The Golden Years

I love how my parents celebrate each Friday as their “pretend retirement day.” Dad either doesn’t have to work at the office or he has a half-day and is home by lunchtime. Sometimes, there are errands or other jobs to do, other times they will do something fun like go out to lunch or explore a new neighborhood. The main thing is that they enjoy their time together. They enjoy each other’s company. We should all be so lucky after 29 years of marriage.

On Thursday, James and I sat down with a financial planner for the first time ever. We talked about goals and what we’ve been doing so far in terms of saving for the future. And even though we haven’t bee doing much, we have at least been doing something. I took the advice of someone older than me when I had my first full-time job out of college and enrolled in the 401(k) within about a year of becoming eligible. At my next job, my current job, I contributed to the Simple IRA the day they told me I could. I started with a contribution that would get me the full company match, and every time I got a raise, I increased my contribution until I maxed it out. Yes, I know that’s not the best way to invest in my future, but because I don’t know what I’m doing when it comes to stocks, bonds, annuities, mutual funds, or any of those other investment options, I figured that at least I was doing something. At least that money wasn’t going to Target or Taco Bell.

James has only been contributing to his 401(k) for a few years, but at least he’s doing that much. Without knowing and without the time to learn another way to save, we were doing okay. And the plus side is that we’re not even thirty. But with a kid on the way and that big 3-0 looming ever closer (those round decade numbers always make you take a hard look at your life, don’t they?), we both knew it was time to get on an even better road to retirement.

The financial planner guy didn’t talk a lot of terminology, which was good. I don’t want to have to go home and look up half a conversation, if I even remember which words to look up. He talked to us about what we wanted to focus on right now and assured us that no plan is ever set in stone. We knew that from experience, but it’s still nice to hear from a trained professional.

Lately, I have been concerned about our financial situation. The money thing has probably been my biggest worry in the third trimester. I think about our checking account more than the birth plan. I’m not sure how normal that is, but at least I’m not afraid to say it. I say it here, and I say it to my husband. That’s right, I can talk to my husband about money.

I’m really glad that James and I are on the same page with our finances, and we have found a way to manage money that works for us. We have similar and realistic goals. And it’s actually fun to work together to realize them, no matter how small or large or near or far off they may be.

After our meeting, we continued our conversation about the future. We had been asked about our vision for our golden years. Where would we be and what would we be doing? Now, even though our goals are similar, they take on different shapes when we discuss them in these terms. James sees us in Upper Michigan’s chilly wilderness whereas I see us on a beach in Florida. But even though these two visions seem about as opposite as you could get, we’ve managed to reach a compromise fairly easily. Winters in Florida (except Christmas) and summers in Michigan. So when we work these visions into our financial planning, we’ll need to plan on owning property in both places. Because owning property was already something we planned to keep on doing.

I feel better about our finances after talking them over with James and with someone who can help us address both our immediate and long-term concerns. I look forward to spending time with my husband when we get the chance, even if for now it’s still only one full day and a week full of carpooling and evenings. I hope that 27 years from now, we still enjoy our time together this much and as much as my parents do. But I honestly don’t see us ending up much differently than that, even if we do end up in Michigan through long, dark winters or Florida through sweltering summers.

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