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Monday, January 22, 2018

Rolling in the Dough?

by Courtney Pierce

When I was in my twenties, success was defined by having a million dollars in the bank—cold cash, not this artificial Bitcoin stuff we have now. The amount sounded like a lot of coin to me at the time, though. Thirty-five years ago, it was. And a pound of bacon was well under two bucks back then. Have you priced a pound of bacon lately? How about an artichoke? And when did a six pack of cheap toilet paper top ten bucks? I’m wiped out when I go to a grocery store. It’s an extortion racket!

So how does one get that cool million in the bank? Lottery tickets were never a sound investment for
me, but I must admit that I dreamed of that scratch-off moment with the winning news. My heart raced at the thought of what I’d do. Fantasies about that sexy car were hard to resist. I can still recall the imagined aroma of hand-stitched leather. Then I figured I’d have to spend a lot on a lawyer and a tax adviser, even before I had my picture taken with that oversize Styrofoam check. Heart-racing visions of winning the lottery quickly dissolved to those of predators: charities, friends I’d never known, and those who checked in at the Why Me Inn. Dang! I’d give it all away, anyway, to assuage my guilt of receiving money I hadn’t earned.

Back to work. That was the key to financial security.

Pesky word “work”. Right through my forties, the term signified a sense of accomplishment, self-pride, and climbing the ladder to show my worthiness. It was about that million dollars too. Along with my ego, the monthly statements of accounts became a measuring stick of success. My accountant wanted me to be insatiable because his growth depended on mine. Don’t get me wrong. I love my accountant like my own father these past thirty-eight years, but he’s getting ready to retire too. Now what? Do I have enough? Had I earned the right to freedom?

The closer I get to that magic age of sixty, the less fear I have of turning my back on the corporate world. I’m not razoring through my fingernails over the thought of retirement. My husband and I will only do something different and personal, like writing full time, growing and hunting our own food, and hiking the trails of Glacier National Park. We want to make experiences our goal, not buying more stuff. Besides, we’ll be cutting way back on our expenses in retirement, so our monthly nut should go down.

I take a deep breath and relax. Snow-capped mountain vistas. Mist drifting over the surface of the lake. Loons call for us to paddle the canoe in the morning hours.

Panic shoots through my spine, shattering my fantasies.

Wait just a darned-tootin’ minute! A million dollars is what my accountant says I need just in my retirement account to step away at sixty-six (preferably at seventy-two to maximize Social Security). I brace myself for battle. My fight-or-flight reaction retreats and my shoulders drop in defeat. All plans of a frugal retirement are eclipsed by the destinations on our bucket list: Roman walls in England, castles in Scotland, mountains in Peru, fishing in Portugal. Have you priced plane tickets lately? The baggage fees alone are more than the cost of a ticket used to be.

Back to work. I’m no boomer with a Trust fund. No one is going to will me a million bucks when they die. Everyone I know plans to bounce the last check they’ll write.

And my husband is so right. He says they wouldn’t call it "work" if it wasn’t.

Photo: Loma Smith
Courtney Pierce is a fiction writer living in Oregon, with her new family. She writes for baby boomers. By day, Courtney is an executive in the entertainment industry and uses her time in a theater seat to create stories that are filled with heart, humor and mystery. She has studied craft and storytelling at the Attic Institute and has completed the Hawthorne Fellows Program for writing and publishing. Active in the writing community, she is a board member of the Northwest Independent Writers Association and on the Advisory Council of the Independent Publishing Resource Center. She is a member of Willamette Writers Pacific Northwest Writers Association, and She Writes. The Executrix received the Library Journal Self-E recommendation seal. 

Check out all of Courtney's books at: and Both print and E-books are available through most major online retailers, including
The Dushane Sisters are back in Indigo LakeMore laughs, more tears...and more trouble. Protecting Mom's reputation might get the sisters killed―or give one of them the story she's been dying to live.

New York Times best-selling author Karen Karbo says, "Courtney Pierce spins a madcap tale of family grudges, sisterly love, unexpected romance, mysterious mobsters and dog love. Reading Indigo Lake is like drinking champagne with a chaser of Mountain Dew. Pure Delight."

Colorful characters come alive in Courtney's trilogy about the Dushane sisters. Beginning with The Executrixthree middle-age sisters find a manuscript for a murder mystery in their mother's safe after her death. Mom’s book gives them a whole new view of their mother and their future. Is it fiction . . . or truth? 

Get out the popcorn as the Dushane Sisters Trilogy comes to a scrumptious conclusion with Indigo Legacy. Due out in summer, 2018.


Sarah Raplee said...

I enjoyed your post, Courtney. Millions of us are struggling to redefine our expectations of retirement. Balancing reality and cherished fantasies is a daunting task. For me the key is having a purpose, meaningful work to do. I may not ever set foot in the coliseum, but I can explore the wonders and mysteries of the Pacific Northwest, where I live. And I can spotlight those places and scraps of history in my stories.

Courtney Brooks said...

You are so right, Sarah! Maybe writing about all those exotic places will be just as enjoyable with a view above my laptop. But I'll need to bob and weave to see around the nose prints of deer on the window.

Judith Ashley said...

Courtney, I "retired" from being an employee but I've not retired as in "set myself aside as being no longer useful because I've worn out, obsolete, etc." You may find you and your husband have more income from your writing than you do now...who knows! And as long as you are doing something you love, something that feeds your soul (and I know you love writing and those snow-capped mountain views, loons, deer, etc. will be a boon to your soul) and you are with someone you love, you're rich beyond compare.

Maggie Lynch said...

As always, Courtney, your posts are thought provoking. There are so many decisions in life that make us who we are and where we focus. I love Judith's definition of "retired" as an employee but not as someone who is worn out, obsolete, or no longer useful. That is so important.

I think that a part of being an American is wanting more, more, more. More than any other country in the world, we still hold the dream that we are equal and can be anything we want--be that rich and famous, an inventor of amazing things, or a writer with a visible following. The one thing I've learned since the last recession--which was what took my initial retirement comfort away--is that there are a lot of things you can do for free or nearly free for vacations, rest and relaxation. And every day I count my blessings that I'm not homeless, needing to beg for food, or in such poor health that I am unable to leave my home.

Yes, there is more I want than what I have now. But I no longer shoot for that million dollars as a measure of comfort and happiness. We no longer make plans for world travel. Fortunately, both of us did a lot of travel in our youth--just not together. Those opportunities may come again one day, but I'm not waiting for them in order to live. I'm turning my focus to enjoying being alive every day I wake up, taking time to enjoy my friends and family, and being thankful that I am able to make some money at what I love to do.--write books and some teaching.

I'm definitely hoping to visit you one day in your cabin--probably not in the snow, but definitely when one can hike without freezing. :)

Diana McCollum said...

Loved your post, Courtney! My husband and I retired seven years ago. I volunteered at the local hospital for three years, until my mom (92) who lives with us began having medical issues. Now my husband and I are her caregivers. We still find time to fish, garden, write etc. Just no long trips without finding someone to stay with Mom. So that traveling is more limited than we thought it would be when we retired. Luckily, Sarah my sister, comes over when we go on vacation and she gets to spend time with mom. So far, it has all worked out where we do get a vacation or two a year. It's just a hassel haveing to coordinate with someone else, instead of being spontaneous in traveling.