An apology to Millennials

Richard Watts, author of Entitlemania, takes responsibility as a Boomer parent of Millennial children: he feels parents have protected them from experiences that would engender in them the very qualities we think they lack.

“Kids, we are sorry. We thought we had your best interest at heart, but in reality, we were making you look good to make us look good. We wanted a best friend and failed to realize that parenting was more valuable to you than our friendship. We let our love for you hijack our parenting skills. We prevented you from experiencing the natural consequences of your own actions. We were afraid to risk your affection when we should have equipped you with the life tools that only come from allowing you to struggle, persist and recover on your own.

“We felt obligated to explain every time we said ‘No!’ We handed you an allowance when you didn’t do anything for it. We gave you too much and anesthetized your drive. But most egregious, we prevented you from exploring and honing your passions. We put blinders on you to keep your head looking in the direction we carefully mapped and now you are without expression.

“We are most sincerely sorry and ask you to recognize, accept, and forgive our failure.”

How couples can solve their retirement puzzle

Retirementor, Dorian Mintzer, co-author of The Couple’s Retirement Puzzle: Must-Have Conversations for Creating an Amazing New Life Together, was interviewed by Richard Eisenberg, Money and Word Editor for Next Avenue. This article was featured on Forbes.Com, and covers essential topics for courageous conversations between couples on retirement.

Next Avenue: Why do you call it a “retirement puzzle” for couples?

Mintzer: There are money, health and wellness, and lifestyle choices and the timing of retirement. You need to puzzle it out with your partner.

How are you and your husband puzzling it out?

We’re an example of The New Retirement. A “traditional” retirement probably isn’t for us, at least not for a long time. My husband has phased out his job and will work as long as he is able. He has broadened his interests and does more cooking more than I do now. And he’s become a great travel planner. We both have our bucket lists and we’re doing more of those things now.

Are couples talking about their plans more than in the past?

I think they aren’t talking as much as they ought to. Sometimes, they just don’t know how to have the conversations. I still get calls from people saying: ‘My spouse and I aren’t on the same page; we need help.’

Why are couples afraid to talk to each other about retiring?

Thinking about it means thinking about getting older. A lot of people are in denial. It takes some courage to have some of these conversations.

What do you recommend to get couples to plan together?

It’s like a dance. One partner can start with ‘I’ statements like: ‘I’ve been thinking that I’ll be turning 55 and I don’t know what’s next. I really want to talk with you about it.’ Let it be a five- or 10-minute discussion at first. Then you can come back to it later.

It’s less important what you’re retiring from and more important what you’re retiring to. Remember: You’re not retiring from life. In my case, I haven’t done art or music in long time; that’s what I want to retire to — more time for the creative parts.

You say it can help for a couple to talk with financial advisers but not only about their investments and expenses. Why?

It’s important as you’re beginning to think about your years ahead to sit with financial advisers and clarify your hopes, dreams, goals – so, you can get on the same page as far as possible about how you want your money to work for you in retirement.

You say that a retirement coach can be helpful if one partner doesn’t want to talk about the topic or if there’s disagreement.

A retirement coach is a neutral third person to explore alternatives and show you that you’re not alone.

What’s a difficult issue for couples as they talk about money and retirement?

The whole notion of what’s enough. That’s a hard conversation to have. For some spouses, no matter how much they have it feels like it’s not enough.

Couples need to create a shared vision. What are the three steps you mention?

A shared vision takes into account what each spouse wants and needs in retirement.

The first step is for each to create your Individual Vision List of goals you want to achieve, dreams to fulfil, experiences to have. Then, prioritize the ten most important ideas on your list. The second step is sharing your vision lists and listening to each other. Try to appreciate what each other wants. The third step is creating a shared vision based on both lists. Maybe first it will be more of what ‘I’ want to do, then more of what ‘you’ want to do. Figure out a flexible timeline.

When researching for the book, you talked to “wise elders” — ones who’d been retired for a while. What’s a good piece of advice that they offered?

Don’t overplan your retirement, because curveballs come along.

Should couples retire at the same time or at different times?

Some couples like retiring at the same time because they can be playmates for each other. A lot of others say they prefer do it separately, so one of them can deal with the transition and get their feet on ground. I’ve seen it work both ways.

You write that it’s sometimes hard for David when you’re working and he wants you around.

That can happen a lot in relationships. He has Friday through Tuesday off and on Friday and Monday, he’d like it if I was more available to play. Now we have a little routine that’s been fun. We start our day together reading the paper and drinking coffee and we usually have dinner together.

What two things can’t you inherit?

We live in a world we inherited. What we inherit starts before birth and continues through our lives. Our physical, emotional and personality characteristics are inherited from our parents.

