Bona-fide adults

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….)


  1. MomQueenBee

    Could I interest you in some long term care insurance? Because if you’re not worrying about death or retirement, you obviously are feeling too serene.

  2. Brenda

    If I start to think about retirement, I panic. Because I have not planned for it other than to acknowledge that I should be planning for it, but um, hey, I really only make enough to cover being alive right now, never mind trying to pay for being alive when I’m 80. Maybe once my student loans are paid off I can start paying that amount into a retirement fund? Of course I’m not planning to have any kind of emergency happen ever. It’s strictly not allowed. I did look into the cost of cremation once, though. I’m not sure if it bodes well for me that I’m more prepared to plan for death than old aged life.

  3. Chuck

    I figure I’ll be working until I’m 67 at least myself. Of course by that time (assuming my company stays in business) I’ll be maxed out on the pay scale and have about 6 weeks of vacation a year, so I may decide to keep working until I’m 70. Time will tell!

  4. diane

    All that stuff is on my list for next year (we have a low cost basic legal benefit available to us, but I didn’t sign up for it this year). It’s sort of reverse complicated for me, though, in that I both don’t have a husband or children of my own, and don’t have much family (and none who are close enough to get any benefit from my death other than the pleasure of knowing I’m gone).

    I do, however, have a long term disability policy, and have for the last twenty years.

  5. Jean

    Will…check, LTD plan….check, assorted life insurance….check

    Financial planning…ummmmm ok….I have a 401k, but no idea if I am saving enough blah blah blah. This one scares me.

    • Brigitte

      Lottery tickets . . . check!

      • Kim

        I have that retirement plan too!

  6. Mary Fran

    The biggest issue we have is that our parents all retired in their 50s (!!) and have set completely unrealistic expectations for my husband. They had their children when they were in their very early 20’s. We were 30 (cough) something. The collective we (husband and siblings) went to state schools and were all gainfully employed right out of college. It’s a different world we live in and I hate to tell him that he’s going to have to work at least 10 years longer than he thinks he will have to.

  7. kakaty

    This is the ONE issue where working in education has saved me. At every place I’ve worked, participation in the 401k plan is mandatory, and usually includes a match from my employer. There is no way in hell I would have put away as much money as I have unless it was forced. Now, at the ripe age of 36, I’m pretty confident that my continuing on this path will leave me with money to retire on around age 66-67. (JUST THIRTY MORE YEARS). My husband, however, has a lot of catching up to do… and we’ll start socking that money away as soon as we’re not paying for daycare anymore. SIGH.

  8. TracyB

    This blog freaks me out! I have worried about the whole will thing and recently started thinking about the horrible accident or even worse the “c” word. I guess I never thought about living to retire. That put a whole new twist on my thought process. Thanks, Mir!

  9. KarenNM

    I’ve been panicking about both of these things recently, and this post is a good reminder that I’ve been meaning to email the HR office at week about increasing my retirement contribution. I’m taking this post as a sign from above, and doing that right now!

  10. Aimee

    Yay for being able to afford to both live AND die. That’s the definition of adulthood, right there. I hope you went out and had lunch at Chuck E Cheese or something to offset all that darn MATURITY.

  11. js

    Suze Orman scares the crap out of me and now so do you ;-)

  12. Jeanie

    I am retired and better off financially than when I was working. Go figure.

  13. Julie

    I’m not even 30 and I’m freaked out about retirement! My parents just retired at the ripe age of 60, but I have a feeling my in-laws may never be able to retire due to their financial situation/choices in life. Meanwhile my husband has been in college for 10 years looking at graduating his year but has few job prospects (but it’s better than what his last grad degree would have gotten us!) and we both have massive amounts of school debt. The future is not bright. :-(

  14. Kyle

    Did the financial planner figure the kids’ college costs into his evaluation? Ooops – didn’t mean to give you something else to stress about.

    • Mir

      Here in Georgia we have the HOPE Scholarship, which covers most college expenses at a state school. Should the kids wish to attend an out-of-state or private institution, they better get themselves some scholarships. (We do actually have college funds for them, too.)

      • Katherine

        We just recently met with our financial planner to check in with regards to college costs. He had assured us that we were well on track for our ages for retirement, but then I realized that, well, the kids were rapidly approaching college, like eldest is a senior this year! And we hadn’t discussed how much we could afford to put towards college. We are also in Georgia, so have access to the HOPE scholarship, but what I hadn’t quite realized was how much more room and board and fees are compared to tuition. Oldest is looking at various colleges, both in and out of state. We are hoping that all the interest colleges are showing in him will also mean they might like to give scholarship help as well, to help out our 529 plan.

  15. Jessica (the celt)

    I was JUST freaking out about this last week. We had our beginning of the year (for us) meeting about certain benefits, and one of the biggies was how our retirement plan was changing. One of the changes is access to a financial planner, so I took the opportunity to meet with him about my retirement plan. To say that I’m “risk adverse” is completely understated. I’m such a bird-in-hand woman that I won’t even buy a lottery ticket or one of those pull tabs that are even cheaper (or used to be, anyway), and I have my retirement fund set for a person who is in their 50s. The planner convinced me to put my account more in line with my age (early 30s) and to quit freaking out about it. He said, “I don’t normally say this, but put your money in these types of accounts and don’t look at it again.” He went on to say that normally he does advocate looking at your quarterly statement at least, but he realized I’d balk at the lows a bit more than the average person and might pull my money back to the more conservative types of accounts.

    I know, logically, that this works. But having grown up in poverty or near-poverty conditions and little to no money AND having parents who are currently in their late-50s or early-60s who have absolutely no way that they will retire in the even-not-so-near future (they still live paycheck to paycheck and both have only been able to find very part-time jobs after being laid off due to companies moving out of the country about five or six years ago) makes me a bit more than just wary of risking my hard-earned money in this way. The planner did also tell me that I’m in good shape for my age due to the amount that I’m putting in, especially given that we have very little debt (only my husband’s grad loans) and that I’m not likely to add any debt to our lives for my risk-adverse reasons.

    *sigh* Okay, I’m not looking and not moving things in my retirement account. I’m in charged of every other financial aspect of our lives, but this one just stresses me out more than I can articulate. What if I can never retire? What if? Aaaaaahhhh!!! ;~) I feel ya.

  16. Pip

    My Mum retired a couple of years ago aged 58, and since then has done the following:

    Taken about two advanced Argentine tango classes a week

    Taught either one or two tango classes a week

    Taken up playing bowls and is now pressured by her friends to play five times a week and moaned at when she skips it

    Been on three cruises

    Taught English as a foreign language for several weeks a year part time

    Panicked about money

    Booked another cruise

    Invigilated exams to pay for extra cruise

    Taken up making jewellery with precious gems

    Not sold much of said jewellery even though it’s awesome

    Spent a fortune on precious gems anyway because they are SO SHINY

    Panicked about money

    Joined a community farming project

    So, yeah, she pretty much fails at retirement. At least in a few years she’ll qualify for her state pension. Then she can spend it all and panic about money again.

    • Elizabeth

      My father-in-law retired at 55 and has been sitting and worrying about money for the past 20 years! Hubs and I both plan to work until we aren’t able; reduced schedule if necessary or desired, and if we can’t find jobs, volunteer the hell out of our town. SO much better for the psyche,

  17. Daisy

    Soothe the savage worrier – I resemble that remark!

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