Technology Upgrades for a Simpler and Lower Cost Boomer Lifestyle

I’ve written a number of times about exploring strategies for lowering our cost of living as we move closer to retirement. Some of these strategies are also intended to simplify our lives in the process. While it may seem counter-intuitive that using more technology can do either of these things, we are trying to show that it can. This week we took additional technology steps to implement our cost reduction and life simplification strategies.

First, I have had a Google Voice number for about six months. This week I asked friends and family to begin using my Google Voice number as my primary telephone contact. The primary reason is that it allows them to reach me by phone without knowing what phone I am near. In theory that’s the way a cell phone should work, but not always. A second reason is the elegant simplicity of accessing and processing voice mail using Google Voice. Every message is accessible from any computer, in both audio and translated text format. The translated voice message texts are quite accurate. I also receive the voice messages by email and text message. ┬áNo more dialing a voice mail number and going through menus.

There are many more technical features associated with Google Voice that just make things easier for me, particularly when I am working outside the office. I will begin transitioning some of my clients to my Google Voice number soon. You should check it out and try to get a number and see if it can simplify your life as well. Even if you want to keep your current number, you can still use many of the Google Voice features.

The other technology steps we accomplished this week were related to increasing our use of the Internet to access content that is generally provided by satellite or cable systems. First, we doubled the speed of our DSL service at our lake house. I then connected our home theater PC that we recently purchased to our lake house TV, using the HDMI input. That allowed me to use the HTPC to grab Internet media content from our newly upgraded connection and watch it on the big screen. I was pleasantly surprised at how well it worked. Standard definition video content – even displayed at full screen resolution – was clean, smooth and steady. We don’t have enough bandwidth to watch streaming HD content yet but we can consider another upgrade when more HD content becomes available on the Internet.

Thanks to the generosity of tech guru son #1, we are using an X-Gene RF wireless keyboard to control the HTPC. This keyboard was designed specifically for this purpose, with an easy to use “hold in your hands” form factor and built-in mouse track ball and scroll wheels. We also installed the new Kylo browser which was also specially designed for using the Internet on a large screen TV display.

Although our Internet cost has increased because of the speed upgrade, our plan is to more than offset that increase by downscaling our satellite service. The faster DSL speed has also improved my remote connection to my office network so that working remotely is more efficient and pleasant.

Simplicity is a concept for which technology can help, if used carefully.

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