Perfect Places to Live?

Hi,

I have been receiving your news letter and ordered some of your books. Thank you. I would have never made it this far without your help.

I go to Chapala, Mexico in January and February, then again in July and August. I have a small problem with the heat – a little colder would be fine – any suggestions?

I know I am asking for everything.

I would also like to travel back and forth without too much hassle. I live in Salt Lake City, Utah with easy airport access and usually change planes in LAX or Phoenix. From there it’s easy to take taxis to Chapala from the Guadalajara airport. I’m not crazy about big cities…

I would love to hear from you, and  cannot thank you enough.

Gwen

Guanajuato has exceptional beauty as a city

Hi Gwen,

Thank you for taking the time to write. We love hearing from our Readers.

I don’t know the level of your Spanish skills, but if you speak basic Spanish, you might try living in Comitan, Chiapas, Mexico, or San Cristobal, Chiapas, Mexico.

Comitan  is a clean, sweet town with family values and the nearest airport is in Tuxtla Gutierrez (3 hours away). But the weather is spectacular (more on the cool side) — and the city has very little crime. People are friendly and the town supports just about everything you might need, except night life. I don’t believe there is much of an Expat community there.

If you are looking for a place with a bigger English speaking community you might try San Cristobal (serviced by the airport in Tuxtla Gutierrez, only an hour away.) This international city has strong colonial influence, very good restaurants, nightlife and a colorful indigenous population. It is also cooler in general than Chapala.

Oaxaca is also a very beautiful, international Mexican city with restaurants of all kinds, night life and culture. Or perhaps Guanajuato where turning every corner offers a photo opportunity.

Oaxaca has history, food and culture to offer

If you want to consider Guatemala, you might try Antigua, Guatemala. There is a thriving expat community there, a colonial feel with international restaurants and nightlife.

Something smaller and more “cutesy” would be Panajachel, Guatemala. It is literally one of the most beautiful places in the world, with a volcano lake, lots of indigenous for color and flavor, fresh food markets and an active Expat community. It’s very affordable to live there.

I hope these suggestions are helpful to you. Let me know if you have any other questions.

Thank you for your kind words, and feel free to write anytime!

Best,
Akaisha

Find great retirement spots nationally or internationally. Click here

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The Essentials—Creating the Ultimate Digital Office for Travel

Guest post by Maria Rainier

There are few things more important to our success when we are trying to do work or complete a task than the environment in which we are working. There’s a reason teachers spend so much time putting together their classrooms, libraries are ideal study zones for over-caffeinated college students, and companies put so much thought into their employee work stations—our work environment in many ways determines our success. That being said, today with online learning, online classrooms, remote jobs, and digital enterprises, the term “office” has evolved to mean many different things. More and more often, activities that at one point relied on physical work spaces and classrooms are moving to the digital realm.

Work from anywhere in the world with your digital office

As our world has become increasingly more mobile, so too have our offices—and it’s pretty amazing. With the influx of online education and online enterprises, people are able to study from the comfort of their own homes and can earn a living while travelling the world. This mobile freedom comes with some requirements. Whether you are a busy work at home mom going back to school online or a successful business person looking to travel the world while still maintaining your business, in order to create a truly successful and productive digital office there are a few essential office items you’ll need to consider.

Good Laptop

As a traveling employee, a traveling student or as the owner of your own mobile business, your online success boils down to the capability of your computer. Find a device that satisfies your specific work needs. Some of the most important aspects to consider for your computer include wireless connectivity, battery life, speed, memory, graphics card quality, and hard drive space. Your computer essentially comprises your entire office space. You complete your work on your computer, store things there, conduct communications there, and, for the most part, spend every moment of your workday at the screen. For this reason, it is essential that you find the computer that really suits your needs. While this includes computer specs and hardware, it also involves the appearance, size, and usability of the device. Find a laptop that you are comfortable using—make sure the screen is large enough, the keyboard is comfortable, and the operating system is familiar.

