Paying myself back — or forward?

I started off the year kind of gangbusters with blogging, but soon fell off the wagon, as you know. But I didn’t want that last depressing post to be up here on top anymore. I keep praying for my family and friends and am counting on God and the medical system to take it from there.

I haven’t been blogging, but I have been thinking. The usual “What do I want to be when I grow up?” thoughts, only now “when I grow up” pretty much means “when I retire” — which who knows if I’ll ever really be able to. I just saw a commercial for an investment company (don’t have a clue which one), that asks people to write on a wall what they would do if they could do anything. The thing I noticed during the 30 seconds I was engaged was that so many people wrote down creative things. They’d make pies or be a florist or be a writer (! — I’m guessing not the kind of writer I am). So many people are just itching to do something that has nothing to do with traditional office/trade/factory work. The commercial basically said “Yes, you can get paid to do that — you pay yourself to do it with your retirement money.”

That’s a great way to think about it. All those years of working and paying bills (and yes, saving, because that’s a must) are so you can be in charge of your own destiny. Pay yourself to have the freedom to do what you really want. Because otherwise, you might still decide to be a florist, but are you going to work for someone else? Start your own shop? That’s still a business, and a competitive one I imagine. It’s hard work, even though your products are beautiful (and highly perishable). Same with pie baking — or any kind of food/catering business — not easy either. And a writer? Please. We all know how hard that is — and even harder to make any money at it.

So the bottom line, you need to be financially free to pursue your dreams, but that seems so unlikely. I read some sobering statistics yesterday about women and retirement in this article…I don’t think anyone envisions him/herself destitute or in a nursing home, but the sobering reality is that many of us will end up there. There’s also a slew of articles that say, don’t even think about retiring…that even after you reach retirement age, you should still plan to work at least part time.

It’s hard to think about that — that at almost no point in your life (unless you can’t physically or mentally do it anymore), you’ll have to be “on call,” responsible for doing something someone else thinks is worthy of paying you for.

It’s also hard to balance the idea of delayed gratification and saving more for tomorrow with wanting some rewards for hard work today — especially because tomorrow isn’t guaranteed for anyone and none of us is getting any younger. (If not now, when?)

I stress about money and saving all the time. I’m convinced we aren’t doing enough. It drives Mike crazy.

I also say just about every day that I want a vacation (the beach comes up a lot). That also drives Mike crazy.

How do you do it? How do you approach the live-today-(while-you-can)-or-save-for-tomorrow conundrum?

Sometimes it’s important to work for that pot of gold.
But other times it’s essential to take time off
and to make sure 
that your most important decision in the day
simply consists 
of choosing which color to slide down on the rainbow.
~ Douglas Pagels

My first boss

One of the benefits of working for yourself is, of course, being your own boss. But having a boss isn’t always bad — in fact, I’ve been blessed with some great bosses in my career. My most memorable, however, happens to be my first boss. In fact, Henrietta tops my personal “Most Unforgettable Character” list.

Henrietta (known as Bubbles to her husband Herman, whom she called Barney. I don’t know what’s more priceless: Herman & Henrietta or Barney & Bubbles) was my boss when I was a student worker at Pitt over the summers and part-time during the school year. She was in her mid-60s at the time, and there was nothing she didn’t know how to do or couldn’t find out by making a few phone calls — from unbolting and moving a 30-lb. typewriter to unjamming the Xerox machine to finding out the ZIP code of Little Rock. (Remember these were long before the days when the Internet put all the information that exists at your fingertips. You had to be a detective to get answers.)

She was amazing on the phone, never hesitating a second before saying “I’ll just call and find out” whenever anyone asked anything she didn’t know and taking everything in in her one good ear (the right — you’d always have to remember to talk toward her good ear). All this as she dashed around the office in typical mom-style stretch pants and untypical four-inch Candies.

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