Category Archives: Stories from the Community

Have you planned for a healthy retirement?


Today’s blog post comes from Jay Higgins. He is a financial adviser and an expert in the field. I asked him to write us an article about financial wellness. I’ll be honest I was a little worried it would be littered with industry jargon and boring financial talk. Boy was I wrong. Read on for fresh insight on how to view your retirement. I know you will gain some perspective on an important topic many of us fail to address.

I’d like to tell you a little secret. Now that you know who I am, it may surprise you. I don’t think you should retire. There, I said it.

That statement might come as a shock spoken from a person in the business of retirement planning. Please stay with me, however, and let me clarify what I mean.

What I am not advocating to you is working a grueling American schedule until you collapse on the job. I also am in no way trying to cheapen the importance of carefully planning for the post accumulation (industry term) or retirement phase of your life. So what do I really mean when I say you shouldn’t “retire”?

For many of you retirement is a long way off and probably nowhere near the front of your mind.  For a few of you, you may have given it some real thought, and good for you. But for most of you, let me guess the image in your head of your retirement.

RetirementOn your last day of work you plan to fill up your box, leave your job, and board a plane for Mexico, Arizona, or Florida so you can bask in the sun and enjoy time relaxing. Clearly there are many versions of this story but most of them have one thing in common. They fail to look past the first few weeks of your retirement.

What are you going to do after your vacation or your month relaxing in the sun ends? A normal retirement for our generation is 30 years. That means you have roughly 1,600 weeks of unplanned time on your hands. Not only is this a problem it’s probably not healthy.

Taking a step back, the idea of retirement that society depicts for us is completely unnatural for humans and generally doesn’t promote good health or vibrancy in our golden years. The law of diminishing returns applies to leisure activities as well, meaning golf and vacations eventually lose their luster. Boredom or being idle at this stage in your life will ultimately lead to poor health and overall dissatisfaction.

One writer put it this way, “The quickest way to disease, is a life of ease”.

So, now that you know the potential pitfalls that you may face in retirement, how do you rectify the situation? Glad you asked. There are two main things that I believe you can do to create a “retirement” that is full of vitality for you.

Consider these two things and you’ll be well on your way to a healthy retirement.

  1. Incorporate work into your plan. Human beings need a reason to wake up every morning. What will be your reason to get out of bed? Work as defined here is a loose term and may not mean getting paid, but responsibilities and action towards a greater purpose are important to your well-being. Paid work can be even better because of the potential for strengthening retirement income. The last few years in any retirement account are where the majority of your growth will come (from compounding). Retiring cold turkey forces you to draw an income off your account, essentially slitting the throat of your account right when it’s about to do the largest amount of work for you. Does this sound like a good idea?
  2. Redefine your retirement. Every single person has the same amount of hours to spend each week in retirement, 168. Knowing how you will spend yours will greatly improve your chances of being happy with your life. No two people are the same and the allocation of your time is uniquely your own. Rather than defining your retirement hours, work on defining your ideal life. Does that mean working fewer hours, spending some of that extra time fishing, crafting, or reading? Maybe you like to travel or want spend more time with family. Once you know how you would like to live its only a matter of developing a plan to allow you to do it. Yes that will probably mean saving and planning but those are only means to and end. Saving enough money is not the end goal. Then end goal is living and protecting the lifestyle that is healthy and meaningful to you.

Overall this post is not meant to scare you or to make you ignore your retirement. By explaining how the picture we’ve been given regarding retirement is a dangerous myth, my hope is to liberate and empower you.  I would like for you to think outside the box when you address your retirement and be confident that you know what will make you happy.

Believe me, working towards a lifestyle that is specifically designed for you by you will make the planning process surrounding your retirement much easier to prioritize. Throwing money at a retirement account without a clear goal is like throwing a dart at a target you can’t see. You’ll probably miss the mark, and many of you wouldn’t even try. Having a clear vision brings the dartboard into view…and then proper planning will help you hit the bullseye.

Where has God been in your life?


Today’s guest blog comes all the way from Connecticut, from Miriam Samuelson. Read on to hear about her journey at Divinity school and what unfolds in her spiritual formation group. For those of you who haven’t taken a moment to breathe this week, it’s a good reminder to stop, reflect, and see what arises. 

During my first semester of seminary this past fall, I joined a spiritual formation group.  I wasn’t quite sure what it was, but I knew it was open to all incoming students, and that we would work on spiritual issues together, so I signed up with little knowledge about how this hour and a half would be spent each week.

When I entered the small meditation room with a cluster of large chairs and six other students, the spiritual director leading our group introduced herself, and we offered our names and degree programs to one another timidly, all a bit shy about not knowing exactly why we were there.  After a brief reading, prayer, and silence, our leader asked us where God had been in our lives the last week.

