Today's my birthday. Do I want to celebrate? I think I already did by taking a tip that I give to other people.


For the past few years, I have been offering all kinds of information related to financial planning and financial services. For the most part, I have pretty much ascribed to what I have been imparting but recently I did something that no one would expect.


Let me backtrack a bit. Most financial gurus and actually anybody with any sense, would tell you that before you hang up your spikes--and barring the winning of Mega Millions--you should have a roof over your head that is paid for or at the very least a maintenance or rental that can easily be handled by Social Security or other pension payments. What you're tying to do is to make sure your money outlives you, even if it's only by a day.


Now, my family has had a place in Florida for the past 32 years. My parents built it and when they passed on, it was bequeathed to me. I spent a lot of time down there in my younger days, brought my own kids on school vacations, and even to this day, enjoyed it immensely with my grandchildren. What was there not to like? It sat in a beautiful area of Florida right on the 9th hole of a famous golf course, and was indeed a very lovely place.


However, things changed. The older people were dying off or moved, and their offspring didn't want any part of it. So, younger people--family people--started to move in. It was not a 55 and over community anyway. The new families worked during the day and helped with their kids' homework at night. And so, even in the height of the season, such as January, there were only six people around the pool on a Sunday afternoon.


My wife and I went down to look at other areas and perhaps sell these premises, take the furniture, and roll into another place. After looking at a few possibilities during the day, I was sitting one night on my terrace and pulled out my checkbooks for the past three years, a calculator, and a pad of paper. I began to review what my expenses had been from the time I took over the property some seven years earlier: the cost of maintaining it had tripled. But more telling is that inasmuch as I hadn't hung up my spikes, I was, on average, visiting the place three times a year for a week at a time. That means three weeks I was here and the rest of the time it remained vacant. I was not interested in renting.


This didn't make sense and right there and then I dropped the bomb on my wife that I was selling and wouldn't buy any more property until I could spend considerably more time in Florida. In effect, I decided to bail out when the price was high enough. The next day I contacted my realtor and within two weeks, she had the place sold at a very good price. Gone! All gone!


When I walked out of there for the last time after 32 years, my stomach gave a heave and I wasn't myself for days after. I still think longingly of the place but sometimes you have to do what is prudent and not let emotions rule the way.


It's a kind of retrenchment but as my good friend Fred of Florida says, "You can always get another place when you are ready. In the meantime, you have stopped the outflow of money to something that wasn't being used."


Financial planners worth their salt will tell you that as the years progress and you start reaching toward that change of lifestyle stage (I don't believe in the word "retirement"), you should look to shore up your pocketbook so that you are free of those items that drain it. His two sayings, which are pretty much on target are, "When you decide to pack it in, make sure the roof over your head is paid for, and never go into 'retirement' with debts." Not always easy and I just learned that but it certainly makes sense.


So, it's my birthday. I'm going out for a nice juicy hot dog with mustard and onions and an egg cream. No Pepsi here. This is New York.

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