A Happy Retirement


Let's Be Friends for a While

Friends are as companions on a journey,
who ought to aid each other to persevere in the road to a happier life.

- Pythagoras

When you choose your friends, don't be short-changed by choosing personality over character.

- William Somerset Maugham

Whatever Happened to What's-his-name?  He Was One of My 396 Friends...

by Lewis Smith

Pal, mate or buddy, modern life’s pressures create a high turnover in companionship.  Count them carefully.  You have 33 friends now, yet within a few years you will have lost touch with all but a handful.  They won’t even send you a Christmas card.  Whether they are pals, mates, chums or buddies, you will go through 396 friends in a lifetime but will have only 33 at any one time, says a study.

Death, rows and disinclination all chip away at the coterie of companions surrounding you now, and it is only a matter of time before 363 - 11 out of 12 - are lost to you.  Of the 33 people counted as friends for now, only 6 at most can be described as close friends in whom you can confide and trust to be there when you need a shoulder to cry on.  Best friends, according to the study of 10,000 people, are not even the ones that you see most of - you see them just once every 8 weeks - but they are the ones thought of more often than any other.  The remainder of the 33 are merely for social occasions and are made up of workmates past and present, old school friends, drinking cronies and the occasional neighbour.

A gender difference is identified in a report, Anatomy of Modern Friendship, with women seeing social friends every 3.5 days on average, whereas men managing it once every 5 days.  Women appear to be more particular about who they are prepared to count as a friend: men claimed to have 25% more companions but see much less of them.  The most dangerous age for groups of friends is the 30s - until they turn 30, people tend to live in the area where they have all grown up together.  But at this point they move.  Getting married, moving away for a new job and, perhaps most crucially, having children and deciding to spend time with them rather than socialising all put strains on friendships.  The research identified four categories of friendship

bulletCultivators - to them friends mean a lot; they are the most likely to nurture friendships and ensure frequent meetings.
bulletPruners - have a tendency towards making friends quickly and dropping them just as fast; they like to be seen in the "in crowd" and are ruthless with those they see as dead wood, even deleting their names from diaries.
bulletHarvesters - have a hardcore circle of friends despite spending long periods making no attempt to meet or even speak with them; Christmas cards can be the only form of contact for a year or more.
bulletGatherers - make friends easily and in great numbers but do little to maintain the relationships and rarely make the effort to keep in touch.

Men are more likely to be gatherers or harvesters, whereas women dominate the cultivator category.  The national average number of friends is 33, but there are regional variations.  People in Scotland and the North East have the widest circles, with 37 and 38 respectively.  The South West has the fewest, with 28.  The number of people considered to be friends falls steadily as age rises.  Those aged 18 - 24 manage the most, with young men claiming 43 and women 36, but by the time the over-65 age bracket is reached, bitter experience and the grim reaper have taken their toll, reducing numbers to 29 for men and 19 for women.

Despite the drop-out rate of friends, 6 out of 10 people told the researchers that they value their friendships more than money, successful careers or even family; 7 in 10 say that the loss of 11 out of every 12 friends is one of the biggest regrets they have.  Such sadness is one of the prime reasons for the success of websites that attempt to reunite old friends and classmates and of online messenger groups.  Online technology has even created a new kind of companion - the "silent friend" whom people speak to through text messaging and e-mails.  Very rarely do they speak on the phone, and they are even less likely to meet face to face.  One in 3 people admit they have "silent friends" and say they make contact with them up to 4 times a day.

Clare Bolton, of Microsoft Network (the study's author), said: "With hectic work schedules, physical distance and pressured social lives making friendship get-togethers increasingly difficult, more and more of us are cultivating ‘silent friendships’."  Linda Papadopoulos, a psychologist at London Metropolitan University, analysed the study.  She said: "These days, we are not static in terms of where we live and where we work.  Our lives are more dynamic, so staying in touch and maintaining proximity is much more difficult than it used to be."  The fact that so many companions get left in the past shows the differences in the depth of friendships, said Dr Papadopoulos.  "There are different levels of friendship - clearly there are some people we will turn to when things are really bad or really good, and they will be a rock for you," she added.  "Others, those more easily left behind, are work friends, gym friends, pub friends - people we enjoy being with but who don’t give us the spiritual support we get from deeper friendships."

