You Can’t Make This Up!

The Mensch was at lunch recently with some Romeos, retired old men eating out, when the conversation turned to New York City. All of the Romeos had grown up in or near New York and the memories were coming fast and furious: the subways, bagels, Broadway, dirty-water dogs, the people.

Bob, 81, and the oldest man at the table, talked about his father’s business creating signs, banners and flags. He started the business in 1916 and sold it twice in the 1970’s.
The business had moved several times in Manhattan and mostly stayed on the East Side.

The Mensch offered his two cents that one of his oldest friends was in the flag and banner business in New York. When Bob said he had done a college paper on his father’s business, Ace Banner and Flag Company, the Mensch almost needed the Heimlich maneuver.
“Bob, my friend’s business is Ace Banner and Flag!”.

The Mensch pulled out his cell phone and called his friend. “Carl, I’m at lunch with Bob Lovinger”. “I bought Ace Banner from John Lovinger in 1974”. “Carl, meet John’s son, Bob.”

On Wednesday, March 26, 2014, the Mensch brought Bob and Carl together for lunch in Charleston, SC to talk about Ace Banner and Flag.  Bob brought along the original college paper he wrote in 1952 describing how Ace Banner and Flag was started in 1916 by his father, John Lovinger, as the Durable Sign Company.

Bob read the paper out loud and shared side comments throughout.  When Bob left, the waiter and waitress wanted to know what was going on having heard snippets of the conversation.

The Mensch explained that his friend of 50 plus years was meeting the son of the original owner of his business as a result of the Mensch moving to South Carolina. How you ask?

Jane befriended Mrs. Mensch in the mystery book club and invited the Mensch’s to lunch with her husband, Bob.  Bob introduced the Mensch to the Romeos including Bob Lovinger.

Is it a six degrees of separation story or a circle story: Mensch & Carl – 1962; Mrs. Mensch & Jane 2012; Romeos and Mensch – 2013; Mensch & Bob L & Carl – 2014.

Here’s the link to: Ace Banner.

Absolutely Amazing!



Posted in Retirement | Leave a comment

Happily Ever After

If you expect a fairy tale ending to your work life when you start your retirement life, you need to pay as much attention to your spouse as you give to your finances. The results of 2013 Fidelity Investments Couples Retirement Study ( indicate that many couples are on two different tracks when it comes to what their retirement years will be like.

According to the research about 60% of couples agree on their retirement lifestyle.  Will he play golf everyday while she stays home to be the chief cook and bottle washer? Or will she be the volunteer extraordinaire at church, the hospital and the animal shelter while he putters in the garden, hoists a few with the guys at the club and comes home to grill the steak?

That means about 40% disagree on retirement lifestyle.  She likes the cocoon of her house and has no desire to travel.  He expects to be the captain of a 55 foot RV seeing the sights of the national parks.  She never wants to clean the house again and he has no idea of how to use the washing machine, dishwasher or vacuum.

About a third of the couples had no idea where they would live in retirement. I don’t take that as a bad thing.  Maybe they just expect to age in place. Who says you have to move when you retire? But what if she wants to travel round and round the world on a cruise ship until her number is up? And what about moving away from the grandchildren?

The Mensch has retired friends who would never ever think about moving from their home, neighbors, children and grandchildren.  They will stay put come hell or high water. Not that there is anything wrong with that.

Other friends have become quite intimate with the rest areas on I-95 as they visit friends and family while rarely being at a home that is nowhere near their children and grandchildren.  Not that there is anything wrong with that.

Retirement is not entirely about the money. It is about thriving in an environment that is not entirely new but offers the challenge of what to do, if anything, for those eight hours between breakfast to dinner.  The hours that used to be occupied by a job, a career or homemaking.


Posted in Retirement | Leave a comment

70 is the New 65 – Part II

The Mensch no sooner published his little piece about 70 being the new 65, then up pops an article in the Credit Union Times,, about a new survey from Swiss Re. Oh, Swiss Re is a multinational reinsurance company based in, you guessed it, Switzerland.

It appears that 19% of American surveyed expect to be working until they are 70.  But does that mean 81% expect not to be working at 70?

The Mensch has to assume that the 19% who expect to be working at 70 do not see it as a good thing.  They probably don’t realize what the Mensch pointed out in the first 70 is the new 65 article,  Social Security is maximized at 70.  What a deal: retirement income from a 401(k), maybe some investment income and a pension along with Social Security maximum at age 70.  Stay in good health and enjoy it!


Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Who’s Your Beneficiary?

Over the years, the Mensch has had dealings with several different financial institutions: banks, brokerages, and insurance companies.  Only one has ever reminded him to check on the beneficiary designations of financial products.  That one is Vanguard.

It’s important that financial institutions  and employers have accurate information, because beneficiary designations generally determine who inherits these accounts and may supersede the information in a will or trust. There are three ways property can be passed on to heirs at death: last will & testament, titling of property and beneficiary designation in a contract.

