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He Said I Was 100

Richard Quinn
I REACHED AGE 79 in November. No matter how you slice it, I’m now a senior citizen or, as I prefer to call myself, a seasoned citizen. That became obvious during a recent trip to the supermarket. As I leaned over to check the price of a case of water, a fellow in his 40s asked if he could lift it into my cart.

It was a nice gesture with good intentions, but I silently resented it. Often these days, I’m experiencing similar gestures. A younger player picked up my golf ball. While looking for something on a lower shelf at a store, I was asked if I needed help getting up.

It’s all very frustrating and depressing—because, you see, I could occasionally use help.

Recently, I gave a short talk to my grandson’s second-grade class about veterans and being in the Army. Trying to relate to seven-year-olds isn’t easy. You quickly learn that information that you take for granted is unknown to them.

“What did George Washington do before he was president?” I asked. “Do you know what a Minuteman was?” Silence.

Their questions included, “Did you ever shoot anyone?” “How was the food?” and “How old were you when you joined the Army?”

I replied “no,” “okay” and “21.”

The teacher then asked the class, “Mr. Quinn is 79 and he joined the Army at age 21. How long ago was that?” There’s that age thing again. A variety of incorrect answers resulted.

I looked at my grandson and he quietly said “58.” The last time I asked him how old I was, he said “100.”

As I get older, my views on money have changed. My wallet opens a bit easier these days—just a bit. Since January, my investments and net worth have dropped by six figures. I was freaking out until it finally dawned on me—with help from my wife—that it didn’t really matter. My chances of seeing a full recovery are less than a 30-year-old’s. But what about retirees my age who are living off their investments every day and would be in trouble without a market recovery?

Think about those retirees living on Social Security plus the median 401(k) balance, which is $82,297 at Vanguard Group for those age 65 or older and $132,101 at another big retirement plan manager, Personal Capital. These retirees don’t have much room for error, especially during times of high inflation. Their senior years may be marked by financial stress—along with everything aging.

Try as we might, we simply can’t forestall the effects of growing older. Good health is a big plus, of course. But I’m convinced that our genes and our attitude are the keys to our condition, though I’ll admit that my experiences with COVID-19—plus the first health scare of my life in 2022—have tested that attitude.

Indeed, to a degree, my outlook hasn’t been the same since. But as the Second World War poster advised during the London Blitz, “Keep Calm and Carry On.” That’s what I intend to do, while maintaining my curmudgeonly outlook. I have limited tolerance for those who approach life—and their finances—without what I define as personal responsibility.

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