Why Your House Is a Terrible Investment

Jim Collins writes about his passion for travel and the investing strategies that support it.  His Blog is best known for describing the importance of accumulating F-you Money and the Stock Series posts on investing for it.

My pal James Altucher calls home ownership a part of The American Religion, so I know I’m treading dangerous ground here. But before you get out the tar and feathers, let’s do a little thought experiment together.

House3Imagine over a cup or coffee or a glass of wine we get to talking about investments. Then maybe one of us, let’s say you, says:

“Hey I’ve got an idea. We’re always talking about good investments. What if we came up with the worst possible investment we can construct? What might that look like?”

Well, let’s see now (pulling out our lined yellow pad), let’s make a list. To be really terrible:

  • It should be not just an initial, but if we do it right, a relentlessly ongoing drain on the cash reserves of the owner.
  • It should be illiquid. We’ll make it something that takes weeks, no – wait – even better, months of time and effort to buy or sell.
  • It should be expensive to buy and sell. We’ll add very high transaction costs. Let’s say 5% commissions on the deal, coming and going.

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  • It should be complex to buy or sell. That way we can ladle on lots of extra fees and reports and documents we can charge for.
  • It should generate low returns. Certainly no more than the inflation rate. Maybe a bit less.
  • It should be leveraged! Oh, oh this one is great! This is how we’ll get people to swallow those low returns. If the price goes up a little bit, leverage will magnify this and people will convince themselves it’s actually a good investment! Nah, don’t worry about it. Most will never even consider that leverage is also very high risk and could just as easily wipe them out.
  • It should be mortgaged! Another beauty of leverage. We can charge interest on the loans. Yep, and with just a little more effort we should easily be able to persuade people who buy this thing to borrow money against it more than once.
  • It should be unproductive. While we’re talking about interest, let’s be sure this investment we are creating never pays any. No dividends either, of course.
  • It should be immobile. If we can fix it to one geographical spot we can be sure at any given time only a tiny group of potential buyers for it will exist. Sometimes and in some places, none at all.
  • It should be subject to the fortunes of one country, one state, one city, one town…No! One neighborhood! Imagine if our investment could somehow tie its owner to the fate of one narrow location. The risk could be enormous! A plant closes. A street gang moves in. A government goes crazy with taxes. An environmental disaster happens nearby. We could have an investment that not only crushes it’s owner’s net worth, but does so even as they are losing their job and income.
  • It should be something that locks its owner in one geographical area. That’ll limit their options and keep ’em docile for their employers!
  • It should be expensive. Ideally we’ll make it so expensive that it will represent a disproportionate percentage of a person’s net worth. Nothing like squeezing out diversification to increase risk.
  • It should be expensive to own, too. Let’s make sure this investment requires an endless parade of repairs and maintenance without which it will crumble into dust.
  • It should be fragile and easily damaged by weather, fire, vandalism and the like. Now we can add-on expensive insurance to cover these risks.  Making sure, of course, that the bad things that are most likely to happen aren’t actually covered. Don’t worry, we’ll bury that in the fine print or maybe just charge extra for it.
  • It should be heavily taxed, too. Let’s get the Feds in on this. If it should go up in value, we’ll go ahead and tax that gain. If it goes down in value should we offer a balancing tax deduction on the loss like with other investments? Nah.
  • It should be taxed even more! Let’s not forget our state and local governments. Why wait till this investment is sold? Unlike other investments, let’s tax it each and every year. Oh, and let’s raise those taxes anytime it goes up in value. Lower them when it goes down? Don’t be silly.
  • It should be something you can never really own. Since we are going to give the government the power to tax this investment every year, “owning” it will be just like sharecropping. We’ll let them work it, maintain it, pay all the cost associated with it and, as long as they pay their annual rent (oops, I mean taxes) we’ll let ’em stay in it. Unless we decide we want it.
  • For that, we’ll make it subject to eminent domain. You know, in case we decide that instead of getting our rent (damn! I mean taxes) we’d rather just take it away from them.

House 1Here are two more offered by readers…

  • Mr. Risky Start-up: It should increase stress, lead to more divorces, but then be impossible to divide.
  • DMDave: You only need one motivated (read: desperate) seller to set the price for the whole neighborhood. Imagine your so-called “investment” suddenly get scuttled when your neighbor decided to sell his particle-board mansion at 20% below assessment.

Boy howdy! That’s quite a list! Any investment that ugly would make my skin crawl. In fact, I’m not sure you could rightly call anything with those characteristics an investment at all.

Then, too, the challenge would be to get anybody to buy this turkey. But we can. In fact, I bet we can get them not only to buy but to believe doing so is the fulfillment of a dream, indeed a national birthright.

House2A few weeks back I was at an awards banquet and sitting at our table was a woman I know. She began talking about how she was encouraging her young son to buy a house. You know. Stop throwing away money on rent and start building equity.

I suggested that, since her son was single, living alone and without children maybe he didn’t actually need a house. That if he didn’t need one, maybe he should consider some alternatives instead. Or at least run the numbers first.

This didn’t sit well and it was a short conversation. It ended when she said, “Well, he’d be better off buying a house than a clapped-out Camaro!”

Well, yeah. Maybe so. If this is the only alternative.

Other posts by this Author

Esperando un Camino – Waiting for a Road

Posted in All Things Financial, Guest Blog Posts, Housing | Tagged , , , , , | 9 Comments

Hell: Not on the Map, But I Was There

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.

LaverneI have no idea how I injured my back, but the results landed me flat out in knife-twisting agony for nearly three weeks. I’ve had back problems before but nothing compared to this torture – not even back in 1985 when the medics came, hoisted me off of my bedroom floor and carried me to the ER, where the doctor instructed me to sit up and when I said I couldn’t he said, with great annoyance, “Of course you can; you just don’t want the pain.” 

The man was brilliant.

So here I was, writhing in agony, hurting too much to read, write, watch TV, or eat;  unable to do anything but look up at the ceiling, moan, and wipe an occasional tear from my cheek. Experimenting with new positions took on a whole new meaning.

My doctor promised relief.

“I haf a proceedchure,” assured Dr. Mengele. “You vill be my last patient Vendesday  (so no one vill hear your screams).

Do not let Fear make your decisions for you. Risk has a price and so does security.

My friend, Joanne, drove and then listened to my cries and labored breathing as Dr. Mengele  pummeled and kneaded. And when it was over, with sweat pouring down my face, I threatened, “You’d better be able to show me a baby.” 

I was given a prescription for a muscle relaxant. Instructions on the bottle warned not to drink alcohol, because it might intensify the effect of the drug. I thought, “…….and the bad part of  that would be…………….????”

About a week into this ordeal, in a drug induced state, and still on my back, I began to discover little activities that held my interest. I examined my hands with the curiosity and wonder of an infant who’s just discovered his feet. I noticed that the lifeline on my right hand is longer than that on my left and wondered if that meant it would live longer. I spent an entire day pushing my cuticles back so far, they currently reside under each first knuckle. I counted the age spots on my hands and arms which took me through days nine, ten and eleven. I watched the cobwebs on my ceiling fan circle around and around and, incredibly, never drop off. I braided my chin hairs.

I discovered that I can’t drink water lying on my back, and no matter how careful I am, it’s impossible to peel a hard boiled egg on my chest without having the shells slide off onto the sheets. In addition, I came to understand why nobody has ever approved the manufacturing of a Chest Top Computer.

My pain was more severe than usual one morning, when I discovered I’d been sleeping on a Kentucky Fried chicken wing my daughter had loving attempted to feed me the evening before.

My cousin Phyllis prescribed her own home remedy. “Buy a car like mine, with heated seats,” she suggested. “When I had back pain problems I spent the better part of most days driving in my car. I only came home to eat,” she continued.

 I liked her idea a lot, but my HMO wouldn’t approve it.

The only plus to being out of commission was a weight loss of seven pounds, but I gained it all back  the first day I was able to make the trek down the hall to my refrigerator.

I’m presently up and around. I still have pain but it’s really bizarre how everything is relative. What I’m now experiencing is an incessant nagging, aching, stiffness that infringes on the quality of my every waking moment. But hey, compared to what I had before, it’s Nirvana.   

Other posts by this author:

Cellulite: A Rite of Passage

Camping: Not for Sissies

Don’t Count Me Out

Aging, Not All Fun and Games

Challenging My Legacy

Behind Closed Doors

Battle of the Bulge

How the Home Shopping Network Turned Me into a Zebra

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Esperando un Camino – Waiting for a Road

Jim Collins writes about his passion for travel and the investing strategies that support it.  His Blog is best known for describing the importance of accumulating F-you Money and the Stock Series posts on investing for it.

In my office there is a bronze sculpture we acquired in Madrid, Spain some 25 years ago.  It is about a foot tall and depicts a young woman.  She is barefoot and has long flowing hair.  Dressed in a peasant blouse and long skirt, she stands with her hands on her hips looking down.  At her feet is an open bag with a bedroll and a book sticking up out of it.  There is a small satchel leaning against it.  The title is “Esperando un Camino.”  The artist is Joseph Bofill.

I don’t know where she’s going but I’ve always wanted to come along.

Indeed, I’ve had the good fortune to see a fair bit of the planet:  Mexico, Canada, Ireland, Wales, England, Germany, Greece, Crete, Puerto Rico, Tahiti, Venezuela, Curacao, Scotland, Italy, Germany, Spain, Paris, India, Kashmir, Goa, Nepal, Zanzibar, Tanzania, Eleuthera, St. Thomas, St. Martin, Barbados, Antigua, Martinique, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Chile, Guatemala and most states across the USA.  Pretty much in that order although I’ve visited some more than once.  And I may have forgotten one or two.

