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My Answer To “Do You Have Enough Money For Retirement?”

It doesn’t matter who or what you believe is responsible for creating the universe but among many screw ups in the process including famine, pestilence, war, poverty, violence and TikTok, I would suggest one that’s been gnawing at me since I reached “that age.”

You know, that age where you’re pestered with emails and snail mails asking the unanswerable question, “do you have enough money to last through your retirement?” The short answer is another question, how the hell should I know?

I posit I WOULD know if I had enough money to last my retirement if I knew how long I would be retired, meaning how long until I no longer need money, which is the day I actually retire, from life.

My wife and I started preparing for retirement almost as soon as we got married back in 1973. We didn’t actually have much money to save because I worked as a radio DJ in a little town in upstate New York. The station’s finances were so precarious the general manager had to borrow money from his mother to pay us one time.

A few years later came the welcome introduction of Individual Retirement Accounts—IRAs. This was good because little radio stations did not offer pensions or 401 (k)s since they knew there would be a high staffing turnover and mainly because they are notoriously cheap.

We hopped on the IRA train right away and stayed with it. As my career progressed and I worked for bigger companies our retirement savings options grew. By the time I walked out of my last full-time job into retirement in 2016 we were in good shape to weather the rainy days for which we saved.

Unlike weather forecasts using scientific instruments, balloons and satellites to predict when the rain will start and stop, figuring out how long you’ll be around enough to need money is a crap shoot. Oh sure, there are insurance and actuarial tables that attempt to predict a person’s life span based on age, health, lifestyle and genetics but really, would you base your personal planning on those?

“Hmm..well dear, no vacation this year because the insurance table says I’m outta here by May, so I’m gonna spend like crazy till then because I’ll only need money for two more months. Good to know! I’m off to the Lamborghini dealer.”

So you spend six figures on a new Lambo and ha! You’re not dead in two months and now you’re broke. Wellllll…..I guess that means you did NOT have enough money to last your entire retirement. Who knew?

Which brings me back to my original point. It would have been helpful if the generic Creator could have included some sort of countdown meter when putting together the human race.

It would be helpful to know how much time you have for so many things: How long to complete that bucket list, whether or not to renew your library books, deciding you don’t have enough time on the clock to sit through “The English Patient,” urgency to cut off someone telling a long, boring story and yes, how much longer you’re going to need money in the piggy bank to get you through your entire run.

Think of how easy this would make things. You’re feeling good, living life, you check your internal countdown clock, notice your savings is looking a little low and realize, crap, I have to feed the meter! Time to grab an orange apron for that part-time job at Home Depot. You’re back in the game. Hell..there may even be an app for that. It all makes sense to me.

Not Springing or Falling. Introducing My Personal Time Zone

I’m not doing it. I’m not springing ahead, falling back, standing on my head or manipulating my many clocks, watches and other time-displaying devices in any way. Everything is staying the same.

Welcome to EdST—no, not Eastern Standard Time. I now live on Ed Standard Time. You can too. It’s easy. Even use your own name.

People in Arizona actually already live on EdST because that state’s government was smart enough to legislate it. They never change. Half the year they’re on Mountain Standard Time and when everyone else falls back an hour the fine folks in the Grand Canyon State are on Pacific Standard Time.

I lived in Arizona for three years and had no trouble with this. Now I’m adopting it from my home in Michigan which is nominally on Eastern time.

Here’s how it works. I just make believe I’m traveling. My base time is what everyone else calls Daylight Saving Time because I like it lighter later. When folks elsewhere fall back an hour into Standard time, they’re an hour behind me…just like folks in Central time, except those in Central time are now two hours behind me. When they revert to Daylight Saving time in the spring, they’re back to being an hour behind me.

It’s not that hard to keep track of the changes. Just make believe you’re on vacation in another time zone and do the math. So if I have an appointment scheduled for 10am EST in November, that’s just 11am EdST because I haven’t “fallen back.” In the spring when everyone else “springs ahead” I’m already there so it’s 10am for all. Easy, right?

