The Best Reason to Save for Retirement
One of the most popular excuses as to why someone can’t save for retirement (right behind, “I can’t afford it”) is: “Retirement is so far off in the future; I could be dead by then.” This “living for today” mentality generally entails the premise of enjoying life to the fullest - which, apparently means spending what you have, as opposed to saving for the future.
Two recent experiences have provided me with some added perspective on the issue. The first was a blog post by the husband and wife team at Retire by 45 about a near-death experience by the husband, who was in a medially-induced coma at 38 due to pneumonia. The experience did indeed inspire him and his wife to “live for today,” but not in the way you might think. Instead of spending their money, they became hyper-savers, accelerating their retirement plans because they “didn’t want to waste what little time we may have had left slaving away under bad fluorescent lighting.” Now they are in their mid-40s and retired, living life to the fullest.
The second was having an acquaintance of mine pass away a few weeks ago. While I didn’t know him personally, he made me laugh numerous times on message board postings. However, in the past four years, he had also been chronicling his battle with colon cancer. He posted updates up until two days before he died at only 39 years of age, leaving behind a wife and a son younger than mine. While I did not even know his real name, I felt like I had lost a friend.
In one of his many posts he had stated how he “never really planned on reaching retirement age,” even prior to his illness. And yet, he did save money for retirement and other purposes, even though he felt somewhat bad about it in retrospect, since working hard and saving meant not taking vacations and spending money on his son; which, given his limited time left, he wished he had done. But in the end, that money (plus his life insurance) is going to mean that his wife and child are in solid financial shape going forward, and it appeared that he was as much at peace with that outcome as he could be.
So yes, you or I could die tomorrow. Which is all the more reason to attempt to become financially independent as quickly as possible so that you can enjoy the limited time you have as much as possible. And, if your time left is shorter than planned, then at least you will be able to provide for the ones you love. And the next time someone uses “living for today” as an excuse not to save for retirement, feel free to share these stories.
Note: This feature is to provide general information only, does not constitute legal advice, and cannot be used or substituted for legal or tax advice.
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