Personal Update 202009 | 3 Sep 2020 | Thursday

GREETINGS!

Thanks for taking a moment to read this month’s update. This month’s update is a bit longer than usual to provide an update on health and finances.

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PODCAST

The podcast has been going well. Since last month, I’ve uploaded episodes 32 – 38 on variety of topics. You can find those episodes and other content on the What’s New page of the Resources For Life website. [View]

BACKGROUND — In April, I created a new podcast for those who prefer listening to their information rather than (or in addition to) reading articles and watching videos. The podcast is called Walk and Talk with Greg Johnson. You can pick and choose the shows by topic. You can also subscribe or listen with Apple PodcastsGoogle Podcasts, or Spotify. You can see recently posted episodes on the What’s New page at  ResourcesForLife.com/new or the Podcast page.

Farming

I’ve had a long-time interest in farming and agriculture. It’s a vocation that involves many disciplines. For more about that read “Yeah, farming is easy. Just become an expert in these 7 disciplines.” [View]

I’ve provided tech support and web design services to many farmers and agriculture-related organizations, was a 4H member, and have lived on farms for many years.

So, this past month I launched Farming Life as a Resources For Life initiative that focuses on promoting permaculture and regenerative practices in agriculture and food production.

On that page I feature some of the agriculture articles I’ve written. I still need to go back to older articles and assign the new farming category so they show up on that page.

WRITING

Last month I created 15 posts for the Resources For Life website with some of those being podcast episodes. Some are featured videos. You can see the latest new content on the What’s New page.

Health

Cars have regular maintenance intervals designed to preempt failures. Tasks like changing fluids, replacing belts, and making adjustments are scheduled to be done prior to mechanical failures that are known to be common after a certain timeframe.

Like cars, our bodies are known to have certain failures after certain periods of time. Our healthcare system is designed to begin early detection examinations before problems occur.

There are ailments and health problems expected for people as they reach certain milestones. That usually includes some hearing loss, vision loss, and deterioration of joints and bones. Cumulative damage injuries like skin cancer can be expected for those who spend time outdoors. So, doctors check for signs of any problem.

I would describe myself as generally healthy, active, exercising daily, and making good food choices. At least that’s how I imagine myself. As a teenager, when I had started gaining weight, my Dad encouraged me to start running. At the beginning of my training, I could barely run a city block. By 10th grade, I was running about 5 miles a day and participated in a 21-mile run. That positive experience early on with wellness and fitness stayed with me throughout my life, and I’ve stuck with a daily exercise routine. I choose organic foods and take a reasonable number of supplements. I use an app to track everything I eat. I weigh in daily, also recording body fat, bone density, and other details. I daily invest time, money, and attention on wellness.

Despite my mindfulness about wellness and my active pursuit of better health, for some reason, I seem to reach health milestones for aging about 30 years earlier than most people.

In 2010, I discovered a red spot on my nose, and it turned out to be skin cancer. Someone I know had the same cancer, in the same location, and had the same surgery, in the same week as I had my surgery — many similarities except that they were 30 years older than me. I’m thankful that I’ve not had any problems with skin cancer since then. I’ve been careful to stay covered and protected when outside.

In 2017, I launched some websites to support local bicyclists. That work required many hours of cycling to video record and document the many miles of trails in the Iowa City area. Later in the year, as the days grew shorter, I was driving after dark and noticed my right eye had become very blurry and foggy. I saw my eye doctor at the end of the summer. That vision problem was non-existent in May of 2017 at my regular eye exam. So, the problem appeared in a matter of months. I considered getting cataract surgery in the fall of 2017. The person I know (mentioned above) who is 30 years older than me, was also struggling with cataract issues and was scheduled for cataract surgery at the same time I was planned to get my procedure done. They went through the surgery and had trouble with it, so that made me reluctant to get the surgery at that time. I thought perhaps my vision would improve without surgery. Over the three years since then, my vision got worse in my right eye. It was beginning to make it hard to do my work. I was told that there could have been harm to my eye from a bicycling accident in 2017, or perhaps extended exposure to the sun. I finally mustered the courage to get the eye surgery in May of this year. Thankfully that procedure went very well, and the special lens that was installed gave me very clear vision for the close-range work I do, as well as adequate vision for driving. In addition, the lens has UV blocking that can help prevent future harm from excess exposure to sunlight.

This summer, I began noticing some pain in my right shoulder. By July, the pain was so severe that I went to a team of specialists who work with professional athletes. Fortunately, in Iowa City, we have access to excellent healthcare that would otherwise not be available most places in the country, and it’s covered by my health insurance. I began getting some physical therapy to exercise the shoulder. However, the problem kept getting worse. So, two weeks ago, I received multiple steroid shots in the shoulder using a 2-inch deep tissue needle. That helped a lot with the shoulder pain, which almost entirely went away. This has made it much easier to continue with my PT program to gain strength and improve range of motion for my shoulder. I was familiar with the process of getting steroid shots in shoulders because when I was a teenager, my grandmother would get steroid shots every six months to relieve pain.

As I was getting that steroid shot a couple of weeks ago, I thought of my grandmother, and then began thinking about these other examples where I am experiencing ailments about 30 years before expected: vision problems, hearing problems, joint problems, blood sugar problems, respiratory issues, thyroid issues, etc. I’m the youngest old person I know. It’s like The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, but going in the wrong direction.

