It's autumn financially as well
TBO.comIt seems fall has arrived all of a sudden.
Published: November 11, 2012
Published: November 11, 2012
September was unusually warm and rainy this year. The grass stayed green long past the late August time when it usually turns brown. We continued wearing shorts and sandals, oblivious of the weeks slipping by and the calendar pages turning to October, and now November.
The last week, however, was an alarm clock, waking us to reality. The mornings are cool and damp now. We switched to sweaters and closed-toed shoes. The grass has turned brown, literally overnight. Halloween came and went while we dozed, but now Thanksgiving plans are upon us and holiday sales are touted everywhere we look.
It's, once again, that time of year when we all stop and ask ourselves the same old questions. "Why didn't I plan farther ahead?" Or, "Why didn't I save up for Christmas so I could handle the expense better?"
It seems we never learn.
Not only do we fail to plan, but then we rush ahead and spend money we don't have, running up debts we can't afford. We vow to do better next year. But will we? Sadly, no. Most of us won't.
When the holidays are over and we have finally packed away all the trappings of Christmas and New Year's, we know we'll just be too pooped and sick of it all to think about next year. We'll see spring ahead and summer vacations around the corner. We'll be much more interested in planning for them than looking a whole year ahead to next Christmas.
So, is there any way to break this cycle of spending, regretting and failing to change?
Yes, there is. It's called retirement, and it's characterized by a fixed income that simply does not allow overspending. It forces planning and saving because the consequences for not doing so are pure and simple, not eating. It's really too bad this didn't happen to us when we were young, so we could have learned to handle it and established a pattern of living within our means decades ago.
Actually, now that I think about it, it did happen decades ago. We were financially strapped when our children were small and our incomes even smaller. I remember striving to save money in every creative way possible. I baked all of our bread for several years. I shopped garage sales for children's clothes and toys. We bought generic everything.
Ah, but here's the rub. When our incomes finally went up, our memories didn't keep pace. We forgot how to stretch every dollar. We eased into spending more and more — eating out, moving up to brand-named products, buying fancy toys like smartphones and flat-screen televisions. And now, it's hard to find our way back.
Yes, fall has arrived. It sneaked up on us once again. And so has the autumn of our lives.
We still have seasons ahead that promise to be enjoyable. But they could be even more so if we had a bigger nest egg. So now we're trying to warn our children and encourage them to save, plan and conserve. We tell them, "The years go by so fast." And, "Don't put all your eggs in one basket."
We say these things just as if they were listening, which, of course, they're not. So lately John has taken to a new blunt approach. I heard him on the phone with our son the other day saying, "Someday you'll have to change my diapers. Sorry about that."