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Four Score Wisdom

Richard Quinn

I WAS BORN ON THIS day in 1943. Today, I must acknowledge being old. I remember, years ago, scanning the obituaries and checking the age at death. Seventy-five seemed like a good run. Not anymore it doesn’t.

At age 40, I gave up the occasional pipe and vowed, if I made it to 80, I’d take it up again. That’s not going to happen. Not smoking may be a factor in getting this far. Besides, a good pipe and tobacco are too darn expensive.

I read articles on HumbleDollar about taking care of aging parents and all that goes with it. Now, I relate to the parent part, not the caregiver. My parents are long gone. Both died at home in their sleep.

I recently gave my children an updated draft of our final instructions to review. They were shocked. “Why did you prepare this?” they asked. It hasn’t dawned on them that their parents are super-seniors, with a combined 164 years of experience and 55 shared years of marriage.

They’re the ones who could be writing an article about aging parents. I’ve told them, “You may have things to worry about, taking care of your mom and me, but at least it won’t be about money.” That financial security has been a goal of mine since I joined AARP—at age 50, by the way.

Someone recently told me I’m too out of touch and that I should socialize more with 20- and 30-year-olds. That ain’t going to happen. But I do read what many have to say on social media. I also observe them in the local Starbucks, even engaging in conversation occasionally. It can be quite enlightening, amusing and sometimes sad when they talk about having little opportunity.

Out of touch? I have experience. That must count for something.

I watch retirement planning videos on YouTube. I’m shocked when the advisor, who’s explaining all the ins and outs using 30-year projections, looks like he’s barely 30 himself.

I don’t care how sophisticated his spreadsheet is, he hasn’t had time to weather a market crash or severe recession, worry that his clients might be drafted for two years, wait in line for two hours for five gallons of gasoline, or see 10% mortgage rates—though he may yet get the chance.

I’ll admit I don’t understand carrying credit card debt, failing to always save something, or living beyond your means at any income level. And I sure don’t understand covering your body with tattoos and piercings from head to toe.

Paying $1,000 or more to stand and listen to a singer, whom you’re helping to make a billionaire, just befuddles me. I also don’t understand parents spending thousands of dollars a year so their children can play multiple sports and join travel teams. The folks who do understand these things can rightly claim I’m out of touch.

You may look at me and see an old man, but I’m still 18 inside. It seems only yesterday I was a rally car driver, in the Army, getting married, and praying while waiting for our first child to be born.

There are signs of aging, though. I’ve given up trying for a golf score equal to my age. Now, I aim for my blood pressure to match my age.

 I don’t like being treated as old, or a senior citizen, or elderly—unless, of course, it means a discount, getting to the head of the line or others giving up their seat.

How did I get where I am? Why am I financially secure? Good fortune and a lack of misfortune are first and foremost. A supportive and aligned partner helped a great deal. And there are some practical things as well.

I saved something—even a few dollars—every payday since I was 18. Never lived above our one-income means. Never paid credit card interest. Invested mostly in index mutual funds, except for employer stock bought at a discount. And I worked for nearly 50 years until age 67.

I guess I am out of touch. I’ve morphed into an old curmudgeon, and I’m enjoying every minute of it.

Richard Quinn blogs at QuinnsCommentary.net. Before retiring in 2010, Dick was a compensation and benefits executive. Follow him on Twitter @QuinnsComments and check out his earlier articles.

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