General guide for mazes, crowds: Always turn left

Did you know this? I didn’t, until Andrew Sullivan told me:

Corn mazes are designed to trick participants, and studies have shown that most humans will naturally, when confronted with a fork in the road, turn right; the hour I spent last night testing this on satellite images of corn and hedge mazes absolutely proves that clever maze-makers love to play on your instincts. (Side note: I’ve heard that that turning-left tip is also a good strategy for avoiding long lines at amusement parks.)

Here’s a passage from the second link he refers to above:

Ok, MrMoonPie, here’s the one, time-tested, don’t-ever-forget-it rule regarding success at Disney World: every time you are presented with a choice, GO TO THE LEFT. I’m serious. Any time a line splits, or you have a choice of entrances, or you’re deciding which part of the park to explore next, GO TO THE LEFT. Many have scoffed, but many more have proven that this trick – simple as it is – actually works.

(I remember reading somewhere that this is due partially to Americans driving on the right side of the road and partially to a preponderance of people being right-handed. I have no idea why this works, but I have been to Disney World literally dozens of times, and I swear to you it does.)

It almost makes me want to go to Disney World again, to try it out.

Here’s some more info on the phenomenon.

By the way, I don’t think there’s a political message here. Certainly not coming from Sullivan.

62 thoughts on “General guide for mazes, crowds: Always turn left

  1. Mark Stewart

    Stores are laid out like this as well, grocery stores in particular.

    Would like to see how the British find their way out of a maze. If they tend to walk right, then left hand driving is the unnatural hold-over from the days when carriages needed an armed attendant.

  2. `Kathryn Braun

    It’s also how stores are set up–you turn right and are confronted with products that set you up to buy more stuff–like the produce section in many grocery stores: you pick up some green stuff, and feel virtuous and lower your defenses against the high-margin junk food further in, say.

  3. Silence

    @ ‘Kathryn & Mark – don’t forget to put the milk all the way in the back so people have to walk through the entire store to get to it.

  4. `Kathryn Braun

    @Silence–many stores don’t do that any more–I think part of it was that the refrigerator cases were on the back wall and could be seamlessly refilled from the stock room. The Social Pig has milk on the left (aha!) in the front, the two downtown Publices have them on the left side aisle (aha!)… and the produce in the rear left corner–but the bakery is on the front right, which is why I avoid going there unless I’ve recently eaten.

  5. Jeff Morrell

    I simply wish that this country understood the concept of standing in a que. The ME first concept gets to be quite grating.

  6. bud

    Here’s a fascinating article that caught me completely by surprise. Basically what this is saying is spending during the Obama administration has increased at a slower rate than under any president in the last 60+ years. So why does he get hammered so for spending? It’s all about messaging. If the GOP can get away with calling him a big spender EVEN THOUGH ITS NOT TRUE, then they establish that as truth. And as we all know by now the GOP is masterful at selling lies to the American people. Sadly the Democrats are rank amatuers when it comes to messaging.

  7. Doug Ross


    So cutting government spending has been a good thing? Why doesn’t Obama just say it then? If he wants to say one thing and do the right thing, I’m all for it.

  8. Silence

    My Gervais St. Pubes has the old Moloko in the back left. Yes, historically it was exactly so milk could be refilled from the stockroom and the refrigerated cases were built into the dairy storage. Back in the olden days milk spoiled quicker than most other foods and would have needed to be rebought more often, hence, make people walk through the entire store to get the milk.

  9. Steven Davis II

    “Basically what this is saying is spending during the Obama administration has increased at a slower rate than under any president in the last 60+ years.”

    Can’t spend what you don’t have and when your credit has run out.

  10. Silence

    Oh my brother, the part of the Korova that is most horrorshow is the dispensers for the old Moloko.

    Well, that and the vellocet and the sythemesc and the drencrum.

  11. Bart

    “Here’s a fascinating article that caught me completely by surprise. Basically what this is saying is spending during the Obama administration has increased at a slower rate than under any president in the last 60+ years.”…bud

    Perspective, perspective, perspective!!! The manner in which the conclusion was reached that Obama has been a fiscal conservative is questionable at best, specious at worst. The author of the article, Nutting, discounted the first year of Obama’s presidency when it come to spending and allocation of federal funds. Naturally, they blamed it on, wait for it, BUSH!

