I was born just after the end of World War II. The nation was heady with promise and I was raised immersed in what I later came to realize was propaganda; the belief that the United States of America was the greatest, most progressive country in the world. I’ve known for a long time that’s not true, but I find myself wondering how a country that speaks and thinks of itself as “exceptional,” can defend so many people coming this close to financial and, perhaps, physical ruin (see WaPo article in Tweet, below.)
Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would ever feel guilty about being on Social Security. I don’t get a lot (nobody does) but along with my wife’s social security and the income from our meager retirement savings, at least we’re not food insecure or in danger of being homeless. It doesn’t feel right, though.
Yet, I’m helpless to do much to assist other than support economic transformation that would alleviate these problems. If there are millions of families in this horrible situation, how can any of us do much about it, especially when doing so would bring us closer to the same kind of ruin. Losing one’s home, especially if you “own” it, is devastating and very difficult to come back from. Nobody deserves this kind of reckless abandonment, yet that’s exactly what Donald Trump is doing. I can’t think of much that would be a worse dereliction of duty than this.
I don’t know what’s going to happen in these next 28 days … and beyond. The fact that Trump vetoed the legislation and has left for Mar-a-Lago, the government closes down next Tuesday, and much of the help that had been made available for people who’ve lost their jobs to COVID-19 is drying up this week is not helpful. Maybe it’s time for:
A little while back I received an email from a woman who had come across this blog and, specifically, had perused posts tagged with the word “retirement.” She wrote me that “a combination of my father being downsized in his 60s and my mother falling ill have combined to seriously affect their financial planning for retirement and has exacerbated their health problems. They have inspired me to write a guide for seniors and their families about the most common causes of financial stress, how it affects the person, and provide some coping strategies.” She provided a link to the guide she wrote and asked if I would consider posting it, along with an intro she wrote for it.
I said I would be glad to consider it and she wrote back with the following introduction, which I’m just pasting in, below. I’ve gone over the Guide she wrote and am providing her info here as a service to anyone considering or preparing for retirement, or for anyone who just might be interested in what to expect and, perhaps, how best to plan for one’s eventual exit from the workforce. What follows come from Ms. Jenny Holt.
PS – I will offer one observation. The site her link points to is called “Reverse Mortgage Alert”, which I have to admit raised a red flag for me. I’m not a fan of the concept, at least not as I’ve learned it is frequently practiced. However, after reading some of the info provided there, I do believe what they have to offer is useful information. They are not “pushing” reverse mortgages. Rather, they seem to be intent on providing useful information that anyone seeking to make a major investment move, especially with the home they’re living in, should take into account. If you have info that proves this wrong, I’d really appreciate hearing from you. Thanks.
With more limited access to financial services and often post-retirement, a money problem for seniors can be magnified more than for other age groups. While many have saved or invested in property and pensions, there are common causes of financial issues for the over 55s. These include:
Job Loss/Reduction – 51%
Healthcare – 29.5%
Other – 21.6%
Unpaid Taxes – 12.7%
Divorce/separation – 8.2%
Bankruptcy – 6.7%
Foreclosure notices – 5.7%
The onset of stress can cause a range of emotional and physical problems which may exacerbate any health-related financial issues. These include insomnia, headaches, chest pains, anxiety, and depression.
However, it is more than possible to mitigate these issues. Of course, finding a solution to the financial problem in the first place is preferable. That being said, clearer and more focused decisions can be made with the right approach. Many seniors find stressful situations easier to cope with by combining a better diet with more exercise and meditation.
OK — I’m lying about the six ways and the lists. I couldn’t help myself. I had just been perusing the Pulse articles available on LinkedIn and was amused by how many of them contain lists, e.g. “7 Ways Leaders Fail”, “The 8 Simple Rules Of Expert Negotiation”, “3 Traits Shared By Companies And Hoarders”, “The four types of clients you should fire immediately”, “12 Email Marketing Credibility Boosters”, etc., etc., etc. I could go on for some time, but I won’t bore you as much as I was. I know I’ve read somewhere that lists are a great way to create posts and get people to read them. Nevertheless, I tend to shy away from using that strategy because it seems so formulaic to me, and I’m not interested in taking that route.
I know I should have written this earlier today but, as I’ve noted numerous times before, I’m not a journalist and I don’t do this as a business, so I have never been all that interested in an editorial calendar or lining up my posts perfectly with anything in particular. Nevertheless, today is a bit of a milestone and I thought I should mark it with a bit of possibly rational blather.
It’s been exactly — datewise — four and one-half years since I retired from Rocketdyne, where I labored for approximately 23 years. My last day (though, to tell the truth, I had been working at home and nobody expected much from me for the final two weeks I was officially “there”) was May 14, 2010. I can still vividly recall my final moments; being walked to the guard at the front reception area, handing in my badge, saying goodbye and shaking hands with my Manager, and walking out the door knowing I could not walk back in beyond the reception area without an escort.