I’ve traveled to and around those places by plane, train, bus, subway, taxi, hired car, motorcycle, bicycle, rickshaw, hitch-hiking, foot, horse, donkey and elephant.  Not only traveled by elephant, but herded rhinoceros by elephant back in Nepal.  I love saying that!

Many people, of course, don’t care much for traveling.  It is a highly personal choice.  However, I can’t help but think part of the problem is the way the Travel Industry approaches the whole business.  Mainly:  avoid the locals and their culture whilst cramming as much into as little time as possible so people can check off their list and say “Yep, I’ve been there, done that!”

But that doesn’t appeal or your experiences have been disappointing, maybe the way we do it might be of interest.

Let go of the American Expectation Syndrome. Open up to new possibilities abroad.

Travel slowly

For our honeymoon we spent three weeks in Scotland.  The most common comment was, “Three weeks in Scotland?  What can you do for three weeks in Scotland?”

Followed closely by, “I’ve been to Europe and saw it all during my two week tour.”  Ah, OK.

Rushing from place to place ticking off sights means you’ll spend most of your time in transit. Not fun, and a three hour layover in the Frankfurt airport doesn’t mean you’ve been to Germany.

Relax.  Find a local cafe and waste an afternoon over a cup of coffee.  Watch the locals drift by.  Maybe even talk to a few.

A bench in Jackson Square, maybe mine.

A bench in Jackson Square, maybe mine.

Avoid the sights   

Maybe not all of them, but choose just a few that really appeal to you.  Learn to be comfortable leaving some stones unturned.  Be sure that what you see you take the time to see well. 

Linger in cafes and parks.    Absorb the feel of the place.  Breathe it in.  Last year in New Orleans I found an isolated bench in Jackson Square.  I sat for an hour with my eyes closed and just listened.  Quiet your mind and let it it flow.

The locals might not be as scary as you think

The locals might not be as scary as you think

Talk to the locals   

Lots of travelers complain that the people in such and such a place are unfriendly.  Well, if you are flying past in a rush to your next sight you are not, candidly, a very attractive opportunity for them.

In Quito we stumbled on a little chocolate shop.  Because we were leisurely poking around Ruth, the owner, took the time to chat.  Before long she was insisting that we stay to try her special hot chocolate.

By the time we left we had met several of her friends, were guests in her home and her husband, a naturalist on the Galapagos, had invited us for a “behind the scenes” visit.

Of course, we didn’t see every church and museum in town.

Settle in

Settle in

Settle in

If you can, spend some time.  Even if you’ve only a week, pick a spot and focus on what’s there.

A few years back we took an apartment in Quito for the summer.  By the time we left we knew all the local shop owners.  One day we went to the little shop where we bought our eggs and milk.  It was closed.  On the walk back to the apartment we ran into the owner.  We exchanged pleasantries and asked when he would reopen.  He insisted on walking the two blocks back to his shop, opening it and selling us what we needed before closing again and going on his way.

We’ll remember that long after we’ve forgotten the museums.

Kilimanjaro Crater

Kilimanjaro Crater

Leave your camera at home  

Too many people waste their time trying to record the trip rather than living it.  Indeed, I’m convinced many see everything they see only thru the lens.  Give it a rest.  If you follow the advice above you’ll meet locals.  They’ll have cameras and they’ll send you the pictures they took to remember your visit.  As for scenery, use Google.  You’ll find better shots of the Taj Mahal or Kilimanjaro there than you are likely to take yourself.  

Taj Mahal Been here, didn't take the pic

Taj Mahal Been here, didn’t take the pic

Do it now

Sad to say, the world is becoming a more crowded place.  Back in the early 1970s I visited Arches National Park in Utah.  Simply stunning and I had the entire place all to myself all day.  Find the undiscovered and go now.

Do it while you are young

There is no question that travel involves some discomfort.  Sitting in cramped airline seats for hours on end.  Bouncing over rutted roads in antique local buses.  “Delhi Belly.”  Or…

As I feel the years build the time is coming where the hassle will outweigh the joy.  But, thankfully, not yet.  If you are going to do it, now is the time.

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Yoga for the New Year

Guest post by Mokshadharma Saraswati who belongs to the International Yoga Fellowship Movement and is a follower of Paramahamsa Niranjanananda of Bihar School of Yoga India. She currently teaches Hatha/Raja yoga in the Satyananda style in Chiang Khong, Thailand.

Mokshadharma

Mokshadharma

If you have a desire to be more flexible and have more mobility and freedom of movement then our short yoga class might be just what you need to get started.

I thought I would begin with the ANTI-RHEUMATIC GROUP OF POSTURES. This group is concerned with loosening up the joints of the body. Excellent for those of you with rheumatism, arthritis, high blood pressure, heart problems and any other ailments where vigorous exercise is not advised. They are particularly useful for eliminating energy blockages in the joints and the outer extremities of the body. The long term benefits of doing the whole series of postures are as follows. They free up the joints, restore metabolism, promote free flow of energy in the body, stimulate circulation and promote muscle relaxation.

