Local News

Seniors have brighter financial outlook in 2014

SEBRING - Actually, said Janet Weidemann, it is possible to retire too early.

She and her husband are from Wisconsin. They retired to Arizona, but now they're looking around Highlands County.

"We're visiting here for the winter months. We are kind of looking for something in Florida. We'd like some green space," Weidemann said.

Like more than a thousand other seniors, they spent Wednesday morning at the Highlands Today Senior Expo in Lakeshore Mall.

Tom Weidemann was a dentist, and unlike other professions, it was difficult to keep up his certifications and his practice by working part time. So he retired.

"He thought he would golf five or six days a week," said Janet Weidemann, a retired nurse herself. It's a story often told in Highlands County.

"He misses the company, his employees, the people he knew."

At previous expos, seniors were alarmed that the Great Recession had cut their 401(k) and IRA portfolios in half between October 2007 and March 2000 when the Dow Jones dove from 14,164 to 6,626.

Last year, the stock market didn't just fully recover in March, the Dow was hovering Wednesday near 16,000.

Many seniors are still living on a budget, but they're no longer eliminating their winter vacations.

"We come down two months a year," said Steve and Donna Ford, who live in southwest Minnesota and winter in Sebring.

During the recession, some seniors took part-time jobs.

Steve Ford still drives a truck for the fertilizer plant where he retired, but not because he needs the money.

"I like working with the guys," Ford said.

The Fords don't have everything they want in retirement, Donna said, but they live in a rural area. "A lot of things we have aren't as expensive as if we lived in a city."

J. Shockney, who still farms 16,000 wean-to-finish hogs in Union City, Ind., comes to Highlands County with his wife.

"We love to play golf," Shockney, "We play nearly every day."

Unlike the other seniors interviewed Wednesday, he has no company retirement plan and no 401(k). He has a son who remains in Indiana, working with those hogs.

Jack Wrightsman comes to Lake Placid three months a year, but he isn't going to move here.

"I came down once in the summer, and that changed my mind," said Wrightsman, who is from Indiana. "I can't stand that heat."