I felt both elation and sadness. I threw my arms up in the air, but had tears in my eyes. Both emotions were warranted, as the last four and a half years have made quite clear. It’s not an easy thing walking away from a large group of people who you’ve come to think of as almost family and, make no mistake about it, once the main thing you have in common with them is gone, most people essentially disappear from your life forever.
Blogging on the beach, something I’ve never actually done
For me, this has been the hardest part of retirement. While I’ve stayed in touch with a few of my former colleagues, some of whom remained and others who became casualties of our nation’s decision to essentially forget about space exploration (at least manned space exploration) for what still seems like forever, the majority of people I saw on a regular basis I have not heard from again. There’s also a sort of mid-range group who I’ve connected with via Facebook and LinkedIn, but I’ve had little contact with most of them.
I think this is a big problem with our entire concept of retirement. In our culture it seems once you retire, you might as well be dead. The place you worked at has no use for you and, since we are also a culture that celebrates youth and fears old age and death, nobody really wants to know what you’re doing. A possible exception is made for those people who worked at one company all, or almost all, of their life and, consequently, retire with enough money to not have to do anything to supplement their income. Remaining employees do seem to enjoy receiving the occasional postcard from an exotic location, or another reminder of what they, someday, may be able to do as well.
I’m sure there are those who thoroughly enjoy hanging out and doing whatever they want, or nothing at all. I’m not one of them. Bottom line, I guess, is this. I have managed to survive relatively well, though I have yet to find a way to supplement my income such that we’ll be reasonably comfortable for the foreseeable future. I do worry about what might happen in a few years when our income suffers from inflation or some disease or unfortunate turn of events depletes what little savings and investments remain.
I also worry about my physical and mental ability to generate income. At 67 years old, it’s difficult to not notice I’m gaining speed on that inevitable slide down life’s rollercoaster. Nevertheless, I’m not one for fretting too much about choices I’ve made. I’ve been characterized by others as a survivor; one who will find a way to make things happen. Especially when push comes to shove and I’m backed into a corner. I don’t actually want to reach that point, so I’m working on quite a few prospects and avenues.
In another six months it will have been half a decade since I left the place I had been at longer than anywhere save this planet. I’m looking forward to celebrating that occasion a little more energetically. If I’m lucky, I’ll be able to afford throwing a little party for some of those former colleagues who remain friends. That would be a hoot.
Just received our latest electricity bill from Southern California Edison. Our total charges for delivery are $1.77, which is applied to a current credit balance of just over $200.00. Now that we’ve returned to bundled service from SCE, which means we are totally on a net energy metering account, we are consistently producing more energy than we’re consuming. I have been keeping close track of our total expenses since we had net metering fully enabled and I’m projecting we will save approximately $2,000 over last year’s bill. Think about that. This includes the amount we pay each month on the lease of the solar panels which, since we use a lot of energy, is a large system and is more than some people we know ever spend on a month’s worth of energy.
Some of our savings can be attributed to our being a bit more proactive in cooling the house in the evening and morning by opening up the windows and doors, and using an inexpensive box fan to pump the cooler outside air into the house before buttoning up as the temperature rises. Also, we’ve set our thermostat a bit higher in the Summer months, and have learned to be comfortable with an occasional high temp of 78 or even 80 degrees in the house.
Our two biggest expenses in terms of energy consumption are the pump for the swimming pool filter and our old, not terribly efficient air conditioner. We can’t do much about the pool, as we kind of would like to keep it and there’s nothing we can do to change the need to filter and circulate the water. So the pump remains a drain. I have tweaked the timing so it turns on after the Sun has reached an elevation that generates enough electricity to nevertheless keep our meter running backward, and turns off when the Sun is too low to be of much effect.
A Portion of our October Bill, Showing Net Production.
Actually, during the Summer I experimented with different settings on our thermostat, which ran the gamut from cooling the house early in the day to take advantage of the abundance of solar energy our system was generating, and waiting until the inside temperature reached 78 degrees before switching on the A/C. Thanks to SCE’s online tools, I was able to track performance on an hourly basis and, by paying attention to the vagaries of the weather as well, I was able to fairly accurately determine what settings made the most sense in terms of production and conservation.
Another aspect of our particular situation is where our house sits relative to the path of the Sun. I don’t think we could have planned it any better if we could have picked the entire house up and planted it facing the perfect angle. Prior to installation of our panels, I’m pretty sure our house heated up far more quickly because of its placement. Now, not only do we have the maximum amount of energy produced by the two sets of panels, but I’m reasonably convinced we benefit as well from the fact the panels also shade the roof and absorb a fair amount of the heat energy as well, meaning the house heats up far slower than it used to.
I have to give kudos here to the company that designed and installed our system. They took into consideration our historical usage and the location of the house and the angle of the rooftops relative to the path of the Sun, and designed a system to provide the bulk of our energy needs. In fact, the system is efficient enough to offset whatever energy we use when the Sun is down, e.g. lights (most of which are CFLs, LEDs, and other fluorescents), TV, computers, etc. That company is Real Goods Solar, one of the first to enter the business and one that is local here in SoCal.
