Seniors & Aging

Making wise choices lets widow still 'have fun'

Virginia Kostelyk sits near an azalea in her backyard Thursday, May 29, 2008.
Virginia Kostelyk sits near an azalea in her backyard Thursday, May 29, 2008. JOSIE LIMING THE BELLINGHAM HERALD

Name: Virginia Kostelyk.

Age: 77.

Residence: Born and raised in Bellingham.

Career: Kostelyk worked as a registered nurse.

Family: She has a brother and many cousins in the Bellingham area; her late husband's family is in Lynden. She has four children, nine grandchildren and four great-grandchildren in the Lynwood area, and one child in the Quincy area.

Hobbies: "Right now, I walk three to four miles a day at the mall, and when the weather is nice I walk outdoors. I go to the Bellingham Senior Center a couple days a week and play pinochle and pool once in a while." She reads a lot and works on the computer, too. "I don't particularly like gardening or cooking because I have cooked all my life. So I go out a lot." Her favorite restaurants are Anthony's, Black Angus steakhouse and Five Columns restaurant.

Starting a nest egg: "We really never saved for retirement. My husband was a builder, and we lived from paycheck to paycheck," Kostelyk says. "We didn't really have any retirement programs. I did work at a nursing home with matching-funds IRA, and so I did enroll in that. Then, when we lived in San Diego, we got by on our Social Security checks. We had our house paid for."

New stage of life: When her husband passed away, Kostelyk sold their condo and bought a smaller house in Bellingham for half the price of the condo. A financial planner in San Diego set her up in diversified mutual funds, where her money is now.

Financial outlook: Kostelyk draws a supplement each month in addition to Social Security. "It is enough, but it is not a lot. In other words, I still have to watch my spending and spend wisely. Fortunately, I have always been in very good health, so I don't have a lot of medical expenses."

Extras and extravagances? "I don't splurge," Kostelyk says. "That is not a word in my vocabulary."Exception to the rule: "Unless you call an occasional Starbucks coffee a splurge."

Planning purchases: "Usually ... I think about it a long time before I make the choice. For example, I ... would love to get a powered sun deck that is retractable, but it is something I would like, but can't afford right now. So that is something I have to put on hold."

Tracking expenses: "Ever since we were married, I have kept track of our spending," Kostelyk says. "I have a box of all of our old ledgers. I have a total record of all our spending and I keep it current all the time. It is fun to look back at 1949, and see what things cost back then."

Picking priorities: "Obviously, whatever the bills are comes first," Kostelyk says. "Bills and then necessities, like gas. I have been checking into bus routes because if gas gets higher, I'm going to park the car and take the bus. And whatever is left over, have fun with."

Does technology help you? "I don't do (finances) on the computer. It works better for me to do it by hand. I have worked with the office program Quicken, but I don't use it personally."

Best financial advice: Kostelyk recommends saving and investing.