Dale Says

August 29, 2008

Five Steps to a Successful Retirement

Filed under: Miscellaneous — Dale @ 12:13 pm

Like everything else in life, successful retirement requires planning. Here, based on the author’s experiences, is a five-step guide to preparing for post-career happiness.

1. Have a plan.

It’s important to have a plan for how you will spend your free time after retirement. Don’t wait until you actually retire to start on your plan; instead, write it down now a little at a time as ideas come to you. “I’m going to golf” doesn’t count as a plan; neither does “we’re going to travel.” Figure out how you want to spend your days (and months and years) for the next 2-3 decades, put it in writing, and make changes until it makes sense to you. When you actually retire tinker with your plan as you see how your new life is developing.

The good news is that you (rather than your boss) get to decide how you will spend your time.

2. Include activities in your plan that will produce “meaningful” results.

Most of us were raised to do consequential things with our lives, and even after retiring you will probably find you need to feel like you are accomplishing something meaningful (besides relaxing, having fun, and traveling). Add at least one activity to your plan that will let you look back at the end of the year and know that you achieved something important.

The good news is that you get to decide what is meaningful.

3. Take on some (but not too many) challenges to acquire new skills or accomplish things you’ve always wanted to do.

All of us dream about what we would do “if we only had the time.” Well now you are going to have time. Learning to play the piano, for example, or hiking in a Brazilian rainforest are the types of activities that are possible when you have more control over your schedule.

The good news is you will have time to do whatever you want.

4. Be prepared for unexpected developments to force you to fine-tune your plan.

Unforeseen events like health issues, family emergencies, or friends in need could sidetrack you and force delays or changes to your retirement plan. That’s part of the deal. You might want to start an annual ritual of reviewing your plan, seeing what you were able to accomplish, and making adjustments for the next year.

The good news is you will have the time to dedicate to those situations.

5. Expect to go through your retirement savings faster than expected.

Despite careful planning and diligent saving many retirees spend more than they thought they would. Health care is a frequent culprit and inflation, travel costs, and unanticipated home repairs are others. After a year or two you may become uneasy because your income has stopped but your “outgo” hasn’t. A suggestion: at the end of each year add up your assets and see if the total is on track with where you hoped to be. If it is, you are probably doing OK.

The good news is that you will have more control over your spending and can adjust your income or expenses to get back on track.

A successful retirement requires planning, but includes a lot of good news. If you are diligent about developing and following a plan, you are likely to find (as I have) that retirement rocks!

About the author:

Dale Fehringer is a freelance writer who lives and works in San Francisco. He has been “retired” for five years and has learned that careful planning and staying active with meaningful activities is good for his mental outlook and his marriage. Dale can be reached at dalefehringer@hotmail.com.

August 27, 2008

A Sense of Holland

Filed under: Travel — Dale @ 10:18 am

Note:  This article was published by GoNomad.com in April, 2009.

Want to see one of the world’s most spectacular sights? Go to Holland in the spring and feast your eyes on miles and miles of tulips.

The best way to see Holland? This author argues it’s from the seat of a bicycle.

Making Tulip Angels

Tulips have enchanted people for centuries. The Dutch economy nearly collapsed in the 7th century when, during a period of intense speculation, or “tulipmania,” rare tulip bulbs sold for as much as a year’s wages – then dropped to practically no value overnight. Anna Pavod, who studies and writes about tulips, refers to them as “the sexiest, the most capricious, the most various, subtle, powerful and intriguing flower that has ever grown on earth.”

We noticed them first from the windows of the bus as we rode to the start of our bicycle tour. Fields of tulips: red, yellow, orange, and pink; perfectly lined in rows, and stretching on kilometer after kilometer. Signs at the end of the rows listed their names: Rembrandt, Parrot, Triumph, Double Late – it went on and on, with each as beautiful as the next. There were huge piles of purple and red tulip bulbs lying at the edge of the flat, green fields. The bus driver patiently explained it to us:

“They’re tulip blossoms. The growers cut them to divert energy to the bulbs. The bulbs are the valuable part.”

So we sat and stared at what must have been millions of tulip heads, waiting to be turned into compost. We thought how precious they would be back home and wondered if they were used for anything.

“Some of the growers tried feeding them to their pigs,” the driver said. “But pigs don’t seem to care for them.”

We didn’t know then how much we would connect with those piles of blossoms, each in our own way. We walked in tulip piles, and threw handfuls of tulips in the air. A couple of us even made “tulip angels” by lying on our backs and waving our arms and legs. Our Christmas cards that year included a photo of us in a pile of red tulip blossoms, holding a stem in our mouths, like flamenco dancers.

Make Room for Water

The Dutch have always had a love/hate affair with the sea. They rely on it for agriculture and transportation, but they have also fought for centuries against floods, which have wreaked havoc on the land. They think of water as an adversary, to be collected, contained, and sent as quickly as possible back to the sea. Over time, they have worked out a covenant, which they call “ruimte voor water” – make room for water.

