Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Maybe It's Not As Bad As You Think!

Everywhere you look, you see advertisements designed to make us fear retirement. These create in us a feeling of lacking in the things we need to survive. They also prey on the natural feelings associated with end-of-life issues ("Will I have enough? Well, what's enough?")

I have to be careful in writing this entry, because I have promised NOT to make it about me or our circumstances. However, recently we met with our financial counselor, who has been with us about 35 years, to discuss our total picture.

He had some ideas that I had never even considered; and after putting three heads together, we were able to create an avenue for more monthly income.

I was very excited and the three of us decided that there was no particular reason to take my Social Security at 62, as I would be getting 8% each year for the next four years, and 8% on anything is pretty good these days! I WILL take it at 66, and if I get a bad diagnosis sometime, I will head for the Social Security office right away.

This does not make us wealthy, but it makes us comfortable. I may not have to do some of the thrift things I have been researching; BUT I know that I will always live a thrifty life in some areas, so that I can do more in other areas.

  • I will continue to buy just what I need, whether it be grocery or sundry or hardware. While it is important to have one stored up when you run out of shampoo, one is ENOUGH! You don’t need six bottles. Of course there are exceptions to this rule for certain times of the year, when you might get a blizzard or something. But generally, you do not need to buy, or store, lots of stuff.
  • I will continue to buy non-brand-name items at the dollar store or grocery store. I have few “favorite” brands left.
  • I will continue to use loyalty rewards of any kind; Groupon, Living Social and any special deals or coupons.
  • I will not fear “shopping ahead” for holidays and such, when I see something that is a good deal!

Going from a bi-weekly or twice monthly paycheck to a monthly sum is always an adjustment. My husband has been retired for 11 years so our main income has been managed for some time. I am learning to manage my personal responsibilities now. I will reinstate a Christmas club account (because I just need to!), give to the church regularly, which I have not been doing, and it’s time to be faithful; and plan for hair appointments, because I am JUST NOT giving that up. At this stage of the game, I am putting a huge amount of money into my gas tank. Groceries are not an issue.

My mission in writing this blog has not changed, even though our circumstances have. I will continue to look for the best prices and choices, while not giving up quality. I will save here to spend there. When I find something unique to retirees, I will share.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

When a Warranty was worth it!

Today was a good day.

Last year, exactly 13 months ago, my husband had some trouble with his desktop computer and he took it to the local national chain store where he bought it. It was going to cost just a little more to buy the two-year warranty than they would charge to fix it, and the warranty would cover the repair. I don't normally recommend computer warranties, but it did seem like a good idea at the time. The warranty covered three computers in one household.

I have been having trouble with my laptop, and I asked to see his paperwork. He couldn't find it, so off we headed to the store. I walked in without the laptop, and asked if this warranty would cover work on my computer. Sure enough, it does and they took my computer and aren't charging me anything! AND I can take it back for service next summer right before the warranty expires!

It doesn't always work this way, buying something such as a warranty that takes care of something in the future. We don't buy a lot of insurance and warranties, and for some things it is not worth having--electronics being in that category.

It worked out well for us this time!

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Fall Festival Time!

Here in the Midwest, this time of year is “festival time.” There is at least one festival each weekend. I don’t do much of this, but I think it would be fun.

Festivals can be good or bad for the wallet. It’s cheap entertainment if you are frugal, but you certainly can spend a lot of money if you don’t watch it. Mind you, I don’t think it’s necessarily BAD spending. You have to eat someplace, so money on food isn't necessarily an extravagant purchase.

My weakness is the craft booths. (1) I don’t need some of this stuff and (2) it clutters up the house. However, there may be that special thing that would make the perfect gift for someone (Christmas?) or something that you have wanted for many years.

Spending is not the issue. Going every week to a festival can impact your monthly budget in a short time. But if it’s the only “entertainment” that you have, who's to say that a festival is different from a weekly bowling night, or a movie night, or dining out?

I think that the danger is in not being aware of how much is idly spent. Doing what you did when working and doing what you do on a “retired” income (notice I did not say “fixed,”) you have to be more aware of where the money is going.

There is no right or wrong, but there needs to be awareness. The end of the month comes quickly.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Why I Love All Four Seasons

As many people retire they are looking for more moderate climates to live in. I am happy to live in an area that has four definite seasons, and there are things I love (and dislike) about each of them. Let me be perfectly frank; this is my home and I am close to my children, most of my relatives and many of my friends. I stay here because of relationships, not climate.

