goingplaceslivinglife

Travel, Food, and Slices of Life


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Learning Along The Pathway

When I was growing up my Dad would often drive into town and pick up the Sunday New York Times. As I got older I enjoyed reading not only the magazine but I started perusing the classified, looking for my “someday” job and apartment. Oh, the dreams I had of what could be……and then life took another pathway.

I’ve had a checkered past. I earned a degree in geography and urban planning, but  my first job out of college was for the Tennessee Supreme Court in the court administrator’s office. They were starting a judicial PLANNING division and so, since I had a degree in urban PLANNING, I was hired. It was fun but as I realized I was getting further from my education, I looked for and moved to the planning job.  For three and a half years I actually worked for a planning and engineering company and really enjoyed it. But again……life took another pathway.

There was a death in my husband’s family. His mother asked us to move to Connecticut to take care of the estate issues. We lived in the house rent free and would until it was sold. One of my tasks was to determine the market value of the property and in doing so, we listed it for sale and boom! we needed to move within a couple of months. I was looking for work as a planner but we were in the middle of a recession then and jobs were scarce. So… life took another pathway.

I started working as an real estate agent for the broker who had listed the house. While I did well, I didn’t particularly enjoy it. Showing houses was a challenge because I did not know the area well and there were no apps with a talking GPS (hey, no cell phones at all)  in those days so I had to rely on paper maps, all the time portraying an image of competence to the buyers.  That was stressful enough but the part that made me more uncomfortable was listening to a homeowner extol the cost of the renovations he had made when it looked like a piece of incompetent amateur construction.  And then Baby #1 was born and I no longer wanted to put in the long hours needed in that kind of sales position.  Once again…. life took another pathway.

 

When I told the broker I was going to let my sales license go he persuaded me to start an appraisal division of his company. I built the reputation and business started coming in nicely and then I needed to hire some staff. The broker told me he was moving to California and was selling the real estate business, including the appraisal division. I said no way, it may be your name but it was my blood, sweat and tears. He very much understood and so, I soon owned it. I got a partner who had the bookkeeping kind of background and so we went on, growing during the 1980s real estate boom to 12 employees. (Although I planned longer, I only was able to take off one week when Baby #2 was born.) And then there was another blip in the financial market and property values started to decline. Where there is no room for a second mortgage or a current home value did not support getting the mortgage refinanced, there are no appraisals. We closed the business and…… life took another pathway.

By this time I had had baby #3 and no income. My husband got laid off. We ended up moving from Connecticut to Tennessee where I stayed home with the baby. Then my husband was diagnosed with brain cancer and after surgery, radiation and chemo I got a job at Vanderbilt Medical Center, working for one of my husband’s eye doctors. I had looked for a managerial position at Vanderbilt and when HR asked me what salary I wanted I thought about what I had made in the good years in Connecticut and then made a “cost of living” adjustment and said $30,000. They laughed…too high apparently. Anything lower would not help the family so I changed my resume to administration instead and ended up taking that first position as an AA for $18,000. I figured if I was not going to earn enough money I might as well not be in charge of anything. And so….. life took another pathway.Image result for vanderbilt university medical center

After five years of learning eye health jargon, things changed when the doctor in charge left. My position was eliminated but I was not, so HR moved me to another place in the hospital. The boss was, to put it nicely, a challenged individual. I left and move over to the university side of Vanderbilt to the Department of French & Italian. More new things to learn and master. And then my husband died and there I was a widow with a young child. Graham entered my life and I sure made him work to woo both of us. And there I was again….my life took another pathway.

My kiddo and I joined Graham when he went on sabbatical to Colorado for six months. I thought a start together in a neutral location would be good. We made friends and when it looked like he might be offered a job there I started looking for work. I had a sweet sweet double interview with the statewide blood bank and they offered me a position for a beautiful salary. I came home from that interview to be told we were moving back to West Virginia.  Ha ha…guess what….. my life took another pathway.

Looking for work in the Rust Belt was a challenge. I finally was hired as a practice manager for a financial adviser. Since it was a start-up I accepted a lower than desired salary with the promise of bonuses that would boost it to the sky (dream on, eh?). That never happened. After three years of building that business into something sustainable, I asked for a $10,000 raise and he basically countered with 50 cents an hour. I resigned. This time, definitely my choice…..my life took another pathway.

