My father, because he had four children who just insisted on being fed, clothed and educated, began saving for his retirement when he was 50. I remember this because I have a vivid memory of riding in a truck with him just after his 50th birthday and he told me, "If you start now saving $25 a month into a mutual fund, you will have more money at age 65 than I will have if I save $500 a month starting now." (Excellent advice, by the way.)
I am now the age my father was when we had that talk.
I should have a rocking' retirement account going now, shouldn't I? Not so much. And because I have passed the half-century mark, I've been thinking seriously about retirement money lately.
I took his advice--at age 20 I opened a retirement account and diligently socked away $30 every month. Then at age 25 I used the money--minus a penalty--to go to graduate school. (It was okay, I was still young, right?)
The thing is, between the two of us, my husband and I (mostly my husband) have made a decent amount of money together during our working years. Not riches, but we've worked hard and been paid for it reasonably well.
Lately as we look at the balances in our respective retirement accounts--and how much is NOT in them-- we scratch our heads and think, "Where did all that money go?" Surely we should have more to show after all this work!
We joke that we are on the Rapture Retirement Plan. Jesus needs to come back before we're too old to work.
This search for the missing money has gotten me thinking about the fact that where it went says a lot about what we treasure--so I've been looking back to see what the money trail says about what I value.
I can tell you where it didn't go. Not to fancy cars. Not into a fancy house. Not into decor. (I think after 22 years of marriage we only have three pieces of furniture that we purchased ourselves. The rest is other people's lovely cast offs.) I don't have a problem with people spending on things like that, but if you come to my house, it will be clear that my treasure is not in home decor.
Some of the places I see the money spent make me happy--like to support two handsome scholars in Haiti and a sweet girl in the Philippines who sends me the loveliest pictures. Some of it has helped support missionary pilots for the long term, and some has helped young people take shorter mission trips. A fair amount of it goes to support the work of organizations who work effectively to help alleviate poverty in transformative ways or help fight human trafficking here and abroad. I'm also a big believer in participating in the ministry of my church with both my time and my money. I'm good with this money not being in my retirement account.
I'm also fine that we spent some money on family trips and college educations even if it means we have less in our golden years.
There is a dark side that my spending patterns are revealing about my treasures.
My bank lets me get reports in the form of pie-charts about categories of spending, and it's quite an eye opener (okay, not really).
I treasure food. Not eating out, just eating. When I saw the piece of pie that represented spending on groceries, I asked the hubs if maybe we could get by on just two meals per day...
I treasure books. It's embarrassing, really, how much I spend on books when there's a library just seven miles away. (But then the expense would be library late fees....) Amazon prime with it's free shipping and the instant gratification of Kindle books has definitely put a hurting on my ability to retire young.
But the biggie, the deep dark underside of me is this: I have wee bit of a problem with shoes. Not any shoes--I don't even own a pair of pumps. No, the problem is running shoes. It may be a mental-health issue, but for several years now I have been on a rather quixotic quest to find the perfect running shoe that will protect my knees, cushion my aging hips, and at the same time make me ridiculously fast. I fear my desperation has made me an easy target for any reasonably talented copy-writer working for a shoe company. (In my defense, I only buy shoes that are on sale.)
Don't believe me? I submit to you my attempt at running-shoe perfection from just this past year--and it doesn't include a pair that I gave away to a college student.
(I know, right? The purple ones are my current favs. I've come this close to buying additional pairs--on sale, of course--in case they decide to discontinue them.)
Seriously, if I am ever going to retire, you need to pray that I will let go of this ridiculous dream and accept the fact that they will not create a shoe that can make me fast.
In the meantime, if you happen to wear a size 7.5 I'm having a sale on slightly-used, almost-perfect running shoes to help fund my IRA.