Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Planning For The Inevitable March Of Time

Because we have had to deal with several losses in the last three or four years -- my mother-in-law, then my sister-in-law and now, most likely in the coming weeks, my father-in-law -- Mr. ReddHedd and I have begun talking more frequently about planning for our old age.

I suppose it is a by-product of facing these losses head on, but I find myself re-examining all the choices I make in my life pretty regularly these days.  Some of those questions include what I want to be doing as I grow older, how I want to live my life -- more travel means more ability to move about which is not a given with lupus unless I take better care of myself -- and what old age looks like in my best dreams and my worst nightmares.

In short, how do I make things easier for me, my husband and my daughter going forward?

And, more importantly in my mind, how do we want to deal with the hard stuff before we ever get to it?  Because I'd rather have a plan in place for things if at all possible instead of forcing someone else to have to decide for me.

We have an only child.  We want her to be able to live her own life and not have to worry about caring for us to the extent that we can plan for what we will need going forward into old age in the inevitable march of time.

But how can you adequately plan for that?

Moreover, how can you ever really know what you may be facing?  And if you can't ever really know the full extent of what your worst case scenario needs will be, how on earth can you ever plan for them?

Those are tough questions to ask yourself when you are barely into your mid-life, as I like to think of myself given the fact that the women in my family generally live well into their 90s. 

We've been trying to sock away every spare penny we can into retirement savings, but we always worry that it won't be nearly enough for the travel we hope to do or the needs we hope we'll never have but are trying to plan for anyway just in case.  We've run every possible calculation on any number of variables, but the bottom line is this:  you can't really know, you just have to make your best guess and take the leap.

What I do know?  I want us to be clear-eyed about medical needs and to be much more proactive about doing things to improve our health before it reaches a critical juncture.

In other words:  healthier food, more exercise, better stress management, more self-care whenever possible, lots of family and friends time where we can squeeze it into the insane schedule mix.  Oh, and on my to do list?  Try to make the schedule a little less insane going forward where we can manage that, too.

Also, make our wishes known early and often.  Make plans for funeral expenses and other things as far in advance and as best we can so that there will be no scramble for The Peanut on that account.   Get our financial papers in order and make them easily found and reviewed...just in case.  Start putting things on paper instead of just keeping them in our heads, but be certain that whatever is on paper is secure and not just loosely floating around the house.

Moreover, we need to start ridding this house of extraneous crapola.  When my granny died a few years ago, my mom and my aunt found hundred -- I kid you not, hundreds! -- of empty butter containers that she had stored away for leftovers.  Can you tell she lived through The Great Depression?  But honestly, who needs that much cheap plastic stuff in their kitchen?  No one.

Sorting through everything took quite a while, and at the end my mom and my aunt were exhausted physically and emotionally.  I'd like to pare things down as we go forward so that when that happens for us, it won't be nearly that onerous for our only daughter.  (Not that I need to do this right this second, mind you, but just keep it in mind going forward and work on it through the years.  It's a lifestyle choice, not a task for today.)

How are you planning for the inevitable? 

Have you -- or your parents, if they are "of that age" -- found a good way to plan or to make decisions about all of this?  I'd love to hear about it.  Whatever comes, I'd like to try and stay ahead of the wave where we can, because The Peanut deserves it as much as we do.

(Lovely photo of an elderly couple in Paris via i.tokaris.  Love this, and hope this is Mr. ReddHedd and me in our dotage -- so adorable, aren't they?)

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