Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Rocky Road to a Rollover

Hub officially retired December 31, 2015, his two-year retirement-in-training program ended. We began a new chapter in our lives.

One order of business before fully enjoying a carefree existence required rolling over his 401(k) to an IRA, a strategy encouraged by his employer (ex-employer, to be strictly accurate).

Hub initially tried handling the rollover online, but faced obstacles when the completed online form would not print. He contacted via phone the firm administering his company’s 401(k) plan, and a customer service representative walked him through the rollover steps. It seemed straightforward and uncomplicated.

First step: downloading and printing a one-page form. Hub filled out the form immediately, clearly printing the information requested, including the name and address of the financial institution where the funds were to be delivered. He then drove to the nearest fax machine, located at a mom-and-pop grocery a few blocks away. The form could be dispatched snail mail, but the rep indicated faxing was the preferred method, if possible.

Our next step: wait.

A week later an envelope from the financial firm appeared in our mailbox.

Uh-oh.

This was not good. The check should have been sent to the financial institution where hub’s IRA languished (what the account was doing during a market sinking almost daily).

Opening the envelope and glancing at the check I became livid, realizing a serious problem confronted hub, an issue the firm needed to unravel and correct.

The check was made out to hub, not the financial institution, with 20% federal taxes withheld, required under federal law for a distribution. The firm processed the request as a distribution to the account owner, subject to taxes, not as a direct rollover from a 401(k) to another qualified retirement plan (in this case, an IRA).

Hub immediately called the company. Following discussions with a couple of reps and being pushed up the food chain, hub finally reached an individual who could – hopefully – help.

The rep pulled hub’s distribution form up on her computer screen. Reviewing it, she noted it was filled out correctly.

Why was the check made out to hub, sent to him, taxes withheld?

The rep had no idea, but agreed the firm made a mistake and promised to correct the error.

We placed the check in an envelope and immediately sent it back to the company in care of our new personal customer service representative.

A few days later hub received an e-mail indicating the check arrived at the firm, was voided, and the original request sent for processing. With any luck it would be handled correctly the second time.

Days pass. Another e-mail arrives requesting hub confirm to whom the check was to be made out and the forwarding address. Hub verified the information (clearly stated on the rollover form).

Again a number of days pass and another e-mail appears. Hub’s rollover request had been completed and a check mailed to his IRA custodian.

Readers may wonder – why not an electronic transfer from the 401(k) to the IRA? Because electronic transfer was not an option offered, although it should have been.

The money now rests in hub’s IRA account. Now we must decide how to invest it...Any ideas? 

Monday, February 8, 2016

This Week's Boomer Bloggers Have Issues on Their Minds

Our airbnb cottage in Natchez.
I love the name!
Remember the movie If It’s Tuesday, This Must Be Belgium? For a few days I felt I was living an American version of that movie. Every day hub and I, traveling our country's byways, moved from one motel to another. But when we landed in Natchez, MS, a small town on the Mississippi River time forgot, we settled into an airbnb cottage for a few days. Immersed in antebellum history, we toured the mansions of wealthy 19th century citizens – most plantation owners. Many lost their plantations and their wealth following the Civil War.

We enjoyed the opportunity to unpack, relax, cook a meal, put our feet up and watch the Superbowl. Almost like home!

While I was sightseeing my fellow bloggers took time this week to ponder important questions, such as does anybody miss their job after retirement? Laura Lee over at The Adventures of the NEW Old Farts discovered that some exactly do!

Tom Sightings examines another issue. Sightings Over Sixty this week takes a look at the political scene -- not from a partisan point of view, but from a demographic perspective. And you can tell from the title of his piece that he is being completely fair and objective. The post is called Never Trust Anyone Under 30.

Linda Myers writes Thoughts From a Bag Lady in Waiting. This week she reposted a piece from two years ago concerning a major episode in the lives of her and her husband. Read CPR in the Real World and hope you act as quickly and responsibly as she did when faced with a sudden crisis.

It’s early in the year, still a good time to review your financial situation and set goals. On The Survive and Thrive Boomer Guide, Rita R. Robison, consumer journalist, starts February out with articles on how personal loans are skyrocketing, but they aren’t for everyone. Most Americans have spent more than $100 on an impulse item. No wonder so many need a personal loan!

