Tech Tips for Retirees

For retirees interested in learning more, making life easier and staying connected with distant friends and family.


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VRBO for Unique Vacation Experiences

image courtesy of mapichai/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

image courtesy of mapichai/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I long ago gave up booking vacation lodging through large resorts or planning services, in favor of having the fun of searching out my own choices. I have used VRBO (http://www.vrbo.com/) for years now and have not had a single bad experience. It is very easy to navigate and allows you to view multiple pictures and read users reviews of properties all over the world. The process is so much fun, all in itself, that you might find yourself viewing properties in countries you had never before considered visiting. And you will definitely enjoy some great daydreams as you visualize yourself in the photos you view.

Closer to home, you will find hundreds of listings in your own state. Rates are clearly listed and by taking advantage of lower rates in off seasons, which retirees are free to enjoy, your vacation dollar will be well spent. When ready to book, you are required to make a down payment, with the remainder due prior to travel, as specified by the owner. This feels a little strange to us oldsters, who are used to seeing the product in person before purchasing. But VRBO stands behind the reputation of their listers, and you will not be disappointed.


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Shopping Online vs. In The Store

image courtesy of stock images/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

image courtesy of stock images/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

As online shopping came to be widely accepted there was a time when it appeared that “brick and mortar” stores were going to be in big trouble, and indeed it most likely was a contributing factor to some failures. As time goes by, though, it has become obvious that there is a place for both. There are some legitimate reasons to do a large percentage of our shopping online as we age, if mobility has become an issue. Beyond that scenario, however, there are a number of reasons to shop both ways.

Reasons to shop in the community:

-I like to support my local businesses. They are what keeps my mid-sized city thriving.
-There have been times when I have been disappointed by the quality of an item purchased on line.
-Returns online involve repackaging, a trip to the post office, and often the expense of the return postage.
-Shopping in the community helps to keep us active.

Reasons to shop online:

-The main reason I shop online is to obtain specialty items that aren’t available in my town, such as certain hobby supplies and specialty food items.
-When purchasing a heavy item, such as kit furniture, it is very convenient, and usually free, to have it shipped to my door.
-The reviews provided online are very informative when making a purchase. Instead of viewing an item in the store and then purchasing online, I like to do the reverse. I find an item with great reviews then shop for it locally.

Amazon has captured a large part of the online market and is easy to use. I have enjoyed having an Amazon VISA card, as it earns points with all of my purchases everywhere I shop, and gives me points for my next order. Thus far I have not found it neccessary to join their “Prime” promotion, as it is already quite feasible to put together an order of $35 to qualify for free shipping.


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The Most Valuable Software $10 Can Buy

Today’s tip addresses the creator present in us all. It serves the needs of the most creative of artists, or the “want-to-bes”, like me. I continue to be blown away by the software Broderbund produces for printing your own greeting cards, calendars, CD labels, T-shirt transfers, mailing labels, scrapbook pages and posters. This one was purchased within the last month at Office Max, and is the third such program from this company that I have owned. Each one has offered more features than the last.

This extremely user-friendly version of Broderbund has added a simple to use photo editor, which includes the ability to change colors and make corrections. You can then add text (with 500 choices for fonts (!)and/or art from their extensive collection of easily searchable images. The more you use it, the more uses you find for it. I have saved hundreds of dollars on the cost of greeting cards while producing much more personal greetings and can always find the image needed for needlework.


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My cell phone will do what?!

courtesy of supakitmod/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

courtesy of supakitmod/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Well, it has finally happened. My first text message was sent this week. In spite of the fact that I am usually drawn to new technology, I have always been resistant when it comes to phone use. Phones have seemed a complication beyond the simple calls to keep up with family and friends. A couple of weeks ago, however, I began to see an abundance of ads for cell phone plans…all much more economical than mine. So I headed to my Verizon store and asked what it would cost to get out of my contract. The person I approached looked me up in their system and announced I was due for a new phone. When I replied that it had not been 2 years, he said he could see that but that I had qualified. Not one to look a gift horse in the mouth, I listened to what he could offer (unlimited talk and text with a 250MB data plan) for only $5.00 more than my old 450 minute plan; and I left with a shiny new smart phone to replace my old dumb phone (with a cute little slide-out keyboard that I never once used), for which they gave me $50 credit on my account. I doubted I would use it much differently, but what a pretty red phone!

Now it’s 2 weeks later and I am blown away. Today I bought groceries at Meijer’s by holding it up to a special spot on the pay stand! This would be a good place for a helpful video, but just see your provider and when you are done getting a great new deal, you can ask how to do that.

Please comment on your favorite app…we all want to learn.


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Making early retirement work

In all honesty, I must start with a disclaimer.  I am heading into quicksand in approaching this topic as I have no background in finances other than my own.  That said, I have to say that my assets are growing at a good rate thanks to strategies I have adopted, and I am sure there are lots of you out there with equally good plans, who might wish to share them in the interest of helping your peers.  I “retired” at 59, with far less in assets than is recommended. It was obvious that, though I could begin drawing retirement from my company, I could not afford to dip into my assets.  So it was clear in the beginning that I would still need to have a new source of income. In my case I was able to work under contract with my previous employer, doing a part-time job that I knew I would enjoy.  It is obviously safest to have employment lined up prior to giving up your career, and quite a number of people are actually able to line something up through their current employer.  Otherwise, there are plenty of on-line employment services, such as monster.com, available at your fingertips.  A quick search will also give you lots of options for preparing a fresh resume. 

Another of my strategies was to take advantage of Roth IRAs.  Until close to retirement I hadn’t given this much thought, as my savings all headed to my 401K.  Because I was also somewhat interested in taking more advantage of the stock market, I went to      E-trade, on-line, and for just the cost of my trades ($9.99 per)  I was able to initiate a Roth IRA and use E-trade’s extensive assistance, in the form of articles, ratings and information about the stocks, to start a small portfolio, which has done well and grows tax free. This continues to be a source of enjoyment, as I research, buy and sell and watch that little nest egg grow.

The last piece of my success was through advice from the financial planner available to me through my 401K.  He recommended putting my funds into an “income lock” contract, whereby my base amount is guaranteed to not lose ground.  It’s value is assessed on the anniversary of the day I initiated it.   If my funds do poorly, my base amount remains the same until the market recovers.  This plan allows my savings to be invested in areas of higher risk and has resulted in some good returns.

The bottom line is:  Take part in your investments.  Understand them and seek out all information available through financial advisors you know and trust, as well as trusted investment sites on-line.


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Getting to retirement

You are probably here because you have been planning for (dreaming of?) the day when you can walk away and start something new. This plan is very different for everyone.
Things to consider are:
1) Do I love going to work most days? If the answer to this is “Yes, my work is rewarding and my co-workers are an extremely important part of my life”, then you may as well continue on until at least part of that statement is no longer true. You will know when you are ready, because other interests will begin to pull at you more strongly, and you will find less gratification in what you are doing.
2) Do I need a lot of money to pursue my retirement interests? If the answer to this is “Yes”, than you will need to take a serious look at your savings and check your numbers against some of the many retirement calculators to be found on-line. In most cases you will find that you will probably be working until death. There are, however, numerous websites waiting to give you advice on maximizing your savings. Search for “retirement planning” and you will have all the advice you care to read. The social security site will help calculate your income from that resource. If you have a broker, their website will offer a wealth of info, as well.
3) Is my desire to retire, strong enough that I am willing to live more frugally to make it happen? Now we are talking my language. If I had followed available wisdom, I would have missed out on the first 6 years of my retirement. My next posting related to finances will discuss money management in early retirement.