What we inherit shapes who we are, what we do and what we, in turn, leave as an inheritance for those who follow after us. We can choose to use wisely what we inherit or we can squander it. Sadly, some of those who inherit wealth they never had to work for can tend to squander that wealth on material and other things that do not increase their wealth and assets but merely erode them.
A typical example of unearned wealth being squandered is wealth won through lotteries. In a way, winning the lottery is a bit like inheriting much wealth. The lottery winner and heir share in common the fact that they are suddenly given great wealth that they never worked to build. That’s why so many lottery winners end up bankrupt within five or so years after winning their wealth.

While there are many things we CAN inherit, there are two things we think we can inherit … but can’t.

The first thing we can’t inherit is success. Think carefully about this. We can inherit the results of someone else’s success – a successful business started and run by grandparents and/or parents. We can inherit great wealth, again from grandparents or parents, but we can’t inherit the success that built that successful business, nor can we inherit the success that created the wealth.

Success is something we have to work for and achieve on our own. No-one passes on their success with the inheritance we receive. And, to the untrained eye, success is deceptive. When something is done well by someone who knows what they’re doing, it looks easy. People look at someone performing some activity, such as skating on ice. The ice skater leaps into the air, spins around, lands on one leg and continues whizzing around on the ice. It looks so easy and the untrained person thinks, “I could do that too.” But let them try. They find the ice is not smooth. It’s actually quite bumpy, and, yes, it’s super slippery, and the skates aren’t very comfortable or stable. And they discovered all of that while skating very slowly. Forget about skating at speed, leaping into the air or spinning on their own axis …

Don’t take another person’s success for granted. By the same token, don’t take your own success for granted. Success requires, focus, determination, sacrifice and effort. And it’s not guaranteed.

The second thing we can’t inherit from someone else is significance. Think about the people who have achieved significance in our own country and you will see that not many of those people have heirs who are equally significant. Again, you can only achieve significance for yourself. You can try to ride on the significance of those who have gone before you but it won’t last for long. You have to find your own significance.

Success is what we achieve by what we do for ourselves. Significance is what we achieve by what we do for others. Self-centred people can achieve success because they have done things for themselves but, when it comes to significance, they fail to make the grade because they don’t understand what it means to do things for others.

So … if you want to achieve success and significance, you’ve got to do it for yourself. Don’t think you’re going to inherit it from a grandparent, parent, uncle, aunt, friend or boss. And while we’re talking about it, don’t stop once you’ve achieved success. If you do, you will never know true fulfilment. Keep going past success until you get to significance. THAT’s when you will find fulfilment!

Alan Hosking is the publisher of HR Future magazine, www.hrfuture.net, @HRFuturemag, and assists executives to prevent, reverse and delay ageing, and achieve self-mastery.

Introduction to new Retirementor, Dorian Mintzer

Retire Successfully website is enormously privileged and proud to announce that it will be featuring a new Retirementor blogger, Dorian Mintzer.

More familiarly known as Dori, she is co-author of the hugely popular book, The Couple’s Retirement Puzzle: Must-Have Conversations for Creating an Amazing New Life Together. This book was recently nominated in the Best Retirement Book category for the 2017 Best Senior Living Awards, and is available in the Chartered Library.

Through her book, Dori guides couples in having the courageous conversations that they need to have in anticipation of, or already in, retirement.  Questions such as when and where you expect to retire, what ‘retirement’ means to you and how the money will be managed are difficult to discussion but essential to create a successful second half.

Dori understands the challenges herself.  Married to David, 13 years her senior, she is a writer, coach, lecturer, and founder of two virtual communities (the Boomers and Beyond Special Interest Group and Revolutionize Your Retirement Interview with Experts Series.  She is not near retirement!  David, a physician, has reduced his working hours to three days a week, and is home more than ever before.

How to balance expectations and demands?

Have the vital retirement puzzle conversations.  If you need guidance, keep an eye out for her monthly blogs on Retire Successfully’s website.

Don’t die with your dreams … rather, create memories

It all started with an e-mail sent to our three kids during September 2016.

“Ons wil julle erfgeld blaas met ‘n vakansie oorsee in Julie 2017. Is julle in?” (We want to blow your inheritance with an overseas holiday in July 2017.  Are you game?)

The response was positive and the wheels started to turn. The group consisted of Oupa and Ouma, 3 married kids and 6 grandchildren aged 3, 5, 5, 6, 7 and 9, so, 14 heads in total.

