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Batting .500

Ron Wayne

ALMOST SEVEN MONTHS on, I’ve failed miserably with one of the New Year’s resolutions I wrote about for HumbleDollar—but I’ve done well with the other.

I’d like to take credit for my success in not obsessively checking my IRA, but the discouraging reality of the financial markets has a lot to do with it. This year, going online to view my account several times a day—which I’ve been known to do—would have left me feeling truly hopeless.

My IRA has dropped some 16% over the past six months, which is especially depressing because this is the money I use for indulgences that aren’t part of my monthly budget—things like going on vacations. Fortunately, I have Social Security and my state pension to fund the rest of my life, though inflation is making that an increasing challenge.

Right now, I don’t want to touch my IRA. Most of my mutual funds and individual stocks are down from where I bought them. Like many others, I was probably a little too optimistic after the strong gains of recent years.

To avoid selling at a loss, I’m going to finance part of a big trip this year with a 0% credit card I just opened. It stays at 0% for 15 months. My hope—or perhaps prayer: My funds will rebound in that time and I can pay off my travel expenses. The best laid plans of mice and men?

During this extraordinarily hot Florida summer, I’m using my dining table as my desk, so I can save money by not cooling my study. That brings me to my other New Year’s resolution: Remove clutter and keep it from coming back. I could embarrass myself by posting a photograph that illustrates my failure. That photograph would show the random piles of paper on my dining table. The study also has mini-piles of miscellaneous items that have no place or purpose.

An inherent problem with my fight against clutter is that I hate throwing items into the garbage, where they might end up in landfills for an eternity. I’ve always been an avid recycler. But what do you do with old floppy disks? Or how about the coffee maker that leaks water from the carafe side but not the Keurig side, which is the side I never use? I guess I could donate the machine, along with a note about its limits.

One bright spot: I’ve finally started using the paper shredder I received as a birthday gift last year. I’m sifting through drawers and folders filled with papers. Unfortunately, that sends me down memory lane, especially as I look at old newspaper clips and notes from readers. I know my kids don’t care. They aren’t their memories.

The other problem: Procrastination in retirement is so easy. I always figure I have tomorrow to tackle the clutter. But in the meantime, the clutter keeps growing.

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Mark Dawson
Mark Dawson
4 months ago

Thank you for the tips and encouragement.

OBX9397
OBX9397
4 months ago

As other commenters have said, options exist for recycling many things, and I hope people use them. It is nice to think your stuff may have a second life when bought from a thrift store or when converted into recycled materials. I am not a hard-core environmentalist; just someone who hates waste.

I have a question I often ask myself and others that puts our accumulation of stuff into perspective. It is kind of depressing to think about. The question is: “Name all the things in your house that will not one day end up in a landfill?”

Whether things get bought by new owners or get recycled, how long before they are finally tossed out and hauled to a landfill?

I just find it more peaceful to not accumulate more STUFF than I need.

And Ron, I really agree with your feeling about all that paper around the house! I reached a point where, through past accumulations and increasing complexities of life, I realized my aging brain was no longer coping. I made the decision one day to begin receiving as many as possible of my bills, statements, policies, magazines, etc. via downloads or other electronic means. For things that still come on paper, I bought a good scanner. Most importantly, I developed a good system for naming and filing all those electronic files. Now, it is a wonderful relief to have less clutter and to be able to access any document I need in just a few seconds. Just to emphasize the point, a good naming and filing system is critical.

For what it is worth.

Stephen Koenigsberg
Stephen Koenigsberg
4 months ago

After decade upon decade of deadlines and being on time with assignments, procrastination is the luxury of retirement. The retirement discipline is to stop “disciplining” yourself so much, relax and say “from now on I’m taking all the time I need.”

Humble Reader
Humble Reader
4 months ago

A short time ago I discovered there is a hazard waste collection organization in my area where old electronics can be discarded. It was not well promoted, in prior searches I came up with nothing. Tomorrow I fill my pickup with 40 years of computers and other tech: 4 desk top PCs, 2 laptops, 2 monster 19″ CRT monitors, another CRT, 4 battery backup units, a printer, 2 network attached storage units, a lot of interfaces, digital TV conversion boxes, microwave oven, a box of no longer rechargeable batteries, a bag of compact florescent bulbs, and more. Knowing I should not landfill this stuff I was just filling up my basement or dark corners of my office with obsolete or broken stuff. I removed all of the hard drives and will take them to another organization that says it has a hard drive shredder. Now where did I put that mint condition Apple I computer?

Edmund Marsh
Edmund Marsh
4 months ago

Ron, I share your love of hiking that you mentioned in an earlier article. We’ve even trod some of the same ground in Alachua County, and the Pinnacles in CA. I also have a dining table cluttered with stacks of papers. You may have inspired me to stop ignoring them. But, I still think it’s healthier to keep ignoring my depressed stock funds.

Kristine Hayes
Kristine Hayes
4 months ago

May I make a suggestion about the recycling of broken/dated items? The local donation site most likely doesn’t want these items. Most of these organizations get inundated with broken appliances, stained linens and other highly undesirable items. They ultimately end up being forced to throw these items away which costs them money.

When I worked at a college, one of my tasks was to clean out the labs that belonged to our retired biology professors. Every lab was filled with 30 (or more) years of ‘stuff’. I can’t tell you how many times I would find cupboards filled with equipment that was at least 50 years old and inoperable. Over the years I discarded and/or recycled probably 10 or 20 tons of broken and outdated equipment.

There are some pretty good recycling options out there nowadays. At work, I was able to find a local recycler who came out and hauled away about 2 tons of old laboratory equipment a couple of years ago. They took everything including electronic equipment, scrap metal and anything related to computers. After they sorted through everything, they charged me $35 for a single item that had refrigerant in it. I was happy to pay them and happy knowing they were going to find and recycle every ‘valuable’ component they found in my trash heap.

Paula Karabelias
Paula Karabelias
4 months ago
Reply to  Kristine Hayes

You are correct about the problem of people donating broken , dirty and undesirable items . Early in my retirement I volunteered at a thrift shop run by a charity. This was a big problem for us and disposal was expensive.

Andrew Forsythe
Andrew Forsythe
4 months ago

Ron, I’m sympathetic with your statement that going through old papers, with the intent of disposing of them, is a trip down memory lane.

After my parents died, I took home a multitude of boxes of all sorts of documents and correspondence. I sat down one day with the goal of culling them down to just a few to keep. First of all it took hours, as I ended up reading, often with fascination, many of these relics from another age. And in the end I could only bring myself to dispose of less than half. The next cull, when I eventually get around to it, will be even tougher. Oh well….

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