One of the subjects that never fails to generate interest is almost anything to do with finances. That isn't surprising. After our health, having a firm handle on one's money is the most important topic for many of us. As we age, and either leave the work force or look ahead to a time when regular income will stop, the key question becomes, " Will I run out of money?"
For most of us, I think the answer is, No. Are changes in lifestyle, a downsizing and pulling back on what we spend possible? Absolutely. In fact, I would probably say, likely. In our case, we are living on about 40-45% of our pre retirement income. Cutbacks in the type and scope of vacations, the number of meals out or how often we replace clothing and furniture, and how often we replace a car have changed since retirement.
Importantly, what we find most satisfying and where we choose to invest the bulk of our time and resources are different. Family-oriented activities and making memories have become so much more important than material items and things. Stuff just seems, well, like stuff. We joyfully spend money if it makes our daughters, grand kids, or son-in-law's life easier and more fulfilling.
I have been reminded of the power of parental giving over the last few months. My dad passed away in March. Since then I have been the one charged with overseeing mom and dad's final financial gifts to their three sons. Our parents' desire was make life better for their offspring, both during and after their lives. I have a firsthand view of how stunningly successful they were.
We grew up solidly middle class, which considering our circumstances is quite remarkable. With almost 20 moves before I left for college, friends always assumed my dad was in the military. The reality was that he had a tough time holding onto jobs, so we were constantly moving to his next opportunity. One of my strongest childhood memories is our dining room table stacked high with resumes, as dad gamely searched for work.
Throughout every one of his periods of unemployment, he never became discouraged or took out his frustrations on the family. He did a masterful job of keeping his sons unaffected by his problems. Meanwhile, mom taught elementary school. Her steady paycheck kept us afloat. Most meals were simple casseroles, but we were never hungry and never wanting for anything important.
I am pretty sure only the death of my mom's brother and her parents, all within a year of each other, allowed my mom and dad to retire with the insurance and estate monies left behind. I can't think they had much in the way of savings.
I can only speculate that is what prompted mom and dad to be so vigilant in protecting their assets and providing such a life-changing financial gift to the three boys. With so many periods of unemployment and living on just a teacher's salary, leaving much of anything would seem unlikely, much less the balance sheet I am looking at.
My parent's gift of financial planning has made my future (and that of my brothers) much more secure. I am well aware that I am amazingly lucky that my parents did what they did.
I am not one of those folks who puts a bumper sticker on the back of a monstrous RV that says, "I am spending my kid's inheritance." Nor, do I believe Betty and I should live a bare bones life so we can pass everything along when we die.
But, I do take the lesson of my parents' planning and thoughtfulness to heart and hope to make my children's lives just a bit better and easier when the time comes.
I see that as an important part of being a parent.