One year to live

One year to live

“You don’t have to find out you’re dying to start living.”

~Zach Sobiech

It’s been a busy “News” week, and I wanted to point out a story to you just in case it got lost in the shuffle.  Last May, Zach Sobiech’s doctors told him he only had a year to live.  He was battling a type of bone cancer called Osteosarcoma and, despite everyone’s best efforts, the cancer was winning.  Zach died on Monday.  He had a brief life (he was only 18 when he died), but he made the most of the time he had.

One of the core tenets of our philosophy here at Intentional Retirement is to get off the deferred life plan.  Zach embodied that so well.  Rainn Wilson (a.k.a. Dwight from The Office) made a short documentary about Zach and I thought it offered a great reminder to the rest of us to live an intentional, full life.  If you haven’t seen it already, I promise you it’s worth a few minutes of your time.  You can watch it on YouTube by clicking the link below:

Before I go, two quick things:

  1. Have a great Memorial Day weekend!
  2. I just finished a new eBook that I will be releasing in the next week or two.  It will be free at the site and will go out automatically to email subscribers (i.e. anyone who received this email).  Keep an eye out for it.  I think you’ll really enjoy it.

~ Joe

How retired are you?

How retired are you?

How retired are you?  For most people, that question has one of two answers:  They are either retired (100%) or not retired (0%).  They associate retirement with a particular age (65+) or work status (not working) and if they can’t check those boxes, then they’re not retired.  They see life as a timeline and retirement comes at the end, somewhere between Medicare and Forest Lawn.

If you’ve read much of my writing, you know that I think a bit differently than your average bear about retirement.  I define retirement with one word: Control.  I don’t view life as a timeline with retirement at the end.  I view it as a pie chart, divided between time I control and time controlled by others.  Retirement is a gradual transition from doing what I have to do to doing what I want to do.

The upside to my philosophy is that, for each and every one of us, retirement begins today.  It is no longer some sort of “Promised Land” that we hope to survive long enough to see.  Instead, it starts now, and evolves over the years as we gain more control over how we spend our days.

How much do you control?

Management guru Peter Drucker was fond of saying: “What gets measured gets managed.”  In order to make something better, we need to be able to measure it.  That way we can track progress and see what works and what doesn’t.  This is why our world is so full of ratios like earnings per share, body mass index and miles per gallon.

With that in mind, I’d like to offer a new ratio for each of us to consider.  I call it the HRAY Ratio (or ‘How Retired Are You’ Ratio).  It is calculated by adding up the Time You Control and dividing it by Time Controlled by Others.  The bigger the ratio, the more retired you are.

Your assignment for the weekend is to calculate your HRAY.  Download the Time Budget Worksheet from the Retirement Planning Toolkit if you need some help figuring out how much of your time you control (Remember: Subscribers just enter your email address and hit submit and you’ll go straight to the Toolkit).

Once we all know our HRAY, then we can focus our time and energies on improving it (a.k.a. Becoming more retired).  That will be the subject of a future post.  Stay tuned.

Quick Favor:  Can you (as Dennis Rodman might say) do me a solid?  If you enjoyed this article can you forward it to a friend or two?  More than just a blog, I’m trying to build a movement of people who are serious about living life intentionally.  There are probably people in your circle of influence who would be a good fit for our little community and I’d love for you to send them a quick invite.  Thanks!

Have a great weekend!

~ Joe

Learning Challenge Update: How I did and what’s next.

Learning Challenge Update: How I did and what’s next.

Speed Reading Update

The most recent skill I’ve been working to add to my “Lifestyle Résumé” is speed reading.  Last month I tested my reading and comprehension and then studied ways to improve both.  Over the last several weeks, I took what I learned and put it into practice as I worked through my reading list.

In addition to things like newspapers and magazines, I read five books this past month.  They are:

  • The Art of Non-Conformity by Chris Guillebeau
  • Boomerang by Michael Lewis
  • Wool by Hugh Howey
  • Do the Work by Steven Pressfield
  • The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

I timed myself using Toggl so I could see if my speed per page was gradually improving and then re-tested my speed and comprehension at Reading Soft.  When I started the challenge, my speed was 213 words per minute with 82 percent comprehension.  When I re-tested, my speed had improved to 378 words per minute and my comprehension held steady at 80 percent.  I didn’t quite hit my goal of doubling my speed, but all in all I was pleased with the outcome.  It was a fairly easy skill to acquire and it will make a big impact in my daily life going forward.

