Are You A Dreamer?

by Christine

My dream was to play the piano like Nicky Hopkins. I started lessons in junior high school even paying the $6.50 fee to my piano teacher out of my baby-sitting money.  I practiced a few times a week on the old piano in our garage but I never got beyond beginners status. After my divorce I made the decision to once again take up lessons and learn to play the piano. I purchased a black gloss upright piano, hired a teacher and practiced whenever my schedule allowed. Again, I didn't make much headway.

During the 10 years I owned that piano I moved it four times. Do you know the cost of moving a piano up and down stairs? When I moved it out of state and up and down stairs it was even more money. Finally I had to admit two things. I wasn't willing to work as hard as I needed to work to master the piano and I was spending a whole lot of money on a daydream I wasn't willing to dedicate time to realize. I found a good home for my piano and let go of the fantasy. 

Surprisingly I was not sad or melancholy about my decision. Letting go allowed me to direct my talents and resources in another, more productive direction. William Shakespeare's line from Hamlet, "This above all: to thine own self be true" is often quoted but before you can be true to yourself, you must know thyself. Sometimes that means taking a hard look at what your actions say about your dedication to a plan. The Fourth Quarter is the time to shed the illusion and embrace your talents and desires.  Where are you willing to spend your time? What dreams do you want to truly realize by dedicating time and money to them? What 800-pound piano are you lugging around?



Let Them Eat Caramel Nut Pound Cake

by Christine

Even though the Spring Equinox was yesterday, the lake is still frozen and the sun continues to play hide and seek. I'm ready for spring and the burst of color that comes with the tulips and other flowering bulbs. When the leaves return, I know the locally grown fresh fruit and vegetables will too. But before moving on to the lighter recipes of spring and summer we have a few more weeks of hot tea and winter desserts. 

As I've mentioned at least a billion times, I'm on a quest to find the perfect pound cake. As my sister was clearing out Mom's kitchen drawers, she came across a worn and tattered recipe for Caramel Nut Pound Cake. This cake is the kind of dessert my mother would prepare when it was her turn to host her bridge club or canasta group.  Mom wasn't as competitive as my father when it came to card games.  The bridge club was perfect for her, good conversation with her girlfriends, a little bridge and a tasty dessert. At the risk of romanticizing the past, I lament the loss of the ladies afternoon bridge club. Not that I want to return to the days of white gloves and girdles though I could get into hats. 

On the last days of winter I greased and floured my tube pan and excitingly baked the Caramel Nut Pound Cake. It is scrumptious and worth every calorie but I offer you this word of warning...Don't be alone with this cake. Prepare it when you know you are having friends or family over so that you can share it over coffee or with an after dinner drinks. Better yet, get your friends together for a friendly evening of cards and be the hit of the evening when you serve this cake.


Caramel Nut Pound Cake


1 pound light brown sugar
3 cups of all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup finely chopped nuts
1 tablespoon of vanilla
1 cup of butter
1/2 cup of coconut oil
1 cup of white sugar
5 eggs
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk


Preheat oven to 325˚
Flour and grease a tube pan

1. Mix together sifted flour, baking powder and salt in a small mixing bowl. Set aside. 
2. Cream butter, shortening and brown sugar together thoroughly.
3. Gradually add white sugar and continue to cream thoroughly.
4. Add eggs one at a time, mixing well after each egg.  
5. Mix dry and wet ingredients together ending with the flour mixture.
6. Add vanilla and mix well.
7. Add nuts and mix well.
8. Pour into tube pan.
9. Bake for 90 minutes or until done. Toothpick test recommended.
10. Cool 15 minutes before removing from pan. Finish cooling. 

*To avoid cake failures, bring eggs and butter to room temperature.
**I found 90 minutes was a bit long in my oven.  I recommend checking on the cake after 80 minutes.
***I am Southern so pecans are my first choice for nuts but you can use what ever you like. 