A will passes property that is individually owned to beneficiaries named in the will.  Property that is owned jointly with rights of survivorship passes to the survivor and is not controlled by the will.

Insurance policies, annuities, pension plans, IRA’s, and other retirement plans are contracts that have named beneficiaries.  A will has no control over these assets unless the owner named the estate as beneficiary.

One of the more common errors in beneficiary designations is neglecting to change a group life insurance policy beneficiary after a divorce.  It is not unheard of for spouse number one to receive group life insurance proceeds because her ex never bothered to changed the beneficiary designation to the new wife.  The same goes for IRA, pension and/or 401(k) benefits.

Another common scenario is the old life insurance policy that has mom and dad as beneficiaries and was never changed after Junior got married.

Your assignment for professional Wednesday is to review and update your beneficiary designations, particularly if you have experienced a major life event, such as a birth or adoption of a child, marriage, divorce, or death in the family.  And if you don’t have a will, call your lawyer for an appointment to write a will.

Posted in Professional Wednesday | Leave a comment

70 is the New 65

The Center for Retirement Research at Boston College has published a new paper proposing that Social Security’s real retirement age is 70. It is about time someone raised their hand and pointed out the obvious.
Not only are people living longer, they are healthier and capable of working beyond 65 and into their 70’s if they so chose.

Alicia Munnell, Director at the Center, summarizes the paper this way:

  • Due to increases in Social Security’s Delayed Retirement Credit, the effective retirement age is now 70, with monthly benefits reduced for earlier claiming.
  • Benefit levels at 70 appear appropriate given that rising deductions for Medicare and greater benefit taxation have reduced Social Security’s net replacement rates.
  • The shift to 70 should be feasible for many workers given increases in lifespans, health, and education.
  • But vulnerable workers forced to claim early will have low benefits and will be particularly harmed by any further cuts.
  • Policymakers need to inform those who can work that 70 is the new retirement age and devise ways to protect those who cannot work.

Had the Mensch been aware of the benefit of waiting until 70, he would have delayed filing for Social Security for three years and found another source of income.  You can read the whole report at:, and determine for yourself if it is applicable to you or clients.

Posted in Professional Wednesday | Leave a comment

Not Exactly Roughing It

In his preface to Roughing It, published in 1880, Mark Twain “alludes to the rise, growth and culmination of silver-mining fever in Nevada”.  Along the way he describes his adventures at Lake Tahoe, Carson City and Virginia. It is Virginia City today, but in Twain’s time it was simply Virginia. Actually, Virginia shows up as a name innumerable times in that part of Nevada. There are Virginia streets, avenues, saloons, bars, cafes, casinos, diners, and more in and around Washoe and Storey counties in western Nevada.

The Mensch is a Mark Twain fan and visiting Virginia City recently was an exercise in comparing Virginia City of 21st century with the silver mining town where Twain, S.L. Clemens, was a reporter and editor for the newspaper, the Territorial Enterprise.

Wooden Sidewalk of Virginia City

Wooden Plank Sidewalk

I can report that the sidewalks are still wooden planks. Indoor plumbing, electricity and paved streets have come to Virginia City but the buildings along Avenue C, the main drag,  are the same wooden structures that were there in the 19th century.Virginia City, NV


Mind your head

Mind your head

One of the fun things to do in Virginia City is a mine tour that starts inside the Ponderosa Saloon. There is a grizzled, semi-toothless guide in a hard hat at the back of the saloon who sells the tickets, collects the tickets and gives the tour. After a little history of the Comstock Load and Virginia City, he describes the dangers of silver mining while leading you a few hundred feet into a mine tunnel.   Hard hats are a must for the tour since even short people could bop their head on the timbers.  100_2178


Down the road a piece from Virginia City is Gold Hill which still offers hotel rooms and dinner.  You can drive to Gold Hill, but the Virginia and Truckee Railroad has an excursion train that makes the round trip from Virginia City to Gold Hill in 35 minutes.  The Mensch shared the historic ride with several dozen middle school kids who behaved just as you would expect them to.

Gold Hill Hotel & Saloon


Twain traveled to Virginia City from Carson City by foot, by horse, and by wagon up and over the Sierra Nevada mountains.  The Mensch had a Jeep Patriot with four-wheel drive.


Posted in Travel | 1 Comment

Bordeaux: Wine and Research

There is nothing the Mensch enjoys more than a complex red Bordeaux with a T-bone steak grilled to a medium pink interior and a side of pommes frites, those gorgeously golden French fries in a paper cup.  Now Bordeaux has given the Mensch another reason to appreciate the French.

A French researcher from the Bordeaux School of Public Health has published a paper that documents a decrease in the chances of developing dementia the longer a person stays in the workforce.  She provides a compelling reason to delay retirement and/or stay busy in retirement.  Analysis showed that the risk of being diagnosed with dementia was lower for each year of working longer.  To say it another way, the longer one worked, the lower the chances of developing dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.