Friday, February 5, 2016

Days and Nights Traveling America’s Roads

Heading north from Tampa, Florida, on US 19 on the way to Florida’s Forgotten Coast, miles of fast food joints, car dealerships, and strip malls slid by. This modern American landscape finally gave way to a two lane road bordered by pine trees, cattle ranches, and small towns comprised of auto repair and salvage shops, and churches.

It was dark when we rolled into Chiefland, Florida, where more fast food eateries, a couple of gas stations, and a row of shuttered and dark commercial buildings greeted us.

We could continue on, but following hours of driving, drowsiness overcame us as darkness descended.

It was 6:00 p.m.

Faced with the reality of winter, we gave in to weariness. Summer travel allows us to stay awake, conscious and alert for hours beyond winter’s late afternoon sunset and onset of darkness. Years ago we could drive all night if necessary. No more.

Our stomachs demanded food. I slowly drove through town while hub kept eyes peeled for a place to eat. Locating an open establishment proved difficult in the dark. No street lights assisted our search.

Proceeding slowly through town, the road once again became black with no buildings on either side of the highway. We turned around and, repeating the Chiefland town tour, spotted lights illuminating a storefront in a strip mall.

The lights belonged to a restaurant devoid of patrons, but the food proved plentiful and very reasonable. During dinner additional customers strode in and occupied three or four tables. Everyone, except the two travelers from New Jersey (hub and I!), seemed to know each other.

After dinner we found a room in one of the two motels observed traveling across town. Our room looked almost exactly like rooms encountered previous nights – a queen or king bed, desk and desk chair, a small couch or chair, one or two nightstands, one piece of furniture on which the flat screen TV dominated the space, and a bathroom ranging in size from barely adequate to almost spacious.

All of the motels offered free breakfast, probably using the same vendors, whatever the motel chain might be. Most have waffle makers, kids’ favorite, and offer a variety of cold cereals, oatmeal, and breads - white bread, English muffins (not Thomas’), an item looking like a bagel but not a real bagel by any stretch of the imagination - and possibly some kind of pre-made rubbery eggs.

Sometimes the coffee tastes good.

Such is life on a road trip across America, or at least across parts of the country. Hub and I drove down the East Coast from our home in New Jersey to our son’s place in south Florida. We avoided one of the worst roads in America most of the way, forced to drive I-95 - along with too many other cars and large trucks - through Georgia.

After visiting family on the east coast, we drove across Florida to visit friends in Tampa, then headed north to what the tourist bureau dubs Florida’s Forgotten Coast, a big bend in Florida’s panhandle dotted with state parks and wilderness, beaches, and one of the state’s oldest cities, Apalachicola.

Soon we will spend more than one night in one place, staying in places with a kitchen area and breathing space.

We have only just begun our road trek… 

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Dining Along the Road

Travelers seeking to avoid fast food-type meals along the road face a challenge. Most cities and large towns offer a variety of healthy, appealing, occasionally unusual and delicious choices. Venturing off the beaten path, however, and discovering prospects for scrumptious dining becomes problematic.

There are 21st century options to assist the hungry road tripper locate possibilities, such as Yelp, Trip Advisor, the GPS, and Internet searches.

These options sometimes – or often as hub and I discovered in recent travels – lead not to new intriguing eating prospects, but disappointment.

We eagerly looked forward to a respite from driving and enjoying lunch at a seafood restaurant on the bay. It happened to be in South Carolina, but the where is irrelevant. We diligently followed GPS directions, and there it was – a restaurant and marina on the bay. The name was different, but nowadays it is not unusual for places to change owners and names. We parked and walked to the entrance.

Approaching we realized the restaurant appeared dark. It was closed, serving only dinner.

The parking lot, full of cars, accommodates employees from the business next door. At the end of the day workers leave, replaced in the evening by restaurant patrons.

Not prepared to wait four hours, we backtracked a couple of miles and, spotting another eatery, took our chances. No careful perusal of restaurant reviews this time. The place served a first-rate bowl of she-crab soup and dish of peel-it-yourself shrimp.

Our bellies full, we continued on our way.

