Category: Family and Relations

6 Essentials to a Healthy Relationship, for a Happy Retirement

6 Essentials to a Healthy Relationship, for a Happy Retirement

Feeling connected to others is vital to a happy retirement, and some studies suggest, to longer life. But, retirement brings changes and some of the biggest are in the dynamics of our relationships. Perhaps its time for a refresher on what makes a relationship healthy!


“A healthy relationship makes for a healthy retirement; an OK relationship makes for an OK retirement; while a chronically sick relationship, makes for a disaster.”  Dr. Richard P. Johnson



What is Connectedness?

It’s our ability to share ourselves at a deeper level with our spouse, special friend or confidante.  It is a key factor for retirement success.  When we share our time, talents, possessions, our emotions, joy, fear, hopes, dreams, desires, and mistakes, we share our spirit.  Think about those times when someone really listened to you, understood you.  How did you feel?  Connected?


A good relationship sparks our spirit; a poor relationship douses it.



Remove the Armour

Unfortunately, aloneness can creep into our retirement years. Loss of loved ones, and the changing lifestyles of friends and family may weaken close ties. We may try to protect ourselves from loneliness and don our armour. In the end, we isolate ourselves further and in so doing, quash our own spirit.  We just might become that grumpy old person people want to avoid!


“Reclusiveness is the opposite of connectedness. It constricts our souls, strangles our life energy and cuts us away from the vitality of living.” Dr. Johnson



The Six Conditions

Of a healthy relationship according to Dr. Johnson, expert on adult development, ageing and retirement, are:


  1. Mutuality

Each partner feels their needs are valued equally and they share a common purpose.  Inter-dependence rather than independence or dependence is key. They have a balanced union, not one of dominance or resignation. They can count on each other and they honour their relationship.

“The opposite of mutuality is self-centeredness.”


  1. Respect

Each partner recognizes, honours and cherishes the special uniqueness of the other… even after time has worn off some of the new excitement.  It’s not about tolerating the differences but recognizing them as part of the unique gifts of your partner.

“The opposite of respect is resentment.”


  1. Communication

Communicating in a caring compassionate way can help partners navigate the inevitable differences that emerge over time. Active listening, attending to feelings, speaking for yourself, not others, and encouraging each other to speak freely are some elements of meaningful interaction.

“The opposite of communication is criticism.”


  1. Intimacy

A strong and positive emotional bond brings intimacy.  A bond that yields affection, attachment and devotion. That’s intimacy.  When your partner can understand your feelings and vice versa. “Relationships that deal in the currency of feelings are relationships of richness and happiness.”

“The opposite of intimacy is emotional estrangement.”


  1. Trust

You can rely upon each other without question and genuinely accept the other.  Each partner encourages, supports and accepts the other’s journey of personal development.  It is not about submissiveness or resignation, but of clarity of what really is. Trust involves acceptance of others and of what is.

“The opposite of trust is doubt.”


  1. Commitment

Each partner practices perseverance, persistence and steadfastness so that fidelity and staying power builds over a lifetime. Partners have the courage to unwaveringly grow and strengthen their relationship when others may have lost hope.

“The opposite of commitment is indifference.”


Whew!  As I write this, I realize how easy it is to get lazy in a relationship. Now I’m inspired to rekindle the connection and I hope you are too!  For more inspiration, check out this post about Karl and Denise, a couple that embodies these six essentials.  In Dr. Johnson’s words…


“If you have a confidante, take very good care of that person; they are your mental wellness.”


Care to share?

Are Your Adult Kids Sabotaging Your Retirement?

Are Your Adult Kids Sabotaging Your Retirement?

62% of Canadian boomers feel their retirement is jeopardized because of the financial support they provide their adult children according to a recent TD Bank survey. Nearly half of adults in their 20’s live at home.  Supporting your adult children can hurt your retirement plans and your sanity.  Here are three tips to help you co-exist with your ‘boomerang’ kids while protecting your retirement nest egg.

25 is the New 19

It may not be arrested development, but an economic reality to share your home with your twenty-something children.  Secondary education and housing costs may be out of reach for your kids while starting salaries are low.  A crisis, such as divorce or job loss, may bring the kids back home, perhaps with their kids.  Or, your brilliant adult child has decided to pursue that Masters or PhD, partly on your ticket.

150% more adults aged 25-34 years live at home today than in the 70’s


 1.  Agree on House Rules

Whether they’ve never left, or they’ve come back home, clarifying expectations with your adult children at the onset will help you coexist more smoothly.

