Retirement Planning With Zorba
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Retirement Planning with Zorba <br> Part 2 of 2 on "Urban Myths of the Golden Years"<p> WHEN A RESPONSIBLE URBAN MAN hits his mid-forties, it's time to plan for retirement. I figure there are two basic approaches:<p> You can buy a copy of "Zorba the Greek" and go read it in a touristy souvlaki place with live bouzouki music, somewhere out in the valley. Take along a pencil to underline passionate quotes like: "To be alive is to look for trouble" or "Without folly, a man is nothing."<p> The other option involves sitting in a green leather armchair in a highly air-conditioned, mahogany-paneled office along Wilshire boulevard. There you will find a man in a charcoal suit who will speak with great confidence and make you a black vinyl binder filled with charts and graphs.<p> The man is a financial planner. He's prepared to listen intently and then...plan the remaining years of your life. The Urban Man has long avoided this more responsible approach. Like most of my brethern, I suppose I imagine a miraculous last minute escape from the iron logic of 30-year mortgages and 401Ks, insurance premiums and financial planners.<p> But at last, I find myself in the chilly office. I lean forward shyly and ask for a plan to ---work less and enjoy life more without endangering my old age.' I know it's an absurd request, but the firm does promise "personalized strategies."<p> The man in the charcoal suit flexes his shoulders and flips open the binder to a rising graph of expectations. For a time he speaks beautifully of trusts and beneficiaries -- a kind of poetry about a day far off, but splendid: like that golf course in Palm Springs, graced with a fine sprinkler system.<p> At last he says, "If you buy my portfolio and steepen your earning curve over the next 20 years, you should be able to retire with real comfort and pass on a very generous sum to your children."<p> Lovingly, he writes a long string of zeros.<p> It's a happy plan, with a straightforward goal of comfort. The word rings in the chilly air: Comfort for myself and my children...well-upholstered cars, then the best hospitals and caskets.<p> And suddenly I understand what's familiar about this man's well-fitting suit and hair. Isn't he a kind of undertaker? Isn't he planning me years of backbreaking work and then a cozy sleep unto death? Surely this is no ---personalized strategy,' but the same black binder he offers to every urban man. And for a moment, I wonder if I have chosen the wrong option, after all. Maybe even now I should invite the planner to join me at that Greek restaurant --- noisy and overheated, with blue-checked tableclothes. There, seated somewhere toward the back, we might yet find some gutsy, forgotten Zorba, nursing a bottle of ouzo and a guitar...<p> "Life," Zorba would say, "belongs not to the comfortable, but the passionate."<p> "You said it, old man," the planner might reply, loosening his tie and knocking back a few ouzos. Then, he'd outline how to feed one's children while taking solo sailboats to far Aegean islands. He'd explain how even an urban man can ---work less and enjoy life more.' <p> "Forget retirement," the planner would cry as he grabbed Zorba's arm: "Live for the moment."<p> Then, they would dance.<p> Meanwhile, back in the cold mid-Wilshire office, I extend no invitation, and do not quote Zorba. No, I rise. I shake hands with the man in the charcoal suit, and head into the welcome heat of the afternoon.<p> Under my arm I carry his black binder. But when I reach my car, I throw it hurriedly in the back seat -- and I swear I'm never going to read it.<p> Copyright -- 2004 by Marc Porter Zasada. All Rights Reserved.<p>
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