VIII. Magic Money

As if there wasn’t enough to worry about. All the changes, challenges and mysteries about retirement, everything turned upside down and all this new stuff to figure out. Now this.

It all started on the first day of each month. Somehow these things just appeared. Then there’s more on the second Wednesday. I don’t have to do anything to make it happen. And there’s no way to stop it. Nor would I want to. It’s like a miracle. But instead of feeling happy, I was apprehensive.

The monthly, magical appearance of money into my savings account seemed spooky. I was still in my pajamas, just sitting at my computer, checking my on-line bank statement, wondering what I’d do today. And there is was! This seemed just too good to be true. Did I deserve this?

Perhaps I’m reacting to old memories of my parents who were frugal products of the depression. Always saving and living within their means. I remember, in high school I had to put half of my baby-sitting money into the bank and Dad diligently checked my ledger each month. When I started baby-sitting and earning some money, my parents promptly stopped my allowance saying they had five other children they needed to provide for. From then on, I bought my own tooth paste and hair spray.

Though resentful at the time. I was able to pay tuition for my first year of college without taking out loans. Then after college there were years of living “hand to mouth” as they say when I let the credit card bug give me the false illusion of deep pockets and feed my extravagant tastes. I chuckle now as I recall the bill paying ritual I performed each payday. I’d end up with a stack of envelopes each containing a check for the minimum amount that left barely enough for day to day expenses. Perhaps it was Dad’s early example that got me to finally cut up those cards and take control of my money and my life.

I also knew money was power in a relationship. So in both of my marriages, we kept money separate. When it’s a couple with no children, that’s easy to do. No one looking over my shoulder asking what I was writing that check for. Or what was that bill all about that came in the mail the other day. Just as he could buy whatever he wanted, so could I. We always paid mutual bills on time and never fought over money.

Very early in my career, I began to take advantage of every employer’s long term saving plan. I realized quickly that most of what ended up in my IRA’s was what I’d contributed myself. Luckily, I had a few employers with great matching programs and I took full advantage of them. I savored the day when I transferred those various accounts into just one. The amount seemed huge. I guess that small, consistent saving does pay off in the end. Finally, my county job gave me a small government pension which, now, are almost non-existent in private business. This combination of resources added up to a nice amount. I felt so fortunate.

Money is a formidable thing. All the articles, programs and commercials on TV seem to reinforce this thought. How much will you need to retire, asks the man standing near a labyrinth looking graph as people extend a tape out from the center. Hardly anyone makes it to the edge of the circle. The Fidelity green line chases the hard working professional from kitchen to patio imploring them to save. Experts say you’ll need a certain percentage of your working income to continue in your present life style. Now that I’m there, it’s hard to believe how well I’m getting along with so little. Humph, I say, to those purveyors of fear and worry as I look ahead.

My entire income goes into one savings account and each month I only spend what magically appears there. Any money left over at the end of each month gets transferred to my long term savings account. This makes budgeting simple. My IRA’s are off on their own continuing to grow and it’s a relief to know they’re there for some unforeseen emergency or health crisis. With the ease of on-line banking and electronic deposits, I write two checks a month. Rent and my hair dresser. Life is simple.

My time as a task-oriented professional accustomed to earning their way has been replaced by a retired woman who can finally reap the results of many years of hard work and saving. It’s weird to no longer need that six month emergency fund that’s recommended to stave off financial ruin in case of job loss or illness. But, I still can’t spend it. I’m finally getting it that the money that miraculously appears each month will come in for the rest of my life. I worked hard for it. I deserve it!

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