Retirement Talk

WHAT to do with the rest of your life?



                                                    Diamonds of  Wisdom


Considering all the mistakes I’ve made about money, I’m a fine one to be handing out any diamonds of wisdom on this subject, in fact my wisdom in this area probably wouldn’t reach the zircon level.  Nevertheless, the following is some dope I’ve picked up on my way through life, and although you probably have too, I’ll pass on some of these tidbits I’ve collected. 

I got much of my information about money from reading college text books on Macroeconomics, Microeconomics, and the “Economist” magazine.  Don’t expect any inside knowledge about making investments, as gambling is not my forte—never won anything in my life.  And to be a successful gambler, you need a load of money to began with, so a loss isn’t a big weight and you also have to be willing to hang onto your investments for a long time—like for years. 

I’ll start with a word about France, from the “Economist”.  According to French president, Sarkozy capitalism has had its day.  And he may have something there, as it seems since the bailouts Americans have lost their admiration, envy and emulation of the rich. It seems the bailouts did it.  People now think, “Well, what do you know, they’re as dumb, as the rest of us. 

Before I go on I have to report that it also states in the “Economist” that France’s bosses are “subjects of satire and scorn,” while Communist and the Anti-Capitalist party are treated as serious talk show guest.  Can you imagine a communist or anti-capitalist invited to be on a talk show here in the U.S. let alone treated as a serious guest.?  If any communist or anti-capitalist were on an American talk show we’d probably have seen the last of that talk show host.  So enough of that, lets get down to the meat.

First.   Don’t take monetary risks unless (1) you’re an insider (which is illegal, but everyone does it) (2) you work in a financial field (3) you have a Ph.d in economics (although a Ph.d  isn’t worth much these days (4) it’s someone else’s money—as there is nothing worse than being old and broke, unless, maybe, it’s being a truck driver in a war zone.

According to my college text books on Sociology, the secret of happiness is having friends, but my findings are, that no matter how many friends you have you can’t be happy if you’re worried. And worry about debt often leads the pack in the worrying department.

The upshot is that it’s a matter of discipline. If you’ve bought a lot of stuff and have to search through a lot of it to find that photo of your ex, that overdue electricity bill, that sweater you got so many compliments on, or those lost car keys, you’ve got too much stuff—time to get rid of it.  And don’t buy any more stuff.  

This has been my project for a week now—culling out all my junk, and believe me there’s a lot of it and throwing it into my “going to Goodwill box.”   Clutter breeds itself, so just keep thinking-- do I want to spend money on something that is going to make life tougher than it already is?  And that’s what junk does.   Feels great when you buy something you like, but feels like Hell when the credit card bill is in the mailbox. And then it usually becomes expensive junk.

As an aside in my list of zircons, I can’t understand people shopping for bargains to save 20 or 30% and then paying 20 or 30 percent on their credit card bill for the”bargain”?

A third point  about money and marriage.  Girls, have a career—or chances are, if you landed a big pooh-bah and you’re still married to him at around age 40, unless you’re a looker, that well-loaded husband will replace you with a better body job.  Marriage is a buyer and sellers market, you know, just like everything else.

So the message here girls is—hang onto the waistline, and if you can’t do that.  —have a career.  
And boys, if your income is less than a six figure one, be nice to your wife, especially if she has a good job,  and come home when you say you will, help around the house and control your urges to buy that motorcycle.  And all will be well. The Chinese say the wealth of a country only lasts three generations and our time seems to be about up. 

I wanted a better understanding of sub-prime mortgages, derivatives and rating agencies and looked them up in my Macroeconomics college text book (it’s about 5 years old) and got zip, nada, doodly-squat—nothing.

Read the capitalistic system will fail if we don’t and I quote “transfer the burden of risk back to those who expect the gains.”  Ha!  Ha!  That’s a good one.  Has Switzerland given up their tax haven for the rich? 

True the rich are losing their mojo, but the rich will always be with us as scamming and shiving, are so easy with us, the trusting and ignorant. 

Get an education.  I know education isn’t a money-maker anymore, but it gives you an edge.  If, for no other reason, than according to the philosophers, life is more fun if you’re educated and you’ll be smarter than those trying to scam you.  

Learning is tough.  It’s work.  Memorizing and tests and exercising your brain with abstract thoughts is a grind.  But worth it, take it from me, even if you have to get your education after forty, as I did.  And look at the pay-off.  The great philosophers said gaining knowledge is the most fun there is, so get that wit and judgment, and best of all that epiphany experience.  Can’t remember where, but somebody said, “Reading is for the brain, what exercise is for the body.”

If you quit school early, go to classes now.  Most Senior Centers have computer labs, art classes, books discussion groups, writing classes, etc., so look into getting an education there.  Better late than never. Life isn’t only about money. Okay, I take that back, life is all about money if you don’t have any.

Don’t spend money on doctors.  We like to believe in magic, believe in witch doctors that can cure all our ills.  Doctors, I’m sorry to say, don’t have super-natural powers.  Remember what I said about 75% of us visiting the doc have nothing wrong with us.  And I agree, but I, of course, am in the 25% who have something wrong with them.

About buying a house.  It would have been smart to buy when we were young, as housing prices were low then, but everything is blowing in a different direction now and unless you’re an insider in real estate, I’d say hold off.  In five years unless the country takes a real bad turn for the worst, (which looks like it’s happening) houses may start their assent upwards.  Wishful thinking, huh???

And so my friend, if you are in debt up to your eyeballs, one answer is to shuck it all and lose yourself.  The only problem with that is they can track you down through sundry methods, such as your social security number. 

A better bet would be to file bankruptcy and sell everything that’s salable.

And so in the end if you’re licentious and nimble and do bad things with money, you’ll end up in ……..well I hate to say it but you’ll probably end up in, well, ……Wall Street or Congress. 




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