By the 19th century, the Dutch had built 1,900 windmills, and there are still more than 1,000 of the giant concrete and wooden structures, though few are functional today. The largest collection (19 windmills) is at the village of Kinderdijk, which was a ferry ride and a half day’s bicycle ride to the coast through light, but insistent wind and rain.

Only six of us made it all the way, and the rest opted out or turned back part way there. The six survivors included Joanne, a spunky woman in her 70s who with her husband, Ted, was a veteran of more than 20 bicycle tours.

As we grew near the windmills emerged through the mist like an army of gigantic electric fans. We were impressed with their magnitude and as we rode closer with the size of the blades. One windmills was open to the public, so we went in. We climbed the steps to the keeper’s quarters, at the midpoint of the blades, and were in a single small room that had a small wooden bed, a washbasin, and one small, arched window. We looked out over the canal where our windmill stood with its companions like lonely sentries, guarding the polder.

As a blade passed our window, its shadow blocked the light. We felt the power of its movement, gathering force as it sped downward, then pulled back up by centrifugal force and the strength of its hub. We weren’t prepared for the whooshing sound that followed, and stood in silence for a moment in awe.

Keukenhof Gardens

In the 15th century, Dutch countess Jacoba van Beiren gathered flowers and herbs for cooking in the woods of her estate south of Amsterdam. She called her gardens “keukenhof,” which translates to “kitchen garden.”

In 1949, the estate was turned into the Keukenhof Gardens, an 80-acre showcase of tulips, daffodils, hyacinths, and other flowering bulbs that flourish in the rich coastal soil near the town of Lisse. The gardens iclude an incredible six million flowering bulbs, along with floral exhibits, art shows, and world-renowned auctions of tulip bulbs.

Our cycling tour included a ride to Keukenhof Gardens. the famous bulb gardens we had heard so mch about, and we were determined to get there. We had made our way through a long, tiring day, in which we were rained on and pedaled for hours into a cold wind.

We rounded another bend and the wind was still blowing strong, so we reached deeper to keep from turning back. But around this bend the wind blew us a wonderful perfume. Fields of purple hyacinth surrounded us; their bell-shaped buds in bloom.

The fragrance was everywhere.

We stepped off our bikes and inhaled the elixir. We forget our freezing hands and aching muscles — this made it all worthwhile.

Now we could ride on.

At Keukenof, we were enthralled by the colors, made even more vibrant on this gray, cloudy day. There were tulip bulbs of every kind and they stood as armies of splendidly cloaked soldiers with their brightly colored headdresses a perfect symphony of color.

About the author

Dale Fehringer lives and writes in San Francisco. He and his wife, Patty, have bicycled in Argentina, Austria, Chile, Croatia, Holland, Hungary, Ireland, Japan, Loire Valley (France), the Napa wine country, New Zealand, Portugal, Sicily, Slovakia, and Vermont. They consider the bicycle an ideal vehicle for seeing new places and will continue to ride as long as their legs hold out.

August 21, 2008

Rich Aurilia Night

Filed under: Profile — Dale @ 11:12 am

Last night turned out to be Rich Aurilia’s night after all. I was hoping he would have a good game, since his photo was featured on the game tickets as part of the Giant’s 50th anniversary tribute to legendary players. And Richie is a favorite of many loyal Giant’s fans. He was part of some very good Giant’s teams and had some excellent years as part of a very solid Giant’s infield. In 2001, for example, Rich collected a National League best 206 hits, and had a .324 batting average, 37 home runs, 97 RBIs, and was selected as an NL All-Star.

This year Rich is a seasoned veteran in the twilight of his career, still able to make significant contributions and willing to mentor the influx of younger players finding their way onto the Giants team.

Rich has had a solid year for the Giants, if not a spectacular one. He’s hitting .268 (.322 on-base average, 4th best on the Giants), with eight home runs and 40 RBIs. He’s played 111 games (6th best on the team), and has contributed to the Giants infield, playing first, short, and third. Last night he was at third base.

The game didn’t start well for Rich. In the first inning, with runners on first and third, he grounded into a rally-killing double play. In the fourth inning, he hit the ball solidly, but again grounded out. But in the sixth inning, with a runner on first Rich doubled to left scoring Aaron Rowand, then scored on a Fred Lewis single, helping the Giants to a 5-2 lead.

Rich grounded out again to end the seventh inning. That’s baseball. So he was 1-4, with a double, RBI, and a run scored. Not bad for a guy about to turn 37. But his greatest contribution was at third base. He played very solid defense all night making several nice plays, including diving for a line shot in the third inning and leaping (well, at his age jumping) to snag a solidly-hit line drive by Jorge Cantu in the eight inning to prevent a Marlins rally. And the Giants won the game, which I’m sure was more important to Rich than his individual outcome for the evening.

I like the mix of veterans and youngsters on the Giants this season, and I get a kick out of watching players like Randy Winn and Rich Aurilia who come out every night and give it their all. That’s a good example for the younger players and fun for the fans. And I especially enjoyed watching Rich have a good game – after all, it was Rich Aurilia night.

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