    Then, further on in the analysis, most spending programs in force since Obama took office had nothing to do with Obama but are the responsibility of everyone who preceded him in the Oval Office. When Obama won the election, a large portion of the TARP funds had not been used and Bush took them out off the table. However, Obama asked Bush to release them in case he needed to use them. Bush complied and when Obama used the funds, take a wild guess who was blamed for spending billions of TARP money after Obama took office? Once more, wait for it, BUSH!!!

    Just in case everyone forgets, Bush was president when TARP was passed but Obama stood in the forefront, advocating and voting for passage. So, by fiat, Obama is a co-owner of the TARP funding and cannot escape his share of the responsibility for spending under the bill.

    I guess the fact that spending during the last two years of the Bush administration was controlled by a Democrat congress, House and Senate was overlooked by Nutting. And, since Obama has taken office, he has not presented or passed a budget as required by law. Obama a fiscal conservative? Qualifies for the most ridiculous quote of the decade.

    In countries where creative accounting practices are illegal, Nutting would be prosecuted for positing a ridiculous financial analysis. Maybe he was a passenger in the Choom car Obama and his buddies rode in on what is reported to be a frequent basis.

    Simple fact. When a new president takes office, there is a short period when he is not held responsible for the continuation of policies from the previous administration. However, Obama seems to take the position that his “honeymoon” period for responsibility for anything extends well beyond a couple of months. His has extended for three years.

    I don’t defend Bush but fair is fair and truth is truth. If one wanted to lay the blame for the loss of jobs due to NAFTA, wouldn’t credit for the losses be placed at Clinton’s doorstep? Wouldn’t passage of Gramm-Leach-Bliley that led to deregulation of banks and lending that was accomplished under Clinton and was a major contributor to the financial collapse be rightfully placed on Clinton’s doorstep as well?

  12. bud

    Facts are facts Bart. You can spin this all you like but the fact is conservatives have painted Obama as this big spend thrift and the facts simply don’t justify that.

    But to me that’s the problem. We just did not spend enough with the stimulus to pull us out of the recession. It was enough to stop the bleeding from the financial meltdown but not enough to create the 3-5k job a month necessary to bring unemployment down. Of course the GOP obstructionists had a lot to do with that. Still, the president should be evaluated on facts not Karl Rove spin.

  13. Steven Davis II

    “You can spin this all you like but the fact is conservatives have painted Obama as this big spend thrift and the facts simply don’t justify that. ”

    Just like you’re painting him as this huge money saving president right now? Like I said, you can’t spend money you don’t have and nobody is going to lend you money with the horrible credit we have right now.

  14. Steven Davis II

    “We just did not spend enough with the stimulus to pull us out of the recession.”

    Now if those poor people in the Columbia housing projects could just get 2-3 more credit cards with $10,000 limits they’d be able to afford to move into a nicer neighborhood.

  15. `Kathryn Braun

    Actually, Steven, the US can “spend money [it doesn’t] have”–it’s called running a deficit, and Bush started it, running up a huge deficit with two wars and huge tax cuts. There was a surplus after Clinton…Countries can run deficits quite easily–it’s called macroeconomics, and with far more justification than individuals.

    Pretty basic stuff. A country is not equal to a person or a business.

  16. Silence

    People run deficits all the time ‘Kathryn, same with businesses. Some years you dip into your accumulated surplus to spring for big ticket items, or because your income has fallen, or whatnot. Some years you borrow to buy a house or a car, based on your future earning potential. Maybe you go on vacay and charge it to the ol’ MasterCard.

    There are various justifications for running or not running a deficit.

  17. bud

    Just to clarify Kathryn’s point – Bush didn’t start running up huge deficits. American debt has really been a part of our entire history beginning with Revolutionary War debt. The debt incurred in WW II was far greater in inflation adjusted dollars than it is today and that certainly didn’t sink the nation.

    What Reagan and later W did was unprecidented in American history. They ran up huge deficits at a time when we weren’t fighting a major war nor suffering the effects of a significant economic downturn. Reagan did have the recession of ’82-’83 to contend with but he still managed to run up deficits even after that was over.

