Saturday, August 18, 2018

RETIREMENT NOTE 1: PLANNING AND REALITY


I don’t profess to be a retirement expert. However, I have been successful in retirement and come from a family with a deep legacy of successful retirements. 
This is the first of a series of my thoughts and insights on retirement. My goal is that my experiences might be helpful to you.
$1 million is often touted as the magic number to retire with. The reality is that only 8.5% or less than 2 people in 20 reach that magic number. If you take the more stringent measurement of just investible assets (cash) versus entire net worth, those figures drop to less than 5% of population or 1 in 20. 
If you are on track to reach that magic $1.0 million, great. For the other 80%, alternative thinking is needed. 
My parents hold the record in our family for years spent in retirement. They retired at age 56 and had a wonderful retirement of over 30 years.  They did this with far less that the magic threshold above.
How did they do this? They planned, saved what they could, took a hard look at their life style, determined the really important things to them and made the sacrifices necessary to make it happen.
Traditional retirement planning is largely financial based, growing your investments to hit the magic number your financial planner lays out. Important yes, but not the whole picture.
The less talked about elements of retirement are cutting expenses, determining what you want from retirement and having the courage to change your lifestyle (if necessary) to achieve it. 
This might be called PLANNING IN REVERSE.  Not striving for some threshold that may be unrealistic, but instead planning ways to retire with what you now have or expect to have.
Retirement should be all about your time. No more Monday meetings, striving to make goals someone else sets or late nights typing reports. Time in retirement is how you want to invest or define it. This might be volunteering, art, learning new things, enjoying your spouse and family or just wandering this wonderful planet.
None of these pursuits requires large sums of money, but you still have to buy that time. In another words, cover the overhead of retirement and lifestyle.
That’s why you should start now to change your life in ways that move you closer to your retirement goals. Your expenses, lifestyle, the place you live and how long you want to work are the four things you have most control over. 
Each of these unfolds into many life questions. Ones that are key to discuss with your spouse. Investing time in your relationship will pay the greatest dividends in retirement. It is critical you both view retirement the same way.
It is always good to look at a realistic picture. For example, the average net worth of people 60 years of age is $224,755. If a couple retired with that much in investments, they might have an income of $52,000 including social security (close to the national median income for all ages). Would that work considering your expenses, lifestyle and place you live now? 
The good news is that there are plenty of places in the world and lifestyles that can make that work. Business Insider lists 19 major cities ranging from Las Vegas to Memphis where you can live comfortably on $50,000. 
The challenge is making your circumstances fit. The sooner the better. The reward, YOUR TIME BACK!
The next article is about dealing with “Savages and Beasts” that can follow you into retirement.
Until then,
David Young

Sources for article:Business Insider, US Census Bureau, Bankrate.com, The Simple Dollar and Economics
Future Articles Include: Savages and Beasts, Friends and Family, New Horizonsand Journey to Yourself

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

GRAHAM STREET GEM


It stood there still proud, with a certain beauty of being near the end.
The demolition equipment parked across the field stared at it. The sign read Avenue Demolition. 
Stripped in places to the brick and mortar that once made it strong. Still wearing swatches of paint from what life it held.
A simple building. It’s once purpose giving it the beauty left.
Will the giant machines and shovels pause for a moment to honor it before taking their last bites? I hoped so, as I gazed on its remaining gem…
David Young

Saturday, August 11, 2018

WINDOWS

Windows
“Let there be many windows to your soul, that all the glory of the world may beautify it”  Ella Wheeler Wilcox
Windows let us look at the soul of the city. Through some you look out at the city in its purest, seemingly apart and untouched by reality. In others, you look in at the lives of people. Some working, some reflecting, some happy and some angry.
Dealmakers, makers of food, readers of life, those waiting for something, dreams that are gone. All behind the windows we pass. We catch our reflections in windows leaving us to think about how we might change our lives or make ourselves more beautiful.
We only get quick glimpses, held in the black and white lines we write silently to ourselves about what we think we see. 
The closed shop with covered windows holding the broken dreams of someone. Or the closed window hiding what we only imagine. 
We never have the full story.  We move on held apart by the windows, but touched by the reflections we see…
David Young
© 2018

