Wednesday, May 26, 2010


Our unexpected early departure from the workforce has given us the luxury of spending a couple of years in “retirement” in Hawaii.  One of the benefits of the time we’ve had in Hawaii is exposure to seniors ten and twenty years older than us.  The people we have met in Hilo and Kona have graciously shared their stories and friendships with us and we have learned more than we could’ve imagined from them about how to have a happy life in our old age.  We put together a list of the attributes of seniors with happy, productive, and peaceful lives that differ from others who struggle with frustration, loneliness, and boredom. Here are notes to ourselves for us remember what we've learned from the happy retired people we have met.
  • See Humor in Themselves.  We have met a lot of unhappy seniors who take themselves very seriously. Their house, their property, their situation, their IRA performance, their opinions’ and their experiences are all very important and significant. Those that laugh at their behaviors, situations, attitudes and opinions are the happiest and very fun to be with. Looking back on one’s life and seeing the humor of it all is one of the great gifts we see happy older people give themselves and others.
  • Forget their Self Importance.  We’ve heard so many grumpy elderly men wax on about how amazing they are because they ran a business, were a VP of big company, or were the head of this or that.  Happy retired people don't look back on past jobs for self importance. They seem to simply give up self importance and focus on the moment. Though it may seem simple to let the past go and live in the moment, we know it is not easy. Hanging out with happy seniors feels a lot like a second childhood with days filled playing and having fun.
  • Respect their Adult Children.  Over 60% of any discussion with seniors is about their adult children and grandchildren (the other 40% is about their aches and pains).  The topic of children overtakes many a conversation regardless of whether the seniors get along with them or not, see them or not, or talk to them or not.  Seniors that still see their children as children are frustrated that their children did not do as they were told.. Happy elders see their children as adults and respect how they have managed in world that is different than the world they know. They do not judge their choices and have pride in what they have accomplished. Those that accept their children are considerably more at peace than those frustrated by their children’s lifestyles, money spending habits, choice of spouse, parenting style, food choices, career choices, etc.   We are taking this to heart with our own son and are glad to be learning this now.
  • Make Peace with how much they see their Grandchildren.  We don’t have grandchildren, yet, and so we were surprised at the angst most seniors have about the amount of time they get to spend with their grandchildren. Whether the grandchildren are far away or in the same town, issues arise about access to and time with grandchildren.  Observing the conflict has given us the insight that grandchildren are a big deal, and those that ignored their importance or didn’t have a plan for how they would nurture their relationship with their grandchildren were later regretful or financially strapped by travel and expenditures.
  • Be Fit.  Being healthy, fit and slim is not just vanity, it translates to decades of happiness.  The seniors that we have come to know in their late 60’s, 70’s and 80’s have ranged from incredibly healthy and active to having a cluster of serious health problems.  The healthy seniors are having a completely different life than those that struggle to get out of the house and are in constant pain.  We knew getting into shape was important, but observing the difference in happiness and fun that health brings in old age, we have come to think that it is the most important thing for us to accomplish in our life right now.  We also recognize that those that have stayed fit and healthy do things in moderation and with care in order to stay that way.  Being healthy and fit is one of the best ways to prepare for a happy old age.
  • Socialize with Peers  We are surprised at the degree to which social interaction moves to the forefront after retirement and how enjoyable socializing can be.  Community pools, senior centers, and clubs create constant opportunities for spending time together and talking. We notice that seniors tend to end up in a community of peers with other seniors that have achieved similar success financially and in their career.  Most socialization during a person’s career is hierarchical or based on one’s position at a company, in a community, or church and so a lot of seniors have not socialized with a group of peers before.  Some older people are used to their employees or underlings being socially accommodating and they struggle with peers that do not scrape and bow in their interactions.  The happiest seniors get along with everyone, treat everyone as an equal, and have a lot of tolerance for others. They let opinions that bother them roll off their back, they deftly avoid the jerks that they can’t stand, and they enjoy and get close to the people that make them happy and upbeat.
  • Reduce their Stuff.  We are surprised about how much stuff seniors have retained and continue to accrue and how time consuming and irritating it is to them.  Most of the seniors we know have several homes and lots of stuff.  Some of the stuff they accumulated is due to their retirement income plan, like house rentals, farms, and computers, and some is due to retirement hobbies, like skis, car parts, surf boards, bikes, musical instruments and outrigger canoes. The seniors that have minimized their stuff and focused on the few things that give them pleasure are the happiest and most peaceful.  Though we have reduced our stuff considerably, we still have a lot things that we can’t seem to part with even though we know it takes our energy and money to maintain them. Like losing weight, getting rid of our stuff seems almost impossible.  But as we focus on what will make us happy as we age, we know we will be happier with much less stuff.
  • Live Small.  We have noticed the happiest and most peaceful seniors eat little, say little, and take up little space.  We know that as we age we require less of the earth’s resources and that we are suppose to be wise enough to know that no one wants to hear our opinions (which is why we blog).  Unhappy seniors eat big, talk loudly, and walk in the middle of the sidewalk forcing others onto the road to get out of their way.  We want to be content and happy as we grow old and the happy people we have met step lightly and minimize their footprint on the world.
  • Slow down and Listen. Hawaii has the benefit of forcing one to slow down.  It is just the way of things here.  A wonderful aspect of slowing down is that we hear what others have to say.  And we have been amazed at what we have learned from others, people that we would never have slowed down long enough to hear.  Seniors have a wealth of knowledge and experiences that they are eager and willing to share. The happiest seniors listen and sometime they gain a piece of the puzzle of life from a peer that allows them to move on emotionally in their life. We are amazed at how enjoyable and enriching it is to listen to a long story someone has to tell about how they ended up where they are. 
  • Enjoy their Blessings.  Our generation has lived under a cloud of doom as long as we can remember. In kindergarten it was the doom of a Nuclear War, then the Cold War, an Economic War, an Oil War, and it goes on and on. But every day in Hawaii is a blessing, with warm sunlight, blue ocean, and gentle breezes. We have learned from our seniors to try and ignore the “War of the Week” and appreciate all the blessings of the moment.

