Retirement Planning

I’m sitting on the lanai of a rented condo in Maui on the eve of my 55th birthday and wondering how I can make it happen so I live here.

It’s funny how retirement planning takes on different meanings throughout our lives. My son will be 20 in a few weeks. I’ve been talking to him about saving money for retirement. His attitude, “Mom, if I haven’t made enough to live on by then, I don’t want to live”. Ah….the arrogance of youth, but I get it. At his age, 30 seems like forever.

When I started my teaching career, I imagined I’d be three years retired at this age, maybe with a grandchild or two to keep me occupied. I’d have a teacher’s pension and would likely do some substitute teaching to keep myself busy.

Little did I know, I’d give up teaching and work through being an educational psychologist before landing in instructional design. I have a small teacher’s pension, but not the one I planned on because I don’t have 30 years in the profession.

I’ve got RRSPs and investments, so I know I’m in good shape for retirement. I won’t be retiring in 4 years as was planned 10 years ago because I’m now on my own. My ex had significantly more RRSP savings, and the agreement was I’d support more of our life while we were working because I made more money, and he’d support more of our retirement. That worked so long as we were married. When your husband realizes he’s gay, that plan changes.

I’ve gone through my travel journals and have noted, many times, “All I want to do is live in a yurt with wifi, indoor plumbing, and volunteer for the Pacific Whale Foundation.” There was a time I looked at purchasing property on this island, but it wasn’t feasible. My financial advisor pointed out that – besides all the taxes, laws, estate issues – I could do a LOT of renting for the same amount of money.

He was right, of course. There’s so much world to see – why limit myself to just one spot? Well, because I love Maui. I feel at home here. I’ve been to the islands 18 times, and every time, I feel inspired, creative, at peace. Until the pandemic hit, I was planning my vacation for the following year as soon as I got home.

My 20 year old self had no idea the dream of living in Hawai’i would be something in my future. My 30 and 40 year old self saw it as something I’d very much like to do, but couldn’t afford. Twice, I’ve been approached by Hawaiian Airlines to interview for a position with them, and twice I had to turn it down. A family of three cannot live on an instructional designer’s salary down here (and truth be told, I much prefer Maui or the Big Island to Oah’u).

My 50-ish year old self now has a boyfriend who said he’d happily come visit me if I chose to be here part of the year, and an adult son who loves it here as much as me. I have a job I can do from anywhere in the world as long as I have a strong wifi connection.

My retirement planning doesn’t look the same as it did 20 or 30 years ago. I have the means to live as I’m currently living until the ripe old age of 98 – at which time I will run out of money and become my son’s problem. 🙂 Given my genetics, that lifespan is very likely. It didn’t factor in a love for travel in general, and a specific love for Maui – which has gotten more expensive to visit year after year.

To those who are just starting out, retirement age will come faster than you think. Plan for what you need, and add more for what you might want but don’t realize yet.

For those who are my age, we can still achieve our dreams. We may have to get creative in how we get to them, but it can happen. Maybe living here full-time isn’t achievable, but maybe 3 months a year is realistic. I don’t want to buy a timeshare, but maybe there’s a way to rent a two bedroom place and sublet the second bedroom for additional income and keep it free when people want to visit. Maybe I can rent out my condo at home for people who want to be close to the mountains for skiing during the winter months to help pay for me wanting to be close to the ocean during winter.

Where there’s a will, there’s a way, right? I’ll be 55 years old tomorrow and I’m still planning my retirement. I guess the take-away is to remain open; you never know what life is going to throw your way, and you need to be ready for all of it.

Feedback Is A Gift

Feedback is a gift. Use it to improve your life and perspective.

letters carved using wood
Photo by Ann H on

Rejection is a hard thing to accept. Rejection without knowing what the cause was leaves you never to not understand what you could have done differently. If you are lucky enough to receive feedback at the same time as the answer is “no” to hiring you then take what is being said and examine it for growth opportunities.

It takes courage to share your rejection with others. It takes time and effort to give someone feedback when they don’t fit your company. Some might even say that you are brave enough to write a blog post about it. Well, Sharon and I have been pretty open on this platform with our lives. We include our wins and our losses. Our relationships both professionally and personally.

So it seems pretty natural that I would share my insights with you about rejection and feedback.

I was given feedback on my interview journey with a company on a job I didn’t get. How can I use this information to improve my professional skills and get better at communication and listening?

I am going to share the details with you, in hopes that you may find some commonality in your own struggles and benefit from using it as a gift.

Here is what I was told about myself or the perception of me as I went through the interview process.

  1. After a presentation to a team that would have been my fellow peers, the feedback was that I was passionate but I didn’t share anything that they could use about the topic.
  2. The hiring person thought I would be bored after 6 months if I was the successful candidate.

Ok, there we have it. Two gifts, now what to do with the information given?

