Showing posts from February, 2008

Comments... I Love 'em (and Hate 'em)

I had promised you today that I would elaborate on some of the comments in yesterday's Marketwatch article on paying back social security. There are now over 100 of them, and I just added my two cents worth. But it would be pointless for me to elaborate on the specific comments themselves, as I would just be rehashing points I've already made. Points about mortality, the "social security is going broke" argument, etc. But reading through them made me realize again what a double edged sword they are.

On one hand, comments are the life blood of blogging. They show people are listening. Through them, you can discuss issues and interests with many more people than you could possibly meet, and learn from one another. This is one of the great benefits of the openness of the internet.

On the other hand, that same openness allows all forms of idiocy to be published on the same plane as the most insightful comments, as some hide behind the anonymity of the internet to al…

Paying it Forward: Marketwatch Picks Up
the Social Security Payback Story

One of the first things I do every day is check for the morning's financial news. Today, MarketWatch picked up the story of paying back social security with an article entitled Paying it Forward: Little-known rule lets you restart Social Security and collect more each month. I imagine that with over 50% of "Age 62-ers" currently opting to begin benefits early, and with the increasing trend toward "encore careers," that there will be many more such articles, and the payback rule won't be so "little known."

There isn't too much that's factually new in this article but here are some quotable quotes:

"Paying back your benefits and then restarting at a later age can mean a 'potentially huge increase in your living standard,' said Laurence Kotlikoff, an economist at Boston University.""Social Security beneficiaries 'should definitely look into it because the increases you get by delaying are so subs…

Carnival of Personal Finance # 141 is Up!

The weekly Carnival of Personal Finance was published this morning, over at and includes my February 23rd article, Social Security Decisions: Important But Not Irrevocable: You Have Much More Flexibility Than You May Think.

I highly recommend these "carnivals." This week, there are over 90 articles. If you can't find something there that interests you, I'd be shocked. My problem is just the opposite. It's hard for me to visit a carnival if I have less than an hour or two, as I always end up with more reading and research leads than I can handle. But it's always great fun doing it. And I think I'll do it right now. :-) Bob

Pay Back Your Social Security
It Could Be the Best Annuity You Could Buy

The above title was the original title of yesterday's post, which later became "Social Security Decisions: Important But Not Irrevocable - You Have Much More Flexibility Than You May Think." I actually posted it with the "Annuity" title above, but after sleeping on it overnight, I realized that yesterday's article was really about flexibility, an important issue in its own right.

I have written before about flexibility. The general rule is, "Given two equally attractive decisions, always choose the one that is more "reversible," (i.e. allows you to change your mind later)

Flexibilty is a key element in any personal financial decision, and retirement decisions are no exception. In fact, I think flexibility becomes MORE important as you get older, as youre "wiggle room" for creating alternatives diminishes the older you get. And I wrote on this before, in my original article, "Don't Do It," as a major reason why you d…

Social Security Decisions: Important But Not Irrevocable
You Have Much More Flexibility Than You May Think

I have written several times before on this subject, and my basic premise has been that many boomers are making a big mistake by taking social security at age 62, at least those who don’t fall under the three exceptions to the basic rule of “Don’t Do It.” Then on February 1st, I wrote about the ability to UNtake social security by basically suspending payments, stopping the clock as it were, and gaining credits in the form of increased future payments. For example, if you start taking payments at 62, and suspend them at age 63½ for three years, at that point you would be 66½ and earning pretty much as if you had started at 65.

Now comes an article from entitled “Trade In Your Social Security Check,” which describes how you can not only stop the social security clock, but you can RESET IT TO ZERO by paying back all of your previously earned social security checks WITHOUT INTEREST. Which certainly answers one of my original arguments about flexibility. You really can’t a…

Now Open! - The Platinum Years Network aStore!

Can we talk? I promise I won't do this often, but I'd like to talk to you about how you can avail yourself of some of our recommended books and resources, and support my efforts at the same time.

To be perfectly honest, my involvement in the Platinum Years Network is a labor of love. I am thankfully in a position to be able to devote the time and effort necessary to build the blog and website and not feel I am taking food off my table. My daytime work as a stock broker/financial planner, along with Platinum wife Melanie's work as a tour manager, supports us very well, especially now that the nest is empty. So lately, the stock market has gotten my time during the days to pay the mortgage, and you get my nights for free.

