Straight Talk, No Chaser – The Final Chapter (Part 3)
By Mr. Free Spirit (March 24, 2016)
This has been a real experience. When you start your planning keep in mind you will need to change your address; this can be a nightmare. The United States Post Office (USPS) can be a real nightmare. DO NOT do a change of address online, the USPS computer system is so antiquated it’s ridiculous, however, don’t think the hard copy you ask for from the postal clerk is any better. Human intervention with the USPS tends to be to human and not easy.
I went online Feb. 25, 2016 and filled out the form. I waited 7 days and no mail was forwarded from my old address to the PO Box that I had rented six months before I moved. Therefore, I went to my old house and asked the new owner is I had any mail. To my surprise she answered yes, and hand me a bag of mail. The next day I returned to the Post Office and requested a conversation with a supervisor. I explained the situation and she gave me a “Change of Address Kit.” I completed the forms and handed them to the Postal Clerk.
Two weeks went by and no mail came my way. I went to my old house and asked if I had received any mail. Again, I was handed a bag full of mail. I returned to the Post Office for the second time. I spoke to the same supervisor and was handed a hard copy “Change of Address Kit.” I completed the form and gave it to the clerk. At this point, I have been waiting over 22 minutes to speak to a supervisor. While waiting I started talking to another customer in line who was waiting to speak with a supervisor. This person had the same problem I had. His mail was not forwarded and his missed a notification to appear in federal court.
Finally, I had enough, I contacted the US Postal Service hot line via the 800 number and I also sent an email. That’s when things started to get interesting. Another supervisor from that local post office called me and the word PLEASANT was not in her vocabulary. She asked me to describe the supervisor I spoke with. I explained what the lady looked like and she was quick to tell me that she did not fit that description and began to explain her features. I really wanted to tell her that I was looking for my mail and not a date.
Why is the US Postal Service so incompetent? Is it because the USPS processes 584 million pieces of mail every day? Perhaps. How is the customer supposed to know who’s behind the wall, or what level of person to ask for? This experience reminds me of the “Peter Principle.”
What is the ‘Peter Principle?’
The Peter Principle is an observation that in an organizational hierarchy, every employee will rise or get promoted to his or her level of incompetence. The Peter Principle is based on the notion that employees will get promoted as long as they are competent, but at some point will fail to get promoted beyond a certain job because it has become too challenging for them. Employees rise to their level of incompetence and stay there. Over time, every position in the hierarchy will be filled by someone who is not competent enough to carry out his or her new duties.
To date, no mail.
Retirement is an opportunity for a new chapter of your life, expert Ken Dychtwald says.
Most people today view retirement as an opportunity to begin a new chapter in their lives, “not a time to wind down and move off the playing field,” says gerontologist Ken Dychtwald, 64, the CEO of Age Wave, a research think-tank on aging issues.
They are trying to figure out new ways to be productive. “Many are wondering: ‘What can I do with this stage of my life that is perhaps my highest purpose?’ ” says Dychtwald, who is also a psychologist. He has written 16 books on aging, health and retirement issues.
His company has conducted dozens of studies on retirement over the past 20 years. From that research, he and his colleagues have identified five stages of retirement and how people can make the most of each stage:
Stage 1: Imagination. These are the five to 15 years before retirement. People are sometimes busy raising their children and providing care for one or more parents, Dychtwald says.
How to make the most of this time: Enjoy the vitality of this stage of life and make sure you are preparing financially for retirement, he says. “You should be doing everything you can to build a strong and solid financial base that will last you a lifetime.”
Stage 2: Anticipation. This is from five years until right before retirement. People often start thinking about what they are actually going to do when they retire, but there aren’t many places for them to go for guidance, he says.
Many people want to continue to work. In fact, 72% of pre-retirees, age 50 and older, say they want to keep working after they retire, according to a recent survey sponsored by Merrill Lynch in partnership with Age Wave. Almost half (47%) of current retirees either are working, have worked or plan to work in retirement, the survey found.
Many people also want to devote more time to their family and friends. Some want to continue to learn, and others want to enjoy their favorite hobbies and develop new ones, he says.
How to make the most of this time: Put on your creative cap to find another career, Dychtwald says. Think about an encore career or consider starting your own business, he says. Volunteer at a hospital, church or for a non-profit group. Talk to retired people to see what they’ve done. See if your company has some flexible retirement programs or offers a sabbatical that would create a kind of trial retirement, he says.
Stage 3: Liberation. This begins on retirement day, and people often feel fantastic. They think, “It’s great. I’m free, and I have decades of freedom in front of me.” This is called the honeymoon period, and it lasts an average of one year, Dychtwald says.
How to make the most of this time: “Enjoy it. You’ve earned it,” he says. Many people have been working 30 or 40 years, and like the idea of having a period of life to take a deep breath, enjoy time with family and friends, watch movies and go on trips.
