Seniors & Aging

Smart choices give retiree options

Berneice Dabney at her home at The Willows Wednesday, May 27, 2008.
Berneice Dabney at her home at The Willows Wednesday, May 27, 2008. JOSIE LIMING THE BELLINGHAM HERALD

Name: Berneice K. Dabney.

Age: 90.

Residence: Bellingham for the past two years. Dabney has also lived in Missouri and Illinois and says: "Washington is the most beautiful state I've lived in with the best climate."

Career: Dabney worked for the federal government. She retired when she had children.

Family: Dabney's daughter and grandson also live in Bellingham, the reason she moved here. She also has a son in Illinois.

Hobbies: "Staying alive at this point."

Pastimes: Dabney loves to bowl and play cards, and used to sew and knit.

Early lessons: "I grew up during the (Great) Depression, so I remember very well Black Friday and people jumping out of windows and things," Dabney says. Things were very, very tight." But Dabney says she learned important lessons from her parents and grandparents. "They were very frugal people and yet we enjoyed a nice lifestyle," she says. "We always had family vacations, and went somewhere educational," including the national capital, state capitals and the Chicago World's Fair.

Starting a nest egg: Dabney says she remembers how her parents' employer couldn't afford their whole payroll so they gave half the salaries in money, half in gas books. "We grew up knowing we didn't spend all we had and knowing you always put away for a rainy day. So for years, we lived like that."

Saving: "I'm not a big spender on clothing — not a big shopper. When I was working, I didn't buy new clothes, I took care of them and I recycled them. I think you have to program savings into your daily life."

Splurging: "I guess you could say my husband splurged on cars. We had a new car every year. The one thing I splurged on is my children." Dabney says she also carefully selected her retirement home. "The Willows is a very nice place to live. It allows me to live independently and that is a luxury to me to not have to depend on my daughter."

Seeing the world: After Dabney's husband retired at age 55, the couple moved to Switzerland for a year and spent time traveling all over Europe.

Picking priorities: "Well, I don't think we decided. It was a matter of ‘have-tos' — have to pay rent, buy groceries, pay insurance. Over the years, we just knew what it would take. You list your expenses and live so you can pay those."

Hands-on approach: "I do it all the old-fashioned way. I do (the paperwork) all by hand and take care of all of my own expenses. I give the stuff for income taxes to an accountant. Eventually I will retire from that and give it all to an accountant."

Best advice: "Save for a rainy day." Dabney recommends saving each month and living within your means.

Insider's method: Invest in bonds, Dabney says.

Message for youth: "They are far too extravagant. They have to have a cell phone and an iPod, whatever that is, and all these other things. They don't plan for disasters or anything like that. I don't think most have a pattern of savings, and most spend beyond their means. That is the best thing they can learn: Spend within their means and save a little."

Keeping it real: "Money certainly isn't everything, but it can cause a lot of problems if you don't have it. There again, it is about the lifestyle of what you earn."

Values most: "Family."