Monday, January 9, 2012

Fifteen Good Years?

I read this post from Super Saver with some consternation. Not to mention some recognition.

My father had a heart attack at age 58 and died from a stroke at 68. My mother died during heart bypass surgery at age 78. This does not bode well for Grace.

While I do think I take better care of my personal health than my parents did at this age, genetics can be a bummer.

Thanks Dad! Mom!

So thinking about the next fifteen years, maybe I should consider the possibility that they are the remaining 'good' years I have left.

Does that make a difference in my future financial plans? Right now, the plan is to get everything (residence, car, credit cards) paid off by (or, more likely, during) age 65, then spend four years saving for fun stuff like travel, and then retiring at age 69.

But would it make more sense to spend now for the things I want to do that will require relatively good health? I'd like to take a major car trip across the US--not so much to be outdoors (I don't like sunburns or mosquitos) but to spend time in all the cities I've missed: San Diego, Taos, Chicago, Philadelphia, Boston, New Orleans, to name just a few. Can I put that off for another 7 years or is the time to do it now?

If there's just 15 'good' years left, do I really want to spend half of them paying down debt or saving money? Would I really have to? If my last years of retirement are likely to be sedentary, and given that TV and the internet are not all that expensive, wouldn't that be the time to concentrate on debt reduction?

But I have no track record as a seer. I could get hit by a car tomorrow, or live into my '90's' (I'd say 'hundreds,' but I think that's pushing it!)

What I do have is anxiety. Letting my debt follow me into retirement produces more anxiety than I'm willing to have, particularly if those retirement daysare going to be among the best of my life.

I guess I'm stuck with just plugging away.

And pushing out the boundaries of that 'fifteen good years.'


Anonymous said...


Take good care of yourself! And keep doing the good work you're doing at work!

Terry said...

You know Grace, this post reminds me of what my dad, who is a retired psychiatrist always tells me about travel "go NOW" . He is now 80 and a widower but he cherishes the trips he took with my mom before she became too ill to travel. He still regrets not having gone to Turkey.

He is not in any condition to travel and spends his time doing volunteer counseling at his church. He always tells me not to put off doing something like this because, in the end, all you have are the memories and experiences.

So, without going hog wild and being completely irresponsible lol! maybe you could find a way to do more of what you want sooner rather than later. Because you really never know what tomorrow may bring.

Anonymous said...

I started reading a book you recommended: The Last Gift Of Time/Life Beyond Sixty. The author, Carolyn Heilbrun planned on committing suicide at 70 because she felt the last 10 years (60 to 70) would be the last of importance. Heilbrun thought she'd be useless at age 70. Instead, she found her 60's to be her greatest years and decided each day after turning 70 was a, she might as well live.

Our 60's are our last stand. What are we going to be like in our 70's? My body is already failing me no matter how healthy I live. I made the choice to enjoy my 60's instead. So, at 61, I estimate I have 9 good more years of fun and enjoying life left. So, that's what I am doing!

My cousin, who is in her late 40's just suffered a brain anurism. She has a young son. It made me realize: 'WTF am I waiting for?' I'm not going to complain anymore. I just want to enjoy these next 9 years. To heck with everything. I did my best.

Juhli said...

Perhaps you can work on both debt reduction and travel goals at the same time? Instead of a cross country trip to all of the cities mentioned how about one to several that are close together? More than one way to climb this mountain!

Florence said...

I propose a middle way. Pick one of the places that you want to visit. Go there this year. Next year stay home and save. The following year go to another place on your list. Repeat as long as you can or want to.

Anonymous said...

I, like others, think a middle ground is best. Maybe not one major road trip then, but one small one every year. You're right, tomorrow isn't guaranteed and that goes whether you're 5, 15, 30, 50, or 80. There is a difference between living in the now and indulging in the now.

NCN said...

My dad is almost 60 - and has a paid for house and no debt. He started attacking his debts after reading my site (pretty cool, no?) - and he says he wouldn't trade the joy of being debt free for all of the stuff in the world. Of course, he's a home-body, like me, so traveling's not really our thing. Keep up the great writing - your story is always great to read.
Rock on,

Anonymous said...

I have been thinking along the same lines. Although I am a little younger than you my husband already has a difficult time traveling due to health issues. I agree with traveling now because it is something that is likely to be harder and harder to accomplish as we age. Also, having a trip to look forward to all year can really help you have the motivation to save in other areas. Good luck.


Janette said...

I'm with the split the difference group. Save half the year and spend half the year. Trips can be done well, and inexpensively. Do a picnic lunch and a good dinner. Travel south in the winter and north in the summer.

Pay off debt with unexpected gifts--- or travel on the unexpected gifts.... choose.

Putting everything off until you retire can be a terrible mistake. My in laws only took one trip before they retired---to see us in Washington DC. They never traveled again because of health. When we cleaned out the house----DC mementos were in every nook and cranny. I had no idea how important that trip was to them. I wish now that we had paid for them to see us in other places as well.

scott said...

Hi Grace, Great post! I go through the same thought process all the time. The word 'balance' always seems to pop into my head while searching for the answer. Do some things now, do some things later...

We never/rarely know when it is our last day here.

Jane said...

That is an issue I struggle with daily. What if all of this debt-paying and saving and waiting is all for naught? What if I get myself in the ideal retirement position and die the next day? What if, what if? It's enough to drive you to drink. I feel like I've been delaying gratification ALL OF MY LIFE!! Sigh... But I'm like you and I don't want to retire with debt but I'm hoping I can retire by age 58 (2.5 more years to go) so I'm paying down debt at the rate of $2300 per month. I'm living a lean life now in hopes of having a heck of a time later. It's a coin toss!

Grace. said...

Wow, Jane--I am impressed, both with your early retirement date AND the amount of money you can commit to monthly debt reduction. I won't be able to do that until my house is paid off (in 2.25 years).

Petunia 100 said...

You do have options, Grace. For example, you could refi your house into a new 15 or 30 year mortgage, roll your debt into it, and have a much smaller minimum monthly outgo. This would free up quite a bit each month to use to enjoy yourself more. You would just have to accept that the mortgage payment will be following you into retirement. If it is small enough, it might not be such a bad trade off. We have no guarantee of tomorrow.

Anonymous said...

I'd like to point out that advances in medical care over the last 20 years have reduced deaths from cardiovascular disease (heart attack and stroke) by 75% - from 4/1000 to 1/1000. So see your doctor, take your statins and you can beat your genetic odds. And remember to thank animal research!

That said, you could always get hit by a bus, so make sure you are enjoying life now as well :)

Living Almost Large said...

You are probably doing better than you expect. My dad is still traveling and healthy at 82. My great grandmother lived to 100 so maybe things aren't so bleak.

LC said...

My mother thought she would not live to see her 60s cause her mother and dad died in their 50s. She lived 92 years and six months. Because she and my dad saved, planned, determined early in their marriage to live debt free, her five or so years of decreasing strength and health were in circumstances as relatively comfortable and independent as possible.

And in the years preceding she did some traveling, enjoyed giving gifts to grandkids and reveled in simple joys of family, friends and home.

Her ability to find joy, even in later challenging circumstances, was strengthened by her not having to worry about finances. Peace of mind can be the ultimate luxury.

LC said...

Oops, I think I posted a comment twice!