This is a time to “relax, recharge and possibly even retool,” he says. You can consider it a gap year or “intermission” year before you gear up for the next phase.
However, some positive things happened that were not planned. I found a diamond, (i.e. best kept secret). I happened up on the Staybridge Suites hotel. Let me tell you it is one of the best kept secrets in the hotel industry. I got a Studio Suite with all of the amenities of home in a smaller area. The staff at this Staybridge Suites fit all of the hospitality traits per their advertisements’. Additionally, the General Manager greets each guest who enters in the common areas and engages people in conversation to ask what can be done to make things better.
Here’s an example. I needed to have my car serviced and I went to a local GM dealership and got the required service. Subsequent to the service I received a call from the customer relations specialist Ms. Renee K. Titus. Ms. Titus had the most fantastic customer service skills I’ve witnessed in years; it would be nice if she had a job as a customer service trainer. Encountering someone with telephone etiquette and personality is very rare in this century.
Below are all of the steps I took. Some mishaps occurred that were not planned such as the USPS.
It can be daunting to think about planning for retirement. There is so much to consider, where do you even start? But what if all you had to think about was boiled down to a 3 x 5 index card? That is what we have done in the part 1 of this article. In part 2 we showed you how to write your retirement action plan on an index card, complete with a sample.
Our hope is that once you have seen retirement planning simplified to the bare essence, you will give planning a chance. So here goes!
Part 1: Retirement Planning in a Nutshell
1. Start early. As one example, you can’t make up for lost savings if you start too late.
2. Fit your expectations to your reality. Prepare a budget with expenses and revenues so you know where you stand.
3. Follow your dream. You can have almost any lifestyle in retirement — if you plan for it.
4. Check out a lot of places to retire. Start visiting places while you are still working. At least one will fit your dream.
5. Know what you are going to do all day. Don’t make the mistake of retiring without a direction.
Our index card advice is about 100 words. To flesh out these ideas we have provided a little more amplification below. You and other retirement experts might have other key points to consider; these ideas are just a starting place. If you have a significant other, talk about these issues regularly to see how close, or how far apart, you are to each other’s position. Then discuss how you can find a way for you to find retirement happiness.
A little more about these planning points.
Starting early. This means planning ahead for every aspect of retirement, from financial to what you will do every day. There are so many choices and so many lifestyles to consider. Where you will live, and in what type of community? Planning for how you will stay busy and productive after you lose the structure of your working world is worth planning for too.
Fitting expectations with reality. Review your checkbook and credit card bills to understand your current spending (your credit card statement might even list expenses by category). Then estimate your retirement income by reviewing your pension, 401k, Social Security, etc.
If money is going to be tight, cutting expenses earlier rather than later is key. Downsizing to an easier to maintain and heat/cool home almost always makes sense. You’ll pay less taxes too. To supplement your income, turn a hobby into a business. Or consider what kinds of part time jobs you might find interesting. If you know where you stand before you retire, you have a chance to make adjustments in time.
Follow your dream. Retirement is a do-over on life. Seize the opportunity to follow your dreams, rather than being bogged down by inertia. Spend some time thinking about your ideal lifestyle, and how you can make that happen.
Check out places to retire. In your 50s or even earlier, think about what it would be like to retire in the places you visit for work, vacation, or other travel. While you are there, do a little exploring with your retirement mindset on. Visit friends who have retired and see what their lives are like. Rent a place and talk with real estate people and others in the community.
What you will do all day. Don’t be one of the people who retire one day with absolutely no idea what they will do the next. Start a hobby now or think about a part-time job – paid or volunteer. Dream about what you like to do.
Create your own index card retirement plan
Our suggestion is that you consider each of the 5 points above to develop your own 3 x 5 index card retirement plan. To help you even more, we have developed a prototype plan you can use as is or customize.
A Prototype Retirement Plan
We have written this plan as a series of goals with action points to be completed along with dates. If you create a 3 x 5 card like this and work on it, before the ball falls in Times Square again you could have a real retirement plan in place. Feel free to customize the plan so it reflects your retirement dreams and hopes!
My Retirement Plan
Goal – Develop draft plan
2. Expectations vs. Reality.
Goal: Review expenses and expected retirement income
3. Discovering your dream lifestyle.
Goal: 5 key things I want to do in retirement
4. Where to live.
Goal: List 5 places I think might be good for retirement.
5. What I will do.
Goal: List your hobbies and interests
Keep a file card retirement plan in a visible place. You might also have a card with each aspect of your retirement plan – for example one on financial, another on location, another on what will keep you busy. These will help keep you thinking about it the key issues, and perhaps spur you to make revisions as your experience grows and changes.
Steve Carell as Michael Scott the “poster boy” of incompetence on the hit TV show “The Office.”
This ends my series on “Straight Talk – No Chaser.” My next article will be: Did You Know?
Let me know what you think. Scroll down to the bottom of this page and leave your comments in the “Comments” section.
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