Successful Retirement in NYC, 4 – Theater Extravaganza

April 14, 2015

We have spent the winter in NYC and what a winter it was – snow every Monday and freezing rain during the week to keep it interesting. So one way to beat the frozen winter blues was to go the theater and we have, a lot.  Right now we are at 40 plays/ performances and counting. The plays have ranged from one person performances to large productions with Hollywood stars – think Sting, Helen Mirren, Elizabeth Moss, Emma Stone, Kristen Chenoweth.

When we started this whole NYC experience we knew we wanted to see a lot of plays but were somewhat concerned about three things . First,we are not night people so we prefer matinees and that limits how many days there are performances available. There are matinees on Wednesday, Saturday, Sunday and, for some off Broadway, Thursdays as well. Second, Broadway shows are expensive, some very expensive. Fortunately we have friends who live here who are very savvy about how to score tickets at reduced prices or even for free. So they let us know to check out sites like Club Free Time, tdf, Theaterextras, Gold star and Travel Zoo. There is a membership fee for some of these but they are still worth it. Another way to save money is to buy tickets in person at the Box Office.  You’ll save the service and processing fees. Also we found lots of discounts for plays in preview and for Off Broadway shows.Third, my husband needs an aisle seat so that he can extend his right leg out ( result of back surgery). That has limited our ability to take advantage of some discounts since we can’t always be guaranteed an appropriate aisle seat when buying discount tickets. So buying in person with a discount code works best for us.

So what have we seen?  They have ranged from revivals ( King and I ) to one person plays like Churchill, Josephine Baker and Wiesenthal to  dramas (Delicate Balance) to brand the new Hand to God.

We started with Jersey Boys ( a repeat for us and well worth it); then Cabaret – Alan Cumming was phenomenal; The Audience – Helen Mirren truly is the Queen; Skylight with Bill Nighy – amazing; On The Town – best classic Broadway show by far; strange (for us) performances like Big Love; super dramas  like Disgraced and Curious Incident of The Nightime Dog and The River – Hugh Jackman was excellent. We took my niece and her son to Lion King – so fun to see a child’s first experience with a Broadway show.

Best play: Hamilton and this is before it goes to Broadway. We paid a little over 100 for our tickets and on a resale site they were going for a 1,000 per ticket. Money aside, the play was outstanding – without a doubt one of the best we have ever seen.

One more factor to consider – the theater or venue. Some are beautiful, some are cramped and none have adequate restrooms for the ladies. The dinner clubs have been a pleasant surprise – 54 Below is a great place with good shows and food.

Two more weeks to go and so much yet to see! We will appreciate the Tonys so much more this year!

Barbara Price

© 2008-2015 R.K. Price


Successful Retirement in NYC, 3 – The Pet Experience

February 27, 2015

When we decided we wanted to spend four months in NYC, we also decided we wanted to bring our 75 lb Golden Retriever, Rufus, with us. Rufus is eight years old, and while we are comfortable leaving him with a caretaker for a few weeks while we travel internationally, we didn’t want to leave him for four months.

Rufus is used to doing his “business” on grass and taking long walks in a wooded area. We figured NYC would take some adjusting so, in preparation for the city,we began to take him for walks in urban areas, and since we would be living in an elevator building, he began to take rides in elevators. All this went well.

On arriving in NYC, he seemed a bit overwhelmed by all the smells: food, spills, dog business and other things. He seemed amazed that dogs do their business just about anywhere. Now he has learned to do that also. He was used to greeting almost everyone we met on our walks and took some adjusting to the fact that many people didn’t want to say “hi”.

His elevator experience was fine, but he hadn’t gone up more than three floors. Now we go up 28 floors with people getting off and on. Looking out the apartment window, he seemed initially uncertain about all the little people and little cars and trucks.  I think he’s figured it out now.

He loves Central Park. We are near the northern end of the Park which has a nice woodsy area called, appropriately enough, the North Woods. There are streams and paths and lots of wildlife – just like home

The City can be dirty in the winter and it is easy for Rufus’s fur to pick up that dirt so lots of towels are in order. There is a lots of salt and sand on the sidewalks which can be tough on the feet so many of the dogs wear boots. Rufus was frequently stopping and holding up a paw for me to clear his pad of debris so I decided to try a set of boots for him. I got one on, he held his paw up, looked me in the eye as if I was nuts, and declined further boots.

We took him back to Connecticut this week for a brief visit and seemed seemed happy to be there. But on our return to NYC, he seemed just as happy to be here.

Overall the experience has been good. I just wish more New Yorkers would pick up after their dogs – not hard to do and there are disposal receptacles everywhere.

R. Kevin Price

© 2008-2015 R.K. Price



Successful Retirement in NYC, 2 – Getting Around

February 10, 2015

New York, New York, a helluva town.
The Bronx is up, but the Battery’s down.
The people ride in a hole in the ground.