I know that we live at a certain latitude, and the earth is at a certain angle on its axis and the earth rotates around the sun, and let’s not forget the effect of our moon—I’m Mrs. Science Teacher, remember—but I do love the Midwest and I get bored easily with only one or two seasons.

One of the things I like about the changes is the cycle of the growing season. I realize that the Midwest is not unique in this; every climate and area grows what grows there! Here, it’s corn, soybeans, winter wheat and hay. I love to see the annual growth and finally the harvest.

If I had to pick a favorite, I think I would pick the one we are in now. I love the daily changes during autumn. I love the colors of autumn. I love to watch them unfold, green to yellow, yellow to orange and then finally the dying brown. Actually they are the colors I have usually decorated with almost all my life. My wedding colors were fall colors.

I love to drive through the country and watch the corn being harvested. Next will be the beans, and after that winter wheat will be planted in the bean fields. Sometimes we are annoyed by the machinery on the roads, but it’s part of the agricultural life. What I look forward to is the picture of all the fields being “put to bed” for winter. Here, that is about Thanksgiving time. I love to watch the changing of the colors. For us the peak is the mid-October, and then the leaves begin to fall—it depends on whether we get a big rain to just bring all the leaves down at once, or it happens in stages.

By the time the end of November rolls around, I am ready to change seasons. Christmas decorations are up and I am basically a Currier and Ives sort of girl. I like snow for Christmas. My husband and I still drive around to see the lights. Snow is quiet and I love the peace and quiet. We quiet down and observe the Christmas holidays with our family.

In January, I love to “hunker down” at home. I love the beauty of snow. I don’t love the dangerous roads. I pray for my children that are out driving and doing their activities, but I am happy to read a book. We watch a lot of basketball on TV. I make lots of soup. When the roads are cleared, I love to drive and see the beauty of snow on the fields and the trees. But now that I’m retired, I don’t have to!

Alas, by the time March rolls around, I am tired of snow too! It’s melting, dirty and ugly. March is supposed to come “in like a lion and out like a lamb.” Not usually. I have sat through high school baseball games in late March and nearly froze.

Spring brings promise of new life and new growth. I enjoy watching the new growth come out in stages—first the crocuses, followed by other flowers. The fields are planted and the tree growth begins from the ground up, first with the lower bushes, reaching up to the deciduous trees, and gradually filling out as summer approaches. I love “purple week,” where the all the purple flowers and redbud bushes bloom.  I love the celebration of the Resurrection.

May is a time of endings, school and other programs that operate during the school year, but the crops and other trees and flowers are growing. We spend time in our yard, planting the new flowers. I fix the pots for the cemetery for Memorial Day.

In our area, Memorial Day does signal the beginning of summer, even if the summer solstice is later in June. The trees and flowers are in full bloom and the crops are growing. The corn is usually far beyond “knee high by the Fourth of July,” and the wheat is nearing harvest. As summer progresses, the beans and corn grow and it’s all lush and green. Even if hot, I love seeing the greenness of it all!

But all growing seasons are supposed to come to an end. It is the way of the world, and the income of the farmer. Gradually the green turns to golden and the time comes to harvest. The nights are getting colder and the leaves turn, and it starts all over again.

It’s never boring and I love it. 

Never Stop Learning

There are many opportunities to learn online or at local universities. In retirement, if you love learning new things, you can find many options to do so. Maybe you like to learn with a group, maybe you like to read alone.

Here are some links to free online learning.

This doesn't cost a cent. I just mention a company I ran across. Www.canvas.net brings together classes from many institutions of higher learning, to learn and discuss specialty topics. I am taking a class called “Laura Ingalls Wilder: Exploring her work and writing life.”

I loved reading her books as a child, and watching the television series starring Michael Landon and Melissa Gilbert when I was a young adult. I purchased the series for my daughter, but it’s still in my home. I did buy a book ABOUT Laura Wilder, but that’s all the money I spent.

I am enjoying the You-Tube lectures about Mrs. Wilder. I can choose how interactive I want to be. I have never gotten into “chat rooms” and so I am a little uncomfortable about posting in the forums. I do read what others say.

Almost every local college or university offers people over 60 to “audit” classes for free. I am not taking advantage of this right now, but I plan to eventually. It will be interesting to take classes that I am interested in now, as opposed to what I had to take to get my degree. I would love to share this with my husband or a good friend. The advantage of going to the local university is the interaction with teacher and other students; the disadvantage is the gas and particular time to set aside. Online, you do it on your own terms. But, you are alone.

When people tell me they are bored in retirement, I just want to say “really? You can do this for free.

If you prefer, there are book clubs. Check with your local library.

There is no reason to let your brain atrophy.