Saturday, September 22, 2012

Too Late for Early Retirement

First of all, let me admit that I'm envious of Syd at Retirement: A Fulltime Job. That's not just because she sends a lot of readers my way, though she does.

Let's face it, I'd be jealous of anyone who gets to retire in their forties with enough resources to travel, a cute & loving partner to travel with, and their health intact.

A young friend of mine, an auto mechanic who is in his late thirties, is busy buying up rental real estate, desperate to leave the work world behind by age 50. He doesn't want to spend the rest of his life under cars, nor does he want to retrain for some other career. If he has to work, he tells me, then fixing autos is the way to go. But he believes that fixing up and maintaining rentals will suit him better and leave him with more time to pursue the hiking and rock climbing that he also loves.

I sort of envy him as well (except for the repairing rentals, hiking and rock climbing part!).

But would I have retired in my forties, even if it had been financially feasible? And assuming I hadn't been busy adding children to my family during that time?

Somehow, I suspect not.

The decision to retire, when not dictated by job loss or health concerns, is so very personal.

It seems to me that some people, like Syd and my mechanic friend, do leisure well. I don't count myself in that number. Left to my own devices, I tend to hole up with my books, the remote control and a full supply of Ben & Jerry's. I don't even bother to answer the phone much of the time when I'm home alone.

Work provides structure and social interaction, whether we need it or want it. People like me need both. In fact, as I plan for my eventual retirement, part of my plans involve thinking of ways to maintain structure and interaction (while still managing to sleep in on weekdays, travel, read, and hit movie matinees).

When I retire, I want to RETIRE--all caps! I don't want to change careers--I love the one I have; I don't want to become an entrepreneur--contrary to the Dave Ramsay mantra, not everyone is cut out for self-employment. I know I'm not.

But I also don't want to vegetate into a hermit. I want to volunteer; I want to travel; I want to have way more time for myself.

And of course, I want to be in a financial position to do all of the above.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

I'm Going to Live How Long?

Whenever I (or anyone, for that matter) estimate how much money will be needed in retirement, the bigger question is "How many years will I need the money" or, put more succinctly, "How long am I going to live?"

Good question, but a vexing one as well, given the rapid advances being made in medicine. My mother died at age 78 during a heart by-pass operation. I had a by-pass at age 60 and came through it with flying colors. My father died at age 68, seven months after a stroke. I've been treated for high blood pressure since I was in my 40's. With medication, my blood pressure has been stable and normal for years.

I don't smoke and I drink only occasionally. That's good. I don't really exercise much, so that's bad. My parental history is against me, but I have grandparents that lived into their 90's.

What does any of this mean for my retirement?

Or for my life?

These questions explain why, on this lovely late-summer Sunday afternoon, I was busy running life expectancy calculations.

I started with the Social Security Calculator which simply compares me with the general American population. According to the Social Security Administration, on average, I should make it to 85.7 years of age.

Naturally, I don't think of myself as 'average' so I looked around for a calculator that would get more specific.

That may have been a mistake.

This Calculator asked a lot of lifestyle questions and promptly reduced the estimate to 84 years.

The Wharton School has even worse news. Their calculator thinks I'll be lucky to make it to 82 years, seven months.

Fortunately, there is another calculator that bounces me back up to age 85.

Still, I'm hanging onto the memory of my maternal grandparents who were in their 90's when they died.

I wanna be like them!

Financially, I'd better assume that I will. I don't want to be 90 and broke.

Monday, September 10, 2012

When Buying Quality Doesn't Make Sense

It rained this morning. In fact, it poured. In doing so, it rinsed away the 90 degree temperatures of the past week, and felt more like the glorious Pacific NW that I love.

Time to buy an umbrella.

Time for my umpteenth argument with my sister as to what sort of umbrella to buy. She is the kind of person who buys expensive, spring-loaded folding umbrellas that open and close smoothly with nary a pinched finger, with sturdy ribs that won't turn inside out in the wind, that fits neatly into her purse.

I get mine at the dollar store. That's right, for a dollar. Usually, I get two or three at once.

Here's the thing--I am notorious for leaving umbrellas wherever I go. On the bus. At the office. At someone else's office. And that's only when I can actually track the umbrella down. Many have disappeared into black holes of the universe, never to be seen again.

I lose expensive umbrellas just as easily as my el cheapo ones.

So in my financially astute opinion, it makes no sense for me to shop around for a "great" umbrella when the cheap one keeps me dry, is easily replaced, and only turns inside out in the worst windstorms.

My sister has taken to putting a good umbrella into my Christmas stocking (Yes, we exchange stockings each year. We'll stop when we grow up. In the meantime, I love it--both the giving and the getting.) In 2012, I hung onto mine almost to Valentine's day.

Somewhere out there in the city, a bus driver has a really nice, expensive umbrella.

In the meantime, Grace has had four or five of the dollar variety.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

August? Who Needs August, Anyway!

Hmm--the summer kinda got away from me. That's what having six grandkids, ranging from 2 to 15 will do, especially when back in May, I made the silly statement: "Sure! I'd love to have the grandkids! August is good."

Dang, if the parents didn't take me up on that!

But I did survive.

Sort of.

Emotionally, it was fun. Financially, not so much.

But the good news is, notwithstanding six voracious mouths to feed for most of the month (and don't even talk to me about school clothes), I still managed to reduce my overall debt by $560.13 during August. For that, I am grateful.

Just another $84,370.37 to go!

I did take a look at my blogroll (especially after I got eliminated from "Blogging Away Debt" for just a one-month hiatus. Really?? ONE month away, and I'm history?). I'm hanging in there with most folks, but Judy seems to have finally left the building, so I removed "Finally Frugal." "Budgeting with the Bushmans" ended just as I discovered their blog. I took that one off, too.

If you know of a good financial blog I'm missing, let me know.

I think of September as a month in which to 'start over.' That's probably a left-over from my mommy-years when September marked the beginning of a new school year. But no sooner had I made all kinds of financial resolutions when I remembered that this is the month I need to buy heating oil. Then my twenty-two year old daughter was hospitalized for a week (she's fine, and her stay was mostly covered under my medical insurance--Thank you Obamacare) which ran out my medical FLEX program so now I have to make all the co-pays with after-tax dollars until next March. Then my grandson decided to join his sister in community college so that's TWO tuition payments to make. The end result is, my resolutions are fast fading away.

But I'm back, and I promise to be more attentive.