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Parents Know Best

Mike Zaccardi

A DECADE AGO, I was sure I knew everything. I scrimped and saved as much as I could to fully fund my retirement accounts. My goal was to retire early. All that was fine for me.

My error: casting my credos on others. I gave my parents grief for what I considered to be their excessive spending and insufficient regard for long-term planning. I was wrong.

While it’s imperative for those in their 40s and 50s to have their retirement plan on track, it’s also imperative to make memories by leading an enjoyable life. I was—and likely still am—at one end of the spectrum. I focused on growing my net worth as much as possible. My parents, back in the day, leaned the opposite way. They aggressively invested in experiences for my siblings and me.

Jump ahead to today. I love the idea that my folks want to upgrade their kitchen. Maybe it isn’t the most opportune time, given supply chain bottlenecks and raw material price spikes. But who cares? After a decade of stock, bond and real estate gains, they’re in good financial shape. Delaying their Social Security benefits to age 70 was another prudent choice.

I say go ahead and put in those fancy new countertops, sleek cabinets and stylish appliances. Despite recent health scares, my mother still works. She uses the kitchen as her office. Why shouldn’t she have a great place to spend the day? I think back to what my 23-year-old self would think about that. I’m sure I would have made rude comments about how the money would be better invested in a low-cost, target-date fund instead of depreciating material items. Now I think spend-shaming is never the answer.

It turns out my parents knew best.

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