    W ran up debt the old fashioned way, with a manufactured war. Mind you it wasn’t a big war but nonetheless it was a big enough war that it cost us a ton of money. Of course in the last year of W’s tenure we did have a nasty recession to deal with, hence the big spending on TARP.

    Amazing isn’t it that the really big deficit presidents are given a pass on fiscal responsibility by the far right because they happen to waste money on the military and tax cuts for the rich. It’s as if those things don’t count. Oh how I wish I could live in the land of make believe where anything I wanted to believe could be true. Conservatives are good at deluding themselves into thinking their guys exercise great fiscal responsibility. The truth is just the opposite.

  18. Brad

    I thought, for a second there, that Bud was defending Bush.

    But then I read the second paragraph, and the world resumed its normal shape. :)

  19. bud

    Brad, isn’t it comforting to know that there are some things you can count on? One day I’m going to surprise everyone and say something nice about George W.

  20. Silence

    I’ll go out on a limb here and risk the ire of bud and ‘Kathryn: There is spending, and then there’s spending. Not all government programs are created equal. A LOT of the so called “stimulus” money was basically flushed down the toilet. Doesn’t matter who was president when it happened.

    I happen to think that I personally and directly benefit from tax cuts. I KNOW I personally benefit from military spending. I’m not sure how I benefit by having a perfectly servicable road repaved, or by the city ripping out light fixtures from a parking garage and replacing them with more energy efficient units – with a time to payback that can be measured in centuries, or more suitably, in geologic epochs.

    My issue isn’t so much with the amount spent – it’s with what we got for our money.

  21. `Kathryn Braun

    Re: personal deficits–vacay on the Mastercard–a woman on NPR this morning said that 52% of middle-aged Americans are on track to have only $7 a day to eat on in retirement. I believe in running a deficit for a house and possibly an education, but a vacation?

  22. Silence

    @ ‘Kathryn – I’m pretty financially responsible so I agree 100%. I’ve got a 15 year mortgage, and a 30 year student loan, both at very good rates – about 3%. When the time comes to buy a new car, I’ll pay cash unless 0% financing is still available.

    You & NPR are correct that too many folks don’t save for retirement. When I see people sporting brand new tattoos, buying an expensive new car, or with the latest smartphone, I often wonder if they are saving anything for retirement.

  23. bud

    I KNOW I personally benefit from military spending.

    Perhaps about the first 25%. Then it become conjecture. We certainly don’t need anything like what we spend.

    As for the rest of your comment I’ll partially agreee, the stimulus package was not perfect. It was certainly not money flushed down the toilet. Even if nothing was built we did save thousands of teachers, cops and firefighters jobs. That’s hardly nothing.

    A better approach would have been for the government to simply create jobs out of thin air and pay people to do something constructive. Given all the bad roads and bridges that would certainly not be hard to do. And in fact we did do some of that, just not enough.

  24. bud

    I’m not sure how I benefit by having a perfectly servicable road repaved ..

    The road may appear servicable but what the DOT has learned is that once a road reaches a certain level of wear, a level not discernable by the motorist, it is vastly less expensive to go ahead and resurface it than to wait a couple of years until real problems become apparent. The DOT has literally billions of dollars in road rehabilitation needs, some of which were met by the stimulus money. Much more could have been used.

  25. bud

    I think I’ll start a new feature called GOP “facts” that are really nothing but bogus conjecture. Here’s a good one to start with:

    Republicans are better for job creation

    Fact is that’s total BS. Since JFK took office in January 1961 Democrats have occupied the White House for 23 years, Republicans 28 years. During that time 42 million private sector jobs have been created under the democrats, about 1.8 million/year vs a paltry 24 million under the GOP presidents or about 850,000/year. Facts are facts folks, the GOP is just plain bad news when it comes to job creation.

  26. `Kathryn Braun

    @Silence–I even shake my head at folks who haven’t saved for retirement but finance a big wedding or even their kids’ education. AS Suze Orman points out, you can borrow to go to school, but you can’t borrow for retirement (reverse mortgages aside)….the woman was talking aout the benefits of a defined benefit pension system–pooled risk, the ability to arbitrage risk, professional management, vs. the retail-priced 401(k)/403(b) plans. What do you think?