All things considered, I’ve concluded this was a very wise choice for us. Not only do we get to play a role in conserving energy, but we also save a rather substantial sum over what we had been paying for our overall electricity costs. I recommend you consider whether your overall energy consumption, coupled with the amount your house can produce based on its location and conditions, warrants the installation of a system. Not every home will benefit, but I’ll wager a considerable number will find the savings worthwhile. I seriously urge you to consider the alternatives.
So . . . I finished taking out the trash, garbage, and recycling materials to the curb and, as is my wont, I took to the kitchen sink to wash my hands. Because I’m far more acutely aware of our water use due to the drought, I ended up washing them with cold water; I just didn’t want to let the water run long enough to get hot.
That got me wondering about how much water could be saved if we had instant water heating. I did a little research into tankless water heaters and quickly found out how little the technology seems to have progressed in the last 10 years or so. Most articles I came across suggested the break-even point for installing one that was reasonably efficient/effective would probably exceed your lifespan.
In the process, I came across figures for the number of gallons of water an average household runs down the drain while waiting for the hot water to push out the cold that’s in the pipes between the sink/tub/shower where it’s going to be used. The figure I came across is 26 – 29 gallons. I also looked at the US Census to see how many households there are in California. The number of housing units listed, as of 2013, is 13,790,495.
So, taking the number of households and multiplying by the more conservative number of 25 gallons per day down the drain, I determined the following. If we could find a way to heat water directly at the point of use, thereby not wasting that 25 gallons per day, the State of California would save 125,838,266,875 gallons of water per year. As it turns out, that’s a third of one percent of the water in Lake Tahoe. Drop in the bucket, or significant savings? Probably doesn’t matter, unless you’ve got an idea for how to provide on-demand, on-location hot water . . . cheap.
I have an interesting anniversary arriving in about a week. Actually, it arrives in precisely a week; seven days, that is. May 14, 2012 will be two years since I retired from Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne. Two years. It hardly seems that long ago I decided to accept an offer to retire early and strike out on my own. To be honest, I’m still not sure I made the right choice, but I did make it and I thought I would spend the next week recounting my “adventures” since then.
Does Retirement Have to Mean “Used Up”?
I should point out my retirement wasn’t entirely voluntary, though the choice was mine. I had no intention of retiring . . . ever. All the men I grew up with, including my father, worked until they dropped dead and, unfortunately, many of them – including my father – dropped awfully early. This was not my plan. The way I looked at it, work is what defines us and I expected to have something interesting to do for many a year to come. I though I would work at Rocketdyne well into my eighties.
It didn’t work out quite like I had contemplated, but it has made for an interesting two years and, I trust, will continue to provide challenges for years to come. However, it hasn’t exactly been easy . . . for many reasons. First, there’s the reality that my income has dropped considerably and we’ve been moving backward a bit each month as expenses slightly outpace income. Savings are really helpful, but they’ll be gone at the rate we’re going before the kids make it to college. This I find intolerable.
To remedy this I’ve tried, admittedly somewhat halfheartedly, a couple of different approaches I will attempt to chronicle in the next couple of days. My first attempt was to provide consulting services to small businesses seeking to use social media to market themselves and teach them how to engage with their target – and current – markets. Not only did the economic conditions militate against my being able to find success in the market I plunged into, but the very conservative nature of this town ensured people were not going to be easily convinced of the efficacy of a social media strategy. I was not prepared for their skepticism and reluctance to push the outside of the envelope. My bad.
One of the adjustments I have made is to lower my expectations considerably and work from there. This includes, of course, adjusting the rate I can charge for my services. I’m working at finding the sweet spot for that part of my endeavors.
Another major aspect of this milestone is that I will be 65 years old in less than a month. As prepared as I’ve been to accept, and even embrace, the inevitability of aging, I am still struggling with aspects I had not anticipated. I will try to go further in depth regarding these aspects in the next week. Suffice it to say that ageism is, I’m pretty sure, still very much a part our culture. The combination of reality and myth is very powerful and impinges on most everything I do. I’ll try and discuss my approach to aging and what has changed for me in the past several years tomorrow.
Since my retirement from Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne in 2010, I have spent quite a bit of energy on developing work as a social media marketer for small business, a business manager for an AI software development firm, and as an editor/proofreader for a number of business books and a couple of novels, as well as a two-year return engagement at Rocketdyne from 2015 to 2017.
I have decided to stop actively pursuing business in these fields and am now positioning myself to be a writer. I have done quite a bit of writing over the years, but I’ve never really attempted to make any money at it; at least not specifically. I’m starting out with a couple of memoirs and, currently, I’m studying the craft, creating a detailed outline and timeline, and honing my skills as a storyteller. Pretty sure I’ll be writing some fiction as well.
The views expressed herein are those of the author. Any opinions regarding the value or worth of particular business processes, tools, or procedures, whether at his former place of employment, at a current client's enterprise, or in general, are his responsibility alone.