Let’s break down the first comment:

One of the number one foundations of instructional design is to know your audience.

That can be a bit trickier if you have no way of asking ahead of time the knowledge level or the background of the participants. It can be overcome though. You have to ensure that the content covers the lowest denominator and then stays about in the middle of the skill set. I missed the mark here and assumed too much about my audience.

There are further challenges when you have to decide what to present in a 15 minute window.

Which is better though? I think taking the time to add details and assuming your participants know nothing about what you are presenting is a safe bet. If you lose your audience quickly by talking in a different language than they are, you fail to make your points understood. So using KISS- Keep IT Simple Stupid is better than the alternative.

Less passion? Is that what is meant by saying I am very passionate? Do I come across more animated than I should? Talk too fast, too much?  Maybe, or it could be I missed the mark in using WAIT-Why Am I Talking? I missed some opportunities as I reflect on the group interview now. If I had it to do over again I would have simplified the key points to maybe one or two. Then asked more questions about what  the group would have done. Hindsight right? If statistics are right I could get a lot of practice at this by applying for 15 jobs a week. At this stage of my life I am not sure I am THAT Passionate….lol.

I would get bored within 6 months

This comment is harder to decipher. What do you do with that? 

I can take it many ways…

  • Polite way of saying over qualified or too expensive 
  • I come across as arrogant in my skills and knowledge without meaning too
  • This company undervalues change or growth opportunities
  • Being with another company for over 30 years doesn’t show patience or loyalty

As you can tell I am still contemplating this feedback and what I am to learn from it.

So now that I have this gift of feedback, what are my next steps?

The first step was to write about it here to help me see it, read it and unpack it. The next step is to remember it. Watch and listen for cues that it is happening with other interviews I am lucky enough to encounter.

The key is that feedback is truly a gift. An opportunity to reflect on your behavior through someone else’s eyes. If you receive it, thank the person or company. Have others given you this feedback before? If yes, are you getting better or worse as you try to change your muscle memory? Take the opportunity to break it down into segments you can review then come up with a strategy. Record your progress so you can look back and hopefully see a positive change.

My job search continues with a new set of tools to practice with based on the feedback.

Wish me luck and if you can, please share your feedback with me.

We both learn and thrive this way and will use your feedback to help myself and anyone else interested in learning from it.

The Waiting Game

brown wooden framed hour glass
Photo by Ron Lach on

I have applied for a few jobs and even had the luck to get interviews. I was trying to figure out the other day a ratio between how many jobs you should apply for before you should wait for responses? Well being curious I “Googled it”. According to experts you should apply for 2-3 jobs per day up to 15 a week. Holy that’s a lot I am thinking. If you apply for too many it goes on to say that you might not look credible. You may even be overlooked in the future for a job with a company that is a perfect fit. 

I am now down the rabbit hole exploring how many jobs to put on a resume, how many skills to list and what education to include. Cover letter or not to cover letter, what determines this?

On the number of jobs to list on the resume, the consensus is to go back 10-15 years if you can. This will help you decide the jobs to include. Highlight ones that relate to the position you are applying for. That makes sense to me. I would caution against applying for too many jobs as quite a few ask you what you know about their company. If you can’t articulate anything you may be passed on. How many mission statements, business goals or strategies can you remember?

The same logic goes for skills to list. Make sure they are relevant to the posting. I want to share my love of bonsai tools but if I am applying for an instructional designer, potential employers might not care about that. If I want to show diversity in interests I might include it in my hobbies. Does anyone put hobbies on their resume (CV) anymore? Does anyone call it a resume anymore?

How long should you wait for a response to your application? I turn to Google once more for advice. Statistics say wait 10 to 14 business days. That makes sense and seems like good advice. Let’s play a game of counting, if you applied for 3 jobs a day and up to 15 a week. Keep that up for 4 weeks. How long could you potentially be waiting for a job offer???

Short answer is a long time. I am in a position to wait I suppose as I have other sources of income I can draw on. I think of it as a bit of an adventure in which I am curiously exploring and then recording what happens along the way. The great thing about advice you find on the internet is you can take it or leave it.

There are parts of the process not mentioned in the applying and connecting ratio that I think are critical to my search. Call it maturity or call it having the means to be selective, either way I have time and patience to explore “best fit scenario”. I am trying to apply to companies that I believe can offer something that enhances what they are looking for or doing in the near future. It has to be worth the wait for both parties and it will enhance the experience in the long term. It’s very tempting to start your own company. I struggle with narrowing down my interests enough to find something viable and profitable.

In the meantime, I am learning new skills, polishing old ones, doing a bit of exploration as to what’s trending. My bonsai tools are being sharpened just in case they are needed. I bought a Cricut so I can make t-shirts that can capture my mood while I wait. You have to maintain a sense of humor and have a jar of patience kept warm. I am nowhere near the 15 job applications this week or this month so I better get busy.

Wish me luck!

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