Simplify your life, save money, learn something new, choose a walk-able city, be car free. To learn more, click here

Mobile Hotspot

Aside from your computer and word processor, the next most essential element of a digital office is the internet. Mobile broadband is basically a must these days. While many coffee shops and businesses offer free Wi-Fi, running a mobile office off of these spots is not always realistic. You have many options for mobile broadband providers. It’s important that you look into the speed of connection you can get from your various options. Make sure that you get something that will give you enough power to be truly productive online. Here are some of your options:

Cellphone: Many cellphone providers offer “internet tethering” (which is just a fancy way of saying using your cellphones internet connection on your laptop). Verizon offers this service on several of their phones at a very reasonable price. Other cellphone providers have phones and plans with the same capabilities. Talk to your cellphone provider about your options. This can be a great way to carry around fewer devices when you are working and traveling.

USB Wireless Cards: This is another great option for internet connection from anywhere. The USB cards are small USB devices that hook right into your laptop and give you internet access (these look like small memory drives or “sticks”). There are several different types of these cards and they come with various different speeds and capabilities.

Personal Hotspot: Another option is a portable WiFi router that can be moved from city to city and plugged directly into a wall outlet. These devices use cellular networks to connect online and are a bit more restrictive as far as size and mobility than the above options.

There are many more options for “hotspots” and WiFi devices. I recommend doing your research and figuring out what would be best for you. Talking with your cellular provider is a great first step.

Your world in a suitcase

Digital Storage

Some sort of storage device or external hard drive is an absolute must for a digital office. All too often, we are devastated when our machines malfunction and we lose our hard work. Computers are wonderful in that they can store a significant amount of our important data and digital material, but things do go wrong. It’s important that you prepare yourself with a backup system. Either buy an external hard drive to keep with you and store backup versions of all of your work, or use an online “cloud” storage system. One of the best online storage spaces is Dropbox. With Dropbox, users can store up to two gigs of data on their personalized and secure space. That space is accessible from any device with internet access through cloud technology. Dropbox is extremely reliable and very handy. I highly recommend cloud storage for traveling offices. External hard drives do the job, but they take up just that much more space. Having a “digital office” is all about minimizing the actual devices you have to lug around.

Communication

While most of the aspects of a digital office involve impersonal communication through instant messaging and email, there are times that face-to-face interaction is necessary. In the past this was the most challenging aspects of maintaining a mobile lifestyle while also maintaining a stable office career. Today, there are technologies like Skype to help us stay connected. Skype is a free calling system that enables you to connect with people all over the world. You can video chat using Skype or hold traditional calls. Today, many laptops come with built in webcams that users can use for Skype talks.

Modern technology has made it possible to remain connected and productive in every kind of unique situation. With the right equipment, you can earn your living while traveling through Eastern Europe or complete an online bachelor’s degree while sitting on a beach in Mexico. Consider your possibilities and create a digital office that can help you realize your mobile dreams.

Maria Rainier makes her living as a freelance blogger. An avid follower of the latest trends in technology and education, Maria believes that online degrees and online universities are the future of higher learning. Please share your comments with her.

 

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A Two for One Retirement – Volunteer!

Akaisha,

Glad you write about volunteer opportunities for your Readers. I’ll give you two more websites which give more options and scope to prospective retired volunteers.

People with a multitude of skills are required in most of these places. Builders, bricklayers, electricians, painters, chefs, cooks, welders, engineers, teachers for adults and/or children, social workers, doctors, nurses. The list could be endless but you get the idea. There are a heap of countries, not just Thailand that urgently need assistance and many of the countries are in your area of expertise.

So here we go………….

International Volunteer Headquarters

also Responsible Travel Browse Thailand – Volunteer Travel holidays.

People who are planning retirement and a possible move overseas can dip their toe in the water so to speak, and take say a 3 month holiday in one of the many places mentioned and do some volunteering and sum up how they feel about the place before making a life changing decision. If they change their minds and decide it is not for them HEY! they have had a wonderful adventure and done some splendid work for people who really need their help. There is no real age limit it is open to anyone who is fit and healthy enough to give it a go.