By not screwing with the clock my circadian rhythms aren’t upset, I can sleep better and I’ve saved myself from the bother and time-wasting chore of turning my clocks forwards and backwards twice a year. I don’t turn my clocks. I turn my cheek from this needless chronology manipulation.

While I’ve amused myself by creating my own time zone I’d truly rather not go through the exercise since it would makes so much more sense to just join Arizona in letting time stand still.

Yeah, yeah, be hypertechnical and point out a portion of the northeast corner of the state still does the “fall back, spring ahead two-step.” The Navajo reservation observes Daylight Saving Time, the Hopi reservation which it surrounds does not. So if you drive from outside the reservations through both and out again you have to adjust the clock in your car four times! Makes one yearn for universal use of the sundial which cannot be adjusted, but is useless at night. Then again a sundial doesn’t blink idiotically when the power goes out.

The truth is, all this falling and springing is a nuisance that not only wastes time but is patently unhealthy. But I’m over it. I’m making time stand still on Ed Standard Time…and not losing, or gaining, any sleep over it.

Me and the Queen’s Shared Milestone

Hear ye, hear ye! It is hereby noted on the occasion of Queen Elizabeth II’s 70th anniversary of her reign, it is noted her ascension to the throne occurred just two days before the birth of a short little shlub in Woodbury, New Jersey whose parents mercifully moved back to their native New York City just six months later, thereby avoiding any memory whatsoever for their infant son of his Garden State origins.

Indeed, many years later when registering to vote after moving to Tucson, Arizona, he stated his place of birth as New York City which prompted a laugh from his wife who took joy in correcting him while the elections official smirked.

Though his years have paralleled the monarch’s reign their lives took wildly divergent paths. She has sat upon a throne in royal majesty. He has done so in almost daily episodes of, ahem, blessed relief.

While the matriarch of the House of Windsor has ruled as the Queen of her Castle, the knish-noshing 1965 Bar Mitzvah boy has been steadfast as Master of His Domain.

As monarch of the United Kingdom and its affiliated kipper cafe’s she and her late husband spawned offspring of which only only one, Prince Edward, obviously named after this writer, actually works for a living. Princess Anne was once an accomplished horsewoman as opposed to her eldest brother and heir to the throne Prince Charlie, who is simply a horse’s ass. Prince Andrew is a persona non grata after making a poor choice of friends in the late Jeffrey Epstein and who, by the way, lives with his ex-wife, Sarah Ferguson whom he divorced in 1996.

This writer has been married almost 49 years to an obviously patient and tolerant saint of Irish descent who has dutifully learned key Yiddish phrases such as “I’m schvitzing!” “Oy vey is mir!” and developed a taste for pastrami and matzoh farfel, while he never allows the supply of Jamesons to run dry.

They have two grown eventual replacements…a man and woman both in their 30’s who provide much joy as well as themselves as convenient heirs but no grandchildren which is good because neither this writer nor his amazing spouse who remain youthful in appearance and bearing will accept being called “grandma” or “grandpa.” We do, however, accept senior discounts.

In comparing this writer’s accomplishments with the Queen’s, there’s really no comparison. She got right to work in 1952, waving demurely with that little wrist pivot, and mostly made her subjects happy while providing a lucrative tourist attraction for her country.

He mainly played stick ball, came close to failing math three times and played in two garage bands—the Scenics and Purple Perception, both of which promptly went from the garage to the scrap heap, before landing his first job as CIT at a day camp for the princely sum of $25 plus tips for the summer, moving on to a part-time job during high school as a linens and domestics stock boy at a local department store which provided an apt foundation for his eventual career as a journalist.

Somehow he took a turn to the “dark side” doing PR for a car company that couldn’t hang onto an owner starting as DaimlerChrysler then Chrysler LLC then Fiat Chrysler and now they’re hooked up with the French and sporting a corporate name that sounds more like a treatment for eczema. He mercifully retired in 2016, several years before this latest metamorphosis.

Yes, seven decades is a considerable amount of time and leads to episodes of reflection and napping. I give Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II heartfelt congratulations on her ability to remain alive…and myself cudos for remaining… awake.

