“I cut my own firewood,” said Frank. “Helen likes a fire in the winter. Of course it’s messy, what with the dirt on the wood and then the ashes, but she likes a fire. And truth be told, I like to cut and split the wood.”
It was a bright cold day, and I had stopped by Frank’s place to plan some deer hunting. We were out back of his house at his log pile, in the middle of his 4-acre woodlot.
Retirees and others are digesting prolonged economic hardships, and like “Old Love,” it can be hard to spot. Two recent reports from Merrill Lynch pin down what many retirees experience in their own families.
Many retirees are having a ball. They receive pensions and Social Security, own their homes, live in the moment, indulge hobbies, travel, and worry only a little about the future. Of course there are some who are struggling, some still working, but on the whole, seniors are doing better than at any time in modern history.
On the other hand, our working children are facing hard times, even though many don’t fully appreciate it.
Last week Mr. Donald Keene asked about a couple who can’t afford good institutional care but doesn’t want to force either one into the role of caretaker for a long terminal illness. What are the options for a peaceful end of life experience for both?
Some private homes are ill-suited for sick elderly people.
Old love is marvelous, uncommon and mostly hidden, and it is also socially beneficial. In modern societies old love saves public expense, gives compassionate care, and shows a truly praiseworthy sacrifice.
John had both hands on the wheel as he drove uphill around a curve. Iris was sitting beside him and, as was her wont, had managed to release her seat belt some miles back. Without warning she opened her car door and plunged out into the dark night. John was frantic. He stopped the car and ran out looking for his wife of over 40 years.
If you think keeping in shape is only for the young you should think again. It is not uncommon for people to live for 20 or more years after retirement, so why not spend that time keeping active and maintaining good health. No longer are retirees expected to sit on their porches and whittle away the afternoons. Retirement has become for many an opportunity to try new things and take on adventures they were unable to pursue during their working years. One way to start is to stay active through regular exercise.
Old people don’t like responsibility, but we fear its loss. Those ideas may seem disrespectful, yet once articulated, they’re often obvious. Responsibility has been on my mind lately—I’m liking it less and less. Dogs can sleep for hours, day or night, with no guilt.
Old-age gurus, like Cicero, about whom I wrote so admiringly a few weeks ago, encourage seniors to fight against inevitable decline and loss of responsibility. Cicero captured my mood then, but now, just a few weeks later, his message resonates like cheerleaders near the end of a game—a little beside the point.
Grandparents usually adore grandchildren. The old idea—that grandchildren are wonderful because we enjoy them, spoil them, then send them home to their parents—is surely true, yet the appreciation of grandchildren goes beyond that. Continue reading →
In my mid sixties I let a friend talk me into motorcycling, which I had not done since my twenties. I bought a used Honda Nighthawk and got a driving permit from the Georgia Department of Driver Services. We rode around the area for a couple of months, and it seemed as if the old handling skills and road savvy were coming back. So I scheduled and took the necessary driving test, and I thoroughly flunked it.
Under the watchful eye of a test administrator, applicants must ride a set of maneuvers on a closed, tightly laid out course. Limping home with a wounded ego, I had to relate the failure to my family and friends, and more importantly, I had to devise a strategy to overcome the defeat.
An article from 2012 came to mind recently: a 100-year-old driver hit 11 people in Los Angeles. As I read through the details again it made me cringe as I have an elderly father and his driving is worrisome. These days, my dad lives with my wife and me (Mom died some time ago), and is well into his senior years. His eyesight is not what it used to be. His reflexes are slower.
It fills me with dread to think of what might happen if he ever got into a car crash. But being the old block of which I am a chip, he is adamant. He calls it “payback” for all the times I snuck the car out in my teenage years (and did some damage, too). All of this got me thinking. Should there be an upper age limit on driving? More importantly, can there come a time when old people just know that they have to let go? Continue reading →
I met a woman yesterday, yet I feel I’ve known her most of my life. Brigid never left her home area of Glenmore, Ireland and I’ve never been there. We met through William Trevor, her creator, in his short story, The Dancing-Master’s Music.
Trevor’s characters reveal themselves in traits so vivid yet common that we’re forced to compare them with people we know. ‘This guy is just like Pete from work,’ we might think. Or we may feel that we want to meet and talk with them. His people seduce us into their lives.
Barbara is on vacation. She went exploring along the northern California coast with two friends she has known for decades. She has been having a wonderful time, including taking a close photo of a bear near a cabin. When we talked on the phone, she was as excited about the bear as you might imagine a twelve-year-old girl scout.
I have been alone with Cicero and the rain. Since Barbara has been away, it has rained everyday. The woods, bushes and grass are growing fast enough to watch.
Most of his essay is given to discussion of four reasons for unhappiness in old age. Cicero refutes the notion that old age is necessarily unhappy by offering prescriptions for its common complaints. His first two arguments counter the charges that old age withdraws us from active employments, and that old age takes our bodily strength. His last two deal with sensual pleasures and death.
Marcus Tullius Cicero, born into an aristocratic Roman family in 106 BC, was one of Rome’s leading philosophers, lawyers, and orators. At age 62, a year before his brutal death at the hands of Mark Anthony’s minions, he wrote an essay, On Old Age. Written without knowledge of Buddhism, before Christianity, and centuries before modern science, his essay is surprisingly relevant today.
The essay takes the form of a dialogue between two young men and Marcus Cato (Cicero’s alter ego), who was supposedly 84 at the time of the writing. The young men engage Cato with questions. They notice that old age seems not to burden Cato yet to many others it is a hateful weight. So they ask Cato how they might achieve for themselves a graceful old age. They ask particularly if Cato’s large wealth and high position, which are available to only a few, make old age tolerable. Continue reading →
Our investment posts have come to a natural break point. In 2011, I began writing about investments in retirement, and some days ago I posted a piece describing how much young workers need to save for retirement. Let’s review and celebrate ideas about investing. Continue reading →
Our children and grandchildren are urged to save and invest for retirement. Their success depends on saving regularly and investing well. Success also depends on how long they work, how much they save, and how successful they are in their careers. Today we look at those three elements.
I have been working on a financial model of retirement savings to learn the principal drivers of successful retirement accumulation.