I wouldn't do it if I didn't truly have a passion for the subjects I write about, but the reality is, it can be discouraging wondering if any of this is really making a difference. Some of my friends who read regularly encourage me when they see me…

Another Retirement Icon is Dying?
More Americans Are Giving Up Golf

One of my clients told me recently that the local exclusive golf club in my home town recently needed some money, so they decided to accept 20 new members from their waiting list of 75 applicants. To their shock, they blew right through the waiting list and had to offer some incentives to fill the last few slots. So it shouldn't have surprised me to read that the total number of Americans who play golf has dropped from 30 million to 26 million since the year 2000, in this New York Times article, "More Americans are Giving Up Golf."

But somehow, it did surprise me. Golf is sort of an American icon for retirement. My mother and stepfather used to spend the winter at one of those golf course complexes in Florida where practically everybody's back yard has a view of some tee, fairway, or green. And I'll always remember how a war almost broke out one winter over a hotly disputed proposal to change the tee times from seven minutes apart to eight minutes apart. I e…

New Recommended Website -

My post from February 17th, "Encore! Choosing Your Second Career," generated a comment from none other than the Managing Editor of the Encore website, Terry Nagel, who says the following:

"There's plenty of help available for people considering "encore careers" on, an online community created by Civic Ventures, the nonprofit Marc Freedman started for boomers who want to find meaningful work in the second half of life.

Join the Encore community (it's free) and you'll keep abreast of new opportunities offered by public and private organizations helping to reframe retirement as an opportunity to work in paid jobs that contribute to the community.

Oh, and you might want to buy the book, too!" Now I've already given the book my highest recommendation, so I took Terry's advice and visited And though it's clear this site is fairly new, it is excellent, and it is clear that they are developing an online community…

Finding Your Passion
The Three Questions

A few weeks ago, I got a quick blackberry email from a friend with a simple five word message:

"How do I change careers?"
I sent him the url of this blog, and told him to consider the exercises on January 7th, 8th, and 9th) as “homework.” To be honest, I didn’t really expect him to actually do it, but this week, he emailed me several pages of thoughts that those articles generated. So I figured if he’s that motivated, I just had to buy him dinner.

So just this morning, we made a dinner date. We can't do it for about a month, but we agree that since the issues are long term, that should be ok.

Meanwhile, I found a much abbreviated version of the "Passion Test" in an article on Life Planning in the February issue of Investment Advisor magazine. They represent a cross between the exercises I pointed my friend to and my five star book recommendation, Chasing Daylight, which was written by a successful CEO who was given three months to live, and chronicles how he…

Encore! Choosing Your Second Career

Yesterday I reviewed Marc Freedman’s excellent book, Encore: Finding Work That Matters in the Second Half of Life, and promised you that I would elaborate on the Appendix, wherein the author presents many, many resources to help YOU pick YOUR next career. I went back over it today, and this task is considerably more difficult than I thought, primarily because there are so many resource lists, and I just can’t pick and choose for you. Which leads me back to yesterday’s conclusion – Buy the book!

There IS one interesting way of thinking introduced in the Appendix which introduces a way of thinking about second careers that I hadn’t thought of before. Freedman asks you to consider which of the following appeals to you. You could be:

Career Recycler, building on your expertise in one field to transition to the next.

Career Changer, trying something totally new, perhaps utilizing a dormant or underutilized skill.

Career Maker, taking a lifelong interest and parlaying it into a job that helps o…

Encore! - The Social Security Solution

As promised in my article "Encore - Second Career Anyone?" - I finished Marc Freedman's excellent book, Encore: Finding Work That Matters in the Second Half of Life, and I am pleased to report that it did not disappoint. This book is nothing less than a blueprint for the reforms necessary to our social security and other retirement programs, reforms that will not only keep these programs solvent but will save the federal government TRILLIONS of dollars (yes, you heard me, trillions) compared to the current makeup of the program.

To refresh your memory, I had written twice before on this topic since November, most recently on December 20, 2007 in an article entitled "We Can't Let This Happen." Then there was another linked article entitled "60? Must be Time for a Career Change." I also have a whole chapter devoted to this topic in my book-in-process, Platinum Living, which basically says, as Marc Freedman does, that the solution to the social securi…

Light Blogging Alert

I'm heading off with Melanie, the Platinum wife, to warm up for a few days, so blogging may be light.

But I am bringing several books with me, and lots of magazines, so get ready for some new stuff when I get back. :-) Bob

If You're Serious About Changing a Behavior - Do This!