Love,

Mokshadharma

To learn about more excellent volunteer opportunities, click here.

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Are you Confused? Good!

Contrary to what you have been told, confusion can be a positive state of mind.

Sometimes, discombobulating events or circumstances can show us the places in our lives where we are outgrowing the old and calling for the new.

Believe it or not, confusion can lead to good things

Huh?!

Just as in my previous post where I spoke about the Benefits of Fear, in this one I want to let you in on a valuable secret: Confusion about something can sometimes be a good thing.

When we know the parameters of what to expect in our relationships, job, or health, we seem to breeze through life without anxiety, and we like that! Most of us would prefer the feeling of certainty and the comfort it brings rather than the disconcerting feelings that come with chaos.

Except Life isn’t always so easy.

Confusion can show us an open door

Just as pain or fear can motivate us to make a change, confusion lets us know where there might be an open door or window to new opportunities. Turning a routine on its head is upsetting, but think of it as clearing the cobwebs out. Dust flies but the result is something newer and brighter.

Examples

Ok, so let’s say you are thinking about retiring but you cannot afford your current housing situation as well as having a second house in your chosen retirement location. The entire situation has you uneasy because perhaps you don’t really want to sell your place anyway, and besides, the current market for housing has been sludgy.

Perfect.

What to do about Home Sweet Home?

Pair of what?

What you might require is a paradigm shift. Those are fancy words for “considering your options.”

Take a piece of paper and on the left hand side write the word “Housing.” Draw a line down the center and on the right side of the line begin to brainstorm anything possible to solve your situation. Move your mind from the “problem set” and walk into the “solution set.”

Even if an idea seems a repeat, or seems obvious or might even be something you don’t care for, don’t stop listing. Keep the momentum going until you run out of steam.

How to find great retirement spots and information on retirement overseas, aging in place, women in community

Sample Solutions

Doing a house exchange

House sitting in a new location

Renting your house out while you travel

Rent just a room in your home for the extra income

If you have a bi-level, rent out one level to cover expenses

Consider becoming snowbirds as an option

Renting in the new location instead of buying

Listing viable options to your dilemmas

The above possibilities are just starters. What else can you think of?

Perhaps you want to retire or even semi-retire, but you don’t feel that you have sufficient funds. Get out the piece of paper again with the word “Money” on the left side, and Options on the right.

Sell your dog

Have a lemonade stand

Part time work

Teach English as a second language

Make money from a hobby

Pare down to one vehicle

Try ride sharing

Consider non-financial exchanges for services given or received

New combinations can reveal your solutions

Write as many outlandish or common sense ideas that you can come up with and keep that list growing.

Want to find out about part-time, seasonal, dream jobs, adventure jobs, working from home, mentoring in retirement or freelance? Click here

The next step

Now, on a separate sheet of paper take any of your possible solutions and list all the reasons why it could work. You might already have resistance to some of your responses – so go ahead and write those down too, but on a different piece of paper and place that sheet aside. Here on the solution page, you are trying to build up the reasons why your possibilities could actually be implemented.

Play devil’s advocate

If you have a spouse or a good friend whom you can trust, take turns playing devil’s advocate for why these are good ideas. We can all find reasons why something won’t work. You want to find ways to substantiate why your ideas can be feasible.

Clear that mental dust away.

Bring order out of seeming chaos

At the end of this exercise you should have a list of viable alternatives to your previous conundrum and you won’t view your circumstances in the same light. Sometimes it might take a combination of these options to have a workable solution, but at least now, you are not grabbing at air. You have solid choices. Going through new doors is scary, but it’s the way to create the life you want.

As long as your confusion continues, proceed with the above exercise to generate ideas. Welcome confusion as holding a key to a future that you create yourself and which better matches your needs and wants of today.

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Traveling with a Stay-at-Home Spouse

Hi There,

I’m planning to visit Australia next year to visit my cousin on the Gold Coast.

I’m a 60+ lady traveling with a lady friend, my hubby is a stay-at-home type……………..

Any advice….

Thanks

Julie

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Hi Julie,

Thanks for taking the time to write.