The Ex-University of Michigan President’s Lurid Use of My Favorite Food

I have no connection with the University of Michigan but I do have a strong tie to one of the elements of the story of the firing of its flirty president. You see, I’m an avid advocate, indeed, defender and consumer of the unfortunate third party in this affair.

If you’ve been following this story at all, you know of which I speak. If not, here’s what now-ex U of M President Mark Schlissel improperly emailed a subordinate in hopes of luring her to a rendezvous: “[I] can lure you to visit with the promise of a knish?”

Schlissel had apparently received a box of knishes as a gift and decided, apparently, the quickest way to a woman’s heart was through the promise of a potato pastry. The romantic beast!

Along with disgust for the overall behavior of the horny pedagogue preying on a subordinate I take offense at placing one of my favorite foods in the entire world in the middle of this scandal.

I don’t just like knishes, I chase them, capture them, cook them and devour them. It started during my upbringing in NYC where a hot, fresh knish filled with either potato, kasha, or a combination of potato and meat could bought from a street vendor in Manhattan.

The vendor wrap the knish in wax paper and, if you wished, I didn’t, would be happy to squirt mustard on it. Cost a quarter. The combination of the wonderful smell from his charcoal heater and the intoxicating fragrance of the hot pastry did what much more expensive edibles from you neighborhood dispensary can only partially achieve.

Whether in Manhattan or in Queens, where I actually lived, you could walk up to the takeout window of your neighborhood kosher deli. The window was strategically placed next to the grill so you could smell the Hebrew National frankfurters, not hot dogs, and knishes cooking as you fruitlessly attempted to just walk by.

A moment later, you had just coughed up a buck for a frank, knish and a Dr. Brown’s cream soda.

When my wife and I moved out of New York State to Tucson, Arizona we were hard pressed to find a kosher deli, let alone knishes. But not far from the University of Arizona there was, indeed, such a place.

My wife, who is not Jewish, and doesn’t look it either, went there one day to buy our Passover foods, including knishes. She used the proper pronunciation—kuh-NISH. The person behind the counter who may also not have been of the Tribe thought she made a mistake and attempted to correct my wife with, “Oh honey…it’s not kuh-NISH…it’s NISH! You know, the KN combo like Knife.”

To this day we laugh about that and sometimes just call them NISHES for the fun of it. We have a low bar for “fun.”

We’ve now lived in Michigan in suburban Detroit for 33 years where there’s a large and active Jewish population. You would think it would be easy to find knishes here. It used to be pretty easy. You could find decent frozen knishes in the grocery store, but no more.

For several years we would go across town to a kosher food store in Oak Park, an enclave of orthodox Jewish folks. You could find a box of a dozen small knishes for about $11. Not bad, except the knishes were these little round hockey-puck sized things with an armor-like crust and tasteless filling. But any knish in a sturm so we’d suffer with those.

At a gourmet food store you could find what looked like excellent knishes but 3 for $17? Oy! The kosher-style delis around town would sell you a pretty good knish for $4 or $5 apiece, but that still seemed a bit high if you’re just looking to stock up on a few to eat later.

We looked into buying knishes online. The initial price was fine but the shipping was as much as 30 bucks because they had to be packed in dry ice.

I finally found what amounts to a sort of traditional knish at a combo produce and food store—four knishes for about $7. Still more than the bargain box from across down. They’re not as big as those I enjoyed from New Yawk street vendors but the crust is just right, the potato filling is tasty and the store is only 15 minutes from my house.

I don’t know what brand knish was gifted ex-U of M prez Schlissel but I’d have to imagine if he was attempting to lure a potential paramour with a potato pastry he was pretty confident it was a winner.

But honestly, that’s pretty icky. Can you imagine believing you could score a date with the offer of spuds in a crust? “That’s all I got!. What, you wanna a frankfurter too?”

Hmm..well, it’s kept our marriage going for almost 50 years. There’s gotta be something to it, but I’m not one to knish and tell.

The Sour Saga of the Disappearing Diet Soda

Dr. Pepper zero flavors Credit: Dr. Pepper

I don’t often drink soda (I’m originally from NYC and that’s what I will ALWAYS call it), but when I do it’s always the kind that doesn’t make you fat, but can kill you via its cancer-causing sugar substitutes. I’m determined to leave this world no wider than a 34-inch waist. Who knows? The gatekeepers in Heaven may be former tailors standing at the Pearly Gates with a tape measure.

