Monthly Archives: November 2013

Planning: Norway 2012

My daughter Dena and I traveled to Scandinavia in 2003, spending a week in Denmark, a week in Sweden and a week in Norway.  Ever since that trip I had wanted to return to Norway.  Dena and I traveled using a Rail Pass, stayed in hostels and carried packs on our backs.  My husband is in his 70’s and has some mobility issues, so I knew that a subsequent trip to Norway would need to be much less arduous.

My “must see” list for this journey included stops in Oslo, Bergen, Flåm and traveling north of the Arctic Circle.  A “bonus” stopover would be a trip down the Trollstigen, or Troll’s Path, a steep, winding mountain road switchbacking past waterfalls and sheer cliffs to the valley floor below.

Researching our options, I found Holland America Line had an itinerary that fit very nicely with my priorities. It included my “must see” cities of Oslo, Bergen and Flåm, and my “bonus” Trollstigen offered as a side trip from Ålesund, plus two cities north of the Arctic Circle, Tromsø and Honningsvåg, which is about as far north in Norway, as you can go.  It was the perfect itinerary!

ItineraryMy son Vince, who also has the travel bug, loves to cruise, and also had Norway on his “list”, would be traveling with us.  We often travel with our adult children, all sharing expenses, which makes it more economical and more enjoyable, as well.  Norway is a very expensive country to visit.  Sharing actually made this trip possible.

We planned to arrive in Amsterdam the day before the ship sailed, which would give us some time for a little sightseeing and an opportunity to adjust to their time.   After the cruise portion of the trip, we planned to stay the night in Rotterdam, and another night in Amsterdam, giving us another two full days for sightseeing in the Netherlands, before heading home.  Our departure date was July 5, 2012.


Before I set a retirement date, I wanted to be sure that I could afford to retire.  Most of my working life I owed my own business.  I lived with debt.  I got a paycheck only after all the bills were paid and after everyone else got paid.  Seven years ago I closed my business and went to work for the school district.  Now I have regular paychecks and health insurance and paid vacation and sick leave and once I turn 65…a modest pension.  I no longer have debt, except for my mortgage.  I do not want to retire and then find out that I don’t have enough income to go anywhere or do anything or to fall back into debt.

There are lots of free calculators out there to help you decide how much you need to have in retirement.  But those calculators are useless until you figure out how much you currently have coming in, how much you have saved or invested to date, and most importantly…how much you have going out.  I keep track of my finances on Quicken.  I know at a glance what the answers to those questions are. But that is only the beginning.  The next part takes work….lots of work.

I like the Expense Tracker on the Suze Orman website.   With the help of Quicken, I made a spreadsheet using Suze’s expense-tracker as a model.  Furthermore, I had to look back at previous years to make sure that the amounts I put down for each item were realistic.  This exercise is a real eye-opener for most people.

Next, I had to run different scenarios to be able to fill out the spreadsheets projecting into the future.  If I retired at age 62, what sources of income would be available to me?  How would that number change if I wanted until 65?  What if I wanted until my full retirement age of 66?  What if I waited until 70?   I remarried seven years ago and my husband is fifteen years older than me.  If he died, would I still be able to afford to retire?  I own two rental properties and am currently paying mortgages on both, as well as our home.  Would I be better off to sell one or the other of the rental properties, or both…. or neither?  These are the types of questions and scenarios that aren’t covered in those retirement calculators one finds online.

The last time I upgraded my Quicken to Quicken Deluxe, it came with a tool called Lifetime Planner.  Using what you already have entered into Quicken, it prompts you to put in all the information above, including all your assets, any loans, any future big purchases, how much you plan to contribute to your retirement accounts each year and etc.  It uses all that information to give you a red, yellow or green light about whether you should have enough money for the retirement date you put in.  The tool also allows you to change play around with different scenarios to see how changes might affect the plan.  After putting in all my figures I was happy to get the “green light” saying “you should have enough to fund all your life event goals and your expenses in retirement”.  For me, that was the confirmation I needed to feel confident that I had figured things up correctly on my spreadsheets.  It does appear that barring some sort of financial calamity, if I continue to put away what I have been every month, and keep paying down my mortgages, I should be able to afford to retire at the end of June, 2017.

There is a commercial on TV that always makes me smile.  It asks “Isn’t that what retirement really is…paying yourself to do what you love?”  That’s what I’m hoping.


And so, the journey begins…

100_3358I have always looked forward to new journeys, both in travels and in life.  At various times in my life, I have kept a journal during times of transition, to help me sort my thoughts and hopefully understand why I made the choices I did … and how it all turned out!

I am now approaching another big transition in my life — Retirement.  For most of my life retirement has seemed far off and maybe something that would never happen for me.  For most of my working life I was self-employed and working a second job in order to have money to travel.  As the other part of this blog, I will tell about some of those journeys, as well.

But now I am into my 60’s and now retirement is starting to seem real.   In fact, I have a retirement date — July, 2017.  As I contemplated starting another journal, to chronicle this new journey, I decided to explore another path by sharing the journey, via this blog.

And so, the journey begins….