Coffee shop

I’ve noticed in my travels as a consultant there is a pecking order of coffee groups. These groups appear to be retirees keeping touch on a regular basis with their friends. Perhaps it is the reason for getting up and out of the house by 10:00 a.m. each morning. Just enough of a nudge to stay engaged in the outside world.

As I’ve made periodic rounds between McDonalds, Starbucks, Dunkin Donuts, and Panera while meeting clients or colleagues for coffee, I’ve developed a coffee shop envy which has motivated me in my retirement planning.

I envision myself leisurely enjoying the years that I make my own schedule, meeting friends in a non-stress timeframe and environment. BUT, I want my coffee in a place that is healthful and speaks of life and cheer.

I see the very elderly at McDonald’s enjoying their coffee with the morning paper. There are a few friends together and if they aren’t talking about world events, they are quietly reading and sipping in mutual contentment.

At Starbucks there are a chosen few who sit by the window with their fancy coffee, wearing sweaters with the little icons that tell you money lives here. These people speak in golf voices, perhaps sharing worldly secrets only they know.

At Dunkin Donuts there is a decidedly different crowd at the most popular location in town (there are so many to choose from!). Here, the bikers gather in the warmer weather. When they aren’t there, the young sprites with their gym clothes run through for their pick-ups and the local hospital workers with their scrubs line up and surgically move through and on to work.  At the tables sit a few Veterans, sometimes silent and sometimes quite rambunctious guffawing with their buddies.

Panera has even greater diversity. By the outlets and the gas fireplace sit the students with their laptops and textbooks. The two high top tables near the entrance are commandeered each day at 10:00 a.m. by a group of mixed retirees. They seem to stand watch over the comings and goings of others. There is a Veteran who always wears his jacket of patches and his cap that says he is a Korean War Veteran. He nods his head in acknowledgement and a twinkling smile in his eyes. This is his turf with his buddies.

There is a woman who occasionally comes inside Panera. She is obviously homeless by the layers of worn-out, holey clothes and small bags of belongings she carries. The extra-large walkie talkie or very old original cell phone with an antennae is frequently by her face as she talks to… someone. She sits quietly, disturbing no one while she gets warm in the shop. Later she will wander up and down, up and down, the parking lot mumbling into the phone.

None of the coffee shop groups linger for too long. Their ritual lasts about an hour at most. I know because I’ve outlasted them when I’ve used the space for meeting purposes. Where do they go after their social gathering?

I visualize where I will be in a few years for retirement. Certainly cost is a factor. Will I be able to afford Starbucks or Panera?  Will McDonald’s or Dunkin Donuts better suit my wallet?

If I want my choice of coffee shop and not have coffee shop envy in retirement, I better plan as well as possible these last few years sliding into retirement life.

I call my financial advisor and ask him what I can afford now. Is it McDonald’s or Starbucks coffee I ask? He assures me I can have either so long as I monitor the frequency of trips. Starbucks, especially, after all will eat up my discretionary income if I visit as a steady diet. As with everything in life, moderation is the key.

I hang up the phone and consider my situation. Am I a coffee shop snob? Do I really care which shop I will call my turf when I retire? I’ll be candid. Yep, I do care.

I care about enjoying my years ahead without fear or angst over money. More importantly, I care to be the someone who can buy that woman a cup of coffee or lunch. I hope I have planned well enough and lived well enough to be able to provide a kindness to those in need. That beats a coffee anywhere any day!

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