Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Will You Support Your Parents?, or, A Post That's Mostly Unrelated Footnotes

When you start wearing Crocs all the time,
it may be time to throw in the towel.
A recent study mentioned in the New York Times states that 35% of adults near retirement age expect to not retire at all. Their reasons for not being able to retire included, perhaps obviously, the need for the income that working provides and the insurance benefits that accompany working.*

I don't know about you, but whenever I read articles like this, I tend to reflect on the ideas put forth by personalizing those ideas. That is to say, how does this information affect me and mine?

To answer, let me start by stating that I'm pretty lucky to still have one set of grandparents alive and in relatively good health.** My grandpa still owns a laundromat which he continues to run at age 89 (though he relies more and more on my dad for the day to day duties). My grandma never really had a professional career, per se, though she did work various jobs in her life, and she also helps grandpa with the laundromat. So, while I suppose you might consider my grandma retired, my grandpa is not retired by his own choice.

And bully for him! If we're being honest, owning a laundromat is almost as passive an investment as running a business can be. Further, I don't know that grandpa needs the money that the business brings in at this point; while I'm not privy to all his finances, I don't think they're hurting. As an example, five years ago, grandpa bought the land his business is on, and three or so years ago, grandpa bought grandma a bigger house (as our family grows, so too do family holiday gatherings). In talking with grandma a few months ago, she seemed to think both of those purchases were pretty much paid off. For grandpa, continuing to have the business seems like it's his choice to help provide for our family even after he's gone.

With all that said, I wonder how many of the 35% of people in that survey are like my grandpa, who have sweet, relatively easy gigs?*** I suspect he's probably more of the exception.

However, when it comes to my parents, I don't think they're quite as set. My dad (69) retired a couple of years ago, but he still gets called in from time to time to his old work as well as helping out at grandpa's store. My mom still works during the school year. Again, while I don't know everything about their finances, I estimate that they have some money in retirement accounts, but what's there may not be enough to live on (for what I'm hoping will be a long time). On the plus side, they'll both get Social Security, and the house that they live in (that I grew up in) is nearly paid off.****

Still, I think my parents will probably be okay when they both retire. I know my mom could have started receiving Social Security benefits a few years ago, but it looks like she's planning on working at least one more year so her Social Security checks will increase.*****

So, I think that I'm in sort of lucky place. My family seems like it will be able to continue to provide for themselves into their twilight years. Still, I wonder if I should start saving a little extra money for my parents in the event that they run out of money.

What do you think? Are any of you planning on supporting your parents? Should you be? Should I be? Let me know in the comments.

*Not to get too political, but Obama wanted free healthcare for Americans, and, instead, we got legislation that says, "Buy health insurance or else we'll, fine, er, tax you." I have a hard time believing either party is happy with that outcome. After all, when not having health insurance is outlawed, only outlaws won't have health insurance. Maybe I'll drop off the plan I'm on so that I can get "Thug Life" tattooed across my chest.
**I'm very lucky in the case of my grandfather; three months ago it looked like he was going to die in a matter of days. His doctor told my family that he was just getting old and that his body was starting to shut down. It's worth noting that this is the same doctor that "missed" my dad's cancer. My parents eventually took him to the emergency room, where they, too, were unable to figure out what was wrong with him, but, not willing to give up, they took him off the various medications he was on, and he immediately regained strength and started to get better. The short of it is, a pharmacist had mislabeled grandpa's blood-thinning medication, and so grandpa was taking twice as much he should have been. The old saying is that blood is thicker than water, but it seems like there was a time for grandpa where water was thicker than his blood.
***I don't think it's 100% easy, though I do think the primary difficulty in starting a laundromat is the start up costs. Commercial washers and dryers aren't cheap, and they do need to be replaced eventually. That said, I do think the day to day aspects of running a laundromat are pretty easy.
****That said, a house as a retirement asset doesn't always seem like a great idea. After all, how many people lost 40% of their home equity in 2007-2008 that were hoping to retire? Also, if you sell your house, where will you live?
*****Eligibility for Social Security renews each year in January, so, for you extreme penny pinchers out there who are worried about your kid's retirement, you might want to start "getting busy" around March or April so you can get a January baby who will be able to suckle on the government retirement teat as quickly as possible. My dad with his December birthday had to wait nearly a whole extra year to retire.

Photo by boliston.

Monday, August 13, 2012

On Eating Out - A Tale of Two Families

"See, and if there's 6 or more, we'll charge an extra 18%!
It's brilliant!"
Both my family and my wife's family live far away from the San Diego area, so when either set of family comes to visit, my wife and I are on the hook to find exciting things to do and fun places to eat (services that Yelp and I are happy to provide).

For meals especially, my family tends to have positive experiences. For instance, they were in town yesterday, and we ate breakfast at this charming little cafe. The food was delicious, it came in a timely manner, and the waitress even squeezed fresh orange juice for me after I had requested some and been told that they had run out. We also went out to dinner the night before, and we had a similarly excellent meal (in which we were comped a dessert).

However, when I go out to eat with my in-laws, we almost uniformly have a bad time, usually in regards to service.

Now, I know what you're thinking. If one family is always treated well and the other is always treated poorly, it stands to reason that each family is getting back what it's putting out there. I've spent a fair amount of time thinking about just this topic, and, honestly, I think both families are equally as friendly. While my dad is one of the most gregarious people I've ever met, it's not like my in-laws are sullen cranks. I really think both groups are pleasant and polite.

As an example of what happens when I go out with my in-laws, last week (yes, I've eaten out a lot in the last week -- both sets of parents were here on different days for different reasons) my wife and I suggested that we go out with her family to this restaurant that my wife and I had eaten at previously and had had a good experience at.

We went on a night that wasn't busy (I think there were maybe two or three other groups there, not counting the handful of folks at the bar). We called ahead for reservations (it's kind of a swanky place, and we were bringing some aunts and uncles in addition to my wife's parents), and this was our experience.

It took probably forty-five minutes to an hour for our orders to be taken.

The food was good, but it took a long time to come out.

Finally, the waiter refused to split up our bill, even though it was obvious that there were probably 5 groups that wanted to pay separately (the math portion of this comic is so, so right on). I assume this was due to the automatic 18% gratuity due to the size of our party, and if he had split the checks, that might not have come through. This event in itself probably added 30-45 minutes to our evening because we had to go back through the bill, figure out who ordered what, and assign each a percentage of the gratuity and tax.

I don't know, when I write it out, it might not seem so bad, but I was pretty frustrated at the time (first world problems, right?). Even though it was a leisurely-paced meal where the family was mostly concerned with catching up, certainly a three-hour-dinner implies something about bad service, doesn't it? Maybe I'm just being cranky, but when we pay close to $50 per head, I expect to have an easy-going, pleasant experience.

On the other hand, maybe I'm just over-sensitive because I especially want my in-laws to have a good time (you know, so they'll like me).

What do you think? Do any of you ever have consistently bad experiences with one group of people when you go out versus consistently good experiences when you go out with a different group of people? Am I just crazy? Let me know in the comments.

Photo by Seattle Municipal Archives.