A few years ago, Otto and I went through the process of writing our wills and advanced directives (I almost wrote “prime directive” there, which I suppose my little Trekkie would’ve appreciated, but that’s not the same thing), by which I mean we gave a lawyer a lot of money and he gave us a lot of paperwork. This was the adult and proper thing to do, but the impetus was not quite as mature as it maybe should’ve been. Most people think, “You know, I just want to make sure I have all my ducks in a row in case of unexpected tragedy or whatever.” And then they go write their wills, like grown-ups.
For us, I became irrationally convinced at some point that 1) I was going to get run over by a bus or fall off a cliff, and that then 2) my children’s father would compound their grief (assuming there was any; most days, only half my kids find me bearable) by immediately traveling to Georgia to snatch them out of our home the second I stopped breathing.
So, sure, “estate planning” and “establishment of trusts for the minor children” and blah blah blah BLAH; I, personally, spent all that money on all of that paperwork so that the completely non-legally-binding phrase, “In the event of my untimely passing, I urge my children’s father to consider their desires and school careers and grant temporary custody to my husband if the children desire to remain in their current home even after I am gone.”
(What can I say? I’m a big believer in Murphy’s Law, and writing those wills means I’m no longer in danger of dying early. Right? Right.) (Also, I have no reason to believe my ex would compound a difficult situation if I bit it by forcing the kids to move against their will. I just felt like it needed to be in writing in something official-looking. Because of the IRRATIONAL.)
Anyway. We felt very smug and proud of ourselves, indeed, once we established what will happen to our non-existent estate, should either of us shuffle off this mortal coil earlier than planned.
A few years went by, and I’m sure it will come as a COMPLETE AND UTTER SHOCK that my inner doomsayer has gotten all spun up yet again about Imaginary Yet Possible Tragedy That Could Strike At Any Moment, and this time I’ve been wringing my hands over retirement. You know, because Otto and I are both barely past 40 and we live such a life of luxury (hahaahahahaaaaaaaaaa) that planning for our even more luxurious twilight years is important.
Namely: I became completely convinced that we will never, ever be able to afford to stop working.
I blame this latest crisis on my father and stepmother, by the way. They’re “retired,” which is different for each of them. My stepmom is smart enough to be ACTUALLY retired: she stopped working and now does all sorts of things she enjoys, in and out of the home. My dad, on the other hand, is “retired,” which means he’s still working (yeah, I don’t understand it, either) whenever they don’t have other plans, but if he makes other plans, off they go, and work can suck it. Or something. I don’t really know. We have been trying to schedule a time for them to come visit because we haven’t seen them in FORFREAKINGEVER, and it’s been a nightmare because they have so much STUFF on their schedule. For people who are supposedly retired, they do a LOT. And in the midst of all of this I started thinking “Will we be able to do all this sort of stuff when we’re older? Will we ever be able to stop working? WILL MY CHILDREN EVER MOVE OUT AND STOP WHINING THAT THERE’S NOTHING GOOD TO EAT??”
It only took a few days of me yammering about how Otto would probably be happy to keep teaching until he’s 110, but if I’m still out there hustling for clients at, say, 80, I am probably going to find that depressing, before Otto took my hands, stared deeply into my eyes with a mixture of love and trepidation, and said, “I made an appointment for us to talk with a financial planner.”
My husband, ladies and gentlemen. He knows how to soothe the savage worrier, that one.
I met Otto over by the planner’s office at the appointed time, and he commented that I looked “really nice,” which was because it’s surprising when I don’t look homeless. I figured it would maximize our chances of this guy telling us we aren’t as screwed as I feared if I was wearing both pants AND shoes.
We forked over our paperwork and began explaining our financial history, much of which includes, “And for these years I wasn’t putting any money away… those years there were these issues…” and such. We held our collective breath while he punched endless combinations into his well-worn calculator. And then he looked up with a smile and told us we’re in “good shape.”
Both of us were stunned. Otto went back to school full-time in his 30s; I had years of stay-at-home-mom-dom; our retirement accounts reflect the current economy (read: they’re pitiful). We’d been sure he would drop the hammer on us, scold us for the years we didn’t save properly and tell us that every spare nickel should be squirreled away along with prayers for a winning lottery ticket. But it turns out that we’ll probably be okay, assuming we keep doing what we’re doing and working until we’re 68 or so and our children eventually wander off. (And if the kids won’t leave on their own, well, it sounds like we’ll be able to afford to change the locks.)
We went out to lunch, afterward, to celebrate. Apparently we can afford to die and we can afford to live and we were quite pleased to have that confirmed. It was a very good day.
Now, of course, I’m convinced that one of us is going to be in a debilitating accident. (I can’t be positive, but I think it’s possible I still have some work to do when it comes to anxiety management….)