Where has God been in my life? I hadn’t really thought about it, especially not this past week.  I had just moved a U-Haul 1200 miles, said goodbye to my friends and family for three years, embarked on a long distance relationship, and had suddenly started meeting new people everywhere I turned.  My head was fuzzy from trying to get back into the mode of classes and reading and paper-writing, and I had spent the morning running from class to class, trying to learn the layout of the buildings and trying to figure out who I’d already met and who I was meeting for the first time.  Taking time to think about where God was in all this transition hadn’t really crossed my mind.

candleBut as I closed my eyes in this candle-lit room, surrounded by my peers who were feeling shaky and hectic like me, I saw clearly the places where God had been in my life over the past week.  God had been present in my friends at home, who came over to my house unannounced and moved all my things into the moving truck before I could open my mouth to say they didn’t have to.  God was present in a long stretch of highway in Pennsylvania where every turn revealed fog-covered trees pierced by a red-orange sunset.  God was present in my travel companions—my dear friend and seminary roommate, his parents, and my boyfriend—all happy to share this time together and listen to one another’s stories and laughter.

Each week, this spiritual formation group would gather, and our leader asked us the same question: Where has God been in your life this week?  Some weeks we didn’t know.  Some weeks we were filled to the brim with life and spirit and experiences of God.  Other weeks we had to learn how to see God in places that we might otherwise not want to go.  Yes, God was certainly present in sunsets and laughter and friendship.  But God was also present in the death of our friends and relatives, in the quiet moment after something vulnerable was spoken, in painful memories and changing relationships.  God was present as the leaves died and crunched beneath our feet, as we talked about the fragility of our own human lives.

Where has God been in our lives? God is present in our most effervescent joy, God is present in our deepest anguish.  And how do we know this?  Because we are living incarnations of this ever-present God for one another.  And what a gift to be able to open our hearts to this and to one another as we journey together.


Miriam is a first year in the Master of Divinity program at Yale Divinity School. One day she hopes to be a Lutheran paster in the ELCA. She loves people, the natural world, and learning new things.


Finding your inner voice…some tips from the author herself


I first met Kate in my yoga teacher training. Something about her laugh and voice drew me to her right away. Turns out Kate is a writer and knows a few things about humor and voice. She recently e-published her first book called, Tips for Earning Tip$: A Humorous How-To on Serving Meat, Mojitos, & “Minnesota Nice”. Mandala Reflections is so lucky to have her as one of our voices on the blog. Read on as she humorously shares tips on how you can find your writers’ voice and in the process maybe find yourself.

“Bazinga!” When you hear this word, who do you think of?  If you said Sheldon Cooper from The Big Bang Theory, you are correct.  How do we know this is attributed to him?  We know because this is his “voice”.

The same way that we recognize Sheldon’s voice is the way we recognize writers’ voices.  When writers use voice, they have some special attributes and vocabulary that makes them distinguishable from others.  To write with voice, you have to be unafraid to be your own person.

I first started writing in the second grade.  I won a young author’s contest because of the voice I used in my writing.  I started a story about my first sledding experience with, “Aaaaaahhhhhhhhhhh!”  From then on, voice has been my strength.

My newest piece of writing is written completely in my own voice.  How did this newest piece of writing come about?  I found myself in a situation where I was the outsider at work and I didn’t know how to cope with that.  One night after my shift, I came home and started writing down my waitressing experiences from that evening.  It started off as therapeutic journaling and then, a few entries later, it morphed into a humorously helpful book for waitresses or people being immersed in a different culture than they are used to.  Writing and humor is the best combination to help get you through a situation that is less than ideal.

Inner voiceHow do you find your inner voice?  I look at it this way.  The way in which you talk to your grandmother, your teacher, and your best friends differ, do they not?  When talking to elders and respected professionals, we are taught to speak in an intelligent and sophisticated manner.  However, it is the way we tell stories to our best friends that brings out our inner voice.

When I began my book about waitressing, it was because I had all of these crazy stories to tell after every shift.  I would call my friends and tell them about my customers and how difficult people were throughout the evening.  When my friends asked how work went, I would tell them, “Oh my word.  I dropped a margarita on this dude and later the dishwasher asked me to go home with him for a few beers.  I think I need to rethink this whole push-up bra thing.”

When my grandmother asked the same question, I said, “It went well.  I made good tips and only dropped one beverage on a customer.”

While both answers are true, the first one depicts my spot on inner voice.  Speaking with my friends doesn’t make me feel like I have to be professional in any way or censor what I’m saying.  It is a completely “Kate” depiction of the evening.

I started writing down these work stories.  When I was writing them, I didn’t write with any particular limitations.  I didn’t need to be professional or serious.  It was me writing for therapy; for meDue to the authenticity of my inner voice, these journal entries ended up as a book.

Writing with voice means that I am putting my own unique signature on my work.  If I wrote like everyone else, what would be fun about that?  The uniqueness of an author’s inner voice is what will get him/her noticed as a writer.  The way that an author uses and accesses her/his voice through writing says a lot about who the author is as a person.

We all have the potential to find our inner voice.  Whether the inspiration for this voice comes from a bad job, an old love, or pursuing your dreams, the ability to write passionately in a storytelling manner is within each of us.

3 tips to help find your voice:

1) Don’t agonize over semantics on your first draft; just write down your feelings.
2) If you need to curse, curse. You can always take it out later or replace the words.
3) Read it out loud – if it sounds like you, it’s written in your voice.


Kate Robertson is a writer. You can find out more about her and her writing on her blog. You can also buy her book, Tips for Earning Tip$: A Humorous How-To on Serving Meat, Mojitos, & “Minnesota Nice” on Amazon. Kate grew up in Nebraska and has lived in Minnesota for two years now. She is studying to become a professional writer and a yoga instructor.