    Wouldn’t this also map to single-payer health care vs. a bazillion private plans?

  27. bud

    the ability to arbitrage risk ..

    I plead ignorance. What exactly is that?

    It’s pretty easy for those with adequate income to lecture folks about saving for retirement. But for millions working at places that don’t offer company sponsored pensions that is becoming more and more difficult. I consider myself lucky to have a company pension. And I have contributed to a 401k. But it’s been extremely difficult to contribute to that when the medical bills and other unexpected expenses pour in along with increased costs for insurance and zero pay raises in nearly 4 years. This is all symptomatic of the concentration of wealth in our country that enables a few gazillionaires to soak up all the increases in productivity over the last 30 years.

  28. `Kathryn Braun

    Arbitraging risk is when you balance assets with complementary risk profiles–like stocks and bonds, say, but it’s a lot more technical when practiced by good fund managers.

    We don’t have a company-sponsored pension–my husband came to SC too late to bank on the state pension plan, so we have always been 403(b)/401(k) savers. I never had access to a pension.

    You have to play what you’re dealt. I recognize that for many people, the marginal propensity to save is pretty low naturally–if you’re struggling to pay medical bills, reasonable housing and transportation costs, sure. It’s when I see private colleges for the kids, fancy weddings, new gas-guzzlers, vacations, meals out, lots of new clothes, a too-big house, that I judge.You want to give your kids the best, but the kindest thing you can do is save for your retirement adequately first. You don’t get the same immediate gratification as you do for movies out with ice cream and in-theater refreshments (friends on Facebook post the ridiculous costs of these). My parents never bought us food or drinks at movies, and there was no option other than going to the movies–no home video options, and we’d have a treat maybe once a month at Kelly’s hamburgers in Augusta: the basic small burger, the basic small Coke and small fries shared between two of us. We drank home-sweetened Kool-Aid at home–soda was only for when you were sick. My dad has a pension, but they also saved plenty for retirement on his modest income, for which I am very grateful.

  29. Brad

    Kathryn, you’re failing to imagine what it’s like with kids.

    It’s not a matter of choices. Even if you never, ever, even consider “private colleges for the kids, fancy weddings, new gas-guzzlers, vacations, meals out, lots of new clothes, a too-big house.” Even if you live in a far-too-tiny house for your family, never eat out, never take a real vacation (as opposed to, say, staying with relatives), drive elderly economy cars, and have only the clothes to ensure modesty or to meet the minimum for your work, shop at Aldi instead of Publix, and on and on, it can still be impossible to save money. When life is a constant process of just getting by, and when something unavoidable happens (old car breaks down, new roof needed), you go into debt and take years to pay it off — so that you’re always at least a little bit in the hole, rather than having something left over.

    That’s the life I knew for decades of hard, white-collar work, before I became editorial page editor and made — for a time at least — a decent salary.

    (At this point, some modern soul will say, “You could have chosen not to have all those children.” To which I will reply coldly, “Which of my children do you not want to be alive?” I’m always stunned by the unfeeling calculation in the minds of people who say something like that to a father. Yet people do, and think nothing of it. They just see it as a “choice” — like choosing between Coke and Pepsi.)

  30. David

    (At this point, some modern soul will say, “You could have chosen not to have all those children.” To which I will reply coldly, “Which of my children do you not want to be alive?” I’m always stunned by the unfeeling calculation in the minds of people who say something like that to a father. Yet people do, and think nothing of it. They just see it as a “choice” — like choosing between Coke and Pepsi.)

    What kind of sick, heartless bastard would choose Pepsi?

  31. Brad

    Actually, one who made that choice would merely be deluded. Unless we’re talking “new Coke.”

    Speaking of choices. I still remember a big disappointment I experienced along about 1965. We had just returned from two-and-a-half years in Ecuador, with no TV or any sort of quick communication with the States. We had moved to New Orleans, and I was OVERWHELMED, in a sort of ecstatic rush state, by the tidal wave of popular culture. The TV, the music, the unbelievably dynamic consumer society, just washing over me. To me, it was all wonderful.