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As with any worthwhile exercise program Patience, Persistence and Practice are the keys to a successful outcome.

We are going to start working on FEET, TOES, ANKLES, LEGS AND KNEES. There are also 2/3 more challenging postures for those of you with more strength and flexibility and no specific health issues.

You will need 2 blankets and a pillow. Fold one blanket lengthways and place the pillow and second blanket nearby. Sit comfortably with your legs stretched out in front of you legs flat on the floor. If this is difficult tuck the pillow under your knees.

The base position

Your back needs to be straight and tall, neck long, head erect. Place your hands beside your body near your buttocks palms down. Your feet need to be active ( heels down toes facing up).

Foot bending

Breathe in and breathe out and stretch your feet forward pointing your toes towards the floor. Feel the stretch along the top of the feet. Now stretch your feet back towards you. Feel the stretch in the toes, feet, ankle and calf muscle. Repeat the sequence 15-20 times slowly and methodically and then rest when complete.

Stretch your toes

Keep your feet active. Tense and tighten the toes as you breathe in, hold the tension, then release on the outbreath. Repeat this sequence 15-20 times slowly and methodically and then rest when complete.

Rotating your feet 

Spread your feet a little apart. Keep the feet active heels on the floor. Start with the right foot first. Start to rotate the foot clockwise slowly and methodically. Do 15-20 rotations then rotate the foot anti-clockwise. Work with the breath breathe in as you start the rotation, breathe out as the foot goes down and around and back to the start. Repeat then on the left foot. Rest when complete.

Rotating the ankles

If you have a pillow tucked under your knees remove it now. Still in the base position. Bend your right leg and draw the knee up towards your chest. Lay the leg across your left leg just above the knee leave enough room to rotate your ankle easily. Place your right hand on your right knee. Hold your toes with the left hand. Begin to slowly and methodically rotate the ankle clockwise working with the breath. Do 15-20 rotations then rotate the ankle in the anti-clockwise direction. Release the right leg down to the floor and work now with the left leg repeating the sequence. Rest when complete.

Rolling the legs in and out

Still in the base position roll you legs inwards so your knees connect and the toes of your right foot sit on the toes of the left foot briefly. Now roll your legs out so both feet are turned out opening up your inner thighs. Slowly and methodically repeat this exercise 15-20 times. Now do it all again with the toes of the left foot sitting briefly on the toes of the right foot. Focus and concentrate to ensure the knees roll together and connect. Work with the breath. Rolling the legs in breathe in, rolling legs out breathe out. Use the outbreath to help you stretch and flatten those legs out releasing them down.

Congratulations you have done the first 6 postures in the series. More to come but for now lie down and draw your legs up onto your chest. Wrap your hands around your knees and rock yourself gently from side to side massaging the base of your spine at the sacrum and releasing tension from your buttocks and back after sitting for so long. Remember not to lift your head off the floor use your pillow to support your neck. Release your legs down and wrap yourself up in your second blanket to keep warm. Close your eyes and relax completely until you are ready to get up and get on with your day.

Other articles by this author

Slaying the Dragon of Male Menopause

Power-Purpose-Direction with Yoga

My Life as an Expat in Chiang Khong

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Cellulite: A Rite of Passage

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.

LaverneI received a photo attachment in an e-mail that showed a senior couple, in their late seventies, standing on a public street. He wore a leather motorcycle jacket, jeans and a billed cap. We only saw her back, but that was more than enough. She had white curly hair, wore a faded jean jacket with a biker insignia on it, and Daisy Duke shorts that exposed her entire derriere – entire.  Two vertical rows of decorative cut out designs treated us to even more of the same. It wasn’t enough that every inch of her flabby, overweight body was covered with heavy duty cellulite, but this half naked Senior Biker Chick, with bare rump, and bare legs, wore black orthotic shoes.

Careful examination revealed that this was not a touched up photo; shadows and the way bodies were postured indicated that it was, indeed, authentic.

My instant reaction was to laugh out loud, and feel a degree of revulsion. Viewing her body was not the way I’d have preferred to start my day. How dare she walk around like that in public. Didn’t she own a full length mirror? Didn’t her husband have eyes and a mouth?

Do not let Fear make your decisions for you. Risk has a price and so does security.

I forwarded the photo to 83 of my most intimate e-mail buddies so they, too, could spend the day with that image burned in their heads. Reactions came back rapidly.  “Eeeeeuuuw!” “Oh my God!” and  “Please kill me if I ever become so senile that I believe I’m still a babe,” were some of the kinder responses.

I recalled seeing something similar while on a cruise. There was a group of five overweight senior women, leaning against the ship’s railing, sipping fancy pastel colored drinks, and laughing. They were French, and they each wore skimpy bikinis. None of them draped towels around their midriffs to hide flabby rolls and upper thigh cellulite. And since they weren’t accompanied by Seeing Eye Dogs I felt safe in assuming they could each see.

