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Financial Planners | Annuities, IRA, Retirement & Investment | Bowman Financial Strategies

Tax Forms

https://www.irs.gov/

Hi everyone, welcome to Uncommon Cents, Episode #1. Uncommon Cents is The Financial Education series by Bowman Financial Strategies. Today’s Podcast is the inaugural episode of Uncommon Cents and I wanted to provide a brief overview of what you can expect and how this podcast differs from its sister podcast, Mastering Mondays. Many of you may be familiar with Mastering Mondays, a non-financial podcast discussing topics to help you live better in retirement covering topics like health, psychology, food, travel, relationships and hobbies. Uncommon Cents by contrast is focused solely on financial topics with a focus on areas relevant to those that are near or at the transition from Accumulation to Distribution.  

This communication does not constitute federal tax advice and it may not be used as such. Please consult a qualified tax professional for tax advice or assistance.

Today we are talking about tax forms. Just saying it makes every accountant get excited. Ooooh, tell me more about my 1099r, please! Today I am going to review the most common forms that you will run across and some other basic tax preparation tips. Many of these forms are related to accounts I manage for my clients, so if you are a client and you ever have questions about any tax form or need a copy from a current or prior year, please reach out to my office and I am glad to help.
As you prepare for the 2018 tax filing season, you may find these checklists helpful. They outline the forms you should be collecting in the coming months, so you can successfully file your taxes. The IRS has a checklist here, . The financial Website Investopedia has a great article and checklist to help you get prepared here:https://www.investopedia.com/articles/pf/07/tax_prep.asp
Summary of Action Steps to Prepare for Tax Season:
Step 1: Schedule a time with your preparer so you can have your appointment prior to April 17th to ensure you can institute any tax savings actions prior to deadlines imposed by the IRS. If you use an accountant, be early! They get very busy during accounting season, and the first folks in the door will get taken care of first. If you don’t use an accountant, I recommend finding one unless your taxes are extremely simple.
Step 2: Gather information. The forms listed below fall under the umbrella of a group of IRS Tax Forms call Informational Forms. Here is the quick list of the most common forms. There are more! So, do not use this as an exhaustive list. However, these are the forms I most
Step 3: Gather receipts and charitable contribution information. In addition if you are making Charitable contributions, here is a link to the IRS pamphlet that details the type of substantiation you may need to include your contribution as a deduction.
Step 4: Gather all personal information like Social Security numbers for you and any dependents, EINs (companies you own) or Trust Identification Numbers (TIN) for any Trusts you may have.
Step 5: Gather last years tax returns. If you are using a new accountant they will need to see last years tax forms form the state as well as the federal government.
Step 6: Go to your appointment
Here is a quick list of forms I commonly see my clients receiving. You can click on a name of a form in the quick list and it will take you to Investopedia website where you will find the specific description of each form. I wrote a brief description of each form below as well as a slightly longer descriptions and some unique circumstances that may apply to you.
Common Informational IRS Forms:
W2 (Income earned, and taxes paid. For an Employee)
1098 Mortgage Interest Statement
1098-C, E, T (Donations, student loan interest, and Tuition payments)
1099-Misc (Non-employee compensation)
1099-B (reports Gains or Losses on securities investments)
1099-R (IRA distributions)
1099 INT (Interest received)
1099-DIV (Dividend received)
1099-LTC (LTC benefits received)
5498 (IRA contributions)

W2: First, many of you may still be working. If you are an employee of a company, you will receive your annual W-2 from each company you work for. This form is provided by your employer and per the IRS, “It reports the wages earned by employees and the taxes that were withheld from their paychecks. It also reports Social Security tax, a.k.a. the Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA) tax, to the Social Security Administration. The FICA tax has two components, the Social Security portion and the Medicare portion, which are separately reported on Tax Form W-2.” You should receive these forms per current federal law by January 31. You may have multiple W2 forms if you worked for more than one company in the calendar year you should receive one from each employer.

1099 MISC: For those who are not W2 employees but earn their income as Independent Contractors, you will receive a 1099-Misc. Per the IRS, “Tax Form 1099-MISC is commonly used among self-employed professionals to report profits from services performed for other organizations. If you are a sole-proprietor and were paid more than $600 for services during a given tax year, the business you worked for is required to send Tax Form 1099-MISC.
1099-R: A common form that our clients will see each year. The 1099-R form is issued by the IRS and reports distributions from IRAs, annuities, profit-sharing plans, insurance contracts, or pensions. The form must be mailed to the recipients by the custodian at the latest by Jan. 31 of the year after the distribution was made

Read more: Form 1099-R. For my clients, you may see this form in 3 common scenarios although all scenarios may not apply to you.

W2 (Income earned, and taxes paid.  For an Employee)

1098 Mortgage Interest Statement

1098-C, E, T (Donations, student loan interest, and Tuition payments)

1099-Misc (Non-employee compensation)

1099-B (reports Gains or Losses on securities investments)

1099-R (IRA distributions)

1099 INT (Interest received)

1099-DIV (Dividend received)

1099-LTC (LTC benefits received)

5498 (IRA contributions)

These are just the highlights; however, they probably represent 80% or more of the tax forms you should receive. Your situation is unique and what applies to someone else may not apply to you, so be sure to get with an accounting professional to ensure you are not paying more in taxes than you need to. With all the tax changes in the last year, I believe it is wise to consider using an accountant. Speak with your accountant to determine how these tax forms will be used to calculate your taxes each year. And, you don’t want to get sideways the IRS.
I hope this note helps you prepare, and maybe gets you started earlier than you would have otherwise.

Thank you for listening to the Bowman Financial Strategies Uncommon Cents Podcast and Blog. I appreciate your time. Please feel free to send me questions by going to our website at www.bowmanfinancialstrategies.com and go to the Contact Us page or send me an email at erik@bowmanfinancialstrategies.com. Finally you can always reach us at 303-222-8034.
Now go ahead and use this Uncommon Cents information to LiveWell in retirement!

Financial Planners | Annuities, IRA, Retirement & Investment | Bowman Financial Strategies

Uncommon Cents Episode #1 Preparing for Tax Season

Uncommon Cents Ep 1 

Sunday, November 25, 2018
11:47 AM

Hi everyone, welcome to Uncommon Cents, Episode #1. Uncommon Cents is The Financial Education series by Bowman Financial Strategies. Today’s Podcast is the inaugural episode of Uncommon Cents and I wanted to provide a brief overview of what you can expect and how this podcast differs from its sister podcast, Mastering Mondays. Many of you may be familiar with Mastering Mondays, a non-financial podcast discussing topics to help you live better in retirement covering topics like health, psychology, food, travel, relationships and hobbies. Uncommon Cents by contrast is focused solely on financial topics with a focus on areas relevant to those that are near or at the transition from Accumulation to Distribution.  

This communication does not constitute federal tax advice and it may not be used as such. Please consult a qualified tax professional for tax advice or assistance.

Today we are talking about tax forms. Just saying it makes every accountant get excited. Ooooh, tell me more about my 1099r, please! Today I am going to review the most common forms that you will run across and some other basic tax preparation tips. Many of these forms are related to accounts I manage for my clients, so if you are a client and you ever have questions about any tax form or need a copy from a current or prior year, please reach out to my office and I am glad to help.
As you prepare for the 2018 tax filing season, you may find these checklists helpful. They outline the forms you should be collecting in the coming months, so you can successfully file your taxes. The IRS has a checklist here, https://www.irs.com/articles/tax-form-checklist. The financial Website Investopedia has a great article and checklist to help you get prepared here: https://www.investopedia.com/articles/pf/07/tax_prep.asp
Summary of Action Steps to Prepare for Tax Season:
Step 1: Schedule a time with your preparer so you can have your appointment prior to April 17th to ensure you can institute any tax savings actions prior to deadlines imposed by the IRS. If you use an accountant, be early! They get very busy during accounting season, and the first folks in the door will get taken care of first. If you don’t use an accountant, I recommend finding one unless your taxes are extremely simple.
Step 2: Gather information. The forms listed below fall under the umbrella of a group of IRS Tax Forms call Informational Forms. Here is the quick list of the most common forms. There are more! So, do not use this as an exhaustive list. However, these are the forms I most
Step 3: Gather receipts and charitable contribution information. In addition if you are making Charitable contributions, here is a link to the IRS pamphlet that details the type of substantiation you may need to include your contribution as a deduction.
Step 4: Gather all personal information like Social Security numbers for you and any dependents, EINs (companies you own) or Trust Identification Numbers (TIN) for any Trusts you may have.
Step 5: Gather last years tax returns. If you are using a new accountant they will need to see last years tax forms form the state as well as the federal government.
Step 6: Go to your appointment
Here is a quick list of forms I commonly see my clients receiving. You can click on a name of a form in the quick list and it will take you to Investopedia website where you will find the specific description of each form. I wrote a brief description of each form below as well as a slightly longer descriptions and some unique circumstances that may apply to you.
Common Informational IRS Forms:
W2 (Income earned, and taxes paid. For an Employee)
1098 Mortgage Interest Statement
1098-C, E, T (Donations, student loan interest, and Tuition payments)
1099-Misc (Non-employee compensation)
1099-B (reports Gains or Losses on securities investments)
1099-R (IRA distributions)
1099 INT (Interest received)
1099-DIV (Dividend received)
1099-LTC (LTC benefits received)
5498 (IRA contributions)

W2: First, many of you may still be working. If you are an employee of a company, you will receive your annual W-2 from each company you work for. This form is provided by your employer and per the IRS, “It reports the wages earned by employees and the taxes that were withheld from their paychecks. It also reports Social Security tax, a.k.a. the Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA) tax, to the Social Security Administration. The FICA tax has two components, the Social Security portion and the Medicare portion, which are separately reported on Tax Form W-2.” You should receive these forms per current federal law by January 31. You may have multiple W2 forms if you worked for more than one company in the calendar year you should receive one from each employer.

1099 MISC: For those who are not W2 employees but earn their income as Independent Contractors, you will receive a 1099-Misc. Per the IRS, “Tax Form 1099-MISC is commonly used among self-employed professionals to report profits from services performed for other organizations. If you are a sole-proprietor and were paid more than $600 for services during a given tax year, the business you worked for is required to send Tax Form 1099-MISC.
1099-R: A common form that our clients will see each year. The 1099-R form is issued by the IRS and reports distributions from IRAs, annuities, profit-sharing plans, insurance contracts, or pensions. The form must be mailed to the recipients by the custodian at the latest by Jan. 31 of the year after the distribution was made

Read more: Form 1099-R. For my clients, you may see this form in 3 common scenarios although all scenarios may not apply to you.

W2 (Income earned, and taxes paid.  For an Employee)

1098 Mortgage Interest Statement

1098-C, E, T (Donations, student loan interest, and Tuition payments)

1099-Misc (Non-employee compensation)

1099-B (reports Gains or Losses on securities investments)

1099-R (IRA distributions)

1099 INT (Interest received)

1099-DIV (Dividend received)

1099-LTC (LTC benefits received)

5498 (IRA contributions)

These are just the highlights; however, they probably represent 80% or more of the tax forms you should receive. Your situation is unique and what applies to someone else may not apply to you, so be sure to get with an accounting professional to ensure you are not paying more in taxes than you need to. With all the tax changes in the last year, I believe it is wise to consider using an accountant. Speak with your accountant to determine how these tax forms will be used to calculate your taxes each year. And, you don’t want to get sideways the IRS.
I hope this note helps you prepare, and maybe gets you started earlier than you would have otherwise.

Thank you for listening to the Bowman Financial Strategies Uncommon Cents Podcast and Blog. I appreciate your time. Please feel free to send me questions by going to our website at www.bowmanfinancilastrategies.com and go to the Contact Us page or send me an email at erik@bowmanfinancialstrategies.com. Finally you can always reach us at 303-222-8034.
Now go ahead and use this Uncommon Cents information to LiveWell in retirement!

Episode #6 Mastering Mondays: Interview with Connie Pshigoda. Author of Wise Woman’s Almanac

Mastering Monday’s podcast that provides tools and ideas to help you live better. I’m your host, Erik Bowman, owner of Bowman and financial strategies were personalized. Financial Strategies help you achieve a fulfilling retirement.

