One day in your life you will have a very, very bad day. And you have no choice in this matter.
NOTE: This is an older posting I started this summer and only finished today.
I mentioned before that when we adopted our Greyhound dog Ginger, we went to the track at an open house in Hialeah. I told Mark that when you go to these open houses you'll end up coming home with a dog - that's how it works. I also told him that about ten years later you'll have a very bad day. Our dog died almost 11 years to the day after we adopted her. That was a bad day.
But as bad as that was, you'll end up having an even worse day in your life. Or I should say it will be the end of your life - or the end of the life of your spouse, which is probably even worse. When you die, that's the end of it. Either you're going to rot in the grave or you'll go to the afterlife or whatever you want to believe in, but the part where you live here on the earth is over and all the stuff that you worried about is now somebody else's problem. You just have to hope they don't find your cache of porn on your laptop.
Losing a pet is a bad thing, losing your spouse can be devastating. Not only are you losing the love of your life, but you're treated to your own little horror show about the nature of life and death itself. In addition to the grieving you have to go through, you have this horrific thing where you see someone's body go from alive to dead. And who in the hell wants to look at a dead body, even of a loved one?
Young people love to watch horror movies as they love to be shocked by gruesome things. But there's two things to observe here. First of all, all of the monsters of the horror movies are usually shown as old and decrepit people. Young people are scared to death of aging and getting old and dying. The second thing is you don't see a lot of old people going to horror movies. They're living it. They're looking death in the face and it's not pretty and it's not funny and it's not amusing or entertaining.
And it's not shocking, either. Just sad.
The ancillary thing you have to deal with when your spouse dies is that you have to restart your life or try to start over the remainder of your life which made the only a few years. Some spouses never recover from this, and thus you often hear about spouses died within days or weeks of each other.
A friend of ours went through this when his wife died of cancer. He doted on her through her final years, driving into town every day toward the very end to visit her in hospice care. He was devastated by the loss and never remarried. He rattled around his old house for many years, and we worried about him. He's finally moved into a senior living center, where they provide an apartment and regular care if he needs it. But he probably should have thought about doing something like that years ago, but he felt it was inappropriate for him to move on with life after losing his spouse of so many years.
Years ago, this was the norm. Back of the turn of the last century you would hear about The Dowager Widow wearing black for years on end mourning the loss of her husband. Or husbands would mourn for a prescribed period of time, wearing black or a black armband. We had very specific protocols back then for how you were supposed to be wait before remarrying, when someone died.
A hundred years ago, people lived with their family members. When grandma died you literally saw her die and you saw her body laying on her bed in her room. She wasn't shunted off to some nursing home or senior living center where her passing was just a mere phone call and perhaps a visit to a closed casket at a funeral ceremony. We have removed the life-and-death experience from everyday living in America. Thus we are even more afraid of death than before.
A friend of mine once complained that, "All you ever talk about is money and death!" to which I replied, "What else is there?" Because the ultimate definition of life is what we do with our lives between the time we are born in the time we die - a very finite period of time, as much as we try to deny it. And how you manage your money in that interim pretty much determines - at least in America - how badly your life will suck or not.
I realized at a very early age, that life would not go on forever, and there would reach a point where one would become uncomfortable and unable to work for a living and perhaps infirm. And that point in life, one will be very grateful for the efforts of the earlier self to provide some means of supporting one's self in old age. Perhaps it was my Mother who instilled this into me - she stressed that getting old and infirm and being poor was probably the worst thing that could happen to anyone.
When we were young, we assumed that the older us will take care of things later on, but the older us is less and less capable of taking care of things. Thus, we cheat ourselves later in life so we can have fancy toys earlier on. We don't like to think about it, when were young, about the very, very, very bad day that will happen to us perhaps not even very far off in the future. We just want to have fun now and that is not a bad thing. You don't need to spend a lot of money to have fun, though.
Life is finite. And whether you die first or your spouse dies first, there should be some means of supporting the one of you who has to linger on. I mentioned before there's been many a husband who lived the high life, buying boats and RVs and other toys and then dying of a heart attack and leaving his wife with absolutely nothing but a pile of bills to pay for all the fun he had. Is that something you do to someone you love? Or is that something you want to happen to you? Of course not!
I'm certainly not looking forward to the very, very, very bad day which is going to happen sometime in my not-too-distant future. I am very certain of that. There's no real way to avoid this, you can try to stay healthy and live as long as possible and more importantly try to enjoy as much of life as possible while you still can. And being in a situation where you can support yourself without work is very important in that regard.
A lot of websites out there talk about things like "FIRE" – Financial Independence Retire Early. And maybe that's a nice goal to have, but it is more important is to be able to be financially independent enough to finance retirement - all of your retirement. The idea of retiring at age 30 or even 40 sounds appealing, but not if you run out of money at age 60 or 70.
Retirement is something that can go on for decades even if you retire a age 65. I saw a "meme" on the Internet the other day, to the effect that "The average lifespan is 78 years. I'm not going to work for 45 years so I can retire for 13!" Whoever came up with that nonsense (Russia? Perhaps) didn't understand actuarial tables. The average lifespan in America is about 78 years, but that averages in infants who die after three days, or teenagers who die in car wrecks, or the young people who die of opiate overdoses. If you make it to age 60, there is a very good chance you will live to be well over 80. And living on Retirement Island, I see this. Late 80's or early 90's seems to be a typical check-out time. So retirement is't 13 years - it is more like 30.
So maybe that's why I like talk about his death and money. Living on Retirement Island, I hang out with a lot of older people and see some of these things happen firsthand. My friend who complained that I talk too much about death too much lives in suburbia with a lot of neighbors in their forties - an age where people can kid themselves into believing that they will never die because their parents are still alive. After all, if their parents aren't dead that certainly they're not going to die, right? No one consciously believes this, of course, but subconsciously. They think there will always be another tomorrow and saving money is something they can do "later" because today is so hectic, what with picking up the kids from soccer practice and watching all those television shows you have to watch to stay current.
But once your parents pass away, and you've lost a few other family members, friends, fellow high school graduates, college chums and whatnot, you realize that life is a very finite thing. Enjoy it while you can, make it as comfortable and easy as possible. You don't have to be a superstar billionaire, you just have to be happy. And your happiness eludes so many people. And that's the thing that makes me really want to cry sometimes. People are so unhappy and don't realize that they have such a short period of time here on this Earth to really enjoy things. They put off happiness for tomorrow, so that they can have a jet ski today and pay for it tomorrow. The jet ski gives them mere minutes of happiness, but the payments provide years of sorrow
I know I lived that way for a long time. I presumed that someday I'd get caught up on my bills and pay off my debts and that life could really begin. And I missed a good portion of the middle part of my life running in place trying to keep up, rather than savoring the moment.
And I say this knowing full well that I was very lucky to be self-employed and have lots of time to be contemplative and enjoy myself and take extended vacations - a luxury not afforded to too many people on this planet. But even as fortunate as I have been, I realized on retrospect I spent far too much time worrying about money when I should have been managing it. I spent far too much time wanting things now and paying for them later, rather than enjoying life itself.
The material is Mortal error. And yet so many of us sacrifice our lives for the material. The very, very, very bad day happens to all of us, eventually. Do you want to be worrying about your credit card bill with your very last breath?