Source: timesonline.co.uk 28 November 2003

What I Believe

by E M Forster

I do not believe in Belief...

I believe in aristocracy though - if that is the right word ...  Not an aristocracy of power, based upon rank and influence, but an aristocracy of the sensitive, the considerate and the plucky.  Its members are to be found in all nations and classes, and all through the ages, and there is a secret understanding between them when they meet.  They represent the true human tradition, the one permanent victory of our queer race over cruelty and chaos.  Thousands of them perish in obscurity, a few are great names.  They are sensitive to others as well as for themselves, they are considerate without being fussy, their pluck is not swankiness, but the power to endure, and they can take a joke.

Source: crookedtimber.org posted by sp dinsmoor [dinsmoor@hotmail.com] 13 July 2003

Americans Less Happy Today than 30 Years Ago: Study

by Deepa Babington

Rome - Americans are less happy today than they were 30 years ago thanks to longer working hours and a deterioration in the quality of their relationships with friends and neighbours, according to an Italian study.  Researchers presenting their work at a conference on "policies for happiness" at Italy's Siena University honed in on two major forces that boost happiness - higher income and better social relationships - and put a dollar value on them.  Based on that, they concluded a person with no friends or social relations with neighbours would have to earn $320,000 more each year than someone who did to enjoy the same level of happiness.  And while the average American paycheque had risen over the past 30 years, its happiness-boosting benefits were more than offset by a drop in the quality of relationships over the period.

"The main cause is a decline in the so-called social capital - increased loneliness, increased perception of others as untrustworthy and unfair," said Stefano Bartolini, one of the authors of the study.  "Social contacts have worsened, people have less and less relationships among neighbours, relatives and friends."  He and two other Italian researchers looked at data from 1975 to 2004 collected by the annual General Social Surveys that monitors change in US society through interviews with thousands of Americans.

By contrast, it appeared that based on the limited data available the happiness trend had remained largely stable in Europe, which had apparently avoided some of the changes in the American workplace like longer hours and more pressure.  "The increase in hours worked by Americans over the last 30 years has heavily affected their happiness because people who are more absorbed by work have less time and energy for relationships," said Bartolini.  "Another important cause is that American society in the last 30 years has experienced a huge increase in competitive pressure compared to Europe.  It's easier in the United States, if you belong to the middle class, to become poor than you would in Europe.  This creates a state of insecurity."

Source: reuters.com Reuters Life! 15 June 2007

Scientists Calculate How Much Money It Costs to Buy Happiness

It is one of the most pondered questions of all time - can money buy happiness? The answer, according to a study, is yes - but so can friendships and successful relationships.

Researchers have been trying to calculate what effect our finances and lifestyle have on our emotions.  Their main source was a survey of 10,000 Britons, who were asked to rate their level of happiness and answer questions on their wealth, health and social relations.  The team, from the University of London, then placed all these people on a "life satisfaction scale" of one (utterly miserable) to seven (euphoric).

Using the information they had collated, they could calculate how much extra money the average person would have to earn every year to move up from one point on the scale to another.  They also worked out how far life events and changing social relationships on their own could move someone up the satisfaction scale.  By comparing these two types of information, they were able to put a "price" on social and lifestyle factors.  So, for example, they found that having excellent health was worth the equivalent of a £304,000-a-year pay rise in how happy it made you feel.

Marriage increases happiness levels by the same amount as earning an extra £54,000 a year, although, surprisingly, living together was worth more, at an extra £82,500.  Meanwhile, chatting to your neighbours on a regular basis would make you as happy as getting a £40,000-a-year pay boost.

The scale also works in reverse, however, so that the grief of becoming widowed decreases your satisfaction-with life by the same amount as your salary dropping £200,000 a year.

Dr Nattavudh Powdthavee, one of the main researchers, said: "One of the things we wanted to find out was the answer to the age-old question - can money buy the greatest amount of happiness for us?"  What they found, he explained, was that the results showed the importance of social relationships.  "One potential explanation is that social activities tend to require our attention while they are being experienced, so that the joy derived from them lasts longer in our memory," he said.  "Income, on the other hand, is mostly in the background.  We don't normally have to pay so much attention to the fact that we'll be getting a pay packet at the end of the week or month, so the joy derived from income doesn't last as long."

