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Retirement: Think differently

By Jennie L. Phipps · Bankrate.com
Tuesday, July 23, 2013
Posted: 5 pm ET

Thinking creatively can make retirement -- and retirement planning -- better.

We live in a waterfront community on Lake Erie. Many of the residents are retirees. In 2008, after the Michigan economic meltdown, our little city had to lay off employees, including most of the maintenance crew that kept the aquatic weeds in shallow shoreline areas cut back so boaters and swimmers can enjoy the water.

That work now has been taken over by retirees who volunteer to both drive and maintain the weed-eating machine. The contraption -- as the mayor calls it -- is about 30 feet long. It has two knives that rotate on each side and a conveyer belt that pulls the weeds out of the water, so they can be chopped up and used as fertilizer on nearby farmers' fields. While it's not demanding work, it's time-consuming, and it helps to have retired auto workers with engine maintenance experience volunteer to do the work.

I went over to the home of one of the volunteers Tuesday morning because we're having a party Sunday and I wanted him to cut the weeds on the lake in front of our house. I was surprised to find that he and his wife were no longer living in their four-bedroom house. Instead, they had turned it over to their son and his wife and their two grandchildren and moved into a newly remodeled 500-square-foot apartment over the garage. Their new home has a kitchen, living room, bedroom, washer and dryer, and a screened-in deck that offers a great view of the lake. Right now, they don't have any trouble climbing the stairs, but they left room for an elevator -- just in case.

The move not only gives them the opportunity to be close to their grandchildren and babysit when needed, it also puts some cash in their pockets because their son and his wife pay rent -- money they make from renting out the house where they used to live.

It's a good arrangement all around -- and an inspiration for all of us who could make our retirements better by just thinking differently.

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