Category Archives: Financial Planning

The River as Life

Barbara Brady

To get us all in the mood for summer, here’s a piece from Barbara Brady about a trip down the Green River last summer that also teaches some good life lessons.

It was a perfect July day:  84 degrees and sunny. The water was high and moving fast as each of us lowered ourselves into the inner tubes that would carry us down the Green River in Saluda, NC over the next 2 ½ hours. After careening over several patches of white water, I felt bliss, connected to the blue sky, trees, dragonflies swooping down on us, the gurgling, rushing sounds of the white water, and our group of friends. I felt awe at the power of the river, but I also started seeing it as a metaphor for life.

When it’s moving fast, you don’t want to buck the current, but you need to trust and go with the flow. On this trip, I noticed that, while I usually let the river take me where it wanted, at times I tried to steer with my hands. A few times I stayed in place, paddling my hands against the current until others caught up. And it got tiring. I wondered how often we use others as our excuse to not go when life is beckoning, and in what other ways we hold ourselves back from letting ourselves completely go with the flow of life. At one point, a friend and I were on the river’s edge, holding on to separate branches, waiting for the others. When it was time to get back in the main flow, she told me to let go and she’d catch me. I tried reaching for her, forgetting I was still holding onto the branch. She reminded me: “Let go of the branch!” I let go, and she easily caught me and pushed me towards the middle of the river. Of course! You can’t let the river take you or someone help you if you’re still holding on to something on the side.

At the end, I floated right past our landing point.  And, once out of the tube, I found myself over my head. The tube bobbed downstream. I tried swimming against the current to the other side but made little headway, with sneakers weighing me down and an empty plastic water bottle in one hand. Panicking, I screamed for help, and a woman swam to me and finally got us out. I relearned the necessity of asking, even yelling for help when I’m in over my head, not taking anything that will weigh me down on my journey, and letting go of extraneous stuff (the water bottle) that’s keeping me from living life fully. I also learned the folly of tubing without a life preserver!

So how about you? In what ways are you resisting where life is calling you to next? How often do you try to control your direction rather than allow life to lead and show you the way? What are those things you’re holding onto (attachments, resentment, worry), that are keeping you on life’s edge vs. in the flow of life? How often do you ask for help when you need it?

Check out “Find the River” by R.E.M.:



Nice People Behaving Badly?


One of the newspapers delivered daily to my home is the WSJ.  Oddly enough, I don’t read it for the Money and Investing section but the front page news.  I also enjoy the marketing and technology trends, recipes, and the wonderful week-end section.  And, I usually let the papers pile up and read a few at a time, making the news outdated.  I don’t care, it’s always interesting in the present moment when I’m reading it.  One article, last week, that raised an eyebrow had to do with baby boomers.

Securities regulators and prosecutors are battling what they say is a nationwide surge

in investment fraud against baby boomers.  In many cases, the victims pursued risky bets to

overcome losses suffered during the

financial crisis—a trend that regulators say is worsening. 

Wall Street Journal, December 14, 2011

I'm not home!

Now that’s scary.  I always thought it was  “old people” who got suckered into scams.

Is my generation that gullible?

Well, it seems some of us cared about our future and that makes us vulnerable.  It also forces some otherwise good people to behave badly.


I got somewhat scammed myself recently.  I hired someone I knew for a small remodeling job in my kitchen (cabinets and a concrete countertop).  I paid her a deposit after I paid her in full for the finished cabinets.  I’d like to mention she asked to be paid in full when the job wasn’t even complete, and I did.  Then, she made samples for the countertop and after 8 – I could not approve one of them.  Nothing popped out at me, and I got tired of not having a countertop for weeks on end and honestly didn’t think after 8 tries, she could produce a good one.  So,  I decided to go with granite – something she did not do.

I apologized for not liking the samples and asked for my deposit back.  Well, this friendly remodeler basically told me to f—off.  She claimed the samples cost money and she bought the materials (concrete) already and I had to pay for that.  I went back to the contract which did not say I had to pay for samples or material in advance, or that the deposit was non-refundable.  To end the dilemma, I offered to split the deposit with her – for her troubles – and she basically said to to f–off.

