Monthly Archives: January 2020

Jan, 28, 2020 Topic: Hobbies

Benefits of Hobbying SmartRE

Work is a constant challenge that keeps your mind sharp.  Whatever your occupation, you needed to both think on your feet and spend time in contemplation.  Logic, math, science – whatever the subject we swore we’d never use again when learning them in school – were ubiquitous despite our incorrect assertions.  But once you stop working, that is no longer the case.  Problem solving is often times a thing of the past.  That’s why, no matter your age upon retirement, it is important to find a hobby.  Why? Because hobbies replace the mental manipulation that was a minute by minute fixture of your working days. 

The key is to do something that keeps your mind sharp.  Because using your head has multiple benefits.

 According to the European Journal of Epidemiology, which reviewed recent studies done in the US and 12 European countries, the memory problems are correlated to age of retirement – the earlier one retires, the more likely they are to eventually have memory issues.  One study showed that short-term memory decreased 40% faster once employees retired.  So consider a hobby that places a barrier to stop the erosion of mental acuity.

Kelly Lambert, a University of Richmond neuroscientist, likens working with the hands to pharmaceuticals because the actual neurochemistry of the brain can be positively altered through craftwork.  In addition to cognitive benefits (the Journal of Neuropsychiatry showed that crafting, playing games, and reading books could reduce the chance of developing mild cognitive impairment by 30 to 50%), crafting is used to treat soldiers with post traumatic stress disorder; CNN reported one study showed 81% of over knitters with depression reported feeling happy after knitting.  50% felt very happy.

In another study from University College of London, Dr Daisy Fancourt found that basketwork conducted by stroke patients helped re-establish neural pathways and improve brain plasticity.  It can do the same for people suffering from dementia.   Creativity can be used to control emotions, to boost self esteem, and as a means of reflection and contemplation. 

Gardening has similar positive impacts.  According to a study called “The benefits of gardening and food growing for health and wellbeing”, gardening reduces dementia risky by 36% in people aged 60 or older.  A bacteria in soil releases serotonin, a natural anti-depressant that strengthens the immune system, into the brain.

AgingInPlace.org is a website whose goal is to help people stay in their home as they age.  They’ve actually been able to identify specific benefits for different types of hobbies.  Music helps to reduce blood pressure and elevate mood.  Meditation helps induce positive outlook and reduce anxiety.  Reading, and recounting what has been read, is a significant means of improving cognitive ability.  Problem solving, a constant during everyone’s careers that is typically lost upon retirement, can be replaced through working puzzles.  They also reduce blood pressure and heart rate, while 3D puzzles especially improve manual dexterity.   Research reveals that playing brain games delays dementia’s onset in older people. Hobbies are critical in retirement.  But they often don’t come cheap.  Woodworking requires tools.  Car restorations require expensive tools, materials, and, of course, cars.  Art work like sculpting, painting, and pottery typically require retrofitting kids’ old rooms into studios and have their own equipment and material costs.  So approach your hobby the SmartRE way – use the money frozen in your home equity to fund your retirement hobbies. 

Jan, 13, 2020 Topic: Travel, Volunteering

Volunteer AND Travel SmartRE

“The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” — Mahatma Gandhi

Everyone has heard the reason – I’m traveling to find myself.  A great place to look is through providing service while traveling, because it combines the thrill of exploring the unknown with the fulfillment of helping those in need. 

Initially, the idea of volunteering abroad might be intimidating.  But consider the benefits.  You are literally broadening your horizons, seeing new places but connecting in an intimate and personal way that can never be matched by mere touring.  You are immersed in local culture in a way that normal tourists can never hope to experience.  With volunteering, unlike a monetary donation, you know firsthand how your contribution is being applied.  And just by telling your story to others when you arrive home after your excursion, you’re helping to bridge the divide in understanding that can exist. 

And you can do it without going overseas.  AmeriCorps says “AmeriCorps is your moment to take the path less traveled, to break the status quo, to stop talking about the problem and be the solution.”  AmeriCorps State and National has programs as short as 3 months.  Projects include disaster services, environmental impact, and veterans and military families.

The Peace Corps isn’t just for recent college graduates. “Retired Americans can use the life skills and professional experience they gained during their careers to make a lasting impact in communities around the world,” says Peace Corps Director Jody Olsen.  About 6% of Peace Corps volunteers are over 50.  The oldest is 93, working in Malawi.  housing is paid for and volunteers get enough of a stipend that they don’t have to dip into savings set aside for retirement.  Approach with an open mind, because the Peace Corps isn’t for everyone.  Living is rougher than American standards and there is a significant time commitment.

Fortunately, there are many opportunities for travel and service that are much shorter and a more comfortable.  

