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Making Your Money Last

Every Day a Saturday

The retirement phase of my life won't be as challenging as the one I'm leaving, but it ought to be fun.

Every so often I have lunch with the guy who preceded me as editor. He's been gone a few years, and at our most recent gathering, I asked what life is like for a retiree. Ted Miller thought for a moment, then replied, "Fred, it may take a few months, but there will come a morning when you'll wake up and realize that every day is a Saturday."

A stunning insight that was. Saturdays are days of boundless opportunity. You can do almost anything you wish on a Saturday. Best of all, it will be enjoyable. What's not to like about that?

The Janet test

This is my last column -- my last conversation with you on this page -- and my final issue of Kiplinger's Personal Finance to put to bed. I'm going on to the next phase of my life. It won't be as challenging as the one I'm leaving, but it ought to be fun, like Saturdays. In a moment, I'll tell you what I've learned -- my so-called pearls of wisdom. First, I'll share a few thoughts about the men and women who create this magazine every month, starting with my successor.

I met Janet Bodnar 22 years ago. Before Ted hired me as his deputy, he asked her to take me to lunch. Janet was then a young senior editor of the magazine. Ted trusted her to detect any bs -- false signals or insincerity on my part. Even then, in her thirties, Janet clearly exhibited the qualities I admire her for: poise, self-confidence, excellent instincts as a financial journalist and budding leadership abilities. (By the way, I guess I passed the Janet test.)

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Janet went on to establish her franchise as an authority on kids and money. Her magazine column, "Money-Smart Kids," began appearing in 1993. She wrote a book of the same name. Three years ago, Janet became my deputy and took over responsibility for the magazine's Money section.

I am in awe of Janet for how she inspires the love and affection of the staff she will soon direct. In this tough business, I've never seen such charisma. I recently sat in on a story-idea meeting she chaired with the writers. Uproarious laughter. Voices all talking at once. Excitement in the air. Creative mayhem. And through it all, there was Janet, contributing to the flow of ideas even as she scribbled notes that would later give birth to stories you will read in this issue.

Now, let me ask you: Were you ever in a large work environment in which you thought every single person was pulling his or her own weight and more? It doesn't often happen that way. Yet for the past several years, that's the sort of organization I've been blessed with. As we've expanded into online journalism, effectively doubling everyone's workload, this staff of mine rose to the challenge -- jumped at it. There's an excitement about this place that is sometimes palpable. It affects the interns and young reporters as it does old bulls like myself. We're all still learning, getting better at what we do. And you, dear reader, are the beneficiary.

What I've learned

So now I know that work is a pleasure when you do it with good people. A few other thoughts to leave you with: Don't believe too much in your own hustle. Every so often, even the best investor is incompetent. Your kids are never too old to hear you say that you love them. There will be another bull market -- really. Your worst enemy is not as bad as you think. The best friend of a man who retires in times like these is a working wife. Please, never completely grow up.

I wish all of you the best.