Yes, we do ride in a hole in the ground and that works pretty well for the most part. The subway lines go up and down town in a fairly convenient way; but there are few underground cross-town options.

Buses go up and down town as well as across town but you need to stand outside to wait for them.  And, compared to subways going in the same direction, they are slower.

There are apps for your smartphone which will keep you apprised of routes, schedules, delays and even the imminent arrival of your bus or subway, but I still use a Streetwise Manhattan map to help plan my movements.

As a senior you can get a subway/bus pass that gets you 50% off.

Taxis are everywhere but I find most of them a bit cramped for my 6′ 4″ frame. A taxi alternative is Uber or other private car system. With Uber I can order up an SUV on my smartphone and track its arrival. Uber has my credit card so no money needs to change hands in the car. I have found the cars to be neat and the drivers professional. It can be a bit pricey: in a recent snowstorm I watched the estimated cost of my ride go from $17 to $25 to $38 in less than three minutes.

I have my car in the City but I would not use it other than to get back and forth to Connecticut or maybe a Target run to Mount Vernon for paper goods etc. Parking is terrible and many drivers are very aggressive. I have seen taxi drivers deliberately hit cars they didn’t think were moving fast enough.

The most interesting aspect of getting around has been walking. NYC is a very walk friendly. My wife and I frequently walk across Central Park to get from the upper west side to the museums on Fifth Avenue (we were at the Guggenheim today). My son suggested I get a Garmin wrist band to track my exercise and I have found I am walking 6 to 8 miles a day! This has been great at offsetting the caloric intake from NYC’s many fine restaurants.

Back to New York, New York: one of the most fun plays we have seen is On The Town with music by Leonard Bernstein and lyrics by Comden/Green. Highly recommended!


R. Kevin Price

© 2008-2015 R.K. Price

Successful Retirement in New York City

January 22, 2015

For the new year, my wife Barbara and I are trying a new retirement living experience: we have moved to NYC from our home in Connecticut for the first four months of the year. We visited the city several times a year for plays, museums and holiday pageants over the course of several decades and frequently said to each other that it might be fun to actually live there for a period of time and have easier access to the city’s cultural and educational resources.

So, we have rented a two bedroom, two bath apartment on the upper west side in a pet-friendly building that allows us to have our 75 pound Golden Retriever, Rufus, come along with us. We are one block from dog-friendly Central Park and one block from the subway. Whole Foods, Walgreens/Duane Reade, Petco, Home Goods and T.J Max are all less than a block away. The building has good exercise facilities including a salt water lap pool. There is parking in the basement so we have easy access to our car for the occasional trip home or elsewhere.

Because the apartment was unfurnished, we also rented furniture and kitchen equipment. This turned out to be very easy to do with good quality items, but not inexpensive.

At this point, we are in place and satisfied with the process of getting here as well the temporary home we have created. We have room to have friends/family visit for the weekend and a number of such visits are already on the calendar. We have already been to a number of plays, museums and exhibitions with more scheduled every day, and are beginning to wonder if four months will be sufficient.

For the next few months we (me, Barbara or together) will blog about different aspects of this experience. We hope this will be helpful to anyone contemplating a similar undertaking.

R. Kevin Price

© 2008-2015 R.K. Price


Second Wind in Retirement

June 11, 2014

I recently finished reading Second Wind by Dr. Bill Thomas, a geriatrician (a medical doctor specializing in aging). Dr. Thomas worked clinically with older patients for a number of years and became convinced that better avenues should be available to enable more meaningful lives for people as they age. Thus he co-created the Eden Alternative and The Green House Project as alternatives in eldercare.

In Second Wind (subtitled “Navigating the Passage to a Slower, Deeper and More Connected Life”) Dr. Thomas posits a third stage of life called Elderhood, which chronologically and developmentally follows childhood and adulthood. Many sociologists, gerontologists, philosophers and others have reflected on the roles of elders in human society. Dr. Thomas makes a sharper distinction than most others by suggesting the elderhood needed today is pointedly different than adulthood and in fact requires a personal separation from adulthood in order to achieve its fulfillment.

While Second Wind references other cultures, geographical and historical, and their attitudes toward and treatment of elders, the book’s focus is on America and Baby Boomers.

Dr. Thomas takes the reader back fifty years and once there divides the boomer population into Squares, Activists and Hippies. Squares were the generally well-behaved traditionalists who inherited their values from their parents and grandparents. They worked hard, took responsibility and knew accomplished adulthood was their destiny.  Activists concurred that adulthood was inevitable but wanted to shake things up in areas like civil rights, feminism, environmentalism, social justice.  Hippies were the counterculturalists who tried to reject growing up and advancement into adulthood.

Squares were the dominant cohort. They won the culture wars and subsumed much of the Activists’ fervor. The Hippies were crushed.

The Squares victory led to what Dr. Thomas refers to as the “cult of adulthood” in which a person’s value is determined by his or her earning capability, productivity and effectiveness. Youthful vibrancy was highly valued and remains so today as contemporary adults pass their adult values on to their children.

