That was February 24, 1978. Ahhh, the ’70s. It was a simpler time. A time when marriage meant forever and destiny was summarized up in the phrase “happily-ever-after.”
Back in the ’70s, getting married was the answer to most everything. I didn’t worry about my financial future. The closest thing to retirement planning was dreaming that my husband and I would stay in love forever and we would figure out the rest along the way.
Life has a way of teaching you what you need to know.
Little over a year after I was married, I was signing up for a benefit package with my new employer. I was a single mom and my boss glossed over the option to sign up for a pension. “You are young … you will probably get married and not have to worry about that.” I didn’t sign up for the pension.
The years slipped by and I continued to find myself in a perpetual state of singlehood (I would like to talk to my first boss about that pension now …). But I took hold of the reins and I had a plan. A financial plan.
I was consumed with paying off the mortgage, retirement savings and life insurance. I often joked that I could afford to retire and I could afford to die … I simply couldn’t afford to live.
Over the span of those 20 years I had gone from a young, naïve girl without a plan to a compulsive saver who felt financial security was the end-all answer. I had forgotten how to live.
Life has a way of teaching you what is truly important.
My financial plan went out the window when about a year later (still single), I found myself sitting in the middle of the living room floor with my brand new baby. A ray of light shone on my present and showed me my future. All that I wanted in the world was right in front of me. I simply wanted to stay at home and raise my young family.
I found a way to support myself by working at home. My retirement savings subsidized my present instead of my future. That moment in the sun changed my life.
I never did replenish those retirement savings, but what I have replaced those funds with are years well spent. I invested in my family and in our life. I will never regret that decision.
We never know what is around that next corner. It could be bad. It could be good. To live happily-ever-after, every day of your life is a good place to start.
The land of “White Lace and Promises” remains elusive, but I will never lose the hope that I had on that day 35 years ago.
There is so much of life ahead. I have found a place where there is room to grow. I may be 53 years old, but I feel as though I have only just begun.
Life has taught me that health and happiness cannot be bought. My retirement plan has evolved from saving a specified dollar amount to an unlimited amount of hope and dreams for what lies ahead.
I want more than a pension when I retire. I want a life. Retirement planning isn’t just about the money. It is about living a full life now so that you can bring that along with you into your future. Whatever or wherever it may be.