Thursday, October 4, 2012

Creaky But Loaded

My folks have more than one acquaintance that have not seemed to have grasped the fact that retirement age is creeping ever closer, yet they make insane financial choices that leave them devoid of savings. That that sort of clueless behavior terrifies me. 

Withdrawing the last few shekels from the bank account to take your granddaughter out to eat does not sound like a healthy plan for being able to eat at all in the future. 

I cannot make any firm statements as to what I will do when I am pushing 65, so watching my elders who should know better mess up certainly gives me the heebie-jeebies. Not that I am in that position right now, but I can understand if young couples in their 20s and 30s are impressionable when it comes to things they think they need. But aren't we supposed to have our priorities figured out when our bodies start to give? 

Ann Bauer writes on being that cash-squeezed young un', observing her fellows basking in deliciously lavish lives while she was reduced to the bargain bin. 
I spent a lot of time in my late 20's and early 30's feeling self-conscious, avoiding talk of travel at parties and failing to reciprocate dinner invitations because I didn't want anyone seeing our monster Cheerios boxes and garage sales dishes . . . there were times when my envy turned into resentment and a striving for something better. We'd attend a dinner where the host wore flowing scarves she'd bought from a street market in Turkey and served succulent lamb on a sparkling buffet. And rather than appreciate the evening out, I'd stew on the way home. What were we doing wrong? I wondered. Sometimes, I would turn to my husband and ask.
But as she grew older the brains kicked in. She saw that there is more than one way to live opulently, that a rich existence also means appreciating the many simple pleasures life has to offer. The restrictions she used to find shameful she now takes pride in. 

As for the Joneses? 
Many of my old friends are doing the same, cutting back on housing expenses or luxuries in order to make this new post-recession economy work. But others are not. They're living as they did before -- fresh-cut flowers and four-star hotels -- because it's the only way they know. They aren't saving, because they can't; every dime that comes in must immediately go out. And they appear to employ a collective magical thinking about the future: No matter how many times they're told what they'll need to survive their 60's, 70's, 80's and possibly 90's, they turn away.
A professor of economics, opining in Sunday's New York Times, called our national approach to retirement "ridiculous," saying most people are not capable of preparing for 30 years of living off their own savings . . . The people I'm seeing have spent their entire adult lives collecting experiences and living for the moment. And for the most part, IT'S ALWAYS WORKED OUT. They've been conditioned to believe that no matter how dire things seem, something will save them.
Not everyone who leads an opulent style can afford it. They want to pretend that they are still in their 30s, able to rebound from any financial setback. But one day we have to wise up, and realize that there may come a time when savings will be desperately needed.

The Sages ask, “Who is wise?” They respond, “One who sees the future.” — Mesechet Tamid 32a

I hope that when it comes to seeing around the bend, I have enough cash squirreled away. 


PremonitionsofanAfterthought said...

Agreed- but it's rather difficult in today's society- many young people were raised with certain luxuries (new clothes every yom tov, beef for dinner at least once a week, a car made in the last five years, etc. etc.) it becomes very difficult to get married and start saving when you see others your age living it up. You'd enjoy the following TED talk- it addresses exactly what your post was about- delaying gratification now so that one can have the means to survive later in life:

Princess Lea said...

That was FASCINATING. Thanks for the link!

I was thinking about my grandparents, who saved rather than spent. My Babi now can hire whoever she likes to take care of her, rather than relying on a government agency who'll send her who-knows-what. She has an amazing, wonderful woman who makes her life now the best it could be.

That's the big difference; the previous generation weren't able to be delusional about the future, because if you didn't save you starved. Now people like to pretend they will be in their 30s forever, that they'll never die.

Be real! Be self-aware! YOU ARE MORTAL!

Tovah11 said...

I never have really lived above my means. When I made very little, I spent very little. My only real debt was my student loan.

It took me awhile to realize how many people were living off their credit cards. I would never be able to enjoy a vacation that I knew I could not afford.

Do I splurge? Yep. Not alot though.I never compare myself to the Jones' because everybody has their adversities.

I rarely impulse buy, because when I do, it always ends up in the back of my closet.

In this day and age, for people not to realize that we are in extreme economic distress just makes for some really clueless people.

Princess Lea said...

When I was a kid, my grandmother sent me $50 every birthday. I put it into the bank account. Whatever I wanted or needed my parents decided on. Then one day I'm all "Hey! I actually have some money!" and I still didn't spend it.

I still can't comprehend how owning a luxury car or getting a bigger house or buying those designer heels at regular price will affect the Joneses. The Joneses don't care, because the Joneses have their own lives and aren't particularly interested in mine.

A guy I went out with once is into debt consolidation, and he was telling me how these people dig their financial holes just to "keep up." Keep up with what?