The following is an analysis of the merits of taking your Social Security benefits at age 62 vs. age 66. This discussion assumes two conditions: that you stop working at or before age 62, and that you have an IRA investment account that is funded from an IRA, 401K, or lump sum distribution from a pension plan.
I’m not normally a jewelry person. Despite having a large collection of Malaysian fashion pieces, I don’t wear much of it. Yet last summer, while walking through a shop in Key West with Ralph, I saw something I loved - an art deco seahorse. Simple, streamlined, seahorse. I saw it from the window and immediately knew it should be mine. But as a beachtown resident myself, I knew - prices in places like this are always negotiable.
One of the great, yet odd, things about living with your bestfriend is the glimpses into your own neurosis it provides. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not like Ralph and I are the same person; nor are we one of those couples who’ve grown to behave alike; but we do, occasionally, approach situations in an eerily similar fashion. Case in point this afternoon. He’s on the phone with Amazon trying to sort out a mislabeled product he just received and totally confused the agent. Hell, I knew what he was talking about, and he almost managed to confuse me! Ralph’s side of the conversation went something like this:
Ralph and I headed down to the beach the other day to celebrate Kevin’s birthday. We met up with the crew shortly after seven in the evening, and much to our dismay the birthday boy was already well on his way to needing a nap and a sandwich. Sure enough - true to form - not ninety minutes later Kevin went missing; he put himself to bed. Over the course of the next few hours, however, several more guests arrived. Each with the same eye-roll reaction to Kevin’s absenteeism. Before long the cocktail count reached the group’s tipping point for bad decisions and the next thing I knew Brendan and I were leading a parade down the beach to awaken the birthday boy.
A small startup asked me to come out to London to train their sales team a couple weeks ago. Naturally, I was happy to oblige. As we worked out the final details − dates, travel, and accommodations − I learned their US-based team had rented a house for a couple weeks. Since they are a young, not-yet cash-flush company, they asked that I take the most economical flight − even if it meant me staying an additional night or two; the house had an extra bedroom, so that cost was fixed. It sounded great to me; I’d get to dust off my sales enablement skills and get to spend a weekend in London (and this time [theoretically] without the burden of a broken ankle). So I booked my trip and off I went.
Ajax told me to sign up for Venmo last month. It seemed like just another PayPal to me, but since he recently spent some time working at a start-up in the banking industry, I figured I’d trust his security judgement. So I signed up, our friend Perl paid me back for a dress I bought her, and I forgot all about the site. That is until the other day when I receive a text message that read:
Last Saturday Ralph and I decided to go to the Festival of Chocolate. We really had no idea what to expect, but what we found was better than even I could have imagined; we stumbled on to, what could only be described as, a teenage boy’s dream date. First, the festival took place at the Miami Auto Museum. So sprinkled amongst the booths of chocolatiers, was a very interesting collection of autos from classic and contemporary cinema. Candy and cars, already much more than we could ask for.
I’ve spent the last decade carefully honing my morning ritual. Sure there have been some changes - Miami’s climate prompted me to trade the fleece Jets blanket I affectionately call my ‘thinking cape’ for a pair of focus flip-flops - but the core process has remained the same. I wake up, wander about a bit, and check my newsletters email account while the coffee brews. Most of the time there’s nothing worthwhile - just a bunch of bogus deals and cliche coupons - but lately I’ve come to really enjoy the stock photos that are circulating... and their unintended implications.
Inside the kitchen sink Ralph installed a metal shelf. I don’t know what they are called, but trust me you’re familiar with the device − the grid-looking thing that keeps the dishes from sitting directly on the sink bottom. Anyway, I got to cleaning the other day and realized the sink’s surface could really stand a cleaning. Lazy, as usual, I figured it faster to just fill the sink with a little hot water, a splash of bleach, and some dish soap and let science do the scrubbing for me. So I plug up the drain, flip on the faucet, and head outside to see what Ralph is up to.
So I decided to bake today… and true to fridge form I was without eggs at the time I settled on this bright idea. Never discouraged, I thought to myself “there’s got to be a decent egg-less cookie recipe out there,” so I turned to Google for help. As I assembled the ingredients listed in the “Edible Egg-less Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough” recipe, I noticed an absence of any leavening agent. No worries though, I just added some baking powder. I even preheated the oven to 350 degrees - mom would be so proud. In fact, I didn’t have to consult the directions at all - between my mom and Alton Brown, the basic technique for cookie assembly has taken up permanent residence in my mind. That is until it came time to set the timer…
Ralph and I decided to take a train between Barcelona and Madrid on a recent holiday in Spain. We figured it'd be nicer than a plane as then we'd get to see the Spanish countryside. Both of us being from Chicago, however, has left us with an interesting expectation set regarding train logistics; when we think 'train' we think the L. You know, mass transit, subway-style trains. The kind of trains with fixed prices and regular schedules. Yea...
