January 16, 2013

What Do You Think?


Once a week I get an e-mail from a reader asking for my advice about something. It could be financial or relational, or maybe a how-to question. I try to answer the best I can and hope my input has been helpful. Then, a few times a month I will get a reader suggesting a particular topic for an upcoming post. 

I love both kinds of e-mails. The first allows me to share my experience, while the second often gives me a great idea to write about. Honestly, coming up with thirteen new posts every month is getting harder. What haven't I written about several times? So, every new idea is more than welcome (hint, hint).

Regular reader and commenter, Jane, (not her real name), sent me such an e-mail a week or two ago. She asked if I thought three specific concerns of hers might be turned into a post for feedback from everyone. Absolutely! 

Question: Membership Clubs


One of her questions concerned the advisability of membership in stores like Costco or Sam's Club. After downsizing, the gigantic sized detergent or pickle jar became a storage problem. The second freezer didn't make the move so stocking up on meat was no longer viable. She found herself overstocking with six month's worth of paper towels and other products.

At the same time, Costco or Sam's Club often have attractive prices on clothing, automotive tires, carpeting, and appliances. The Costco near me has an excellent wine selection. Photo services and eye glasses are also very competitively priced. 

So, she wanted to know what others have done after downsizing. Do the savings in some areas make the yearly membership in these membership clubs worth while? Or, are you tempted to stock up on things you don't really need but the price is hard to pass up?

Question: Where do you go for vision care and exams?


Along the same lines, she wondered if most retirees go to more expensive eye doctors for exams and eye wear, or are the services at Walmart, Sears, or Costco just as good? Many health plans will cover services at these national chains while not paying for an expensive ophthalmologist. 

For me I choose the more expensive route. My family has a history of eye problems. It is important to me to catch anything like macular degeneration early. While I may be kidding myself, I trust the doctor more than the person in the mall. But, I may be wasting money based on a perception and not reality. What do you do?


Question: Family-Owned Business and Retirement


Finally, is an issue that many retirees struggle with: when one partner is ready to retire and the other isn't. The retiring half of the equation wants to travel or move or start enjoying life away from the job. The still-working half has decided he or she can't afford to quit now, or enjoys working over retirement.

Jane's question actually asked about this from an interesting perspective: a family-run business. Both spouses are important to the success of the company but one is ready to walk away. However, if he or she does retire now the business will suffer. The partner who still wants to work thinks another two years of keeping the company going would be best. Jane notes that her spouse is supportive of her desire to stop now. But, she is feeling guilty knowing the costs and the strain on her husband if she leaves. Training someone to do her job would take the better of two years so that's not a real choice. What to do?


OK, now your turn. Please help "Jane" and all of us with your thoughts on one, two, or all three questions. If you are part of (or were part of) a family-owned and run business your input would be especially helpful. I imagine there are lots of folks in her situation. Work and keep the business chugging along when you are burned out, or step off the train and potentially harm your long-term retirement. Big dilemma.

38 comments:

  1. The whole total eyeglass industry, including eye care insurance is totally owned by one company: Luxottica. Watch this 60 Minutes interview to fully understand why you will overpay $300 for a frame:
    http://www.cbsnews.com/video/watch/?id=7424700n

    The only 2 companies to stand up to this monopoly is WalMart & Sears. If you don't like big bigness/corporations and believe in a freer market and fairer prices, you'd be wise to go to Wal Mart to get your glasses and your eye exam. WalMart employs independent optometrists. And FYI, most of the eye exam equipment today are computerized. A monkey could run them. WalMart uses the same equipment an ophthalmologist uses.

    My husband and I get all our eye work done at WalMart. Excellent!

    Husband & I both ran family business. I retired BUT he can't afford to hire anyone to replace me. So, I still do his bookkeeping, without pay, but that's all! I don't want to be bothered with anything to do with the business anymore.

    We do not join membership clubs. Most of the large items at Sams Club can be found on the shelves at WalMart (i.e. dishwashing detergent, laundry detergent).

    M.

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    1. Thanks for your responses to "Jane's" questions. I am going to take a closer look at the quality of services for eye care at Wal Mart and other outlets. I pay $175 for an exam, then $250 for glasses. There has got to be a better way.

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    2. If you prefer, you can still go to your eye doctor for your exam. Under federal law, he/she must give you a free copy of your RX. You can then take that prescription to Wal Mart to be filled. We always select our frames from the discontinued selection. All new and perfectly fine. Make sure you ask your stylist for the least expensive lenses. You will find them on their price chart, at the bottom of a page, in teeney, tiny, tooney little, itty bitty letters. BUT, they're there nonetheless.

