Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Retired in Ann Arbor: 6 ways to retire without a mortgage, by Kiplinger

Admit it: Whether you're 35 or 65, the prospect of retiring without a mortgage is an attractive one. No more monthly checks to your lender means extra money to spend on having fun once you exit the workforce. After years of punctual principal-and-interest payments, it's the least you deserve, right?

There are several smart ways to retire without a mortgage. We've come up with six that fit a variety of retirement scenarios. Some approaches benefit from an early start -- so if you are able, try to plan ahead. Other mortgage-free-retirement options can be put into effect even if you're close to collecting Social Security.

Some retirees don't mind a mortgage, be it for the tax write-off or to prevent too much money being tied up in home equity. But if your goal is the peace of mind that comes with paying off your loan before you reach retirement, check out these six ways to retire without a mortgage.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Retired in Ann Arbor: Happiness (in retirement and before)

Before I retired, I used to hold a subscription to the Harvard Business Review.  When I retired, I decided that it was a luxury, and resigned myself to reading it in the library.  I recently was very happy to find the HBR blog-- as many topics are as pertinent and interesting in retirement, as they were when I was working.

Here's a great excerpt about happiness, that supports much of why I think Ann Arbor is the perfect place to live:

"Beyond having rich networks, what makes us happy day to day? The psychologist Ed Diener has a finding I really like. He essentially shows that the frequency of your positive experiences is a much better predictor of your happiness than is the intensity of your positive experiences.

When we think about what would make us happy, we tend to think of intense events—going on a date with a movie star, winning a Pulitzer, buying a yacht. But Diener and his colleagues have shown that how good your experiences are doesn’t matter nearly as much as how many good experiences you have.

Somebody who has a dozen mildly nice things happen each day is likely to be happier than somebody who has a single truly amazing thing happen. So wear comfortable shoes, give your wife a big kiss, sneak a french fry. It sounds like small stuff, and it is. But the small stuff matters. I think this helps explain why it’s so hard for us to forecast our affective states. We imagine that one or two big things will have a profound effect. But it looks like happiness is the sum of hundreds of small things. Achieving happiness requires the same approach as losing weight. People trying to lose weight want a magic pill that will give them instant results. Ain’t no such thing. We know exactly how people lose weight: They eat less and exercise more. They don’t have to eat much less or exercise much more—they just have to do those things consistently. Over time it adds up. Happiness is like that. The things you can do to increase your happiness are obvious and small and take just a little time. But you have to do them every day and wait for the results."

So go out for coffee, visit the arb, wander Main Street, go to a student concert, and enjoy life. And remember-- all these little moments of happiness add up.
Read the entire article here:  http://hbr.org/2012/01/the-science-behind-the-smile/ar/1

Monday, January 23, 2012

Retired in Ann Arbor: Pie squared at Grand Traverse Pie

So when everyone gathers at your house for a holiday dinner, where do you get your pies?  If you live in Michigan (and don't have a pie-baking husband), the answer is The Grand Traverse Pie Company.

But did you know that they also have a great selection of entree pies?

GT Pie is a great place for lunch or dinner.  The other day, we were out and about, and my other half had a major crave for chicken pot pie.  This is one of the best spots for a pot pie, and they are also a great deal.  My favorite is quiche-- and when we were there, there was a choice of 5 different flavors, for $3.49 a slice!

The dining room is very pleasant and clean,  and although it is cafeteria style, when we were there, a very pleasant person bussed our table for us.

Now the only problem is to avoid eating 2 kinds of pie at one meal.  I guess the dessert one needs to be carry out!

And I'm not sure who would waste their pie, but here's their summary of the five most notable pie tossing incidents.  

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Retired in Ann Arbor: Ann Arbor scores #3 in the nation for highest rising home prices

National average for change in home prices last year:  -2.6%
Ann Arbor average for change in home prices last year:  +9.4%

National median home price:  $171,250
Ann Arbor median home price:  $185,000

National unemployment rate as of October 2011:  8.5%
Ann Arbor unemployment rate as of October 2011:  5.7%

Read the entire Kiplinger.com report here

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Retired in Ann Arbor: A window to the past at Clements Library

Last week, we decided to visit one of the hidden gems at the University:  Clements Library.

William Clements graduated from the University with a degree in engineering in the year of 1882, and proceeded to make his fortune by providing machinery to those building the Panama Canal.  He was an avid collector of original documents that illustrate several periods of American history, including the Colonial era.

In 1920, Clements offered his collection to the University, along with $190,000 to build the building where it could be housed.  The famous Detroit architect, Albert Kahn, designed the building in Italian Renaissance style.  The library opened in 1923, with the gift of Clements' collection of Americana.
Under construction in 1922

Today, the Clements Library is one of the most important sources of original documents in the nation, and is a famous resource available to serious researchers.

Clements Library today
The exhibits in the main hall are open to the general public from 1:00 to 4:45 Monday through Friday.  The current exhibit is "So Once Were We"  Death in Early America.  The original photographs and documents are very interesting, and occasionally a little creepy!  We took about 45 minutes to experience the exhibit, and then spent some more time soaking up the atmosphere in the beautiful room.

This could be the perfect place to write a letter that could change your life, plan your next adventure, or just be inspired by the invitation to step back into history, and see a part of the University as it appeared in the 1920's.

Forest Hill Cemetery and Clements' grave

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Retired in Ann Arbor Happy hour! at Conor O'Neill's

A great benefit to living around Ann Arbor is taking advantage of the large number of interesting and unique restaurants.  Everyone can justify a nice meal out for major events, but what about a spontaneous Tuesday supper?