Four Reasons To Change Jobs In The Fourth Quarter

by Christine

[United States Botanic Garden]

I've been blogging about retirement over the last couple of weeks and given my research and your comments, it's clear not everyone is going to cease working. (Cease working is the dictionary meaning of the word retirement.) Many people will continue to work because they want to work but others will continue to work because they need the money. The drive to work whether for personal fulfillment or for financial reasons is as important in the Fourth Quarter as it is in the Second or Third Quarter of life.

Tension develops when need or desire to change jobs is viewed under the lens of age. Job change at any time of life can be disquieting but for many it becomes particularly so in the Fourth Quarter. But you need to ask yourself why you want or need to make a change. All job changes can be analyzed from this simple precept: What are you moving away from or what are you moving towards? Are you leaving something that doesn't work for you anymore or are you going towards something better? Nothing may be wrong with your current job but a new job offers more money, a different challenge or additional perks. If you feel the need to move away from a job, you need to know why and address those issues in your job search. Whether you aren't making enough money, the people you work with are driving you crazy or you are bored with the work, it's important to understand why you feel the need for change. 

Here are four reasons to make a change in the Fourth Quarter:

1. Your Industry has changed. My father was 19 years old when he started out in trucking. I will resist the urge to give you a history lesson on transportation in America but my dad joined the industry at the perfect time. Eisenhower's Interstate Highway System and the phenomenal growth in America after World War II meant that my father was able to grow personally and professionally with the industry. He found fulfilling work that allowed him to travel the world and make an excellent living. In 1980, the Federal Government re-regulated the industry and the world that my father, his company and other motor carriers operated in ceased to exist. He had spent 40 years working for a company he loved in a thriving industry but the business changed and he had to change too. What is the state of your industry? Is it in a growth mode or is it constricting? Are traditional competitors falling away while smaller companies are springing up? The reason your job may feel harder is that it is harder because the rules have changed. If you decide a seismic shift has occurred in your industry, you will need to decide whether you want to play the game by the new rules or make a change.  

2. Your co-workers are getting younger.  I have a contractor friend who said he never wins a bid if the client is in his or her 30s. He doesn't understand why because the quality of his work is superior and his pricing reasonable. I love working with intergenerational groups and in my job it is a necessity. My experience balanced against their energy keeps the projects vibrant and engaging. But I am also a realist because age can be a distancing factor. I look back on my career when I was the young person and remember when I had all the answers. How annoying!  What the young lack in experience, they make up for in other areas. I also acknowledge sometimes I am viewed more as a peer of their mother instead of a really cool co-worker.  If you find it difficult to work for or with someone younger than you, it's probably time for a change. Though at a certain point everyone will be younger so maybe you need to think through why you aren't working well with those younger than you. Is it just certain individuals or the whole age group?

3. Your Health. Are you sick all the time? Is the job driving your health into the ground? This can happen at anytime in life but in the Fourth Quarter we tend to link it to age. Maybe it has nothing to do with age; maybe you are just over the job. 

4. You need a change. That's right, you've been doing this work for 20 or 30 years and you just want to do something else. But the voice in your head says making a change in the Fourth Quarter is irresponsible. If you need or want to work for the next 10 to 20 years, why not do something challenging and invigorating?   

A winning football coach may find the strategies used in the first three quarter ineffectual in the fourth quarter but he doesn't "stay" the course in hopes that the game will miraculously turn around. He changes strategies and develops a new game plan. You can do the same once you understand what is not working for you.



Make A New Plan, Stan

by Christine

[Thinker On A Rock]

Today I am going to explore the art of planning for the Fourth Quarter. You have a vague sense of the changes you want to make in the Fourth Quarter of your life but you aren't clear on how to get where you want to be. The first step is to make a plan. While money isn't the only driver in life, for any plan to work you need to know how you will finance your plan. Do you currently have a budget? If not, now is the time to create one. 