I shook my head and puzzled at how these women could allow themselves to be seen that way. Had they no pride? Didn’t they feel even remotely embarrassed?

On the contrary. It was obvious that these women were perfectly comfortable in their bodies, had no concern about what others might think, and no interest in concealing who they were. Their indifference and confidence were almost sexy.

I viewed them from a nearby deck chair where I reclined in a manner that prevented my thighs from resting on the chair and, thereby, spreading to their full width. I wore one of my four black, one piece, industrial strength bathing suits and had a beach towel available for immediate coverage should I decide to unbend my knees and allow my thighs to relax.

After a few moments of inappropriate staring I realized that I dearly envied these women. I tried to imagine what it might be like to be comfortable in my own skin; to live in a country that accepted midriff bulge, cellulite and upper arm wings as proud Rites of Passage into feminine maturity;  as rewards for doing those heroic things that men have never been able to accomplish:  bear children, retain water, and clean clumps of food from the kitchen sink drain.

I dream of a society that is able to close its mind and eyes to the ravages of age and abolish current unwritten dress codes for older and overweight women. I want my grandchildren to live in a country that embraces a woman’s right to walk without straining to hold in her stomach, to not have to cross her legs in ladylike fashion if her thighs struggle against such attempts, and to expose her naked arms without having to explain, apologize or purchase Flight Insurance.

In other words, I want the same freedom and rights as men have.

Other posts by this author:

Camping: Not for Sissies

Don’t Count Me Out

Aging, Not All Fun and Games

Challenging My Legacy

Behind Closed Doors

Battle of the Bulge

How the Home Shopping Network Turned Me into a Zebra

 

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An Easy Way to Improve Gut Health

Guest post by Christine Bradley, M.D. Finding balance of the body, mind and spirit allowed me to lose over 70 pounds, regain my health, vitality and find joy in my life once again while enjoying an active life of weekly yoga, pilates, running, cardio kick-boxing,  zumba and meditation. I have extensive knowledge in medicine, holistic nutrition, health coaching, and preventive health. Contact me at Find Your Balance Find Your Bliss

photoDid you know that 80% of your immune system is in your intestinal lining where you absorb your food and nutrients?

Most of us walk around with an unhealthy level of bad bacteria in our gut due to poor food choices, pollution, chemical toxicity, medications, and stress. This imbalance is called dysbiosis.  What that basically means, is that the bad bacteria out-number the good ones, impairing our nutrient absorption and nutritional status and our ability to fight off disease causing organisms.  This can affect our health, our energy levels, our weight, our mood, and our immune system in a negative way.  What is the solution? Heal your gut by increasing the good bacteria that nourishes and supports your gut and your overall health.

Lately, I have been exploring ways to make natural probiotics in the form of fermented vegetables.    My 8 year old son loves to be my helper in the kitchen.   We visit the local market and buy fresh cabbages, cucumbers, carrots, garlic, beets and onions.   During the process, my son and I chop, grate and crush our vegetables.  We have a blast together!  The best part, is giving my son a big cup to smash the vegetables to get all the juices out to make the brine.  He really loves that part!  We make a great team and create food that keeps us healthy.

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Here is my simple recipe to introduce fermented veggies and re-establish healthy gut micro-flora back into your life. It is so simple to make and so health giving. Give it a try

Fermented Veggies gut health

    3 cabbages

    1 cucumber

    1 Onion

    2 garlic cloves

    1 beet grated

    Pinch of sea salt

Directions:  Chop cabbage, cucumbers, onion and garlic into chunks.  Grate carrots and beet.  Mash it all together to break the cell walls down and release the juices.  Add sea salt to release more of the juice, then stuff in glass jars until air tight.  Make sure the veggies are under liquid in the jars.  Leave on top of the counter for 7-10 days depending how sour you like your veggies. Check every few days that they are still under liquid and release the pressure.  Once they are ready, eat a tablespoon with each meal and keep refrigerated. Enjoy!

Other articles by this author:

6 Tips for Avoiding Seasonal Depression

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6 Tips for Avoiding Seasonal Depression

Guest post by Christine Bradley, M.D. Finding balance of the body, mind and spirit allowed me to lose over 70 pounds, regain my health, vitality and find joy in my life once again while enjoying an active life of weekly yoga, pilates, running, cardio kick-boxing,  zumba and meditation. I have extensive knowledge in medicine, holistic nutrition, health coaching, and preventive health. Contact me at Find Your Balance Find Your Bliss

photoFall is a wonderful time of year. The leaves are changing, apples are in season, and we get to break out the pea coats and scarves! However, with this fantastic season comes the not so fantastic and very dramatic weather change. In the Pacific Northwest where I live, that means shorter days, a lot less sunshine, and days upon days of rainy weather!

The clocks rolled back this weekend, so instead of throwing in the towel and hibernating for winter, I will be using these simple tricks to beat the cold weather blues and start looking on the bright side. They could help you do the same!