I was unclear as to what your question “really” was.

1) Advice on how to travel without your husband?

2) Advice on how to find great travel partners or affordable ways to travel?

3) Advice on how to “get” your husband interested in traveling?

4) Advice on how to travel in your retirement and not feel guilty, keep in touch with your husband while you are on the road, and more?

In Chapter 10 of our book, Your Retirement Dream IS Possible, we discuss this very topic in great detail. Many couples want to fulfill their dreams in retirement and sometimes these dreams differ from what their spouse has in mind. I believe you will find this chapter to be very helpful.

You might also take a look at our Traveling Singles Page. Here you will find adventure groups, women’s groups, global and educational tours, information on solo traveling, packing lists and such.

You might also take a look at our Travel Housing Options Page. Here you will find links to hostels, furnished apartments, how to make connections worldwide through Couch Surfing, how to find a place to be a roommate in a location which you might want to visit, links to home exchange, house sitting opportunities, Workampers, vacation rentals and more.

Keeping in touch with loved ones while we travel is easier today than ever. You can download Skype for free and chat online with video from your computer or at an internet cafe. If you chat computer-to-computer, this calling time is free. If you call a landline or cell phone, it is only a few cents per minute. So you will be able to chat with your husband while he is at home where he feels comfortable, and while you are on the road, where you would like to be.

I hope these few suggestions are useful to you. Feel free to write any time.

Best,
Akaisha

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Forced Out of Retirement Due to Financial Crisis?

Just read your story about extreme retirement.

How much money do you and your husband still have?

Were you and your husband forced out of retirement because of the financial crisis?

You obviously get paid to sell books on the subject so how are you retired presently ?

I want to know your real net worth so I can do the same.

Thanks,

Dave

For tools and calculators to analyze your monetary situation in all areas of living, click here

Hi Dave,
Thanks for taking the time to write. We enjoy hearing from our Readers.

We explain how and why we retired in 1991 in our first book, The Adventurer’s Guide to Early Retirement. We were not “forced” into retirement but rather chose this lifestyle over two decades ago. Since then we have made it through the various market crashes and downturns.

We didn’t write our first book until we had been retired for 15 years, and after that, both the website and the number of books we offer have grown.

The view that “once one leaves the working world they can never, ever, ever make money again” is one that we don’t hold. We consider ourselves to be financially independent, and choose what we want to do with our time. Most of what we do is either volunteer work or something that is a creative challenge to us, like the work we do on our website or in writing books. We are entrepreneurial by nature and it would be absurd for us to pass any opportunities by that looked appealing.

Being financially independent offers one those choices.

“How much is enough” is a personal consideration. There is no “One Financial Number” which would do it for everyone, as each person has different needs, circumstances and dreams. Suffice it to say that we have more money now than we did when we first left the conventional world.

Also please realize that not every transaction is a financial one – there are lots of things that can be bartered for or an agreement can be made. Trading your skills for ones your neighbor has is worthwhile. This has been a mainstay of society since the beginning of time, so that concept is nothing new.

We no longer own a vehicle and when in foreign countries we either us public transport or hire a driver. In the States we hire friends to take us from place to place. House sitting is a means of having a place to stay in many locations around the world and this minimizes your housing costs.

Try looking at your situation creatively to see how you can rearrange what you have to work for you.

I would suggest that you take a look at our Preferred Links Pages and research some choices that are available to you in all the categories of one’s retirement experience.

Track your spending and find out how much you — in particular — need to have to create a reasonable lifestyle and then see what tools and opportunities you have available to you to make that happen.

You might also take a look at our Retirement Issues Page as well and read some of the Interviews we have done with others who have made the leap. You will find that each story is different and that no one size fits all.

Hope this gives you some insight into your questions.

Take care and feel free to write any time.

Best,
Akaisha

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An Apple a Day Doesn’t Work

Guest post by Laverne H. Bardy whose humorous, often irreverent, slant on life in general, and aging in particular, draws a large readership. She has been syndicated with Senior Wire News Service since 2004. Her book, How The (Bleep) Did I Get This Old? was released in January, 2012, and is a compilation of the best of her columns.

