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.