    Taken in by a TV ad, I persuaded my Mom to buy a six-pack of diet Pepsi, because I was assured the taste was fantastic.

    I tasted it. BIG disconnect…

  32. Silence

    I’ll weigh in on the traditional (defined benefit) pension plan vs. IRA’s 401(k)’s and 403(b)’s and their ilk (defined contribution plans), since ‘Kathryn asked.

    First off, “professional” managers at pension funds and institutional money managers haven’t earned their keep. They frequently offer returns that lag appropriate indexes, and have used unreasonable assumptions about market returns, growth rates and lifespans.

    With a decent 401(k) plan, participants can get the same rates and fees as the institutions do, but of course people need to make the choices to 1) participate, and 2) educate themselves about their options.

    Lots of people fail to contribute, or fail to contribute enough to maximize their employer match. Many people only contribute enough to get the match, even though this is far below what they’ll need to contribute to have a satisfactory retirement. Likewise, many folks remain in the default plan option, even if it doesn’t particularly suit their needs or risk preference.

    People shouldn’t have the expectation of contributing 6 or 8% of their income to either type of plan and coming out with a decent amount of retirement savings. 15% is probably a more reasonable minimum employee contribution. 20% would be better.

    If you don’t want to have “risk” in your non-pension retirement savings plan, you could always buy a deferred annuity – which is essentially what a pension is. Both your upside and downside will be limited, and the rates should be pretty competitive with what a pension would do.

  33. Silence

    @ bud – when I see all of the consumer junk that people buy, I can no longer believe that people can’t afford to plan for their own retirements.
    Someone is buying Snuggi’s and getting all of the HBO channels and the iPhone 4’s and financing used cars at usurious rates and paying $25,631 for the “average” wedding – as Kathryn mentioned.

  34. Silence

    @ bud – I’m a defense contractor. When I say that I KNOW I benefit from military spending, I meant that as full disclosure. My paycheck depends on it!

    More disclosure – my background is in civil engineering, although I’m not a P.E. I do deal some in pavements. Resurfacing the roads as was done around Columbia doesn’t deal with any underlying structural or base course issues the road may have. It simply puts a smooth course of pavement on the road to drive on.

    Yes, there are probably billions of dollars statewide in transportation projects – but stripping and resurfacing Bull St. for instance, didn’t do anything towards fixing that backlog. It was merely a highly visible project, done so that people could see their tax dollars at work and so the feds could put up a sign telling us we were being stimulated.

  35. bud

    After the fact it’s certainly not a consideration to have fewer children. However, it is a choice that demands some sacrifices. Not sure folks who choose fewer, if any, children will be overly sympathetic to those who choose to have many and turn around and whine about not having money.

    But what about the folks who live in a tiny house, drive an old economy car, eloped and got married in a small chapel, attended a state supported college with scholarships and had only one child and still struggle to make ends meet because of unexpected medical bills or job interuptions? Those folks simply cannot save. And it’s those folks who truly deserve some help. So why would we even consider taking away SS benefits for those folks?

  36. bud

    It’s important to save for retirement but it seems to me that it’s also important to enjoy life. If all you EVER do is sacrifice life can be pretty daunting. I’m not sure a bit of indulgence is such a bad thing so long as it’s done responsibly.

  37. Steven Davis II

    “At this point, some modern soul will say, “You could have chosen not to have all those children.” To which I will reply coldly, “Which of my children do you not want to be alive?” ”

    It’s called family planning. If you can only afford 2 kids, don’t have 6. Nobody is talking about killing your kids. It’s one of the reasons for using birth control… oh yeah, you’re Catholic and that’s a sin. Better to have a kid you can’t afford than use a condom.

  38. Brad

    See what I mean?

    Bud, I wasn’t whining about anything. I have no complaints. I never missed those material things. People, especially children, are infinitely more important.

    I was simply supporting your earlier point, and explaining that often it is impossible to put money away — something that people whose personal circumstances allow them to do that often don’t understand.

    From about the mid-80s on, my pay was higher than the average per capita, because I was always a supervisor. But because finances were so tight with five kids, I understand how tough it would be for a person with one or two children making average pay or below. (And when we had one or two children, I WAS making below-average pay.)

