Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Retirement Planning—Species of Retirees

The end of the year always sees the publication of various lists. Time’s end-December issue includes a list of ten new species, including the Tube-Nosed Fruit Bat, the Bluetooth Tarantula and the Giant Woolly Rat. I do not lie. Check for yourself.

As I’ve collected information for my retirement, I’ve identified a number of distinct species of retirees. The most familiar one is the Pot-Bellied Pensioner. He was fortunate enough to spend his entire working life at one large corporation. They gave him an irresistible buyout package that has enabled him to sit back and do nothing at all. His lack of motivation to augment his discretionary income has resulted in a substantial weight gain around his midsection, which has led to considerable health problems. He doesn’t care, however, because his buyout included full health care coverage. The good news for our economy is that this species of retiree is on the verge of extinction.

A large but relatively young group are the Double-Dipping Unionites. These former government functionaries and public servants received lucrative retirement packages around age 40, at which time they took a second job. That job provided a similarly lucrative package that kicked in around age 60. Although I have yet to collect sufficient data to prove my theory, I believe that there is an unwritten but clearly understood system of job swapping among the Double Dippers. At age 40, those in career A trade places with those in career B, so that at age 60, they all retire with double dips. If enough of our cities and states go bankrupt, thus voiding all existing contracts, this species may one day become extinct, too. Don’t hold your breath.

Those of you who live in the more progressive states have surely seen the Downy-Chested Community Organizer. Dressed in a pouffy insulated vest in winter, this activist retiree goes door to door trying to drum up enthusiasm, signatures and contributions . She champions such causes as Save the Bay, Don’t Feed the Pigeons, Protect the Tube-Nosed Fruit Bat and Free the Giant Woolly Rats. This type of retiree shows no signs of impending extinction.

A particularly flamboyant species I identified is the Condo Commodore. Often self-appointed, but sometimes elected to his position, he patrols your community looking for violations of condo rules. Weather permitting, he is dressed in a navy blazer with brass buttons, khaki slacks and white patent leather loafers. If he is a widower, you are done for. The widows in the community will never support an uprising against him.

An unfortunately common species is the Red-Nosed Walmart Greeter. Most of us are familiar with the three-legged stool concept of funding one’s retirement (Social Security, some sort of income from a former employer, and your own 401K/IRA type of investment program.) Sadly, the Red-Nosed Walmart Greeter has a one-legged stool—the wobbly one of Social Security. She balances precariously on that stool at the door of your local Walmart, alternately smiling a greeting and dabbing at her leaky nose with the corner of her blue pinny. It seems as though the vital fluids of her life are draining slowly out of her, but it’s probably just hay fever.

The last and most obnoxious retiree that I’ve identified is the Smug-Mouthed Investment Wizard. This migratory creature had the foresight (and the time) to carefully manage his or her investments from at least age 40 onward. When it came to real estate, they bought at the low points in the market and sold at the high. They now own retirement-appropriate homes in every climate that the calendar requires, and they make sure everyone knows when they are making their winter pilgrimage to Sanibel Island. On the brighter side, each time they return to the north country, their skin looks more and more like leather. There is a god after all.

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