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Parents Know Best

Mike Zaccardi, 12:59 pm ET

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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macropundit
macropundit
8 days ago

Spend shaming, experience shaming, memory shaming. It’s all the same thing. Shamers gonna shame. If you assume sufficient wealth, then they’ll be experience and memory shaming. If they don’t, then they’ll be spend shaming. I assume people can make reasonable judgments about value and act accordingly, so I’m not a shamer.

Mik Cajon
Mik Cajon
13 days ago

We always invested in our children first…no regrets.

Tucker Horsley
Tucker Horsley
14 days ago

Love this! For some FIRE people once they reach their FIRE number, they realize they sacrificed way too much along the way to get there. As always balance is key with everything

Mike Zaccardi
Mike Zaccardi
3 days ago
Reply to  Tucker Horsley

Great point. Thank you!

R Quinn
R Quinn
14 days ago

A reasonable balance is important, but there is nothing wrong with focusing on being prepared for the future either. Remember, that decade of investment gains could have gone in the other direction. Setting an acceptable lifestyle based on saving first is critical in my view.

I suspect our children are thinking why are we at age 78 and 82 investing $100,000+ in upgrading our vacation home. Answer, because we want to and it makes us happy.

graphex
graphex
14 days ago
Reply to  R Quinn

Reminds me of something I was told earlier this summer…If you don’t fly first class, your kids will.

Roboticus Aquarius
Roboticus Aquarius
14 days ago
Reply to  R Quinn

I’m sure your kids are happy you’re enjoying yourselves.

I always hoped my parents would get the most out of their remaining days; they sacrificed a lot for us and they deserve every experience they wanted. I lost my Dad recently, but when my mom passes there may be nothing left – and I couldn’t be happier. I’m hoping she’s still spritely enough that I can drag her to Europe next year for a river tour. I’ve already paid for it.

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