I SHIFTED TO WORKING part-time more than a year ago. It was a way to ease into retirement and give me time to explore new activities. My reduced work hours were also a way to experience life without the singular job focus that had defined my working years and, indeed, my identity.
My new part-time status was, of course, accompanied by a markedly shrunken paycheck. That allowed my wife and me to see what it was like to be without the guaranteed and steady income we’d relied upon for nearly three decades.
MY WIFE RECENTLY GOT the chance to showcase her artistic talents at a cultural festival in Kansas City, Kansas. Lori’s craft is stained glass, and this was the first time she’d displayed her creations in public.
She began working with glass five years ago, shortly after she retired. We’ve discussed the possibility of turning her hobby into a business. She’s dreamed of selling her artwork so she could at least cover the cost of her craft.
I BEGAN MY CAREER at a small startup biotech company, only to realize the place had too much office politics, plus not enough credit was given for new discoveries. That was at odds with what I wanted, which was to be a research scientist focused on the basic principles underlying diseases.
Fortunately, I was offered a tenure-track academic position at a large medical school in Houston. I never looked back. Indeed, I consider myself one of the fortunate few who woke early each and every day to pursue their life’s passion.
I HAD MY SIGHTS SET on retiring at age 59. Not exactly FIRE—financial independence-retire early—but certainly a bit earlier than my peers, close friends and family. I wanted to seek new challenges after spending more than 25 years in academic research. Our financial plan was solid. My wife and I calculated we’d have more than enough retirement income.
But my plans were upended, first by the COVID-19 pandemic and then by two life-threatening health issues.
I LIKE TO THINK OF myself as frugal, not cheap. The difference between these two is admittedly subtle—and, indeed, my wife insists that I straddle the line between them.
That brings me to my lifelong do-it-yourself approach to all things home-related. I abhor paying for services that I can do myself. But sometimes, I wish I were a little less frugal.
When we first moved to Texas, I tried saving money by doing my own yard work.
NO ONE SCHEDULES when the car battery is going to die.
Monday morning arrives after a full weekend. Bleary-eyed, I roll out of bed, make a steaming cup of coffee, and pull up the latest HumbleDollar articles on my iPad. My wife rushes past, gives me a quick peck on the cheek, and leaves to drive to her study group.
And then I hear the groan. Alas, the car won’t start. No power,
I’VE BEEN SAVING almost my entire adult life. Early on, three books put me on the path to financial success, helping me to reevaluate how I was living.
The first was The Automatic Millionaire by David Bach. This introduced me to the concept that small, automated savings could lead to big results, thanks to compounding over long periods. Albert Einstein reportedly said, “Compound interest is the eighth wonder of the world. He who understands it,
SMART GUYS CAN DO some really dumb things. Those dumb things include behavior that seems logical, but is often a sign of addiction.
The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines addiction as “a compulsive, chronic, physiological or psychological need for a habit-forming substance, behavior, or activity having harmful physical, psychological, or social effects.” Addictions come in many flavors. Some are benign, some more malignant. Many involve repeating a pattern or behavior in hopes of achieving a different outcome.
MY FATHER RAISED ME to think that, if I set my mind to it, I could do just about anything. He said that concentrated focus and drive would allow me to reach my dreams, and that there was rarely a time when I should settle for average.
Maybe it’s no great surprise, then, that I hate being average. I’m above average in smarts, the kind that gets you a side order of noogies as a second grader.
I HAVE FOND MEMORIES of walking the Atlantic City boardwalk with my father, enjoying the ocean breeze and discussing life’s secrets. As I grew older, he used these walks to impart financial wisdom; nothing clears the head like the sound of rolling waves breaking over the sand. My father endeavored to fill my brain with notions about setting long-term goals and how best to achieve them.
“Let your money work for you,” he’d advise.