The Price of Time Together by Robin Trimingham
This week I am addressing a comment from a regular Olderhood reader who has been a life-long saver, and is struggling to find the balance between enjoying his retirement life now with his younger wife, and making sure that she is financially well cared for when he is gone. He wrote:
“As best as I can figure, the saving of money is my “security blanket” and that MAY have been triggered by my childhood. We weren’t poor but we didn’t have a lot. I know my mom’s folks helped with our family’s financial needs. And my career choice had nothing to do with money because I chose what I loved to do. With a working spouse, I was blessed to be able to live beneath our means and to employ a certified financial planner over 30 years ago. So the saving aspect is a long-term habit that may be tough to break.
I know the phrase, “You can’t take it with you”, is a handy line but my answer to that is I won’t be alive to know what I’ve missed out on so it really doesn’t matter if I die before it’s spent. My younger wife will be well cared for.”
These heart-felt words were penned by a sincere, responsible man and his point of view is admirable, almost noble, from one perspective. As I don’t know much about his daily life, I will just suggest that in a perfect world, where everyone is in good health, this game plan might seem fine.
The problem is that life has a way of surprising us, and sometimes we become critically ill, or even pass away without much warning. Sometimes there are years of failing health in which outings and entertainment become increasingly difficult, leaving you with little other than endless hours of staring at the television. Sometimes, it is not even the older partner who goes first.
Heavy words, I admit; and they are about to get heavier.
When all is said and done, a widow (or widower) really is only left with memories. Money is necessary of course, but the days are long and empty without rich memories of happy times together to sustain you. Yes, it is important to live in the present and make a concerted effort to get on with your life, but a past full of regrets regarding the things you didn’t do together and the places you didn’t go together is even harder to reconcile.
My suggestion? Find a balance between doing nothing, and doing everything now. Establish a “family entertainment budget” that you both feel is reasonable and then take turns deciding what excursions to make.
Let your spouse freely declare what she or he wants to do when it is their turn and then “just do it”, simply because it is their turn, and this is a memory that they want to make with you. Resist the urge to declare the event “a waste of money” regardless of how it turns out because if you do, you are essentially saying that you yourself are not worth spending time with; which I am sure your spouse would agree is not the case.
By Robin Trimingham