  • Discover Corps is an organization that combines vacations abroad with service.  Trips target Wildlife & Nature, Festivals, Cultural Explorations, and Custom Travel to places like Hawaii, the Galapagos Islands, and Thailand. 
  • Build Abroad is like a global Habitat for Humanity.  Volunteers construct homes, schools, or better infrastructure in places like Nepal, and Costa Rica.  
  • GVI is an organization committed to providing high-quality and sustainable experiential and development programs in 13 countries around the world.  Volunteers travel to places like Ghans, Laos, Fiji, and Greece to work with children, marine life, or in public health.  
  • Go Overseas is a website that acts as a clearing house for global volunteer programs.  They have projects in countries like South Africa, India, and Brazil. 
  • Global Volunteers is the highest rated volunteer abroad program since 1984.  They have a multitude of service projects, including computer literacy, gardening, nutrition and teaching.  Their programs are all over the world as well – 13 counties including China, the Cook Islands, Poland, Cuba, Vietnam, Tanzania, and St. Lucia.

Travel volunteerism is a commitment of both time and money.  Be prepared to be away from home for weeks at a time and to pay a four or sometimes low five figure amount.  And since these programs are addictive, with many people pursing several trips a year, the cost adds up.  But it is a cost that is more than worth it.  So use SmartRE to fund your adventures.  With only a low, one-time fee, you can free cash locked in your growing home equity and put it to use for you and the world.

Jan, 3, 2020 Topic: Hobbies, Retirement

SmartRE Choices for Hobbies

According to USA Today, 34% of people approaching retirement intend to spend their time pursuing hobbies.  But, since most people have spent their pre-retirement time working and raising a family, there was never enough time to commit to hobbies.  So what choices are there?

Whether you like to spend time alone or with others, inside or outside, or saving money versus spending money, there are a lot of wonderful things to do to occupy your time.  Because studies show that maintaining a routine, even if it is not as robust or strict a routine as your former workday, is critical to a healthy retirement. 

‘Making’ is a term that covers creating with your hands.  Artwork like painting, drawing, and sculpting, craftwork like crochet, scrapbooking, or knitting, and shopwork like woodworking or working on cars are all hobbies that fit within the ‘making’ category.  Working with your hands has multiple benefits, not least of which is the finished product.  The gratification of a beautiful (to just you or to everyone) piece of art makes the hours of effort pay off.

If making is too much, try finding.  As in finding treasures at swap meets, flea markets, or arts conventions.  You can build collections like car parts or comic books or lamps or thimbles or movie posters or lunchboxes, or dabble across categories, but the thrill of the hunt drives ‘pickers’ to find that item that others overlooked or even trashed.  Building your knowledge so you can spot the needle in the haystack is a constant driver, and you’re always on the lookout for something you’ve never seen before.

Keep your mind active through continuing education.  You can do something close by at a nearby parks and recreation center or community college, you can go a little further to a four-year university’s “learning in retirement” program.  Many schools offer UBRC, or university based retirement communities.  There you immerse yourself in the college experience – with people like you – and live in a campus-like facility with events, gyms, and classes all a walk away. 

Go global and combine travel with education.  Road Scholars is an organization that individuals, couples, and families love.  See the world and learn deeply while also closely embracing the local culture of the country you visit.  Its killing three birds with one stone. 

Before you go away, consider starting to learn the language of the country you’re visiting.  Studies now show that learning a new language is no harder than when you’re young.  And learning that second (or third?) language stimulates cognitive activity, creates new neural pathways, and helps to decrease chances of developing Alzheimer’s. 

If travelling far and enrolling in classes is too much, you can still learn a lot just by day-tripping.  People are always amazed at what’s in their own backyard.  State parks, local museums, funky shopping districts – new and fun things are typically a short drive away. 

If you just want to sit at home, fill your time reading, solving puzzles, playing mind games, competing online in chess or bridge, or solving the daily crossword.  Create your own little reading club, deciphering motifs, symbols, and themes with your spouse, sister, or friend down the street.  Play any of a number of highly rated apps on your phone.  Medical News Today rated their favorites as Luminosity, Elevate, Peak, Fit Brains, Reaction Field, and Speedy Sorts. 

Birdwatching is something you can do from any window in your house.  If you like to travel, it can be done all over the globe as well.  Watch or read “The Big Year”, a great film about the passion and devotion of bird watchers.  A wonderful documentary about the people of birding is called “Birders: The Central Park Effect”.  Phone apps make this hobby easy as well.

Hobbies are a fantastic way to ease the transition from work to retirement.  Remember, though – they cost money.  Lessons for painters or musicians, binoculars for bird watching, studio space for sculptors, furniture purchases, tuition expenses, or frequent global travel – it takes substantial money to fund your interests.  Don’t take away from your retirement savings.  Get the money instead from your home equity.  Speaking of hidden treasures, that’s just what your home equity is.  Your home has grown in value since you first purchased it, and that increase is just sitting in your equity.  Take the cash frozen in your equity and put it to use – all while remaining in your home.  Cash in and stay in – the SmartRE Way. 

A look at different hobbies and what they do for you….