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Retirement Journal: Going Online in the Golden Years
Stan Hinden

Tuesday, March 21, 2000 at 1 p.m. EST

What do retirees do in their spare time? If they’re like many of my friends and neighbors, they spend a lot of time on their computers, sending and answering e-mail messages and exploring the vast resources of the Internet.

Stan Hinden Crenshaw
Stan Hinden

The computer has added a new dimension to the lives of many retirees—including this retired journalist. Once you learn to use a computer, it doesn’t take long to realize that e-mail and the Internet are powerful ways to communicate and to acquire information. The Internet also offers a pipeline to a virtual community of people who share your interests.

But where do you go? How do you find what's right for you?

Columnist Stan Hinden retired from The Post three years ago and writes Retirement Journal. Now that he's living in retirement, there are several things he'd do differently to support a comfortable lifestyle in retirement, from investing and saving to learning about such topics as Social Security, medigap insurance and mandatory IRA withdrawals. Here's your chance to learn from his experiences. He welcomes your questions and comments.

Stan Hinden: Good afternoon. I'm Stan Hinden, the author of the "Retirement Journal" column. I'm happy to welcome you to this online chat. And I'll do my best to answer any questions you might have about retirement or about what it is like to be retired.

Washington, DC: I am a recent 65-year-old retiree and I have been offered my old job back part time. How much can I earn this year before I lose my Social Security benefits?

Stan Hinden: That's an interesting question at this moment because the House of Representatives has just decided to eliminate the earnings limits for retirees of ages 65 to 69. The Senate is expected to take up the matter next. (more)

Stan Hinden: It appears that the Senate will also pass the bill, too, because the vote in the House was UNANIMOUS. As you know the earnings limits have been most unpopular. However, the limit will probably remain in effect for retirees of 62 to 65.

DC: The more articles I read about how much money you need in retirement, the more confused I
get. It seems that everybody has a different opinion. Is it true that you need only 80 percent of your pre-retirement income when you retire?

Stan Hinden: Well, my experience is that when you retire, you don't need less income, you need more income. And I will tell you why. Unless you move to a less expensive house and less expensive city or state, your monthly living expenses probably won't change that much. But if you are hoping to travel or do other things to enjoy your retirement, that will involve extra expense. So think carefully about how you want to live in retirement before deciding whether you can afford to retire.

Spotsylvania, Virginia: Just dropped by to say hell-o. Enjoy your
column. You are right on target with your comments about seniors and the internet.

As a fellow retiree, I enjoy the internet although it can be addictive.

This is my first time on the chat line.

Good luck to you in keeping the line open.

John J.

Stan Hinden: Thanks for the kind words. I think the Internet can be very exciting hobby for retirees. And I'm glad so many of my friends are out there surfing.

Melbourne, Florida: I am a retired schoolteacher and one of my retirement goals was to learn how to use the computer. But I am amazed at the seniors who have given up and refuse to learn something new. Any suggestions on how to get them motivated.

Stan Hinden: In talking with many of the people in my retirement community, I found that the thing that motivated many of them to learn to use a computer was the ability to get e-mail so they could stay in touch with children, grandchildren, family and friend. I think that is a pretty powerful motivator. So I would stress that point.

Downtown, DC: I'm 63 and have been considering retirement. I enjoy working but I am concernec about income as well as how I would spend my free time. I am divorced and my kids -4 of them- are all busy with their own lives. Any advice on what I should conider before making the plunge. Any organizations that can help?

Stan Hinden: Yes, there are definitely some things to consider before, as you say, "taking the plunge." Assuming your health is OK, and you want and need to stay busy in retirement, try to decide IN ADVANCE what you would most like to do during retirement. Often retirment activity can be related to one's job or work experience. Many firms, especialy temp firms, love to hire retirees. So, I'd look for a temp firm, or I would go on the Internet and find some of the employment agency web sites, such as monster.com and others. Whatever you do, make sure it is work that you will like and that it is work that will keep you in touch and involved with other people. That's important, too.

Rockville: I am a 50-year-old recent widow, make $40,000 a year and rent a modestly priced but nice apartment. Beginning in June, I will fund my 401-k account with 15 percent of my earnings, and my employer will match 4 percent. I will continue at the same levels until I am 60, during which time I anticipate my salary will increase at a rate of 3 percent a year. I am in the process of selling my home in Maryland, from which I will net $150,000. I also have $30,000 that I inherited from my late husband's IRA. As a widow, at age 60 I will be able to draw Social Security against my husband's earning record, and at 62 or 66 I can switch to drawing against my own record.
I enjoy the relatively high wages of the area, but since real estate here is so expensive, when I retire I plan to move to S.C., where the cost of living is much lower. My goal at age 60 is to buy two mortgage-free homes in S.C.: one to live in and one to rent. I have a fairly simple standard of living and believe I will be able to live quite contentedly on my Social Security plus rental income. Where should I invest my 401-k funds? What should I do with the $180,000?

Stan Hinden: There is not one easy answer to your investment question. When there's a large sum of money involved, you generally run into questions of asset allocation--or how much of your funds should go to stocks, bonds, money market or other types of investments. To make a proper judgment on that question will require help from a financial planner or investment adviser. Especially because you may want to make some estate planning decisions at the same time. Good professional advice will help you sort through problem.

Olney, MD: I'm looking for any tips for those of us who are old enough to have trouble finding jobs even when the papers are full of record low unemployment rates. I can't stand retirement. Advice for an old man looking for work?

Stan Hinden: As I was saying in answer to another question, temp agencies like to hire retirees and have many jobs available. There are many job-seeking web sites available. The county's Office on Aging may have some advice for you. I'm sure that you'll be able to find something that you'll like to do. And, of course, there's the state employment office, which may be able to help.

Arlington, VA: i realize you had a nine to five job and a family to support but at some point, perhaps near age 40, did you ever think about taking everything you had up to that point and just moving to a deserted island? I realize this thought is somewhat Gauguin-esque but given how this city is, I've got to think others have thought the same from time to time.

Stan Hinden: Well, I never thought about fleeing to a deserted island or even to a very small rural town--mostly because as a lifelong journalist I loved working for newspapers and the bigger the better. And since if I went to a desert island and didn't find a newspaper, I would have to start one and then I'd be back at work. The grindstone isn't so bad if you turn it off once in a while.

Silver Spring, MD (Leisure World): We find your articles very interesting and informative. Are you planning to write a book?

Stan Hinden: Yes, thank you. Am working on a book right now--hopefully for publication next year.

Bethesda, Md.: Do you have any suggestions on volunteer opportunities that do not have commitments that would preclude travel?

Stan Hinden: I think that you can voluteer to work for hospitals, senior centers or service clubs--such as the Lions or Kiwanis--or for church-related groups--on a fairly informal basis, giving them as much time as you can spare. The groups are generally grateful for all the help they can get.

Herndon, VA: I am a 68-year-old former professional man, reasonably young- looking, blessed with good
health and worried that I will outlive my retirement money. Plus that, retirement stinks. But you know how the Social Security earnings limit goes - I lose $1 in Social Security benefits for every $3 I earn above this year's $17,000 limit. Just as some student loans are forgiven for working in talent- short areas, are similar breaks available to seniors who need to work but who can't afford to be penalized with "extra income tax" applied to earnings above the cap?

Stan Hinden: As I mentioned earlier, the House of Representatives has voted to do away with the earnings limits for those 65-69. The Senate is expected to approve the sam measure. And the new rule would go into effect for this year, I believe. So you won't have to worry about that soon, I expect.

fairfax: I have seen a lot written about assisted living and senior complexes, but what about us seniors who want our own homes? Are there many "over 55" communities in the area with single-family homes? Don't some builders set aside homes within traditional subdivisions for seniors ?

Stan Hinden: There are "over 55" communities with single-family homes, such as Leisure World in Silver Spring and elsewhere. I don't know about set-asides for seniors in traditional subdivisions. But a call to the county housing agency could probably get you that information.

Kingstowne, VA: I am 64 -- a recent retireee from a Washington, D.C. law firm. I am very interested in taking an internet class for seniors. I had great difficulty getting online to chat with you -- and some kind soul from a local DMV helped me - and here I am. Also enjoy your column, but sometimes wish you would be more positive in your outlook!! Can you assist me with finding a tutorial for seniors in the Springfield area? Thanks so very much.

Stan Hinden: I'm sure that there are many places in your area where you can learn more about computers. I would first try 1-800-747-6848, which is the number for SeniorNet. They give courses in computers and they can tell you where the nearest SeniorNet computer center is. Otherwise, call the local Office on Aging, or local senior centers and you will be able to find help, I am sure.

Chevy Chase: Whatever happened to the notion that family takes care of its oldest generation? Aren't adult children and grandchildren supposed to be responsible for the comfort of their elders until death? Well, I know they don't accept that responsibility now. But didn't they used to?

Stan Hinden: That is an interesting philosophical question. And I think we all could wish for a world in which family ties are that strong. I am sure that many, many children are taking responsibilty for their elders every day. But it was probably easier in a world that was simpler than what we have today. The great mobility of people, the ever-shifting jobs, the two-wage earner families all have combined to make the world more complex and make it harder to keep close family ties.

Potomac,MD: I am a wealthy man living in MD and find that their are not enough internet sites that really interest me. I would want information on leisure time and places to go as well as other sites that would occupy my time and give me ideas of things to do.

Stan Hinden: I would suggest that you might find additional web sites of interest by going on Washingtonpost.com and clicking on some of the tabs related to cultural and entertainment activities in our area. There is quite a bit of information there that should help you keep busy. Search engines such as Yahoo also can help you locate other interesting sites.

washingtonpost.com: That's all the time we have for today. Thanks to Stan for all of his insight and advice.

© Copyright 2000 The Washington Post Company

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