    Now, all of that said, I always contributed to a 401k. And as soon as I could manage it, I maxed out the amount my employer would match, and after I became EPE, I exceeded that. At one point I was contributing 10 percent — although, as my pay was frozen year after year during the past decade, I cut that back a point or two.

    But since the 401k came out of my paycheck before I saw it, I didn’t treat it as disposable income, as income I had to make a DECISION about. Putting money into savings after that was very hard. I never, even at the height of my earning, had that two months worth of salary everybody says you should have in savings, or even close to it.

  39. Doug Ross

    Sheesh… just enjoy your life now when you can. What are you gonna do when you are 75 – stare at your 401K statement?

    I’d rather spend $5K now on a vacation with all my family than have that $5K turn into $10K twenty years from.

    If we could just get people to stop buying stuff and eating at restaurants and going on vacations, then the economy would be better??? Huh?

    If you can’t manage your money, that’s a YOU problem not a WE problem.

  40. Silence

    @ Brad – I didn’t take it as whining.
    My grandfather always said to “Pay yourself first.” and what he meant by that was to save first, before you spend – exactly what you described doing with your 401(k). Out of sight, out of mind.

    Sure, most people will have setbacks. People always have, and always will. If you save for a rainy day, you’ll be ready when a rainy day comes. People used to understand that, nowadays, not so much.

    It seems though, that we’ve got too many grasshoppers and not enough ants.

  41. Silence

    @ bud – ” it’s also important to enjoy life.” that’s true, but once you get into a habit of saving and thinking about how you spend and save, you’ll find it enjoyable.
    Do we defer pleasure now for greater pleasure later? Some folks seem more hardwired for immediate gratification than others. They are more likely to be poor. Maybe it’s taught at home, or the patterns of consumption are taught at an early age. In my opinion, these tradeoffs are a better determinant of who ends up well off or not than who catches lucky breaks and who doesn’t. Of course, good luck doesn’t hurt.

    Lewis Carroll said it best:
    ‘I’m sure I’ll take you with pleasure!’ the Queen said. ‘Twopence a week, and jam every other day.’
    Alice couldn’t help laughing, as she said, ‘I don’t want you to hire ME – and I don’t care for jam.’
    ‘It’s very good jam,’ said the Queen.
    ‘Well, I don’t want any TO-DAY, at any rate.’
    ‘You couldn’t have it if you DID want it,’ the Queen said. ‘The rule is, jam to-morrow and jam yesterday – but never jam to-day.’
    ‘It MUST come sometimes to “jam to-day,”‘ Alice objected.
    ‘No, it can’t,’ said the Queen. ‘It’s jam every OTHER day: to-day isn’t any OTHER day, you know.’
    ‘I don’t understand you,’ said Alice. ‘It’s dreadfully confusing!’

  42. Silence

    @ Doug – Yes, in the long run if we all were thrifty savers we would all be better off. In the short run it would hurt quite a bit. Sort of like austerity.

    The problem is that people who undersave then expect us to pick up the tab for them. If you spent all your money going on fancy vacations and living it up, and now you are elderly, unable to work and destitute, why should I or my kids now have to pay to support your past consumption?

    If you would go off quietly, eat your cat food, and die without needing a lot of medical care, I’d honestly be fine with it. But most folks won’t.

    First, I’ll have to buy them premium tuna fish. Then I’ll have to buy them a real stainless steel or titanium hip replacement, maybe two. Then they’ll live a long time and be a big drag on society.

  43. bud

    Doug, I agree, it is important to enjoy life in the present. I’ve known far too many people who died before enjoying those huge 401ks.

    But I’d also suggest that a $5K vacation is an impossibility for many familes. Some would love to just have 2-300 bucks for an overnight trip to Myrtle Beach or Carowinds.

  44. `Kathryn Braun

    Like I said, some people can barely make ends meet. I’m not talking about them.
    If you were one of them, Brad, given your advantages otherwise, that might be seen as poor family planning on your part….Let’s hope you have enough saved for retirement–in which case I am also not talking about you, or that your kids will step up to the plate.

  45. `Kathryn Braun

    and Doug–if you do not have enough saved to meet your retirement expenses, you really should save more. There are plenty of ways to enjoy life that cost next to nothing.