Another day our appetites craved North Carolina barbecue. Again following directions, we drove along a country road, turning right and left as directed. Suddenly we found ourselves on a highway, a brand new thoroughfare not programmed into our obviously outdated GPS. Our stern, unsympathetic GPS voice stated, ‘recalculating’. We drove five miles before sighting an exit. We decided not to go back and waste more time. Another disappointment.

Found on a road trip a couple of years ago
We tried finding, again following directions, another tempting restaurant, ending up on a narrow country road with a few small cabins peeking out of the woods. The GPS told us to turn left into a driveway. We did not obey. The dirt and gravel driveway terminated at an old beat up garage next door to a run-down cabin. No restaurant, no sign, no one in sight.

You don't have to eat at a restaurant
to enjoy the signs! 

It is the quest, the unknown, the possibility of discovering culinary nirvana, the not knowing what we will find that makes these adventures interesting, and why we continue to persevere. And in a worst-case scenario we can raid the stash of snacks in the trunk of our car, available when dire hunger or any other emergency strikes. 

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

I've Been Framed

 “Let’s stop at the eye care place before going home. I might as well get my glasses fixed,” stated almost as an afterthought as hub and I made our way home following a morning of errands.

One arm or earpiece of my glasses (temple being the correct term, but how many of us know that?) bent slightly and extended awkwardly outward, not fitting snugly over my ear and becoming an annoyance. The problem began following a fall a few weeks ago. The glasses went flying. Initially a minor hindrance, the glasses got progressively more ill-fitting and awkward-looking day by day.

I also needed to replace one nose plug recently lost, the where and when a mystery.

Hub and I took the elevator to the third floor of the building housing a group of eye doctors on the second floor and the eye care establishment on the third. Go to the doctor, get a prescription, then march upstairs and buy new glasses. Very convenient. The first floor of the commercial building, actually the ground floor, contained a section of the parking lot.

Four customers milled around the waiting room, but only a few minutes passed before a young woman approached. Taking off my glasses and explaining the situation, she asked, “Are the glasses more than a year old?”

I could not lie. “Yes.”

If the glasses were less than a year old, she proceeded to inform me, repairs would be free and if necessary, a new pair of glasses provided at no cost to me. The company would try to repair my glasses but if unable to do so were not liable for whatever might happen while attempting the repair.

“OK.” I did not have much of a choice.

She took the glasses and disappeared. Reappearing a few minutes later with the glasses in one hand and the damaged arm in the other she said, “The arm broke off while attempting to repair it. We cannot fix it here, but can send the glasses out. It will take a week or so.”

We were leaving town the next day. I needed the glasses immediately. “Any other options?”

“I can try to find another frame that fits your lenses. I’m not sure I can. These frames (holding out my pair) are a couple of years old. You would have to pay for new frames.”

“OK,” I sighed reluctantly, hoping she could find a fit for my lenses, currently housed in an outdated, out-of-fashion, no longer manufactured, broken frame.

She disappeared, this time for more than a few minutes.

Finally the salesgirl-technician reappears, smiling, holding a pair of glasses. My new glasses – new frames, old lenses.

The cost only $40. I say only because frames can cost a whole lot more.

I left a happy customer, sort of…

The frames are not ones I would have chosen if I had a choice. Which I did not.

I have to get used to my new look. Or never look in the mirror with glasses on, which I can do, but without them everything looks fuzzy, maybe a good thing.

No more thin wire frames surround my eyes. Now my face sports black frames. Big, wide, thick black frames.
Me and my new glasses

“You look very intellectual,” hub informs me.

A compliment?

I’ll take it.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Major Blizzard Approaching…

Warnings of the approaching blizzard replay ad nauseum as the world around me prepares for the invasion.

Watching and listening to storm forecasts, yet again projected to be of historic proportions, I heave a sigh of resignation, throw off my at-home attire of old, stained but comfortable sweat pants and sweatshirt and don clothing appropriate for walking to the grocery store and confronting high winds – sweater, jeans, jacket, hat, gloves, scarf.

After years of training I instinctively know, like Pavlov’s dog, what to do when the storm stimulus strikes.

It is called the ‘bread and milk alert’ response. Everyone jumps in their car and drives (or walks) to the nearest supermarket, Seven-Eleven, Wawa, Walgreens or CVS and stocks up for the forthcoming crisis - cocooning at home for an indeterminable amount of time.