00:29 There is no shortage of diet plans for any number of health concerns, weight loss, weight gain, muscle building, belly fat reduction, heart health, brain health, digestive health, and on and on. It goes. Your health and your body are unique to you. There is no one size fits all or no cookie cutter. Mold in your food choices should reflect that Connie Pshigoda, founder of wellness for all seasons, author of the award winning the wise
woman’s Almanac, a seasonal guide with recipes for new beginnings that never go out of season and wellness. Columnist for Shine magazine shares a seasonal approach to a healthy lifestyle. Her farming roots taught her how to best use available seasonal foods. Her education and career path include fitness and ballet instructor massage therapist for 24 years. Nutritional educator and author, all of which have provided Connie with a knowledge and understanding of the human anatomy and it’s nutritional needs are fast paced lifestyles often make it difficult to follow a dietary program. So Connie is simplistic. Seasonal
approach offers an easier and more sensible way to achieve or maintain vibrant health, whether eating out or at home. Connie is a wife, mother of two grown daughters and grandmother of two granddaughters, six and nine. She loves the outdoors especially playing in her yard and garden hiking and mother daughter, granddaughter events.

01:55 Well, today for my podcast I have Connie Pshigoda, the author of the wise woman’s Almanac, a seasonal guide with recipes for new beginnings that never go out of season. Connie, thank you for joining me today. My pleasure. Erik Thank you.

I read your book and although I know a lot of the topics and the title certainly insinuate the systems of focus for women, but
certainly many of the topics are going to apply to men as well. I just kinda wanted to get that on the table to all the listeners of the podcast today that there are definitely things to take away from it, but I wanted to start off with just the an overarching question because there there is a focus to some extent on cooking and recipes and seasonal eating, but then we’re going to dig into the more personal concepts of self development and
self inventory and I thought we might just start with maybe you could tell me exactly what is seasonal eating.

Connie:  seasonal eating is just that eating and choosing foods that grow naturally and a particular environmental seasons, spring, summer, fall or winter, and obviously there’s not. In our Colorado climate, there’s not a lot growing in the wintertime, but springtime brings foods that are very cleansing, very
detoxing, very high in nutrients and that’s what our body needs. That time of year we’re. We’re getting rid of the residue and the
excess of heavy winter foods so the body is ready to refresh
with clean foods and I hear women say all the time about April
they say, oh, I would just killed. I have a Christmas Green Salad,
so our bodies intuitively know that they don’t want pot roast
and chicken pies and the heavy winter foods all year long. We
need that seasonal change. Summer comes along. We’ve got
gardens, we’ve got fresh produce, Sun ripened, vine ripened
foods that are that are very cooling in nature, which is what our
body needs to get us through the heat of the summer and the
fall foods that come along. As the garden comes to a close, you
think about those winter squashes, you think of the hard winter
root vegetables and our body needs the nutrient density lower
in calories, but they help keep the body warm in the winter, so
when we choose foods according to their season, we’re giving
our body exactly what it needs nutritionally in that season.

04:27 Oh, one of the challenges for many people is that when they go
to the grocery store, the same food is pretty much there all year
long, but I think a lot of people notice, for example, that
oranges are better at certain times of the season. How does
somebody work around the idea that everything is available all
the time at the grocery store to make sure they’re picking the
right foods for the right season?

04:48 Well, that is a difficult challenge for the consumer because it all
looks so enticing and when you walk into the produce section
and see all the colors and textures and know that the flavors are
different and just a little education of knowing what foods are
ripe in which season gives a lot of benefit to the consumer. Just
because blueberries are on the shelf in January does not
necessarily mean that’s what our body wants or needs in that
season.

05:17 Is it outlined in the book pretty clearly. For example, here are
the vegetables and foods you should be looking for in the fall
and in the summer and so on.

05:26 Yes, I do give what I called nature’s pantry. A list of foods
traditionally grown in those seasons. Some foods are grown
year round now. We’re traditionally, they were a seasonal food,
so again, just a little wisdom before you go to the grocery store
knowing what you’re looking for. Having your recipes in mind so
that you can make those choices and choose citrus in its season.
It’s more nutrient dense, it’s much more when it’s ripe in season
and not picked green and shipped out of season. So that helps
in the taste factor as well as recipe selection.

06:07 I think as I read the book that there are two distinct
components. There’s the cooking piece and the seasonal aspect
of food and then there’s really the self awareness, wellness and
well-being component, and you actually have many, um, or you
call them your turn, quote unquote, which are time for the
reader to do a self evaluation and actually right inside of this
book and start to annotate a different answers to questions that
you’ve posed. Can you tell me a little bit about why you
incorporated that into a book about seasonal eating?
Speaker 2: 06:44 I guess I’ve been around long enough to notice that the more
modern our world becomes, the further away we get from
nature and our ancestors were very closely related to the
nature around them. So they experienced that more closely
than what we experienced it. And we find ourselves in a one
size fits all brown paper bag lifestyle rather than embracing the
changes that come along environmentally and even
chronologically, I think women in their twenties or early thirties,
which could be considered the spring time of their life. They’re
perhaps going to college or graduated from college, but getting
careers there at that beginning season of their lives and as they
mature into the summer season, maybe they become more
established in their careers. Maybe they start their families. So
we have that seasonal aspect as well to consider. But I think just
taking a few minutes and slowing down the pace makes a huge
difference that we evaluate or that we assess where we are in
our particular time of life. I know a lot of women are not looking
forward to going into their sixties. I’m elated. I feel like I have
some new beginnings, but I’m not in the springtime of my life
because I’ve been there, done that so I can use the wisdom I
gained from those experiences and create new beginnings at
this time of my life. So I think just slowing down to look at
where am I right now and what does that look like for my
tomorrows.

08:28 Connie, can you describe just a little bit of how you chose the
approach of seasonal eating for a topic to write a book about?

08:37 You know Eric, this came about as a career choice quite by
surprise because I grew up that way. As a farm kid, you pretty
much live seasonally. You eat what’s grown in the field or in
your garden course. I had wonderful German grandmothers
who were great at canning and preserving what we grew in the
garden and I never dreamed that lifestyle would become a
career choice. Of course, the seasonal aspect is nothing new.
The ancient Chinese have followed that for thousands of years.
The eastern Indian Ayurvedic Culture has a three season
approach. Any of your indigenous groups, the, the native
Americans, the Amazon rain forest people, they all lived with
what was available seasonally and I think we’ve gotten away
from that with our prepackaged convenience foods. And please
don’t misunderstand. I love convenience, but I always ask at
what price. I don’t want to sacrifice vibrant health, I don’t want
to age any sooner than I have to because I’ve made poor food
choices, so eating seasonally, just for me, it makes it very
simple. I have my recipes organized by seasons and that just
gives me the opportunity to eat something fresh and new and
different every season. I don’t get stuck in the same ole, same
Ole, same ole recipe.
Speaker 1: 10:00 How do you actually catalog those recipes by season? What’s
your method for doing that?

10:05 Well, I’m a champion page terror outer of magazine, so when I
see a recipe that seems enticing, if it is a fruit or a recipe or it’s a
garden summer garden recipe, tomatoes or cucumbers or
summer squash, then I catalog those with. I’d have a notebook
that has four seasons, spring, summer, fall, winter, and then I
just had my little clear plastic page and I stick that magazine
page in there. Or if a friend shares the recipe, I’ll tuck it in that
little plastic holder and then I can just go to the tab for
whatever season.

10:43 That’s smart. I know we have a. my wife Heidi does the same
thing. She pulls them out, but we don’t necessarily have a way
to keep them readily accessible. You end up getting a pile of
these papers, but you’re saying like a three ring binder with
clear folder type pages that you can put these magazine pull
outs or even a handwritten recipe that somebody gives you that
you can just put in there. That’s how you.

11:07 That’s ideal. Now please don’t misunderstand. I have stacks of
recipes in my office as well because I usually tear more pages
out. Then I get cataloged right away, but that makes it easier for
me and I tell people I can eat just about anything that I want to
eat. I just choose to eat seasonally and then I feel like I have a
variety. I don’t get tired of the same old foods and my body
doesn’t build up an allergic or sensitivity because I’m repeating
the same food choices over and over and over.

11:37 Does that actually occur that if you eat the same thing over and
over, it can cause issues?

11:41 I think some people with very sensitive systems may experience
that. I know not so much with with nature’s pantry foods,
garden foods, more so with your process foods or

11:57 I mean things in bagels. Every morning comes in a box. Yes.

12:00 That I think our body creates sensitivities and possibly allergies.
I’ve heard a number of people say, I used to eat this all the time
and now my body doesn’t like it or I’m allergic to it and I think
that we need the variety, so by choosing seasonal foods, you’re
giving your body a variety of the nutrients that it needs all year
long.

12:19 You’re defining current marketing from all the manufacturers of
food by eating seasonal vegetables and fruits because that’s
what they’re putting in front of you is something that’s in a box
that may have been manufactured six months ago and you have
access to it and you’re doing what? I guess what I hear you say
is historically doesn’t happen naturally. That that’s an unnatural
thing to have access to the same foods every single day of the
year.

12:46 That is true and I. I know that convenience is a wonderful thing
in many circumstances. However, the amazing human body
needs enzymes. It needs fiber, it needs antioxidants, it needs
vitamins and minerals that they can function in the bodies,
right?

13:09 Why don’t you dig in a little more on the thought starters. This
thought starters of the book are intended to help the readers
get in touch with their environment and how

13:19 they fit into that space or place. We often live on autopilot and
forget to engage, so taking the time to respond to these
questions or thoughts gives us a glimpse of our inner garden
and that’s where our feelings, our beliefs are rooted. I think it
helps to get things out of our heads and onto paper.

13:43 If somebody were to go through this whole book and read the
book and take part in all of the different interactive and selfinventory
and thought starters, what would you want
somebody to get out of the book if they’ve actually completed
thoroughly and took advantage of the time to sit down and
reflect? What would you want a woman to get out of this book?

14:05 First? I believe the interactive activities really allow us to slow
down. We get so caught up in the hurry up of living that we
frequently get stuck in the sameness we’re doing everything
that everybody else is doing or that the marketers tell us to do
with the commercials suggest and we forget that we are very
individualistic and my health is not your health and my health in
my twenties and thirties and forties is not the same health I
strive for today. So I think that just taking that time to be
interactive with yourself. Like you said, you’re. You’re asking
yourself the question, what have I eaten today? What, what are
my cravings or what? What do I really disliked? To many
Americans are mindless eaters. Sometimes we just have great
elbow action. We, we, we go from plate to mouth and we don’t
really think about why am I eating this?

15:06 What is my body telling me? Do I need this? Am I really hungry?
Am I sad? Am I mad? Am I glad I’m in a hurry? So stopping down
to answer these questions I think gives us a deeper look at what
I call our inner garden. How are we cultivating that? And the
first part of my book, I use a lot of my farming experiences,
watching my dad cultivate the soil and use soil conservation
methods to really get the soil ready to plant the crop. We need
to do the same thing with our bodies internally. So what I would
want the reader to take with them is just an awareness that
even though we see the same seasons on the calendar year
after year after year, the spring time can be very different as we
in Colorado, no, we can have a very sunny spring in April or we
could have a blizzard, but we have to adapt to that and I think
having that adaptability with our physiology just makes us
stronger mentally, spiritually, emotionally and physically
because ultimately I’m the one that puts that food in my mouth.

16:15 About a third of the way in your book page 51 to be exact. You
have one of your your turn sections and you asked the reader to
list three new habits that they want to cultivate this month. And
the title of that chapter is internal cultivation, developing
healthy habits. Can you talk a little bit about what you wanted
to accomplish or the message you’re trying to get across with
that?

16:40 I think we are all products of our habits, whether it’s financial
habits or health habits or relationship habits, but as more
specifically to eating. I again, I think we become mindless in our
fast paced world today. We just go with the flow when we don’t
stop and think, why am I doing this? Why am I eating this? And
I, for me personally, I don’t like to follow a list of to do’s, but I
read many years ago in a wellness book that if we would divide
our food choices by percentages and you’re a numbers man so
you understand percentages. If we divide our food choices into
percentages, we can cultivate what works well for our lifestyle,

Episode #5 Mastering Mondays Interview with Kristina Lynn Photography

Show Links:

Kristina Lynn Photography

Transcript:

ERIK: Hi I’m Erik Bowman your host and owner of Bowman Financial Strategies, where we provide straight answers so you can make confident decisions to live the retirement you have always dreamed of. Today I’m speaking with Kristina Lynn Marshall of Kristina Lynn Photography. Kristina, thank you so much for joining me today.

 

KRISTINA: Thank you so much for having me.

 

ERIK: Before we dig into a discussion on photography and how the average person can significantly improve the quality of their pictures, whether they use a camera phone or their own digital camera, I want to give you a chance to tell everyone a little bit about yourself.