Just as millions of other like-minded soda drinkers who prefer the no-calorie variety of this awful liquid, I search the grocery store aisle for the “diet” version. Diet Coke! Diet Pepsi! Diet Dr. Pepper! I honestly don’t care. I like ’em all because my taste buds have been forever neutralized from years of drinking this dreck. I drink ’em cause they’re cold and mostly caffeinated.

But now, suddenly, I cannot find my favored diet soda. Oh, I’m told, it’s there, but sporting new labels without the word “diet”. These diet sodas are now branded “Zero Sugar,” or “No Sugar” but should more properly be labeled “Too Woke But Can Still Make You Croak.”

I was recently informed by a millennial in my family that the word “diet” is frowned upon as a form of body shaming those who might actually benefit from losing a few lbs by ingesting more diet stuff instead of stuffing themselves.

“Younger people just don’t like the word ‘diet,” said Greg Lyons, chief marketing officer at PepsiCo Beverages North America, in a recent CNN.com story. “No Gen Z wants to be on a diet these days,” he continued.

Oh sure, they don’t want to be on diets but they’re still actually dieting even though they can’t stomach the word for it. What else would you call it? “Fat food intake reduction?” “Putrid-system?” “Body Freight Watchers?”

There’s really no stigma to the word diet. Does anyone take umbrage at the profession of dietitian? These are highly skilled professionals who help folks eat healthier..by improving their diets…so maybe they don’t have to go… on diets. It’s a perfectly proper term!

Here’s the other thing. The soda now branded as zero or no sugar is the same exact swill as previously labeled diet soda. Who ya foolin’ here? Now don’t get me wrong. You don’t have to be “on a diet” to drink diet soda. Maybe you just want to reduce your sugar intake or are attempting to prevent your teeth from prematurely disintegrating. Really hard to whistle without choppers.

I know there are much more important subjects to rail on but I’m weary of this steady diet of this no-sugar nonsense. It’s just left a sour taste in my mouth.

Check…Please!

I’m afraid I caused quite a ruckus the other day at the eyeglass place. When it came time to pay for my new frames and lenses I whipped out a check. You would have thought I had presented the optician/cashier a hold up note.

But no, I simply chose to pay for my new glasses using a piece of paper with pretty colors on it and places in which to inscribe important information including how much money the eyeglass place would get in return for providing me with the optical appliance necessary for me to read my exorbitant bill or to avoid bumping into utility poles or street urchins.

Here’s how it went down. The optician presents me with my bill. I present her with a check for required amount. Couldn’t be easier. But oh, it could. Her once confident demeanor crumbled into total doubt. Her eyes darted then settled on her computer monitor as she furiously started tapping keys.

“I’m gonna see if I can log into the check system. We haven’t used it, like, ever,” she informed me. “OK…it’s….just….churning.”

Starting to panic she asked her colleague at the next station for help.

“Your customer is paying by check?” the colleague asked with a look of total incredulity. “Who pays by check?” she continued as her voice rose. “Let me try.”

Same deal. Now I’ve got two optician/cashiers with workstations churning and rumbling and refusing to perform any task related to entering my payment by check. I’m actually kind of enjoying this because I know where it’s going.

I figured I’d toss a lifeline. “Wanna use my credit card?” I offered with a goofy smile.

“Too late,” my original optician/cashier said. “Once the process has begun you can’t undo it.”

Oh. Seemed like the “process” was not actually proceeding.

Then she suddenly ran away for a few minutes finally returning with a printout and a relieved look.

“OK…we did it. Needed a supervisor to do her magic. It’s done,” she said, obviously thankful her dealings with a, shall we say, “traditionalist” Boomer were almost complete.

Just a few weeks earlier, when I presented a check to pay for service to my car, the guy at the dealership whines to me, “you know how much extra work you’re causing me paying by check?” Poor snowflake! Here’s my license, do the thing!