When boundaries are unclear, stress and conflict increase.


The key word is ‘agree’.  It’s like having roommates.  As my daughter used to say, “you’re not the boss of me.” Listen to each other.  Start with house rules built on respect for each other.  You each have the right to your own privacy.


  • Comfort levels for:
    • Music & noise
    • Visitors
    • Neatness
    • Awake/sleep hours
    • Independence vs. family togetherness time
    • Separate living zones


  • Household contribution:
    • Chores
    • Cooking
    • Groceries
    • TV, internet, cell service use
    • Use of vehicles (or not)
    • Rent, utilities


 2.  Take Care of Yourself First

You love your children and want to protect them, help them and nurture them.  As we are told in the airplane, put your oxygen mask on first and then your child’s.  Your kids have a whole life ahead of them to grow their financial base.  You?  Less time.  Protect your nest egg.

It’s that boundary thing again.  Plus, you are modelling prudent financial management to your kids.  Win win!

 Know how much you can afford to help without hurting your retirement. 


Not sure?  Meet with your financial planner or wealth manager and run a scenario of future expected expenses and income.  Yes, it will be based on assumptions, but it will give you an idea of what you’ve got and what you need to live the retirement life you imagined.  Factor in the additional expenses of your dependents, and you’ll understand your boundaries.


3.  Agree on a Timeline for Departure

At some point, our kids need to launch.  Most of them want to, and look forward to being independent.  Agree on a workable time frame for departure. (There’s that ‘agree’ word again.) Your kids will know they need to manage their finances and affairs accordingly.  You will know how long your support is required and can plan your life and finances appropriately.

“Offer encouragement not advice” – Dr. Richard Johnson


As much as we love our kids and enjoy their company, we’ve got to let them spread their own wings. Have faith that you’ve taught them well and that they will land on their feet!

Care to share?

This Couple Shares Wisdom on Retirement Togetherness 24/7

This Couple Shares Wisdom on Retirement Togetherness 24/7

They had demanding, top-tier careers in the fast-paced world of high tech.  Busy, A-type, long days at the office with world travel thrown in, type of careers.  With little time for planning, they each retired early, at 50, and have been happily together, a lot, ever since.  What’s their secret for harmonious retirement togetherness?


Retirement Trailblazers

Full disclosure.  I have known Denise and Karl for 25 years.  Most of that time, has been during their retirement. Conversations with them are always interesting and thought-provoking, and usually involve good food and wine.  Denise was a trailblazer in her career, usually the only woman in the room, and Karl was leading change in a change-adverse organization. When the opportunity came, they each had to decide quickly about early retirement.  Karl retired first, and Denise followed about four years later.


“Society wasn’t ready for us”


Denise and Karl were leading the new wave and paradigm shift in retirement and society hadn’t caught on yet.  They were young, healthy, had good financial resources, and wanted to do things. (They haven’t changed.)  What was available to the new retirees was, in a word, depressing.  Retirement living, activities, travel or hobbies offered were geared to the less able elderly.  So, they paved their own way, together.


Pace Adjustment

How did these former executives adapt to retirement life?  It took both Karl and Denise about six months to adjust to their new life.  Initially, they missed the benefits of work such as the social interaction and teamwork.  Otherwise, their lives hadn’t changed that much.


“We never said, let’s wait until we retire. If we wanted to do it, we did it.”


They continued their leisure, hobbies and interests they enjoyed before retirement.  Travel, dining out, visiting friends, equestrian, wine and other interests continued.  Having a variety of interests was important.  “If you sew five days a week, it becomes a job.” The only change was their pace.   They have the freedom and flexibility to set their own pace.  But, her pace is a tad different than his!


That Togetherness Thing

Karl and Denise definitely have different personalities and neither of them are ‘pushovers’.  She’s got to be busy, doing things, learning things, going places.  He’s the calm, yoga-practicing, meditating, art-appreciating type.  They are together almost all the time.  In the time I have known them, I have never heard one complain about the other. Never.  Not one nit-pick.


“We really enjoy each other’s company.  We like each other.”


That’s the key.  They are best friends.  They want to do things together.  They want to experience retirement together. And they have made a conscious choice to do so.  Choices like having one car, a nice one, even though they live in the country.  Errands, activities or socializing – they do it together.


“Never say no.”


That’s Karl, the self-described introvert.  If one wants to do something or follow a new interest, they discuss it first and come to an agreement that works for both.  They find a way they can enjoy the new interest together.

