Somewhere in the mid-1960s, the woman’s movement really picked up. I always thought bra burning and protests obscured the real message: women also have a right to independence and the same financial opportunities as men. That’s certainly a position I agree with.
When I was contemplating marrying for the second time, my future wife Jo and I decided to visit a marriage counselor. Our counselor emphasized to both of us that the best marriages consist of two adults who can thrive – both emotionally and financially – on their own. That way, both partners know they are together because they choose to be, not because one is totally dependent on the other. Twenty-five years later, Jo and I wholeheartedly agree with that idea.
As I continued to daydream on my morning walk, I realized that being a ward of the state or having to ask my children for help is not what motivates me to do everything I possibly can to protect my portfolio. I spent the better part of 73 years working hard, building a nest egg, and enjoying life. I’ve been the captain of my own ship, with a first mate who is not shy about speaking her mind, and I want to keep it that way. That is what pushes me to protect what Jo and I worked so hard to build.
Shortly after my interview with Kerry, I received an email from one of my ROMEO (“Retired Old Men Eating Out”) buddies, Carmen. It was a link to a beautiful rendition of Frank Sinatra’s My Way by André Rieu. I encourage everyone to click on the link, enjoy the song, and take note of the man shown at the 1:48 and 2:29 marks. He reacted to the song just as my ROMEO brothers and I did.
As I watched that video, I realized just what outliving my money would mean to me. It would strip me of my self-image, rob me of my dignity, and I would feel shame beyond anything I can imagine. It reminded me of how fitting Kerry’s name for his site is: “Financial Survival Network.” Seniors are not only fighting for financial survival, we are also fighting for emotional survival.
Jo and I have discussed what living off the government – our worst-case scenario – would actually look like. Our life would be limited to Social Security checks and food stamps – not what I would call enjoying our golden years. But then Jo reminded me that it could get even worse than that.
Twenty-five years ago, her father had Parkinson’s disease and was in a nursing home. We were paying full price for his care, and as the saying goes, “You get what you pay for.”
Jo’s father usually had his own room, but occasionally he had a temporary roommate. There was always a whisper that the person in the bed next to him was penniless, and the government had required the nursing home to accept him because it had an opening.
Now I’m sure the staff would deny this, but there were obviously two levels of care: the kind you pay for and the kind healthcare workers are forced to give. I will never forget one sad event where his roommate messed his diaper; it smelled so bad we had to track down a nurse to help change it. It doesn’t get much more degrading than that.
Eventually, these down-on-their-luck roommates would be rolled into another room with a similarly situated patient, and Grandpa would have his private room back, along with full control of the television clicker. In almost all of these cases, the patient did have family somewhere in the country, but they never visited. We would often bring them a snack, a piece of birthday cake or something, and they would thank us with tears in their eyes.
The old proverb, “There but by the grace of God, go I” sums up how this all made me feel. I hoped that I wouldn’t end up in the same situation at the end of the line.
Even though Social Security doesn’t come close to keeping up with inflation and our cost of living is rising, I’ll be damned if I am going to give up. If you’re reading this, you probably have the same attitude.
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We all need to make sure our nest eggs outlive us. Learning and sharing with my peers is the fun part of my job, and I’m confident our team can help you make your money last. The alternative certainly stinks!
Retiree advocate Dennis Miller saved his own retirement by working with investment experts to develop a strategy that significantly outperforms today’s puny interest rates. Every week he shares his experiences in retirement and offers timely investment insights in his free e-letter, Miller’s Money Weekly. To learn more, click here