I started to build up my book selling business that I had been running on a small scale for about 12 years to provide additional income. I was able to match that prior salary for the next two years while having the time to also get involved in the farm-to-table movement and helping build The Wild Ramp. All the time, we were planning for my husband to retire when my kiddo left for college and so……my life took another pathway.

We moved to Oregon just about four years ago. I applied to about 50 jobs, making sure each cover letter and each resume was custom tailored to each specific job. I never heard from 46 place, but had four interviews. One had the grace to tell me I was overqualified and they were sure I would be bored and quit. I countered with an comment (I had nothing to lose)  that at this age I would love a job I could do with one hand behind my back. But no job was offered. (Ageism is one more hurdle to getting a job that needs to be fixed.  Date of birth information can no longer be asked, but they can and do asked for education information, including year of graduation. I think you agree, most of us complete high school at age 18, so extrapolation is easy.) So feeling ready to do anything….. life took another pathway.

I took a summer job as a farm hand. Yes, me. I never ate so much ibuprofen in my life but I did it and learned a lot more. In all my effort with The Wild Ramp I had probably visited 100 farms and had heard their stories. Now I got to get a (very small) taste of the life farmers live.  And the experience confirmed something I already suspected: I am not a farmer. But I need my farmers (we all do) and respect them highly. And so, taking a plunge……my life took another pathway.

I started up the commercial food processing business, Can-Do Real Food, to support local farmers by preserving their surplus produce by canning and dehydrating. (This gives the farmer another income, provides consumers a way to have a taste of the local summer harvest any time during the year, and reduces food waste.)  When we moved to Oregon I learned to can, so I had one year of canning at home. Other people have forgotten more than I have learned but it has been a pretty amazing experience. You can read more about it at the Can-Do Real Food blog. 

In the past year I had been dealing with a knee that has been injured but there is nothing surgical that can be done to fix it. It forces me to walk a bit wonky which has now affected my hip joint on the other side. I am in a new world of hurt and so…..I suspect my life is about to take another pathway again.

Through all these years (63 and counting) I have received continual education. The first part is one we all are fed K through  12. The next was the narrowing down of a field of study (college). And since then, through work and seminars and conferences and self teaching, the learning has continued and increased.  I urge everyone I love to never stop exploring, never be afraid of change.

I know jargon related to the legal profession, the medical profession, the academic profession, and now food processing (and government regulation thereof).  I wonder what’s next!  Whatever it is, I strongly doubt I will ever live in New York City!

 

 


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What About You?

I’m going to be 62 years old this year. I don’t feel old, most of the time anyway, but I know that I am on the downhill slide now. For anyone around my age, do you remember the TV show One Day At A Time?  The mom, played by actress Bonnie Franklin, goes off for a quiet moment when her daughters have thrown her a birthday party. She looks in the mirror trying to cope. “Middle aged now”, she moans. She was turning 35.

retirement_iaheadSo, here I am pondering my “retirement”. Those of you who know me or have been reading this blog for a while know I started a new business last summer and I am really excited about it. Can-Do Real Food  captures the surplus produce from small farms nearby and preserves the fruit or veggies by canning. Local consumers are responding well and some of the farmers have completely sold out and I am conserving some in order to start the outdoor market in May.

So, I am working, but golly gee, I really am not, as most new businesses, making gobs of money.  Any income I generate goes right back into the business so we can grow. That’s the way it is, because I certainly am not independently wealthy.  So, realistically, we are living on my husband’s retirement and the income he produces as an adjunct professor at a nearby university teaching two courses a year.

I got to thinking about living on retirement income, since it is time for me to make a decision about my Social Security. Some of the Presidential candidates are declaring doom and gloom about the Social Security System. They like to use buzzwords to scare people, like Ponzi Scheme and delayed retirement age. In reality, people my age have nothing to worry about. We will get 100% of the benefits we have accrued through our many many many many many (many) years of working.  Also in reality there are ways to improve the way the funds are secure so no one has to worry much.social-security-benefits-application-form-glasses-calc_573x300

But there is one other reality that needs attention. Social security does not provide ENOUGH to live on.  Oh, if your income was higher than mine all your working life, your payout will be higher. It just won’t be anything like the amount you have gotten used to if you typically spent all you earned.

