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Nov 30

I sometimes feel like I’m in costume as a conservative, no-nonsense older woman.  The real me is rather quirky, if not outrageously unconventional (sometimes).  Surely by now we can dare to express our individuality in small ways, such as how we dress.



Here’s an example from http://www.granpaparazzi.com/2011/08/corduroy-and-a-chain-wallet

Note the wallet chain

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Aug 01

Insurance of all kinds (auto, travel, medical, dental, life, household, and almost anything else that you can imagine) is a way of spreading risk.  Where a loss might be disastrous to an individual, it is easily absorbed when shared by a large number of participants.  Insurance companies earn income by facilitating and policing this sharing.

Insurance doesn’t prevent anything from happening.  It does not protect you from getting sick or from lightning striking your house.  It does help to soften the financial impact.  Insurance is gambling.  You are betting that something bad will happen; the insurance company is betting that it will not.

With rampant math phobia, how many of us really understand the trade-offs when signing up for an insurance policy?

Life insurance tends to have a strong emotional pull and the conditions can be confusing.  Any insurance is a form of gambling.  Here’s an example of how it works:

Natural death after insuring

You Win

You Lose

Less than a year

Within 1 to 13 years


After 13 years


In case of accidental death


(Note that the table applies to a specific case and does not consider special conditions or opportunity costs of what the money spent in premiums could have earned if invested.)

Here are two examples of flight cancellation and interruption insurance.

A healthy 65-year-old man is soon flying to another city for a two-week visit.  The cost of the flight is $1000.  Insurance is usually around 10%; that is, $100 in this case.  He is betting that he has more than one chance out of ten of not being able to take the flight (always excluding pre-existing medical problems).   The actual probability of something going wrong is much lower and a loss of $900 would probably not be catastrophic, so this insurance policy is not a very good bet.

Introducing some additional conditions could change the odds.  Suppose the traveller must make this trip and couldn’t afford another ticket and he has a parent in palliative care.  Now he is more likely to need to cancel and also experience serious consequences if that should happen.  In this case, buying insurance makes sense.

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May 03


In my younger days I was a newspaper junkie.  My addiction to newspapers was occasionally satisfied by reading magazines instead, but one way or the other I needed — and still need – to get my information “fix”.  O.K., maybe things aren’t that dire. I do occasionally go for walks in the sunlight, but for me, knowing about what’s going on in the world is engaging.  It keeps my brain sharp.  I suspect there are many other retirees out there just like me who have a voracious appetite for new ideas and current events.  These days, though, I barely scan the newspapers, and I have pretty much given up magazines. That’s because I have discovered blogging.

Here are some personal favorites:

Apartment Therapy  This is great for anyone who has moved into smaller digs.

Frugal Traveler  One of many interesting blogs at the New York Times.

Sultan Knish Thought provoking analysis of current news by columnist Daniel Greenfield.

Slate.com Technically this is more of an online magazine than a blog.  Still, lots of interesting stuff.

A Year of Slow Clooking  My slow cooker is a real time saver for me and there are some great recipes here.

Clean Out the Pantry Minestrone Soup


Tell us about your own favorite blogs.

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Dec 09

I belong to several book clubs – too many probably, but all are enjoyable.  Fortunately, it is not necessary to read a book each month for all of them.  One of the clubs selects a monthly theme and participants simply talk about a book based on whatever the theme is for that month.  This month we shared books under the broad category of “inspirational books.”  Just talking about inspirational books was inspiring.

I spoke about The Pleasure Book  by Julian Fast which was an inspiration to me as I began working on the chapter about pleasure in our own book.  We all know what pleasure is – sort of – but how to write about it??  I was delighted to discover Fast’s book  which is a collection of stories about people and the simple things they enjoy.  I still like going back to the book and reading the narratives about people’s personal passions:  needlework, plants or picnics.  Even if some are things you would never likely try, they are fun to read about.

Some of the other great titles our book group talked about were Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff  (something I have been meaning to read for a long time);  Gift from the Sea (a classic by Anne Morrow Lindbergh;  Handbook for the Soul;  Loving What Is by Byron Katie, and End Procrastination Now. I am definitely going to check out  that one!



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Nov 10

Margaret Wente’s article on Andy Rooney assumed that retirees are idle and unproductive and boring.  For every full time golfer, curler and bridge player, I know ten individuals who start a business, continue to work part time, dedicate themselves to artistic pursuits, care for grandchildren, volunteer for charities and political organizations and schools and galleries, take on social causes, and the list goes on.

Humans do need to be useful and productive.   The wonderful part of retirement is that we get to choose how we are productive.  And, we can choose without a pay cheque being the main priority.

We boomers are very fortunate to have good health, discretionary time, skills, resources and especially freedom. We are very different from earlier generations who were worn out by the time they could retire.  We just may make good on some of the unfulfilled promises of the sixties.

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Sep 03

“Separate yourself from the mob.  Decide to be extraordinary and dow what you need to do — now.”

Great thought, but oh so hard to put into practice.

All my life I’ve waited to have the time and freedom to live richly and make big contributions.  If not now that I’m retired and still healthy, then when?

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Aug 26

In recognition of the growing popularity of ebook readers, our paperback is now available in the ePub format through iTunes.  We are working on also making it available for Kindle readers, but that may take a while longer.

I’ve been ordering and viewing books on my iPhone.  The screen is a bit too small to be really comfortable, but I have great resistance to purchasing and carrying around yet another electronic device.  What have been your experiences?  (Click the Comments link on the upper left corner of this post.)


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May 09

Joan Erikson, the wife and collaborator of psychologist Erik Erikson, was noted for her zest for life until she died in her nineties. Her impact on others in her last years are recounted in A Walk on the Beach by Joan Anderson. The book summarizes her philosophy as:

Welcome each day like a good meal.

The essence of a life well digested comes from knowing your strengths, overdosing on the senses, and remaining active and playful.

Keep your hands on the plow – push – don’t ever stop pushing.

Always be willing to give a little more energy – the tension should always be there.

Then your life will never go limp.

Limpness is apt imagery for what we, in our book, called the doldrums.

“Overdosing the senses” may be the best prescription for quick relief.  This is so simple, yet I often forget to use this strategy.  Just listening to some good music or buying and arranging a bunch of flowers can make a huge difference to how I’m feeling.

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May 09

A couple of weeks ago I met a woman who collects purses – not ordinary purses, but those old fashioned ones that used to be used for dances.  She had the purses displayed on a wall. The wall-art exhibit of a dozen or so of these purses was delightful. Even though I am not a collector myself, I particularly liked this collection because it was unique and imaginative, and the purses themselves have such an old-fashioned romantic appeal.  Typically these purses, no longer practical, are stuffed in a bottom dresser drawer or hidden away in a box.  Her collection was a gentle reminder of a previous era and a way of showing appreciation for something beautiful.

I have one of these purses myself – one that belonged to my mother. It is beautiful in itself – covered with turquoise beads – and a poignant reminder of some long ago festive event.  I don’t have the heart to throw it away, so it sits in a box in our basement.  Maybe I will hang it up.  Tell us about your own collections.

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Mar 29


One of our kids (big kids) is going through some ups and downs in the job world.  It causes me to reflect on the ups and downs I have experienced in my own life.  It is amazing how the combination of time and new experiences changes one’s perspective.   But as a young person – lacking that perspective — things can look grim indeed.  I can recall the endless days of working at a job that paid well, but was not at all engaging.  The hours of repetitive work just dragged.  At the same time, I was also coping with single-parenthood.  It was not a happy time for me.  Life moves forward, and the memory of  those difficult times fades away.

The question I have is:  did I gain something from those difficult years?  Often people talk about becoming stronger for having faced adversity.  Maybe . . . maybe not.  What does happen, though, is that difficult times cause us to become aware of our own physical and emotional reservoir.  Persevering in difficult times takes courage.  As retirees, we should congratulate ourselves for the many times in our earlier years we have faced adversity and prevailed.

It is great to see a hint of spring in the air.  Time to take down that Christmas wreath on my door! 

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