Tears and thanks have something in common.

Both flow more easily as you get older.

Fifty years ago, at the age of 13, giving thanks seemed an odd ceremony to me. I was thankful, yes, but kind of stingy about it. Today, at the far less tender age of 63, I am thankful far beyond this day. The list of people to whom I am thankful seems boundless. Let me tell you about some of them.

In any year I listen to hundreds of people. I read what they have written.  I call them or visit their offices.  I ask them questions. I report what they have said in my column. Many readers forget all those people and give me credit for the thought and study my sources put into their work. One of the great lessons of newspaper reporting is that it is a big world out there, filled with talented and thoughtful people. Try to remember that the next time (probably tomorrow) you read a mutual fund or corporate malfeasance story.

Brooks Hamilton is a Dallas benefits attorney who is passionate about finding ways to help workers retire with dignity. Professor Laurence J. Kotlikoff, chairman of the Boston University economics department, is the prime mover behind generational accounting. This is the only tool I have seen in more than 30 years of reporting and writing on personal finance that makes sense of government promises and spending. Michael Cox, senior economist at the Dallas Federal Reserve Bank, has a near Hegelian vision of economic process. He sees--- and documents--- progress amidst the daily evidence of chaos and churn. Economist Gary Shilling saw the possibility of dis-inflation years before others did and continues to explore the forces that make our economy so difficult to understand.

I count on Alicia Munnell, director of the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College, for both original research and an enclopedic mapping of any topic she addresses. Steven Leuthold, principal of the Leuthold Group in Minneapolis, is a tireless source of investment benchmarks. I've followed Steve's work for more than 25 years. It keeps getting better and better. Professor Elizabeth Warren, at Harvard Law School, and Theresa Sullivan, Graduate Dean at the University of Texas, know our personal finances and borrowings inside and out. While they could devote their careers to excoriating the lending community, both focus their attention on what real people can do to manage their financial lives better.

I could go on. This list barely scratches the surface. I've never seen myself as an economist, investment advisor, or financial planner. Instead, I see myself as your personal full-time learner, the guy who reads the things you don't have the time to read (Like, say, the RP-2000 Mortality Tables from the Society of Actuaries), listens to people you haven't the time to meet, and does the grunt work to make sense of it all because he was lucky enough to have a stepfather who sent him to M.I.T.

Which brings me to you.

One of the deepest satisfactions a human being can have is to feel useful. I have been blessed with that feeling since I started as a personal finance columnist in 1977, nearly 27 years and 4,000 columns ago. You have let me know that I am useful week after week, year after year. This is not a trivial matter. It has sustained me through some very tough times.

I wish I could bottle this feeling and share it with many readers who don't have the same blessing, who don't feel appreciated at work. I am sure it would be as sustaining for them as it has been for me.

Thank you for your support and trust. Please join me today in giving thanks for the life and bounty God gave us.