I’m tired of doctor’s offices. I’m fed up with driving there, sitting there and filling out forms that take longer to do than the duration of any of my illnesses.

Once upon a time a visit to the doctor meant answering a handful of questions: Name, Address, Why are you here?, How long have you had these symptoms? Today, the time spent at a doctor’s office rules out time for doing anything else. The day is shot.

The other day the receptionist handed me seven sheets to fill out while I waited for the doctor to grace me with his presence. Two of the sheets only needed my signature. One gave me the option of allowing others to know my medical background. Why would anyone want to know my medical background? She had her appendix removed in 1947? We can’t hire her; she’s defective.

Doctors want too many forms filled out!

On the other sheet I listed people to contact in case of my death. I was there because of an annoying toenail fungus. Dying never entered my mind. Now I wondered if I should worry.

Because there’s never room to list all seventeen of my surgeries, seven medications, and seven allergies I opened my wallet, withdrew my prepared list and handed it to the receptionist to copy for her records.

Forty five minutes later the doctor, who obviously believed his time was more valuable than mine, was ready to see me. But I wasn’t ready for him. I still faced two sheets of questions, so he had me bring the papers with me. Of course there was no way I could continue filling them out and fight off the nurse who was trying to weigh me. I saw no reason to humiliate myself on the scale. I had stood on my scale that morning, naked. I didn’t like the numbers then. Why would I like them better when I was fully dressed? And besides, what did weight have to do with a nail fungus?

My husband, Mighty Marc, is able to fill out medical forms in under five minutes. At the Dermatologists office the nurse asked him if he had any allergies.

“No.”

Then she asked, “What medications are you on?”

“None.”

She looked up from her desk. “You’re in your seventies and you’re not on any medications? Do you have any idea how unusual that is? You’re so fortunate.”

“It’s not really luck,” he said. “When I married my wife four years ago, we agreed she would do medications, and I would do yard work. We’ve both upheld our ends of the bargain.”

I’m not a hypochondriac. Every sickness, ache, pain and disease I have is real – at least to me. I’m concerned that when I write on my income tax return that I’ve traveled 2,500 miles to and from doctors this year, a red flag will be raised and I’ll be audited.

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My last problem started with pressure and pain in my lower left abdomen. I tried ignoring it but when I no longer could, I visited my Internist.

“We’ve got to stop meeting like this,” I instructed him.

“Why?”

“Because I’m sick and tired of seeing doctors,” I answered.

“Truthfully, I’m fed up with seeing patients,” he quipped.

He pressed and palpated and decided I probably had diverticulitis, an irritated colon; a common condition in older people, but not to be ignored. He sent me for a CAT Scan, which wasn’t conclusive, so he put me on an antibiotic for five days. When that didn’t help he suggested I see my gynecologist.

GYNECOLOGIST!! Uh oh!

What am I doing here?

Once home I did some online research. By the time I arrived at my gynecologist’s office I was hyperventilating, sweating and in a state of panic. I even took a Valium, which I’d not done since before my last surgery seven years earlier.

The gynecologist walked in and found me sitting on the edge of the examining table.

“Sit down,” I instructed her. “I have some bad news.”

Her brows furrowed. “What kind of bad news?”

“I don’t want to upset you, but I have ovarian cancer.”

“WHAT? How do you know that?”

“I read it on the internet.”

“Lie down and assume the position,” she commanded.

My ovaries have gone to heaven

Within seconds of her physical assault she began to laugh out loud.

“What’s so funny?” I asked.

“Honey, your ovaries have dried, died and gone to Ovary Heaven.”

“Really? And that’s a good thing?”

“Unless you want more children,” she said. “I suggest you see your gastroenterologist and have either an Ultrasound or another CAT scan. I feel certain it’s diverticulitis.”

I hugged her and cried tears of relief. Then I left her office with prescriptions for an Ultrasound, an MRI, a Bone Density test, and a Mammogram. It was then it occurred to me I’m not going to die from a common disease. I’m going to die from radiation poisoning.

