It might be naive of me to think that when a person reaches a certain age, they realize that the road they have travelled, may not be a wise path to use for their retirement. With that opening statement, I’ve let you into my world, as far as knowing that I am nearing that magical retirement age. When I was younger, sitting at the end of a bar, drinking my beer, I’d proudly say that I had a three step plan for my future financial security. Social Security, Welfare, and Food Stamps! I said it halfway jokingly but also seriously. Why should I save for old age, when realistically, with the life I was leading I’d be dead before I was 50.
My first “real” step in planning for the future was to admit being an alcoholic and to quit drinking. It was that first step that I realized how I had placed myself in a very lonely spot. I had reached a point in my life that I couldn’t imagine a life with alcohol, but I also couldn’t imagine life without it. This act of surrender has kept me sober for over 26 years.
With every year in sobriety a sense of shame would set in because I had no real plan for retirement. At 50 years old, I was $65,000 in debt, with no savings and a very small 401-K plan. The one thing sobriety instilled in me was that I couldn’t control things in my life, yet I still could control one thing – my word. My debt was mostly self-inflicted. A mortgage, credit card debt, and medical expenses. Some would say that the medical expenses were beyond my control, which to me was an “easy out” for justifying not paying that bill. More than once I contemplated bankruptcy, but those thoughts always brought me back to keeping my word.
By 2010, I started a plan to get out of debt, which was obtained by 2016. It has been over a decade since I decided to “grow up” and being responsible for my financial actions. I live a life that is debt free and now have a respectable savings portfolio.
I now can see the immaturity in others from my age group that spend money like tomorrow will be the end of the world. One gentleman I know has spent his life living my original retirement plan. Social Security, Welfare, and Food Stamps. When his eyes got bigger than his wallet, he got deep into debt with credit cards. When he no longer could get new credit cards, he “borrowed” from his sisters and his mom. Think about that. A man in his 60’s borrowing from his mom, with no plans of ever paying her back.
When mom passed away, his two sisters and himself, each inherited over $75,000. That does not include the $35,000 he still owed his mom. I suggested to him to just put it in a bank and forget about it for a year. This was his last chance for any type of financial security. He no longer had mom to bail him out. Just live your life like you have, pay your bills, contact your creditors, make payment plans, and above all leave the inheritance alone. I figured if he did this he could see that he could manage money and more importantly that the $75,000 didn’t disappear.
Sadly, he lasted a couple of months and bought a house. He is in his 60’s with his first home. He lives in a major metropolitan area, so he couldn’t purchase a top of the line home. He got a fixit-upper. Remember the movie The Money Pit?
So, what else would a person rolling in money need with a new home? How about a new car? I use “new” loosely as it is new to him. Anyway, why not get a 15 year old Mustang? A gas hog in a major city, another impulsive buy that you would expect from someone in their 20’s or 30’s – not in their 60’s. Now, I’ll sit back and watch this guy head back down the road to destruction. I foresee new credit cards at first, then since mom isn’t an option anymore, borrowing from his sisters.
I look back at my life with a sense of awe because of the things I did, the people I met, and the places I’ve been. Things changed when I quit drinking. I don’t have the money needed for a great relaxing retirement, but thankfully, I’m not broke and I have put away those childish things.
Right now I have one major purchase I hope to make before the end of the year. I’ve worked for this investment for the last three years. Saving every penny I could, as well as using credit wisely to build on my credit score. I could make this entire purchase with cash, but is it wise to do so? My best wage earning years are behind me and what savings I have is it. Now living in the UK, there is added protection by having some of it with credit when making a major purchase.
The one thing the last ten years has shown me is that I can manage credit responsibly and not fall into the mistakes of my past. The major lesson I have learned is that a person can make money work for them instead on money making us for it.
It’s OK, to act young and be young when we are young. I believe when you reach a certain age, you need to quit competing with others. You need to quit having a sense of entitlement and to live within your means. It is quite sad to see someone who had a chance to live comfortably piss it away.