 

KRISTINA: Yes, absolutely. My name is Kristina Lynn Marshall. I am a portrait photographer based in Stillwater, Minnesota. I also have a satellite studio in Clarion, Iowa, which is my home town. And then I also come out to Denver, Colorado a couple of times each year. I have had my business for about ten years now. January will actually be my ten-year anniversary of starting my own business.

 

ERIK: Nice.

 

KRISTINA: I mainly specialize in portrait photography which means high school seniors, kids, families, weddings, corporate headshots. But I also do some product photography, some architectural photography such as real estate, and interior design photos.

 

ERIK: Very good, and just for full disclosure Kristina actually took photographs for Bowman Financial Strategies and if you go to www.bowmanfinancialstrategies.com, you’ll see a selection of photographs that are on that website that Kristina actually took for us and it was a great experience, so I highly recommend utilizing her if you ever do need professional photography services. Let’s move into really addressing some of the concerns that maybe our clients and friends of the podcast might have and specifically we know that many times a professional photographer is necessary. And a photographer is necessary for things like wedding pictures and maybe senior pictures and a professional shoot like you did for Bowman Financial Strategies, but of course people also want to take good pictures when they are on vacation or they’re visiting with their grandchildren. We can think of a lot of different moments in time where somebody just wants to take a picture and they might only have their iPhone with them. So let’s talk a little bit about some of the things that people should be thinking about when it comes to photography. And maybe we can start with what I have heard you refer to as the pre-shoot preparation. What should we do before we even think about taking a picture to give us the best chance of capturing a great picture?

 

KRISTINA: Everyone has a camera on them almost any point and time of the day with their phone. Right now, you are seeing a lot more photos being taken, and life being documented in photography. And so yes, there’s lots of really great tips I can share with you to take those photos and can make them a little bit better. For example, a couple pre-shooting tips I have. One is clean your camera lens. So you have your camera or your phone in your pocket all the time and you are grabbing it and you are touching it. A lot of times the camera is exposed, whether it is a front facing camera or rear facing camera, and so it gets finger prints on it a lot. So one of the first tips I usually do when I pull out my camera or phone to take a picture is to wipe off the lens.

 

ERIK: That seems so obvious and yet I can’t remember the last time that I actually cleaned the lens on my camera or on my phone camera. And if I did, I’m sure I just did it with my thumb and smeared more grease onto that lens so using a soft cloth and just not forgetting to clean that before you shoot that sounds like basic but extremely important.

 

KRISTINA: Yeah, even now as a professional a lot of times I will quickly pull my phone out of my pocket to take a picture. And I will take a picture and look at it and it is not as sharp as it could be and it’s because my lens is dirty. So it is a very common thing and it happens all the time, but it is a very quick fix to make your photos sharper.

 

ERIK: Awesome, well thank you for that. Why don’t we talk about some basic concepts that everyone should follow, whether they’re using their camera phone or if they are using their DSLR or digital camera. What are some of the basics they should understand and maybe we could break this into pieces, the first one being lighting. Does that sound like an appropriate place to start?

 

KRISTINA: Yes absolutely. So when you are taking photos, one of the trickiest things to kind of think about and after is the lighting. And that is because the camera doesn’t have as much dynamic range as your eye does. So what you are seeing does not always translate into the camera. Because your eye’s adjusting to the differences between the lightness and darkness. Lighting is a really big part of taking good photos.

 

ERIK: Can you highlight a little bit when it comes to different environments, perhaps maybe it’s a birthday party indoors compared to maybe an outside bright sunny day? What are some basic ideas about how you should think about that lighting when you’re taking a picture?

 

KRISTINA: So if you are, for example, taking photos at your granddaughters first birthday party. The best place to take the photos if you’re indoors is closer to a window because that’s going to give you more light, more natural light, and you won’t have to rely on your flash as much. So the closer you can move your subject to the window is usually best. If you are outdoors and you are trying to photograph something, finding shade is probably your best bet. Because you are not having to deal with really bright conditions where your subject is squinting, or your camera is trying to figure out if you are backlighting with the sun behind your subject or if it’s in the front. So shade is really good and overcast days are really good.

 

ERIK: So Kristina, when you are talking about working in the shade as an example, are you saying that the subjects are in the shade or the photographer is in the shade?

 

KRISTINA: A lot of times for sure your subject is in the shade. You know, if you are under a tree, me as a photographer and if I’m not in the sun, it is not that big of a deal as long as the sun is not shining directly into your camera lens. It is more important for your subject to be in the shade just because the lighting is more even. If both of you can be in the shade, even better.

 

ERIK: What would you recommend then out here in Colorado, you may very well be at a place like Daniel’s Park where there really is no shade and you want to get that background of the mountains or the backdrop of the mountains? How do you handle that if it is a bright sunny day, what are some tips?

 

KRTISTINA: Usually, shooting earlier in the morning or later in the day when the sun is a little bit lower in the sky makes for better even lighting. So a place like Daniel’s Park, it all kind of depends on what your goal is. If you were just out there photographing the mountains and wanting a nice landscape scene, it’s better to shoot earlier in the morning because the sun will be to your back, the photographer’s back, and shining on the mountains. If you’re shooting a family out at Daniel’s Park, it is better to photograph them in the evening, closer to sunset, because then the sun is behind the subjects and you can get it so it’s maybe slightly back lighting them a little bit. But that way you don’t have the sun directly in their eyes and they are squinty.

 

ERIK: And you know that seems counter-intuitive, I think that naturally most people who don’t do photography for a living, they think that a bright sunny day in the middle of the day actually is probably the best. And what I’ve heard you say is that it is probably the worst time of the day to get a really good picture, that you get better color, better shadows, and maybe better contrast, by taking your photos early in the morning or late in the afternoon.

 

KRISTINA: That is exactly right. This morning I photographed this family and it was cloudy out and they made this comment of, oh how this must be horrible lighting for you. And I said no, actually a cloudy day is perfect for me, because everything is nice and even lighting, you don’t have to worry about really bright highlight spots and really dark shadows. It is more even. And it opens up the opportunity that I can take you kind of wherever and not have to worry about, well will you be facing the sun, how do I get the sun to your back.

 

ERIK: Excellent. I have a question that keeps popping into my mind and I know when I take photos with my iPhone or really any camera, the one thing, especially if I am taking pictures of the mountains or a landscape if you will, is that it just doesn’t do it justice. You know, a sunset, as beautiful as the colors may be, you just don’t seem to get the, I don’t know, the depth or the detail or the expansiveness that you are seeing with yours eyes. What is it that causes the difference between what you are seeing and a photograph that just doesn’t really pull it out and make it look as great as you think it is when you are looking at it live.

 

KRISTINA: Great question. It all has to do with, your eyes are very dynamic. Because, you know they are attached to your brain. And so your brain kind of knows that this is the thing you are looking at and you can see the different colors whereas when you are taking a photograph, you are at the mercy of your camera and what your camera thinks is how it should be. Especially when shooting with your smartphone. Your smartphone is programmed to kind of look at the entire scene and kind of average it out so that your brights aren’t too bright and your darks aren’t too dark. It will kind of be in the middle. When photographing something like a sunset on the mountains, it can be kind of tricky because you have that sunlight pouring into your lens. And your camera is saying, oh it’s really really bright and I need to darken it down. So then you lose the detail in the mountains. Or your camera will go the other way and say, oh look at the mountains and that is the really dark area, let’s brighten that up, which then makes you lose your sunset because it is overexposing it and you lose all the colors. So there is actually a setting on all the cameras that I recommend using for situations like this. It’s called the HDR setting and that stands for High Dynamic Range. And while that is not a fix-all for everything, it does really help create more of a little bit closer to what your eye is seeing. Because what it does is your camera is taking all this information and saying those are the really bright spots, those are the really dark spots. Let’s kind of average that out and not overexpose or underexpose, but kind of go right in the middle.

 

ERIK: I always wondered what that meant, I didn’t know what it meant, I didn’t know what it did. Sometimes my camera would be on HDR and sometimes it’s not. So that’s very helpful, so there is a specific time and place for using that, so that’s awesome to know. So we have talked a little bit about lighting, actually we talked a lot about lighting and I know I have learned a couple of things for sure. One of the other components of photography is staging. Which in my mind, and correct me if I’m wrong, is really talking about what elements do you have inside of the picture. Are there things on the table? If there is a birthday cake with candles, what do you do to make the photograph more interesting knowing that sometimes you have limited control over what you can actually do as far as staging is concerned. But maybe you can enlighten us a little bit on some tips and some techniques that you use.

 

KRISTINA: Staging is definitely important because it is kind of setting the scene for what you are taking. But kind of a couple things to think about, anything that is in the foreground. You are photographing a birthday, and there’s a table with a cake, and your one-year old granddaughter behind the cake. But then there’s a bunch of presents right in front of you on the table. If you were to put those in the picture, they’re going grab your attention and it is going to take away from the actual picture you want to take of your granddaughter and her birthday cake and the candles. Something as simple as just moving things off of the table, getting them out of the foreground, will help. When you are grouping people together, like if you are doing a family photo, put people in groups so that obviously the taller people are in the back and the shorter people are in the front. But to create even more interest, you can do different levels. So instead of just having everyone standing, put people on different levels where there are some standing, some sitting, to create some interest.

 

ERIK: And I think that little bit of controlling the environment and changing those head heights as you say can really make a big difference, so that’s really good input.

 

KRISTINA: Yes, and even doing something where instead of lining everyone up in one big line, you do two different rows. So have the taller people in the back and the shorter people in the front. And put the taller people towards the middle of your grouping so that kind of naturally falls off on either side.

 

ERIK: Excellent. The next topic we had talked about a little bit earlier today and I just find it extremely interesting how the human brain works and when it’s evaluating a picture, what makes it just seem better, naturally. And when it comes to framing a picture appropriately, what are some of the techniques and rules of thumb that the amateur photographer should be thinking about?

 

KRISTINA: One of the rules that first comes to mind is what is called the Rule of Thirds. And this is more for composition. So to make something a little bit more interesting in your photos, instead of putting your subject directly in the middle of your frame, move it slightly to the left or to the right. So picture your view finder, or looking through your view finder, as a grid going across to kind of make like a tic-tac-toe board.

 

ERIK: Right, so there’s nine blocks.

 

KRISTINA: Yes, exactly. So when you do that, put those people kind of on one of the, not right in the middle, but the line to the left or to the right. That will kind of just create a little more visual interest. That way it kind of draws your eye through the photo a little bit more.

 

ERIK: I do believe that the iPhone actually has the ability for you to have that grid up and probably you could expand on this too. Do the DSLR cameras actually have a grid that you can see? I think the iPhones do.

 

KRISTINA: Yes, a lot of time on your iPhones and on your smartphones just in general, there are apps or ways you can put up a grid on there. So that you can kind of be mindful of the Rule of Thirds and be like, oh instead of right here in the middle, let’s move them to the left or to the right depending on what we are trying to capture just to add a little bit more interest.

 

ERIK: And I think to expand on that one little bit, is the Rule of Thirds applies vertically as well. So depending on the photo you’re taking, it’s not always a left or right adjustment, it may be an adjustment high and low, correct?

 

KRISTINA: Correct. For example, let’s say you are doing a landscape photo and you have the mountains and you’ve got beautiful clouds in the sky and you want to be able to capture both of those. It’s better to put maybe towards the bottom of the frame versus right in the middle so you can get more of the clouds or vice-versa depending on what you are going for.

 

ERIK: Excellent, it seems straight forward and obvious when we talk about it here. When in reality, I probably haven’t been using any of these techniques when I take pictures and then I wonder why they don’t look as good as they probably could, so that’s great information. Next let’s talk a little bit of what I think what is becoming more and more important, which is nobody has photographs anymore. I know down in our basement, we have hundreds of photographs of our first three children. And then since iPhone’s became kind of ubiquitous, my youngest child, Jacob, who is eleven years old, that poor kid, he’s not in any paper photographs. And what it really highlights is the need for appropriate backup and then how you might be able to use those digital pictures other than showing somebody your phone periodically and then one day it gets deleted and it’s no longer there. Do you have any advice on backing up the photos?

 

KRISTINA: Yes, so backing up is becoming very important. Because when you think about it, if you are documenting everything on your phone, what do you do if you lose your phone? For example, I know my sister, who has four little kids, she doesn’t have a camera. She has her phone, that is what she uses for her camera. Which is great, because then she can take pictures on the go. But she doesn’t print them as often as she should. And so a lot of her memories are living on her phone. Well what do you do then when you go to upgrade your phone? Are you saving them to an external hard drive? Do you even save them to an SD card in your phone? Are you just saving them on the actual phone hard drive itself?

 

ERIK: What are some ways of backing it up? Maybe what are the top two ways you would recommend for somebody to quickly and easily get those photos off of the iPhone for future use?

 

KRISTINA: One of the quickest ways to back up your photos, is most phones in general will even let you setup so that every photo you take on your camera will back up to a DropBox folder or your Google Drive. And so it is actually constantly backing up with every photo that you take once you attach yourself to WIFI. Sometimes it will pull everything from your phone and put it into your DropBox folder. So that would be my number one recommendation, if you don’t have something like that setup, do it now. Super easy, both Dropbox and Google Drive are free. And so it’s a very simple thing that you just go into your camera settings on your phone and tell it where to back up to. So it will just upload it to the cloud for you.

 

ERIK: If they don’t have that, somebody might not be quite tech savvy enough or have a desire to work with an app, how else do you simply get your pictures off your phone if you need to do it manually?

 

KRISTINA: There’s a bunch of different work arounds I would say. You can always email yourself photos. But that can be kind of cumbersome. A lot of phones have like an internal SD card that you can put in there and you can set it so that your camera is saving your photos to the SD card, which then at some point in time you can take out and you can download them to your computer and back them up on a hard drive that way. But again, if you lose your phone, you lost your SD card. The backing up to the cloud is actually the easiest, and a lot of times it is as simple as finding it in your settings and saying go.

 

ERIK: That explains though why most people have all these photographs and then when they run out of room they have to start deleting them. It is because it actually isn’t just obvious and straight forward how to get them off of your phone and onto your computer. So using either the cloud, and I think that Apple offers an Apple cloud kind of area where you can download photos, but using a free app called DropBox or Google Drive, once again, which I use extensively for saving documents actually for business purposes. Otherwise, I think both of those are great ideas, so thank you for those. Kristina, can you just briefly touch on the idea of zooming in with the iPhone or Android phone. What are some of the pros and cons of using what I think you refer to as the pinch zoom?

 

KRISTINA: With digital cameras or normal cameras, you have what they call an optical zoom, where they’re actually taking the lens and moving it closer to the subject, so you are not losing quality when you zoom in. It is moving your lens closer. However, with phones, you don’t have that luxury. With phones, you have what is called the digital zoom. So what a digital zoom is, when you open up your phone, your camera, and you go to take a picture and you want to be closer and you take your fingers and you spread them apart on the screen to zoom in, what that is actually doing is taking the pixels and making them larger. And so it deteriorates your quality. If you are in a position where you want to be closer to your subject instead of trying to zoom with your fingers or doing it on your camera phone, actually walking closer to your subject is better and it will make for a clearer picture.

 

ERIK: That’s awesome, that is really good information. I think all of this information is fantastic because certainly if we applied all of these techniques every time, we would have fantastic pictures. Some people may be concerned though that they don’t have the time to do that, they don’t want to miss the moment, and I would agree. I think it’s important that you get the picture, that’s like step one, what would be some advice to allow somebody to have a happy medium of improving their pictures but still making sure they are getting them without ruining the moment?

 

KRISTINA: It is very important to kind of have an idea of what your phone can do, but not to get so wrapped up in all the details and miss the moment. My biggest piece of advice for everybody is to remember what you are taking the photo of most times is the moment so that you can remember the moment, and don’t get so wrapped up in making it the perfect photo. With digital, there’s a lot of things you can fix afterwards. And so if something’s a little bit off, a lot of times you can go in and make it a little bit better. But don’t get so wrapped up in needing to know all the details and everything that your phone can do. Maybe pick one or two things and kind of work on that so that it becomes second nature. And then you can always add on things as you go. Don’t get bogged down by technology.

 

ERIK: That’s great advise. You know and I do think about that every computer out there has pretty standard photo software and I’m looking at my Windows 10 operating system and it has a built-in photo editor that can do some amazing things these days. As long as you can figure out a way through your backup system to get your photos to your computer, you can crop them. So that if so when you took the picture, for example, you didn’t create that third idea that we spoke about, getting the subject into one third of it, but when you crop the picture, you can actually create that type of feeling and that people should just remember like you said. It is about the moment so that you can remember it and you know the most important thing is get the shot, you might be able to fix it later.

 

KRISTINA: Exactly.

 

ERIK: Well I want to thank you so much for taking your time to speak with me. We always enjoy getting together with you. Why don’t you tell everybody your website address and certainly if anybody ever is interested in professional photography, Kristina is a great person to use. We’ve used her successfully and have been really happy with the results, so why don’t you give some contact information.

 

KRISTINA: Sure! So my website address is kristinalynnphoto.com and on there you can see some of the work that I have done. I’ll have a list on there of all my travel dates, of where I’m actually going, or I have scheduled to go. But anytime you ever need photos, like I said I’m mobile and love to travel, so have passport will travel they say. And there is also a contact form on there so if you ever have questions you can always feel free to drop me a line and I’d be happy to help.

 

ERIK: Well thank you very much, I truly appreciate it. I hope everybody out there got something useful out of today’s podcast. So go out there and live the best day of your life. Thank you very much.

Episode #4 Mastering Monday’s Interview with Rolf Potts, Author of Vagabonding

Show Links

Vagabonding the Book by Rolf Potts

 

ERIK: Hi everyone and thank you for joining me today for the first episode of Mastering Monday’s, the interview segment, with our amazing guest Rolf Potts. Have you ever considered travelling to far off lands and staying not just for a few days or a week, but for three weeks, one month, or maybe even longer? If the thought of living in another country and exploring their culture and not just sight-seeing excites you and gets you dreaming about places you have never seen, you must get familiar with Rolf Potts. Rolf is perhaps best known for promoting the ethic of independent travel and his book on the subject, Vagabonding: An Uncommon Guide to the Art of Long-Term World Travel from Random House 2003, has been through thirty printings and translated into several foreign languages. On a personal note, Vagabonding has transformed how my wife and I think about travel and has propelled us to action. We now have some very exciting travel plans in this next year, but that’s for another day. More about Rolf. Rolf Potts is reported for more than sixty countries for the likes of National Geographic Traveler, the New Yorker, Outside, The New York Times magazine, Sports Illustrated, National Public Radio, and the Travel Channel. His adventures have taken him across six continents and include hitchhiking across eastern Europe, traversing Israel on foot, bicycling across Burma, driving a Land Rover across South America, and travelling around the world for six weeks with no luggage or bags of any kind. His collection of literary travel essays, Marco Polo Didn’t Go there: Stories and Revelations from One Decade as a Postmodern Travel Writer (Travelers’ Tales 2008), won a 2009 Lowell Thomas award from the Society of American Travel Writers and became the first American authored book to win Italy’s prestigious Chatwin Prize for travel writing. Though he rarely stays in one place for more than a few weeks or months, Potts feels somewhat at home in Bangkok, Cairo, Busan, New York, New Orleans, and north central Kansas, where he keeps a small farm house on thirty acres near his family. Each July he can be found in France where he is the summer writer in residence and program director at the Paris American academy. And I am honored to have Rolf with me today, so without further ado, here is my interview with Rolf Potts.

 

ERIK: Thank you for joining me for another episode of Mastering Monday’s. This is the interview segment, and this is the interview segment that I mentioned in the last Mastering Monday email with Rolf Potts. So Rolf is with me today, Rolf thank you so much for being with me today.

 

ROLF: I’m happy to talk with you.

 

ERIK: I’m really excited to speak with you. I know that many of the concepts in your book, Vagabonding, have actually impacted my way of thinking about travel, and actually how my wife and I think about travel is a more accurate description, and I want to thank you for that because the information in this book has just truly revolutionized the way I’m thinking about our future travel. We are currently engaging in the planning and the dreaming of what this potential travel is going to look like 2019 and we’re looking at doing an experimental trip of maybe four to six weeks over in Europe or maybe south America, but I thought maybe you could take just a moment and provide a high level summary of your book Vagabonding, which is the source of my inspiration, and how do you experience or how have you experienced long term travel and the primary way that long term travel differs from traditional travel and vacationing.

 

ROLF: Yeah, well the core idea is to enable people, practically and just as importantly philosophically, in a matter of attitude. Travelling the world in earnest for weeks and months and years instead of just previously allotted vacation time. You should think about how you spend your time and spend your time in a way that enhances your life and causes you to dream. And so quite simply, and I’m not going to knock vacations, because vacations are rewarding activities, but often times vacations are very short term, they are very constricted, they are sort of bought like a commodity. You tend to throw money at a vacation. Whereas Vagabonding is more taking your life on the road. And there are some parts of the world where you can literally spend less per week than you spend at home, with rent and food and everything else. And so you are travelling not as a consumer but just sort of moving through the local economy, finding a way to save money and make it pay out in time. And really just to live those travel dreams that most of us have had our whole lives that we don’t think apply to us. When in fact not only do they apply to us, that we should take practical ways to make sure that they can happen to us.

 

ERIK: Right, you know as I have listened to your book and read your book, I have done it both ways, that way I can tab it and mark things that are interesting, I have just wondered to myself, “How did you begin doing this?” What was the impotence or the origin of you deciding to travel and maybe you could offer my audience a short story that describes how you became such a world traveler in the first place? And maybe even how that relates to your ability to write about that so poignantly in your books in essays.

 

ROLF: Sure, well I am a very American soul. I grew up in Kansas, right in the middle of the country. I always loved going on vacations when I was a kid, but I didn’t see the ocean until I left because my family travelled locally but not very much far distance travel. And I really grew up thinking that I would save all of my travels for the end of my life, I didn’t even think about it too much. This describes my travel plans as it was post-retirement. But then as I got older, there were several factors that made me realize that regardless of how you shape things out in your life as a traveler, it’s good to optimize travel now. And so I was in my early twenties when I thought this, but I’m not saying this in a way that should deter the older demographic such as your clients, but I just thought that based on a summer job in Kansas stocking shelves in a grocery store, I really didn’t like it very much. And then I realized that any ongoing work, regardless what relation it was, I didn’t really care for, was sort of what I was in for. I thought I was going to create my own alternative to the American workaholic life – I’ll take a dream trip and then I can go back to being an American workaholic. So when I was quite young, actually I was still in college, I graduated in college and I worked as a landscaper. A good blue-collar job. Saved a lot of money, got a van. Travelled around the United States for about eight months. And it’s still one of my favorite trips, and I have been to many more exotic places since then. But you can only have that first deeply meaningful trip once I guess. And I just realized that travel wasn’t as expensive as you might think it would be. It’s not as dangerous or difficult as you think it might be. Travel was something that I could accept, not just travel in the vacation sense but long-term travel, as something that I could access my whole life. And so I later went and started to run out of money. I went to Korea to teach English oversees for a couple of years. And that is something we can come back to, working oversees and teaching oversees. And that can apply to all different kinds of all ages and demographics. But I saved some more money, and two years working in Korea afforded me two and a half years of travelling around Asia full-time, and that is when I transitioned into being a travel writer. That was twenty years ago this November, nineteen years and eleven months ago that I was still in Korea doing my work. And now I have been a travel writer. That Asia and European and Middle Eastern Vagabonding trip brought home the lessons from my first Vagabonding trip. That travel doesn’t need to be super expensive, you can take your time, you don’t have to micromanage it, you can learn as you go, and it can be a really life enhancing project. And so I have sort of internalized that, it’s not like I have been travelling fulltime for the last twenty years. I alternate periods at home, I actually have a home, a home base at least, back in Kansas. As a travel writer, I am gone most of the year, probably more often than not. But I have a place to come home to. And travel has really enhanced my life and home has enhanced my travels. And it has become a, well it’s a normal way of living for me. And my book Vagabonding, which showed up on your radar, has been out for fifteen years now. And it’s been out as an audiobook for about five years now. And I’ve just had this conversation with many, many, people over the years and often times it’s just a matter of reassurance. It’s just a matter of me reassuring people that it can happen. You don’t have to be an extraordinary Indiana Jones person for this to happen. You just have to make some small adjustments to enable it to happen.

 

ERIK: Right, you know when you hear about how you started your travel life, it seems so unique compared to the experience to most people. And I just thought of so many questions as you were describing that. So really, in no particular order, one of them is that yes, our listeners are transitioning from this stage of accumulating wealth so that they can retire and not have to work anymore and maybe they haven’t had a chance to do that. And they may not be interested or physically able even to do a year at a time, but maybe certainly more than a week at a time. Which is where you get that buzz of sight seeing that can be a little unfulfilling as opposed to living somewhere and getting into the culture and getting to know people. One of the other associated, I think, built in limitations that people have, are that they presume they need high end accommodations. They presume they need a granite countertop, a hotel bed of a certain quality. What would you say to those people that are now just considering this maybe after age fifty-five and trying to give them a comfort level about what the accommodations may actually be like and why you don’t necessarily need that fancier four-star hotel feel to truly, truly, enjoy your trip.

 

ROLF: Well, addressing one thing that you mentioned earlier, which is length of travel. And I have taken some trips that have been eight months, two years. But I have always insisted that travel isn’t a contest. It’s not about how long your trip is but what kind of trip fits your desires and dreams as a traveler. I don’t know if I could travel for more than two years at a time. And I know some people who would travel for six weeks and that scratches their travel itch and it just makes them happy, and I really respect that. I think one thing for your listeners to consider is just how much of a chunk of their year they want to spend travelling. Because they could take a whole year, or they could do a smaller portion of that year that is longer than a typical vacation. As far as accommodation, this is something that shifted slightly for me. There was some dirt bag, hostel, travelling that I did in my twenties that I don’t do now that I am in my forties. I am more likely to rent a car now that I am in my forties. And I am more likely to seek out certain kinds of comfort simply because I can afford it. And you know, in a place like Thailand, you can find a dirt bag guesthouse for ten dollars and it’s fine. There is not much room in it, you might be sharing a little hall with backpackers from all over the world, which is kind of interesting, but an older demographic of travelers can spend maybe thirty dollars and get a place that is clean and beautiful and comfortable. And it is just locally owned. It is not a Hilton or a Radisson, it is just owned by the local people in Thailand or Colombia or Romania. And it’s not an extravagant place, but as I have said in my book, I quote a guy who says, “For all your wealth, you only sleep in one bed.” A bed and a combination is the place where you are going to be sleeping. For most of the day you will be seeing the world. You don’t travel the world to have your best night’s sleep. And actually, the best way to enable a good night sleep, even if you are not in a super expensive hotel room, is to have some good adventures during the day and earn your sleep. I am a big fan of travelling in that local economy. Side stepping, I think there is this assumption that we need a lot of middle men, or we need to plan everything in advance, that a brand name hotel is going to be a better hotel. And I’m not going to knock brand name hotels, but the world is full of cheap hotels, inexpensive restaurants and food stalls, even in a place like Mexico or eastern Europe – bus lines that are wonderfully comfortable and a fraction of a price to the other ways of getting around. This is something that you can research or something you can discover on the road.

 

ERIK: It almost seems like one of the basic behavior patterns that somebody might need to break is that of preconceived ideas of what it is going to be like. Open yourself up to the idea that it may not be as uncomfortable or that people will be interested in you or being around people you don’t know is actually going to be an enjoyable experience.

 

ROLF: Yeah, it’s not going to be uncomfortable, but even just slightly changing your idea of what comfort is. Maybe you don’t need a super high thread count sheet. Maybe you don’t need a five-course meal or a personally driven tour car. There are just ways of keeping an open mind to what’s required because I think that there’s a mindset in the US that is tied into a fear of faraway places and what might happen there. But it’s not routed in empirical information. Its routed in workspace scenario. And it’s so easy to be safe and to save money, and to have a great time on the road. Even if your fifty, sixty, seventy, years old. It’s just a matter of being open to that empirical reality rather than the fear.

 

ERIK: You know that brings me to a quick question which is when you really went on maybe one of your first more exotic trips, to a place you hadn’t been before. And you had less experience under your belt. I’m assuming there was a level of anxiety as you have just expressed, can you tell me just a little bit about what was different about that first or second travel experience oversees? How was it different than what you thought it would be like and talk on how that related specifically about your pretravel anxiety.

 

ROLF: Well, when you’re asking that question – what popped in my head was actually my USA trip, my very first one before I went overseas, and I lived in a camper for eight months. And I was just worried, should I bring a firearm? What should I do – I was living in a van much of the time. Is that going to create a problem, what am I going to do every day? How are expenses going to shape out? And I just found that just by planning for but confronting those sorts of fears, it’s as if a part of me was waiting for the bad things to happen and they just never did. And each day on the trip I not only became more confident in regard to those fears, I also became more competent as far as granting those things and becoming a savvier traveler.  I had weird anxieties like would I be accepted in the youth hostels, what would people make of me? Did I have the right shoes? All of this stuff. And every single case was just something where I walked into each situation and the worst-case scenario never really actualized themselves. And I could use my competence and could jump ahead a little bit in my travel career – in 2010 I went around the world with no luggage.

 

ERIK: Right, for six weeks, right?

 

ROLF: Yeah, it was sort of a stunt. Just stuck a few items in a vest, including a little bit of backup clothing. And I had a cameraman with me, and you can find that video series online, the one problem was that I adapted so quickly, that after a week having no luggage wasn’t a challenge. I just washed my extra clothes every day. And I didn’t worry about what kind of junk I had in my pockets, because all my entertainment, all my activity, all my food, was outside of my person. It was in the destination itself. And so that was a trip that I undertook ten years into my travel career, but it reminded me how easily adaptable we are. And I say it in the book, but the way to create the money to travel is to simplify your life, is to downsize a little bit. And an actualization of that is trying to put everything you own in a backpack and trying to go around the world, which you can’t. Travel already forces you to simplify. And in this very extreme case of simplification from my baggage trip, I realized that even having next to nothing, even having two spare pares of underwear, a spare t-shirt, a toothbrush, and a few other things, even that is something that I got used to.

 

ERIK: You know another aspect, the folks that are listening to this podcast, the fantastic realization is they actually have experience. They’ve been alive for fifty-five, or sixty, or sixty-five years old or more. And they have travelled. And they probably know more than they might even think they know that they could apply to maybe long-term travel. And a lot of them actually are at a point where they want to downsize so they don’t have as many material things. I see that happen as a natural course of events from retiring. So in some respects, the idea of longer travel, less material possessions, or a smaller place to house those, is a natural fit for this. And just a realization that longer travel could be a perfect fit for retirees. That brings me to really this idea that you’ve travelled so extensively, that I’m sure that you run into folks fifty-five plus that are travelling around the world. Some vacationing, some longer-term travel. And as you’ve run into those people, can you just briefly talk a little bit about – what have you found is their rationale at that age for doing longer term travel? How did they overcome some of the barricades to making that happen? The norms and the culture that might naturally preclude that from taking place? And how have they felt differently having been on a trip?

 

ROLF: I’ve met a spectrum of travelers who are older. Who are around retirement age. And the funny thing is that the happiest ones are the kind that you meet in the hostel and the unhappiest ones are the ones you meet at the resort. And I’m not knocking resorts, and just saying resorts bring out your inner adolescence. I’ve heard so many complaints, people spending a lot of money in a beautiful part of the world who complain because their soup is cold. And they didn’t get another towel at the swimming pool or something. That somehow these small little worries creep into the vacations of even the most expensive travelers. Whereas older travelers who just are relaxed and ease into it and sort of travel on the cheap, sometimes on the same trails as backpackers take, sometimes a little bit more money than most backpacker’s take, they learn to appreciate that it just doesn’t matter if the soup is cold. You are on the other side of the world, you are living your dream. That is the irony that I have found, the happiest retiree travelers I have met are the ones out having adventures.  One thing you were talking about earlier, that people of the retirement age have more life experience. Those things are so transferable to the travel experience. I’ve met men and women who have spent their whole life negotiating contracts and clients who are lights out in a market on the far side of the world and there’s no price tags and you have to haggle. They have the most fun, once they realize that it’s just an extension of what they are already good at, they have so much fun while they are doing it. And one corollary to this, I have met a number of people in their fifties, sixties, seventies, that have joined the Peace Corps post retirement. That is totally a separate thing, I’m not suggesting you should join the Peace Corps. They joined the Peace Corps, took their lifelong skills to a part of the world where they were useful and needed, and then they took side trips. It’s a roundabout way of agreeing with you whole heartedly that all of these life skills can actually really resonate through our travels. They don’t have to just be sightseers taking pictures in front monuments. We can actually find connections to these rich lives that we’ve led. And the older we get, I’m going to be fifty in a couple years so I’m feeling older, the older we get the more richness we have in those life experiences. The deepest travel in really such a special way.

 

ERIK: I think it’s really poignant the way you describe the difference between the traveler that stays in a fancy hotel and somebody who is maybe is doing it on the cheap as you say. Because what happens I think, if you pay a lot of money, you have this artificial expectation, or real expectation, that everything should be a certain way then because you paid the money and you’re setting yourself up for disappointment. Where if you do it on the cheap, all those expectations are out the window and you focus on what’s really important which isn’t the cold or warm soup, but on experienced travel, culture, and relationship. I just think you put that really well.

 

ROLF: You’re not a consumer. You don’t have consumer complaints because you’re not a consumer. If your soup is cold, who cares? You hung out with nomads, you know? You had an interesting experience. And again, and I don’t want to put a too fine a point on this, in most parts of the world – we have a weird relationship with older people in the United States – in most parts of the world, being older earns you a respect that is uncommon. Being an older person from a wealthy country like the United States, taking an interest in people who might have similar interests on the far side of the world, maybe a core part of the world, celebrity might be a way to stretch it a little bit, but you really are afforded a special measure of welcome and grace simply because you’ve lived a rich life.

 

ERIK: That’s a great observation. A lot of my listeners, in addition to just hearing about some of these basic concepts that I think they certainly get me thinking and I could listen to this type of conversation all day. But I think people want to start transitioning into, “Ok this idea makes sense. I hear you, I would like to potentially investigate this.” So maybe we can transition into some specifics, actionable ideas that can help them evaluate, if so inclined, how to take action to create these memorable travel experiences. And I don’t know if this question will help you get into that conversation but how might you coach someone who has just retired or is about to retire into an otherwise standard retirement phase and to have them reevaluate travel and evaluate the idea of slow travelling for longer term. Like we said, not for years at a time. But maybe instead of ten days, you do it for four or six weeks. How would you coach them to evaluate that?

 

ROLF: I would start with a couple things. Gosh, which one should I start with? I’ll start with the goal setting because it sounds like something you’ve done. Did you say you had a trip planned for 2019?

 

ERIK: We are looking at Argentina, Italy, or even northern Europe. We are still trying to figure that out. And our goal is to stay four to six weeks, and we’ve never done anything like that before in our life. But because of your book, we are definitely putting that on the agenda and I am doing a lot of serious planning and dreaming about it. But it’s going to happen.

 

ROLF: Even if you’re in a position where you are trying to make this transition, even having a rough estimate, a rough but concrete estimate, of when you are going to leave is very helpful. If you are a little apprehensive, you might say, “I’m not sure if I can do this in the next six months, but within two to three years it is going to happen.” And then, once that goal is in there, once you put it on your calendar, once you put it in your mind, once you’ve admitted to your family and friends that this is what I’m going to do, then there is this delightful accountability that just makes those two to three years so much fun. Because you are thinking about your destination. You’re researching, you hear it’s name on the news, it becomes a part of your life before you even go there. It’s just really a fun thing.

ERIK: Sorry to interrupt, but what I have found is every day when I get home and I have a glass of wine and I’m sitting in my office and I’ve done all of my case work and client communication, that I just want to get on Airbnb and take a look at all of these places I can go and spend amazingly low prices to stay somewhere for a month or two at a time and I am living vicariously right now through the internet and getting so excited about the trip that I don’t think there is much that could turn me away from executing on that now.

 

ROLF: Yeah, and that goes hand in hand with sort of announcing it. So that people start asking about it, there is basically no way you could pull back. You would be letting down people’s expectations. Another thing, its sort of in tandem with the goal setting thing, and it might even come before the goal setting, and that is decide where you want to go. Because I think, I mean travel is something that’s just normal for people to dream about. Maybe when you were a kid you dreamed of going to Egypt, and now you feel sort of embarrassed about that dream. But maybe you should reexamine it, there is a certain wisdom in that kid part of yourself that longs for another part of the world. And so that’s one way of narrowing down where you want to go. Another thing to be tied into the life experience, you know. As I say in Vagabonding, even if there’s a dumb inspiration for going to a place, it’s always worth it when you get there. There’s been people that have gone to New Zealand because they like Lord of the Rings and it is filmed there. But There’s very little regret for lack of Hobbits. On the other side of the ocean, once you’re in it, if you allow yourself the time, then there are all these surprises that are going to go beyond Hobbits and beyond the dreams that you thought about before. You don’t have to overthink it. If you get excited it, if your pulse ticks up a little but when you look at a map of the Tuscan region of Italy, then I think that is reason enough to go. And then you start setting those goals and it is a part of your life, before you even leave home it is a part of your life. And it just becomes an exciting part of the process.

 

ERIK: You had mentioned in the book, Vagabonding, adventure. And you actually just spoke about it briefly a second ago, you dedicate an entire chapter to adventure. What are some examples of adventures that retirees might pursue on their trips that are more appropriate to how they might want to experience the world?

 

ROLF: Well the kind of adventure I advocate in Vagabonding is very much applicable to retirees. Because it’s not hang-glide across a canyon type adventure. It’s not the tour operator extreme sports definition of adventure. It just means, leave yourself open for some unpredictability. Go to the bus station and take a bus to a village you’re not necessarily familiar with. And see what happens when you get there. Or go into that market that seems strange but smells wonderful. Maybe move your wallet to your front pocket and dive in. It’s those small adventures that are sort of outside your expectations and plans that I consider to be not only the best adventures but the most memorable experiences. Even neurologically, we tend to remember surprises better than routine. That’s open to everybody. Just use common sense, if there is one disadvantage besides somewhat compromised mobility when you get older, sometimes the older people are seen as a mark. For pickpockets and stuff like that. Exercise common sense if you go to a delightful pub in Bucharest and you come out five beers in and its two in the morning, get a cab. Don’t walk home in the name of adventure. So keeping in mind to use common sense, just be unpredictable, maybe in a controlled way, but unpredictable.

 

ERIK: Great. I’m going to skip around a little bit here but when it comes to these adventures which almost always are going to involve interacting with the local people, in those different countries, how should they approach authentic interaction with the community that they travel to? Such as this local involvement in a way that is not going to put them at additional risk or at least give them a level of comfort?

 

ROLF: Well adding on to what I just said, if you hire a walking tour guide for the day, odds are he or she will have family and friends in the city and you can sort of befriend these people. Maybe tip them a little bit and just use them with a structured experience into  a window of a less structured experience. And I mean there are ways to meet people on the street but even in the internet age there are meet ups. Meetup.com. There’s websites, there’s social media posting about activates that are going on in the city. If there is a painting class in Paris or in Buenos Aires or wherever you are, maybe go to the painting class. Painting classes are popular with an older demographic of people. Suddenly you’re there, maybe their English is as bad as your Spanish, but you are trying. You are speaking in very simple terms and a smile is a great form of currency. I could talk about ways to meet people randomly on the street, but I think that the time you have interacted with people on meet ups and group tours or organized classes, you’ll have the instinct to interact in the street in the places you are.

 

ERIK: Sure, that makes perfect sense. The little bit about philosophical discussion here is there is this natural desire I think for many people when they retire if they haven’t done much travel and they’ve been looking forward to it so much that when they finally do retire and they don’t have a constraint of working nine to five, that they might binge travel. And there may be this subset of people that really look back and have enjoyed that, but I think, and the studies would actually show, that binge travelling doesn’t offer the type of fulfillment that they thought they were going to get. So how do we coach them to overcome this natural desire to go on ten separate trips in two years hitting each place for a week at a time, which might be the intuition to actually move in that direction?

 

ROLF: Well I think this is something, it’s a normal thing. The study of the younger aristocrats in the grand tour of Europe in the 18th century, they were often would fit as many things as possible, they were list driven. Well now we have this new phrase that nobody used twenty years ago, the Bucket List. There is this movie called the Bucket List. A list of things you want to do. And I think this is particularly acute for people who’ve just retired as there is just a built-up desire and they want to do everything. They are finally set free and they want to do everything on their bucket list. And so what happens is that they end up micromanaging their bucket list in a way that doesn’t really optimize the best experience of each place. They are ticking things off the list. They find a great one-week tour here, and a couple months later another tour there. And they are just sort of barely brushing up against the bucket list. I think the best kind of bucket list is the kind that gets you at the door, and once you are at the door you can sort of put it in your back pocket and not really think about it. Because regardless of the bullet points on your bucket list, it’s the between spaces – it’s the smaller experiences, the relationships and the surprise experiences that are going to happen that really make them memorable. Even after retirement, you still have a big slot, if you have the health for it, a big slot of time to do things. Even if you don’t, I’m a big believer, and I’m not going to knock anybody who wants to have a glass of wine with their patients, but I’m a big believer in the slow and nuance experience of a single place more so than the rushed experiences, ten places, in that same amount of time.

 

ERIK: I mean it’s almost analogous to your work life, you’ve been working so hard and feverously. You have this rat race buzz going in your head and vacations end up feeling a lot like that. To your point then – by slowing down, number one, you’re not as physically exhausted because you’re approaching it in a slower, less physically demanding way and mentally demanding way. And it’s a much more comfortable experience overall that you can look back on and your memories are even if not every single specific moment is remembered, your overall impression is – that was a comfortable, exhilarating, and emotional experience that I enjoyed. And I just think back to – we went on our first big trip, we have four children, so the six of us went to Mexico to an all-inclusive resort in 2018 and we were gone for seven days and it cost an ungodly amount of money to do that. The food was mediocre, there were no people to actually build bridges with because you were actually boxed off inside of this resort. There were no true experiences, we did go scuba diving for a couple of hours. That was the one thing I remember, is that one experience. And other than that, my best day was the last day before we left and it was the day that I finally took a moment to just sit on the beach and read a book and look up at the palm trees and the blue sky and sit there and appreciate that moment. And yet, I wasn’t doing anything necessarily, and it was still my most enjoyable moment.

 

ROLF: Yeah, again that is sort of the consumer experience where you are comparing your expectations versus what is delivered. Just being in a place and not worrying about what’s included because you are sort of creating your own menu. And I think you mentioned we live these workaholic lives, and we rush and we work really hard, and that transfers to the kind of travel we do, especially at the end of the career. You can spend your whole life having one-hour lunches, not knowing how weird that is in Italy. So allowing yourself to go to a place where that is all you do. You wake up, I am using Italy as an example, you wake up, you have a coffee, you go for a walk. You sit down for lunch. The service is slow but you realize that it is slow because Italians favor their lunch. You have pizza like you’ve never had it before, you’ve had pasta like you’ve never had it before. You realize hot chocolate is this delicious warm sludgy thing that’s somewhere between pudding and the liquid hot chocolate we have in the United States. And maybe you go for an afternoon walk, and maybe you hit a couple of sites. And by home standards, you’ve done nothing. But you’ve actually experienced Italy. I think it’s understandable why we get into these micromanaged mindsets when we travel because that’s how we live our day at work.

ERIK: You know you just actually explained to me what would be an example of the best day ever in Italy. And that’s why we’ve actually chosen Italy and the visualization that I was picturing in my head while you described it is was what I’m hoping to have. Exactly like that, so it was so interesting. You’ve said it exactly as I have been visualizing it and I just get more excited about it every minute.

ROLF: And it’s there you just have to allow yourself to experience it, that happens every day in Italy.

ERIK: Right. You mentioned in your book, you go over some three very specific tips in one of the earlier chapters and one of the tips that you mention is that of journaling. Why do you think journaling when somebody travels is so important?

ROLF: Journaling, I’ve come to realize, one I’m a writer and it is sort of a natural thing for me. But journaling is almost like the old-fashioned version of your camera phone now. But it slows you down, it’s something that, it’s a ritual of paying attention to what you are doing. I’ve never knocked travel photography too much because unless you are taking just a bunch of generic pictures, you are trying to find a way of framing your experience in a way that is memorable. And photos are fun to go back to – well so are journals. And actually, journals go a couple layers of complexity beneath a photograph because you can reflect on what you’ve seen. And you can use a journal to just write down the date and event, but you can also reflect on the day and the event. You can draw connections to the life you lived before and in the ways we’ve discussed, I think there are ways that travel will remind you what was enjoyable about your life back home and your hobbies and your talents. So a journal is a way that in the end of the day or in the morning when you are having coffee in that café, you can just write it down to remind yourself, to remind yourself to be grateful. But also remind yourself to keep paying attention. And then over time those journals are something you can go back to, months later in the dead of winter, when your suntan is gone, and your back home. You can open that journal and remind yourself of how confident, or happy, or good at problem solving or whatever went into that journal. And just sort of remind you who you were at that moment. So it’s a way to pay attention, it’s a way to have a conversation with yourself.

ERIK: As much as pictures are, I think they are visual, and we rely on visuals a lot as human beings, by the same token if you just think about any book you’re reading, there’ll be a few pictures, but pages and pages of words and that is where the meat on the bone is, if you will, it’s in the words where you are really uncovering those details. And I’ve been starting to journal on my own, just on my daily life here in Colorado, and ever since I heard that tip in your book, I’m looking forward to journaling about the experience. I can’t wait to actually do that too, so I just think it’s a great tip so that’s why I pulled that one out. Maybe we can get tactical for a moment. One question that I think that a lot of retirees would have is if I am travelling abroad, you know there is more the industrialized countries like Germany, and Italy, England, Japan, maybe even Argentina. But then you might be going off the beaten path periodically, and those types of instances, both of those – the industrialized nations and otherwise, how does medical insurance work? To make sure that if you have an issue, that you be taken care of and the insurance that you have in the United States translates.

 

ROLF: Well, one thing is to check with your health insurance company and just sort of see how it applies to oversees situations. My health insurance doesn’t have an oversees situation, so I buy travel insurance. Check with your local insurance, if they don’t cover overseas that is find. There are all kinds of resources online, I have them in the book and on vagabonding.net/resources. Of places you can go and find a travel insurance policy that applies to your own specific situation.

 

ERIK: I didn’t even know anything like that existed. So travel insurance covers medical care overseas?

 

ROLF: It does, but here is the funny thing. Overseas medical care usually doesn’t cost very much. Like in the developing world, I can go to the pharmacy and self-prescribe stuff. If I know what my sickness is, the pharmacists are not going to ask for a prescription. It sounds dicey, but it’s just how it works. Another thing, in a place like India or another developing country, medicines are so much cheaper than they are in the US. I think the United States is an outlier in how expensive it is for healthcare. I’m not necessarily saying your clients should do the same, but what I do is I just get disaster insurance. I buy travel insurance that will give me the helicopter flight out of the developing country to a first world hospital if something terrible happens. It almost never happens, but if I fall of a cliff and crush my leg, and there’s no hospital in Bangladesh or Nepal that can attend to that, then I have this insurance that will cover the expensive medivac to the first world hospital. Past that, I mean sickness is fairly common. Usually it’s just stuff like traveler’s diarrhea, the kind of stuff you get from eating unfamiliar food. And there is self-medication – if you get traveler’s diarrhea you can eat rice or yogurt or other bland foods. You take a few medicines and you sort of flush it out of your system. I guess it depends on the country, but I usually just go with the disaster insurance and call it good.

 

ERIK: I have two more questions – the first one is very tactical. What I am finding out during my investigation is I feel like I can find accommodations, even during the high season in Europe, relatively inexpensively. No more than my mortgage is, I can stay for a month over in Italy in a place that we can call our own and our own single-family dwelling, if you will. But the travel, the air travel – your primary travel to get you to the other country and back to your point of origin, certainly if you use standard methods of researching flight and travel – can be quite expensive. That alone will cost more than all of your staying in a particular country for a month. Do you have any tactical tips, and certainly if you have relevant resources on a website, please mention those, on how people can get more savvy about their initial travel to and from their primary destination?

 

ROLF: Well one consideration is the off season. It can be very expensive to fly to Paris, for example, in July, but it can be very affordable to fly to Paris in March. So if you don’t mind taking an extra coat and enjoying Paris in the almost spring time, then you can save a lot up front. Actually, that savings goes across the board. Anytime you are in a place where it is tourist low season, there is going to be more availability, there will be shorter lines at attractions. Even hotels are going to be cheaper. One thing to keep in mind, if you are willing to not plan every hotel in advance, hotels are haggleable almost everywhere in the world. Just do a lot of research, and this is something that can happen while your dream is coming two years or six months away. Is that often times flight prices are cheaper far in advance. There is a flip side – sometimes they are cheap on the last planes as well. But often times there are cheaper airlines that they aren’t the Delta’s or the Lufthansa type airline.

 

ERIK: I have seen as I have been doing my investigation, that if I am willing to break it into two separate tickets, and I use Norwegian Air as an example, to get me from New York or Boston over to someplace in Europe, as opposed to looking for a flight that is an all in one with one airline from Denver to Europe. That if I add two plane tickets together, one to New York, then Norwegian air to get me wherever else I am going, that that combined cost may be have the price of the roundtrip ticket to Europe from Denver direct.

