For the past 30 years – pretty much all of my adult life – I have been a planner and a worrier. I am the type of person that starts packing two weeks before a big vacation. I am the type of person that starts putting a Thanksgiving grocery list together in OCTOBER. It isn’t that I plan to worry, I just worry if I don’t plan. These traits are deeply embedded in the genetic code of my family going back multiple generations. At times it can be a good thing to keep me on track, but often it can be overwhelming and take up too much of my day. If I get this worked up prior to a beach vacation or family holiday, you can only imagine how I feel when it comes to retirement planning.
One of my biggest fears in life is running out of money in retirement. The idea of working in my 70s and becoming a burden on my kids has caused me to lie awake at 3AM more than a few times. I know how hard retirement planning is going to be for today’s youth so I do not want to add taking care of mom and dad to their plate. Now I am not just worrying about my own retirement, but the retirement of my children 50+ years away.
How have I learned to deal with this and prevent what is left of my hair from falling out? By identifying which factors I have control over versus the factors I do not. I have no control what the market is doing, at what age I die (outside of eating less Kansas City BBQ…not happening), or what the federal tax code is going to look like in 20 years. What I can control is my savings rate, which funds to invest in, and doing my best to eliminate debt.
I was lucky growing up that my dad was also a planner/worrier, and he taught me at a young age to save and then save some more. He worked for the same large company for 33 years, working long hours, often travelling more than he was home, and missing valuable family time for the good of the company. At the age of 53 the company decided he was too old and “retired” him. It was a scary time and had he not saved for a rainy day, our family would have been in the middle of a monsoon. Thankfully he was a third generation planner and was prepared by saving, living below his means, and reducing debt. I’ve always admired him for taking control of his financial situation and not leaving his later years to chance. He has been retired now for 23 years and is still going strong.