I HAVE A PENSION, a 401(k) plan and other investments, and no debt. I worked more than 50 years to accumulate what I have. Still, I realize I am fortunate.
That brings me to a list of advice for seniors that’s now making the rounds on the internet. I found it fascinating—and disturbing. The list is presented for “those of us who are between 65 and death, i.e. old.” Many people who have read the list buy into the philosophy behind it. I don’t.
Here are three finance-related excerpts from the list:
1. “It’s time to use the money you saved up. Use it and enjoy it. Don’t just keep it for those who may have no notion of the sacrifices you made to get it. Remember there is nothing more dangerous than a son or daughter-in-law with big ideas for your hard-earned capital.”
Hey, if you are retired and have money that allows you to purchase more than the necessities, go for it—up to a point. I don’t advocate being so frugal that retirement is a miserable bore. But I also don’t see frivolously spending, just to use up money, as prudent. The “use it” philosophy might be okay if you knew exactly how much money you need and for how long. But who has that information? If you spend carelessly, fate may dictate you becoming a financial burden to your kids.
2. “Stop worrying about the financial situation of your children and grandchildren, and don’t feel bad spending your money on yourself. You’ve taken care of them for many years, and you’ve taught them what you could. You gave them an education, food, shelter and support. The responsibility is now theirs to earn their own money.”
A rather selfish point of view, don’t you think? I do worry about the financial situation of my children. While I may not have an obligation to help them, why wouldn’t I, if I have the money to spare?
I’m not talking about buying them luxuries. I expect them to be prudent with their own spending and saving. But when the fridge or stove unexpectedly needs to be replaced, bats invade the attic, a car needs major repair or health care costs overwhelm, I believe that, if parents can afford to help, they should.
3. “Warning: This is also a bad time for investments, even if it seems wonderful or foolproof. They only bring problems and worries. This is a time for you to enjoy some peace and quiet.”
Yikes, avoid investments? If you are 65 or older, you might want to be a bit more conservative with your investments. But it’s no time to stuff the mattress with cash. Inflation is still there. You don’t want to outlive your money.
I have attained every financial goal I set for myself when I was age 18. What is the point of accumulating wealth, if all you do is spend it on ever more stuff?
Yes, I want to sleep at night and not worry about money. I want to pay my bills on time. I want to enjoy retirement. I want my wife to be financially secure if she survives me. And I don’t want to become a burden on my children. But after taking care of all that, my long-term goal is to make the financial life of my children and grandchildren just a little bit easier.
Richard Quinn blogs at QuinnsCommentary.com. Before retiring in 2010, Dick was a compensation and benefits executive. His previous blogs include What Motivates Me, Benefits Lost and Double Life. Follow Dick on Twitter @QuinnsComments.