    Your mileage may vary. If I’m not talking about you, I’m not talking about you.

  46. Steven Davis II

    What happens when you save for retirement and build a huge nest egg. You have a stroke at 65 + 1 day, get admitted to a nursing home where they charge you $6000 per month to relive the days when you lived in a college dorm with 300 other people you don’t know. If you have assets worth more than $200, you pay out of pocket until you have $199 left to your name. Then Medicaid picks up and you don’t pay a dime.

  47. Doug Ross


    Why can’t I choose to spend my money the way I want to? I won’t be asking for a handout from anyone if my money runs out. I’ll enjoy the ride and adapt when the time comes.

    My father-in-law had a boatload of money and never enjoyed any of it. Never shared it with his family, always worried about every dime (to the point where I had to go call the phone company to reverse two .99 charges for him). He died a miserable old man.

    As bud said, if you die with a big bank account, you missed out on a whole lot of living.

    Doesn’t it come down to two things: Are you happy? Are you doing what you want to do without any expectation of asking anyone else for help?

  48. bud

    This all brings up an interesting philosophical question, when is the right time to start drawing Social Security? If you enjoy your job then it’s easy to just keep working until age 67. If you really want to leave work and enjoy other things then it gets tricky. Age 62 gives you more years but at a lower dollar amount. If you wait you’ll get more but is it worth it to lose 5 years of potential life experience that could be had while a relatively young 62? I don’t have an answer but it’s an interesting question for me as I approach that age.

  49. Silence

    @ bud – it depends on your benefit amounts and how long you expect to live. It’s not hard to calculate mathematically what your break even period is, but do you figure you’ll live longer or die sooner than the “average man”?

  50. `Kathryn Braun

    Doug–are you reading what I write? I am clearly not talking about you. If you are content with your retirement savings and not looking for anyone to bail you out, I am not talking about you. I think far too many of our age group are going to be shocked at what they have to live on when they retire, and they may have to work longer than they planned, and this may not be possible. So many people I know have been involuntarily retired early–my father, my father-in-law just two examples. My father saved plenty and was happy to retire early, although would not have if they hadn’t offered him a good deal. My father-in-law has had to scrimp for the past 35 or so years–he is currently 93. Perhaps if my in-laws hadn’t sent their four kids to private school most of the time, they’d have had more to spend the last 35 years…

    It’s complicated, to some extent, but experts are repeatedly suggesting that most middle-aged people are seriously under-prepared for retirement. If you are well-prepared, obviously, this does not apply to you!

  51. Doug Ross


    Maybe I’m not making myself clear – I am not overly concerned about accumulating money for a time when I can’t enjoy it.

    If my wife and I can’t live on two combined Social Security incomes (mine being maxed out contributions for the last ten years), plus a pension I got from the job I worked at from age 17-35, plus my wife’s pension, plus a paid off mortgage, plus whatever else I can accumulate, then that’s on me.

  52. `Kathryn Braun

    Go with God, then, Doug.

    I think you are underestimating how much vitality you will likely have in retirement when you talk about a time when you can’t enjoy it. For one thing, decent food and secure shelter is always appreciated until one is in extremis, no?

  53. Steven Davis II

    Doug, if you run into hard times you can always go down to the local welfare office and get an EBT card to use at fast food, convenience stores, gas stations, etc…

  54. Doug Ross


    Right – why should I worry? The government will take care of me. That’s my new attitude.

  55. bud

    It’s not hard to calculate mathematically what your break even period is, but do you figure you’ll live longer or die sooner than the “average man”?

    You’re thinking of this as an arithmetic problem. If it was a simple as that it is almost certainly best to wait until age 67. Actuarilly speaking a healthy 62 year old is likely to live another 15 years or more.

    But it’s more complicated than that. At age 62 most people have more energy and better health than they will at 67. Hence they are more likely to get a greater benefit from a given dollar than someone older who is more likely to be content to spend less on travel, expensive meals, purchasing of a new car etc. It’s not just the amount of money but the actual utility of a given dollar.

  56. Silence

    If you took the payout at 62 you had the opportunity to do a “redo” where you paid back the benefits received (interest free) and could start over at the higher rate. Not sure if that’s still available or not.


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