t need to hand carve your own cooking utensils in retirement or build a food cache to keep the neighborhood grizzly out of your supplies, but I’ll bet the things you want to do have a physical price tag in addition to their monetary price tag.  And if you’re like most people, you’re saving so you can afford the monetary price of your retirement dreams, but that won’t matter if you can’t afford the physical price tag.

Yes, you might be able to afford the golf membership, the fancy garden tools or the trip to Spain to hike the Camino de Santiago, but if you can’t afford the physical price that those things demand then they are just as out of reach as they are to a person with no savings.

So as we start the New Year, think about your health and how important that is to everything you want to do in life.  What can you do now to start making deposits into your “health” account so it will be adequate to see you through retirement?

And if you want to read Proenneke’s story (which I highly recommend) you can pick up a copy on Amazon over here: One Man’s Wilderness.

~ Joe