Rural Retirement

I hear a lot of people talk about moving when they retire. They want to head to a third world country to get the biggest bang for their buck. Or they talk about moving way out in the boonies, where housing prices are lower and the cost of living, in general, isn’t as costly. These ideas make sense, but there are several factors to consider.

First and foremost, to my mind, is healthcare. The older you get, the more prone you are to catastrophic health issues. Do you have quick access to a hospital if you have a heart attack or stroke? More importantly, is it a hospital you feel you can trust to give you the best care? It’s all well and good to live in a shack on an island in the middle of the south Pacific, but it would be unfortunate to have to fly 3,000 miles to cope with an unexpected allergic reaction to coconuts.

Another thing to consider is the isolation factor. The older you get, the more isolated you become. Younger people get impatient with your slower pace and your antiquated opinions and your oft-repeated stories. That seems to be a part of the circle of life. But do you want to isolate yourself even further by putting miles between yourself and your family and friends? Sure, Skype exists, but it doesn’t feel as good as a hug.

Also, it’s important to remember that rural locations don’t have as much ready access to the services you might well need. Counseling. Grief support. Adult Protective Services. Home health aids. Tow trucks. Public transportation. Grocery stores. Maids. Airports. Libraries. Pizza delivery. While it’s possible to get by without these things, it’s a lot less pleasant.

The thing that would drive me the most crazy would be the boredom. And boredom, combined with isolation, can lead to depression. I never thought I’d say this, but you can only read so many books, especially if your eyesight is failing. You can only play so many games of solitaire, or watch so much TV.

I’d miss being able to go to restaurants and concerts and movies and festivals. I’d miss having options. I don’t want to bury myself in a casket before my time. I will want to continue doing things when the mood strikes, even if it doesn’t strike as often as it once did.

Yes, it’s a great idea to stretch your retirement dollar, but look before you leap. The sacrifice you make may be more extreme than you intended. You get what you pay for. Find a healthy balance.

Rural Retirement

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Saving Money by Using Libraries? Why Is That a Controversy?

In this age of social media, things seem to get all out of proportion a lot more quickly than in days of yore. Personally, when I saw this image floating around in cyberspace, I was charmed. What a lovely way to remind people how valuable their libraries are!

Library Savings

But according to this article, that’s when it all went pear-shaped. Some people got upset that all that money that’s saved by using a library is money that isn’t going into an author’s pocket.

I hate to tell you this, but authors only make a very small cut from book sales. As an author myself, I know it’s mostly pennies on the dollar. Unless you’re a best selling author, you shouldn’t quit your day job. (And in most countries, you still get those pennies if the book is purchased by a library, for what it’s worth.)

Granted, more people read that same book, but it’s a heck of a lot more profitable for us than if someone buys the book and then sells it used on Amazon—thus depriving us of a potential buyer, and causing us not to see any of the money at all.

That, and I really don’t want people to clutter their house up with books they’re only going to read once. Hug a tree and free yourself from chaos. Use your library!

My book is currently in 6 libraries that I know of. That makes me so proud. I’d love it if you’d ask your library to get a copy, too! I want my book to be read. That was the whole point of writing it. I’d much rather have someone read it by borrowing it from a library than if they never see it at all due to lack of funds.

Most of us can’t afford to buy every book we read. That’s the whole point of libraries. Share information. Share knowledge. Encourage reading. I am totally down with that.

So keep saving money. Keep visiting your library!

Generic Generics

Back in the eighties, when I was making my way in the world all alone for the first time, generic products had become quite the thing. It seemed like every grocery store had at least one aisle where all the items were packaged in stark, black and white, no-nonsense boxes and cans and bags. And they were dirt cheap. You could get anything from coffee to paper towels to tuna to corn flakes.

Theoretically, the money that companies saved by not having to advertise and promote these products, and even, one assumes, the savings of not using colorful, eye catching packages, was passed on to the consumer. In addition, some products were sold below market value to draw customers in.

In most cases, the ingredients listed on these generic products were identical to their name brand counterparts. It was usually pretty easy to tell that this food was actually put out there by those same companies. Every single element about it was shaped the same. But you could save a ton of money by buying generic.

Unfortunately, generic food came with certain side effects. First and foremost, there was the embarrassment factor. When you filled your cart with these black and white products, you were telling the world that you were poor. As a struggling young adult, my kitchen cabinets were filled with them. I made it a point to make sure the cabinet doors were closed when people came to visit.

And then there was this underlying distrust of the food itself. Even if the ingredients were identical, this little voice in your head would go, “Why are they not taking ownership of their product? Are they ashamed? Are they trying to get rid of substandard food? Am I eating dumpster quality pasta or something? Who do I sue if I find a dead mouse in there?”

Generic food got the reputation of not being as good as the name brand stuff, even though in most cases people could not tell them apart in blind taste tests. There were a few exceptions, though. Everyone I knew agreed that generic macaroni and cheese was the best. Go figure.

Generic products have evolved over the years. They’re now kind of generic, but not. They have the pretty packaging. They even have a brand, sort of. They proudly sit on the shelves right beside the major players, instead of being relegated to a shameful little aisle of their own. Their labels reflect the store brand of the particular grocer that you frequent. That way, they can still benefit from a reputation, and yet not waste their profit margins on product-specific promotions and advertising. And we all can pretend we’re buying something “legitimate” that isn’t “for poor people.”

Win/win, I suppose. But it sure makes you realize how taken in we are by reputation and colorful ink. Still, in this day and age, when we are pelted with imagery everywhere we turn, I sometimes miss the plain, colorless simplicity of the generics of my youth. Especially the macaroni and cheese.

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