What’s next?

As most of you know, my wife and I are trying to get our daughter to all 50 states before she graduates from high school (only 33 to go!).  States like Montana and Wyoming are known for their National Parks and beautiful outdoors and it seems that the best way to see them is by hiking, exploring and camping under the big night sky.

There’s only one problem.  I have no camping skills.  Rather than see our vacation turn into a scene straight out of Lord of the Flies, I signed up for a six week backpacking and camping basics class at the Outdoor Venture Center at the University of Nebraska at Omaha.  The course covers things like how to pack and dress, how to cook in the backcountry, using a map and compass, backcountry first aid, trip planning and leave no trace camping.

I’ll update you once I finish the class.  In the meantime, is there anything that you’ve been wanting to learn how to do?  Why wait?  There are tons of benefits to being a lifelong learner and teaching yourself a new skill is easier than ever in our modern world of videos, apps, books and online courses.  Feel free to follow along with one of my challenges or do something totally on your own.  Either way, by being intentional about learning you’ll end up with more things to do and more people to do them with.

Have a great week!


The cure for “Where did the time go?”

The cure for “Where did the time go?”

Have you ever looked back on pictures of a younger you and said something like, “Where did the time go?”  Why does time often feel so fleeting?  More importantly, is there anything we can do to slow it down?  How can we keep life from feeling like such a vapor?  I’ve been spending some time thinking about that lately.  So far I’ve come up with three things.

Don’t procrastinate—Think back to school.  Did you ever wait to study for a test or write a paper until the night before it was due?  Whenever I did that, I got the sense that it had snuck up on me.  When I first got the assignment, it felt like I had plenty of time.  No need to rush.  Other things were more urgent.  And then all of a sudden “plenty of time” turned into “now or never.”  What happened?

When you procrastinate, the passage of time becomes a nagging reminder that there is much left undone; that most of your dreams are still on the drawing board.  When your time gets short and your To-do list stays long, the time flies by.

When you actually DO stuff, however, your To-do list is shrinking right along with your remaining time.  You don’t get that same feeling of rushed panic (at least not to the same degree).  Yes the time went by, but you used it wisely.  If you spend your life saying “Someday,” I suspect you will reach the end with an overwhelming sense that it went by too fast.  Don’t wait for someday. Someday is here.

Break routine—I’ve mentioned before that we have a goal of getting out daughter to all 50 states before she graduates from high school.  A few weeks ago we went to St. Louis, Missouri (otherwise known as state #17).

It wasn’t a major trip, but we had a fun time.  We found several great restaurants, visited the Arch, went to the City Museum (probably the coolest “museum” in the United States) and had a fun time hanging out as a family.

Had we stayed home and done the same old thing that we do every weekend, I would have forgotten about it by Monday.  But we did something different.  Something out of the ordinary.  And because of that, all three of us will likely never forget that weekend.  We’ll always have those shared memories, stories and photographs.

To keep time from flying by, break up your routine.  If you go through life doing the same thing, day in and day out, there won’t be much to remember.  It will seem like the same day lived over and over.  Life will seem so short because it won’t be packed with memories.  But if you make sure to periodically do interesting and out of the ordinary things, your life will seem long and full.  As I have said before, focus on milestones instead of maintenance.

Do less—At first, doing less might seem like a counterintuitive way to have a fuller life, but stick with me for a second.  If you pack your schedule with too much, you don’t have time to savor life.  It’s the difference between enjoying a nice meal with friends and competing in a hot dog eating contest.  In one you have a chance to enjoy the food and engage in interesting conversation.  In the other you’re trying to shove in as much as you can as fast as you can.  You might end up eating more in the hot dog eating contest, but you will also end up enjoying it less.  Unfortunately, many of us (e.g. me) live our lives like it’s a hot dog eating contest.  We’re trying to shove in as much as possible.  There’s a fine line between living a full life and cramming so much stuff in that you feel rushed and can’t enjoy it.  Beware of the busy virus.  Simplify.

Have a great week.  Make it interesting!

~ Joe

Cash rich.  Lifestyle poor.

Cash rich. Lifestyle poor.

The retirement question most people seem intent on answering is “How am I going to pay for it?”  That’s an important question, of course, but retirement is more than just a math problem.