For information on leading edge medical approaches or preventative care, click here.

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Cost of Living in Chapala, Mexico

Can you please tell me when the prices etc. were updated in your Adventurer’s Guide to Chapala Living? I would love to buy another one if it has been updated recently.

Thank you.

Gwen

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Hi Gwen,

Thank you for taking the time to write and ask us your questions.

The Chapala Guide was written in January of 2010. The link to the prices in Chapala was last updated June of 2010.

We have no book that is more recent than this one, but I do want to share a little story with you to give you some insight about the Cost of Living here at Lakeside.

Our book is about Chapala — living in Chapala, renting in Chapala, shopping in Chapala, eating in Chapala and so on.

Sometimes people who live Lakeside who live in one of the various neighborhoods outside of Chapala, own a car and don’t take public transport, have several dogs (some have as many as 8 and more), have their maids and gardeners come 3-5 times a week instead of once weekly, and — very importantly — shop in the “Gringo stores” for food will contest our figures of what it costs to live in this area.

I just recently (2 days ago) went to one of these “Gringo stores” to do some food shopping. The prices were high, the quality of produce wasn’t as good, there was a good selection of North of the Border brands of foods with the matching high prices, and all the meats and fish were cellophaned instead of having a butcher cut it to order.

To their credit, beer, wine and hard spirits were very good prices.

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Not only was I disoriented in trying to find things, there was less of a personal touch and I didn’t like the looks of the meat and fish.

I purchased some items and went to check out. My total was 550 Pesos – which, ok was only about $42 — but my 550 Pesos did not include any meat, cheese or fresh roasted chicken. Nor did it include the $7 pint of ice cream that was offered in the freezer section. I could have gotten more of what I wanted and needed, fresher, better, and with more social contact had I purchased in Chapala.

Sure it’s convenient to park one’s car and do a one stop shop and go home instead of walking place to place with bags in one’s hand. Women from North of the Border don’t generally like to do their shopping this way, and so they consistently and continuously pay more for everything. Everything. All the time.

It adds up. Prices in general for everything are higher in Ajijic than in Chapala. People say to me: “It’s only a dollar or it’s only a little bit more etc. etc.” but it makes a difference.

They eat at Gringo restaurants, shop in Gringo stores, buy Gringo brands, drive everywhere and rent from Gringos with the matching Gringo price. They pay their maids 450 Pesos or more a week (plus their gardener), every single week (which equals to about half the amount of rent we pay) and just can’t figure out why they are always over budget.

Correspondingly, they can’t figure out how Billy and I find amazingly good lamb, excellent tenderloins, outstanding local cheeses, fresh yogurt, tasty chorizo, and sweet fruits, etc. and live so well on the cheap. They spend their time trying to find parking spaces for their cars, curse the traffic, refuse to walk anywhere, won’t be seen DEAD with a day pack to carry anything, and the only Mexicans they know are their maids and gardeners.

“There’s no one to practice Spanish with” they say.

Everyone has the right to live as they wish and there are many styles available.

Cost of Living is a personal choice. Just because one lives well on less doesn’t mean they live in a lesser manner.

I hope this gives you some insight into the area, and I encourage you to feel free to write any time.

Best,
Akaisha

For financial books, travel books and guides, inspirational reading, click here

Thank you for responding so quickly.

I stay in the Chapala area January and February,  then July and August every year. I went there originally because of your book.  I am unable to retire because of family reasons, however, my life is great – 8 months here and 4 months there works out great.

I was just curious to see if you had any new information.  I do not take a car – buses are easy and walking is great.  I am one of those carrying a bag from store to store…

Thank you for everything including saving my life.  The need to get away is big sometimes, and the Chapala area is perfect for my budget

Will appreciate you forever.

Gwen

Hi Gwen,

Wow!

Thank you for your kind and thoughtful words!! They are quite humbling to us and we appreciate you dearly for saying them.

Please do give yourself some credit also because you have the courage to make a change and the personal and emotional flexibility to adapt in a foreign country.

