My Retirement Plan Is Having No Retirement Plan

I don’t have any retirement savings. I had precisely one opportunity to sign up for a 401(k), after I’d been working for a year at a grocery store (it was Portland), but I thought I was quitting soon, so I didn’t sign up. I stayed for another year.

I also don’t have a Roth IRA. No excuse for that one — I could set one up any time (I could set one up right now). It just doesn’t seem pressing. Or practical. I need all the money I have (and a little bit more) right now. I can’t be thinking of my future self! I’ve got my now self to take care of.

Despite mounting evidence to the contrary, I understand how money works. I get it, intellectually. I understand how interest works, in both directions — that it costs money to borrow money, that it makes money to squirrel it away in the right kinds of accounts. But no matter how many times Mike Dang explains to me the wonders of compound interest (and oh, it’s a lot!), I’m just not swayed to do anything with that information.

My parents both retired at 60 with state pensions (which I’ll never have) and fat retirement savings (which I also won’t ever have). Good for them! They have a great life. Well done. But I’ve been living paycheck to paycheck since I got my first paycheck, and I really just don’t care to think too much into the future (though, perhaps I might start at least thinking a few days into the future, for convenience). Because here is a secret: I could die tomorrow. So could you! And I am interested in living my best life now and not pulling my hair out over what I’m going to do in forty years.

Do you know what we know about the world in forty years? Nothing. We don’t know anything. I do a lot of big thinking on airplanes. Several of my moves have been hatched at 32,000 feet, plus some schemes that petered out once I was back on the ground (I spent one flight from Virginia to Portland totally obsessed with the idea that moving to Alaska and working for an oil company would solve every problem I’d ever had). But I also spend a good amount of my in-flight time coming to terms with what I assume will be imminent death (takeoff and landing man, that’s what gets you). As we’re cruising along, I always wonder: Is this it? And if it is, am I okay with that? I always am. No regrets. And one thing that never, ever crosses my mind: “I really wish I had put more of my money into an account that I couldn’t access or use until I’m 59-and-a-half.”

Things That Seem More Likely To Me Than Growing Old And Having No Money or Means To Get Money

  • A planet colliding with our planet
  • An asteroid colliding with our planet
  • Gamma rays
  • Winning the lottery
  • Rising sea levels wipe out eastern seaboard
  • Tsunami wipes out eastern seaboard
  • Worldwide economic collapse
  • Plane crash
  • Writing a thing and getting it optioned for a zillion dollars
  • War with China
  • War with Iran
  • War with North Korea
  • War with anyone, really
  • Grey goo
  • Nuclear meltdown
  • Massive earthquake
  • Someone who loves me has a zillion dollars and a generous heart
  • Nuclear bomb
  • Heart attack
  • Brain aneurism
  • Vacuum metastability event
  • MRSA
  • Cancer
  • Aliens
  • Windfall inheritance from relative I’ve never met/heard of
  • Dinosaurs
  • Getting jumped, killed on the way home from work
  • Plague
  • Flu
  • Starting a company and selling it to Facebook
  • Ebola
  • Sniper
  • Someone breaks into my house and murders me
  • Getting hit by a car and dying
  • Getting hit by a car and not dying, suing, and getting a zillion dollars
  • Super storms
  • …. but not zombies, give me a break. Totally unrealistic.

Photo Credit:flickr/Nasa Goddard Photo and Video

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