I guess just about anybody knows that if you really want to change a behavior, or follow through on a commitment, a great way to do it is to get yourself an accountability partner. Over the years, I have done this myself with friends to achieve some personal goal like regular exercise, because even if I don't feel like showing up, I have to if I know YOU'LL be there.

Those of us who are married have a built-in "accountability buddy" in our spouses, but I only recommend this when you are really serious about changing or affirming some behavior. But when you ARE serious, who better than the person who lives with you to "keep you honest." And the rules are very simple. Each party authorizes the other to "call them" on the forbidden behavior, or remind them about the neglected desired behavior. The "offending party" must cheerfully and immediately comply. Simple enough, right?

For the unmarried, close friends are great at this, as are …

More Expectations that Bring Disappointment

OK I admit it, I'm a political junkie. I stayed up late last night watching Super Tuesday returns, and neglected you, my faithful readers.

And I won't be long today, either, but I couldn't help but notice the number of comments about how various candidates were attempting to "manage expectations." I guess even in politics, "It's Expectations that Bring Disappointment." :-) Bob

Comparing Ailments
"Nobody Knows the Trouble I've Seen"

I was at a party a few months ago, and all those in attendance were in their 50s and 60s. The conversation was pleasant enough, but pretty soon someone mentioned one of their ailments. What followed, I can only descibe as a game of "Can You Top This." For the next hour or so, we shared in great detail our various aches and pains, things that slowed us down or made life a little harder, the medications and treatments we had received, our doctor and hospital experiences, etc., etc.

As my "platinum wife" Melanie and I discussed it later, I recalled a time when I was in my thirties and used to take my two daughters to visit a local nursing home with a group from church. To be honest, I was more of a chauffeur in this situation, because the elderly residents were much more interested in interacting with the children than with me. They brightened right up when they saw any kids... but I digress. In any event I had some time to observe the residents. And there was one man,…

It's Expectations That Bring Disappointment

At least ten years ago, we had a guest speaker at church who gave a talk entitled “It's Expectations That Bring Disappointment.” The title made a big impression on me because I have thought of it, and used that quote, many times since.

And I thought of it again tonight as I watched my beloved New England Patriots go down in defeat in Superbowl XLII to the New York Giants 17-14. The Patriots, as nearly all of you must know, were on the verge of becoming the first team in NFL history to go 19-0 and the first team since 1972 to go undefeated. But they already had set many, many records, both as a team and individually. And their final record of 18-1 is in itself historic, as no other team had ever won that many games.

So why are Patriots fans disappointed? And why are Giants fans, whose team finished 14-6, so elated. Obviously, it's all about expectations. The Patriots, you see, were supposed to beat the Giants by about 13 points. So was it a disappointing season? My answe…

Happiness Is ... Maybe Not What You Think It Is

As I told you a few days ago, I feel like I've been going a little overboard with the financial stuff lately and want to get back to the nonfinancial aspects of "helping you get the best out of the rest of your life." Serendipitously, two great books have dropped into my lap. You already know about the first one, Encore: Finding Work That Matters in the Second Half of Life.

Here's the second, with a most interesting title, Stumbling on Happiness, by Daniel Gilbert. According to the reviews, this is a book with an intriguing premise, namely that since our memories mainly record the peaks and valleys of the events in our lives, too often we pursue happiness by trying to recreate the peaks and by avoiding the valleys, thus ignoring the common experiences, which is where we live 99% of the time. This can be fatal to our ultimate happiness and fulfillment in our lives, as it is Professor Gilbert's premise that:

"... it's the frequency - not the intensity …

Can You "UNTAKE" Social Security?

Recently I was talking to a friend, who was lamenting the fact that he had signed up for social security at 62, and THEN read my various articles pleading with you not to do it. Here's a link to the summary of these articles on Or if you prefer, some of the original blogs:

Don't Do It!
We Can't Let This Happen!
The Benefits of Delaying Social Security
My friend had even come to this conclusion BEFORE I wrote the follow up piece reminding everyone that Medicare is not available until 65 no matter when you sign up for benefits.

Now I am in the process of reading Encore: Finding Work That Matters in the Second Half of Life, which paints an exciting picture of second careers and the way our retirement systems ought to change to accommodate them. And if anything, my passion for this topic is growing, at least for those of you who don't meet my generous exceptions.

Which got me to thinking ... Is it possible for my friend to REVERSE his choice? That is, …