"In this sticky web that we're all in, behaving decently is no small task." -- Novelist Stacey D'Erasmo

Monday, February 22, 2016

What Really Matters

     Today I have some news from around the country, plus a note on "what really matters."

     The news from Colorado. Laura Lee Carter offers a link to one of her most popular posts, which can only mean that everyone at this time of year must be thinking about taking a nice long dip in a Colorado Rocky Mountain hot springs. Laura Lee and her husband drove over to the Sand Dunes pool, "a moist, warm oasis in the middle of the dry, cold San Luis Valley." They went for the day, but there are places to stay overnight, including an RV campsite for people on the road.

Colorado hot springs
     The news from New Jersey. Or wherever blogger Meryl Baer is right now. The author of Six Decades and Counting has been doing more traveling than Lewis and Clark!

     She and her husband spent five days in San Antonio discovering everything they never learned about the state of Texas back when they attended school in New York. Or, if somewhere in the distant past they did learn about Texas, the facts are long forgotten -- except of course for those as told through John Wayne in the movie The Alamo. But you don't have to travel to Texas to find out more, you can ride over to Visiting the Home of the Alamo to remember the ... well, you know.

     The news from Washington. On The Survive and Thrive Boomer Guide, Rita R. Robison, consumer journalist, reviews the top 10 articles from her blog for 2015. Robison’s readers especially liked articles on banking, prescription drugs, carcinogens in food, credit cards with chips, sunscreens -- and you can find them all with just one healthy click of the mouse.

     The news from New York. B and I took the train to New York City over the weekend, had dinner with my son and went to see My Mother's Brief Affair. The play stars Linda Lavin who has many dramatic credits to her name, including a turn as Alice in the TV show from the late 1970s and early 80s. She played a dying mother with two grown children and a very embarrassing secret. We both thought she did a fantastic job in this serviceable drama that doled out a bit of comedy along with its dramatic message.

     And the news from California. Kathy Gottberg of Smart Living 365 has just published a book of her best blog posts centered around the theme of rightsizing your life, especially as you retire. As she says, "Rightsizing isn't just about working or not working. Rightsizing is about eliminating the unessential and focusing on what really matters."

     So I went to amazon and bought RightSizing: A Smart Living Guide to Reinventing Retirement, which I got for $2.99 (amazon subscribers can read it for free). I found one chapter particularly relevant to my life because I have always dreamed of owning a second home, probably on the beach somewhere, with palm trees wafting in the breeze. Well, we all know for most of us this is a pipe dream. But that hasn't stopped me from wishing and hoping, and even occasionally pouring through zillow ads for Florida condos or cottages in the Carolinas.

     In fact, last year I actually took a trip to Myrtle Beach with a friend of mine, looking for a seaside condo. The long and short of it is, my friend bought a condo and is currently, as we speak, enjoying spring weather on the Carolina coast. I did not buy a place. Because when it got right down to it, I do not want the responsibility, and I cannot really afford it, and the people who sometimes rent your place don't really pay all the costs and they're not the ones taking a risk, you are, if for whatever reason people no longer want to rent a place on the beach in South Carolina, not to mention the risk that your renters will probably break everything, maybe not all at once in an obvious college-students-trash-the-place kind of way, but because renters don't take very good care of a place and they bang things around and you end up replacing things every two or three years instead of every eight or ten years, and besides a condo near the ocean needs to be painted every other year and you have to buy expensive flood insurance.
New book by Kathy Gottberg

     Wouldn't it be much easier to rent? Yes. That's what Kathy Gottberg confirmed for me in her chapter "Renting vs. Owning -- and Other Thoughts on Impermanence".

     (Before you lodge a complaint, I apologize, that was the long of it, not the short of it!)

     There was another chapter that brought a laugh with a quiz about "Curing Your Addiction for More." B and I were sitting on the train. I looked up from the book and asked:

     Okay. So you're walking by a store and see that perfect "something" on sale for 50% off. You know it's a fantastic price but you also know you don't need it and really can't afford it. Do you:

     a) Buy it anyway?
     b) Not buy it but feel cranky and depressed for the rest of the day?
     c) Try to guilt someone who loves you into buying it for you?
     d) Accept that you don't need it and save your money?

     She thought for a moment. Then she said: I'd pick b. She paused, then continued: Except then I'd go home, I'd feel bad about it, not just for the rest of the day but for several days after that. Then, finally, a few days later I'd be resenting it so much I'd go back to the store and buy it -- and by then the sale would be over, so I'd end up paying full price!

     Well, I dunno. She and I are just beginning the process of "rightsizing" our home. So all I can say is ... I hope she was kidding!


Anonymous said...

If I could afford it, I would keep my house in Hawaii and buy a condo in New York City. I would then have the best of both worlds.

Laura Lee Carter said...

Excellent job of covering the country with all that is relevant to us new old farts, Tom! Thanks!

Tabor said...

Lots of bits and bites here to chew on. I would take advantage of the sale if I had not rewarded myself during the year. Sometimes we need to splurge a little and then when we get it home we realize we could have lived without it and that will cut down on splurges in future times.

Rosaria Williams said...

Love how the other half lives! As for the rest of the over-the-hill-gang, the hope I-don't-have-to go back-to-the-hospital gang, there are so many other issues to ponder, as the one about rising health costs, not looking forward to a nursing home, what discounts are really worth keeping tag on, etc...

stephen Hayes said...

I can't convince myself to buy anything that isn't on sale, and my wife can't buy anything unless it's full price.

DJan said...

I know I'd go with D, because I'm married to a chronic thrower-outer, and he doesn't really like to accumulate "stuff." That's good, because on my own I would have gone with A and then found somebody to give it to. :-)

Dick Klade said...

In a perfect world, one of us would discourage the other from buying, then sneak back and get the item to give as a surprise. Our world isn't perfect, so that has only happened on rare occasions. More often, we'd do a "b."

Anonymous said...

As long as you keep telling yourself you can't have the best of all worlds or you can't afford it, the rest of your body hears that message and makes it come true. The sun does not rise and set in the Carolina's only. Look at the map. Tons of bargains on the east coast of Florida (condos @$75K), smaller towns along the coastlines of the Carolinas and Georgia (yes! Georgia) are bulging with top quality beach side bargains.

I've decided to have everything. Once I made that decision, amazing things happened. Found an affordable condo in Florida that I do NOT have to rent out in order to afford it. Paid cash, so my bills will be low ($600 more per month covers everything!....who can't come up with $600?)


I'm keeping my RV because I still want to travel cross country and see the Grand Canyon. I already booked 3 weeks up in Maine this summer. And I'm still holding onto my NY home because my kids and grandkids still want to be with me as often as possible ;)

My body got the message and funding magically appeared.

Blame it on the universe. I dunno. But that's it!

Tom said...

Gigi, I would too if I could afford it. Alas, I don't have Cindi's magic

Kathy @ SMART Living 365.com said...

Hi Tom! Thanks for more good links for us all….AND for letting people know about my new book on Rightsizing. Between my book and yours (not to mention the other bloggers you've listed) there are plenty of perspectives for everyone no matter who you are. But although I'm an optimist in a big way I'm convinced that we can't have everything--like George Carlin always said, "where on Earth would you put it all!" While I'm sure there are some people who have so much money that they can use it everywhere they want, the reports for most baby boomers are not that encouraging. To me it's always SMART to just figure out what makes you the most happy and then focus on fulfilling that. I doubt at the end of our lives anyone will ever ask, "Did you own a vacation home or not?" ~Kathy

joared said...

Interesting to consider having a couple abodes, but unless I was going to frequently alternate months at a time spent in each residence, I would prefer having only one or the other. I'm at a stage now when I cease to add items to what I have and am trying to dispose of -- maybe I should have resisted some of those store items back in the day.

Marna said...

I have just this winter decided to buy something in Florida because I cannot tolerate the cold. So it will be off Cortez Road and you can visit me next winter! I am going back next week to look at 12 condos available in the development I want. After I move 1/2 my furniture down there, I will move from a 3 bedroom apartment to one bedroom. The amount that I save in rent will pay for the fees in Florida.

Janette said...

The best thing that happened to me was D.
Occasionally I desire something outside of my budget. Then my mantra is, " I may be able to afford it, but am I willing to give up ________ to get it." Lately the fill in the blank is "security of money in the bank".

Wisewebwoman said...

I envy you seeing the play. I saw Linda Lavin in the last series of The Good Wife and seriously, she stole the few episodes she was in playing this parole officer who comes across as a ditz but is excellent at her job.

I wish I could manage my bits of money better :(


Barbara said...

B and I think alike. I'd probably do the same thing. Hahaha. I feel better about the way my mind works now.

Darkseas said...


I agree that if you don't want the responsibility and can't afford it, a beach house or condo isn't for you. And in your case, you're just too far away from Myrtle Beach for weekend or even recurring full week getaways.

The people who want beach houses love the beach and want to be there not just in the summer, but also in the spring, fall, and even (or especially) winter. They are at least considering retiring there, and many of them will do so for part of the year at a minimum. They made a choice to forgo many of the short trips that you and B make, or the long trips that you make in the winter, so that they can instead spend the time at their beach house.

Your other reasons are, to be polite, generally not good ones.

1) If you have to paint every other year, you're using cheap paint and not preping or applying it properly.

2) The cost of flood insurance depends on a number of factors: the elevation of the house, the number of times claims have been paid in the past, the local building codes (if they comply, FEMA gives discounts), and whether you're a full time resident or not. If you're smart about it, flood insurance can be reasonable. It is only required if you have a mortgage AND you're in a zone in which floods are likely.

3) In general, renters are harder on a house than owners would be, but there are some who will treat it as well or better than you would (particularly if they come back to your property every year). There are ways to make clear to renters that they are in your home, not in a hotel. And your rental company can weed out the worst renters and can assume the responsibility of keeping the place in good condition -- if you pick a good rental company.

4) People aren't going to want to come to the beach? Really?