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

www.successfulretirementguide.com

© 2008-2015 R.K. Price

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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


Humpty Dumpty in Retirement (Revisited)

September 24, 2013

Three years ago this week I published a blog post on Humpty Dumpty in Retirement in which I discussed the reasons why the risk of falling increases as we get older and what we can do about it. The content is still timely if you would like to review it by clicking on the above link or on the September 2010 Archives link to the right.

I was reminded of that post because today’s (September 23, 2013) Wall Street Journal (requires a subscription) has an article by Shirley S. Wang entitled From Athletes to the Elderly: The Science of Trips and Falls, in which she reviews some of the most recent research on how we maintain our balance. Ms Wang cites new insights from a number of research facilities around the globe, all of them quite interesting.

What I found most interesting from the perspective of a senior citizen, was this summation of the body’s three main systems which keep us in balance:

“The visual system takes in information from the outside world and transmits it to the brain. The proprioceptive system, which incorporates sensory systems throughout the body, tells us how the body’s parts are oriented relative to each other. And the vestibular system, located in the inner ear, focuses primarily on how the head is moving.”

As it turns out the vestibular system tends to decline in efficacy as we get older and most of us make up for that decline by relying more heavily on our visual system. Our visual system is slower than the vestibular system so if we begin to go out of balance we have less reaction time to correct the situation before we land on the floor.

Another interesting insight is that when faced with rough terrain to negotiate, walking with shorter steps and a wider stance may be more effective than simply walking more slowly.

All this is important for seniors because The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that falls are the leading cause of death and injury to people over the age of 65. For more suggestions on how to avoid falls, please see the Humpty Dumpty post referenced above.

R. Kevin Price

www.successfulretirementguide.com

© 2008-2013 R.K. Price