West Palm or Bust

Top-down cruising in West Palm Beach

My wife and I purchased a condo in Palm Beach, FL in 2017. It started as a family vacation home but has quickly turned into our likely place for retirement.

While she hails from Virginia and I was born and raised in Maryland, we have lived and raised our family in the Syracuse, NY area for over 25 years. That equates to 25 mostly brutal winters. We have both had enough.

Yes, Florida is becoming passe as a retirement destination and the state has its fair share of challenges including oppressive summer heat and the occasional hurricane, but in the year and a half that we’ve been traveling there, we have fallen in love with the Palm Beach and West Palm Beach areas. And anytime you actually close on a property 1 day from hurricane landfall when everyone is evacuating and everything still turns out fine, you know that the strength of your dream is forged in fire.

Public art in downtown West Palm Beach, FL

One of the reasons we have fallen in love with the place is the ample public art and murals that bring the town alive and pop with visual stimulation. It forces you to stop in your tracks, gaze, and contemplate.

Angela blends her beauty with the beauty of urban art.

West Palm Beach and adjacent towns like Lake Worth offer a variety of urban art, murals and sculptures. Mix it with great restaurants, mild weather, gorgeous beaches, and a vibrant cultural scene and you have the makings of our version of a dream retirement destination.

Clematis Street – downtown West Palm Beach

Our most recent visit offered an opportunity for us to give the place an “empty nest” spin. With the eldest daughter out on her own and the youngest living on campus, we were able to give our future a dry run. It was an extended weekend of discovery. New places to dine, new beaches to visit and there is always art right around the corner.

Winter in the northeast can be such a life-less time of year, especially for a child of the south, and each subsequent winter drives me deeper into seasonal depression. South Florida’s mild temperatures, blooming vegetation, and swaying palm trees seem to be the perfect remedy for us.

Future Self

Photo by Lisa Mathews

Do me a favor. Close your eyes and think of your future self. Are your eyes closed? Good. Visualize yourself at 57, 62, 65 or even 70 years of age. What are you doing? Where are you living? Specifically, how do you spend your days? Walks on the beach? Enjoying hobbies? Are you living your best life? Are you retired or still working? Now think about whether or not you have the resources to live life comfortably.

A GoBankingRate.com survey on retirement savings revealed that 42% of survey respondents reported having less than $10,000 saved for retirement, including 13.7% who said they had $0 saved. If you count yourself among them, you have considerable ground to gain if you want to just take care of your basic needs in retirement. The changes that you make today can help you live more comfortably tomorrow.

In this episode of Life in HD podcast, I speak with Vicki R. Brackens, President and Financial Planner at Brackens Financial Solutions Network and registered representative of LPL Financial, member SIPC. Vicki helps us map out some strategies to reduce debt and start saving. We also tackle the common excuses people cite as reasons they can’t save. Take a listen. Your future self with thank you.

Target Audience: people who find themselves behind in saving for retirement.

Focus: establish what you’ll need – understanding the Social Security piece of the pie – reducing debt – eliminating excuses – vehicles that will help you grow your nest egg.

Music – “Pixels” by Drake Stafford under Creative Commons license.

More on Vicki Brackens

51 Introspection

 

51 Selfie
51 Selfie

Dear friends, let me first apologize for the blatant blog neglect perpetrated by your’s truly over the last few months.  Work and everyday life has gotten in the way of “me time.”  Now that I have spent the better part of the day reflecting on 51, I’d like to share some thoughts with you.  Again, I offer an apology in advance for the tone of this post. It can best be described as a jaded, self-conscious peek into the psyche of a man struggling with mortality. What can I say, I’ve never been a “glass half full” kind of guy.

If you read my post leading up to my 50th birthday, you’ll know that it was quite a struggle. I thought 50 was a hump to get over and that once over the hump, life would get smoother.  In many ways it has and in some ways it hasn’t.

Here are some observations, discoveries, and realizations that I share for your amusement and pity:

Obsessive Compulsive Behavior Won’t Slow Down – I find that there is an alarming increase in my obsessive behavior.  I spent the better part of the day washing my hands after having touched a dead baby bird while cleaning the pool skimmer.  Dead-baby-bird cooties is not the way that you want to start your 51st birthday. No amount of scented lotion can convince me that I’m not smelling dead baby bird. I now have a laser like focus on creating or acquiring some tool to pull the skimmer basket out without inserting my hand into a soup of dead baby bird and chipmunk.

Things Hurt More – I hurt from sitting. Did you hear me? I said I HURT FROM SITTING. Rising from a chair after sitting for a while should not result in aches and pains. I’m an active guy. I work out 5 days a week. Why is there such rapid deterioration? There are times when sitting still, in the quiet of the night, quiescent in a room devoid of light, that I can literally hear the decay as it’s happening.  Muscle tearing down. Ligaments weakening. Fragility attacking bones. Neurons misfiring like failing spark plugs.

Fashion Relevancy – The realization that I will never succumb to dull fashion has set in. I am destined to sacrifice comfort for style. Yes, there will be times, later in life, that I will undoubtedly look like an old man trying to cling to the glory days, but so be it.  There will be no “dad jeans” in my future. You shouldn’t spend a good portion of your life building your personal brand only to abandon it because you stop caring. If you don’t remember me for anything else, remember this…SWAGGER MATTERS.

I’d rather look like this guy:

Oldmanswag

Than this guy:

OldJeans Music Relevancy – Music discovery will always be a part of my DNA. A recent study suggested that the average person stops listening to and discovering new music around the age of 33. I find that rather depressing. I might be an old man listening to Byonce “Twirl on her haters in albino alligators” or Drake fluttering between being hard-core and a ladies man, but if it has a funky beat, and interesting lyric, a conscious message, I’m going to be on it. I’ll rock a band like Tao and the Get Down Stay Down when I’m 80. “Yes, I love Earth, Wind & Fire and Al Green, and Miles Davis, but I choose to honor the past while celebrating the present. So pass the Depends underpants and my Beats headphones because I’m gonna drop it like it’s hot…old…but hot. The goal is to counter some of the regression with progression.

Fuck It – It’s slipping out of my mouth more and more these days. Indeed, it is liberating. Not giving a shit is like a new right of passage. To my expanding waist line, I say fuck it. To my painful left pinkie toe, I say fuck it. To overpriced restaurant food, I say fuck it. Curling 60 pounds instead of 70 I say fuck it. Letting things go and not sweating the small stuff is finally sinking in at age 51.

New Obsessions – I’ve had passions and interests come and go and I suppose they speak to various life stages. Today’s obsession is retirement and, more specifically, planning for retirement. Not surprising for this stage in my life. I find the whole thing rather fascinating and highly educational. I’m collecting EFTs and mutual funds like I use to collect socks and underwear. Educating myself on asset acquisition, asset allocation and portfolio management with a glass of wine now defines most evenings at home. Recent news stories highlighting how unprepared for retirement most Americans are is disturbing. While It’s never to early to start saving, it can be too late. Assess your portfolio, assess your retirement needs, and seek help from a financial planner. I’ve been very fortunate to spend the majority of my career with an employer that has generous retirement benefits. For that, I am thankful.

Number-51I Am Loved – This is not a new revelation but I will take every opportunity to acknowledge how fortunate I am in the love department. I am rich in social capital. While, at 51, my daughters often look at me like I’m eating jello, sitting in a rocking chair with a blanket on my lap, I know that they love and respect me. They get currency from making me proud. And I am…very proud. I look forward to watching them develop and grow into strong, intelligent women.

And no man is more fortunate in the pair bonding department than me. My wife loves me more with each passing year when logic dictates it should be the opposite. She’s a tough coach, uncompromising supporter, and fantastic partner. Every day with her  represents a new day of discovery; new dreams developed; new passions uncovered; and life made new with every awakening. I am loved. And that’s what makes 51 and beyond worth living and enjoying.

 

The Road to 50 (Intro)

Road

 

Back in May of 2014, I wrote a somewhat humorous post on the angst of turning 49.  Some 8 months later, I now sit 119 days away from turning 50 and the angst is still very real.  Considering that most of my friends and associates are about the same age, this is a conversation that I have had on numerous occasions.  Inevitably, the “age is just a number” comment comes into play.  As does, “you are only as old as you feel.”  To which I say, “bullshit”!

Despite what nonsense people spout, 50 is not the new 40.  50 is 50 and it has a psychological impact on you whether you admit it or not.  My mind is too curious to carry on about my day, about my life as if nothing changes when that half-century mark hits.  I want to know what to expect both physically and emotionally in the months and years that follow.  I hope that, in understanding the possible impact, I am better able to deal with the change in life.  The Man Up blog will chronicle my journey of discovery and neuroticism, my thought process and emotional vicissitudes from today until May 20 (the 50 mark).  I hope you will join me and share your experiences as well.

50For a lot of men, the concern of aging isn’t out of fear of getting old.  It’s a fear of losing potency.  The image of ourselves that we hold on to is one of a strapping young, virile man with energy and stamina for days and it does not jibe with the image that we see in the mirror.  The number 50 is a marker.  A midlife marker that distorts our self-image.  We’ve likely lived more than half of our lives with key markers along the way: finishing school; getting that first career job, pair bonding, child rearing etc. Those markers are ones that we expect and plan for.  For many, at least for me, 50 represents the unknown.  How will my career wind down?  What will I do in retirement?  Can I retire the way I want?  Do I have enough resources?  Will I be alone?  When will I be alone?  When will I lose virility?  That thing about 50 being the new 40 is so untrue.  At 40, you still have relatively young children, a good 25 years or so of work ahead of you,  perhaps even another career move, and many more things to accomplish.  With 50, the window becomes shorter.  Younger, more talented people enter the workplace with highly developed skills.  Your years of experience in the new technology environment becomes less valued.  Technology itself begins to slip away from you.  Your music choices become more nostalgic.  People start calling you “sir”.  Dinner out starts at 6 o’clock.  You’re in bed by 9 p.m.  Multivitamins, Ensure and adult diapers are on the horizon.

50 one

 

50 represents change and, for men, change is not growth.  For men, change represents the loss of something.  In this case, the loss of time, the loss of virility, the loss of potency, the loss of effectiveness.  I feel like I can still walk up to a young Mike Tyson and kick his ass…in my mind.  But it doesn’t reconcile with my cracking bones, aching feet and arthritic knuckles.  Yeah, 50 is screwing with me.  I’m not going to lie.

For me, 50 is going to be a time of self-reflection.  From what will I derive satisfaction?  How can I be a better lover?  A better father?  A greater contributor to life, community, and business.  I will learn to live with a new reality.  Cope with the aches and pains and mood swings.

Quite a bleak outlook, I know.  I also know that we have advantages over our fathers and grandfathers before us.  We have better healthcare so we are living longer and healthier.  We have more tools in the tool box like the internet and access to research, studies and articles.  Greater income to do more things and acquire more shit.  We also have an openness and willingness to talk about how we feel and what we are going through with our partners and friends.

In the weeks to come, I will dive deep into the abyss to discover what lies ahead for me over the next 10-15 years.  Perhaps I’ll learn a few things that will help me cope and better prepare or discover the secrets to juvenescence.  Or consider it all rejectamenta and just drink more wine.

If you’ve already crossed that marker, I’d love to hear about your experience.  If 50 is staring you in the face, I’d equally love to know your concerns, if any.

Until next time Hominids…keep it on the good foot!