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Lisa Graff

Lisa Graff

Making choices about how to spend retirement funds

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How are you spending your retirement money?

Some close friends are building a pool in their backyard and remodeling their bathroom. Other friends are getting set to travel to see Moab, Arches and the Grand Canyon. Each one makes a valid argument for how they wish to spend their money in retirement. And how fortunate are they to be able to do so.

According to data from the 2020 U.S. Census Bureau, “The average retirement income is around $73,000. However, the median retirement income – which is often a more accurate reflection of the majority of cases – is just around $47,000. As retirees age and continue to use up their income streams, average income goes down.”

The pandemic has made us reevaluate our lives. Many seniors have witnessed friends and relatives pass away, and we are asking ourselves, “What do we really want to do right now with the time we have left in this world?”

I’m remembering that my in-laws didn’t get as much time as they deserved. In 2002-03, when I lost my mother, my mother-in-law and father-in-law, I wrote a check to a certified grief counselor for $100. Not covered by insurance, I attended 10 sessions, and it was the best money I ever spent in my life.

I told her that lots of people endure far more grief than I do, so why am I falling apart? She set me straight. “Don’t ever compare yourself to others.”

My husband was so frozen in grief that he couldn’t spend a dime of his inheritance. It felt wrong to equate fun with that money. But I convinced him to fix up the basement, and he bought the largest television I had ever seen.

Still, it was hard for him to watch TV and not think of his dad Otto, who kept the sound so high the walls reverberated. Otto had money he inherited from his brother Ray, but he wouldn’t buy hearing aids because they were too expensive.

The counselor instructed me to draw a hill on a piece of paper. She said, pretend you are standing at the base of the hill. Write your name there. On the other side of the hill, write down one of your goals.

I wrote, “Finish my novel.”

Then she told me to mark a spot anywhere along the hill to indicate how far I’ve come in terms of accomplishing that goal. I marked a spot halfway across the hill. Then she asked, “What’s stopping you?”

I was a full-time teacher and too exhausted to write after work. I was afraid it wouldn’t be published. Who would read it? It was only after retirement that I resumed my writing life. What joy this has brought me!

We are never too old to set goals for ourselves. What are your retirement goals? You get to choose, you lucky duck! You’ve already accomplished a milestone!

Last week I received an email from a reader named Maryanne. “I wanted to comment on what I love about retirement: Being able to wake up without an alarm, reading the paper with my coffee, and lying in bed on a rainy day with a compelling novel. Having neighbors as friends. And even though I have more time to cook, I love going to our local restaurants, especially in the off-season.”

Me too, Maryanne. Try the blackened fried catfish at Po’ Boys Creole restaurant in Milton! And a side order of fried green tomatoes and beignets. Chef Mike is king in the kitchen.

Write to lgraff1979@gmail.com

Like my Facebook page. Our Senior Yearbook: Cape Gazette

Published in Cape Gazette on September 19, 2021. Read Here

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