As he examines aging boomers, Dr. Thomas again divides them into three groups. Denialists refuse to accept aging as inevitable and seek to remain forever young through diet, exercise, chemistry, surgery, transplants or whatever it takes. Realists understand and accept that age-related decline is inevitable and will take common sense steps to mitigate, moderate, delay and compensate for it. Enthusiasts not only understand and accept aging, they embrace it. In Dr. Thomas’s view, the Enthusiasts seek to outgrow adulthood and (as his book’s sub-title suggests) navigate to a slower, deeper, more connected life: Elderhood.

Dr. Thomas also developed a Second Wind Tour which visited 25 cities. I had the opportunity to be present at the Tour’s Hartford, Connecticut performance. This was not your typical book promotion event (although there were books for sale). This was more of an anti-ageism, slow down, reflect, connect, see the possibilities experience. There was music, singing and dancing. There was a showing of the Alive Inside film which explores the connections between music, identity and memory. It was a free four hour testament to the fact that Dr. Thomas wants to make a difference in people’s lives.

The Second Wind book does not provide a formula for dealing with aging, ageism or even becoming an Elder. It does however provide a well-constructed historical perspective on how we came to be where we are with respect to societal views on aging, and gives the reader (of any age) a lot to think about with respect to moving forward.

R. Kevin Price

© 2008-2014 R.K. Price

Learning a New Language in Retirement using Duolingo

January 30, 2014

I am frequently asked about what activities I recommend for intellectual stimulation in retirement. My response of course could (and did) take up an entire book, but one of my favorite recommended activities is learning a new language. I did a post on this a while back which can be found here which explains why I believe this is a good activity for intellectual and many other reasons.

I have chosen to study Italian. It is a melodious language, pleasant to the ear and tongue; my four years of high school Latin provide a foundation; I enjoy visiting Italy and consuming Italian food and beverages.

I have taken community-based courses, used DVD programs (including Rosetta Stone, which is excellent in my view, but not inexpensive), CDs, textbooks and dual-language short stories.  I also translate Italian news from newspapers and the web and watch Italian movies.  I also get to practice during my occasional visits to Italy.

I have been using a new (to me at least) program the last several months called Duolingo which is available at Duolingo has many of Rosetta Stone’s fine characteristics such as starting simple and  then adding well-designed building blocks, but lacks Rosetta Stone’s contextual photos which do help with comprehension and retention. One Duolingo characteristic that Rosetta Stone does not have is the ability to easily ask questions of, and discuss grammar/usage with, your fellow students and program moderators. If you choose to, you can even answer questions for less advanced students. You feel like you are learning in a community environment.

Best of all it is completely FREE!

If you are interesting in learning another language, I suggest you check it out. In addition to Italian, there are German, French, Spanish and Portuguese modules. Other modules are under development.

R. Kevin Price

© 2008-2014 R.K. Price

Financial Reviews and Planning in Retirement

December 26, 2013

Financial planning for retirement at times seemed like a simple (in theory) exercise in accumulating assets, determining the appropriate investment allocation for those assets given the expected retirement ages for me and my wife and managing down debt over time.

Once in retirement, I am now living the plan and it is important, I think, to pause from time to time and review how well the plan is working and what, if any, changes are called for. A review might be occasioned by an event (a death, change in health status, market decline), changed expectations (life expectancy, inflation outlook, anticipated behavior of politicians) or simply the passage of time from the last substantive review.

Before retiring, I took the financial plan I had constructed and reviewed it with a fee-for-service financial planner. He concluded it was a conservative, reasonable approach and I went forward with it. I was then, and remain, a fan of the investment approach described in John C. Bogle’s Common Sense on Mutual Funds.

Since retiring I have reviewed the plan on my own every couple of years and have not made any significant changes. This year, since I am a bit more than ten years into retirement, I decided to do a more thorough review and to have a professional planner take a look at it also. I devoted about ten-twelve hours to the review and looked at the plan from a variety of perspectives which I then reviewed with the professional. He generally endorsed it and gave me a few additional options to consider for the future. All time well spent.

While doing the review I found several tools to be quite helpful:

The T. Rowe Price Social Security Benefits Evaluator can help you determine your expected benefits and the optimal time and form for taking those benefits. You can find it here.

Wade Pfau is a Professor of Retirement Income at The American College. He publishes a blog called Wade Pfau’s Retirement Researcher Blog in which he discusses assert allocation, retirement fund withdrawal rates, annuities, bond ladder building among other topics. It is found here.

W. Van Harlow is Director of Research at the Putnam Institute and has done some interesting work on managing downside risk in asset allocation. You can find his paper here.

Nobel laureate William Sharpe has a helpful blog on Retirement Income Scenarios. It is found here.

Happy Planning!

R. Kevin Price

© 2008-2013 R.K. Price