 

ROLF: Correct, there’s more strategies that the time we have to discuss in the podcast. But that is a great one, it’s a stepping stone approach. Since we don’t have time to talk about flights full time, one thing to do is to just turn on your favorite radio station, brew a pot of coffee, and a couple of weekend mornings, just searching around on flight search engines. Googling search terms like cheap flights. The more you tinker, the more you learn. And there are flight consolidators, there are mailing lists that will send you alerts when certain flights and certain airports, including Denver, get cheap. And so without being too specific, I’ll just say that a good four to six hours of internet research can save you hundreds if not thousands of dollars down the line. Just by familiarizing yourself with the normal prices, with the seasonal cycles, and the with these special airline websites and consolidators.

 

ERIK: Great advice. My final question is – if you were to recommend one or two steps, so this might be a little larger concept than a tip, one or two steps that a retiree can take that can make their next trip their best trip ever, what would you recommend?

 

ROLF: My advice would sort of consolidate what I have already talked about. And that’s to give yourself permission to go slow. Even before then is treat your goal. Put your goal on the fridge or the wall or on your smart phone. And think about it and research it and dream about it, and make it a part of your present life. And in that way, you can’t talk yourself out of it. Number two, go slow, go slow slash don’t micromanage. Again, I am not going to knock the travel industry, but they like it when we micromanage because then they can upsell all of the stuff. Go slow, don’t micromanage, and this may sound weird but establish a beachhead. When you have that four-week trip and your dream destination, spend the first weekend literally in one place. Have those long lunches and just sort of acclimate yourself. Spend that first week in a beautiful place, be it a beach or along a city plaza. And just relax, get used to the time zone. Take long meals, take long walks. And that is really a very concrete way to enable that slow travel, for travel can seem like a distraction. And I think if you literally push yourself to spend your first week of your four-week or your four-month trip in one place, then you can really see for yourself how rewarding that slow kind of travel is. And then, I guess my last big picture advice is, that any given trip doesn’t have to be the end all. It doesn’t have to be the bucket list kicked forever, it doesn’t have to be the last big blast before you go back home and live your normal retired live with your normal routine. And even at any age, travel can become part of your cycle of life as you are older. You might go to Tuscany and have this little apartment that you rent every winter, and it just becomes a part of thing. Don’t set limits on how travel can serve your retirement time. Because if you allow it, it can really just become a dynamic part of the way you live as a retiree.

 

ERIK: Excellent, well Rolf I want to thank you so much for joining me today. I think that your insight is just so valuable for those that are interested in looking at a different way of travel. My hope is that anyone that listens to this podcast reads your books Vagabonding. Can get just one idea or concept that will allow them to truly enjoy their next travel experience differently than they ever imagined they could. So I just wanted to thank you so much for your time today.

 

ROLF: You bet, I love talking about this sort of thing and I really wish the best to the listeners and hope that they can have some life enhancing travels.

 

ERIK: So that’s Rolf Potts, author of Vagabonding. Everybody go out there and enjoy this day, because as I always say, it’s the last one you will have that’s just like this.

Episode #3 Mastering Mondays: Richard Koch, the 80/20 rule, Pareto’s Principle

Show Links:

80/20 Principle by Richard Koch

Wilfred Pareto

multi-tasking is a myth

The Food Network Cauliflower recipes.

 

Hi All!

I am Erik Bowman your host and I really hope you enjoying this day, because it’s the only like it that you will ever experience.  Welcome to episode #3 of Mastering Mondays.  Where I share thoughts and ideas to help you live better.   Please know that Mastering Monday’s comes out in two formats a readable version on our Blog and email and Podcast Audio available clicking the Mastering Mondays Episode #3 in the email or  you can access all of those at www.Bowmanfinancialstratgies.com.  If you’d like to be put on the list to receive Mastering Mondays updates (currently I produce two per month), just let me know by emailing me at erik@bowmanfinancialstrategies.com or sign up at the website.  I am excited by the feedback I received so far.  What I now is that all of you are interested in living well and many of you are implementing some of the ideas we discuss here, and I can see that so many of you rightfully look forward to retirement with anticipation.  Keep your feedback and ideas coming.  Email, Facebook and website are great ways to communicate with me.  Let me continue to learn from your experiences and perspective.  You input is appreciated as I want to discuss ideas that you find relevant.

So let’s dig into how you can Master your Monday.

Here are areas of focus for me.  I’d love to know if any of these ideas inspire you and how.  Enjoy!

Reading is Fundamental

80/20 Principle by Richard Koch Now this is a two-fer.  I recommend the book and the topic is worth a separate discussion.  In 80/20 Mr. Koch explains the 80/20 principal and how to analyze your world to come up with ways of allocating your time to the most beneficial activities in your business or personal life and relationships.  I am just fascinated by the concept and have read it through.  A few highlights.  If you own a small business, you must read this book.   With his ideas around analysis and action, you are sure to run a better, more enjoyable business that meets your needs where you are now.  Knowing that it applies to most any action or activity, he discusses in detail how to apply these principles in your personal life.   Finally, he addresses some of the concerns people may have about the downside of such a perspective.  Few though they are.

Living Effectively

As mentioned above, I am reading a book by Richard Koch called the 80/20 Principle.  Many of you know that I am process oriented and am continuously seeking ways to be more efficient and effective, and this topic peaked my interest this summer.  I started noticing something.   High performers in any field or discipline seem to operate with the 80/20 rule in mind.  Or at least 80% of them did!  What is the 80/20 rule (commonly known as the Pareto Principle)?  Back in 1896 an Italian economist, Vilfredo Pareto, discovered that 80% of the land was owned by 20% of the people.  This led Pareto to the discovery that 80% of his tomatoes came from 20% of his plants.  Other examples: 20% of hazards cause 80% of injuries, roughly 20% of the exercises and habits have 80% of the impact etc.  He saw that this principle applied to most everything in life.   Put another way, 20% of your actions produce 80% of your positive outputs.  20% of your inputs create 80% of your problems.  In practice this might mean to simply focus on the 20% of your actions that create 80% of your benefit.  Eradicate the other 80% of actions and inputs with low marginal return.  Likewise, eradicate the 20% of your actions or inputs that produce 80% of your problems.   It turns out the universe does not actually prefer balance and does not seek 50/50.  For example, just look at the ratio of vacuum filled space vs. the total mass of stars and planets.  Space wins by a long shot.  Roughly 4% of the universe consists of matter like planets and stars.  This example shows that the ratio may even be more unbalanced in some situations like 96%/4%.  Imagine the leverage if you could live a 96 % / 4 % kind of life?  Look at almost any dispersion around you and you see that 50/50 is very uncommon.

I’ll leave it to your imagination to determine what actions lead to problems and what actions lead to positive results.  The question is, can we take advantage of this knowledge and do something with it to live better?  Immediately!  Since action is the only way to results, let’s start easy.  What are some easy changes that can literally add hours to our day.  Reduce screen time, control the flow of news and communication into your brain, don’t let the “noise” steal your hours, don’t have cereal in the morning (sugar!), learn how to batch e-mail communication, only do one thing at a time until you reach a target phase or completion, get rid of cable, get rid of news apps.  Sounds crazy?  It’s not.  You are smart and will know plenty of what is happening in the world without news apps.  Email batching is straightforward and multi-tasking is a myth.

You must understand that the most valuable asset you have is time.  The first real benefit you gain is access to more of your time.  What would you do with more time?  Focus even more intently and deeply on the high value activities?  Add new, high value activities to your life; that painting hobby you always wanted, learn to cook, volunteer with children (you do have experience after all)?  Spend more time with your spouse, family and friends.  Now that you have more time, wouldn’t you agree that enriching yourself and others with stronger relationships sounds amazing?   Application of this principle in my life has had a dramatic, positive impact on my life.  I get more done than ever, feel more creative and spend more time with my family and friends while accomplishing more than I thought possible.   If you’ve spoken to me in person lately, I think you know what I mean.

Food for Thought

Cauliflower.  I dreaded the idea of eating it as a kid and frankly until this year.   My wife, the best cook in the world, is continuously experimenting with ingredients and methods. Recently she made Cauliflower Baked Ziti, and we had a Cauliflower pizza crust.  As for the Pizza, I actually did not know it was cauliflower crust.  The cauliflower has an interesting consistency when baked and doesn’t detract from other ingredients such as tomato sauce or meat.   Its flavor is so mild, that it resembles bread or pasta and performs a similar supporting role for more dishes than you’d think. The biggest benefit I get is cutting out the starches.  I can’t say that Cauliflower is my everyday go-to food, however if cutting starches is on your list of goals, a periodic meal with Cauliflower can help you have a hearty meal and skip the starches.  Here is a link to The Food Network Cauliflower recipes.

Take Action

“Don’t judge each day by the harvest that you reap but by the seeds that you plant.”

-Robert Louis Stevenson

If you read these pages and think, “I really should do that” or, “I will read/do/drink/experiment with that”.  Don’t wait ~Take action.

“If you think you can do a thing or think you can’t do a thing, you’re right.” -Henry Ford

 

Master your Monday and have a great week.

Erik

 

The 80/20 Principle

www.Bowmanfinancialstratgies.com.

Episode #2 Mastering Mondays: Hot Sauna, Book: Tools of Titans, Photography

Hi All!

Thank you for taking the time to read Episode 2 of Mastering Monday. My name is Erik Bowman and I hope you are having a fantastic day, after all, it is the only like it you will ever experience. The primary reason we create financial plans at Bowman Financial Strategies is so you can live the life you want to live without worrying about finances.  I like to think of it as creating a predictable Income Plan and an Exciting Retirement.

So in order to provide ideas, tools, life hacks and resources to help you enjoy your Retirement (or any phase of life for that matter) keep reading!

Below are areas of focus for me this week.  I’d love to know if any of these ideas inspire you and how.  Enjoy!  You can listen to the audio version by clicking here: Mastering Mondays Episode #2.

SAUNA..get your heat on!

Sauna.  This one is too good to keep from you any longer.  Sitting in a hot Sauna feels great but also seems to have scientifically proven health benefits.  Here are the noticeable changes I have seen.  First, after I Sauna, I just feel amazing.  I feel calm, focused, relaxed and have and experience an elevated mood.  Second, I have almost no post-workout muscle soreness since I started Sauna.  Finally, when we do sauna at night, it feels like I’ve had a glass of wine and I sleep like a baby.  If we have had a long day of work, we will sometimes go to the gym, skip the workout and just do Sauna.   As I write this, I just came back from a second sauna session of the day.  I admit I am addicted.  If I have limited time, I will pick sauna over workout at this point and we have done so many times.  This is a new lifelong habit I wish I would have started decades ago.

Sauna is a cultural tradition in Finland and thus provides a perfect cohort of people to study and evaluate the benefits of heat acclimation and sauna.  For the details, click the link below to see a comprehensive Finnish Study reviewed by the Mayo Clinic https://www.mayoclinicproceedings.org/article/S0025-6196(18)30275-1/fulltext.

The study showed for example, a 62% reduction in Stroke, reduction in risk of Sudden Cardiac Death, protective effects from Nuero-Cognitive Disease, improved lung function, and 78% reduction in psychosis.  The data are so astounding it’s hard to believe Sauna isn’t used by everyone.  It seems to be gaining traction however.   Interesting note, one of the most common behaviors of provably successful people in their field……Sauna!

My wife and I started Sauna about 2 months ago and we now use the sauna 5-6 days per week directly after a workout. Most fitness centers have them.  We go to 24-hour fitness and they have a very nice, clean, dry-sauna.  The first few times we went, it was a bit of shock and our duration was only a few minutes (3-7). However, after about a week we built up a tolerance and now stay in the sauna for 20-30 minutes at roughly 185 F.   A few keys to successful sauna time; 1) bring a water bottle filled with ice and water. 2)  Build up to 15-20 minutes as that is the recommended duration the studies have shown provide measurable cardiac benefits, 3) Use flip flops.  The floor can get hot! In general, we change into a bathing suit (many stay in workout clothes) and sit on a towel on the upper bench.  Within 3-6 minutes the sweat will begin to show.   We sip ice water the entire time and have met some very interesting people during our visits.  After our allotted time of 20-30 minutes, I immediately go into the coldest shower possible.   That too was a shock the first few times. Now I just walk right into the cold water and it feels great.   It immediately cools you down and forces the blood back to your body core.   Another benefit of the cold shower is you won’t be sweating for the hour following the Sauna.   Decrease the temperature gradually if your coldwater-phobic.