Source: thisislondon.co.uk 11 June 2007

To Retire Happy, Be Rich - in Friends

Governments exist to protect the rights of minorities.
The loved and the rich need no protection: they have many friends and few enemies.

- Wendell Phillips

Source: someecards.com

Washington - A happy retirement depends on being rich, not in money but in friends, researchers say.  They said as people age they should invest as wisely in their friends as they do in money.

Toni Antonucci and Alicia Tarnowski at the University of Michigan analysed data on 100 people interviewed before and after retirement.  A quarter, 25%, said they were more satisfied with life after retirement, while 34% said they were less satisfied.  The rest reported about the same levels of satisfaction before and after.

The researchers looked at a variety of factors in these peoples' lives, including physical health, income, divorce, death of a spouse, age and gender.  What most strongly predicted happiness after retirement was having a strong social support network, they told a meeting of the Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues.  "Our findings suggest that new retirees may need more emotional support than they did when they were working," Tarnowski said in a statement.  Just having a number of people who provide emotional support, listen to your concerns and let you know you're still valued right after you retire seems to make a big difference."

The most satisfied people had networks of about 16 people on average, while those reporting they were less happy had only about 10 friends to call on.

Source: Reuters (date undenoted)

See also:

bulletGroups Can Be Therapeutic - It is out of this qualitative leap from the animal brain to the human mind that Richardson fashions his own definition of intelligence.  He emphasizes what sociologists, anthropologists and even some social psychologists have always taken for granted: that the essence of humanity is the interactions between people in groups...

Wishing to be friends is quick work, but friendship is a slow ripening fruit.

- Aristotle

Without friends no one would choose to live, though he had all other goods.

- Aristotle (again)

Friends are generally of the same sex, for when men and women agree,
it is only in the conclusions; their reasons are always different.

- George Santayana

Then Again - To Retire Happy, Go to Thailand?

Some Basic Rules to Follow when You Consider Moving to Chiang Mai:

Have you considered, if you own your home, that you could lease it for enough money per month to retire in Thailand (although perhaps not in Phuket)?  Why not check out the possibility?

Before you come:

  1. Visas:  These can be a problem.  This is generally because you are uncertain of the type which is correct for you.  Depending on your aims in moving here, a non-immigrant visa, will usually be a good place to start.  This can sometimes cause problems if you don't have all the documentation before you come.  If you are planning an early retirement, a type "B" visa may be an easier bet in the first instance and look at retirement visa after you arrive.  E-mail us for specific suggestions appropriate to your needs and we can usually put you in touch with an appropriate person, or we will do some research on your behalf.
  2. We recommend getting a visa before you arrive, though you can get a visa on arrival and have it changed but that requires a trip out of the country to somewhere like Burma or Malaysia or Australia.  There are many different visa types but for retirement, non-immigrant type "O" is the recommended one for a retiree.  Requirements are many and varied and include (depending on the type) bank details, a bank deposit of Bt 800,000.  Click here for a current conversion to your own currency, a letter from your embassy attesting to your character, a specific income each month, (Bt 65,000), and any number of other documents.  Check with the Thai Consul or Embassy nearest you.    A list of these is available here.  If you are unsure of your retirement status, ask for non-immigrant type "B", for business.  It is easier to get and easier to qualify for.
  3. Banking: Talk to your bank and make sure whether they can get money to you in a hurry and get an e-mail address from someone at the bank who knows you and can act in your interests after you leave.  Don't close all your accounts.  Make sure you have money in at least one account, which can be accessed via an ATM machine with either a debit or a credit card.  Check what your daily cash withdrawal allowance is, via ATM.  If possible keep a credit card active and set up an automatic payment system from your main cash account to pay into the credit card when required.  If your bank provides the service, get an Internet accessible account.
  4. Ask your bank for a letter of referral to a bank in Thailand, manager to manager, in English, introducing you and outlining how many years of banking you have with them and whether you have special requirements regarding your banking habits.  If your banker will do it, ask him to note in the letter that income from your leased property is deposited each month into his bank and the bank would appreciate information about cash transfer costs and protocols.
  5. If you are planning to let your home, make sure you have an agent you can trust.  As we all know real estate agents are generally unreliable and untrustworthy, (in Chiang Mai as well) so talk to your friends and get recommendations.  Interview each one, in your home, and get them to assess the house value.  Ask for recommendations from other clients they have whom they see only once per year or less, and who have e-mail.  Discuss their payment schedules as well as rates and make sure they are clear about cash transfer dates and how they are to inform you.
  6. Discuss opening an account to manage your real estate for such things as repairs and maintenance, rates etc.  This should be a chequing account.  Bring the chequebook to Thailand with you.  This means you can pay any real estate costs from this account and manage it from here.  Again, this is a good account to make internet accessible.  If you have a friend whom you trust completely, discuss giving him power of attorney over the house, but ensure the lawyer clearly states in the Power of Attorney, that the agreement does not extend to the sale of the house.
  7. As a general rule, don't sell your house before you come.  Give yourself some time to acclimatise and ensure your decision was right.  It's easier to move a tenant out, than it is to buy a new house.
  8. Prepare yourself and your family.  Life here is very different.  Even simple things can be difficult.  Spend time here on holidays before you make a final decision.  If you can afford it, have six months here in the season you prefer (cool or hot), and make sure you can live with the temperature and the people.  May to July/August are the hot months, and they can be very hot.  October to January are generally cool to cold, with December sometimes freezing at 12°C.  (We recommend only one day swimming at this time, each week).  Weather here for most people is livable, but again, don't burn your bridges.  Some people who come do leave.
  9. Subscribe to the newsgroup soc.culture.thai through your ISP news server.  We grant there are some absolute brainless idiots on it, however there are a number of posters who are not only quite knowledgeable, but also extremely happy to help intending migrants.
  10. If you are planning to come here and get married fine, but please, don't think of Thai partners as malleable or more submissive than the partners you are used to.  Thai people have a right to enjoy life as individuals who may or may not wish to interact with foreigners.
  11. Don't generalise about Thai people - they are no more "available" than anyone at home.  If a Thai person seems prepared to enter into a relationship, good, but give yourself time to adapt to their way of thinking, whilst giving your new friend time to adjust to you and your expectations and attitudes.  Learn about their culture, then the individual, as you move forward together, in your journey.
  12. Do yourself a favour at the beginning and ask around from people in the newsgroups who have been here for a while.  There are negative stories by the hundred, but there are also wonderful stories of love and compassion among Thai/Foreign relationships.  Relationships here are not impossible to manage, they are just different.
  13. If you are gay, the above still applies.

Note:  If you are Australian or Kiwi, bring your own vegemite.  If you forget it, Mrs Kasem has it and so does Rimping, usually.

Source: chiangmaimall.com

Scientists Look at Genetic Link for Sociability

by Michael Kanellos

The next time you plan to poison those voles digging up your garden, just remember that their families will probably miss them.  Recent studies conducted on voles by the Yerkes National Primate Research Center at Emory University and the Atlanta-based Centre for Behavioral Neuroscience indicate that certain genetic material once thought to be relatively inert actually contributes to how the animals function as parents and in a social group.

The study centred around microsatellites, which are short, identical DNA sequences scattered throughout genomes (the genetic code of a species) and that can be repeated thousands of times.  Earlier, scientists thought the microsatellites were simply filler, or "junk," in an animal's genome.  The researchers, however, discovered that the more microsatellites a species has, the more likely it was to show empathy and care-giving behaviour.

Humans, voles and bonobos (pygmy chimps known for strong social bonds) have fairly lengthy microsatellite regions, and the three species as a whole tend to be somewhat sociable.  Chimpanzees, which are low on the empathy scale, don't have many microsatellites in their genome.  (Genome studies focus on species, so it is possible to have individual chimps with longer microsatellites than normal.)

The differences in microsatellites, which can show up by mutation over only a few generations, appear to directly affect how, when and where the protein receptor for the hormone vasopressin presents itself in the brain, the researchers said.  Vasopressin is known to aid in the formation of memories.  Conceivably, random mutations of microsatellite regions may represent unique opportunities for the expression of genetic adaptations that lead to behavioral diversity in a species.

Source: news.com.com 8 July 2005

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