Boomers, Markets & Money

A Down-to-Earth Discussion of Financial and Lifestyle Information for Baby Boomers

Quality of Life: The Power of Relationship


In November 2004, I took a one-day workshop that lasted eight-years (and still counting).

The previous December, my mother had died after a long struggle with Alzheimer’s disease.  It had been a devastating experience for me to see “the rock of Gibraltar” of my life suffer. She had been an independent person who raised five children through a lot of hardship without complaint.  At work, she and one other secretary managed the vocational department of the local high school, keeping things organized for 21 teachers and all the students who wandered into the department office. I was haunted by the memories of her last years which were marked by overwhelming anxiety, severe hearing loss, and a failing ability to handle the simplest of tasks.

Also, during the previous fall, my oldest entered her freshman year of college.  Although I knew that was a positive development for my daughter, I knew I would be needed less and less by my children in the future.

At this point, I read the workshop description in the Brown Learning Community catalog for “The Middle Years: A Woman’s Rite of Passage, An Opportunity for Choices”. It began “The prerequisite for this workshop is to be female and middle-aged (40-79) so that you can bring your knowledge and experience to our exploration of possibilities for today and the tomorrows.”  Hmmm, I thought—that’s the first time I heard the age of seventy-nine described as middle-aged! The workshop sounded promising so I signed up.

Anita Berger, psychotherapist and adult educator, led the workshop of about twenty women who ranged from the age of forty to their late seventies. It was a very interesting day that covered so much material, that we chose to eat our lunch at our desks while the workshop continued.

A few weeks later, I received a call from Anita, saying she was organizing a group, that would continue studying and discussing the topics covered in the workshop. I signed on to a study group that met every three weeks for two hours.

A small group of us convened in January 2005. The composition varied a bit in the first year.  After about a year, a woman joined the group who hadn’t attended the workshop.  The group of five women, gelled into The Women’s Study Group, led by Anita Berger, who has kept us focused for eight years.

Let me tell you a little bit about the members.  One member is an 85-year-old active writer who still attends yoga class.  The rest of us, now in our late fifties, include a musician/music teacher, two businesswomen, and me.  And, of course, Ms. Berger, a very intelligent, progressive, and strong-willed adult educator who won’t let me tell you her age.  Let’s just say she is an inspiration to all of us.

Over the years, we have discussed books and articles on many factors that affect the development and quality of life of all human beings regardless of age. I am struggling to describe all the different topics we read and discussed over such a long period in a short post. Here are a few: neuroplasticity of the brain, nutrition, exercise, genetics, and environment.  But the theme that came up over and over again was the importance of relationship.  Relationship is very important to the development of a newborn baby. Relationships remain important to maintaining health throughout life including into middle- and old-age.

As I reflected on our studies, I realized that Anita Berger had created a living laboratory of relationship; six women helped each other through all the typical challenges of life as they read, talked, and learned together.

I plan to discuss topics that affect our quality of life in this blog.  Readers are invited to share their knowledge and experiences so that we can all continue to learn.  ####

The Thai Elephant Conservation Center

Here are some photographs that I believe show the power of relationship.  Click on one of the photographs to see the slideshow.

I took these photographs a few years go at the Thai Elephant Conservation Center, which I visited with my family. We rode elephants bareback for two days in an educational program at TECC. The center raises funds to care for the elephants at the center as well as other elephants that live in protected forests.

These pictures show two underweight working elephants that had been brought there to be cared for before giving birth.  One baby elephant was just a few days old and the second was a few weeks old.

At the time we visited, the TECC hospital was caring for elephants maimed by land mines. The Thai Elephant Conservation Center was a really special place that I will never forget.

Here is a link  for the TECC:

This gallery contains 10 photos

Tightwad Tips: A Good List of Food Money-Saving Ideas

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My go-to nutritionist, with masters degrees in both nutrition and public health as well as decades of work experience, answers all my nutrition questions cheerfully.  Even better, Lisa is my sister-in-law , so the price is right!

I asked Lisa if she had any suggestions for money-savings tips for healthy eating.  Lisa “sniffed around” for us, as she said, and came up with a great article.  Money Talk News’ “30 Tips to Save on Food” has many useful suggestions.

No doubt you will already use some of these strategies, but I learned a few things.  Three helpful tips I picked up:

  • The suggestion to use up all your leftovers may seem obvious but I liked the suggestion of the Big Oven app.  It has a clever feature where you put in three ingredients you have in your refrigerator and it comes up with recipe ideas. Click on the Recipe Tab, click on Use up Leftovers!  I typed in carrots, bell pepper, and ground turkey.  Up popped 19 recipes.  I’m going to bookmark this site.  BigOven
  • Author Angela Colley advised substituting cheaper ingredients in recipes for expensive ones.  She noted that Cook’s Thesaurus has a list of food substitutions.  The Cook’s Thesaurus
  • Since we’re discussing food, I’ve included some photographs of a food market we visited in Peru this fall.  Of course, once I got started, I had to slip in a few other pictures.  I hope you enjoy!

This gallery contains 10 photos

Book Review–Exile on Wall Street: One Analyst’s Fight to Save the Big Banks From Themselves


Although I am pretty cynical about what happens on Wall Street I still found myself shaking my head as I read Mike Mayo’s book.  As he recounts his two decades as a bank analyst, he gives readers insight into the banking system in an easy-to-read and entertaining tome. It’s a compelling overview of the intersection of powerful bank executives, politicians, regulators, investment bankers, and analysts.  Shareholders are treated like second-class citizens.

During his career the siScreen Shot 2012-12-09 at 9.11.04 PMze of banks has increased twenty-fold and executive compensation has soared.  He attended many presentations of merger announcements and had one eye-opening experience when he worked at Credit Suisse. He was introduced to the compensation expert who was described as “The person who made the deal happen.” Mayo wrote, “I had a clear glimpse of the role compensation played in that wave of consolidation.”  He felt at times CEOs were selling companies to enrich themselves.

Two chapters are devoted to the checkered history of Citgroup. As he said, “Citi has been involved in virtually every major financial screw-up from Enron and WorldCom, to the analyst scandals of the tech bubble, to the mortgage fiasco.” Unfortunately, Citigroup was in the news again this week, with the announcement of plans to layoff 11,000 employees. The Wall Street Journal reported the bank’s recently ousted CEO Vikrim Pandit received $221.5 million in compensation in his five years there. In my opinion, rank and file bank employees end up as collateral damage as these banks go through their predictable periods of upheaval due to these practices.

Mike Mayo ends with his ideas on how to transform “crony capitalism” to a better version of capitalism. He calls them his ABCs.  Accounting– should reflects the substance of a transaction rather than accounting tricks.  Bankruptcy—let the banks fail. Clout—reduce it for the insiders.

I’d like to close this post by saying that I see little evidence that “crony capitalism” has been cleaned up.  If you think it’s time for reform, I’ve included convenient contact information for all U.S. Senators and Representatives.

Links to helpful resources:

  •  Contact information for U.S. Senators and Representatives. There is a link to an easy-to-use email form for each one.

             U.S. Senate Contact Information

             Directory of United States House of Representatives







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Article on New Rules for Hurricane Sandy Victims

I came across a U.S. News & World Report article, “Special Retirement Rules for Hurricane Sandy Victims”, that has helpful information for people affected by Hurricane Sandy. It covers 401k hardship distributions, 401k loans, an extended Medicare enrollment period, and more time to file tax returns.  U.S. News & World Report