Reading is Fundemental

Tools of Titans by Tim Ferris.  This book explores the daily habits of over 150 billionaires, icons and world class performers.  What I like is that each person is asked similar questions and you can pick our tactics that are a good fit for you.  Examining their approach to life and evaluating their habits (daily morning rituals), reading list, problem solving methods, techniques for controlling their emotional outlook and methods of communication provides some truly powerful information.  You can skip around the book looking for people, or categories (i.e Athletes) that interest you.  I have changed my entire workout routine and applied many principals learned from this book.   It’s a book you will keep on your bedside table for a long time!

Photography “The interview segment”

You won’t have a professional photographer with you when you at your grandchild’s birthday party or when you’re having dinner at your favorite restaurant.   Listen to my 25-minute Podcast with professional Photographer Kristine Lynn to learn tips and techniques used by the pros to take better pictures with your phone or XLR camera.   Topics include, staging a scene, lighting basics, framing a picture, and importantly convenient ways to back up your photos so you never lose a cherished memory due to space constraints on your phone.

You can listen to the podcast by clicking the link:  Mastering Mondays Interview Segment 2 (time 26 minutes)

Take Action

If you read these pages and think, “I really should do that” or, “I will read/do/drink/experiment with that”.  Don’t wait ~Take action.

“It’s the action, not the fruit of the action, that’s important. You have to do the right thing. It may not be in your power, may not be in your time, that there will be any fruit. But that doesn’t mean you stop doing the right thing. You may never know what results come from your action. But if you do nothing, there will be no result.”

~ Mahatma Gandhi

Master your Monday and have a great week.

Erik

Episode #1 Mastering Mondays: Rolf Potts, Benjamin Franklin, Meditation

Quick Links:

Rolf Potts

www.oakmeditation.com

Fourteen Hands Winery.

 

Mastering Monday’s is a podcast designed to provide you with tools to live better. Hi, I’m Erik Bowman your host and owner of Bowman Financial Strategies; Where we help you create a boring retirement plan and an exciting retirement.

 

Hi all I’m Erik Bowman your host and I really hope you are enjoying this day. It is after all the only one like it that you will ever experience, so welcome.

 

This is the inaugural podcast of Mastering Monday’s and I want to give you background on why I am creating this and what you can expect. Future Mastering Monday podcasts won’t have this prologue so bear with me for just a minute or two and then we will dive into the first Mastering Monday topics. I’ve been thinking very hard lately about ways that I can more fully serve the needs of the people, that I am grateful to be able to call my clients and friends. The primary reason we create financial plans at Bowman Financial Strategies is so that you can live the life that you want to live without worrying about finances. I like to think of it as creating a predictable or boring income plan and an exciting retirement. To this end, I am going to be sending out an email on the first Monday of the month called Mastering Monday. I will discuss various topics and obsessions of mine that revolve around living well. There will also be a podcast, you are listening to it right now, that goes into slightly more detail than the email. Target listening time should be no more than five to ten minutes at the maximum. I am also going to be creating additional content including interviews with people who have uncommon knowledge that may be very useful to you. The first interview segment, unbelievably to me, is with American author Rolf Potts. An amazing guy, world traveler, extraordinaire, and an excellent writer. You can go to bowmanfinancialstrategies.com to listen to that podcast. I highly recommend it if you ever think you will travel again, it may change the way you approach the whole idea of travel.

 

More about the Mastering Monday series: there are many personal and communal aspects to living well. Thoughts that come to my mind are number one being as healthy as you can be. Number two, hobbies. What is it that we do for enjoyment that don’t revolve around work. Growing by giving. Number four, spiritual satisfaction. Number five, nurturing relationships. Number six, continuous education. And number seven, goal setting and personal progress. Now this list is really just a start and I would love to hear your thoughts on living well. You can email me at erik@bowmanfinancialstrategies.com. That’s Erik with a k, E-R-I-K, or you can post it onto Facebook at the Bowman Financial Strategies page, or simply give me a call. I’ve already been provided great ideas by my clients, friends, and readers of Mastering Monday – the first edition. So, your input is appreciated as I want to discuss ideas that you find relevant. So, let’s dig in to how you can master your Monday.

 

Reading is fundamental. The earliest self-help guru of all time maybe Benjamin Franklin. I’m currently listening to his autobiography. The perspective he writes from is from himself to his son as he imparts his personal history and passions in writing. A few takeaways from the book include the fact that he apparently was quite a physical rockstar. Most depictions and representations of him are of him as an older gentleman and appearing a little bit more portly. However, just as he applied ongoing learning and turned it into action in his business and relational life, he also applied it to his health and well-being, with great success I might add. He was known to be an avid and competitive swimmer and to have uncanny fortitude to pursue his business goals late into the evening and rising before everybody else to start again. He was writing and learning on a continuous basis, and his skills and focus on continuous improvement are extraordinarily motivating. Another notable trait was that he drank no alcohol. His reasons were that it saved him money, as all of his peers were drinking and spending money on the alcohol, therefore he had more money than his peers to pursue his business endeavors. He also simply wanted to have a clear head for clear thinking. Now I’m not ever going to claim that I am not going to stop all drinking, but the idea of moderation is one we should all take to heart. Since the book is written in the dialect of the day, in his own words, it may not be the easiest audio book to listen to before you go to bed. I found myself having to concentrate on it to decipher some of the old English delivery. However, after a night or two I did find that my brain became more accustom to it and I was able to actually understand it much more comfortably.

 

What’s in your mind? Many of the most successful people in the world share certain behaviors, and one of them is silent time meditation or praying. Depending on your world view, choose the one that is right for you. If Tony Robins, the Dahli Lama, Steve Jobs, and Oprah can find time to do it, it may be worth investigating. The most common idea or thought the around this silent time, the way to do it would be to sit or lie down, eyes closed, breathing smoothly, and dwelling on a couple different things. The first one is to think about what you are grateful for. The second is to visualize a successful day. And the third, commit to making someone happy. When I think about these, to unpack them just a little bit, when you think about what you are grateful for I think it puts you in the mindset to realize that the things you are grateful for have to do with what others have done for you. The environment that you are lucky enough to be in. The things that help you enjoy your life, and when you focus on those things, it’s pretty hard to start your day on the wrong foot. And second, visualizing a successful day – I specifically recommend that as you do this, you not only visualize a successful day in general, but specifically, what are the one or two things that you must get done this day to have a successful day? And when it comes to actually taking action on those items, trying to get those done the very first thing before you do anything else. And the third, trying to make somebody happy. I think that you need to think specifically about a person, whether – the other day I thought very hard about my son Jacob who is eleven years old, and not that he was going through any particular hard time, but he just really came into my mind and I thought to myself – I pictured him with a smile on his face. What could I do to help his day be happier? And it made me happy to think about that and certainly my direction for the day was guided by that thought. I recommend doing this for just five minutes, maybe ten minutes, before you start your day and I think it can change your life. If you find that it is hard to find five minutes to do this, then you might need this more than you think. You should also do this, very important, before you open up any email, before you look at your phone, before you look at Facebook, before you read the news, do not let any of that information and noise interrupt your ability to think about those three topics. Controlling the first ten minutes of your day is a great way to set a good rhythm for the rest of your day. Now a way you can facilitate this – you can consider using a free app from Kevin Rose called Oak Mediation. You can find it on the app store, although there are a lot of apps with the word oak in it, so it is hard to find there. But you can go to www.oakmeditation.com. The app is very simple to use, provides guided breathing exercises and sleep programs. During the sleep program component, you can choose different types of sounds to help you get to sleep, to play in the background on a timer. So that is really what I like most about it. My wife and I use a Bluetooth speaker and put it on the bedside table. We like the sound of a soft rain or crackling fire in the background and we have found that it really does help us get to sleep. It gives you something else to focus on other than all those crazy thoughts that may be bouncing around inside your head. And it really does seem to help us sleep better as well.

 

Food for thought. Well, as I just spoke about, I believe that managing alcohol intake is actually very important. And with my focus in general on trying to manage what goes into my gut, I am sticking primarily to red wine. There will always be exceptions, I’m not claiming I’m never going to have a beer, or whiskey, or vodka again, however as a general rule I do try and stay away from those going forward. And I have a glass of red wine maybe once a night or once every other night, and I just thought I would let you know of a red wine that I particularly like and I like it for a couple of reasons. First, the red wine’s name is Hot To Trot red blend and it is by Fourteen Hands Winery. You can find it at almost any liquor store, the bottle costs around $7.99 so it’s definitely on the inexpensive side. I’ve been drinking the red blend since my mother-in-law recommended it to me over six years ago, so I want to thank my mom, she is my mother-in-law but I do call her mom. I want to thank her for that recommendation because we still drink it to this day. I like it because it’s smooth, it doesn’t have a strong bite, I haven’t found anybody to have a glass when they come over for dinner to our house who hasn’t said that they’ve enjoyed it. And the price just doesn’t change. It has been six years and the price is still $7.99. Sometimes it is $8.99, but it seems to bounce around within that one-dollar range. So very smooth, very drinkable, and their other wines are really good too. The chardonnay is fantastic.

 

Well, that does it for the inaugural podcast of Mastering Monday’s. I hope you enjoyed it and got something useful out of it. If you have any ideas, please feel free to email me or give me a call and I will be glad to incorporate those ideas into the upcoming podcast series. Thanks very much, have a great day.

 

 

Mastering Monday’s Blog Episode #1

Hi All!

I really hope you enjoyed your weekend and I am excited to write this email.  I have been thinking very hard lately about ways that I can more fully serve the needs of the people I am grateful to call my clients and friends. The primary reason we create financial plans at  Bowman Financial Strategies is so you can live the life you want to live without worrying about finances.  I like to think of it as creating a predictable Income Plan and an Exciting Retirement.  To this end, I will send an email on the first Monday of the month called, Mastering Monday.  I will discuss various topics and obsessions of mine that revolve around “living well”.

There are many personal and communal aspects to living well.  Thoughts that come to mind are:

  1. Being as healthy as you can be,
  2. Enjoying hobbies,
  3. Growing by giving,
  4. Spiritual satisfaction,
  5. Nurturing relationships,
  6. Continuous education,
  7. Progressing towards your goals.

This list is just a start, and I want to hear your thoughts on living well.

Below are areas of focus for me this month.  I’d love to know if any of these ideas inspire you and how.  Enjoy!

Reading is Fundamental

The earliest self-help Guru of all time may be Benjamin Franklin.  I am listening to his Autobiography.  The perspective is from Benjamin Franklin to his son as he imparts his personal history and passions in writing.  His writing skills and focus on continuous improvement are extraordinarily motivating.

What’s in  Your Mind

Many of the most successful people in the world share certain behaviors.  One of them is silent time, meditation or praying.   If  Tony Robbins, the  Dalai Lama, Steve Jobs, and Oprah can find time to do it, it may be worth investigating.  Sit or lie down, eyes closed, breath smoothly, dwelling on what you are grateful for.  Visualize a successful day and commit to making someone happy. Do this for just 5-10 minutes before you start your day and it can change your life.  If it is hard to find that 5 minutes you really need to do this.  Important!  Do this before you look at your phone or email. Preferably right out of bed or in bed.  Controlling the first 10 minutes of your day sets a good rhythm for the rest of the day.  Consider this free app from  Kevin Rose called, “Oak Meditation” at https://www.oakmeditation.com/.  The app is simple to use and provides guided breathing exercises and sleep programs.  What I like most is the choice of background sounds like a soft rain, or crackling fire in the background during meditation or to lull you to sleep.   My wife and I use a Bluetooth speaker on the bedside table instead of the phone speaker.  When my wife and I listen, it really seems to help us fall asleep more quickly and peacefully.

Food for Thought

With my focus on trying to manage what goes into my gut, I am sticking primarily to red wine if I consume any alcohol.  A wine I really like is Hot to Trot Red Blend.  It is made by  14 Hands Winery and found at most liquor stores for around $7.99.   I’ve been drinking the Red Blend since my Mother-in-Law recommended it 6 years ago (Thank you Mom!).  The price rarely changes, and it is smooth and drinkable.  The Chardonnay is good too.

Take Action

The only thing that can create proactive change towards a goal in your life, is to take conscious, intentional action.

“Don’t let your learning lead to knowledge. Let your learning lead to action.” ― Jim Rohn

“Don’t ask. Act! Action will delineate and define you.” Thomas Jefferson

Master your Monday and have a great week.

Erik

Financial Planners | Annuities, IRA, Retirement & Investment | Bowman Financial Strategies

Food Truck Frenzy!

Owner of Bowman Financial Strategies, Erik Bowman, and his wife Heidi attending the third annual Food Truck Frenzy. This community event took place on June 2 in beautiful Castle Pines, Colorado.

Highlights included 12 food trucks, beer, wine, margaritas, live music, activities for the kids and a pet corner. Thanks for stopping by!

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