Case in point, wine university in France.  Wine is Denise’s love.  She wanted to live in France for a year and study to become a Master Sommelier. Wine is a secondary interest for Karl, but he wanted to practice his French and work in the vineyards.  And that’s what they did.  Togetherness.


“Do things that you like.  Don’t be a clone of the other.”


If someone does what you want to do all the time, you will lose them.  In retirement, your mate is the most important person, you don’t want to lose their uniqueness, their individuality.  Remain who you are.   Which means, you must know yourself. “If it means going on a 5-day trip on your own, then do it.”


Words of Wisdom

Denise: “Do it earlier rather than later.  There’s so much to do, and it may be more difficult to do later.”

Karl: “Mutual appreciation of each other:  If you’ve got that, you’ve got it made.”


Both Denise and Karl continue to be fully engaged in life following their individual interests, together.  Best buds!


“It’s amazing what two people can do together, when they really appreciate each other.”


Care to share?

7 Habits to Create a Happy Retirement, a Happy Life

7 Habits to Create a Happy Retirement, a Happy Life

What makes you happy now?  What will make you happy in retirement?  Are you waiting for something to happen first, or someone to do something, and then you’ll be content? Ancient wisdom and current science tell us that “happiness is an inside job”.  No need to wait to be happy, you can start now with these seven simple practices!


What is Happiness?

Dr. Richard Johnson, founder of Retirement Options and expert on adult development and gerontology describes the extent of our happiness as:

“The degree to which we experience a sense of delight, fulfillment, pleasure, contentment, and a sense of rightness in all arenas of life”


It’s in our genes, or not.  It’s in our attitudes and beliefs, or not.  According to Dr. Amit Sood, renowned expert on stress and resiliency, Mayo Clinic professor, and author of The Mayo Clinic Handbook for Happiness”, 50% of our happiness depends on our conscious choices.

“Happiness can become an enduring habit.” Dr. Sood


All Arenas of Life?

Really?  Yep, we’re talking life balance.   Research has identified six key facets of life that when attended to, lead you to fulfilling life satisfaction and a successful retirement.  We need all six in our life to varying degrees and when one or more is neglected, and another is all consuming, we are out of sync and our bodies are under stress.  Stress at the cellular level.  Excessive stress is not happiness.

We need a purpose; our meaningful work, be it paid or unpaid. Healthy family relations let us give and receive love. Social relations, from close friends to casual interactions with strangers, keep us engaged in the fabric of life.  Pursuing personal growth, health, and well-being opens our minds and possibilities.  Having a sense of connection to a higher power brings peace, awe and wonder. Leisure brings entertainment and rejuvenation, and yes is a need!

“Happiness is what happens to us, when we attend well to all the arenas of our life”. Dr. Johnson


Be like Yoda

When we pay attention to the six life arenas, we can become like Yoda. Centered. Grounded. We are more emotionally resilient, have better focus, are more fully present and healthful.  Content. Fulfilled.  How can we get there? That brings us back to “conscious choice”.


One Habit a Day

To help us become more mindful, calmer and content, Dr. Sood has identified seven practices that can lead to a happier life.  He suggests practicing one a day so they become enduring habits.  Take a few moments each morning, close your eyes and focus on the practice for the day.

Monday – Gratitude: Focus on the gifts in your life; re-frame the negatives to the positives.

Tuesday – Compassion: Recognize everyone has struggles; be kind, be helpful, not critical.

Wednesday – Acceptance:  We are all works in progress, imperfect. Let it go, be fair.

Thursday – Meaning: What is important about the gifts of today? Who can you be of service to, how?

Friday – Forgiveness:  Yourself and others. Focus on life’s higher meaning and not hurt.

Saturday – Celebration: Honour others and yourself. Bring out the joy.

Sunday – Reflection: Prayer, meditation, quiet connection to a higher power. Be calm.


Try it!  I did and do, and have noticed that I do feel more content and less anxious.   Happiness really is an inside job!


Care to share?

How to Turn the Burden of Elder Care into a Gift

How to Turn the Burden of Elder Care into a Gift

You’ve got the call or you’ve made the call.  Your parents need your caregiving help. Of course, you want to be there for them.  But how can you care for them, and honour your own needs?  How can you enhance your relationship with your parents, not strain it?


