I went to get my haircut yesterday. Wayne, my regular barber, wasn’t in, so I drew the new guy, Richard.
“So what do you do?” Richard asked as he tied the apron around my neck.
I smiled. “I’m a writer,” I said. I was trying the label on for size, curious to hear how it sounded.
“A writer, huh? What kind of books?”
“No books. Not yet, anyway,” I said. “I write about personal finance. I write on the internet.”
Richard contemplated this as he spritzed my hair and combed it straight. “I have a son-in-law who writes books. There’s not much money in it,” he said. I laughed.
He picked up a pair of scissors. “Do you follow your own advice?” he asked
“I sure try to,” I said. “I did some dumb things when I was younger, and I ended up with a whole lot of debt. I’m out of debt now, and I want to stay that way.”
Richard nodded. “Most people struggle with debt when they’re young,” he said. “Most people do. But you know what? You get past that. It takes hard work, and it seems like it’ll never end, but you get past that. And eventually you get to retire.”
He plugged in the clippers and began to trim around the edges. “When you’re young, it’s all about work. I was regional manager for a national corporation for twenty years,” he said. “Then I worked for a bank. I retired in ’98.”
I was puzzled. “But you’re cutting hair now. Did you decide to go back to work?”
“Yeah,” said Richard. “I was bored! I like this job.”
“My old boss keeps calling,” he said, “asking me to come back. He’s offering $12,000 a month, but I tell him, ‘Uh-uh, I won’t do it.’ I like cutting hair. Besides, I’m too old. I’m 75 now, and I’ll be lucky to live another ten years. I don’t want to spend those years in a high-pressure job.”
“No sir,” he said. “I like cutting hair.”
I’m surprised how often personal finance comes up at my barber shop. One time, a fellow spent ten minutes preaching the virtues of a Roth IRA with the fervor of a religious zealot. “The Roth IRA is the most over-looked secret in money,” this man said as the barber snipped his hair. “Everyone oughtta have one.”
Often the conversation turns to the cost of cars or fuel or food or housing. Last time I was in, people were sharing tips for saving money at restaurants. It’s not always personal finance, of course — the guys are more likely to talk about hunting, football, or politics. But my local barber shop is a surprisingly good place to talk with other people about money.