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Wednesday, 25 September 2013

We see what we want to see - Retiree flipping burgers at 77?

Remember this picture test below? 

If you have not done this test before, do you see a young woman or old day?

Who can see both?

Add caption

My blogger friend CW posted this article on the 77 year old retiree flipping burgers in his blog yesterday.

If you have the patience and curiosity (you're the kind of fundamental investor who drills down into the details and not just simply react to headline news), I would encourage you to watch the video and read the rather lengthy article at it's original source here:

At 77 He Prepares Burgers Earning In A Week His Former Hourly Wage

Once you have done so, what's your first takeaway?

Don't read further until you have done so. Don't let my opinions affect you.

Now let's compare notes and shoot the breeze together!

Like in the picture above, we see what we want to see. There's no wrong or right!

My own take

1.  What a handsome man! 

I wish I can look like him when I am 77! I'm sure ladies in their late 40s and early 50s would want to go out with him. Remember, in the video, Tom says he has a "social life". 

2.  I hope I can be as healthy as Tom when I'm his age! 

Look at the way he walks and carries himself. Can stand 8 hours all day in his 2 part-time jobs.

3.  Notice how we react on reading he has 2 part-time jobs? 

If I worked 40 hours a week, what the difference with working the same 40 hours in 5 different part-time jobs versus one full-time job? Benefits. OK, you win. There's more. Pity points?

4.  Contrary to what most of us do, Tom took the path less trodden. 

“I knew that anyone who got into that plant never got out,” he said. “You just got stuck because of the steady pay.

5.  Tom chose family over career.

"When Cooper relocated from New Jersey to California, Palome didn’t want to uproot his family. So in 1980, when he was 44, he started a consulting company, with Cooper as his main client." 

6.  Some readers reading the headlines may start to proselytize on the importance of savings... Tom not a saver?  

"Though he saved for his kids’ college and helped his elderly parents, retirement wasn’t on his radar."

Maybe Tom took care of others first?

7.  Attitude matters.

Instead of complaining on the cards we are dealt, we play the hand the best we can?

Tom lost his wife early. Raised his children himself. During lean years in his consulting business, Tom took a 2nd job running a restaurant where he learnt new skills. Investment got cut by half? Move on.

Tom's optimistic and realistic outlook on life started way before his retirement.

8.  Want to is different from has to.

"Palome, who said his jobs keep him active and learning new things, could survive without working. He receives $1,200 from Social Security and a $600 a month pension from his last corporate job. Still, his $1,400 in monthly wages allows him to bolster his savings and provides for some extras. He goes to the theater, pays for plane tickets to visit his children and grandsons and takes occasional vacations."

Earn more or save more?

You decide after reading this article. I have my bias; and you yours. I don't evangelize you; you don't proselytize me.

What was this article all about? You can't rely on the US social security to take care of you? Despite working hard, saving, and paying off your mortgage?

We living longer than planned to blame? (Kidding! But in a way right no? Mother nature never meant for us to live this long. That's a post for next time)

Beware of others taking advantage of our emotions.

If I am a financial adviser, I can turn this article into a fear emotional sell. See? That's what happens if you don't save... Once the hook has sunk in, a wholelife "savings" policy would be sold.

If I see the prey saves but is worried on the low yields today, I would turn this article into a greed emotional sell. Stressing how in the long term, equities grow 8% a year... A tugging of the line, an investment-linked policy would be sold.


  1. Replies
    1. CW,

      I am class 2 & 3 - depending on the company.

      Although must say I'm more a Starbucks and hawker centre than McCoffee and kopi-tiam ;)

  2. Hi SMOL,

    Thanks for opening my eyes. I didn't think much into it when I read the article. But on your prompting, I realised that my first thoughts are:

    1. Wah, so responsible, can send kids to college w/o debts...not many pple in america can do that

    2. Wah, active ageing...sounds like something I want to do when I'm 'retired'.

    Good post :)

    1. LP,

      Thank you.

      "Work" and "Ageing"; is it not "Living" and "Breathing"?

  3. is this guy normal? wow we truely is addited to everything in life! especially things that needed money!

    no wonder cannot retire.

    1. people like that only show that they are not flexible at all. have very little to do with ability to making and saving money.

    2. i told about my friend who lost his job of 12k/month salary recently, he still spend as though nothing has change, he hope to get his job back again with similar pay.

      LC i say! you better cut back as much and as quickly as you can.

    3. worst, he is thinking of investing the remaining money he got.

      what can i say!

    4. coconut,

      We all have to reach our own "yellow river" to see our true heart.

      If others tell you to quit trading and get a "real job", how would you react?