The answer is happy hour.  Most restaurants in the Ann Arbor area offer some sort of discounted food/drink combination if you are open to eating before the rush.  Late yesterday afternoon, we picked up some slip-covers at Three Chairs, and while we were already parked, we started wandering Main Street in search of a heavy snack that could cover dinner, and wouldn't break the bank.
We chose Conor O'Neil's, and were very pleased with the result.  Our 2 pints were $4 each,  and the button mushroom appetizer that we shared, was $3.50 (1/2 price until 6).  It was certainly large enough for 2, (and decadent enough for 4).  That and a small house salad for $2.95 makes a filling and inexpensive dinner out.  

Check out the rest of their specials here-- Kids are free on Tuesdays, and Monday and Wednesday nights have trivia specials that looked like great deals, as well.

Stay tuned as we report on more happy hours each week.... it's a rough job, BUT SOMEONE'S GOT TO DO IT!!!  

Main Street, after happy hour

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Retired in Ann Arbor: Grizzly Peak

Back to fun!  You may have noticed that we haven't done anything really fun since the new year began-- perhaps because my other half had a 'dental event' that left him looking like a chipmunk-- (he was not amused when I called him Alvin)-- and as a result, we have been hanging around home, eating lots of soup and waiting for the red envelopes to show up in the daily mail.

Tonight, he agreed that he could go back out in public, so we went to one of our best hang-outs: Grizzly Peak.  Sunday night is a great night to go, for a number of reasons-- free parking, immediate seating, and the usual great food and beer.

And to top off our great meal, we took home a growler (1/2 gallon jug) of root beer, to pair with the vanilla ice cream that is in the freezer.  If you think A&W root beer is good, you need to try Grizzly's fresh brewed root beer.  And what a deal!  $6 for a growler (with mug club membership).  It's not on the menu, so be sure and ask your server if it's available.

Time for root beer floats and a movie!  Happy Sunday night--

Friday, January 6, 2012

Retired in Ann Arbor: Mid-century modern

830 Avon
One of the cool parts about living in Ann Arbor is the diversity in architecture in many neighborhoods.  We have spent many an hour roaming up and down the streets of the city neighborhoods, and often, one of us says:  "I could live here!"

Through this year, we will wander some of these neighborhoods together, and see the sights.  Maybe you will find the perfect place for your next home in Ann Arbor.

One of the biggest treasures of our area, is the selection of mid-century modern houses, including those designed by Robert Metcalf.  Robert Metcalf eventually became the first dean of the new School of Architecture at the University of Michigan, and was commissioned to design homes and other buildings by many professors and other Ann Arbor residents.

Each one is unique, and was designed around the desires and needs of the people who to live or use the space.  No cookie cutter plans!

Today, one of the original homes that Robert Metcalf designed is on the market.  In 1954, Metcalf  designed and built a home at 830 Avon, for physicist Richard Crane, and his wife, Florence.  It is truly a chance in a million for some lucky person to live in such a unique space, with a special place in history.  How many people can say that their home is documented in a historical library at the University?

See some original pictures here from the Robert C. Metcalf Papers, located at the Bentley Historical Library.

Interested in reading more?  Here are additional resources:

If you know anyone who would have interest in this exceptional home, let me know.  I would enjoy scheduling a visit.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Retired in Ann Arbor: Great Lakes Coffee and Chocolate

Need a little pick-me-up?  A break from the boredom?  A break from the pressure?  A place to read your paper in peace?  A place to work on the next chapter of your book?  A place to regroup and plan (for your retirement in Ann Arbor)?

I've been hanging out at coffee bars as long as they have been around (and actually before they were around-- and believe me, they are a big improvement over a Coney Island).   My favorite for the last couple of years is Great Lakes Chocolate and Coffee.

It's clean, sunny, and cheerful-- and the coffee and chocolate are about as close to perfection as you can get.

  • Every Monday is free extra shot day.  
  • Free sample of chocolate the first time you visit

They have earned fame for their Great Lakes mocha-- (made from real chocolate-- not powder or syrup)-- and it comes your choice of milk or dark chocolate.

Check it out the next time you're in the vicinity of Jackson Road and I-94-- or better yet, make up an excuse and go.

Maybe I'll see you there!

Monday, January 2, 2012

How to retire. Part 1

Afraid you won't ever be able to retire?  Don't worry-- you're in very good company.  Retired or not, everyone is worrying about money these days--

Here are a few ideas for preparing for your future retirement, or maintaining your current retirement:
  1. Figure out how much money you need to live.  There are a blizzard of books and articles to help you figure out how much you must save, but many of them don't address the reality of what you need.  How do you do this?  First read this article from the NY Times: Having, Needing and Wanting.
  2. Now make a list of your monthly expenses.  Cross out those that you think you can live without.  
  3. Now try living without them.  Can you live for a month on your new reduced budget?  Can you live for a quarter?  Your goal should be to live for a year on the money you will receive once retired.  (And you can get to that magic date faster if you save the money you aren't spending!)  
  4. Even if you decide it isn't possible to reduce your spending, at least now you are dealing in reality.  Here's another short article from Bucks-- the NY Times blog about money, called Self-delusion on finances.  You can't manage what you don't measure-- so start today.  Quicken makes it easier, but it's possible to do it with Excel or a piece of paper, so no excuses!
Stay tuned for part 2--