Invest in good lighting

A big part of what makes the changing seasons so hard is losing that precious hour of light at the end of the day. It’s really hard to leave work in the dark and it makes finding the motivation to get anything done at home impossible. This is where good lighting comes in to save the day! Bright and inviting lights in the common areas of your home like the kitchen or living room can help you forget the weather and give you the energy you need to make dinner and catch up with your family or friends instead of ordering take-out and parking it on the couch. You might even be interested in purchasing a UV lamp, which mimics the effect of sunlight and encourages the production of vitamin D.

Life is an adventure! Follow your dreams!

Stay on top of your schedule

When it’s dark and cold outside, the only thing that I ever want to do is curl up on the couch with a good book and a bowl of soup. It’s really hard to find the motivation to go to the gym or even get together with friends! Not to mention the shorter days make it extra hard to get out of bed in the morning for work! I find that putting myself on a fairly strict schedule without any time for moping around or feeling down keeps me upbeat and focused during the winter months.

Get outside as much as possible

Even if it just means a 10-minute walk on your lunch break, taking advantage of sunlight is really important. Instead of hanging around inside, layer up and head out for a brisk walk. Who knows, you may even feel motivated to go for a sloshy run in the rain!

Hit the gym

If it turns out that a run in the rain isn’t really your thing (I’m right there with you!) then take your workout to the gym instead. This will keep you on track and make sure you get moving regularly. Exercising prompts the body to produce natural endorphins. No matter what the weather is like, you can’t help but feel happy after a hard workout at the gym!

Increase your daily dose of vitamin D

Regular vitamin D intake is an essential part of staying healthy. In the summer months, we usually get a large dose from the sun, and the need to take supplements is greatly minimized. In the winter months (and possibly year round in rainier parts of the world, ahem… here) it’s a good idea to increase your daily dosage of vitamin D. Your body needs it to property absorb other nutrients like calcium and it helps you stay focused and happy.  I recommend taking at least 1000 IU a day. It sounds like a lot, but don’t be alarmed! You can buy it in 1000 IU capsules so you only need to take one a day – your body will thank you!

Take note of the little things

Just this week I was feeling pretty down about getting out of bed at 6am knowing that I was up a good hour and a half before the sun. However, when I was driving across one of the many bridges in Portland I noticed the sun rising behind Mount Hood casting vibrant hues of pink and purple over the city skyline. It was breathtaking, and it made me wonder how many sunrises like this I missed during the summer months when I wasn’t up at dawn. It’s so important to recognize these moments and appreciate the beauty that fall and winter bring. If you try to do this every day – maybe it’s a rainbow in between rain clouds or a field of freshly fallen snow –I promise you’ll kick those winter blues to the curb in no time!

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Camping: Not for Sissies

  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.

LaverneA friend in California wrote to me extolling the delights of camping. She went on to proudly describe her ingenuity in preparing a dozen ice cream filled cones, packing them with dry ice and finding them frozen and in tact several hours later when she arrived at her designated camp site and served them to her grandchildren. I admit to being impressed with her resourcefulness but I’m also bewildered as to her reason for doing such a thing when  ice cream could easily have been served to her in a bug-free, air conditioned ice cream parlor.

 I confess. I’m not into camping. What I love is the idea of camping. Being outdoors under wide open skies, drawing in all that wonderful fresh air and listening to nature’s sweet consort, certainly sounds heavenly, but I’ve had to face the reality that I’m too much of a prima donna to accept everything that goes along with those amenities. Things like ruining my manicure while pitching a tent, trading in perfume for smelly bug spray, sleeping on cold hard ground, trudging half a mile to pee, and searching for an electrical outlet for my curling iron are not on my list of Favorite Things To Do.

 I did it once. I couldn’t wait to go. En-route to the camp site a bird flew into our car grill and remained there for the entire three hour trip. I imagine he got tired of flying and wanted someone to drive him to his destination. Obviously he hadn’t thought the whole thing through because while he certainly did arrive without flying he arrived in a messy compressed state.

 And then it poured and poured and poured. I sympathized with what Noah must have had to contend with. Here I was in this confined area with one wet foul smelling dog, two tent leaks, three irritable tent mates, and an infinite number of elusive mosquitos.

 I wanted to sleep in a comfy nightgown but my seasoned camper friends laughed hysterically at that idea and pointed out what a wimp I was. They opted to sleep in sopping wet jeans and I, being totally intimidated, followed suit and was miserable.

 Well, actually, I only thought I was miserable. Real misery didn’t rear its ugly head until the wee hours of the night when I found myself wandering blindly through the frightening darkness, in a torrential storm, in search of some godforsaken Public Pee House.

 The next morning our little makeshift chairs sank into four inches of mud as we attempted to burn wet kindling and create a flame hot enough to solidify egg whites and kill at least some of the trichinosis in our bacon. 

 I learned something about myself that weekend:  I’m too old to have to put up with  unnecessary inconveniences. My favorite sleep-away adventure must include four walls in a five star hotel. I still love nature but I discovered it’s best viewed from hotel and cruise ship balconies.

