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Column: Contrary to the evidence, I expect retirement to be pretty nice

Former managing editor for the Lake Oswego Review, Beaverton Valley Times and The Times serving Tigard, Tualatin and Sherwood, Mikel Kelly now works on the central design desk for Community Newspapers and the Portland Tribune and continues to write an occasional column.Sometimes I get the feeling that I'm the only person my age who is not retired.

I know that isn't really true (and I don't even believe it's entirely bad), but it does seem that way.

At 65, I'm wise enough to know I really should wait another year or two at least before hanging up the old keyboard and turning to more respectable activities, like full-time busking in the downtown area, volunteering in the local schools or just, you know, stalking people for the adventure of it.

Conversations with financial planning type people have convinced me that I'm really not financially prepared for retirement — unless my plan consists solely of standing by a freeway ramp with a cardboard sign (“Recently retired. Please help.”)

Last week I received word that my cousin Dennis (originally from Portland but now living in the Seattle area) was finally leaving his very good (but tough) sales manager job. He's five years older than me, and he certainly has paid his dues.

Another cousin, Wayne, retired quite a while back, even though he's a couple of years younger than me. He spent his best years with a big-city police department and left it so beat up and damaged you'd swear he's a 20-year veteran of the NFL. He, too, paid more than his share of dues.

The other person who lives at our house and I have talked a lot in the last few years about our retirement plan. Because she's the brains of the outfit, I'm perfectly content to take her advice, which has traditionally been:

A. We work as long as we can, saving as much money as possible and postponing the point where we dip into any of our retirement accounts.

B. When we finally do retire, of course, our savings will last about the same length of time it takes a homeless alcoholic to go through a fifth of Crown Royal.

C. We'll live our final (few) days under a bridge, where we'll promptly be beaten up by bullies just to get the clothes we bought at Goodwill.

I don't know if I've mentioned this before, but the other person who lives at our house is pretty much a glass-half-empty sort of person.

I also ought to point out, for those just tuning in, why I refer to TOPWLAOH by that description and not her actual name. We have an agreement, you see: I don't mention her by name in the newspaper and she does not stab me in my sleep with a butcher knife.

See? Win-win.

My own scenario for how retirement is likely to go is quite different — even though A and B will still apply. We'll stick it out as long as possible, followed, of course, by a rapid exhaustion of our savings.

Then, I expect, we'll either win the lottery — which is not as far-fetched as you might think because we've spent a lifetime NOT playing the lottery, which I believe drastically increases our chances of actually winning big bucks.

I also expect other unlikely events to occur, saving us from the part where we move under that bridge.

I've told the other person who lives at our house that I fully expect to die rich, and quite by accident.

It could be revealed, I've told her in the past, that my dad invented underwear, and every time a pair of briefs (or boxers) is donned, he received a royalty. That money has never surfaced, so I expect to hear at any time from one of the primary banks in Prineville that there's quite a nest egg coming to me and my brothers.

There is also the chance that someone for whom the other person who lives at our house or I once did a kindness will die and leave us millions. We don't know who that is, but we've done a lot of that over the years, so I think it's just a matter of time.

Once in Pensacola, for example, we saw a drunk guy staggering around his car, which had run into the ditch and was quite stuck. We stopped to see if he needed a lift and he said yes, and as we were driving there, he said he wanted to pay us for our trouble, but we insisted no way would we accept anything, to which he added, “I'm just gonna throw this money up in the air and I don't know where it's gonna land.”

As soon as we got him to his destination and drove around the corner, we screeched to a stop and dove into the backseat of our VW bug to find he'd left a $20 bill. In those days, my friend, $20 was a lot of money. That kind of stuff can still happen.

As you may be figuring out, I am a glass-half-full sort of person.

For all I know, I could be discovered by a big-time talent scout if and when I ever get around to my downtown busking. Not only do I do my own patented versions of other people's songs, I have written quite a little pile of my own tunes — a high percentage of them about my adoration for the other person who lives at our house.

And that, too, could wind up being a huge source of wealth and satisfaction.

No, I'm pretty sure that retirement, if and when it gets here, is gonna be pretty sweet.



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