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Charting your course to Geezerland

By Mel Walsh

Special to The Union

Planning – what a pain in the posterior. Why not just be in the moment? Fly by the seat of the pantsuit?

Well, when it comes to retirement, if you go with the flow, you may end up down the drain. It’s smart to plan for retirement and that means doing more than buying a Harley and hitting Route 66 – which gets us to one of the puzzles of retirement planning … what he wants versus what she wants.

Planning in tandem

If you are a partnered person, you’d better check out your plans with your other half, because he or she may be thinking of staying home, raising llamas and meditating in perfect quiet. You, on the other hand, may want to travel far and wide with a brass band in an old school bus, giving concerts in wayside parks all across America.

Don’t laugh. People have very different retirement movies in their heads. One mate wants to head to remote deserts – peace at last – while the other wants to live downtown where it’s happening. One wants to spend money down to the last dime, while the other wants to forego present spending pleasures and save for a rainy day.

And when it comes to family, some want to live near the kids, others have been there, done that and want to move to Mexico. Or, one wants to be the designated baby sitter, the trophy grandparent, while the other says, enough of diapers, spit-up and school recitals, this is the time for Us, not them.

So start talking with your partner. Better to fight – I mean negotiate – today rather than later when you find yourself trying to meditate in the middle of the brass band.

Planning for money

I know, all the money that should be going to your 401k is going to Exxon. But you will need more than Social Security to survive at a decent level. However, when it comes to multiple sources of income, lucky are those among us who have pensions – a disappearing concept – or retirement funds that are not sinking – or houses that are not losing their value.

Well, all any of us can do today is the best we can.

If you want an economical way to invest and are up for the risk that goes with investing, look to Vanguard, the favorite of retirees everywhere for its low-cost investment vehicles. Not that you can’t lose money there. It’s just that Vanguard doesn’t charge an arm and a leg to buy into one of its stock or bond funds. They also have sensible investing info: http://www.vanguard.com.

If you would to like to become more literate about money, read “The Little Book of Common Sense Investing,” by John Bogle and “Women & Money: Owning The Power to Control Your Destiny,” by Suze Orman.

Planning for work

The age of eligibility for Social Security will probably be pushed up even more and that SS income won’t be enough anyhow, so be prepared to stay in the work force until you are old enough to be on the Today show’s Smucker’s jam jar. Most Boomers already sense this scenario and plan on working as older adults.

What kind of jobs they will find is another story. I’ve met highly educated retired teachers in the checkout line packing my groceries. To get around the hiring issues – low-paying jobs and employers prejudiced against older adults – some people plan to start their own businesses when they get older, or sell their crafts or offer their services part-time. And later life may be the time to buy that franchise or start that store … any smart enterprise that will float your financial boat.

Now, if you love your work, keeping on with it into old age is a dream come true – seriously. Good work is a keystone of worth, a link to the rest of the world and a way to keep our brains from turning into tofu.

So bottom line: Develop some kind of plan for your later years. You don’t want to arrive in Geezerland without a suitcase full of ideas.

But getting a Harley is not a full-fledged plan and Cranky Pants tells me a spring tour of Greek temples isn’t one either.


Mel Walsh is a gerontologist and certifiable geezerina. Her book of advice for older women, Hot Granny, is available at The Book Seller in Grass Valley and online at Amazon and Barnes & Noble.


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