Tom Petruno was a longtime financial columnist for the Los Angeles Times who is now an independent investor, writer, and consultant. Before moderating a panel on young Californians and retirement, he explained in the Zócalo green room why he doesn’t have any particular geographical retirement fantasies, where he likes getting his hands dirty, and the most economical place in the world to eat.
If you could retire anywhere, where would you choose?
That’s a very good question, because my wife and I are talking about that. I don’t know that I’ll ever retire retire; I always expect I’ll be busy doing something. It’s hard for me to imagine leaving L.A. Anything and everything you could possibly want is here, and as you get older, you think about healthcare, and this is some of the finest healthcare in the world. I think wherever we go will be in the West. No real fantasies about retiring overseas. I don’t see the point.
What magazines and newspapers do you currently subscribe to?
The New Yorker, Atlantic, Rolling Stone, The Economist, Audobon, National Geographic. More than I probably should, my wife says. And of course then I’m reading online constantly, too. But I still enjoy getting hard copy magazines.
How would you describe yourself in five words or less?
Highly inquisitive, motivated to improve. And when I say improve, I don’t just mean improve myself, but improve society.
What advice do you give to aspiring journalists?
Realize it’s going to be a very tough slog, mainly because you’re up against so many other people, and the Web of course means anyone and everyone can be published. But people have a desire to tell stories. People have a desire especially to expose fraud. People who have that kind of tenacity ultimately succeed, but you have to be wiling to write for whomever will publish you.
What’s hanging on your living room walls?
California mountain and desert landscapes.
What does your ideal Sunday morning look like?
Probably taking the dog out to the park somewhere and doing what I really love, which is working in our yard. I landscape with a lot of native plants, and I really just enjoy being in the yard, hands in dirt.
How do you pass the time when you’re stuck in traffic?
You know, I’m almost never stuck in traffic, lucky for me. I pretty much work from home, and if I’m going to an appointment, it’s pretty close. It’s probably one of the reasons why I love L.A. so much: I don’t have the downside of having to deal with traffic.
What’s the most economical meal you’ve ever eaten?
Probably street food in Hong Kong 15 years ago. Incredibly cheap and incredibly good.
What’s the last live performance or event you attended?
Do the Grand Park fireworks at Fourth of July count? We saw a play at the Taper Forum not long ago. We go to a lot of live music—bars, clubs.
How do you exercise?
I run, and I work out with a weight machine—with tension weights.