When did being home for 24 hours or more constitute an emergency? Most of us are lucky enough to have adequate food supplies in the house. Choices may not be the most appetizing or most liked, but would be nourishing, sustaining us until we could make our way to our favorite coffee shop, pizza parlor, pub or whatever...

What did people do before getting their weather 24/7 via TV, web, radio, and phone calls from the local emergency management team? They somehow survived without plentiful quantities of junk foods…
 
We do not use much milk anymore, and minimize bread intake. So nowadays I take a quick inventory before leaving the house, then purchase necessary supplies of ice cream, one or two other usually forbidden desserts, snack foods, coffee, and toilet paper.

The longer encased inside, the wider my waistline spreads. There must be an algebraic equation there someplace.

The automated phone message from our town’s emergency management team urged us to stock up on flashlight and batteries, candles, blankets, and food. The one suggestion never heard before but heeded is to raise the heat a couple of degrees higher than normal and not turn it down at night. Should we lose power, it will take longer for the house to freeze. A nice thought…another precaution taken is keeping computers and cell phones fully charged.

We do not mind being at home, warm and cozy, hanging out. I would say chillin’, but at our age we do not want to be chilly. No alarm clock waking us for early morning exercise class, no appointments, meetings, or other events on the agenda. Everything cancelled, everyone encased within (hopefully) heated homes.
Hub's favorite blizzard activity.

We read magazines received but not yet opened and books piling up on the shelf, watch movies and missed TV shows, make calls and catch up with old friends, prepare much-loved comfort foods, nap.

We enjoy a day or two of this intense activity before resuming normal routines.

The TV reveals shore towns flooding and evacuations occurring. So far we are safe, but maybe we should pack a suitcase and decide where to go should we leave, although the roads off our island are currently flooded.

Now time for a snack. And hot chocolate… 

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Rock Stars Voice Our Story

 Commemorating the first Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony,
with abundant thanks and apologies to rock stars everywhere

I do not remember what I was doing Thursday evening, January 23, 1986. You Never Can Tell what happens day-by-day Living in America.

Come Rain or Shine, immersed in daily activities, running errands, scrambling to organize dinner, ensuring homework was completed, baths taken and enough laundry washed for the next day’s adventures, around my house there was always a Whole Lot of Shakin’ Going On.

That particular evening might have progressed something like this:

Rock and Roll Music blasted over the car radio as I made a couple of stops on my way home from work. The songs took me back years, stirring memories of good times, not so great happenings, and My Old Pal, because When You Got a Good Friend the world is a better place. We would don outfits such as Blue Suede Shoes, Hot Pants, and fitted tops edged with Chantilly Lace, borrow Dad’s car (NOT a cool Pink Cadillac) and proceed to the house of whoever was Having a Party, dancing the White Sox Stomp and Twistin’ the Night Away. Another Saturday Night flew by. Sometimes there was No Particular Place to Go, so we hung out at someone’s home gossiping and dreaming about finding our perfect Brown Eyed Handsome Man…

Walking into the house and greeted with “Mom,” my reverie broken, “I’m Walkin’ home from school tomorrow. By myself. OK?” My ten-year-old announced.

That’ll be the Day,” I answer, trying not to be sarcastic, “If you insist on walking, I Want to Walk You Home. No sidewalks much of the way and traffic. Best to take the bus. Think it Over,” stated as I haul food out of the refrigerator and place a couple of previously prepared dishes in the oven.

He pouted, but knew I was right.

“Mom, I need this shirt tomorrow,” second son states, holding out a grimy, soil-stained soccer shirt. “It’s still dirty.”

“Well why wasn’t it in the laundry basket? If you don’t put it in, Don’t Blame Me,” but headed for the laundry room and threw the shirt in the washing machine.

Hub walks in and smiles. “When Will I Be Loved?” he whispers in my ear.

I ignore him, “Got to get to my meeting tonight. Dinner in the oven. Oh by the way, need some Money HoneyMaybe Tomorrow,” referencing his remark and giving him a quick kiss as I edge out the door.

He throws out an ”Oh, Boy! Can’t Believe You Wanna Leave…”

“Love you, Always on My Mind.  Make sure the kids get to bed on time.”

Meanwhile…as I went about these mundane doings, songwriters, musicians, producers and other music industry professionals gathered in the Waldorf-Astoria Grand Ballroom in New York City. It was Rock & Roll Time as the first Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony made history.

As I drove out of the driveway that night, the landscape illuminated By the Light of the Silvery Moon, the music of my childhood and teen years blaring from the car radio, names, places, and events danced in my head, and continues reverberating today. Another Place Another Time, but sometimes it seems like yesterday.

**************
Italics above are songs recorded by the musical greats inducted into the Hall of Fame January 23, 1986. The songs (in the order mentioned above) are itemized below. The second list names everyone inducted that evening.

Never Can Tell – Chuck Berry
Living in America – James Brown
Come Rain or Come Shine – Ray Charles
Whole Lot of Shakin’ Going On – Jerry Lee Lewis
Rock & Roll Music – Chuck Berry
My Old Pal – Jimmie Rogers
When you Got a Good Friend – Robert Johnson
Blue Suede Shoes – Elvis Presley
Hot Pants – James Brown
Chantilly Lace – Jerry Lee Lewis
Pink Cadillac – Jerry Lee Lewis
Having a Party – Sam Cooke
White Sox Stomp – Jimmy Yancy
Twistin’ the Night Away – Sam Cooke
Another Saturday Night – Sam Cooke
No Particular Place to Go – Chuck Berry
Brown Eyed Handsome Man – Chuck Berry
I’m Walkin’ – Fats Domino
That’ll Be the Day – Buddy Holly
I Want to Walk You Home – Fats Domino
Think It Over – Buddy Holly
Don’t Blame Me – Everly Brothers
When Will I Be Loved? – Everly Brothers
Money Honey – Little Richard
Maybe Tomorrow – Everly Brothers
Oh, Boy! – Buddy Holly
Can’t Believe You Wanna Leave – Little Richard
Always on My Mind – Elvis Presley
Rock & Roll Time – Jerry Lee Lewis
By the Light of the Silvery Moon – Little Richard
Another Place Another Time – Jerry Lee Lewis

Chuck Berry, James Brown, Ray Charles, Sam Cooke, Fats Domino, Everly Brothers, Alan Freed, Buddy Holly, Robert Johnson, Jerry Lee Lewis, Little Richard, Sam Phillips, Elvis Presley, Jimmie Rogers, Jimmy Yancy.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Leaving Home Leaving Worry Behind

Was there ever a time you could close and lock your door, leave for a day, a week, a month or a year and not worry about s**t happening?

Nothing bad occurred during our week grandsitting in Florida, but minor foibles makes one wonder…

Before leaving on trips lasting more than a couple of days I stop the newspaper. Subscriber services offers two choices to temporarily halt delivery - vacation stopped and vacation hold. Hold means the newspaper stockpiles papers and drops a huge pile at your door when delivery resumes. I choose the vacation-stopped button on the online form; the newspaper can do whatever it wants with my missed issues. Yet when returning from 2 ½ weeks overseas in December, a mountain of papers greeted us.

This past week, despite my instructions, the papers were delivered daily. Luckily they are not easily seen from the sidewalk and street. Nothing like a banner across the front yard reading, “Owners out of town! All thieves and robbers come on in!”

While in Florida hub received an email from Fed Ex informing him a package would be delivered Friday or Saturday. He filled out a form online requesting Fed Ex deliver the package the following week.

One day later another Fed Ex e-mail arrived indicating Saturday delivery. Hub called and after impatiently waiting for a human being on the other end of the line, the customer service representative informed him the company received the new delivery order, but the original order never canceled. The rep purportedly canceled it.

Saturday a third e-mail arrived informing hub the package had been delivered. He called a neighbor who retrieved the parcel.

I stopped mail delivery during our December trip. Or thought I did. An e-mail confirmation verified my action. Returning home, a pile of mail awaited our perusal. The mail kept coming, and our trusty neighbor retrieved it daily.

An overflowing mailbox, newspapers piling up at the doorstep, a package on the porch – the inhabitant(s) of the home are inside and in distress, or out of town, either situation a welcome sign for nefarious individuals.

Whether working with live human beings, a computer or a combination, preparations before leaving home do not always transpire smoothly. Minor problems are annoying, but other difficulties cause major migraines.

Concerns of a catastrophe occurring while away, such as storms and subsequent damage, lost electricity and the aftermath (such as shorted out appliances) and other calamities splashed across 24/7 news generate fear to leave home, or stay home for that matter. Remember pictures of Katrina victims on rooftops? Or people crouched in their homes barely surviving a tornado slamming through their neighborhood? How about flash flood victims frantically evacuating?

The more I think about it, the more dangerous a home can be. We might relocate, but no place is immune from lesser difficulties or major disasters. Maybe we never leave home and hope for permanent fair weather. But pipes leak, stuff breaks…and what happens if a drone hits the house?

I am exhausted thinking about the calamitous possibilities.

One solution comes to mind. Perhaps we will win the $1.5 billion lottery and not have to worry about these things. We will pay somebody else to worry for us!

Thursday, January 7, 2016

In-flight Entertainment

 The family business Grandsitters R Us is on the move, all the way to Florida. Hub and I look forward to a busy, exhausting week grandsitting three kids while son and daughter-in-law enjoy a few kid-free and carefree days.

As usual we booked our flight on the budget airline out of our local airport. And, as the saying goes, you get what you pay for, which in this case means:

* Tight, narrow seats, negligible legroom and almost no space between the seat table and one's stomach. 

* No free drinks or food (unless providing your own).

* Full or almost full planes with no chance of moving to an open window or aisle seat and not be crammed between two sizable adults.

* Barely enough aisle space for an average-sized boomer body to squeeze through.

* No wi-fi, no magazines (unless bringing your own), and no screens to view movies, TV shows, or airline videos on what to do in an emergency.

But the airline offered something not previously experienced on this or any airline. I do not know if Spirit is the first company to offer the amenity or if they are following in the footsteps of other corporate innovators.

I took pictures of this new free in-flight entertainment package presented to all passengers. After all, sometimes a picture or two explains much better than words ever could. Here is a picture of my in-flight entertainment:


And here is hub's:

Fly Spirit Air and you, too, can enjoy your two, three, or more hours in the air working on a maze or figuring out the soduku puzzle.

The joys of flying never end! 

I must close with a disclaimer: 
I was not paid by Spirit Air, the maze makers, or soduku company to feature their products. The opinions in this post are solely my own. I have not been influenced by an intimate TSA pat down, a delayed flight, air turbulence, or any other issue encountered during the trip.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Blogging Boomers First of 2016 Edition

As the old year morphs into the new, we sometimes look back before moving forward. Nostalgia seized the Blogging Boomers this week.

Do you remember Princess Grace and Peyton Place? Try taking the quiz called Who Didn't Start the Fire? at Sightings Over Sixty to see how well you know your Baby Boomer history. Can you identify the historical references from Billy Joel's famous song -- many of them touchstones in our lives during the second half of the 20th century?

Linda Myers of Thoughts From a Bag Lady in Waiting reminisces while still recuperating from an airport adventure that occurred over two years ago with her two granddaughters. Any traveler nowadays can relate to her nightmarish airport story in Grandma Goes to the Airport.

Laura Lee Carter of Adventures of the New Old Farts skipped the recollections and focused on the year ahead. Most of us make resolutions for the coming year. Laura Lee poses the question: Why not turn your resolution into a revelation? Here's how to start the new year out right!.

On The Survive and Thrive Boomer Guide, Rita R. Robison, consumer journalist, writes about the old year and the New Year – how to pay off your debts in 2016, the top news stories for 2015, and how consumers did in the continual battle with corporations last year. Robison’s advice for consumers in 2016 is to save as much money as you can and be sure you have an adequate emergency fund. And, if you haven’t begun retirement planning or you don’t have a strong strategy for retirement, get going on it now.

I took a quick look back at the past year and summarized some of the highs and lows in My 2015 Holiday Letter. Then I tried to look towards the future, but all I could see were politicians polluting the airwaves with speeches. The results are my 2016 Political Prognostications

Everyone have a good week. Take a few minutes, visit the Blogging Boomers, and tell them I sent you.