      It's nothing new. Many come into the market thinking that "career success" will automatically translate to "investing/trading" success...

      All I can say is that I've met up with one financially free retiree (late 60s) who looks lonely and bored. Of course can advice him to volunteer or work part-time. But I not him and he not me.

      I don't have a problem with "face" (what if my friends see me on the selling floor at my age?). Nor do I suffer from this and that "beneath me" attitude (I must do housekeeping on the displays?).

      We all have shackles on our ankles. Financially free is only removing 1 shackle...

      Have you noticed most of the aunties at McDonald's are happy?

    5. ok, so we addited to life and work, sound better?

    6. no many knew this song, one of my favorate when young, i still have the original records.


      thats the one you see in the picture.

    7. by the way, my trading is not my job, its my life.

      if there is no fun doing it, i'll quit tomorrow, no need others to tell me.

    8. and its not entirely about money, i can retire right here and right now.

      i probably will do it if i don't maker money, i'm quiet sure about it, i just turn into a gambler, and thats fun too.

    9. and its not that i achieved financial freedom becos i got into trading, i got my freedom before i get serious into trading! trading is just a way to confirm it.

    10. the more flexible i am, the more freedom i had, whatever it is, money, mind or methods!

    11. coconut,


      What is "work" for some is "living" for others.

      It's not the size of the bank account. It's the look of one's eyes whether one is ""living" or "broke".

      No ikigai, breathing every day is "work".

    12. just can't comprehents how people feels when working, i certainly know how i feel...

      what?, you want your burger medium done? and what? more tata sourse?

      LC! cook it yourself!

    13. LOL!


      I think its best you stick with your "day job".

      Service industry work is out for you!!!

  4. this one this one haha!!


    1. Hee hee,

      Heard of this song before.

      Now I know the band is called Christie ;)

  5. Hi SMOL,

    The article was a great read and your insight is thought-provocating. This 77 year old looks really good. Damn, he probably has more hair than me, someone 50 years his junior!

    I agree with most of your takes, especially point 7 on the attitude. That's probably what makes him healthy and still performing well in his job.

    Another point I want to make is that I don't understand why jobs like "flipping burgers" are frowned upon so badly in modern society (besides the pay part). These are the people making our food! In my opinion, his job's probably more productive than shuffling papers and if he loves that job, I see nothing wrong with it.

    1. 15 HWW,

      It's my way to remind nouveau "fundamental investors" on the dangers of reading headlines and relying on the "summaries" of others without applying our own independent thought.

      Some see mud; I see stars.

  6. Hi SMOL,

    My takeaways:

    1. "You have to respect the job you’re doing and not be negative -- or don’t do it.” - echoes what my folks had taught me . 工作不分贵贱,吃得苦中苦,方为人上人。I have run it through my mind before, if one day I were to be a sweeper or a toilet cleaner, I would still do the job with pride. :)

    2. "sold his New Jersey home for $180,000, kept what he needed to quickly pay off his credit card debt and divided the rest among his children so they’d have down payments for their own homes" - This is sound financial planning for himself and his children! My role model. :)

    3. "Every other morning, Palome does 70 sit-ups and 70 squats and almost as many leg lifts and arm strengthening exercises." - I wonder why '70'...maybe I should find out what is the optimal number to keep the 'pork' belly away? :P

    Life is what we make of it - That's my final takeaway.

    Thankiew for sharing this post. Too bad you don't work on weekdays. I was attending a course at Rendezvous Grand yesterday and today. Would have dropped by to say hello if you were working. :)


    1. Endrene,

      Looking at my tummy now, I've ran out of excuses... OK, time for leg lifts and stomach crunches. I think I'll start with 20 ;)

      There will be opportunities :)



  7. Are we talking on Financial Planning for retirement as a core module or Other subject matters such as Life Attitude?

    Don't get it mix up.

    Wrong role model to follow as Subject Matters Expert on Financial Planning for retirement.

    One not-so-preferred recommendation for retirement planning is Don't Retire so there is no need to bother with it.


    1. no, i think it is "don't plan" at all,

      solve everything!

    2. CW,

      It's quite evident you belong to the Western central planning school - Have goals, track and measure, re-calibrate, try again ;)

      I am now more the Oriental holistic school:


      Everything is interconnected.

      We see what we want to see :)

      Whatever makes you happy!

      Some focus on dollars and cents for retirement (for himself only). Hardware part.

      Some focus on the social life, relationships, why we get out of bed, etc. Software part.

      I am very spiritual as an agnostic!?


    3. coconut,

      I "rubbish eat; rubbish grow".

      Did I plan to be where I am today? No. It's just a series of stumbling and lucky decision points (both right and wrong) that lead me here.

      Somehow I don't think you planned to be a trader when you started out. I suspect it's more about trying out different things and stumbling into something that makes you say: "Hey! This is fun! I can do it all day!"

    4. Lucky, he is an American.

      If he is Chinese, during CNY house visits by relatives, his children may need to hide. Your Lao Pa so old still need to work. No give him allowances har???

  8. Hello SMOL!

    My take on it:

    1. (though not mentioned in the video but in the article) Even the best laid plans can go wrong. e.g. How could the baby boomers have predicted the 2008-09 crisis that wiped off their invested savings.

    2. Age-ing is something younger people need to think about. And with great leap of imagination - after all we think we are invincible when we are younger.

    3. How one views older people working is a matter of perspective. We live in a society (and this is not unique to sg) that views working in old age as something shameful, in the sense that our ideals do not permit us to see a society functioning at a level that requires the generation that is supposed to be retiring, to still work. What are the numbers that ought to be in the work force may well be a question at the national policy level. But on a personal level, my question to my friends is this: what is "retirement" to you? If life is a larger embodiment of family, work, social, and spiritual (for some) life, surely retirement is not the end of life. As you said, it's the difference between "have to" and "want to" work.

    1. It is always better for us to prepare ourselves for "want to work" and the other way "have to".

      Not many people are mentally tough enough to pyscho themselves that working long hours are "actually" enjoyable tasks to do

    2. Hello Rainbow girl!

      You've brought up a very sharp observation!

      If in the past, I would be aghast to discover my parents working into their 60s... It's the "shame" I fear what others may think of me: "You didn't provide enough to your parents?"

      Instead of reflecting that the reason they want to work maybe was for companionship since I was never there for them?

      It's like in the past when men don't like their wives to work after marriage. It's a silly pride thing.

      There lies the light of hope.

      Attitudes and society's mores can and do evolve.

      "Retirement" is harder for men.

      When you ask a man who is he, he''ll reply: "I'm an engineer, a lawyer, an executive for XYZ MNC, etc."

      Ask a woman who she is, she'll reply: "I'm Rainbow girl!"


    3. CW,


      Not many are tough enough to admit they do not have much of a life outside of "work".


    4. if we brain wash ourselves, everything also can la!

      especially when the guy nest to you are doing the same.

    5. very simple test, money aside, you want to do what other people tell you to do or,

      you want to do what you want to do.

      take you pick.

    6. so people who work are stuck with people who work, they "interconnect" each other, or should i say brain wash each other haha...

      so even their "needs" can somehow turn into their "wants".

    7. coconut,

      We either tell little lies to ourselves; or we be true to ourselves.

      Do you want the blue pill; or do you want the red pill?

  9. Keyword here is be 'active' for both your needs and wants. There are many benefits to it especially kill boredom and keeping dementia (e.g. alzheimer) at bay.

  10. If money no problem, why work?
    if you are not bored, why work?
    if you like your work, why don't work?

    How many of us are indeed really like our work?
    Many of us do, but office politics may kill your love of your work.

    Funny but it's true. Time flies then crawls when she (my wife) stops to work. In the twinkle of her eyes, coming to two years already. Me stop at 53, 12 long years ago. Time really flies for me too.
    Another words, your time passes daily, very quickly, if you are "happy".
    Work or no work.

    1. Sorry, correction.
      Time flies more than crawls when she (my wife) stops to work.

    2. temperament,

      That's a very good test which everyone can attest to!

      If we are counting the minutes and the hours, we are either with the wrong companion or doing an activity we dislike ;)

      I'll seek your advice if I encounter "road blocks" during my sabbatical. You had 12 years head-start!

  11. When we think CEO is the best job. Right?

    Read? Real World

    1. CW,

      Your link did not work.

      Here's the link to your post:


  12. No! No! Not my advice.
    At 53,
    i decided to become my wife's driver and house husband and the volunteer family's driver for taking care of my mother whenever she needed to see a doctor until she passed away.Though she was living with my niece.
    And of course i become a full-time OPMI too until now.

    Anyway, we all know "Different Strokes for different Folks.
    Another words if you can be happy doing the mundane things of life, then come to me.

    But time passes by very quickly for me.

    1. temperament,

      You have already set my heart at rest.

      Sometimes, an understanding nod and smile is what we need from people who have traversed the same path...

      Try telling stay at home dads and moms they are not "working". Even if we are financially independent, we still have to "work" on our marriage, children, our family ties, friendships, etc. Unless of course we are a one person island.

      Only those who have been caregivers may understand when I say "working " weekends is the time I am "free".

      God be with you.

      Time indeed has passed very quickly!


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