The Weight of Caregiving on Retirees

Having people depend on you for care can affect your retirement success.  Some people delay retirement, given the additional financial burden of caregiving, and put their dreams on hold. Others retire earlier than planned, turning caregiving for a loved one into their full-time job, and giving up vacations and other pleasures in their lives.

Studies have shown that the heavy weight of caregiving is not the physical or financial burden, but the emotional strain.  Caregivers of loved ones can feel a myriad of emotions at any time, from appreciation and love, to guilt and resentment.  This paradox of feelings can create inner turmoil for the caregivers and add to our stress.


Growth Through Caregiving

Just like the grieving process, there is a 9-step growth cycle that caregivers of loved ones can experience. Through this process, you gain the gift of personal development and deeper relations with your elders.

As we move through these stages, described by Dr. Johnson founder of Retirement Options, we grow and develop personally.  When the need for care is first realized, we may feel sorry for our parents’ and their diminishing health.  Then, we take on heroic (and unsustainable) acts of caregiving to ‘fix’ the situation and bring it back to normal.  When the ‘fixing’ doesn’t work the way we wanted, we begin to question our usefulness, our help, our capabilities, intentions and more.  Some caregivers may feel angry and resent their caregiving responsibility.


“If we do not resolve our anger and resentment, we may move into depression, feeling stuck, helpless and hopeless.” 


We may feel the loss of giving up our social and leisure activities as the burden of caregiving takes its toll.  To move out of this caregiving low, we reach out for help.  Perhaps its community care programs, support groups, faith groups, counsellors or other assistance.  As we reach out, we may find other caregivers with whom we can share experiences and gain some encouragement to lighten our load.

Many caregivers of loved ones feel guilty about the care choices and approaches carried out or about their mixed feelings.  “Am I doing enough?”  Should I be feeling this way?”  When we can forgive ourselves for being human really, we can move on to acceptance and letting go.

“It is only through active and creative acceptance, that caregivers can emerge from the strain of care to find themselves refreshed and rejuvenated.”


What Can You Do?

How can you turn the burden of caregiving into an enriching, loving experience?  First, get informed.  Gain a good understanding of the physical needs and the emotional needs of your parents.  Discover what resources and care options are available in your community.

Second, line up your help.  Engage the resources you will need. Reach out to others who have cared for their parents and find support groups.  Understand your own needs, physical and emotional, and develop your boundaries. Find back-up support so that you can take a break, and continue with activities that are important to you.

Open your heart and mind and seize the opportunity to strengthen a healthy, positive and loving relationship with your parents. Let go of negative attitudes toward ageing.  Master the art of meaningful conversation.  Practice active listening.  Listen for the feelings, and intentions as well as the content.  Share your love.  Feel the gift.


Some Resources

AARP Caregiving: Care for Yourself                   Comfort Life: Caring for the Elderly

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Want to Sail Away in Retirement? Read This First

Want to Sail Away in Retirement? Read This First

Dreaming of sailing on turquoise waters when you retire?  This adventurous couple set their retirement plan in motion and fulfilled this lifelong dream.  How did they fare? Here are the lessons they learned…


You Know What They Say About Plans…

Dean and Sue Pope are an articulate, open and thoughtful couple.  Avid boaters, they had a plan for their retirement.  Sell their home, buy the right boat, and sail the Caribbean for five years.  They did their research and calculated the financial impact of this dream.  Dean would work 3-4 more years before acting on their exciting retirement plan.

Then, changes at Dean’s work brought an opportunity for early retirement. Their retirement dream was accelerated significantly.  Boat shopping began a few years earlier than expected.  Their first assumption, the timing of their plan, … adjusted.


“Every assumption we made, turned out to be wrong.”


Other assumptions?  Exchange rates, price of gas, costs of goods and boat maintenance to name a few.  Their budget and expectations were regularly adjusted.  I am reminded how adaptability is a key factor to retirement success!


Life Happens

The Popes also assumed it would be five years before they became grandparents, hence the five-year boating plan.  That family blessing came in three years!  Sadly, a week after signing the boat deal, Sue’s father passed away unexpectedly.  A very rough start to the retirement dream.  Although difficult, Sue and Dean persevered and continued with their plan.


“The thing about dreams like ours is that they have a realistic undertone you don’t see when you are dreaming.”


The couple enjoyed the care-free boating life and met many friendly boaters on their travels. Yet, the reality of their new lifestyle meant they were far away from good friends and family.  “You can’t just pick up and go home for a birthday.”  Having the right communications technology helped.  They also invited close friends for winter visits to share the beauty of their boating experience.


