Saturday, December 17, 2011

Retirement Tips — Holiday Gifts for Retirees

Very few retirees are looking to add to their encumbrances. Chances are, they went through a downsizing as part of their retirement process. This can make it difficult to select holiday gifts for them. Here are some helpful guidelines.

If it needs to be laundered, dry cleaned, dusted or vacuumed, forget it. That means no clothing and no knick knacks. In the interest of avoiding inventory buildup, it also means no accessories and no appliances.

I know what you’re thinking: a man can always use another tie/pair of warm gloves/wool muffler. Not true. Nor is it true that a woman can always use another silk scarf/holiday scatter pin/pair of trouser socks.

There are some dirty little secrets that often come to light only when people start rooting around in the backs of closets and bottoms of drawers. (In other words, when they downsize.) Men tend to wear the same three ties over and over. No matter how fabulous the pattern is on that Gianni Versace cravat you found on super sale, it’s likely to get spun to the back of the tie rack within a year of gifting.

Remember the soft-as-butter leather gloves with oh-so-warm rabbit fur lining? They’re now under three spare sets of thermal underwear in a bottom dresser drawer. Those wool mufflers you’ve gifted ever third year or so? Food for the moths that have discovered the shopping bag in the back of the used-to-be-cedar closet. You know the bag I mean: the one with scarves, mittens, gloves (many in half pairs) and maybe an occasional earmuff or polar fleece headband.

How about that church bazaar last summer where you saw the snowman pin exactly like the one you gave your funky Aunt Tilly a few years back? Guess what: it was the one you gave Aunt Tilly. Turns out she’s not as funky as she was in her thirties. Ditto for the Gucci-wannabe and almost-Liberty-of-London scarves you gave Aunt Elvira. You’re right that she’s obsessively label-conscious, but she can also sniff out a fake faster than you can say “knock-off.”

In selecting gifts for retirees, think “consumables.” If you can eat it or drink it, you have a winner. Likewise if you can spray it or slather it. (We’re talking personal care products now, not sex aids or stuff you use to detail your car.)

When it comes to food, unless you’re intimately familiar with the recipient’s tastes, it’s best to avoid exotic items like pickled eggs and blowfish caviar. As for alcohol, you can also skip the caipirinha; everyone knows you’ve never been to Brazil.

If you can deliver it yourself, ice cream is a great gift for retirees. You’ll want to select an appropriate flavor, of course. To that end, refer to the RetirementSparks post of July 16, 2011. We especially recommend Bananayama, Oatmeal Delight or Prune Whip.

If you want to give something unusual in the alcohol realm, put together the fixings for a Mojito and pair it with one of Papa Hemingway’s books. (Mojitos were supposedly his fave.) Another good choice would be grenadine; pomegranates are the new healthy fruit. Be sure to include the recipe for a Tequila Sunrise and put in a copy of the Eagles Desperado CD—the song is on it.

As for products that get applied to the body, soothing creams and lotions are good choices. Stay away from Ben Gay, Gold Bond and anything that has ever been featured in the circular for a national drug store chain. Instead, buy something that one of your neighborhood artisans cooks up at home in her garage or bathtub. Remember: you help the economy when you buy local.

Think broadly about how we consume things. Your shopping list can include books, CDs and DVDs. Pair these creatively with other items. As mentioned above, combine them with food or drink around an appropriate theme.

Subscriptions are also something consumable, but make them unexpected. Instead of Aging Well, give Travel & Leisure. Never mind if they can’t afford to take any trips; in fact, all the better. If there’s one thing retirees are good at, it’s vicarious living.

Movie tickets are another smart idea, but don’t go for those packages that include popcorn and a large drink. Retirees and soda pop make a bad combination in a theatre, especially if the movie is longer than one hour.

This list should give you plenty of great ideas for holiday gifts for retirees. If you’re a last minute shopper, it could be a lifesaver. You can thank me after the New Year. Just don’t give me anything I’ll have to dust.

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