Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Back From The Hiatus with Endless Random Thoughts

Wow, it's been a while since I've really posted. Thanks for all the kind words, things worked out in the end. M's great uncle got sick and things took a rapid and surprising turn for the worse. He passed away, but it was for the better if such things could even be possible. I guess modern medicine makes it possible, with the opportunity to live longer there's always a question of quality of life. On a selfish level I may wish the old guy was still here so I could kick his ass in cards, but honestly he was more than ready, and openly said so. I lived a good life, quote unquote. I hope that when the day comes for me I can say the same.

Then I went home to Buffalo for a while to visit my family, and I had a talk with my mom about her impending death, which she seems to bring up repeatedly despite being in fine health and a hair above a youthful sixty years old. I also moved my sister into a new apartment, and her money woes frankly just make my head hurt.

Being away from the city and my day to day life these past few weeks made me think a lot about money. I know I obsessively save, not in large amounts but with a certain consistency, and I read a lot of bloggers' paths to the long road to retirement as well. But from the struggle to get M's great uncle proper medical care, to my mom's sincere freak out over the gyrations of the stock market and her own retirement right around the corner, financial planning is no joke. There is a very real end of the road, and a reason why we do these things to begin with; live below our means, save, plan for retirement.

Sure, I'd love to have a Prius. I can even rationalize that to have a short car loan will boost my credit score. And driving around for a thousand miles before I fill the gas tank sure sounds like more fun than pouring money into my Roth IRA that keeps on sinking like the damn Titanic, but this choice is a privilege. How so?

Take my childhood, for example. Working class family below the poverty line before Reagan bumped it up. Not consumers, by any stretch of the imagination, there simply was no money. Also, not savers, no 401k, etc. Fast forward into my adulthood, when my mom finally gets a retirement plan from work, into which she diligently saves. But there's a lot of lost time that can't be made up, so I know that when she's watching the Dow she is really really worried, and I'm worried for her.

And me? I'm a consumer. I save, sure, but it comes from the money allocated for my consumerist ways (aka disposable income), and I could always save more, no matter what I say on this blog. That's the difference. Nowadays we are a nation of consumers, and we have thousands of dollars of credit line(s) to keep up the habit. So that privilege I was talking about before? The privilege is not in the decision to save, it's in the decision to spend.

In the end- nobody's perfect, I know I'm not exactly giving up my material goods for a higher cause any time too soon. But there has to be some middle ground, and if I never laid out what it took to retire like a normal person, then I might have never found that middle ground. Because I will always lust after things like a Prius...

1 comment:

wanda said...

Good to see you back and all is alright. Sorry about M's great uncle.

Yes, that planning for the future drama is creeping on us fast. Difficult to save in this city of ours but we do what we can. My mom is having similar financial woes and took a reverse mortgage on her house. Sad to see her do that, but panic had set in.

Thanks for the update!