So Much Learning and Refined Priorities

Sue and Dean prepared as much as they could for their retirement adventure.  Yet as Sue says, “you just have to do it” and learn along the way.  New challenges and new experiences brought them much nautical and boating wisdom. The nitty gritty of living in a foreign country expanded their perspective too. They also learned about themselves.

Being away from family and close friends for an extended period helped Sue and particularly Dean reset their priorities.


We don’t take much for granted now. We learned nothing is for ever, enjoy it while you can.”


The arrival of their grandson was the deciding factor in shortening their adventure by two years to come home. Their boating experience inspired them to be more engaged grandparents.  They chose to live in a new community that is closer to their children and their good friends, and are fully enjoying their loved ones. “We are content.”


Retirement is a Process, not a Thing

The Popes refer to their boating dream as their first phase of retirement. Now they are working on Retirement 2.0.  While family and friends are a priority in this phase, they are exploring more.


“We have to re-invent ourselves again and need our own life in addition to family.”


Sue and Dean are getting involved in their new community and charting what they will do next to keep ‘adventuring’.  I can hear the enthusiasm in their voices.  They are enjoying life.


Words of Wisdom

Sue: “You need to have a plan when you retire, something to work on and keep you busy. Otherwise, you can be lost in the beginning.”

Dean: “Every assumption is going to end up being different.  You need to be nimble and roll with the punches.  You will need financial capability.”

Both Sue and Dean are happy they pursued their boating dream in retirement. I’m happy they shared their story with us!  As Sue says…


 “Seeing it from the water is a lovely way to see the world.”


Care to share?

How One Woman Made BIG Changes for a Happy Retirement

How One Woman Made BIG Changes for a Happy Retirement

She ended her marriage, moved to a farm, and launched a new business all triggered by early retirement.  Why?  To follow her life-long dream.  Now, she can’t stop smiling.  Here’s her story…


Now’s the Time

Marlene is an intelligent, authentic, and intuitive person.  You get the sense that she knows more about you than you do.  She knows herself too.  When the option of early retirement came, this professional project manager, knew exactly what she wanted to do.

Marlene Armstrong grew up with horses and her bond with these beautiful animals never left her.  It was time to answer her equine passion.  It was time to live on a farm with her own horses around her.


Be True to Your Dream

Just one problem.  Her husband didn’t agree.  After much soul-searching, Marlene faced a few truths about her life and her marital relationship.  She realized she couldn’t sacrifice her dream and made the brave decision to part ways with her husband of 36 years and father of their two daughters.

“It was kind of an amicable split”, although there were some “nasties” in the division of assets. The separation meant that Marlene had to rely solely on her own funds to finance her dream.  She had a good pension, could do contract project management work, and knew she’d launch a business involving horses.


Just Do It

And that’s what she did.  She studied equine science, bought a farm, built a riding arena and brought her horses home.  Her daughters, also avid riders, joined her.  Soon, people were knocking on her door wanting to board their horses at Foxview Stables.   But, that’s not the business she wanted to run.

Her eldest daughter, trained in equine management, runs the stables.  Her second daughter, studying for her veterinary doctorate, also helps.   Marlene was inspired by another idea.


Hone Your Calling

A casual conversation with a friend led Marlene to a business partnership, intense specialized training, and a very special coaching practice called Unbridled Coaching.

“People Whisperers” is the tagline.  Yes, life coaching using horses.  Horses, I learned, will only trust you when you are authentic and transparent. They mirror you. That’s about the best place to be in life coaching I figure!

It was during the specialized Equus coach training, when Marlene realized that this was what she was meant to do.  So did her renown trainers.  She passed with flying colours, and hasn’t looked back.

 “I’m in my happy place.”


Lessons Learned

“Be financially prudent.” Initial investments were high for Marlene especially since she was no longer part of a dual income.  Managing the financial aspect of investing and building her dream meant being adaptable to different income sources.

“Stay focused on your dream.”  It’s easy to let distractions get in the way and to take you off course.  When you’re focused on what you want, you can achieve it.

“Your body and heart never lie.  But, your mind tells you all sorts of stories.”  If you really pay attention, your body will tell you whether you’re on the right path.  Take the time to pay attention to your body.

Marlene’s only regret?

“I wish I had done this 10 years earlier.”


In Her Words

“Just do it and do it now.  Follow your heart, even if you’re scared out of your mind.”


Marlene Armstrong, Equus Coach

Unbridled Coaching

Care to share?