Thursday, May 21, 2015

Who Will Change My Light Bulbs? - Thoughts About Quality of Life

The other day I came across an article from the MIT AgeLab titled "Three Questions That Can Predict Future Quality of Life". I've been thinking about things like this a lot so I decided to use the Three Questions to organize my thoughts.

Who Will Change My Light Bulbs?
From the Osram Sylvania Catalog
Superficially a silly question but also easily answered: We've already switched all our lights (except that one in the oven) to CFLs and are migrating those to LEDs as they start to change color and/or hum. The LED bulbs should outlast me and Beth by quite a stretch.

The deeper version of the question really refers to long term home maintenance. Our current house was built about 1920 so it has plenty of maintenance issues. Our present plan is to spend the next 4-5 years fixing anything that might make it hard to sell. We did the kitchen about 4 years ago and have started work on the bathroom.

Somewhere around 2020 we plan to sell and move to a row house in South Philly. Ideally that house will have been recently remodeled, but we should have enough money to take care of almost anything before we move in. Any appliances more than 10 years old will be replaced, and of course we'll fill the light sockets with high efficiency LEDs.

As for outdoor maintenance, our plans will make things like mowing the lawn a thing of the past. At most we'll have 25 feet or so of sidewalk to shovel on the few days it actually snows here anymore.

How Will I Get an Ice Cream Cone?

The Italian Market
This is where the move into the city really pays off. All the areas we're considering have nearby markets (walking distance or easily reached by public transit), vibrant restaurant scenes, and are generally really nice places to live. Obviously, with no need for a car we'll also be saving thousands of dollars each year in fuel, maintenance, and insurance costs.

Who Will I have Lunch With?

Penn Museum's Warden Garden and Main Entrance, Summer 2012

Well, there's always Beth! We don't plan to move until neither of us must work.

It will come as no surprise to anyone who knows me that I have plans to take courses again at Penn (though much re-study of Greek and Latin will come first). I'll almost certainly volunteer at the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology and I suspect Beth has some ideas as well. Center City Philadelphia is packed with theaters and various supporting groups that should supply plenty of good company.

When, as is inevitable, one of us dies we hope the remaining spouse will be able to move near our son and his family and come to a reasonably comfortable end.

What Could Derail Us:
  • A serious injury or illness to either of us while we're still working.
  • Very high interest rates when we want to sell our house
  • Death
You might think that I should include an economic downturn/market crash, but in fact we've cut our living expenses to the point that we should be able to wait out anything comparable to the last three corrections (1987, 2000, 2007-9) as long as one of us is still working or we both have Social Security coming in. The IRA portfolio I'm working on (what most of this blog has been about so far) is designed to both minimize the effects of a major correction by using low Beta stocks while still providing income from dividends when writing calls is not possible.


Many of the issues mentioned in the linked article are related to senior isolation (due to living in suburbs and rural areas) and lack of any serious planning. Having a wife who's a geriatric nurse has tended to make me (I think) somewhat more aware of the issues of old age and (I hope) able to make some plans to mitigate them.

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