When Can I Stop Worrying
Posted by RycePapers | Filed under RycePapers
I posed this question as I immersed myself in reading the 5th retirement book in two weeks. The authors presented words like crisis, wreck, harsh, and crushing. Finally, I climbed into bed and curled up in a scared, stressed ball with visions of underfunding, lost time, and a feeling of failure. Wait a minute, what happened to those retirement pictures of happy people (mostly couples) traveling, enjoying grandchildren, bicycling and eating beautiful meals while drinking wine, preferably right beside the French vineyard?
Pretty much everyone can quote ‘Freedom 55’ which was an advertising slogan yet somehow has translated into a benchmark which prints the word ‘Loser’ on your forehead if you can’t accomplish it. The books I read approached the topic of retirement from various angles: How much do you need for retirement (volume of money)? When will you know you can retire (date with ample pot of money)? How can you make sure you don’t run out of funds (outlasting money)? Will you eat pet food in the cold and dark (lack of money)?
So many of these questions lead me to self criticism such as why didn’t I save more, plan more, or be smarter? Sheesh. When this know-it-all voice begins I must all stop and think: might I have been working, caring for others, getting an education, building relationships, or (forgive me for) LIVING?
All of the glib ‘You can have it all’ rah-rah statements mislead us. Hey, even Tom Cruise, Conrad Black or Katy Perry couldn’t have it all and they’re rich. So there must be more to life and it causes me to return to a sign hanging in my kitchen: Enough is a feast. And for each of us our version of enough is a personal calculation. It begins with determining what is of real value. My pal Diane brought this to my attention. “You always loved your home,” she reminded me. She is right because I would give up fashion, eating at restaurants, and the latest electronics to sit in my sun room as I’m doing right now.
The numbers of my retirement plan have been diced, sliced, projected, divided, and even written in coloured pencils. The answer to ‘do I have enough’ remains the same: maybe yes and maybe no. There are too many unknowns, too many variables that I do not control. So to answer the question of when can I stop worrying about retirement, I’ve come up with two solutions: Either the day I die, or today. I know I’m controlling what I can influence, like my health and my spending and now it’s my attitude that I will tweak so I don’t lose this lovely today by being afraid of tomorrow or ashamed of my past choices like the bad investment decisions I wrote about last week.
Our past choices got us to the place we are today. And I for one am glad I traveled to Italy and I believe that trip began my real love of food and cooking. I’m sure you can look back at some of your choices and know what good decisions they were. None of us gets a perfect life but we do get a life that is ours. Recently I watched a YouTube video about choice and the fellow made the point that choice involves a loss. Absolutely right because when we choose one thing over another we lose the other thing.
When a dear friend would drop her daughter Tara off at school she would always say: ‘Make good choices.’ What a fantastic lesson to instill. I’d like to propose a toast. Here’s to all the benefits of our good choices and the lessons learned from the less good choices. Cheers!
That is what’s on my mind today, what do you think?