When I told my millennial daughter about these episodes she was not sympathetic.

“What is wrong with you? No one pays by check, or even with money! Do it on your phone like normal people. Or at least use a credit card!” she scolded me.

My wife and I find it extremely easy to keep our records straight using them, you can’t hack paper and our information is never lost or compromised. Plus, the ones we ordered have pretty colors and we ordered a million of ’em so we’re pretty committed to paying by check for a good, long time. And yes, we do use credit cards…and pay our bill by check.

Now don’t peg us as old fart Luddites. We use all the latest technology as it suits us. Smartphones, computers, tablets, Bluetooth, big ass LCD TV, online reservations and purchases…. everything…but we stick with our check for some things.

Oh, we’re not alone. Here’s the kicker. There was a guy of similar, um, vintage to me sitting at the next station at the eyeglass place. Just as my challenging transaction was wrapping up, the man was given his total.

“Oh, sure. Who do I make out the check to?” he asked. I smiled the whole way home.

A Lesson From Columbine I Witnessed First Hand

I’d like to offer some hope for good things to come for the students at Oxford High School. I’m not quite your neighbor but I live less than an hour away and know your town.

I didn’t cover the Columbine shooting during my time at CNN but six months after the tragedy I was assigned to go out there to cover a football game. Columbine was going to play heavily favored rival Cherry Creek for the Colorado state championship.

I won’t write any more. Please view my story. It just proves a miracle can happen when you most need one.

White Hanukkah? Who Dreamt That?

This isn’t going according to the script. Who dreams of a white Hanukkah? Certainly not me. In the spirit of my heritage snow falling on a Jewish holiday can only mean one thing—a new reason to kvetch. What? I’m supposed to schlep to the deli for pastrami, rye and latkes for our first night meal when it’s cold and slippery?

Yeah, yeah, I’ll do it because my family depends on me to provide, but honestly, my wife’s a shiksa so she doesn’t exactly have skin in the game. Or so you’d think. But after 48 years of marriage she’s come to embrace our customs—especially those involving fatty smoked meats heavy baked goods and the implied accompaniment of sweet wine.

On Passover she sits through the seder to both respect my holiday and snag four glasses of Manischewitz… as directed in the Hagaddah. She now believes in the “associative law of Jewish holiday imbibing,” which she interprets as “who cares what holiday, pour the wine!”

It’s not enough to make her convert but compelling enough to win her blind obedience. In turn, I participate in ravenous ingestion of her incomparable honey and anise Christmas cookies. We must respect each other’s faiths and customs!

So here it is, the first night of Hanukkah with the snow falling. It’s not much. I stuck my finger in the flakes accumulated in my driveway and they’re barely deep enough to cover my first knuckle. Of course I did this without my gloves on so now I can kvetch about how cold my finger/snow gauge is. I was advised by my caring family to stick it somewhere warm. I love the holidays!

But let’s face it, at heart I’m a sucker for a snow scene, since that’s the background my mother chose when she had my picture taken at the department store photo studio in 1962. The photo is long gone. The scars aren’t.

That’s all tsurus under the bridge. We will enjoy the view…from the warmth of our home, light the candles then settle into binging episodes of “Superstore” because this holiday is all about miracles and when no one expected this wonderful, wacky series to last more than one season, it lasted six. A blessing!

To all who celebrate, enjoy your Hanukkah. To those who don’t…feh! Nah..I’ll see you at Christmas…maybe it’ll be white, just the way you sickies like it.

When Jury Duty Calls…and Cancels

Instead of writing this, I thought I would be spending today in court. Maybe tomorrow and the next day too. I was actually a little excited when I received the notice a few weeks ago that I had to report for jury duty this week. I always enjoyed covering court cases when I was a full-time reporter and now that I’m semi-retired I have plenty of time to perform my civic duty.

I was also looking forward to seeing the jury experience from the inside after covering so many trials.

But when I called the special number Sunday to find out when to report the recording said no juries were needed this week so we were all off the hook. It’s not surprising. This particular district court is located in one of the highest income and low-crime areas of Michigan.

