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Resolved: Worry Less

Kristine Hayes, 2:14 am ET

FOR AS LONG AS I CAN remember, I’ve been a worrier. I’ve spent too much time fretting about any number of things. I worry about money. I worry about my health. It’s not too much of an exaggeration to say there are times when I worry about not having enough to worry about.

As I get closer to retirement, I’ve resolved to limit how much time I spend worrying about the future. I’ve come to realize many of the decisions that have kept me up at night are things I have little control over. I’ve learned planning and diligence only go so far in providing peace of mind. Luck and timing play as much—and perhaps more—of a role in success. Worrying, as far as I can tell, has never changed the outcome of any decision I’ve ever made.

For years, I worried about how much money I had and whether I was investing it the “right” way. Now, at age 54, I have nearly $500,000 in my primary retirement account. I’m content with how I have the funds invested. If the future goes as I hope it will, it’ll be at least a decade before I have to draw any money out of my account.

Despite feeling reasonably satisfied with my finances, I can still find things to worry about. My grandmother will celebrate her 101st birthday this spring. If I inherited her longevity genes, it’s possible I could spend more than 45 years in retirement. In that case, a $500,000 nest egg won’t exactly allow me to have a carefree lifestyle.

On the other hand, I’m keenly aware of my own mortality. Over the past 12 months, four of my high school classmates have unexpectedly passed away. The thought of not getting to enjoy any of the money I’ve worked so diligently to set aside isn’t a pleasant one.

Logically, I know neither of those extreme scenarios is likely to occur. Actuarial tables suggest I’ll live to be 86 years old. And worrying about how much or little time I have left isn’t going to change anything anyway.

Leaving behind a lifetime habit of worrying isn’t easy. Several years ago, I filled a notebook with every possible scenario I could think of regarding my future. I tried to predict stock market rates of return, inflation rates and future salary increases. I guessed at potential retirement dates and researched areas of the country with the lowest cost of living in case I needed to relocate. I hoped channeling my anxiety into some sort of vague life plan would alleviate the stress I was experiencing.

Now, looking back, none of the predictions I made a decade ago looks anything like where I stand today. I didn’t predict I’d own two homes before I retired. I didn’t foresee getting remarried. I didn’t forecast a worldwide pandemic, the highest inflation rate in recent history or the dramatic rise in housing values that have persisted over the past two years.

I’m finally able to accept that I can’t control much of what will happen to me in the future. Instead of worrying, I’m resolving to spend more of my time enjoying what I do have and appreciating how far I’ve come.

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Guest
Guest
14 days ago

A couple of years ago when it finally clicked that, barring a real catastrophe, our finances are all set, I started sleeping so much better. Sure there are other parts of life that can be quite stressful but if you’ve worked hard at saving and investing, and been lucky, having sufficient financial security is such a blessing. And it can certainly help alleviate other possible stress points in life.

kristinehayes2014
kristinehayes2014
14 days ago
Reply to  Guest

Indeed. As far as I can tell, diligence and luck are equally important when it comes to achieving financial stability. I wish I’d be more diligent about saving and investing earlier in my life. But luck–and timing–has helped me achieve a reasonable level of financial security.

Thomas Taylor
Thomas Taylor
14 days ago

Luck can play a very big part sometimes. My first “adult” job as an entry level accountant at a local CPA firm came at the age of 34. I didn’t think I would even have a chance of an interview with some firms due to my age. My wife accidently sent a resume to one of those firms and I ended up working for them about 15 years before trying something different. Sure, it would have been better to get my act together sooner, but we have done ok. Two kids through college, the house is paid off, she’s retired and I’m within a few years of that goal. We will essentially have the same income now as when I retire, so repeating the comment above – barring a catastrophe, our finances are set. Now if we could just quit worrying about our kids and granddaughter……

Mike Wyant
Mike Wyant
13 days ago
Reply to  Thomas Taylor

I don’t think we’ll ever quit worrying about our kids. Our middle son is a ” late bloomer” who will be (hopefully) finishing nursing school at age 30. He’s had physical and mental struggles for most of his life, but hopefully there’s light at the end of this tunnel. Fortunately, financially we are fine and able to support him as long as he is helping himself.

kristinehayes2014
kristinehayes2014
14 days ago
Reply to  Thomas Taylor

I’ve had several lucky situations arise over the course of my working life. I got my current job only because the person in charge of hiring happened to recognize the name of someone listed on my CV. I was the only person they interviewed and they pretty much offered me the job on the spot. I’ve been there nearly 24 years now.

I also feel very fortunate my husband and I purchased our retirement home almost three years ago–we wouldn’t be able to afford it these days. It just assessed at $120K more than we paid for it.

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