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

ASHLEY


I was a simple add in the Backpages. Just three lines, "Model Available. Long dark hair, petite, young. Text Ashley 728.392.4847.
She lived on First Hill in an old five story apartment. The halls were worn. The lobby still showed the old mail boxes with apartment numbers underneath, some scratched out and written over with clever names like Buzz or Artist. Ashley thought about marking writer under her box number, but truth was she remained unpublished. Despite its age, the apartment building had a warmth and mystery about it framed by the wood panel molding that ran throughout it.
Only one window let light into Ashley's apartment. Papers filled with writing scattered about made it seem even smaller than it was. She used to work as a barista and attend Seattle U, but she really wanted to be a writer. A writer more than anything else. She quit her job and the university to write full time. 
She had done some modeling for a photographer and liked it. An easy arty way to make a living. Still assignments were far apart. She found herself taking on what might be called a broader range of assignments. Ones that paid more and required even less time. Sometimes, she entertained in her apartment, but most of the time it was a hotel room or the office of an executive after hours. 
There were many reasons she found to not like doing this. The lack of real connections being the worst. Overtime though, she found a regular clientele. They gave a chance to at least form a relationship of sorts. She kept a notebook about the characters she met or as she confided with herself, those lacking character. 
This left days free. Ones she could wander the city, finding inspiration for future stories. Her favorite place to visit was the gothic St. James Church. Its stone facades made it appear gigantic and powerful over people. The interior held arches that reached far into the sky. A simple alter stood at the center surrounded by rows of wood pews. 
The tallness of the structure caused light coming in from above and on the sides to hit the floor at angles creating their own drama. Behind the alter were little enclaves lit at the end with candles. Here women dressed in back could often be seen lighting a candle at a time in some rhythmic known only to themselves and God. The confession booths on the side were often filled with ordinary people carrying sins they could no longer bear. Ashley wondered what stories they all carried behind their book cover faces.
Street people would often find short refuge in the church, sometimes making their way toward a small foodbank in back near the church offices or just sitting on the pews waiting for rain to pass. She made special note of a tall older Jesus looking man who dragged one of those two- wheel shopping carts favored by dwellers on the hill. His hair long and silver. He always walked across the open area in front of the alter and would stop where the angled light like the floor. He would look up staying motionless for a time then move on leaving the other side of the church. Ashley did not know if he was a street person or just a very religious man.
A few days later the sky of Seattle cleared. There would be special light in the church today fueled by the sun. Ashley grabbed her notebook and went to the church securing her usual spot on the middle of the pews just far enough back not to be observed and to still get a view of everything.  She started looking at the notes for her latest story attempt. 
Just then a young priest approached her. He had dark hair and a handsome face. She often wondered why someone would give up their worldly life for the Church, especially someone who had good things written all over him for a future. 
He looked at her and with a soft smile said, "Could I offer you any guidance or comfort today?" Ashley would normally brush this off, but she sensed a yearning in this man. A passion for what he was doing. Saving people or making them at least feel holier. It burned in him as much as the men she saw who wanted sex. 
Ashley said, "It would feel better to confess." She couldn't believe her ears. Maybe it was all about making this young Priest happy, more than saving herself. They went into the confession booth and Ashley spoke of how she made a living and how bad it made her feel. Worse, she did this for a selfish reason. None of it had fostered any success yet or happiness in her life. 
He comforted her and guided her on things to say to embolden forgiveness both from God and more importantly, herself. They ended their session. He staying in the confession booth and Ashley grabbing her notebook.
She walked out of the church into the quiet courtyard beside it. There were text messages on her phone and unfinished stories in her notebook. The same as before the confession. The same as the day before and probably the day to follow. 
Just then she saw the Jesus looking man with the shopping cart, walking through the courtyard toward the church door. He did not turn and look at her. She took a step toward the courtyard exit. Something made her look back, there was the young priest looking across the courtyard at her with an unresolved look on his face...
David Young

