Sunday, April 29, 2012

'Security is mostly a superstition ... "

There was an interesting piece in the New York Times this weekend, "My Faith Based Retirement," about financial planning and Baby Boomers. The largest generation in American history, of which I am part, is hurtling toward decrepitude. Let the weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth commence.

I like to think my wife, Karen, and I have done a semi-responsible job of planning for old age. We both have 401(k) plans that we have not raided (not that the temptation hasn't presented itself.) I wholeheartedly agree with the statement in this article that most ordinary people are not mentally equipped to handle their finances.

Helen Keller (1880-1968)
The biggest mistake I think we made was refinancing four years ago, switching from a 15- to a 30-year mortgage so we could get some cash to put a new roof on the house, replace the rotting deck out back and remodel a bathroom. Alas, we didn't have a family member who could lend us $20,000.

Still, that's nothing compared to the last six months, during which we've come face to face with how fragile any middle class family's finances really are. The week after Thanksgiving, we discovered a tumor in Karen's abdomen. Surgery and chemotherapy followed. Even with insurance, it has cost us $15,000 out of pocket. If we hadn't had insurance, we'd be pretty well wiped out.

In a situation like this, money takes on an unreal quality. What I think about more than anything is our dreams, what it would cost to realize them, and how little time we really have left. Should I take $13,000 and go to Nashville to record the 15 or 20 good songs I've written in the past 30 years? Or should I save it for the privilege of eating cat food when I'm 85?

You can spend your money on a dream or you can spend it on a nightmare.

My friend Patti Sherlock, a writer and cancer survivor, were talking Sunday morning at coffee hour about how illness acquaints a person with the fragility of life and the pointlessness of worry. She shared with me this quote from Helen Keller: "Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing."

Anyway, here's the Times article: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/04/28/opinion/nocera-my-faith-based-retirement.html?_r=1#

And here's Todd Snider singing a song that addresses the subject: