I just heard that, at the 11th hour, someone claimed a $50 million lottery prize. Bummer. I was hoping the ticket might be mine. But then I remembered I have to pay to play. Winning the lottery would be nice, though, wouldn’t it? I’d like to think we’ve earned a lucky break.
I’m thinking about money lately because: a) it’s tax season and yet again I am confronted with how little I’ve made this past year; and b) J. envisioned retiring someday soon until leukemia messed with our Freedom 55 plan. Was Freedom 55 realistic for us before my income tanked? We wouldn’t have been retiring rich, but we believed we could sustain our modest lifestyle with our savings. Now we are trying to live on J.’s salary without dipping into these savings. God bless my sugar mommy.
But here’s the tricky part: how do we figure out how much we need for retirement when I don’t know when I’m going to die? If I knew my death were imminent, the decision would be easy: J. could quit work tomorrow. But life, and death, aren’t that simple.
J. took off the year following my illness to care for me, but also because she didn’t know how long I’d be around. When I no longer needed someone there to chauffeur me to appointments or make sure I didn’t slip in the shower, J. practiced being retired. She’d be a great retiree. No transitional pining for work for her. Surprisingly, the two of us adjusted fairly easily to being in each other’s space, and we negotiated our own space as needed. After the fears of dying were out of the way, we had a great year.
I’m not planning on dying anytime soon–no way we’re cancelling next week’s vacation–but it would sure help us plan for the future if I knew how long I had. What if J. retires and I stick around for a while longer? Will we run out of cash? Will I leave J. destitute, forcing her to return to work in her 80s? I’m causing her enough stress while I’m here.
We were discussing this issue with our much younger dear friends, J. and M., on the weekend. They wisely reminded us that no one knows when death will strike. People die suddenly, and unexpectedly, all the time for various reasons. Chances are if J. retires sometime in the near future, we’ll be just fine, whenever I die.
Some days I regret our focussing so heavily on saving for retirement when we could have been using some of that money to enjoy today. We didn’t deprive ourselves, but we might have set different priorities had we known cancer was looming. That’s why, in addition to next week’s ocean-view hotel room, we’re going to splurge on the Early Morning Experience with the Pandas at the zoo, and we’ll hear Pinchas Zukerman both playing with and conducting the local orchestra the night before we leave.
Despite these indulgences, I trust J. will still have enough money to put food on the table at 93. If not, maybe you’d consider inviting her for dinner on occasion? Thanks.