Friday, July 27, 2018

THE RAILROAD CHURCH


The email on the phone shouted, “Where are you?” I didn’t have to look at the sender. It was my business partner, wondering why I missed another meeting. Emails from my wife were far less pleasant. 
I found myself ignoring both, like the rest of my world that I knew. There are a hundred different names for it. Going over the edge, off the wagon, outside the ropes, off the grid or just being an asshole. They all fit me.
Like other nights, my life danced in places I should not be and always ended with a drink in my hand. One night I found myself in some dive, dark and dirty with the sweat of life. I looked around and saw people at the end of their rope, lost souls with no hope, just like me. 
I didn’t want to be them or me. Just then a voice rang out from the other side of the bar. “I am Pastor Robert. You look troubled. Come with me, be saved and redeemed.”
I turned and looked at a slightly built black man with gray hair and a cropped beard in a simple suit. 
He reached out his arms again, “Its waiting for you just a short walk from here.” 
The bar tender turned to another man at the bar, “Not this guy again.” He motioned toward the hard-looking bouncer across the room and back at Pastor Robert.
Most in the bar ignored Pastor Robert, but a blond middle-aged woman who could hardly stand straight and two of her friends got up. “We will go with you.”
With nothing else to lose, I tagged along. No one said a word. We walked to a small church nestled in the woods. Only a parking lot in front distinguished it. 
Pastor Roberts gave a sermon about how everyone could be saved and return to the good of life. He walked over to me, “It’s not too late son.” 
There were no other souls with us that night, just our own and they were not good company. 
As he continued to speak, the building started to rock and shake. From behind the church, you could hear the sound of a train barreling down the tracks, its whistle blowing. The sound washed over us as the shaking continued. Not knowing if the place was going to hold together, it scared me fueled by my already wobbly state. Soon though the train passed, and calm returned.
Pastor Robert looked at me, “It’s just God’s way of telling us we are not here for long. We don’t have much time to get in his graces before our world shakes apart.”
The message and night resonated with me. For a time, my life got better. I stopped drinking, my wife forgave me and my partner still did business with me.
I wanted to go back to thank Pastor Robert, so I again drove to the church. It looked even more humble in daylight. A little place, brown in color with a white cross over the door.  The sign out front that read Railroad Church.
I opened the front door and walked in hoping to find Pastor Robert. The place was empty. A bible lay open on the pulpit and the rows of pews quiet, waiting for the next service. As I began to leave, a young clergyman appeared from a door at the back of the church.
“Can I help you?”
I turned, “Please forgive my intrusion. I was looking for Pastor Robert?” I paused and then said, “His sermon and talk meant everything to me a couple of months ago.”
The clergyman looked surprised. He looked at me oddly and said, “I’m sorry, Pastor Robert died several years ago.” 

David Young

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

PARKING LOTS


“The day you feel like you’ve won, you need to drive out of the parking lot and not come back.” Mark V. Hurd
Drama swirls around parking lots. You worry about finding a space, happy when you do. Angry when you don’t. Always, you hate to pay. When you leave at the end of the day, a sense of freedom beckons. Love never seems to linger in these places with the coming and going of life. They are empty as the city when cars leave. 
Parking lots form an undeniable part of the city fabric. There are over 1.6 million parking spaces in Seattle. Many more in places like New York. They take up huge parts of a city. Ones some advocates say could be better used for affordable housing or public places. 
Some parking lots become abandoned for good, needed no more by the city. They sit in unadorned nakedness. A few find temporary lives again as storage yards, but most just linger, mourning the changing of a city. Hoping against hope that enterprise or new uses will find them again.
Louis Baltz, the famous photographer, often photographed parking lots in stark black and white images. Sometimes he returned numerous times photographing the slightest of changes in their bland landscape. 
When you happen upon abandoned lots, you can sense a sadness. Maybe from the emotions and life that once filled spaces. They can become unintended art, attracting a curiosity and mystery of their own. Their only remaining glory.
David Young
www.contemporaryexplorer.com
Quotes:
Get there early because hope does not park your car.”   John Stewart
“Someone signals their blinker for my parking spot. I emphatically wave them away, like there after my soul.”  Steven Rowley
“They paved paradise and put up a parking lot.” Joni Mitchell Song
Readings:
“Parking has eaten American Cities” by Richard Florida
“The End of Parking Lots, as we know them.” By Alan ohnsman