All the best to you and in every way.

Thank you for staying in touch.
Akaisha and Billy

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Eating Cat Food in Retirement?!?!

Hi there, we have followed you both for a number of years. My husband and I have been retired since 2005, ages 58 and 60 now.

We have always enjoyed your writing until we came upon a recent article that stated “getting used to eating cat food” was a possibility. This is unacceptable, no holds barred. There are plenty of food banks and programs that ensure people do not have to eat cat food in their latter years. As it so happens, our Maine Coon’s (a Cat Breed) food is $1.19 for a  3 oz can so a regular can of human generic tuna would be a much cheaper alternative.

I am not understanding where you are going with this type of scare tactics. We have always relied on you for interesting and sound travel advice.

Kim and Glenna

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Hi Kim and Glenna,

Thank you for taking the time to write and for giving me the opportunity to clear up this misunderstanding.

The piece you are referring to is one we wrote called Retirement Plan in Tatters.

It is our rebuttal to Joe Nocera’s “cheerless” piece in which he paints “a rain-drenched, out-in-the-street future” with no positive alternatives.

Joe was so down-in-the-mouth, and held such a depressing point of view, that we just had to refute his position.

In the 3rd paragraph, we say:

“Taking this information as the only premise from which you work out your retirement, you may as well give up. Just chuck the idea of having any appealing options, start on the cat food now and simply get used to it.

Which of course is ridiculous and absurd, and we thought clearly evident to be tongue-in-cheek. “Eating cat food in retirement” has become a fear-based expression that the media has used to rile up the masses.

We — like you — dislike this expression as being “the only alternative” one might have.

The fact that you brought up food banks and other social programs to support the elderly if they are in dire straits only shows how offensive and simply nonsensical this phrase is.

In the rest of our article we emphasize self-reliance as a virtue, how the astronauts in Apollo 13 made mismatched pieces of scrap to work for them in saving their future, and how you can too. We also say how it’s impossible to reach for the stars when your nose is pointed to the shadows and we continue to show how one can fashion a fulfilling retirement by offering you alternatives — places to live on the amount of one’s social security, where excellent affordable medical care is obtainable, and encourage you to consider the possibilities that are right in front of you.

Simplify your life, save money, learn something new, choose a walk-able city, be car free. To learn more, click here

And we end our piece by saying that “there are many workable solutions if you are willing to look.”

I think this was simply a misunderstanding. Perhaps you stopped right at the “eating cat food” and didn’t get further on into the article to see what our points were.

We have always given — and will persist in offering alternatives, possibilities and practical ways to better one’s life. We don’t believe in being boxed in for any reason, and we will continue to emphasize self-reliance and personal creativity for the solutions to any problems one might face.

I hope that my explanation helps you to see what our points were in this piece. I am sorry if we offended you in any way, as it was not our intention. And we most certainly want to congratulate you both on your retirement and hope that it is filled with health and happiness.

Again, thank you for taking the time to write to express your sentiments about our article and we hope you feel free to write anytime.

Best,
Akaisha

Find answers to all your retirement questions, click here

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Unlocking the “Girl Effect” in Guatemala

Guest post by Travis Ning, Founder of Starfish One by One

For those who follow trends in international development, the term “Girl Effect” is gaining increased footing as a term used in the common language.  Briefly defined, the “Girl Effect” describes the human potential represented by the world’s 600 million adolescent girls.  More and more studies demonstrate the widespread economic, health, and environmental benefits of educating this segment of the world’s population (see this website for some interesting global data on the “Girl Effect”).  Yet in spite of this evidence, only 1% of international aid specifically targets adolescent girls.

Enormous potential/huge gender gap

Anyone who visits Guatemala can see the country’s enormous potential. The flip side of that reality is that Guatemala is a country that is underperforming.  This country has the hemisphere’s worst gender gap.  To be rural, indigenous and female in Guatemala is to be at the bottom of the social and economic spectrum.  The irony is that it is precisely this demographic which is most capable of transforming this nation.  If these young women realize their human potential, Guatemala will too.

