Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Securely taking Social Security

It surely is one of the most difficult and consequential of decisions for Baby Boomers: When can I retire and, more importantly, when should I start collecting my Social Security benefits.

Well, a writer at (of all places) has done some of the heavy lifting for us:

"Say you want to retire at 62 and would draw a Social Security benefit of $1,125 a month. That's 25 percent less than the $1,500 you would collect if you waited until age 66.

"By age 77 and 11 months (let's call it 78) you'd have collected roughly $216,000 in total benefits, whether you opted for early benefits ($1,125 x 192 months from ages 62 until 78) or full retirement age benefits ($1,500 x 144 months from ages 66 until 78).

"But your break-even age is actually later when you factor in the investment value of your early benefits. Even if you don't invest those early benefits directly, taking them might mean you can leave other savings to keep growing. That could add three to five years to your break-even point...."

She even linked to the Social Security Administration's breakeven calculator.

The full piece is here. It is worth your time.

Monday, May 28, 2007

A Father's Story; A Pentagon Tribute

We live in extremely difficult times, and we Baby Boomers have seen all of this before.

It is nearly impossible to believe that so many of us have forgotten the lessons learned from - and the pain inflicted by - the Vietnam experience, but clearly we have.

An ill-conceived, disastrously managed war. Our young, and in some cases, not-so-young maimed and killed. Our economy and our serenity and our standing in the world damaged nearly beyond repair.

Our troops richly deserve our support and respect and gratitude, but the cause for which they and their families must sacrifice - while so many of us remain untouched? We must think carefully about this. Yes, our enemies are vicious and tenacious and they must be confronted, fought and defeated, but where were they before we invaded Iraq and where are they now?

Here, on Memorial Day, are two relatively brief pieces worthy of your review.

One is from the Wall Street Journal and reflects the anguish of a father who not only lost a son to the war but must struggle to come to terms with his role in that loss; the other is about a moving weekly ceremony at the Pentagon and is written by - actually relayed by - a friend and colleague, military correspondent Joe Galloway.

Please read them. Please think about them.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

A Crisp Salute... the fallen who died in service to their country.

BoomVista will be away for the holiday weekend, but let's try to keep in mind the purpose of Memorial Day. It is not to shop, picnic or drive to the shore, though there's nothing wrong with any of that.

The purpose of Memorial Day is to honor soldiers, sailors, Marines, Air Force personnel and Coast Guard men and women who were killed in the line of duty.

As a veteran, I find myself feeling this more keenly as each year passes and as each Memorial Day and Veterans Day pass.

And, for what it's worth, I think this would be a better nation if everyone were compelled to devote two years of service to their nation.

Could be military, could be a form of civilian service. No matter. The country needs it, and many of our young people could use a bit of discipline, a sense of responsibility to something larger than themselves.

End of sermon. Enjoy the holiday, but also...remember.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

R.I.P. And Pass The Buffalo Wings

Hard to know what to think about this one.

An interesting story in the Press-Enterprise, a newspaper that is based...somewhere (its website is amazingly vague about that), is promoted with this irresistible headline:

"Funerals are becoming a personal celebration."

This is how it begins:

"Louise Felicetta threw her husband, Dominic, a big bash on Feb. 24, the day after his 72nd birthday. At the Gourmet restaurant in San Bernardino, 200 friends and family members nibbled on wings and meatballs, danced to a live band, watched the couple's life unfold on videos and sifted through photos and memorabilia.

"But the guest of honor wasn't there. Dominic Felicetta, of Rialto, was dead. After a short bout with pancreatic cancer, he had been cremated. His ashes eventually will be co-mingled with his wife's and buried in the family plot.

" 'He didn't want a funeral or memorial," says Felicetta, 79. "It was a special day. I came home a little sad, but uplifted." '

Yep, that's how I'm hoping Mrs. BoomVista will feel on that somewhat special day. A little sad, but oh-so-uplifted.

Setting that aside for the moment, along with the fact that the piece attributes all of this to self-absorbed Baby Boomers, even though Mr. Felicetta and his slightly melancholy but uplifted widow are Boomer Emeriti, the article does reflect a growing reality.

Many of us are unlikely to do the fill-in-the-blanks funeral routine. As the piece says, without any apparent awareness of the pun, "Blame it on baby boomers for thinking outside the box."

Mrs. BoomVista, for instance, knows that I want to be buried with a portable XM Satellite Radio and a six-pack of batteries. Yes, XM's 60s music is that good. I'm serious (not to be confused with Sirius).

What about you? Given it any thought? Oh, c'mon, you know you have.

The rest of the article is here. (Upon close examination, the Press-Enterprise might cover the Riverside-San Bernadino area of southern California. But it's apparently not the sort of thing they want to say definitively on their web page.)

Saturday, May 19, 2007

A Balancing Post (rimshot)

OK, so most of us remember the days before Black/CrackBerries, before cell phones and, more to the point I'll eventually get to, before pocket calculators. We remember pencils and paper. We remember those damn multiplication tables.

Boy, do we remember those multiplication tables. And, speaking for myself, I want to keep remembering them.

So I balance my checkbook the old-fashioned way. I insist on receiving hard-copy monthly statements in the mail (you have to be careful - banks are developing all sorts of tricks to get you to click the 'electronic delivery' box). And when the statements arrive, I pull out a pen and the checkbook, and I add and substract and curse and whine and so on and so forth.

Now, I'm no Luddite. I have computers, 6.0 DSL service, a wireless home network, satellite TV and XM Satellite Radio (I still have to get to that post), and I know I can go online and pretty much have the bank do it for me or program the computer to do it.

But I don't. And I usually don't use a calculator either, for the same reason I sometime walk stairs when I can ride an elevator. Exercise.

I want to keep this brain - or reasonable facsimile thereof - as sharp as I can. And I'm thinking (rimshot redux) the best way to do that is to keep exercising it.

Whaddya think? Anyone have a similar hard-headed policy about bank statements and checkbooks? Other examples of the same sort of thing?