A few years back, I moved with my family into a leafy, peaceful downtown Toronto ‘hood. Our neighbours were a lovely couple, late fifties, who had successful careers in education. They’d been diligent, saved their money, had a beautiful house, and planned to retire the next year to begin their dream of travelling the world. I thought this was all very disciplined and smart, and I had more than a little envy for their nicely managed lives.
Then one day the wife appeared in my kitchen suddenly and began screaming about a car in the driveway. Canadians don’t do that sort of thing; everyone knows we’re nice and we always knock before entering. I talked her down, she left, I locked the door just in case. Her husband came over later and apologized. His wife had just been diagnosed with frontal lobe dementia and was losing it, fast. Within six months they had moved to an assisted living complex, the only way he could manage to be with her. Their house was sold, their travel dreams shattered.
That certainly gave me a shake-up. And theirs is not the only story of people who postpone their adventures and end up never having them. People who die just weeks after they finally retire, become critically or fatally ill, split up, go bankrupt.
My neighbours’ tragic situation made me way less envious of their discipline, I have to say. I’ve been haphazard about life, myself. My nest egg is way too small for my age, I still live largely hand to mouth, my financial planning sucks. I fantasize about finding God so I can legitimately join a nunnery in my old age and have some place decent to live, rather than fighting with my cat over the last tin of Puss N’ Boots in a grotty bedsit.
I’m belatedly getting my financial act together. I know it’s important. But however I end up I’ll never be saying ‘I wish I had…’
Haphazard, yes. Tragic – I’ll do everything to avoid that.