A very democratic system was followed and each family had to vote between the following destinations:

  • Phuket
  • Vietnam
  • Mauritius
  • Europe

Right: The family in front of the farm house close to St.-Cyprien

Mauritius won the first time around, but with one family travelling from London, the flight costs exceeded the allowed budget. Phuket and Vietnam received only Carl’s vote; he was not supported as the resorts are not very child friendly. France won as the elected destination!

Carl and Santjie spent the first two days in the Netherland’s countryside and had the privilege of attending an Andre Rieu concert in Maastricht.

Thanks to bookings.com we ended up in a big farm house in the French rustic countryside next to the Dordogne River, close to Saint-Cyprien and Sarlat-la-Caneda.

Left: Oupa and the grandchildren in La Roque Gageac

The three South African families all had different itineraries for the first week but we all joined forces on Saturday, 15 July for one week of the most unbelievable memory-making happenings.

During our one week stay we visited various centuries old towns around us, some dating back to the 12th century with Beyzac, Vezac, Castelnaud la-Chapelle, Domme and La Roque Gageac perhaps the highlights. These were places we had never even heard of before, but they were certain destinations on anybody’s bucket list. The kids and grandchildren spent a day voyaging on the Dordogne River on a fiber glass swan of a dear friend of ours who lives in Montcaret, not far from where we were staying. This was something very special.

The team split up after one week and went their own ways. The kids and two grandchildren from London stayed with us and we moved on to a farm village called Esserts Blay close to Albertville. This village is ideally situated to explore the French Alps. From there we visited Meribel, Lac de la Rosiere, Park du Massif, la Colombiere and Annercy, the latter being the highlight of our stay. It is a town next to a lake with canals running into the town – a must on anyone’s wish list. We also had a quick visit to Geneva as our son-in-law had to fly back to London from Geneve.

The five of us then relocated to a small village called Quincy le Vicomte en route back to Paris. This was only a three-night stop with visits to Flavigny sec Qzerain, Semur en Auxious, the Chateau at Bussy Rabutin and a trip by car along the Canal de Bourgogne. The latter a very popular canal via which to explore the French countryside by boat.

From there it was off to Charles de Gaulle airport for our flight back to Johannesburg after three weeks of true memory making.  The entire trip was planned and booked by us, with thanks to bookings.com, Airbnb.com and Rentalcars.com. And most importantly, good health and excellent weather!

Right: Picturesque Annercy

The other side of loss

Sometimes losing a loved one is a beginning

Not everybody feels tremendous grief when their partner dies.

Sometimes it is actually the GUILT – because of the lack of feelings of grief – and this is also difficult to overcome.

I myself had a complete “crash” the year following my husband’s death, because everybody expected me to be sad and – dare I say it? – helpless, when he died after 45 years of marriage.

To find myself at last free (the kids out of the house, money to please myself, without the many restrictions our marriage placed upon me) made me believe I was a “bad” person for not being in mourning.

I led myself to believe that I was “a wicked person” to be off travelling and enjoying myself.

I am glad to report that later, I have realised that my husband never would have wanted me to sit home, alone and grieving. In fact, at the funeral, a friend said to me, “You can get out of your cage, now.”

I would also like to remark that I have met many other ladies who felt the same as I did, but were afraid to admit or voice their feelings.

Mine was not, in the end, a very happy marriage, as my husband was EXTREMELY controlling, as many successful businessmen can be. He was quite resentful of my own small successes (I reinvented myself as an artist and musician, once I retired from my own job as an Industrial Chemist).

The year after I was widowed, I ended up at a psychiatrist. The all-singing, all-dancing me completely fell to pieces! I wasn’t a mother anymore, nor a wife, nor a partner, or a maker of meals … nothing at all, not even a businesswoman.

I go to gym every day, have bought myself a training watch, travel EXTENSIVELY to places my husband would NEVER have entertained, and met so many, many wonderful ladies of my age group that my life has become totally enriched. I went to India on my own (a lifelong ambition) where I also went into an ashram, which completely changed my view on life. I went on Art and Music holidays (I learnt the clarinet, joined orchestras and chamber music groups, learnt the saxophone and joined a jazz group) and made lifelong friends in the process.

Oh, another thing – I am donating my body to Wits University for research – I won’t be able to let you know how that went!

Life DOES go on, and we are meant to enjoy it to the fullest of our capabilities.

Building resilient relationships

Chartered Wealth Solutions client, Michael Hennessy shares how his own relationship with his wife Jenny inspired the couple to help others appreciate the value of resilient relationships.

Many years ago, I was retrenched from my employer from what I had felt was a happy and reasonably successful career of just under 20 years. This was all rather shocking and a severe blow to self-confidence and esteem.

Throughout this time, my wife, Jenny, was a tower of strength and support. “What are you so worried about? Where is your faith? We will live”. And she was right.

I eventually set up my own little consultancy, did not become a millionaire but had a lot of fun. New doors opened and I found a new respect from my peers.

Exactly on our 30th wedding anniversary, I went into what was then for us all a very strange fit. After investigation by the neurologists, I was diagnosed with a brain tumour which was fortunately benign. However, the brain scarring from its removal had caused epilepsy and sort of scrambled my word and number ability, and words is what I do. (I asked the neurosurgeon why it could not be in that part of the brain that deals with mowing the lawn or doing dishwashing;  or even staring at sexy girls. I had no sympathy. Still, although my brain remained a little fried, at least I could continue to stare at pretty girls!)

Again, Jenny was my guardian angel. All the while the doctors were trying to get my epilepsy under control, I was not allowed to drive and she fetched and carried me everywhere. And cheered me up when I was depressed (which was often).

What a person. What an example of love in action. We have always been fortunate that we do have open channels of communication. I just hope that anyone going through similar trials has the advantage I had of resolute loving support, but the problem is that for many people embarking on a journey of married life, there is little appreciation that marriage can be tough.

Jenny and I are part of a marriage preparation exercise which is called Engaged Encounter. Engaged couples attend a weekend away (and it is important to get totally away, no distractions, just you and your fiance).

There is a presenting team made up of an older couple, a younger couple and a priest who is there for spiritual support and also to share his own experiences. Each couple talks, for 30 minutes or so, about various aspects of married life, such as:

  • joint decision making
  • how to keep romance alive
  • becoming a family
  • resolving conflicts
  • financial matters

Then the couples go off by themselves and talk about the issues raised. Often, amazingly, this is the first time they have confronted some of these issues. It is generally a truly magical weekend and the couples usually say how eye opening it has been. I wish we could get to all young people preparing for marriage.

If anyone knows of any young engaged couple who may be interested in the programme, they can find information at ctinfo@engagedencounter.co.za. Although it is called Catholic Engaged Encounter, it is not restricted to Catholics, or indeed to Christians. Should you also wish to volunteer as a mentoring couple, you can do so via the same contact.

Moving from loss to a place of healing

“Without you in my arms, I feel an emptiness in my soul.  I find myself searching the crowds for your face. I know it’s an impossibility, but
I cannot help myself.” 

These are heartfelt words from Nicholas’s Sparks’ novel, which was made into the famous movie, Message in a Bottle. The character who writes them is Garrett Blake, a man who lost his wife.

Death. Grieving. Emotive subjects and ones not easy to talk about. And yet all of us have, or will have, the experience of losing someone we love. It’s one of the few things about life that we know to be true – that life itself will come to an end.

No one can ever prepare adequately for this type of loss. It’s exactly as Sparks describes it – an emptiness in the soul. I know because I’ve felt it.

My personal loss
I lost both my parents before either of them had a chance to reach the age of 64. And I lost them in very different ways. My father’s death was sudden and tragic. He was killed in a senseless way – not that death ever makes “sense” to us, right? The victim of a hijacking, my dad’s life came to an end in an instant, before I had the chance to say goodbye to him.

My mother’s death was different but it was no less traumatic. She was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and her passing took a lot longer than a moment. But even nine months, the length of her illness before she died, feels like a moment in time when you’ve spent a lifetime loving someone. That is how I felt about losing her.

Death isn’t easy to talk – and it’s not easy for me now. But I’m writing about this difficult subject because I’ve just watched a client go through something similar. It brought back the memory of my experiences – the trauma of everything. But also, those truths that death has taught me.

As painful as it was to watch her suffer, my mom’s illness allowed us a little bit of time together. And what I wanted to do most with that time was to make things better for her. And believe me, I tried. I tried to step in and fix.

At one appointment with her specialist, during which the she was talking us through some last treatment options for Mom, I interrupted to ask questions, ready to plot an immediate plan of action. Of course what I was doing was coming from a good place – a place of love and wanting to make everything better. But my directness, my decisiveness – well, they made my mom feel as if she wasn’t even in the room.

Freedom to choose … and surrender 
My mother was someone who hardly ever scolded me. But in that moment, she spoke up. She said calmly but very powerfully to me that she was the person who was dying. And so she should be the one to choose the journey of her passing.

Wow. What a milestone moment that was for me.

Her speaking up made me stand back and begin to support her in the way that was meaningful to her, not me. She didn’t need me to control the situation. At the end of the day, the universe was in control. All she needed from me was for me to hold her hand as she chose the journey of her own passing.

And so when my client phoned me in tears the other day about something similar that she was facing, I was able to share that story with her and talk through the importance of acceptance as her new starting point for love.

Yes, it’s hard to hold back when you want to fight. There is very little dignity in death and yes, let’s rage against it for as long as we can. But when raging is not what is needed of you, when it’s time to take a breath and surrender to what is – then oh, what an honour to be allowed into the inner circle of your loved one’s last wishes.

The two faces of grief
This is just one of the lessons that death and grieving have taught me. The author Sarah Dessen writes: “Grief can be a burden, but also an anchor. You get used to the weight, how it holds you in place.”

If you are in pain – the pain of watching someone you love suffer – let yourself be anchored by the weight of grief. Be open to what your tears want to teach you about the people you love. And about yourself.

Grief is such a raw emotion to deal with that I am deeply grateful to clients, Ronelle Baker and Kathy Lithgow, sharing their stories. The April Inflight newsletter was compiled with the hope that something will help those who are grieving towards some healing. Access the full newsletter by clicking here

#MakeThisTheYearForHealing

Warm regards

The 8 worst things you can say to someone who is grieving

Ever found yourself tongue-tied when you are trying to comfort someone who is grieving.  Christy Heitger-Ewing, author and freelance writer, has written a worthwhile article on best things to say to those who are grieving. 

In this follow-up article, she warns us against the well-meaning things we say that actually have the opposite effect to the comfort we hope to achieve.

  1. “Cheer up. Your loved one wouldn’t want you to be sad.”
    After my mom died, people told me that she would hate to see me carrying around such pain and that, to honor her memory, I should stop being sad. Sure, Mom liked to see me happy, but for a period of time after she died, I simply couldn’t be happy. When you love deeply, you grieve deeply. Grievers need to be sad in order to get to the other side of grief.
  1. “Focus on all the blessings in your life.”
    While this message is optimistic and all, it’s not really what a grieving person wants to hear when his world has just been shattered. Even if a griever appreciates the good things in his life, that doesn’t change the fact that he’s reeling from a monumental loss.
  1. “She’s/he’s in a better place.”
    But here’s the problem: if my mom is there, she can’t be here. And I want her here. Call me selfish, but I want her here beside me, holding my hand, offering advice, giggling, singing and doing that humming thing that only she could do.
  1. “It’s been awhile since he/she died. It’s time you get over it.”
    You know how a week zips by for you whereas a week, from a toddler’s perspective, feels like an eternity? That’s kind of how grief time works. It’s skewed. A grieving person can look at a calendar and see that “X” amount of time has passed since their loved one died, but time is irrelevant when it comes to healing a broken heart. You can’t put a timetable on grief. It is ridiculous to suggest that anyone should hurry up and “get over” losing someone close.
  1. “Cherish all of the wonderful memories. They will bring you peace.”
    I think this statement is true, in time. But the last thing a newly grieving person wants to hear is to cherish the memories. When their heart is hurting, their mind spinning and faith broken, thinking about old memories guts them because they want to create new memories, which they can no longer do.
  1. “Pull yourself together because you need to be there for your kids.”
    No one expects a patient to hop off of the operating table after undergoing heart surgery so that she can fix her kids dinner. So please don’t make a grieving parent feel even worse by suggesting that she’s neglecting her children due to her grief. That’s just cruel.

Grief affects every aspect of someone’s physical and emotional health. It interferes with one’s ability to sleep, eat, concentrate, and function. No one has the right to ask another person to swallow her pain to focus on others. Doing so only prolongs grief. Kristi Smith, author of Dream: A Guide to Grieving Gracefully, says that transformation comes from first taking care of oneself. “Choose to help yourself, so that you can then turn around and help others,” says Smith. It’s kind of like the oxygen mask rule in airplanes: ensure your own breath before assisting those around you.

  1. “So, how ‘bout them Broncos?”
    Though it seems like you’re doing the griever a favor by keeping conversations superficial, what grievers need is someone willing to let them be real, someone not afraid to talk about the tough stuff, the sad stuff, the human stuff. They need someone who will sit and listen and maybe even cry with them. This isn’t saying you must never discuss sports or the weather. Just keep in mind that real healing comes from some of the heavier conversations.
  1. “I can’t imagine what you’re going through right now.”
    I would encourage you to do just that. Stop and think about how you would feel if you were faced with the griever’s circumstances. Consider their feelings. Contemplate their pain. Imagine their struggle. Doing so will spark empathy in you, the best thing you can offer someone who is hurting because when you empathise, the right words come more freely.

Read Christy Heitger-Ewing’s award-winning book Cabin Glory: Amusing Tales of Time Spent at the Family Retreat. Visit her author website at Christyheitger-ewing.com/.