In my opinion, we spend too much time thinking about how to get there (math) and not enough time thinking about what we’re going to do once we arrive (meaning).  If you focus solely on your finances, you risk having a retirement that is cash rich and lifestyle poor.

Cash is great, but it’s not the end goal.  Your money is nothing more than fancy paper that our government has created to make commerce and exchange easier.  The end goal is not to have money.  It’s to use that money to do things that you really care about; things that provide joy, meaning and fulfillment.  If you do that, then money (contrary to popular opinion) CAN buy happiness.  Let me show you what I mean.  I’m assuming you’re all familiar with the mathematical proof: If A=B and B=C then A=C.

Applying that to our discussion:

  • If money=control
  • And control=doing what fulfills you
  • And doing what fulfills you=happiness
  • Then money=happiness.

Of course that transitive logic only holds true if you use the time you control to do what fulfills you.  Which brings me back to my original point:  If you want a meaningful retirement, then you need to treat your planning like more than just a math problem.  You need to decide what it is that you really want out of life and use whatever resources you have and time you control to pursue those things.  Are you doing that?  If so, great.  If not, spend some time thinking about what it is you actually want to do with all that money you’re saving.

Have a great week.


Retirement: What Seuss might say

Retirement: What Seuss might say

Note: Welcome to all the new readers who found us from the article I did at MarketWatch this week.  I’m glad to have you on board.  In today’s post I’m sharing that article with IR readers, so sorry if you’ve already seen it.

I have always looked up to Theodor Geisel, better known to millions as Dr. Seuss.  As a writer myself, one of the qualities I admire most was his ability to take complex ideas (e.g. learning to read, racial equality, materialism) and make them engaging and easy to understand for readers (e.g. The Cat in the Hat, The Sneetches, How the Grinch Stole Christmas).

Having read a biography on Seuss, I knew that his birthday was just around the corner (March 2), which got me thinking: If Seuss were still with us, how might he have used his considerable talents to explain a complicated and sometimes boring topic like retirement planning?

Of course we’ll never know, but I thought I’d use his rhyming and poetic meter as inspiration and take a stab at it myself.  The result is the poem below called ‘Someday’ is Here!

‘Someday’ is Here!     [Click here for an illustrated version]

You’ve made it.
After 40 years and a day
Of working and toiling and slaving away.

You’ve got money in the bank
And time on your hands
Now is the time to make some great plans.

There’s only on problem
A big concern, really.
If you want a great life then you really must hurry.

You see, all these years
You’ve heard experts opining
That your primary worry should be money and timing.

Those are vital, for sure.
But, take care to remember
If life were a calendar
You’d be in September.

The clock keeps on ticking
It gets louder each year.
You’ve spent years saying “Someday”
Well, “Someday” is here.

It’s time to stop dreaming
And actually DO.
That is my primary advice for you.

So how does one start?
Where to begin?
Grab a pencil and paper and let’s jump right in.

The first thing to do is to ask yourself this:
What types of things bring retirement bliss?
Don’t try to please others.
We’re talking about you.
What is it that YOU’VE always wanted to do?

Maybe that’s travel or volunteering to help others.
What would it be if you had your druthers?

Once you know that, then you’re well on your way.
But there are a few other things I should probably say.

First, don’t forget friends.
In life they’re the glue.
They hold everything together.
Otherwise it’s just you.

And while friends are important,
Don’t forget about your spouse.
If you’re happy together
You’ll have no reason to grouse.

So work on your friendships and marriage for sure.
What else? Let me think?
There are two or three more.

Oh yes.  Now with plans and people in order
You can shift your attention and start to re-order.
Your priorities that is.  Your To-Do list is jumbled.
With all sorts of things you should probably fumble.
Get rid of the extra and purge the redundant.
Once you do that life will be more abundant.

So that’s a few things that will get you ahead.
But remember, they won’t help a bit if you’re dead.
So get yourself healthy and lose the spare tire.
If you need a few pointers, call your doc and inquire.

Before we wrap up, a quick review.
What are the things you really MUST do?
Have money and plans.  Relationships too.
A good healthy body and priorities not askew.
Do each of those things and you’ll be ahead by a mile.
Because those are the things that make retirement worthwhile.

[Click here for an illustrated version of the poem.]

Enjoy your weekend!


I originally published this article at MarketWatch.