Mental stimulation is thought to be a preventive measure to slow the onset of dementia, according to this French researcher. She suggests that social stimulation and professional engagement are two things that retirees can do to ward off Alzheimer’s disease.

For mental stimulation the Mensch recommends gardening, the JUMBLE puzzle, ballroom dancing and poker. For social stimulation, there are bridge clubs, church groups, or  cooking classes.  Off course, a person could always delay retirement if their employer is amenable.  If you’re already retired, then a new career or a re-purposing of life is a possibility.  Maybe a new college degree or bartender school or piano lessons?
I’m thinking the Mensch needs a river cruise in France through Bordeaux where the vineyards offer wine tastings and tours with those French vineyard owners who never retired.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Hot Dog Buns

A guy goes out for hot dog buns and comes home with $399 million. Where but in America can that happen?  The PowerBall lottery had not had a winner for several weeks and the prize had steadily increased. Last year, the PowerBall lottery lowered the odds of winning the grand prize to 175 million to one. They also raised the ticket price to $2.

On September 18, an man in Columbia, South Carolina went to the gas station with a convenience store. His wife called and asked him to buy hot dog buns. When he went into the store, he saw the advertisement for PowerBall. He bought ten tickets for $20. The store had no hot dog buns. On Thursday morning he checked the tickets and found himself richer by $399 million! Now he could afford to shop at 7 -11, buy hot dog buns, hot dogs and mustard!

Do not despair. The MegaMillions lottery is changing its formula for the big prize. The new version will require that a player choose five correct numbers out of seventy-five, 5/75, and one out of fifteen, 1/15, on a separate grid. The odds of having 5/75 and 1/15 are over 258 million to one.  Actually it is one in 258,890,850.  Ticket price stays the same at $1.

My advice is to ignore the lottery and save your money for your old age.  The odds are against you.  However, if you ever find yourself out shopping for hot dog buns and there are none in the store, buy a clutch of lottery tickets and wait for tomorrow.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

More Than the Money

A recently retired friend was bemoaning her lifestyle to me. It seems that she doesn’t know what to do with herself from 9 to 5. She worked all her life. Graduated from community college in the 60’s, got a clerical job in a local hospital, and over a forty year career worked her way up the administrative ladder to her last position: executive assistant to the CEO. Now she is executive in charge of the coffee pot, the kitchen and the laundry.
“I’m glum. I’m feeling lost in my own house. I need stimulation. I need people. I need company.  What’s wrong with me?” she asked.

I told her she was suffering from postpartum depression, except that in her case the postpartum had nothing to do with childbirth but with parting ways with a career that she had her whole life.  When I admitted to her to I had similar feelings when I retired two years ago, she breathed a sigh of relief, “at least I’m not the only one”.

One of the many challenges of preparing for retirement has nothing to do with the money, you know, the pension plan, the 401(k), social security, paying off the mortgage.  Like my friend you can have all your financial ducks in a row, but if you don’t know what you’ll be when you grow up, aka retired, then you’ll find yourself befuddled on that first Monday you wake up with no place to go and nothing to do.

Some recent research has shown that recent retirees will often go on spending sprees simply because they have more free time on their hands.  Shopping or spending till they drop, retirees can now visit the mall, the big box store, or the casino from 9 to 5 to replace that old ennui of staying at home and watching the boob-box.  Heck, in those early months or years of retirement, they can even buy a giant size flat screen smart TV with surround sound. No need to leave home!

I suggested to my friend that she take a month or two to decompress and start planning the rest of her life. Do some more volunteer work at the church.  Take that music appreciation class she has always thought about.  Maybe now is the time to hire a coach and brush up on her tennis game.  Do not become a daycare center for the grandchildren.

Like my friend, newly minted retirees need to know that they are not alone in the brave new world of retirement.  There is no need to wander about like a lost soul looking for the water cooler and conversation.  Robert Frost wrote, “Often, the only way out is through”.  Start moving ahead today.








Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Do It Anyway

The Mensch attended a graduation ceremony in May that was pretty much produced entirely by the graduating class, eight graders at Summerville Catholic School.  I saved the program because I was moved by the closing reading which the children had lifted from the writings of Mother Theresa.  Here it is.

People are often unreasonable, illogical and self-centered; forgive them anyway.

If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish ulterior motives; be kind anyway.

If you are successful, you will win some false friends and true enemies; succeed anyway.

If you are honest and frank, people may cheat you; be honest anyway.

What you spend years building, someone could destroy overnight; build anyway.

If you find serenity and happiness, they may be jealous; be happy anyway.

The good you do today, people will forget tomorrow; do good anyway.

Give the world the best you have, and it may never be enough; give the world the best you’ve got anyway.

You see, in the final analysis, it is between you and God; It was never between you and them, anyway.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment