Whatever happened to retirement? (5×8 – 9/27/11)

Do you think you’ll be able to retire, North Dakota: The Nigeria of the north, a hole in the ground in Babbitt, monument to an earthquake, and the call of the harvest.


Fifty-four percent — 54 percent! — of the people surveyed in a new NPR poll say they do not believe they will ever retire. If true, that’s probably not good for them, the poll suggests, because the people who have retired say their stress is lower, their relationship with their family is better, their diet is better, and they’re not as bored as they were when they were working.

Although we think of 65 as the traditional retirement age, by far most retirees today stopped working before then. But the poll suggests that a generational shift is under way. Harvard’s Blendon says pollsters asked people to think back to their 40s, and see if they’d delayed the age they expected to retire. Not many of today’s retirees had.

“But of those who hadn’t retired,” he says, “essentially 39 percent, or 4 in 10, have moved the age forward that they’re going to retire. Over half of them say the lead reason is, ‘I can’t afford to retire.’ “

Still, the survey reveals a little underlying optimism. Those who think they won’t be able to retire seem confident there’ll still be jobs for them if they want to — have to — keep working.

If you’re a whippersnapper, though, keep in mind those are the jobs that otherwise might open up for you.

Here are the full poll results.


Every day, more than 100 million cubic feet of natural gas is burned as waste. You can see the “flares” along I-494 as you look toward the refinery at Pine Bend. You can see it along Highway 52 in Rosemount at the Koch Refinery. And now, the New York Times reports, you could see it if you had some reason to travel through oil country in North Dakota.

The natural gas, considered waste in the process of extracting or refining oil, could heat 100 million homes this winter.

The flared gas also spews at least two million tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere every year, as much as 384,000 cars or a medium-size coal-fired power plant would emit, alarming some environmentalists.

All told, 30 percent of the natural gas produced in North Dakota is burned as waste. No other major domestic oil field currently flares close to that much, though the practice is still common in countries like Russia, Nigeria and Iran.

That’s a bucket of cold water in the face. North Dakota is the equal of Russia, Iran, and Nigeria. Nigeria, where CNN once had to go to show an environmental disaster in the making.

“North Dakota is not as bad as Kazakhstan, but this is not what you would expect a civilized, efficient society to do: to flare off a perfectly good product just because it’s expensive to bring to market,” said Michael E. Webber, associate director of the Center for International Energy and Environmental Policy at the University of Texas at Austin.

A North Dakota gas processor says it’s cheaper to “flare” than to build a pipeline to take advantage of the gas.


For those of us in the metro, a store closing is no big deal; there are others. It doesn’t work like that in rural Minnesota, as the people of Babbitt found out over the weekend when a fire destroyed two businesses, and damaged six others on Saturday (Slideshow from Range News Now). The grocery store and pharmacy are gone. The next-nearest full-sized grocery store is in Ely, a 30-mile round-trip away. They were so important in town that last night a community meeting was held to discuss what to do without them. The local senior citizens group and the Lion’s Club are trying to organize grocery and pharmacy-run ride shares, the Duluth News Tribune reports.

But the pharmacy won’t be coming back, apparently. Pharmacist Frank Jaeger told the residents he’s going to retire instead of rebuilding. He’s 78 . “This was not the way he wanted to retire,” his wife said of her husband, who’s been Babbitt’s pharmacist for 52 years.

Babbitt needs a Nick Graham:


The National Parks Service has released this video of the inside of the Washington Monument when an earthquake hit this summer.

Apparently, the damage to the beloved monument was worse than officials initially let on, the Washington Post reports. Yesterday, the Parks Service announced it would remain closed indefinitely.

The ranger was interviewed this morning on some of the TV news shows. She was referred to as a hero.

Sometimes that word is overused, but not in the case of 25 people who were honored yesterday with a Carnegie Hero Fund medal. One of them is one of us:

Jeffrey Lloyd Breuer saved Arnold M. Bellis from drowning, Saint Paul, Minnesota, May 8, 2010. Bellis, 87, remained in the driver’s seat of his car after it rolled down a boat ramp and entered the Mississippi River. The four-door sedan began to submerge at a point about 25 feet from the bank as two fishermen in a boat attempted to remove Bellis through the window of the driver’s door. Also boating in the vicinity, Breuer, 50, pilot, came upon the scene. As he closed in on the car, he saw that the window of its front passenger door was open. Breuer dived from his boat and swam to the car as it was sinking nose first. He submerged and partially entered the vehicle, head first, through the open window. Breuer reached for Bellis, grasped him about the shoulder, and pulled him out through the window as he maneuvered backward from the car. Breuer surfaced with Bellis and swam him toward the bank, one of the fishermen providing aid. Bellis was taken to the hospital, where he was detained for treatment; he recovered.



“Although I left the farm decades ago, I still yearn, during autumn, to return there–to immerse myself in the sights and smells and sounds of harvest,” Audrey Kletscher Helbling writes today on Minnesota Prairie Roots. “The scent of drying corn husks. The roar of combines and tractors. The walk across the farm yard on a crisp autumn night under a moon that casts ghost shadows. Wagons brimming with golden kernels of corn. Stubble and black earth, turned by the blades of a plow.”

Which causes me to pause and wonder if those who’ve left the farm have a similar call back to the fields in the fall?

Bonus: The Slinky Syndrome. Asked…

And answered…

And, here’s the answer to that question. One question still remaining: Because it has the highest “cool” factor of any possible subject, how come there are so few science teachers that make the subject so fascinating?

(h/t: Bad Astronomy)


The U.S. economy has seemed to lurch from one crisis to another in recent months. At the same time, the White House and Congress have been locked in a perpetual political struggle. Today’s Question: How much is the American political system to blame for the struggling economy?


Midmorning (9-11 a.m.) – First hour: President Obama’s latest plan to tackle the deficit returns to the theme of taxing the rich. Republicans continue to target budget cuts. As unemployment is stuck around 9 percent, could it be politics, and not financial conditions, are to blame for the country’s sustained economic problems?

Second hour: Janine di Giovanni has spent more than 20 years of her career in war zones recording events on behalf of the voiceless. In her new memoir, Ghosts by Daylight, she shares her experiences as a war correspondent, but also as a mother and wife

Midday (11 a.m. – 1 p.m.) – First hour: Retiring state tax guru Dan Salomone talks about the ins and outs of Minnesota’s tax system.

Second hour: Special program from the America Abroad series about women’s rights in Afghanistan. Women in Kabul and in Washington DC participated in the discussion.

Talk of the Nation (1-3 p.m.) – First hour: Whatever happened to the left wing?

Second hour: Prescription drug overdoses now kill more Americans than traffic accidents. Where’s the disconnect between doctors, patients and pharmacists?

  • Robert Moffitt

    I still plan on retiring. Hopefully, whille I’m young enough and healthy enough to do some new things.

  • Brian
  • bench

    At least now some people are starting to pay attention to natural gas. There is still a long way to go to get more people to try and conserve what they find in an economically viable way.

    Also, why did the man in the straw hat go BACK up the stairs into the monument during the earthquake?

  • Bob Collins

    He was hollering down the stairs at the beginning of the video so there’s a probably a kid involved. Wonder how fast he hiked up to the top of the monument?

    I was surprised by how long the shaking went on.

  • matt

    My plan is the retirement donut. At 52 the kids should be out of the house and the nest egg appropriately sized so that I can take off 8-10 years. I will still have to work during that time but it will be seasonal and work that interests me more than pays me, also occupies time to keep me from spending. At 60 or so I will jump back into the labor pool for another 10 years or until the finances are correct for me to re-retire.

    Youth is wasted on the young and retirement is wasted on the old.

  • bob

    I’ve never yet seen a headstone that says: “Wish I’d spent more time at the office.” Work is way overrated, but we’re all going to be stuck working longer whether we want to or not.

  • e.e.

    As far as working, I think the term needs to be defined or put clarity too.

    There are those who are employed and there are those who actually work.

    Big difference.

  • JackU

    On retirement and maybe on science teaching. ( I didn’t have time to watch the videos yet so I might be off on that topic.)

    If retirement means stopping what you are doing now then I hope I never retire. I currently get paid to do one thing but that is so I can do other things that I don’t get paid for but might look like work to others. I’m fortunate that I get paid to do something I enjoy. (Work with technology) I also have second “job” that I have had for a long time, I’m a volunteer at the Science Museum of Minnesota. That job usually gets at least 4 hours of my time a week. Though some weeks its more. (Last week it as 12-13 hours over 3 nights.) I also help run a couple of special interest groups (SIGs) for a local computer user group. I will continue to do both of those for as long as I can. Even if I stop working my paying job. If/when that happens I will simply have more time for the other things.

    Which leads me a comment about science teaching. I know some current and past science teachers through SMM. Not all of us who work in the Experiment Gallery have classroom experience (at least in Science and Math). But all of us have a dedication for making our visitors see the fun in the topics that our activities present. I firmly believe more classroom science teachers than you think share that goal.

  • Kassie

    Retirement. I can collect a full pension, that probably won’t exist, at 67. I can collect Social Security, which probably won’t exist, at 67. I put $25 a paycheck into additional retirement, which my employer matches up to $100 a year, so that won’t really help me. So no, I don’t think I’ll be retiring. It would be nice to be able to stop paying into my pension or Social Security and invest my funds, but I believe in the Social Security and pension systems, so I would never advocate for that. So I just keep going to work.