      I used to be a licensed optician, so I know all these little gimmicks are useless on me. All plastic lenses now come pre-scratch coated, so you don't need another layer. Plus, tinted lenses are dipped in plain, old OTC clothing dye. Think about that before you fork over any more money than you need to.

      Good luck!

      M.

      PS: if you do have your glasses made at WalMart they offer free, lifetime adjustments. Some other docs charge a few dollars for this.

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  2. Even though retirement officially isn't until June 1 for me, I'd like to comment on the first two questions.
    Here in Oklahoma, we have only Sam's. My wife and I (mostly empty-nesters) joined a couple of years ago, and we think we've more than made up the sign-up fee ($35 annually? I forget). We DO stock up on toilet paper, paper towels, canned goods, etc., even though it's only the two of us for a good half of the year, until our son gets home from college in May. We are not currently in the market for a tv, but with just one big purchase like that, a person can more than make up the joining fee. Plus, if we go on Saturday about noon, we can sample all the food booths and not eat lunch! :)

    I agree with you about the eye doctors. Although Sam's and Walmart in OK don't currently have them, the law changed and they will soon. We will stick with our own doctor since we, too, have family histories of eye diseases. I might be persuaded to get a pair of glasses at one of the "cheap" places, though.

    I'm glad to know that you would like ideas for posts. Occasionally a question comes to mind, although of course right now I can't think of any!

    Once again, I deeply appreciate your blog. It has given me the courage and impetus to retire!
    Jeff in OK

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    1. Thanks, Jeff. The next time you have a question or something you think might be an interesting idea for me to explore, by all means shoot it off to me by e-mail.

      I am going to investigate the quality and pricing at places like Wal-Mart for eye care. If the equipment is comparable to what my eye doctor uses then I might give it a try. But, my eye health is my #1 concern so my standards will be strict.

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    2. Bob,

      Hey, excited to learn more about vision care/glasses. I am
      curious if you have heard about the glasses that can be
      purchased on-line? I haven't looked into this. But, I have
      been told that you send in your script and, can get your glasses for ten dollars?

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    3. No, I've never explored that but I'd wonder about proper fitting. All glass frames need some adjustments.

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    4. My daughter uses the eye glass place on line. It even measures your pupils. My nephew is a pharmacist. He said that both his job and the regular eye exam will disappear in the next ten years because computers are better at both. We shall see.

      I get my glasses every time I work. I sign up for vision care and then go for the glasses. I was surprised last time when my Dr suggested I get a new pair even though my prescription had not changed. When I balked, he changed the prescription! Now I understand. Being a national chain- there is pressure to sale.

      I use Costco when I go to my daughter's. I stock up on my few items. She has their credit card and finds that it pays for itself. I tend to think that more food gets thrown out from there then anywhere.

      Publish

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  3. Well, Im a single person (with a part time c0llege student) and warehouse clubs still work for us. There are about ten to fifteen things we get, plus they have very good prices on meat and milk. I do share a membership but it still gives value-and elminates my shopping for those things in between.

    When it comes to the eyes thats basically two questions. At my age I go to a good eye doctor not attached to an eyeglass store and go to a cheaper place for my glasses. For the record, cotco is consistently the highest rated value for eyeglasses.

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    1. Thanks, Barb. At least to this point I am doing the same thing for my glasses: a doctor for the thorough exam and a frame store in the mall. Not only are the frames $100 or more less expensive, but they are usually ready in a few hours instead of 7 days.

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  4. We need a new TV - the old fat one fell off the stand and broke - and I'll be surprised if Costco doesn't have the best deal. Worth it to us.

    My HMO covers the eye exam, and glaucoma runs in my family, so I'll stick with that. But I'll be interested in seeing what your research turns up, Bob, on the cost of the eyeware.

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    1. Doublecheck, Linda. I have found Costco prices for televisions are higher than Walmart and often even more than at Best Buy.

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    2. Linda, Check out tigerdirect.com. I have had great luck with them over the years with TVs and electronics in general. No sales tax or shipping, normally.

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  5. Nope no warehouse clubs for us( just hubby and myself but we often share/split things with daughter and son-in-law)we tried it and disliked it.I have a small house,don't like clutter or storing big amounts.In my area we can just as cheaply stock up on basics(paper towel/toilet tissue/kleenex) at a reasonable level using Wegmans-Walmart-Target.We utilize our Public Market year round and we have an indoor winter market that farmers,hyroponic growers and specialty trades attend.We shop weekly as part of our "entertainment" get coffee meet friends or family each saturday morning bright and early for the seasonal buys.If I buy apples we then share with daughter and she does the same.We know approx what we need each week like 2 apples per 5 days(2 people taking an apple 5 out of 7 days)As for eye exams and glasses I agree with the research done by 60minutes, unless you are having eye surgery the computer tech and machines level the playing field as far as exam and purchase of eye wear.

