To celebrate his 90th birthday, Mario Farina wrote a book.
He filled it with wisdom he’s acquired over the years and tucked in a few laughs, too.
“I thought that my story would be an inspiration to older people,” the Troy resident said.
With chapters on everything from budgeting to inline skating, “Hello, I’m Ninety. Can I Tell You Something?” contains advice appropriate for everyone from teenagers on up.
“Some of those ideas, like investing in stocks, buying a house, keeping your credit good — those kinds of things are important for everyone,” Farina said.
A member of the workforce for 70 years and counting, Farina still works full time for the New York State Department of Labor.
He’s toying with retirement but hasn’t set a plan just yet. In fact, chapter two of his book lists eight good reasons not to retire. His top three reasons: retirement is expensive, tends to dull the mind and tends to diminish your ability to function well physically.
Begin planning early
Acknowledging that retirement eventually becomes a reality for most people, Farina said the most important piece of advice he can give is to begin planning for it as soon as you get your first job.
“We are born and then we spend the rest of our lives trying to keep out of the poor house,” he said. “The reason I think that is because people, when they retire nowadays, they may live as much as 40 years and maybe even more than that after they retire. Where is the money coming from that will allow them to pay their bills and keep up some sort of a lifestyle?” he asked.
Farina said he got his work ethic from his father, an Italian immigrant who worked as a laborer at General Electric.
“He told me something that I thought was good advice, but I didn’t follow it,” he recounted. “He said, ‘You need to be a tool maker because that’s where the money is.’ I said, 'OK, that’s what I’m going to do. And one day the teacher was asking the class, ‘What would you like to do when you grow up?’ And my response was, ‘I’d like to be a tool maker, but in the spare time I’d like to write a book.’ That shows what I really wanted to do.”
Farina went on to become a published author. His early books were computer textbooks published by Prentice Hall, which he said were sold and translated all over the world.
His last 20 books have been self- published.
“I don’t care an awful lot whether they sell. I’m more interested in writing them than I am in selling them,” he said.
A World War II veteran who served in China and India, Farina’s first job after high school was with the American Locomotive Company in Schenectady.
“When I came out of the service, I had an opportunity to use the GI Bill of Rights to get a college education and I made a half-hearted attempt to go to Union College, but I was turned down because I had not had geometry in school,” he recalled. “What I should have done was take the course to get to college, but I did get the degree eventually and that led to some pretty good jobs, jobs I would not have been able to get if I didn’t have a degree.”
The Mont Pleasant native spent about 40 years of his career as a computer teacher at places including GE and Union College. He graduated from the College of St. Rose at age 50.
While working at GE, he had a weekend job as a wedding photographer.
“I got a good start with finances that way,” he noted.
Sense of humor
Farina’s wife, Ann, described her husband as brilliant, and said his latest book is full of advice about things to watch out for and be aware of in life.
“I don’t think younger people would read it, but they should. Their attitude could be, ‘What can I learn from a 90-year-old man?’ You can learn a lot. There’s years of wisdom there and years of experience.”
She also said that her husband is very funny.
“I can make a comment about a falling leaf or something and he’ll turn it into a pun,” she said.
Farina’s sense of humor shines through in his latest book, particularly in the chapter called “Learning Inline Skating.” At age 75, he decided to try out the sport, but wanted to be sure to do it safely, so he bought knee and elbow pads, and wore a black leather jacket and work gloves. In each hand, he held a bathroom plunger to help him balance.
The plunger idea backfired.
“Presently, I found myself sitting on the walk wondering why I had not thought to shove a pillow down the backside of my trousers,” he wrote in his 63-page book.
He created the chapter on skating because he thought it would be nice to include some of his more interesting life incidents, he explained.
“I’m a very optimistic person and I like humor a lot, especially puns,” he said.
Farina also said he’s a very curious person.
“Be curious,” he suggested. “And keep your credit good.”
Reach Gazette reporter Kelly de la Rocha at 395-3040 or [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @KellydelaRocha.