Other posts by this author:

Don’t Count Me Out

Aging, Not All Fun and Games

Challenging My Legacy

Behind Closed Doors

Battle of the Bulge

How the Home Shopping Network Turned Me into a Zebra

Open at Your Own Risk

Up, Up and Away – Or Not

 

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Slaying the Dragon of Male Menopause

Guest post by Mokshadharma Saraswati who belongs to the International Yoga Fellowship Movement and is a follower of Paramahamsa Niranjanananda of Bihar School of Yoga India. She currently teaches Hatha/Raja yoga in the Satyananda style in Chiang Khong, Thailand.

One of the world’s best kept secrets is that men go through a change of life or male menopause. It is called Andropause and normally occurs between the ages of 45-60. Although there has been an upsurge in media attention and available information on the subject, most men will deny any such phenomenon exists. Mention it to just about any red-blooded male and the suggestion is met with protest and indignation.

It is certainly not a hot topic for dinner party conversation, although a man might discuss it in hushed tones with a male friend over a few drinks. Nobody dares mention it in public because it is one of those things we do not talk about in mixed company.

Every woman over 45 knows she is going to have to face menopause at some point in her life. The upside for men is that statistics show only one in every 200 men will go through a really rough menopause. Many are lucky and only suffer mild symptoms. There are 70 year old men out there with the hormone levels of a 20 year old (gotta get me one of them). The downside is there are other men who will suffer most or all of the symptoms.

The difference between men and women is that women talk about their change-of-life experiences, even joking about it, sharing how they manage their symptoms. Women accept menopause as part of their life’s journey. At the first sign of menopausal symptoms, she will seek help and advice. Whereas as man may feel quite unwell, be physically, mentally and emotionally depleted; even feel defeated and drained by the whole experience and still ignore the symptoms and repress his feelings.

So what causes this “unmentionable” situation? Low production of the male hormone testosterone (androgen) can lead to the onset of menopausal symptoms which I will list for you below.

*Erectile dysfunction

*General feelings of tiredness and lethargy.

*Mood swings and erratic behavior patterns

*Night sweats.

*Depression, nervousness , anxiety and outbursts of anger.

*Fuzzy thinking and bouts of memory loss.

*Feelings of regret, loss and disappointment.

*Dissatisfaction with life i.e., work, home, family relationships, and friendships.

Certain medical conditions can cause a man’s testosterone levels to drop. These conditions are associated with the hypothalamus and pituitary glands. Some men with cancer, diabetes, or any auto-immune disorder may also have low testosterone levels. It can also be triggered by obesity, destructive lifestyle choices, poor diet and total lack of exercise or awareness about what is part of the natural aging process.

For proper diagnosis a doctor will first discuss the symptoms, do a physical examination, and order blood tests to check hormone levels. If the results prove there is a problem, the patient will be referred to an endocrinologist –  the person most qualified to deal with management and treatment.

Testosterone Replacement Therapy

Testosterone replacement therapy will certainly relieve some of the symptoms such as fatigue, depression, and anxiety and will improve libido. However there has been so much controversy over hormone replacement therapy for the female menopause that many women are looking for alternatives rather than face any risk. Sadly many women died before the connection was made between HRT and breast cancer. The positive side to that story is many women have been on HRT for years and swear by it.

Still, it is fair to suggest that a man needs to gather all the information he can  about any possible side effects of TRT and then make an informed decision. Do not rule it out; ask questions and get answers that satisfy you and allay your fears before embarking on treatment.

Yoga and Meditation

An experienced and understanding yoga teacher can provide a well balanced yoga practice suitable for a person’s age, level of fitness and problem. Classes will include restorative, rejuvenating practices like meditation, relaxation, breath awareness and cleansing techniques (Hatha yoga). Yoga is based on more than just science. Based on India’s culture and profound philosophy it is like being given a road map, a compass and a sign that says “Stay on the path” to attain and maintain physical, mental, emotional and spiritual wellbeing.

Chinese Medicine

Just as yoga comes from ancient wisdom and Ayurveda comes from Indian Tibetan medicine, Chinese medicine comes from an impressive and invaluable source. With a long history of success with acupuncture, there are herbal remedies and beneficial, enjoyable modalities like Tai Chi, Qi Gong and Wu Shu. Chinese medicine suggests the male menopause is caused by kidney deficiency and liver stagnation and also related to heart and spleen. There are many Chinese apothecary shops and clinics with experts who can diagnose and treat symptoms of male menopause.

Weight Training

A personal trainer can set up a program suitable for a man’s age and physical condition. It is not so much about building muscle as building bone density, strength, discipline, cardiovascular care and shedding weight that puts great strain on all the bodies systems.

Walking

It may surprise you to know that 35 minutes of brisk walking morning and afternoon can work wonders. It is free along with the fresh air and sunshine. Walking can help you lose weight, control blood sugar, lower blood pressure and reduce stress.

