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Steady as He Goes

Richard Quinn

WHEN I GRADUATED high school in 1961, my parents offered this advice: “Find a good company to work for and stay there.” At the time, my choices were the phone company, a major insurance company and a utility. I applied to all three and would have taken a job with any of them, but ended up at the utility. I worked there until I retired in January 2010.

Today, my parents’ advice seems almost quaint, especially with the average job tenure at less than five years. Still, while I may have missed opportunities that’ll be forever unknown, following that 1930s-style advice served me well, giving my wife and me a financially secure, no-forced-frugality retirement.

I enjoyed a steady paycheck for half a century—and I’m still focused on collecting a steady income. Today, that income comes from several sources. There’s my pension and our combined Social Security. Together, those income streams exceed my base pay on the day I retired. That’s the income we live on.

When my former employer cancelled Medicare supplemental coverage for retirees in 2021, it provided us with a health reimbursement account to buy replacement coverage. While it won’t be true later in retirement, for now that money covers our Medigap and Medicare Part D premiums.

My annual required minimum distributions from my IRA provide additional income. I wish it didn’t—because I’d rather the money stayed invested. I generally reinvest the net proceeds in a taxable account, but this year some of it was spent on remodeling projects. Meanwhile, our investments in a taxable brokerage account provide capital gains and interest payments. Those are currently reinvested, but they’re available if we need extra income.

Three municipal bond mutual funds pay tax-free interest every month, which we again reinvest. We opened those funds when I took Social Security at my full retirement age of 66. I was still working, so we invested both my wife’s and my Social Security benefit in the three muni funds.

Finally, we own two utility stocks—one is my former employer’s. Those pay regular dividends, also at present reinvested, but that may change if we need to accumulate more cash.

It all boils down to income streams. For sure, my pension makes me somewhat atypical. Still, I’d argue it’s important to build a retirement income stream that’s as far removed from the gyrations of the stock market as possible. I claim no expertise when it comes to investing. But my approach keeps me happy, my wife happy, and someday my children and grandchildren will be happy. I hope.

I forgot one item: There’s also income from my blog. Last month, I earned $5.54. The hosting company doesn’t pay me until the amount owed is $100. When I get paid, it goes to my PayPal account, which I then upload to my Starbucks account. Ya gotta cover all the bases.

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