    Now the family business issue is much harder but that being said compromise sounds like it may help.If one partner leaving would make a huge difference then negotiate a time for exit.This way partner who chooses to stay knows there is an end date and can have time to compensate for the loss by being proactive and assessing what adjustments need to take place like downsizing, replace partner with another person maybe not at the level of partner but thats compromise.The world is constantly changing, go in a positive direction no matter the what... it's ours to choose!

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    1. Betty's health insurance doe not provide drug coverage. Costco offers a discount over their already low prescription prices for members who don't have drug coverage. The savings on her meds more than pays for the $50 annual fee. But, we use it for very little else...no room. The comments so far, though, will get me to check Costco for glasses the next time I need new frames and lenses.

      Good advice on the family business situation. Compromise is likely to be the only logical answer.

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  6. As a single retiree I prefer the local weekly sales and don't have any memberships.
    I'm very interested in the comments you get about the big box stores eye care. I like my optometrist but his equipment is very old, so not at all sure if that is better than a newly equipped store with a possibly less knowledgeable doctor?
    Glad to hear you're looking for post ideas - I've always wanted to hear more about your wife's quilt making!

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    1. I'll pass on to Betty your interest in her quilting projects.

      The state of technology is such that the right equipment in qualified hands can make up for a lot. I'll ask some questions at Walmart about their ability to do retinal scans and the like.

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    2. The quilt that you see on the master bed is actually the quilt I made for my my daughter when she was in high school(I haven't made our's yet).I have saved all of my family's jeans and special T-Shirts throughout the years. I cut out the logos and the color on the back of the shirts and quilt them all together. All work is done by machine. (My Mother and Aunts quilted by hand. I do not have the time for that!)

      I haven't done anything with all of those jeans but I have some ideas. I want to make jean quilts that you can keep in the car and throw on the ground for picnics or can stand rough use. I also collect patches from all of our travels and would like to sew them onto jean patches and use it as our spare tire cover. Anybody have any other ideas?

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  7. 1) We still belong to Costco. It's fun to go, but the benefits are marginal. I'd advise her, not to worry, either way it's about the same.

    2) I go to Lenscrafters in the mall, a chain in MA, CT, NY, NJ and PA. They always are offering discounts and seem to be fine. But my eyes are basically okay; if I had real problems I might go to a higher-priced place.

    3) The obvious answer is to compromise and both retire in a year. But in my case, I am basically retired (work part time from home) and B works full time. It's not a problem for us ... but she lets me go to FL or AZ by myself to visit relatives for a few weeks every winter.

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    1. How about the large hot dog and drink for $1.50 at Costco...what a deal !!!

      I used to have Lenscrafters to make my glasses from the doctor's prescription until they became too upscale. They started carrying only name brand frames...like I care who the designer is? !!! So, now I use Vision Center (formerly Eye Masters) and have been pleased with the service and prices.

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  8. Just happened to run across a discount code for 39dollarglasses.com. Use "EYE15" for a $15 discount. And, no, no one in my family is connected with them. I'm just always looking for ways to save!

    Ann M

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  9. I do not shop at Walmart for many reasons but one reason is that the communities around me have successfully fought off the retailer from building. I am in a very small home -- 1300 sq feet, plus a garage -- but am able to store my purchases of staples without difficulty. Just the white albacore tuna alone is worth the price of admission. My husband and I tease that a Costco is our version of "date night."

    Our eye exams are covered by insurance. With my diabetes I do not mess around with my eyes and their care. Right now, while my husband is still working, I splurge on a pair of unique (read pricey) frames every other year. I may need to rethink that when our money tightens but I also reuse my frames as spares until they fall apart. My husband is very pleased with his frames and lenses, and his hearing aids, purchased at Costco.

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    1. My old lens and frames are my emergency backup glasses, too. I usually need new lenses every other year so the spare glasses are keep for 2 years after I have moved to new ones. There have been a few times when they have come in handy.

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  10. I'm not a fan of big box stores and particularly Walmart.We call our local one the child beater Walmart. You can't believe the swearing going on between 'parents' and little kids! It's crazy.
    We don't have a lot of extra room and I'm always trying to pare down, so buying in bulk makes no sense for us. Target is my go to store.
    I only see an opthomologist for exams but not for glasses. I have gotten contacts and glasses at Walmart in the past but my last pair are from LensCrafters. Better choices and much more sophisticated equipment.
    b

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    1. There are 3 Walmart Super Centers within 5 miles of my house. It is amazing how different the shoppers and clerks are between those 3 stores. We avoid two of them for the problem you mention, plus poor employee attitudes. The other Super Center is the farthest away but gets our business because we rarely see the mom-child problem there and the employees are nicer and more responsive.

