Friday, June 24, 2011

Practice Makes Perfect - Navigating Change

After my Feng Shui consultation, I was confused.  Sonia’s recommendations were totally different from what I had envisioned.  It got me thinking, once again, about change. 

Change expert Tanya Bibby, PhD, states that managing change is about paying attention – to yourself, to others, to your environment and the context behind the change.   She also shares that, just like grief has five stages, the change process has five stages – denial, resistance, understanding, exploration, adoption.   And similar to grief, all the stages need to happen.
The good news – through the action steps – Preparing, Accepting, Committing, we can reframe change from “happening to me” to “happening through me.”

In reality, I get to manage the change to my plans for my room.  I can pick and choose the recommendations to implement – including just how much of the dreaded purple I will allow in my room, and just how much red I plan to sneak into the room. 
Even more change is on the horizon as the retirement date gets closer.  I am paying attention.  I plan to be in charge of the change that is coming to my life.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Go to Your Room

Now that we’re getting ready for me to retire, it’s clear that I will need a space of my own.  The rare occasion that I telecommute puts Paul in a funk – he feels like if I’m in the house he needs to leave.  So we’ve decided to move the guest room downstairs and convert the upstairs room into my office.  Then, when I start to get on Paul’s nerves, he can tell me to go to my room.

My room.  An interesting concept.  I want my room to encourage both creativity and serenity.  Hoping these are not mutually exclusive, I consulted my good friend Sonia who, among other things, knows Feng Shui, the Chinese art or practice of creating harmonious surroundings that enhance the balance of yin and yang, as in arranging furniture or determining the siting of a house.
Feng Shui is based on the five elements in a person’s life: metal, water, fire, earth, wood, being in balance.  Sonia explained to me that I have way too much metal and not nearly enough water.  Too much metal means “my desire to keep everything in place gets in the way of normal living,” and not enough water “leaves you feeling cut off from the abundance and flow of life.”  Ugh.  Don’t want to go either of those places.

When I visualized the room, I pictured browns, blacks, and reds. Sonia is encouraging me to use blues, blacks, purples, and some yellow for creative energy.  Purple?  I don’t even like purple.  She told me that yes; I could have a little bit of red.  Not sure I’m up for painting the walls blue.  Or yellow, although a yellow ceiling has possibilities. 
Sonia encouraged me to make the room a display of my own creativity, but until I have poster prints of the jacket covers of the many novels I will someday write, my creativity is limited to scrapbook pages.  No problem, she says.  Find a few of my favorites and frame them.  This also has possibilities.

Next step – find some great fabric and start to rethink the room design.  Oh, and get my son and a few of his able-bodied friends to start moving furniture downstairs.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Health Insurance 101

Paul is currently receiving Social Security disability payments.  He is eligible for Medicare, but has not yet applied because he is still eligible for covering under my employer’s group policy.  Two questions:  when will he need to apply for Medicare, and what will the premiums be.

For the “when to apply” question I consulted
If I’m reading this correctly, Paul can apply for Medicare parts A (Hospital Insurance) and B (Medical Insurance) without penalty during the eight months starting when his coverage through my employment terminates. 

According to, Paul’s monthly Medicare Part B premium would be $161.50 in 2011. 

From what I have read, it appears that the Medicare Supplement Plan my company offers retirees eligible for Medicare replaces Medicare Parts C and D.  It also appears to be pretty good:

  • The plan supplements coverage for expenses of health care services and supplies covered under Medicare Part A and Part B. Medicare Part A and Part B provide your primary health care coverage.
  • The plan has a $500 annual deductible per person, which is also the annual out-of pocket maximum. This means that $500 per person is the most you pay out of pocket in a calendar year for services and supplies covered by Medicare Part A and Part B.
  • Prescription drugs are covered separately. Expenses paid for prescription drugs (including copays) are not applied to the $500 deductible or the $500 out-of-pocket maximum.   However, prescription drugs ARE covered J
So our monthly expense for health insurance (not health care – just health insurance) will be approximately $1,197.00.  That’s based on the approximate figures of $667 per month for medical/dental retiree coverage for me and $358.50 per month for Medicare Supplemental Insurance for Paul, added to the $161.50 Part B premium. 

That’s approximately $15,000 a year.  We can only assume the costs will rise – both next year when this really happens, and every year after that.  Paul has challenged me to come up with a way to earn that $15,000 during retirement.  The gauntlet has been thrown.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Retiring with Honor

My friend Jewel has announced her retirement.  I received the announcement last night, in an email she sent from Iraq.  Jewel is currently in command of a unit that was deployed to Iraq one year ago.

In her words, when she returns home she will be “passing on the command of the 200th PM Detachment to someone I have not yet met. I know the new commander will agree that this unit is very special, and take care to continue the legacy of excellence.”

She goes on to say, “We have come such a long way during this deployment. We have all learned and changed forever. The small things we took for granted in our daily lives back home are all the more precious to us. Real milk, a private bathroom, our very own vehicle – that is clean; and of course family and friends.”

It is my fervent hope that Jewel’s unit will be welcomed home as heroes, and that she will retire with a sincere vote of thanks from the country that she has served so valiantly for so long.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Practice Makes Perfect – Living on Retirement-level Income

In April of this year, we started an experiment.   We are attempting to live, day to day, on Paul’s income.  My income is being used to pay off debt on the rentals, which will improve our cash flow position in our actual retirement.  And so far, I’ve really made no sacrifices.  The expense budget has always included some fun money, so we’re still doing the things we enjoy doing. 
The idea is that if we need to dip into my income for any reason, we will track that and add it to our financial data.  I expect this to happen as we begin to identify big ticket – and not so big ticket – items that we’ll want to buy before we retire. 
To be fair, we still need to account for the health insurance expenses that are now coming out of my paychecks before taxes – so they’re easy to forget.  We will need to pay for those with our retirement income once I really retire.  Next week – back to the budget.