WOSTER: Saving for retirement not easy
If you were born while World War II raged, and if all these years later you are still going to a full-time job every weekday, you should consider retiring.
I was, born before WWII ended, that is. I do — consider retiring, once in a while, anyway.
A couple of things have held me back. Well, three things now that I read a Facebook post by an old (OK, not so old) Mitchell Kernel I used to run against in track. He said he’d been retired for three years but now he was coming out of retirement, so stay tuned for his big announcement. Well, wait a minute. Three years out of the work force? My age? And he’s crawling out of the wagon to start pulling again? I have to tell you. It gave me pause.
The other two reasons I have hesitated are 1) I tried retirement for a few months back in 2009, and 2) I didn’t actually develop a nest egg.
In 2009, I grew bored after I left the newspaper and retired. A junior high teacher used to say, “Only boring people get bored.’’ Is it possible I’m boring?
The nest egg? I recall drawing laughs once when someone asked me what I did for tax shelters and I replied, “I work for a newspaper.’’
I’m not complaining. Nancy and I earned enough. We lived where we wanted to live, had good schools and raised good kids. And the newspaper gig was an absolute gas for 40 years. It just wasn’t a nest-egg builder.
I probably should have listened to my father-in-law.
Paul Gust grew up during the Great Depression. He was frugal. He worked hard. He tried to lay aside a little money in the event history repeated itself. He worked in grocery stores and gas stations, owned a dairy in Chamberlain, bought an A&W Family Restaurant franchise and moved the business south of town to the Interstate 90 interchange at the bottom of the river bluffs. He ran that until his death in 1985.
For a brief time in the late 1960s, after he sold the dairy and before he got into the Burger Family, he tried his hand at selling investment opportunities. It was in that capacity that he gave me the tip on building a nest egg.
He was in Sioux Falls for one of his company’s seminars, and he stayed over with us that night. We were living in the house on North Conklin. That’s how I know how long ago it was. We only lived there in 1968 and part of 1969. Nancy, Paul and I sat at the kitchen table in the evening, playing cards and conversing. Paul was working on his sales pitch, and he began to describe to me the necessity of starting my retirement planning way early.
Regular, small investments were the key, he said. Anybody can do it, he said. Regular and small, and the nest egg builds, he said. Maybe, he said, if I stopped smoking, I could put away a dollar every day instead of buying cigarettes.
“Put away a buck a day,’’ he said several times.
I was probably 24, maybe going on 25. I was making a little over $100 a week and taking home about $83 of it. My long-range goal was to have enough money to buy a few groceries again that week, not to create a retirement fund for 40 or 45 years down the road. We had two little kids. Nancy wasn’t working while they were that young.
(She worked almost her entire life, from the time she was 13 or 14 selling popcorn at the theater to her last job as a community health nurse with the state. For that one short period, though, she wanted to be home with the kids. It wasn’t easy, but we made it.)
I wasn’t sure what to say, but Nancy said something like, “Dad, you’re the only one who is smoking here, and I wish you could stop.’’
He never did, and I never started that nest egg. Maybe I should. I have never smoked cigarettes, but I could pretend to stop, I guess.