Diet

It is not about giving up all the things you love to eat it is about including things that are good for you and excluding things that are bad for you. Sudden drastic changes in diet are not recommended. It is more moderation and gradual change. The stomach needs to be two thirds full and one third empty that is the yoga perspective on eating. Cut down on meat if you are a big meat eater. Eat more vegetable, fruit, herbs, nuts, seeds, pulses, sprouts, whole grains. Drink more water, fresh juices. Cut down on sugar, dairy and fat. Gradually cut down and then out social drugs and alcohol.

B Vitamins can help with stress and boost energy.

C Vitamins can stabilize the production of stress hormones.

Herbs – like Ginseng and Ashwaghanda can counteract the long term affects of stress.

Fish oil supplements can improve cognitive function, boost energy levels and can help prevent heart attack.

L-Arginise is an amino acid that helps dilate constricted blood vessels associated with erectile dysfunction.

Menopause for both men and women can last for years. Tremendous strain is put on relationships. Family life can be seriously challenged, destroyed or disrupted. The support of a sympathetic, loving partner is an asset. A man alone is more vulnerable and isolated.

 

Other posts by this Author

My Life as an Expat in Chiang Khong, Thailand

Power-Purpose-Direction with Yoga

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Don’t Count Me Out

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.

LaverneI was impatiently stopped at a yellow traffic light. The light turned red, and I instantly assumed the posture of an adrenalin-charged NASCAR racer, poised and anxious to accelerate. While I waited, an elderly woman stepped off the curb and began her slow and deliberate step-by-step pilgrimage across the street. The light finally turned green but she had not yet even reached my car.

I waited.

I drew a deep, agitated breath while impulsively strumming my fingers on the steering wheel. I had places to go and people to see.

 But, as she struggled to make her way across the street, lifting and lowering her metal walker before each halting step, something clutched at my heart. She was old; really old. Her hair was thin and white with isolated, wispy strands falling over her eyes and down her neck. Her face was ashen and deeply creased and her bony, thickly blue-veined hands trembled under her own weight as she leaned heavily on her walker.

Her body was shrunken and bowed over as she shuffled past the front of my car, delaying my start by, perhaps, a full fifteen seconds.

I drove away with her image burned in my mind, and unable to erase it. That woman had once been somebody’s little girl, joyfully frolicking in fields of lavender. She had danced to the Charleston and to Swing, and was courted by handsome young men in Model T Fords and Buick Roadmasters. She’d been a young wife filled with hope, and a mother who rocked and nursed her babies during black-outs while listening intently to Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Fireside Chats. She’d cooked and scrubbed without any of today’s modern kitchen conveniences, during a time when there were no televisions or computers to occupy her children long enough to give her moments of quiet serenity.

Do not let Fear make your decisions for you. Risk has a price and so does security.

She’d lived through wars, survived the depression, and experienced the loss of many loved ones. How could she have known what indignities lay in store for her – that one day each of her crippling, calculated steps would cause traffic to be delayed, while hurried,  mindless bodies honked impatiently en-route to some allegedly important business meeting, fun-filled luncheon or forbidden rendezvous?

Would she have conducted her life any differently had she thoroughly understood the inevitable cruelty of her future? Could she have averted this travesty of fairness if she’d done things differently? If she’d laughed more? Loved more? Prayed more?

I looked deep into my soul and blinked rapidly to hold back tears. Was I sad for this pitiful stranger or was I actually sad for myself? I couldn’t untangle my feelings. That woman could easily be me one day, and there wasn’t a damn thing I could do about it.

I drove mindlessly, unable to lift the thick fog from my heart, when suddenly I had a change of perspective. Perhaps I was reflecting and interjecting my own fears. This old woman may not have been unhappy at all. Beneath her leathery camouflage may well have been the joyful heart and buoyant soul of a thoroughly fulfilled woman; a woman who celebrated life to the max, who embraced each day, reveled in every sunset, and loved from the depths of her being. Such a woman would be content in her golden years, confident and fully satisfied that she had thoroughly consumed the contents of her cherished gift of life.

I found this thought comforting. There would be no escaping the inevitable final act, but I drew tremendous solace from the knowledge that I live an incredibly rich and full life, surround myself with beloved family and friends, am always cognizant of the wonders each day brings, and have loved with great depth and passion.

Should the day come when I am forced to stop traffic as I cross the road with my walker, please do not feel sorry for me. My bones will be tired, my skin will no longer be taut and my body may be contorted, but my heart will be smiling broadly, for I will be deeply ensconced in the memories of my astounding life; a life void of regrets for what I should have done.

I will have done it all.

Other posts by this author:

Aging, Not All Fun and Games

Challenging My Legacy

Behind Closed Doors

Battle of the Bulge

How the Home Shopping Network Turned Me into a Zebra

Open at Your Own Risk

Up, Up and Away – Or Not

An Apple a Day Doesn’t Work

Vacationing with a Stranger

Help! I’m Drowning in Minutiae

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