April 21st, 2022
“I hope I die before I get old.” – The Who
I spent some time yesterday afternoon with an old friend from work. We are both retired, and we meet once a week to talk and share a couple beers. We reminisce briefly about our days (and nights) at the trucking company, but we aren’t really nostalgic about that time. The years that we worked together are gone now, and we are glad to be done with that part of our lives. Neither of us has any desire to go back to that chaos. Our work was a means to an end. It paid the bills and allowed us to raise our families. That’s all it really was.
Mostly, we talk about our adult children and their struggles. It’s a strange topic because what these young people are experiencing is often alien to us, but in some ways their lives and ours are very similar. Things seems to change, but they don’t. Our kids have the same hopes and fears that we had, just placed in different settings. It’s like variations on a theme in classical music.
My friend and I recognize that there are things that we cannot adequately explain to our children. There are things that they can’t really explain to us.
For instance, my kids make fun of me because of my ignorance with regards to technology. It’s not that I can’t understand all the workings of a smart phone. It’s just that I don’t care to learn. I read about things like artificial intelligence and virtual reality and my spirit rebels. It all seems dystopian and more than a little creepy to me. It’s like watching an episode of “Black Mirror”. My children are enmeshed in cyberspace, and that is a world that has no appeal for me.
On the other hand, my friend commented to me about how difficult it is to get a young person interested in the idea of saving up for retirement. His words made me think back to when I was several decades younger. When I was young, my father encouraged me to buy U.S. savings bonds. He said that my employer could purchase them for me, taking the money directly from my paycheck. That’s how his generation salted money away. It was like a prehistoric 401K. My father’s generation bought bonds because they prized security above all. He still had a hangover from his childhood in the Great Depression. Bonds were safe. Despite my dad’s advice, I never bought a bond.
My friend and I both pumped money into our respective 401K’s, and that worked out well for us. My friend has spoken to his kids about starting to save money now. They understand that concept. Young people aren’t stupid. However, I remember that was I was their age, I could not visualize getting old. For me, retirement was a dream that might never occur. Our children are the same. They are overwhelmed with all the things that young people have to do; find a partner, raise a family, start a career. If they do ever think about their golden years, their thoughts are fleeting. Whenever they eventually decide to plan for their future, they will most likely do it in a manner that I cannot imagine. They will find a new way. They will find their own way.
I try not to give my kids advice. They usually don’t want it, and quite often my ideas are not relevant to their situation. Yet, sometimes, they come to me with their problems. I listen, and I try to assure them that my wife and I have their back. Generally, when they talk to me, they have already made a decision. They are not seeking my guidance. They are mostly looking for my blessing. Regardless of my thoughts on their course of action, I give that to them.
If they have a dilemma, and they are at a loss, I still shy away from telling them what to do. I hear them out, and tell them,
“You’ll figure it out.”