I hope you’re not counting on your children to take care of you when you run out of money. (That is, if you have children.)
Those are values of a different era, where children checked back to be sure their aging parents were okay. But that era weakened in the 1950s, as World War II veterans started moving their families out of their home towns. And those values all but disappeared with the advent of the Baby Boomer.
In our culture, as things change we just roll with the punches and try to find a way to deal with what we consider “normal evolution.”
But look at China. In a country where the government determines how many children its citizens can have – in its One-Child Policy implemented in 1979 – it’s apparently now worried that its economic “evolution” is leaving its old people exposed. So last week the Chinese government introduced a law called Law for the Protection of the Rights and Interests of the Elderly. It obliges the children of people 60 and over to care for the financial and spiritual well-being of their parents.
Can you imagine that here? We’re wondering if our government is even going to make good on its promise to pay out on Social Security and other minimal (but earned) support! And we think our kids are going to jump in and carry the burden … especially if we were too absorbed in our everyday lives to make the needed effort to save?
I know how hard it is in our 30s, 40s and early 50s to even imagine that we’ll need help some day. Or that we won’t have the income and energy we have today. After all, we’re still invincible, right?
Well, at 53, I got a wake-up call when I lost my home and business. I had been working and playing full out, never giving a thought to retirement, whatever form that might take.
And recently I had another wake-up call: I injured my knee in a fall. As I lay in bed icing it, the distance to the bathroom seemed endless. And, living alone, I tried to figure out how to get my cats to fix dinner for me.
The next step was surgery. Fortunately I am surrounded by fabulous friends who took care of every need after I had a piece of cadaver put in my knee to replace the torn ACL.
I had torn and replaced my ACL 12 years ago when I fell off my roof. But I was still in that invincible stage then.
This time I–who continues to pull all-nighters and who runs an international consulting business doing deals worldwide–felt totally vulnerable.
It made me recognize that one day I will not have the energy I have today. (Fortunately I have done what was needed to create a sustainable lifestyle, so I know the financial part is covered.) As I lay healing, I revisited how I saw my life playing out and I’ve make some changes to those plans … just to cover that new-found vulnerability.
I do know you’ve heard again and again that it’s important to start saving … as early as possible.
I don’t know how to transmit to you how important it is to break through that feeling of invincibility and invulnerability … and just do it.
I’m not talking about living at anything less than “full out.” But I am talking about spending an extra couple of seconds as you make a purchase, whether it’s in the grocery store or the electronics store. Take a moment and envision what you’d like your life to look like at 65, 70 or beyond. Then ask yourself, “Is it more important to spend on this item today? Is the pleasure I get from it worth putting that later-year vision at risk?”
What will amaze you is how much you spend on things that bring you marginal pleasure and that you forget about in just days. Like any muscle, that spending muscle learns to make those healthier decisions automatically.
You’ll still have all the things that are truly part of bringing joy to your life today.
But hopefully you’ll have a savings account and investments that make your later years joyous as well.
Let us know in the Comment section below if you’re able to “see” yourself clearly in 10, 20 or 30 years … and tell us what you see!
Bio: Sharon O’Day fixes financial lives. She is a tell-it-like-it-is money expert with a successful career in global finance, plus an MBA from the Wharton School. Today she specializes in getting entrepreneurial women over 50 back on their game so they can have more money, less stress and more joy. With her “Over Fifty and Financially Free” strategies, they take actions that lead to their ultimate goal: financial peace of mind.