Sunday, June 17, 2007

Dad's Rear View Mirror

My dad is one of those eighty-somethings the Big Three find burdensome. He just keeps going. And he has the kind of pension that workers my age can only dream about, you know, a defined benefit plan. Not a princely sum, but when combined with Social Security and some small investment dividends, enough for a single elderly man who has no debt.

Due to the normal aging process and a stroke, he can no longer enjoy the physical activities he did earlier in his retirement--fishing, golf, bowling, dancing. But his wits are quick and he exercises them regularly with crosswords and a fierce game of Scrabble. He still has his mind, thank god. And he still speaks it.

1. "Live within your means and pay yourself first. " Suze Orman is cashing in on these morsels of common sense. But this means something coming from a guy who was born in 1923, developed his world view during the Great Depression, and came of age during World War II. Dad finds distressing the rise in foreclosures and personal bankruptcies. He finds the elimination of defined benefit plans even more distressing, given the current negative savings rate.

2. "Sometimes you just don't get the tiles." Scrabble wisdom at its best. The point being, make the most of what you have. Life isn't fair; it just is. Again, highly credible coming from a guy who turned down a college scholarship so he could work full time to pay the sanatorium bills for a sister ill with TB. He completed college after the war, in night school, while working full time and raising a family.

3. "The only constant is change." Heraclitus or my dad, Henry? Doesn't really matter. That's the New Economy in a nutshell. Like it or not, it's here.