Judge Judy

I’m guessing if the remodeling business was booming, this contractor would give my deposit back, but in this economy she’s behaving badly.  I informed her I was going to file a complaint in small claims court because I can’t afford to lose that deposit, but she doesn’t seem to care.  Now I will let a judge decide our fate.

What would Judge Judy say?  Is this a case of nice people behaving badly?

Paying for a College Education in this Country

Allow me to rant.  I don’t know how many of you out there are in my same boat:  approaching 60 years old but nowhere near retirement, due, in large part, to student loan debt!  When I was younger, in my early days of working, I always imagined that when I was approaching 60, I’d  be winding down, getting ready to do projects like putting old pictures into albums or organizing my closet. But here I am, 57 years old, and, instead of picking out a retirement village or planning a cruise down the Nile, I’m putting in my 40 hours a week and, even with that, trying to figure out how we’re going to pay tuition for another 9 years—at a minimum—for our 3 kids who are still in college!

Here’s our story, but all you have to do is change the small details and you’re hearing the story of lots of so-called “middle class” people in America: my husband and I both attended graduate school using student loans.  Since we married fairly late—and, as a result, had kids fairly quickly—and therefore couldn’t earn as much as we might have if we’d gotten an earlier start on things—we  couldn’t pay off those student loans until we were well into our forties.  So, about the time we got completely free of our own student loan debt, we had only a few years before we had to take on new debt to help our kids go to college.  And why did we have to take on that new debt?  Because we made enough income at that point to not qualify for the kind of financial aid that could have made it possible for us to do it without loans.  In fact, we would have had to live at or near the poverty level to qualify for that kind of financial aid!


And, in case you’re wondering: the debt is pretty much the same, no matter where your kids go to school—unless he/she qualifies for a few amazing scholarships that are out there for the straight-A kids who play six instruments and five sports and started their own non-profit while in the 9th grade!  The fancy private schools offer great financial aid, if they have good endowments—but that only brings down their massive tuition to the same level as the public schools—and the public schools offer only minimal financial aid.  We’ve had kids at a big public university and at two small, liberal arts colleges—and the bill has, in each case, been about the same.


I have to say: it’s not hard to envision a time when our colleges, especially fancy private ones like Yale or Princeton or Duke or Davidson, will have as their student body a mix of only extremely wealthy kids, whose parents can pay their way, and extremely poor kids on scholarship. It’s happening!


Continue reading Paying for a College Education in this Country

Americans Are Obsessed With Challenges

I'm so challenged

I spent the last two weeks at home with a terrible case of bronchitis.   Too sick and contagious to work, I vegged out on the couch and spent my time watching daytime T.V.  Now that’s an experience, especially for us baby boomers.


I watched the last episodes of the Oprah Winfrey Show, lots of Dr. Oz (both shows are great for women over 50); morning talk shows; afternoon talk shows; The Lifetime Channel; The Classic Movie Channel; and of course all the commercials – and there are many.  All this shows led me to the discovery that our country is obsessed with challenges.  Why? I ask.  Isn’t living life itself challenging enough?  Why do we have to break it down?  Give it a name? The media is so good at seducing us with “challenges” and the products we need to overcome them.  Here are some of the tempting challenges even I contemplated while lying on the couch.

  • The weight loss challenge (by far the most numerous) I was particularly drawn to the Dr. Oz challenge to reboot your body in just two weeks!  He also has the ultimate anti-ageing challenge, and the sleep challenge, too.
  • Jillian Michaels fitness challenge
  • Dr.Phil’s family weight loss challenge
  • Here’s one I like, it’s twofold: anti-ageing and it will give you a new career while going to Botox school:
  • Suze Orman has the ultimate financial challenge, plus  mini ones where you can save $100/mo:
  • The teeth whitening challenge sponsored by Arm and Hammer:

Well, here’s my response to all this.  Really people?  Just take an anti-depressant and get on with it.


Here's a Dare!