I’ve been hearing for at least 40 years that each person needs their own retirement account as well as social security. That was the reason why IRAs were introduced in the 1970s. But people are NOT saving. Very few people near retirement age have managed to save more than $50,000 in retirement assets.

So, we have a problem. We have Baby Boomers, the largest age cohort ever born in the US, in or Floridagreenmobilehomeapproaching retirement. Some are living in homes purchased during their earning years but many are renters and some are even homeless. The proliferation of RV parks and pre-fab home construction all across the country point to the need for less expensive housing.

So how do older people manage?  Many need public assistance. Some live with family and combine incomes. Some even move overseas where a monthly social security check can adequately provide for rent, utilities, food and a few other items, especially in a country where medical care is available and comparatively inexpensive. However, this move also results in isolation from family and funds might not extend to provide for visits back here to the US.

So,  in comparison, my husband and I are okay. We’re still able to work and we’re doing things we love. Our energy is pretty good and we just take it slower on those other days. We have access to decent health care and we do as much a preventative lifestyle as we couch potatoes can.  But we are not living the way we did when we had income flowing in from jobs. We have learned to cut back and be okay with less. plan ret

Now, you people in your 20s and 30s and 40s, it is time you check on YOUR retirement savings plan. You can not rely on Social Security the way the government is playing with it to fund wars. You will need to provide for your golden years. If you haven’t started, start. And talk to a good professional, or even meet with a few to find someone who can explain all those acronyms to you and will be patient and caring to help you get to a secure end zone phase of life.


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Planning Retirement

Most people who came into the last place I had a 9-5 job were looking for advice about the financial aspect of living without a paycheck. I worked for a financial adviser who specialized in retirement planning and part of the questionnaire prospective clients would complete included a section about hobbies and personal interests.

In other words, assuming the money part can be worked out satisfactorily, what fun did they plan to have once they retired from their regular work life?9-5

Most people answered in ways that showed they had not thought about it. Some men swore they would go fishing or golfing every single day. (Time for a reality check.) Many of the women said they would be living close to their grandchildren and expected that would fill their time. (Really? You have the energy for that every day?)  In reality, hardly anyone had thought about it.

Retirement is more than not going somewhere to work,  If you can retire in your 60s, you can assume you have at least 15 years of an active lifetime still ahead of you. That’s a lot of time to do the kinds of things you did not have time to explore before.

In fact, it could provide the opportunity to finally find a job that you love instead of the job you need.  My oldest sister, for example, has been a nurse all her life and is about to hang it up. She finds her current job to be a source of high frustration and wants to quit but can’t yet get her head around how to define herself if she is no longer a nurse. I have encouraged her to find something to do that feeds one of her interests. For example, she loves to cook. Perhaps working for a caterer helping with the food prep and maybe even the event activity would suit her.

There are a lot of activities that could enrich your life that will not cost anything. For example, when I lived in Nashville, I did not have the kind of extra money to spend on going to the symphony, and yet wanted to enjoy all the various concerts they offered. By volunteering to help with ticket sales and collection, basically, showing up an hour before a concert, I could attend that concert for free.  In Huntington I have volunteered at The Wild Ramp Market which not only gave my day a huge boost with interaction with people but first dibs on great foods.  You have to grocery shop anyway; might as well know your farmer!!veggies

Graham and I started planning our move to Oregon about five or six years ago. This included choosing a place to live. Granted, if family lives nearby, people tend to want to stay put.  As most of our family does not live nearby, we had more freedom with the decision to move.   Many people are so horrified by the concept of packing up and moving that they would prefer to leave the accumulations of a lifetime to their children to wade through. They have essentially been glued into place by “stuff”.  I’ve been to many estate sales and generally the main thought I have is “I need to clean my house and get rid of the excess “stuff”.

Is this how a sale at YOUR house would look?

Is this how a sale at YOUR house would look?

Many people are flabbergasted that we would pick up and move 2500 miles to a place where we know no one. When they learn my oldest son and one of my sisters live in Oregon, they relax. It seems that they define a place by family, but in reality my sister lives over an hour away and my son has his very own active life.  I will see them much more than I do now, but they will not shape my daily life. Perhaps I am not typical but I already have met a number of people in McMinnville and look forward to making new friends there.

This next chapter of my life is yet to unfold…..can’t wait!!

In other words, I am looking forward to what this new adventure will become…..not afraid of leaving the known behind.