Another ailment that’s common in my family is people dying at 59-years-old. So, the combination of me getting ailments 30-years early and having a family history of people dying 20-30 years early, that concerns me. My mom died when she was 59. She traveled a lot, and enjoyed life up to that point, yet I’m sure she planned to have more time during retirement. Her mother (my grandmother) lived to be 89 despite smoking, drinking, and eating very rich foods. So, I don’t have a fatalistic attitude about lifespan. It’s certainly a roll of the dice. Yet, it’s a roll of the dice that could result in a wide span of possible outcomes.

With my own life planning, career plans and retirement plans, I need to think ahead with two outcomes in mind. I need to have one plan for a long life, and another plan for a shorter life. In recent years, I’ve tried to do more traveling for pleasure (as opposed to work-related travel). I’ve also tried to spend more time with family. I’ve been doing more of the things that people wait to do during retirement in case I don’t have the opportunity to do them later.

The health challenges I face aren’t necessarily life-threatening, but they are livelihood threatening. The tech work I do really depends on maintaining good hearing, vision, mobility, strength, and mental clarity. As I see these areas of health at risk, I begin to get concerned about my long-term plan to work into my retirement years, and that has financial implications.

Finance

I’ve not had any expensive habits or hobbies in my lifetime. I’ve mostly focused on my work and found enjoyment in that. Tech gadgets are a source of entertainment and learning. Those can sometimes seem costly, but they help with my career.

So, not being much of a world traveler, and not having any expensive habits or hobbies has allowed me to typically have more income than expenses. Also, because I enjoy the work I do, I’ve been able to work 6-7 days a week for many years.

My long-term financial plan has always been to invest in my own business, invest in my own skills, invest in work-related tools, and keep working into my old age.

Part of my financial plan, since I was in college, has been to earn money with tech consulting, and then donate time, money, and resources to non-profit groups and those in need. Before I was known as PC-DOC, my original business name was PICC (Public Interest Computer Consulting). Although the names have changed, the mission has continued for my entire career.

So, over the years, I’ve given time, money, and equipment to many non-profits and individuals. Everything beyond my own basic living expenses was given away — for decades. In later years I had a retirement fund through the University and that remains, but it’s not enough to actually retire on.

During my time working at the University of Iowa, I donated time, money, and tech equipment to the University equal to many thousands of dollars. Most of the computers, software, tools I relied on at the University, I purchased with my own funds. Sometimes I would use personal funds to purchase cables, adapters, and other supplies for instructors or departments. In addition to that, I would buy equipment for some of the international students who were instructors and on limited incomes. Part of the motivation for this is that faculty and grad student instructors were being told that funds weren’t available for certain items. I needed those items to get my work done. So, I’d just buy them myself, get the job done, and continue to the next project.

Some of my giving shows up on invoices as discounts or donated equipment that could add up to be hundreds of dollars off the amount owed. I recently discounted an invoice from about $1,500 down to $300 for a business that was having a hard time.

For many years I’d been giving several hundred dollars every month to help a local family that was running a community outreach.

Much of my giving involves micro-philanthropy. It’s under-the-radar giving that won’t ever result in receiving any public recognition.

These are all just a few examples of many. I explain all of the above, not to publicly proclaim how charitable I am (others give much more than I do), but to simply explain how it is that I’m not a multi-millionaire by now.

People who see me working hard and giving much away assume I’m very wealthy. Anyone learning I’m not a millionaire must wonder where all the money went. They may think I collect exotic cars, or smoke expensive cigars, or drink fine wine, or have a gambling problem. Nope. It’s simply that I’ve spent a lifetime giving everything away beyond my basic living expenses.

My giving hasn’t been careless, emotional, haphazard, or without much thought. I’ve primarily offered in-kind contributions, to people and organizations I’m working with, because that kind of giving is very targeted, precise, impactful, and easy to monitor. Although there were some years when I gave to a portfolio of national organizations, I’ve generally avoided giving money to far-away bloated organizations that don’t have much oversight.

Rather than waiting until I have the net worth of a Bill Gates or Warren Buffet to start giving, I’ve chosen to give along the way. That way the giving is more intentional, mindful, and effective. It’s like dollar cost averaging applied to charitable giving.

Fast forward to today. For my entire life, I’ve seen my business as a kind of ATM machine that I can get money out of at any time. So, I’ve not felt much need to save up for retirement or anything else. If money is needed, I work. If more money is needed, I work more.

With the encroaching health problems I described above, I’m realizing that I may not be able to continue working 60 hours a week into my 90s. Indeed, I’ve already started cutting back a bit. As a result, I’m reducing my giving. Not because I’m getting stingy, but because I have less income. That’s been hard for me because those who had depended on me in the past wonder why I’m no longer giving as much. My ability to donate my time, or give equipment away, has been reduced.

The health concerns impact financial planning. If I’ll be living into my 90s, then I really should hunker down, work hard, and minimize any non-essential spending. I’ll probably need to start saving more for retirement in the event that I’m unable to work when I’m older. That will also cut into what I’m able to donate of my time, money, and equipment.

THANKS!

Many thanks to all of you who keep in touch and provide support for the work I do.

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Origins. For those of you who are new to these monthly personal updates, they began about 20 years ago out of a desire to share from my personal life about topics of lifeways (faith), health, career, finances, relationships, effective living, and activism. This is based on the life map presented on the Resources For Life website.

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