Planning, we do it for almost everything whether we realize it or not. Even my most flighty of family and friends tend to put together some sort of mental outline before they take something on. As for me, a person with a pronounced case of anxiety, I can overly plan to the point of it adding to my stress about anything. There is one area specifically that I once had in order until life got in the way; retirement. Business school taught me with a high amount of financial discipline that I could save my way into anything. For those who don't know me, I felt that business school had many concepts that were great until put into practice. In a world of spectrums, I was in for the surprise of my life when I met with my polar opposite; a super retirement saver. As lovely of a human as he may have been (his opinion not mine), our financial planning perspectives blended well as a chocolate mousse in a sauerkraut sandwich- not gonna mesh well without literal magic. From it all I tried to soak up some sort of lesson from our differing ways of life, this is my summation of retirement for the average working-class earner.
For those of us in the under $70,000.00 tax bracket, saving can be hard in a market where a serious medical bill or personal disaster can wipe you out. With that in mind, I would also like to point out that the inflation rate blazes ahead of the interest rate for savings accounts, including for the long-term accounts in many cases. The only exception is if you have a massive amount of money to combat this unpleasant fact i.e., over a million dollars in the bank. In my personal case, I plan to never retire completely, as all of my relatives who did so in the early 2000s were financially decimated by the 2008 recession. Their downfall was due in part to the changes in technology that affected monthly household budgets (analog TV to online entertainment, etc.). When these early to retire relatives of mine made their post-retirement budgets they could not have expected their phone bills to go from the average of $40.00 a month in exchange for a landline to $120.00 for a cell phone unless they had a crystal ball directly from Steve Jobs himself.
It wasn't just the unexpected expense influxes that doomed my quick to their twilight years family. It was also the withdrawal from society that retirement packed that took them down a notch. My once high-functioning elders went from responsible adults to being unable to mix with civilization within a decade. Seeing them on visits would sadden me because it was unavoidable to notice how reclusive and shut down they had become from being out of work. All the savings in the world could not prevent them from being left out of the loop when it came to modern culture, something that gives me some pause to mention when I converse with them but is quite apparent nonetheless.
Then came my buddy the supersaver. He's the type of spender that has as much discipline as a drill sergeant on inspection day. Every expense he has is planned long in advance. I would say that we got along well until the topic of my retirement plan was mentioned, but the truth was that we didn't enjoy any of our time together. My supersaver wouldn't go anywhere or do anything. It was as if he were frozen in the year 2000. I often had to suppress myself from commenting to him that to me it was as if life had totally passed him by. No matter the effort I tried to put into adding a little bit of fun into our interactions, the supersaver was unmoved and I found myself miserable in his company. After a few months of communication resembling two ships passing in the night, I gave up on whatever form of friendship we were trying to nurture. Not out of animosity, but out of exhaustion. Being with the supersaver was isolating. He would not go anywhere because it could waste gas. He would not meet new people because it might take the night in a different direction than he had budgeted. For a person who could afford anything he wanted, I found myself burning bridges socially to keep up a tiresome miser who wouldn't allow me to foot the bill in a social situation either.
The difference between myself and the supersaver was that after my bills are paid I may buy a few comfort items that have some amount of joy for my own use. Nothing too outrageous, an example of my spending style might be that I may go on a weekend trip once a year or eat out a couple of times a month. To my supersaver though, the shock could have knocked him off of his feet knowing that I did those things. As for the supersaver, his entire monthly budget was focused on retirement, retirement, retirement, and little else. The fastidious nature of his spending or lack thereof was designed for that matter alone. The thing is though, who is right? Probably neither of us. We are both two extremes of a saving spectrum. The supersaver had become a museum item amongst his own life, while I was ignoring hard truths about my future.
Generally speaking with consideration to retirement, the given ages were initially planned when retirement was a few short years before the average age of death. By that I mean according to Google, the retirement age was set in this country in 1935, when the average life expectancy was between 58 and 62 years. Whereas now the average life expectancy is nearly into a person's eighties barring any chronic illness. Does that mean we should rethink retirement in America? In a world where "you can't take it with you," is a popular phrase, how wrong am I? Is my supersaver diagnosable as spending intolerant? Or am I a frivolous nelly? After all, we don't know how long we will even live anyway, right?
My side of the retirement debate or the biggest argument against my way of life is that in a pinch I'm screwed without a tucked away money nugget to dive into. There are those who find my spending style abhorrent, which is buying the things I need over the things I want, but not necessarily saving for that rainy day fund when it comes to quality of life purchases. Here's how I get around this issue; payment plans and spending down in an emergency. My thoughts on the supersavers are that the concept was popularized during times when banks were tight-fisted and only a select few could get a decent loan. Fast forward to today where crowdfunding, Affirm, Afterpay, and clandestine payment plans all can help just about anyone with a pulse sidestep traditional methods that keep the supersavers of the world in fear. Not that I would ever suggest that people max out their credit cards or anything, and it's always a good idea to be on the lookout for a competitive deal. For me though, it's the best way to have an enriched quality of life, which can be dicy in the world of revolving debt. A person must tiptoe a fine line of living within their means and still have meaning in their living, but it can be done.
As much as I find my supersaver to be practical, his lifestyle of planning for the future has cost him something that I consider too dear; the enjoyment of the present. He will never be as young as he is today again. He will never have today back and the expectation of a tomorrow can never be assumed. My supersaver has stayed in on otherwise beautiful summer nights and held back when they could have jumped in on one too many things. Although his tomorrow is financially safe, his "now" is a loathsome existence of waiting for some lofty glory day of "when." As for me, I want to swim in the warm waters of Australia again before I am too much more wrinkled by the years or to make a few bad decisions for love not because of the financial impact, but for the moment, which may never happen again. Don't waste your money, but don't be a miser either, there's too much to lose from either extreme. Am I wrong? Say how you feel in the Conspiracy Meow! site forums or in the social media comment section and as always "Let Your Inner Shut In Totally Wig Out!"