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Thoughts on Career, Relationship, and Money, as I Approach Old Age

By Marty Nemko

God, it goes fast. It seems like only yesterday that Anthony Piscatelli made a habit of giving me nuggies (smashing me in the head with his fist) after school for "always showing off how smart you are, Marty NumbNuts!" That was a mere 50 years ago.

I don't buy the blather, "We're not getting older; we're getting better." I'm only starting to get old and I can already tell it will suck.

Among aging's few benefits is a quark or two of wisdom. Of course, Neil Simon may be right when he wrote in Broadway Bound, "Wisdom doesn't come with age; wisdom comes with wisdom." Nevertheless, preferring to risk self-delusion, here are some hopefully wise thoughts for we older people and perhaps even for young whippersnappers:

Career: In our ever more anti-elitist society, intelligent people are conditioned to hide their intelligence. I'm not asking you to be a braggart but to accept that you have a gift: Don't hide it; use it. The meaning of your life is largely a function of how well you use your gifts.

And if your intellect isn't used and valued in your current work, consider other work. Yes I know it's hard for older workers to find new jobs, especially in our plummeting economy but, without quitting your job, consider putting some feelers out.

Or contemplate starting a small business or pursuing an avocation that would use that intelligence of yours. For example, near a college campus, open a Town Hall Meeting Cafe at which every hour, patrons would discuss a new topic of interest. Love travel? Go on a shopping trip to China in which you're looking for raw land in a Beijing suburb that's slated for infrastructure development.

Relationships: So many people stay stuck in a decades-long bad relationship; objects at rest tend to stay at rest unless provoked by an external force. If your wisest self believes your life will have been better-led alone or with a realistic-to-obtain new partner, then find that external force. I'm not suggesting you cheat on your spouse; just be out in the world. Join an organization, take a class, and yes, get more active in Mensa. But joining is not enough. You could attend events forever and still not be out in the world. You need to reach out to make human connections there: Ask people about themselves, really listen, and respond humanly.

Money. I wish I had received the following advice 40 years ago. Put all your investments in one place: one of Vanguard's All-in-One Funds. You don't need to know much of why, just like you don't need to know why Toyotas are so reliable. You mainly need to know they are. And Vanguard's All-in-One Funds, which include options for young and old, are reliable because they are super-low cost, very professionally managed, give you choices based on your risk tolerance, and within a single fund, provide excellent diversification. And unlike me, who has a dozen accounts all over tarnation (talk about an old person's word!,) with all your investments in one account, your tax and estate planning paperwork is easy-peasy.

Do not let the financial services industry bamboozle you into thinking that investing wisely is complicated. It really isn't. Indeed, the more complicated, the worse you're likely to do. Not to mention, it will take a heckuva lot of time and paperwork.

Disclaimer: I am not a professional financial advisor so I'm supposed to tell you to consult one before making a major financial decision. But they're the guys who make things unnecessarily complicated in the first place! A compromise position might be to call Vanguard (800-662-7447) and talk with their representatives--it's free and because they are not on commission, they're likely to be honest. I've certainly found them to be so.

Next month, I'll share my geezerly thoughts on health, on politics, and on the meaning of life.

Dr. Nemko is a career, education, and personal coach specializing in high-IQ people, is Contributing Editor for careers at U.S. News & World Report, and hosts Work with Marty Nemko, Sundays from 11 AM to noon on KALW-FM 91.7. An archive of his radio shows, 500+ of his published articles, and chapters from two of his five books are free on Reach him at

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