However I was so looking forward to sitting on a panel scrutinizing arguments in what I imagine would be typical offenses in such a tony area such as someone criminally mismanaging their portfolios, a catering service providing unmemorable canapes at a pre-schooler’s snooty graduation banquet or a socialite suing a groomer for insufficient poodle fluffing.

This being Thanksgiving week, there may have even been a charge of counterfeit stuffing preparation. Swapping Stove Top for homemade? A major felony in this zip code!

No grisly crime scene or autopsy photos in this courtroom although I had heard tales of past juries being horrified by being subjected to images ill-kept spreadsheets.

This would not have been my first jury service. I did actually have the opportunity to be selected for a case several years ago in county court. The trial lasted one day. It shouldn’t have happened at all.

The defendant was facing his second drunk driving offense. The entire police pursuit was on video. The guy was weaving all over the road and when they stopped him he failed the field sobriety test quite convincingly. Open and shut but he opted for a jury trial hoping, what? We’d think the incriminating video was just a guy doing the “drunk dance” on Tic Tok?

His poor lawyer did his best to toss in a red herring argument his client was a victim of police malpractice because when they hauled him in for booking the precinct video camera wasn’t working to record the process.

“Ha!,” the lawyer exclaimed as he looked each of us on the jury in the eye. “They can’t prove they read my client his rights and other important stuff because there’s no video! You have to find him not guilty!” We could have found the lawyer of misdemeanor “trying to pull a hopeless case out of your ass.”

Once we were handed the case the preponderance of evidence, meaning the video, made our job easy. The defendant was guilty as hell. But you can’t just say you have a verdict 30 seconds after deliberating so we asked to be shown all the videos again “just to make sure.”

One juror was not amused by our sense of responsibility and announced, “this needs to wrap up by 1 because I gotta pick up my son.” As it was only 9:30am when she imposed this “deadline” on us none of the jurors were the least intimidated since there really wasn’t much to discuss.

“Hell, we’ll be done by 10!” announced the foreman who “won” that honor by looking around at the rest of us and deadpanned, “none of you look like leaders, so I’ll be the foreman.”

We watched the video a couple more times because a few insurgents just wanted to find a way to stay away from work a little longer.

Finally, we could no longer justifiably stall any longer, and after all, the whole process was about speedy justice. We took a vote and signaled the bailiff we were done.

He led us back across the hall from the jury room to the courtroom where the foreman announced our guilty verdict. There was no drama. None of the six people present were the least bit surprised. They’d all seen the video. The defense attorney patted the back of his now-convicted client ostensibly to hide his true feeling the guy was a two-time loser and will find some excuse to welch on his legal fees after paying a hefty fine.

One of the courtroom spectators who seemed to know the losing attorney walked up to him and with a sick smile said, “Hey Larry. Can’t believe you used that bullshit ‘no camera in the cop shop defense!’” Larry mumbled “for what this guy is paying me it’s all I had.”

While the judge thanked us effusively for our service the mom on a deadline muttered to herself, “let’s go, let’s go, let’s go, boy’s waiting.” The juror next to her smirked. When the judge finally excused us we quickly left the courtroom flush with the belief we performed our civic duty with distinction and expedience and new respect for the jury system where one’s fate may rest in the hands of a carpooling parent who needed to teach her kid about the wonders of Uber.

Update: It’s Time For the NFL To Pull the Detroit Franchise..NOW

edLINES

This post was originally published November 23, 2020. Almost a year has passed but the urgency to pull the Detroit franchise from its longtime, losing ownership is more imperative than ever after this Sunday’s embarrassment at the hands of another losing team, the Philadelphia Eagles. Roger Goodell….do it now. Don’t wait for the season to end.

Here’s the original post.

Call it a coincidence but the Detroit Lions embarrassing whitewashing 20-0 to the Carolina Panthers on Sunday was exactly 57 years to the day Pres. John F. Kennedy was assassinated, thereby ending the idyllic era that became known as Camelot. It was also on that fateful day the franchise came under the sole ownership of the late William Clay Ford, ending the era of hope for Detroit Lions fans.

Since the Ford family took ownership of the team more than a half-century ago, the Detroit Lions, the City of Detroit…

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