Monday, May 24, 2010


The European Central Bank (ECB) is spending a trillion dollars to keep their Euro currency value high at the same time that China is risking a trade war with their primary markets in the West to keep their Yuan currency value low.

If the ECB ends their intervention and allows the Euro to plunge, it would create a positive economic stimulus by making European manufactured goods more affordable and competitive in the global market place and helping to create jobs. A lower Euro would also devalue the huge deficits that European nations have accrued over the last ten years, alleviating the growing social unrest in Europe as ever higher taxes are levied on the people to repay a decade of overspending. Why would the ECB risk bankruptcy by artificially supporting the Euro?

Equally strange is China’s fight to keep their Yuan value low against the US dollar in the face of threats of a trade embargo from Europe and tariffs on imported Chinese products by the US. Unlike the western world, China is having fierce inflation which a higher valued Yuan would help to relieve by making raw materials and energy cheaper in China. It would reduce the cost of manufactured goods by making imported raw materials cheaper and it would increase the prestige of China by having a highly valued currency. Though we have heard arguments that increasing the Yuan’s value would make China’s labor costs less competitive, a 50% increase in the value of the Yuan would still keep their labor costs competitive in the world. Why would China not want a stronger Yuan?

In the US, the Federal government seems set on keeping the US interest rates at historic lows while running the up largest deficit in US history. This should be causing a drop the value of the US dollar. Oddly, the US dollar is holding strong compared to Euro and the Yuan; the only major currency that the dollar has dropped against is the Japanese Yen.

This surreal global currency situation reminds us of 2007 when reality TV programs showed house speculators that flipped houses after a few days of work for a gain of $100,000. When speculators in the overvalued real estate market stopped making their mortgage payments, the real estate bubble popped and the onset of the global economic collapse began. The risk then was being stuck with overvalued real estate or exposed to related debt by owning stocks in banks, mortgage underwriters or construction.