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  11. When we first moved to TN we tried the local WalMart for their eye doctor. Okay experience but I found out we have an outstanding TN-based collection of eye doctors right here in town, with five locations. They do all the laser and corrective lens surgery right in their surgical center, and for retinal tears and the like they are affiliated with a great surgeon out of Chattanooga. The difference in care and equipment was like night and day. If you have nothing wrong then WalMart is probably fine, but since I tore a retina this year and wife has diabetes, we need more specialized care.

    Sam's is the only game for us in this part of TN. I always liked them, particularly for things like protein bars and OTC meds, as well as the fact that their milk and other foods are the lowest in price. Worth the membership to us, particularly since we have a large pantry and a second upright freezer.

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    1. Costco has gas prices 3-4 cents below the other stations we frequent, but their milk is higher...go figure.

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  12. I live in small space. There are a lot of stores in my neighborhood with good prices so I do my shopping here. I have a good health plan from my former employer and use doctors who are on my plan.

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    1. You have found a good situation, Donna.

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  13. I am taking a 5 minutes break between working in the yard all day and running out to get errands done before things close so if I repeat what others have said I am sorry.

    Cost Co.: Best price on Gas (except lately and I don't know why) but the savings usually pays for our membership so that our main reason to get that card.

    I have actually known one eye doctor and at another time one assistant to the eye doctor at a local Walmart here and they are just as professional as the expensive ones.

    Concerning retirement I was wondering if Jane could maybe go to work part time for the next two years and someone else in the business could pick up the slack, other than her spouse, just in a few areas, so she didn't need to work so much.

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  14. No memberships to warehouse clubs. Never have. Remember, they were created for small businesses--not individual consumers. But, as usual, we Americans distort everything and take it to the extreme. They are usually located in areas that require substantial driving even from surrounding suburban vicinity. I have a sneaky feeling that if we all knew the exact cost of driving each mile to a store (some sources say 50 cents per mile) then we all save very little, if any, by going anywhere but the nearest location. And besides, I've always had an internal "aversion" to having to pay money to shop somewhere. I will not do it. Most consumer experts these days say that ALL stores have pretty competitive prices. It is not like it used to be when Walmart was always the cheapest.

    As for eye glass thing, it seems to me we are talking about two different things. I've always thought of it as (1) an ophthalmologist for eye disease and disorder care and (2) optometrist for vision correction (glasses and contacts). I don't blame you for wanting the best for disease monitoring and care but when it comes to eye glasses, that whole business has changed. Go with the cheapest. I think online is best. (Research consumer expert Clark Howard's information on this topic.)

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    1. Our Costco is only 3 miles away so the driving isn't a problem. For us, the only real reason to belong is the medical costs for my wife.

      I will certainly check on on-line glasses.

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  15. We share a Costco membership with our son and his wife (although we pay for the total - it helps them). We buy less than 20 items overall, but stuff we go through in large amounts so as not to make extra trips to the market. We have known to go to Costco, have snacks, $1.59 hot dog and
    buy only one or two items.

    We use a regular eye doctor for exams every year or two, and use his Rx to buy glasses at Eyemasters (new name now - forget it) or Costco.

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  16. Re Family Business
    I worked for a family business and when the owners wanted to retire they created an employee stock ownership program and sold the company to the employees. This funded a chunk of their retirement and as we paid off the loan and got stock, that stock funded part of our retirement.

    Sams club works for our 2 person household. I buy enough things to save but it takes planning. I use the app "Out of Milk" on my smartphone to track prices, manage lists for where I shop etc
    It is free and I always have my list with me.

    Because I have diabetes I am more comfortable with a regular eye doctor. Seems here in N. Florida prices are lower $80 for annual exam with dilation and field of vision.

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    1. The woman I go to for exams always has some new piece of equipment which I am sure is responsible for part of what I pay.

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  17. We travel to Sam's once a month and shop for two of us and our son and daughter-in-law. I always use accumulated Discover card bonus points to pay the annual $40 fee at a discount. We save money using Sam's in this limited way, and often save a little more with the cheapo lunches.

    My wife is diabetic, so she gets attention from the best eye docs in the area. She recently had a cataract done, and we followed that policy and were well pleased. I have no serious vision problems. I get a checkup from the same eye doc every few years, and then buy frames at Sam's or Walmart. If we had Lenscrafters here, I probably would use them.

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    1. The one nice thing I hadn't mentioned before is by using an AMEX card from Costco I get about $125 back each year which is more than two times the Costco membership fee.

      I have bought a few shirts from Costco that are priced about like Walmart but seem to be somewhat better quality.

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