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

www.successfulretirementguide.com

© 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

www.successfulretirementguide.com

© 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

www.successfulretirementguide.com

© 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.com. 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

www.successfulretirementguide.com

© 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

www.successfulretirementguide.com

© 2008-2013 R.K. Price


Retirement Thoughts: Australia

October 31, 2013

I just finished a two week visit to Australia.

This was the seventh and thus “last” continent for me and my traveling companions. We have all been to the others – Europe, Asia, Africa, North America, South America and Antarctica –  at least once. So a travel goal for retirement (visit all the continents) has been accomplished. This is a mixed achievement of sorts because there isn’t another continent on the list to look forward to visiting. However many adventure opportunities remain (more on this later).

Australia was an easy country for us to visit (other than getting there and back). English is the common language, the people seem in large measure happy and friendly, the food is great, the transportation system works well, the cities are clean and safe, there are a wide variety of sights to see (there are some photos below) and activities in which to engage.

The trip to Melbourne on the southern coast of Australia from our starting point New England was about 22 hours flying time with a pause in Los Angeles and a requirement that we “lose” a day crossing the Pacific Ocean. We were able to sleep fairly well on the way over so the adjustment to a 15 hour time zone shift wasn’t as bad as we thought it would be. The way back was another story: we left Sydney at 11:00 a.m., “gained” a day recrossing the Pacific and arrived in Los Angeles at 6:30 in the morning on the same day we left Sydney (4.5 hours before left)! Adjusting back to East Coast  U.S. time took the better part of a week.

Size-wise, Australia is about the same size geographically as the contiguous 48 United States. Our major stopping points in Australia – Melbourne, Alice Springs, Cairns and Sydney – were similar to traveling from New Orleans to Chicago and then to Boston and Atlanta in the U.S. However, there are only about 22.5 million people in the whole of Australia compared to about 313 million in the U.S. Another way to look at it is: the entire population of Australia is approximately equivalent to the population of metropolitan New York City.

Much of Australia’s population lives in its cities (metropolitan Melbourne and Sydney account for almost half of the country’s population) but they are very nice cities in which to live. The (UK-based) Economist  newspaper ranks four cities (Melbourne #1, Adelaide #5, Sydney #7, Perth #9) in Australia in the top ten cities in the world in terms of “liveability” (based on stability, health care, culture, education, infrastructure, climate). The U.S. and UK have none in the top 10.

While I was there, The Australian Financial Review noted there are a growing number of baby boomers who are choosing to retire. They are apparently feeling comfortable enough to do so following a nice rise in home and stock values over the last several years. Looking forward, some Australian economists are concerned about labor shortages as baby boomers leave the workforce at an accelerated pace.

But for people looking to move there, it should be noted the cost of living is high: 137 compared to a base of 100 for New York City according to The Economist newspaper. Australian wine is frequently less expensive in the U.S. than it is in Australia.

A few highlights:

Melbourne is pleasant modern/Victorian city with a river (the Yarra) running through the middle of it. It boasts pleasant gardens, the southern hemisphere’s largest casino, a great aquarium, diverse dining and tram service throughout the city. Here is the view of the city from the highest residential tower

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On one of our dining excursions we ate on a restaurant tram that served dinner while you toured the city:

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Our next stop was Alice Springs which is the jumping off point to visit Uluru, also known as Ayer’s Rock. It is a large sandstone formation which is sacred to the aboriginal people. Next to the Sydney Opera house it is probably the most iconic item in Australia.

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What the guide books don’t tell you is that flies are FIERCE and that head nets are essential. Fortunately our guide provided them for us.

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Next up was a flight to Cairns and Kewarra Beach. This was our jumping off place to visit the Great Barrier Reef for snorkeling and a submersible ride, the Australian rainforest for a cable car ride over the canopy (with occasional stops to the forest floor) and to see some of Australia’s great “salties” – its salt water crocodiles.

In the submersible:

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Preparing to snorkel:

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Cable car over the rainforest:

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A great “saltie”:

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Australia has more kangaroos than people but we didn’t get to see any of the big fellows in the wild. We did get to see hundreds of their junior cousins – wallabys – which seemed as numerous as Canadian geese in southern New England.

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Our last stop was Sydney (5.3 million pop.) which has the best harbor I have ever seen, dozens of fantastic beaches, lots of history, a great wildlife park, many hiking trails…it feels like a city and nature have come together to make a very nice place to live.

Our hotel afforded a nice view of the opera house,

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and the bridge.

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We spent several several enjoyable days in Sydney.

But back to where I began this post: new travel adventures. In addition to the seven continents, there five major oceans. I have been on four of them – Atlantic, Pacific, Indian and Southern – so I still have the Arctic (and polar bears!) to look forward to.

In addition, while I was visiting an Environmental Center in Orange County CA recently, a fellow walked up out of the blue and asked if I enjoyed traveling to other countries. I allowed that I did and we chatted for a bit about places we’d been. He then invited me to consider joining the local Traveler’s Century Club. He explained this was a group of people who enjoyed traveling and had been to 100 or more countries. A quick calculation on my part concluded I was well short of 100 and the commute from the East Coast for meetings would be burdensome in any case. He explained these clubs exist all over the country which I later confirmed via Google.

So, while I may not be joining the Travel Century Club any time soon, clearly there are still many places to learn about and visit. Next up: VietNam, Laos and Cambodia.

R. Kevin Price

www.successfulretirementguide.com

© 2008-2013 R.K. Price


Yoga in Retirement

August 28, 2013

“Yoga is for everyone.” –  Yogacharya B. K. S. Iyengar

I concur. (Full disclosure: I took up yoga at age 55, somewhat overweight, somewhat stiff, somewhat out of alignment and subsequent to two lower-back surgeries and thirty-some-odd years of corporate existence.  It’s been great for me; I’ve seen it help many others.)

What is yoga?  My definition would be “a practice directed at bringing mind and body into alignment and state of well-being.”   Other definitions might focus more on physical exercises, mental and spiritual peace, or something more philosophical.  If you would like to develop yourself in any of these areas, yoga can add real value.

Yoga exercises (asanas) will help you build flexibility, strength, balance.  They can also help reduce stress and improve your breathing.  If you want to also take it to a place more spiritual, that path is available.

While there are lots of books, videos and web sites with yoga guidance, I suggest the best way to begin is with a class.  Even if you have a room full of mirrors, you can’t really see everything your body is doing as you practice asanas.  An instructor can help guide you to a faster, more effective start and help you get the most out of your practice.  Once you get the lay of the land you can replace or supplement the classes with videos or books as you deem appropriate.  My own view is that the classes are a lot of fun and help challenge you try new things and take your practice to higher levels.

Check with your town, YM/YWCA, school system, senior center, hospitals etc re: the availability of classes.

Some other resources:

YOGA The Path to Holistic Health, Yogacharya B. K. S. Iyengar

www.yogajournal.com

R. Kevin Price

www.successfulretirementguide.com

© 2008-2013 R.K. Price