But the term “Girl Effect” oversimplifies.  To secure sustained secondary school access and success for a rurally-based, indigenous girl in Guatemala is to confront powerful economic, social, familial and structural obstacles.

Money alone does not overcome these.

Jeronima, the first young woman in her community to attend high school!

The Jeronima Effect, a personal success story

A young woman named Jeronima personifies the “Girl Effect” and the amazing energy that can be unlocked to transform Guatemala.  She lives in the rural village of Buena Vista in Sololá.  Born into a Kachiquel-speaking family of 9 siblings (only 5 of whom survived), neither of Jeronima’s parents ever attended school.

Like many indigenous children, Jeronima started her primary education late at age 9, and only learned to speak Spanish at school.  She stopped her studies again in middle school when her local facility failed to offer the 9th grade due to a lack of demand. When the school finally opened that grade, Jeronima’s family had lost momentum and enthusiasm for her studies.  The “double burden” of girls’ education (increased school-related costs + sacrifice of her being away at school/studying instead of working or doing domestic chores) was just too heavy.

Change your world! Volunteer!

Starfish One by One found Jeronima and provided her with a partial scholarship that secured her access to high school.  But as the first young woman in her community to attend high school, the economic issue was only one of several challenges.

Personal strengthening through opposition

Jeronima had to travel by pickup to the city of Sololá to attend high school, she had to walk through her village in the more modern school uniform (pleated/plaid skirt instead of her indigenous traje) and endure the catcalls of other youths. Her older brothers were adamantly opposed to the idea of her going to school, and her father passed away leaving the family in a precarious financial situation.

Often, it all seemed way too much to endure.

The amazing “Triumphant Little Ants” the group Jeronima is mentoring

The stabilizing platform of human relationships

But she was not alone.  The essence of the Starfish program is human relationships.

Jeronima joined a group of 14 other young women in the Starfish program to create a forma group.  Through weekly meetings facilitated by a Starfish mentor, this group became a powerful source of emotional support for her.

These groups stay together from the 7-12th grade, and become a compelling counter force to all the outside pressures that otherwise derail a young woman’s aspiration for an empowered future.

The critical component of these groups is the mentor, who is a full-time staff person.  Coming from the same region of Guatemala and speaking the indigenous dialect, she is among the less than 1% of Guatemalan indigenous women to reach university.  Most importantly, she is empathetic to each young woman in the group.

Teach, Learn, Give – in your home town or internationally

The mentor walks the 15-member peer group through the Starfish Empowerment Curriculum.  Through this process, Jeronima learned financial literacy, reproductive health, IT skills, and crucial critical thinking and leadership abilities.

Last year, Jeronima put into practice these new skills when she launched a literacy campaign for the mothers in her community.

Jeronima and her women’s literacy group

Going from student to village influence

Jeronima graduated from high school last fall – the first female in her community to ever do so.  She joined the Starfish team as a mentor, and is now walking 15 young women down the very same path she recently blazed.  As mentor, Jeronima is responsible for keeping families both motivated and informed with a constant strengths-based focus.  She is receiving training on how to prevent and treat situations of family violence.  She is also charged with monitoring each of her 15 girls’ progress in school.  On weekends, Jeronima is attending university, majoring in social work.

Jeronima reflects what Starfish is doing for 214 students in Sololá and Suchitepéquez.

This quality-over-quantity approach works: 95% of the students in Starfish are successful in school and graduate.  Through focusing on individuals and their personal ecosystem (family, school, peers), Starfish is unlocking the talents of a generation of positive change-makers in some of Guatemala’s most marginalized villages.  This effectiveness and overall success is attributed largely to the extremely positive partnerships that Starfish shares with other Guatemalan and international organizations that continually enrich the program.  Starfish returns the favor by sharing its success with other organizations through its RIPPLE program.  This program focuses on sharing practice-proven techniques with other like-focused programs.

For more information, contact Starfish One by One

Posted in Guest Blog Posts, Health, Heart Song, Indigenous Life, Volunteering, Women's Work | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments