Why you, too, should be ‘a saver . . . and a buy-and-hold investor’


The Washington Post, May 10, 2019

Former newspaperman Gordon Eliot White wrote me a smart email a few weeks back, responding to my column about how to make your retirement savings last the rest of your life.

White had a lot to say about how to save on a relatively small salary (his peak was $42,000), what to invest in (and what not to invest in) and how to make 30 years of retirement healthy and fun.

“I was a saver, not a spender,” said White, who approached saving and investing with an entrepreneur’s flair. “Aside from a few years in the early 1970s I have been a buy-and-hold investor.”

The 85-year-old former “print guy” works hard at retirement. He lives on a creek in southeast Virginia, near the Chesapeake Bay. He relaxes by sailing a half-century-old sailboat he keeps docked at the edge of his yard. He also likes to travel, recently splurging on a 10-day trip with a grandchild to Paris and London.

White walks two miles a day, four or five times a week. He has written a monthly column for an antique car magazine for 25 years. He still drives his antique racing car in “vintage events” and has nine books to his credit. He is writing a history for his church and chairs Middlesex County’s economic development agency.

[Saving for retirement is hard. Knowing how to spend it down is harder.]

“I certainly do not lack for things to keep me active and engaged,” White said. “I act as ‘harbor master’ of Moores Creek and keep up with a new wife, 12 years my junior.”

(I will be happy if I make it to 85 with all my marbles.)

White and his wife live comfortably yet modestly on his $750-a-month pension (“small potatoes”), his $19,000 a year from Social Security and the income from more (maybe way more) than $1 million in taxable and tax-deferred investments that he has accumulated.

He was “involuntarily retired” at 55, in 1988, when his newspaper’s circulation dropped by half.

“One reason I have survived financially after being early-retired is that I have no need for luxury,” said White, who drives a 1985 Honda CRX with 247,000 miles. “Comfort, yes, but not luxury.”

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