I spent the last week working from Chicagoland. The alternate homebase allowed me to catch up with many old friends I hadn't seen in years. My last few passes thru Chicago have been quite quick, leaving me only time to clean my teeth and see my folks; I maintained a social velocity sufficient to obscure the subtleties of my surroundings - like, for instance, the weather. It’s bloody cold in Chicago, yo! I know, I know ... “duh” … but remember, it’s July. For as long as I remember Chicago’s been delightful in July. I mean shit, Chicago gets 75 more minutes of daylight than Miami does at the moment, and yet - somehow - can’t manage to shine away from applying a windchill to their “78 degrees.” But that’s not really the point of my story…
Lately I’ve grown very irritated with my eyes. I don’t believe there’s been any actual change in my vision or anything, but I’m convinced my eyeballs are on strike. You see, I’ve had a mild astigmatism and a touch of far-sightedness my whole life, but I also rock some incredibly accommodating lenses, so when I apply myself, I can read 20-20 no worries. That said, I’ve also been a fan of computer glasses for some time. Because I simply don’t think I should have to try to see. Normally, “corrected” 20-15 is no trouble for me, and it’s still not really - but lately I can’t seem to hold focus for the life of me. The opthamologist explained that, while she could correct the astigmatism with a laser, the problem was more in my brain than my eye. Fan-tastic.
So I’m walking down Washington the other day with Ralph when all of a sudden I notice he’s no longer by my side. This is unusual because he’s one of the few blokes I walk about with who can actually keep up with me. When I turn to see where I lost him, I discover him staring at a puddle in the street. He looks up and goes “come check out these tadpoles!” Leave it to eagle eyes to spot a school of tadpoles in the gutter out of his peripheral. We both immediately became enamored by the idea of street frogs and quickly boarded the snowball of bad ideas and giggles, or SoBIG as I prefer to think of it. We eventually carried on our way, but as the afternoon marched on and our respective errands concluded, I couldn’t get the street frogs out of my head. After a few more rides on the SoBIG the excitement surrounding this adventure became so big we simply had to go back. Armed with two gallon zip-top bags, a couple of plastic measuring cups, a strainer, and a smile, we marched our way back up Washington to “rescue” some tadpoles. We might have gotten carried away, for when we got back to my place and transferred our refugees into their halfway house in the form of a 5-gallon bucket, we realized we retrieved almost two dozen taddys. Sadly I had to leave town the next day and head to bootcamp, but like any good absentee parent would, I first established a solid joint-custody arrangement; Ralph committed to their care for the next week.
While digging thru my game cabinet for some unjinxed dice the other day, I stumbled upon an old puzzle. One Tough Puzzle is a brilliantly frustrating 9-piece puzzle boasting 300k incorrect arrangements. Unfortunately for Ralph he witnessed this reunion which resulted in my challenging him to locate the singular solution. A mere 5 days later, while in NYC, I received his victory text. Naturally I scheduled a debrief as soon as I returned; I had to hear the strategy that resulted in such an expeditious resolution!
After driving along the rental return road for so long I actually thought I had missed the turn off, I finally arrive at the Hertz counter and happily hand off my temporary Fiat. While waiting for the lady to issue me a receipt I decide to get ready for pre-check. I chug what’s left of my water, retrieve my driver’s license, and place it in my phone holster for quick access before powering toward the shuttles. As I turn the corner to discover a bus for terminal C standing by, I realize I don’t know if there’s pre-check in C. Looking to avoid another contruction cock block, I text Jason who - despite being painfully under-familiar with the local shower scene - remains the resident DFW expert to ask.
For a plethora of bad reasons that, taken together, sum to nothing more than a rationalization for “because I want one,” I decided to get a new chair. As I alluded to last week, office chairs fall into the category of things requiring specific configuration. Since I seldom run the air conditioning - I like listening to the sounds of South Beach more than I dislike humidity - the new chair shall be mesh, not leather or fabric. Sweat less, check. Since I prefer to assume a position reminiscent of being shot into space - leaning back, base pivoted to the rear, feet up - the new chair shall be bendy, bendy in many ways. Recline more, check. Since the air in my apartment is salty - first world problem number 9 - the new chair should have more plastic parts than metal ones. Rust less, check. Finally, since I sit at a table that’s not technically a desk - thank you CB2 - the new chair shall have a very high, very stable up position. Sink less, check.
SugarCRM turned ten the other day which provided me the perfect excuse to pop off to San Francisco and stop by my favorite dice store. Will graciously accompanied me on my mission to make 1-4-24 a bartime staple. We arrive at Jeffrey’s Toys and Comics where I ask the shopkeeper to pass me the bins of dice. “Sets of six,” I say to my confused comrade who still isn’t sure why we’re there. I have pretty specific, albeit slightly neurotic, criteria for certain commodities. Suitcases, di, desk chairs, cocktails - all subject to well defined parameters, but good a di is pretty easy to define: sharp, not curvy edges with high contrast numbers. This way they’ll be easy to read in dim light and won’t roll all wild like and force you to your knees under some bar attempting to drunkenly retrieve your toy. As it pertains to the set as a whole, I’m a purist. All six should match only because otherwise I’ll overthink the fairness of each di as if the rolls aren’t representing independent random variables…. yea, I overthink things a lot. Whatever, live with it.
After 10 years, countless beers, and busted straights, I decided the time had come. My bowling cards, now too sticky to shuffle and too mismatched to maintain, needed replacing. Naturally my first thought was Amazon.com, but the only budget-friendly decks they had were generic and as much as it may surprise you: people will cheat at cards. Then I remembered I live in a tourist town riddled with beach shops carrying tchotchkes of all shapes and sizes. Surely in one of the myriad of markets might I find Miami playing cards. Shortly into my hunt, while still establishing a baseline, I realized I haven’t haggled for anything in a loooong time.
I’m allergic to smells: probably the most poorly architected sentence I utter on a monthly basis. The sensitivity is severe enough that I actually voluntarily purchased a year’s supply of fresh rain scented All - the only flavor that doesn’t actively make me sneeze - from Walmart when I moved to Miami. So you can imagine my delight when I started seeing this seemingly obscure scent at stores like Publix and Target. Naturally I stocked up, just in case it was a fluke. I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to cut Walmart out of my life for good. Flash forward a few weeks and I go to do laundry and I swear, All changed the smell I’d been using - no, relying on - for YEARS.
On our way home from dinner the other day Shale and I decide to stop for some soft serve. We walk into the Burger King on 5th, look at each other, and decide it was my turn to deal with the humans. I stroll up to the counter and announce my order to the woman. She gets wide panic eyes and says: “oh no we’re out of co… wait did you say you wanted the ice cream in a cup?” I did, 2 cups of vanilla, one with caramel and the other with chocolate please. Relieved she didn’t have to disappoint another cone covet-er she relayed my order to the drive thru chick. Had I known the only operable register was by the window we would’ve stayed in the car, but whatever ice cream was coming - not the ice cream we ordered, but ice cream nonetheless.
A few months ago, while skating around South Beach I realized the Rollerblades I had on my feet were 15 years old. Not the wheels, but the boots and overworn brake were original from my freshman year of high school. Sometime after college I tried to buy new skates; I bought good (read: expensive) ones that killed my feet, so needless to say they didn’t make the move to Miami. I can’t imagine Rollerblade expected the cheap plastic boots to last 5, let alone 15 years, so rather than rolling the dice, and risking being without comfy skates I figured it time to start the search for replacements.
I’m having pigeon problems. Not Pidgin problems, I’m talking actual birds here. What’s worse there seems to be a consensus among my friends that I shouldn’t just shoot them, so I’m stuck resorting to more benign tactics. Thing is, I don’t speak pigeon and - after the last week - I’m of the position that pigeons don’t respond to reason. Here’s how it went down …
Last week my two favorite things: talking to strangers and dance music, had a baby named Winter Music Conference. Ten days of networking, sunbathing, dancing, and discussion among leaders in the dance music community, and… well, me. It’s oddly refreshing to partake in an trade event in which you hold no professional interest. While industry independence doesn’t get you any complimentary cocktails, it invites a level of candor that camaraderie cannot because, unlike the up-and-comers, *I’m* not trying to sell them anything.