I hear the groans. The sound is similar to the sounds I make when my accountant asks me to gather together the paperwork needed to file my taxes. But the reality is you need to know how much money you are bringing in and how much money is going out. Think of it as creating your own personal P&L statement. A profit and loss statement is the report used by small business owners to track how their business is doing. If you have been running your financial life like a well oiled small business then your personal P&L will be worthy of a gold star. If not, it's time to bite the bullet and find out where you really stand. 

There are multiple personal finance software packages that help you categorize and track spending as well as pay bills and manage investments. If you aren't using a program such as Quicken, I would encourage you to consider that for the future but for our purposes today, lets stick with simple pen and paper. You don't want the process of gathering this information to overwhelm the goal.

For one month, you will keep a spending log. I would suggest an inexpensive steno/memo notebook and pen but if you are an app person, there are several available on the Internet. I can't stress enough that you need to keep this simple. In your spending log you will keep a record of your expenses. Make no judgments at this time about the money you are spending, just continue your normal routine. 

An accurate spending log will show you where your money is going and help you learn what you value in life. It will be a valuable tool in helping you craft your Fourth Quarter plans and is key to understanding the compromises and trade-offs you may need to make now and in the future. Are you ready to get started on your Fourth Quarter plan?




The Wisdom Of The Fourth Quarter

by Christine

Last week I posted about life expectancy, working and money as it relates to the Fourth Quarter of life. I pulled numbers and comments by the group known as "they". You know these guys: they said that you need a million plus to retire or they said you may live to be a 100. My concern about the collective "they" is that it's a fear based group. The Fourth Quarter is already a period in which you lose your parents and find that your knees start to ache.  Couple that with a steady stream of hypothetical doom and gloom scenarios and the reaction is to hunker down against possible threats and limit your dreams. 

The Fourth Quarter of life is like any other period of life. You will have your challenges, you will have your rewards and you will be required to work at being happy and fulfilled. The key difference in the Fourth Quarter and the previous three quarters is your accumulated life experience and your hard earned wisdom. Life is not about allowing "they" to form your life vision. As my friend Chad said, "There's a lot of ball to be played in the fourth quarter." 

The Fourth Quarter can and I believe should be the most creative time of your life. It's the time in life for you to give yourself permission to pursue creative outlets that may or may not result in financial rewards. I've witnessed the biggest road block to most Americans following their passion is the inculcated belief that money is the only measure of a successful endeavor. No, I don't live under a rock, I need money to pay the bills but I know that following your passion can lead to financial success in some cases. 

I have a real world example. My friend Kathryn can sew and has a wonderful way with people. In response to a request by her daughter's summer camp, she taught a group of girls to sew one summer. Her summer class has now evolved into the business  Sewhampton. Think about it. Schools are no longer teaching Home Economics and this is a skill that many young people as well as older people would like to learn. As Sewhampton has grown other creative ideas have surfaced such as the memory ornament. It's a Christmas ornament to honor a lost loved one. Kathryn didn't start out to open a business, she started out to share a passion. 

The Fourth Quarter is the time of life to work hard at something you love, spend time with family and friends and have some fun. What do you want the Fourth Quarter of your life to look like? Do you have a deferred passion that you want to act upon?  What are your dreams for the future?






Do You Have The Entrance Fee For Retirement?

by Christine

Okay, you're in The Fourth Quarter of your life and need/want to make a change but first you must address the pink paisley elephant in the room...MONEY. How are you going to keep a roof over your head and continue to eat three meals a day without a job? Never mind fulfilling your travel dreams of visiting every single baseball stadium in the country.

Let me start off the discussion by sharing a couple of numbers with you. Most financial advisors state that you need between 1.3 and 1.7 million dollars in your portfolio before you can retire. My own advisor has given me graphs that clearly show I will need to either keep working until I take my last breath or at best expire roughly 2 weeks after I cease working.

Conversations with my FA are rather doom and gloom with the take away being never stop working and never take a dime out of my retirement fund. His two big concerns are that I may live to be 100 and how I will pay for all those unnecessary tests the doctors and hospitals will want to perform during the last 6 months of my life. 

Here are more numbers to contemplate:

317 Million-Total US Population
  79 Million-Baby Boomers
    9 Million-Millionaires in the US

I'm sure you are ahead of me on this but if all the millionaires in the US were 58+ then there would still be 70 million Baby Boomers who aren't millionaires. And we all know a good portion of that 9 million includes the 30 or 40-somethings that made their fortune in the tech world. So what's the plan for the rest of us?

Do you believe the FA's are right and it takes a million dollars to retire? If you have have a million plus in the bank, God bless you and I hope you stick around because as the weeks go by I am going to blog about living life in the Fourth Quarter with or without a job. But if you don't have that kind of money, will it stop you from retiring? What plans and dreams do you have for the Fourth Quarter of your life? Is money the only factor to consider in deciding whether to retire? Let me know what you think?




Debunking The Retirement Myth

by Christine

When I was a senior in high school, my peers and I were regularly asked where we were going to college. The assumption was that I along with the rest of my schoolmates would be heading off to college the next fall after graduation. The idea that college might not be in our future was never discussed. Today we are regularly asked about our plans for retirement. Retirement has become a destination similar to college or the military and there's a lot of discussion on how to succeed as a retiree.

The concept of retirement in our current idealized form is new. Businesses in the industrialized era needed to make way for younger and stronger workers on the factory line. In an effort to encourage the older workers to hand over their jobs to a younger crop of factory workers, the federal government under President Franklin D. Roosevelt proposed the Social Security Act of 1935. The Social Security Act was in response to Dr. Francis Townsend's proposal of a mandatory retirement age of 60 and a $200 a month pensions. $200 was the equivalent of a full time salary and Roosevelt was alarmed at Townsend's generosity. I do believe the establishment of the Social Security program was a much better solution than the medieval practice of patricide for decreasing the elderly in the work force. 

Retirement was not put into place to reward workers for a job well done; it was a way to make jobs available to younger workers. Not everyone of "retirement age" found the idea appealing and fought to stay at  his or her job. Today this tension is felt in our current job market. Discussions of mandatory retirement comes to the forefront whenever the unemployment numbers are high only to be silenced as the fear of a large-scale brain drain hovers over any wholesale exoduses of a large segment of the working population. 

Retirement is not a destination or a place from which you graduate or muster out. Retirement means to leave ones job and cease working. My great grandparents were farmers and after my great grandfather died, my great grandmother worked the farm well into her late 80's never leaving her home. As I look at the Fourth Quarter of life, I question whether I want to retire. Do you want to retire? If so, why? I would love to hear what you think.



It's The Fourth Quarter, Are You Ready?

by Christine

Did you know the life expectancy for the "average American" is 78.64 years. Are you surprised by this number? I was. If you break that number down by gender and race, some groups do a little better than others. Women average 81.1 years and men average 76.3 while persons of color are lower than the national average regardless of gender. I've seen the financial commercials warning me that I may live to 90 or 100 but based on the CDC's numbers, only a small percentage of us will live that long. It's kind of like winning the lottery and to quote the New York Lottery...Hey, you never know. 

I'm part of the Baby Boomer generation and like most of my peer I recoil from the vocabulary used to describe this time of life. I don't feel I am elderly, a senior citizen, advancing in years, entering the latter part of my life, living the golden years or any of the other euphemism used to describe my age group. I feel this kind of language marginalizes my whole generation so I've come up with different vocabulary. I've named this stage of life The Fourth Quarter. 

For those of you who aren't football or sports fans, hang with me for a bit longer. I'm working to find positive life descriptors and I believe the game of football is a good model. As in football, life is divided into quarters with each requiring unique strategies and every quarter is as important as the next. Your aren't discounted because you happen to be in the fourth quarter; winning requires each quarter to be played whole heartedly.

Who is in the Fourth Quarter? I'm basing admittance on the national average and once you hit 58, you're there. Now I'm not looking to split hairs here, I am looking to discuss this part of life using positive vocabulary. Yes, some people will live more and some people will live less than the national average but the national average gives us a starting point. How do you feel about the vocabulary used to describe this time of life? Do you view the Fourth Quarter as a postive time of life or do you feel it is "all down hill from here?" Join me as I explore living life in the Fourth Quarter. 





Intentional Loving Series Day 28: Love Is Choice

by Christine

"Love is a choice. So get up everyday and choose to take the actions that nurture your relationship with the people you love." ~Christine Somers

I run. Okay, in the interest of full transparency I'm actually following a plan of intervals that when completed will result in me running continuously. Right now it's more a walk/run exercise. And I know running is a verb. Running requires me to get up off the sofa, lace up my sneakers and put one foot in front of the other until I complete the 3.2-mile course. I don't cheat, I don't lie about my time and I work at it everyday because if I don't, I am the one who suffers.

From the sidelines it may look easy, particularly when I place second in my age group but it's not. Some days I don't feel like it but I still choose to run. I'm committed to being a runner and choose to do what it takes to make that a reality. Running makes my whole life easier because I am healthier and happier when doing it but don't think there aren't days when choosing to run is difficult. It is difficult at times but I am making an intentional choice to make running part of my life. 

Love is also a verb. Loving is about getting up everyday and taking the actions necessary to intentionally love another person. Commitment, loyalty, giving of your time and speaking kindly are a few of the tools I wrote about in February that support and nurture a loving relationship. Some days you may not feel like you love your spouse, children, family or friends but a wise person knows that love is not a feeling. Love is a choice. So get up everyday and choose to take the actions that nurture your relationships with the people you love. 

I am sure you've heard a friend say, "I fell in love with her the minute she walked in the room." Heck, I've even used that vocabulary myself. The phrase "fell in love" sounds like  love is about losing control and falling into to a big vat of love. I don't discount those feelings but I can guarantee that a day will come when your pink bundle of joy will turn into a 15 year-old who rolls her eyes every time you walk in the room. On those days you choose to love your child until the feeling returns or she leaves home.  

To live life intentionally means to identify and state your priorities so that you can dedicate your finite time and resource to accomplishing your stated priorities. Intentional loving means to identify the tools necessary to nurture and nourish your most precious relationships. Do you intentionally love the people in your life? 

This past month we looked at what love is and how to nurture you most intimate relationships. I would love to hear your thoughts on the series and anything you would like to add is welcome. 



Intentional Loving Series Day 27: Keeping Your Word

by Christine

"Be impeccable with your word. Speak with integrity. Say only what you mean." ~Miguel Angel Ruiz

I've found with age, I've become more cautious about the commitments I make. When I was a younger I found it easier to agree to do something than it was to say no to the person who was asking. After I married and the kids were born, time and energy was scarce so I had to cowboy up and learn to say no. It was an uncomfortable lesson but I understood the correlation between keeping my word and my relationship with my friends and loved ones. Committing to an action and then failing to deliver could hurt my relationship with those I cared about in my life. I had to be honest with others and myself because I no longer had the freedom to agree to every request for my time.

Keeping your word is fundamental to a healthy, loving relationship. Following through on your promises builds trust with others and confirms with your loved ones that you are reliable and respect their needs and concerns. Your relationship with your family and friends is built on trust that is earned over time. Without it the relationship will eventually wither and die. 

But it goes beyond how keeping your words effect others. It is about you and the kind of person you will be; it's about self-esteem and self-worth. Will you feel good about yourself if you are continually letting down the people you love? I am not talking about the occasional bout of forgetfulness. I am talking about being careless with your word, not following through on your promises. Are you a person who keeps your word? If not, why?