LAST MONTH MARKED two years since I leapt into the unknown and left the security of the corporate world to begin a second act as an independent writer. How’s it gone? Have things panned out as I hoped, financially and otherwise?
Let’s be clear upfront that this move was never about making money. It was about taking a shot at my long-held dream of being an author. I’d put that dream on the back burner for three decades as I did what was necessary to support my family.
CALL ME SOLITARY MAN. I’ve never been much of a joiner. I’ve never belonged to a country club and can count on two hands the number of social organizations I’ve been part of during my working years.
Part of this was because I didn’t have a lot of time to pursue outside interests while working 14-hour days as a corporate manager. What spare time I did have, I preferred to spend writing, fishing, hiking or engaged in other solitary pursuits.
I JUST HAD ANOTHER reminder that, when managing our health and the costs that come with it, we need to be our own best advocates.
Last September, I started developing headaches. Every day, I’d wake up with a dull ache in my left temple area. The headache would often build during the day and, by evening, I was feeling washed out and pretty miserable.
I’m fortunate not to suffer from migraines, but tension headaches have been the bane of my existence for many years.
A RECENT CNBC SURVEY found that more than half of Americans don’t have an emergency fund to handle life’s financial curveballs. The survey also found that seniors are more likely to have an emergency fund than younger adults, and men are more likely to maintain a rainy-day fund than women.
I don’t know how I’d manage if I didn’t have an emergency fund. Now that I’m retired from fulltime work, I try to keep to a fixed budget,
THREE YEARS AGO this month, in the middle of the pandemic-driven market meltdown, I went on a dividend-stock buying spree.
I had just turned 60 and was looking to step away from the corporate world in 18 months’ time to take up a second-act career as an author. As part of my retirement plan, I had a sizable money-market account that I planned to live on for a few years before I started taking Social Security and pulling from my retirement accounts.
RACHAEL AND I WENT to Walmart the other day to stock up on dog food—and came away with a severe case of sticker shock.
We feed our two dogs a daily menu of dry food mixed into a delightful mash with a little canned wet food. Our go-to brands are Purina Dog Chow for the dry food and Pedigree Chopped Ground Dinner for the wet food.
The cost of the 40-pound bag of Purina dry food has barely budged.
I RECENTLY HAD a revelation about my adult children: When it comes to money, they’re a lot like me—and that’s both a good thing and a bad thing.
I had this revelation while dining with my 25-year-old son at a sports bar over the New Year’s holiday. The food was marginal—it was a sports bar, after all—but the plates came loaded with food. What’s more, the prices were quite reasonable, especially compared to those in Philadelphia and Washington,
I ADMIRE SUPER-SAVERS. I really do.
You know who I’m talking about: Ordinary people making ordinary salaries who are somehow able to sock away half or more of their disposable income and who accumulate enough to step away from the working world long before the rest of us.
We hear about these people all the time on podcasts. The couple who banked $1 million over the course of a decade by scrimping and saving.
I HAVE A RITUAL ON New Year’s Day—and it has nothing to do with making resolutions or watching college bowl games on TV.
Every Jan. 1, I pull up my handy financial planning spreadsheet on my laptop and input year-end numbers for my investment portfolio based on where the various funds closed out the year. I created the spreadsheet 20 years ago when I was in my early 40s, had just gone through a financially devastating divorce,
I STEP INTO THE OLD farmhouse where I grew up and am momentarily confused.
Where’s the blue sofa under the living room bay window with its plump pillows and cozy blankets that my mother likes to throw over her as she reads the morning paper? Where’s the coffee table with the covered pewter candy dish filled with M&Ms and Hershey Kisses? Where’s the rickety table where our family of eight crowded around for countless meals in the tiny but somehow adequate kitchen?
THEY SAY TIMING IS everything. That’s something I should know—because I’ve never been very good at it. The motto of Scotland’s Kerr clan is Sero Sed Serio, or Late, but in Earnest. That’s been my reputation since I was young.
In high school, my basketball game blossomed at the end of my senior year, just in time to have one good game of double-digit scoring before I graduated.
LIKE EVERYONE ELSE, I’ve been experiencing sticker shock lately when I step into the grocery store.
Meats, vegetables, paper products, canned goods—everything is costing a lot more. One example: My favorite brand of Good’s thin pretzels now costs $2.50 a bag—75 cents more than I was paying a year ago. Compared to the other brands in the snack aisle, those Good’s pretzels are still a bargain, but it sure doesn’t feel that way.
Along with steeper prices for gas,
SIX YEARS AGO, I made one of the worst investments of my life.
I got a dog.
Ignoring the age-old advice to never invest in anything that eats, I signed up for a purebred German shorthair pointer puppy. I thereby locked myself into an indefinite stream of future cash outflows in the form of dog food, treats, supplies, annual checkups, vaccinations, flea and tick treatments, heartworm pills, procedures and other expenses required for keeping man’s best friend healthy and happy.
I’M THE PROUD OWNER of a shiny new, state-of-the-art left hip.
My new hip is made of super-strong titanium and cobalt chrome with a ceramic femoral ball. The doctors tell me that with proper care—alas, no more running—it should last me a good 25 years.
The prosthetic was implanted in early June and already this modern medical miracle is changing my life for the better. It’s less than two months since the surgery and all the old arthritic pain that I’ve lived with for so long is gone.
LIKE MILLIONS OF other Americans, I’m experiencing serious sticker shock when I gas up the car.
Last week, I was filling up my 2019 Ford F-150 and, for the first time ever, the bill topped $100. That was 21 gallons of regular unleaded at $4.85 a gallon.
Shelling out that kind of cash for a tankful of gas is hard enough for working folks. But for those of us who are retired and living on a set income,