Monday, December 14, 2009

LIVE like a 20-year-old!

I got to thinking the other day (I do that sometimes) and it occurred to me that approaching 50 years of age, some of the "fun" seems to be lost in life. I watch my friends and acquaintances, most of whom are much older than me, and it seems they worry a lot about things. What happened to the good old days?

The few friends who don't seem to have this problem also seem to have no worries. They sort of drift through life, taking it as it comes, and don't waste a lot of time and effort on worry. Maybe they drink too much. I don't know.

But it occurs to me that what they have found (or never lost) is the ability to think and live young and to stop worrying so much about "things" or their "past" and "future". They are living for today and not worrying so much.

Do you remember what it was like to be 20? I do. At that age, just having a working car was a big deal, as was having food on the table and a six-pack in the icebox. We didn't have much, so we didn't have much to worry about. We didn't worry so much about the future, as that was a far-off event that we had plenty of time to deal with later.

Car insurance was expensive, so we bought a car for cash, if we could, and didn't bother with collision insurance - who needs it? If you wrecked your car (a highly probable event) we would just go and buy a another used clunker. Big deal.

And things like savings and life insurance? Well, you might be putting some money in your 401(k) but you never bothered much to look at it or worry about how it was doing.

Now granted, 20-year-olds do have a lot of bad habits and squander money on a grand scale. But they don't worry too much about things. They take it as it comes. If you can get back to that kind of mindset, it can eliminate a lot of worry from your life.

As we get older, the cost of things like collision insurance drop way off. Why? Because we are less of a risk. So we think, "this is a bargain now, I'll get it!" But what we fail to realize is that even at a bargain price, it is still not a good bet (and insurance is a bet - a gamble). You are far more likely to pay more in premiums than you get paid out in damages. Otherwise the insurance companies would be bankrupt.

We become more and more risk-averse as we get older. To some extent this is a good thing. We need to marshal our assets and protect them, as our capacity to earn money drops off with age. But many of us over-do it and become so risk averse that we end up spending more money than before and go broke in increments. We play it so safe, we end up in the poorhouse.

There really is no point in worrying too much about the future. Your future is pretty much planned out already. You will get older, if you are lucky, and you will get sicker and sicker and then die. Sorry to be the bearer of bad tidings, but that's how it plays out - every time. Worrying only accelerates the process, it does not enhance it.

My insurance agent tried to play on this fear. "You need disability insurance" he said, "And you should buy a nursing home policy."   The cost of these polices would have bankrupted me eventually, and likely never paid off. Yes, there is a risk bad things can happen. But lots of people have no such policies and do just fine. They figure something out. Yes, it means you have to tap into your savings. But when you get old, what are savings for? The disability and nursing home policies were more protection for my "things" (so I would not have to sell my home and investments) than protection for ME. It was fear-mongering and risk-aversion at its worst -and all for what? To protect a ranch home and a couple of cars?

So stop worrying whether you left the iron on. Stop worrying about getting old - it will happen whether you like it or not. Learn to get back some of that 20-something feeling. The folks who live the longest or live the happiest are the ones that never stop being a kid at heart.