The currency bubble has its own set of risks for those owning stocks of companies dependent on currency exchange rates or currency sensitive investments such as US Treasury Bills and low interest municipal bonds. Manufacturers or retailers whose competitive edge are based on a low Yuan valuation, such as Wal-Mart and any other discount import retailers, will be crushed by a pop in the currency exchange bubble. Their tiny margins created by low cost Yuan manufacturing overhead in China will disappear overnight in a sudden swing in exchange rates. Only high value, high margin manufacturers, service companies and retailers will survive.

Living in Hawaii, changes in currency exchange rates are not abstract. We see the glee of Japanese visitors as their high valued Yen buys them 30% more than their previous visits. When the currency bubble pops, we think it will affect our life even more than the popped housing bubble.

Monday, May 10, 2010


We are a middle aged, 50-something couple living in Hawaii with our primary goal of losing weight and getting fit. We have blogged about our frustrating experience on our weight loss journey and our goal of having high-net-worth BMIs. We have made some progress over the past two years, but after moving from Hilo to Kona this year, we put ourselves on a 10 week plan of calorie restriction and exercise to accelerate the process.

I mentioned before that I found that staying away from canola oil and maintaining an alkaline ph had thus far kept my gout attacks at bay. In my continued research about why certain things like cherries and apple cider seem to help my overabundance of eruic acid, I found out that they both have high levels of Malic acid. Malic acid is known to help rid the body of euric acid by dissolving it. Malic is derived from the Latin word for apple and was named by Lavoisier in 1787 (the same guy who discovered and named Oxygen). It is one of the strange acids that converts to alkaline in your stomach, so eating it in apples, grapes, and cherries keeps the body’s ph neutral.

One of the difficulties we have been having with our weight loss is getting the level of our exercise to the point that it makes a difference in burning calories and building muscle. We find that after exercising, we are so fatigued we can’t keep on a schedule and worse, muscle pain seems to never go away. Any day that we can burn 200-300 calories exercising makes a big difference to that day’s weight loss. But unless we can keep it up daily, progress is painfully slow.

Surprisingly, my research into Malic acid came up with numerous studies where people with severe muscle pain and fatigue had positive results by taking Malic acid supplements.
Studies on people with chronic muscle and tissue pain like those suffering from Fibromyalgia and fatigue and sleep disturbances like those suffering from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) reported that 90% had significant relief from their pain and fatigue within 48 hours. The Malic acid supplements used in the studies included vitamins and magnesium. It acts as a chelating agent and attaches to ions like aluminum and drags them out of cells and out of the body through excrement. Aluminum sulfate is used for water purification in many public water systems and is suspected as one way aluminum can get into the body’s cells.

One theory is that chronic fatigue and muscle pain and stiffness are caused by an aluminum ion blocking the mitochondria’s ability to get oxygen into the cell. Taking Malic acid may be clearing the mitochondria of surface blockage which allows in more oxygen reducing pain and producing more energy.

Studies have confirmed that Malic acid increases the respiration of the mitochondria.
Other studies have shown that it significantly increased aerobic endurance in rats and many of the Malic acid supplements on the market are aimed at athletes. One disturbing study showed how aluminum impaired cell mitochondria in rats and another study showed it in plants.

Conventional medicine does not accept that Malic Acid could be effective in any treatment because our bodies already produce Malic acid. They feel it is illogical that supplements could have any impact on these ailments.

Seeing a study where 90% of the subjects, with far greater chronic pain and fatigue then us, reported significant relief in 48 hours sent us on the hunt for a vitamin and magnesium balanced Malic acid supplement. After taking it, the relief was almost immediate. A stiff neck that seemed to get worse every day for the past two months, disappeared. Chronic pain in a shoulder suddenly became bearable. We both felt warmer and have found ourselves jumping up from the couch more frequently.

We realize that this result may be due to something else, or not last, and certainly would never be supported by the AMA, but having more energy and less pain allowing us to increase our exercise regime is an unexpected and thrilling gift in our life right now.

So on the 6th week of our 10 week challenge, we have now added Malic acid supplements to our low calorie diet (with no GMO foods: canola, soy, corn, cottonseed, Hawaiian papaya) and daily exercise.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010


Watching the news this week seems more like an apocalyptic movie directed by Emmerich called “The oil well that destroyed the world”. The 130 mile long oil slick continues to expand with 210,000 gallons of oil being added every day from the still broken underwater well creating incomprehensible disaster in the waters in the Gulf of Mexico.

The Florida Loop Current that sweeps around the Gulf will soon connect with the spreading oil and pull it south along Florida's Gulf coast and then out into the Florida Straits between the United States and Cuba. From there, the oil slick will spread from Miami Beach to North Carolina's barrier islands and continue north along the East coast beaches. The slick may ultimately cross the Atlantic and wash up on UK and European beaches.

In 2009, 80 million tourists visited Florida, 30% of them solely to enjoy the 1200 miles of white sand beaches.
Florida’s visitor rate has surged by over 30 million since 1999 with over half of the arrivals by air. Tourist spending in Florida increased from $47 billion to $65 billion between 1999 and 2008 providing $4 billion in state sales tax revenue and over a million tourist jobs in 2008.

The increase in beach seeking tourists to Florida may be due to the
rising crime and murder rates in Mexico and the islands in the Caribbean. With armed robbers targeting cruise ship visitors in the Bahamas, sexual assaults and murders of tourists in Trinidad and Tobago, gang related murders in Bermuda, and Jamaica described as the most violent country in the Western hemisphere, it is not surprising that most of the Caribbean islands have seen a decrease in their visitors over the past couple of years mostly due to the challenge of convincing tourists that they are safe.

The H1N1 virus outbreak combined with increased violence that prompted the US to issue a Travel Alert has resulted in a
sharp decline in tourists willing to venture to beaches in Mexico. Websites citing Mexico Vacation Victims and murder rates at favorite tropical vacation destinations have driven record numbers to the safer beaches of Florida.

An oil slick covering Florida’s white sand beaches would mean US and international beach lovers would be forced, yet again, to find alternate clean and safe places to go for their summer vacation. The 41 million tourists that arrived in Florida by airplane in 2009 dwarfs the
6.5 million visitors that came to Hawaii. If only 15% of those beach-loving, air-arrivals to Florida change their vacation plans to Hawaiian beaches, it would double our State’s annual visitors. By mid June, we think Hawaii will have an unprecedented surge in tourists from the US East Coast, Canada, and Europe. Hawaii will become the oil slick free tropical destination to the 20 million tourists that planned to fly to Florida this summer because of its unparalleled white sand beaches, exceptional hotels and shopping, and extremely low murder rate. (Hawaii’s murder rate is 1.6 per 100,000 people as compared to the overall US rate of 5.7, Puerto Rico’s rate of 18.8, Mexico ‘s rate of 25, and Jamaica’s rate of 49 per 100,000 in 2006.)

Florida’s US visitor profile is different than Hawaii with their top origins by air coming from New York, Chicago, and Philadelphia. The majority of Hawaii visitors by air from the US are from the West coast and Mountain regions. Foreign visitors to Florida in 2008 came from Canada (2.9M), UK (1.4M), Germany (295K), Australia (70K), and Japan (55K). International visitors to Hawaii came primarily from Japan(1.1M) and Canada (340K). Tourists looking for an alternative to their Florida holidays, will be first time visitors to Hawaii, surprised and delighted with the beauty and novelty of the destination. Disasters displace people, as did Hurricane Katrina which resulted in over 200,000 residents leaving New Orleans. Many may move to Hawaii to flee from their oil encroached retirement and vacation homes along the eastern and gulf coasts of America.

For those of us living in Hawaii, a massive increase in visitors will be a blessing and a curse. The additional tax revenues will help our State budget problems and there will be more jobs. But the sudden surge in tourists will challenge hotels, restaurants, and airlines. Airline seats will be hard to find as will uncrowded beaches. Prices may escalate to Manhattan levels and still not meet the demand. As the disaster unfolds it will quickly change the remote world we live in here in Hawaii.