Sunday, March 9, 2014

Musings at 55

Soon I will be turning 55 – It is one of those birthdays ending in “5” or “0” that everyone seems to want to celebrate.  When I was diagnosed with cancer at age 51, I was not sure I would be alive at 55.  While I was commiserating about how unfair it was that I had cancer and might die earlier than anticipated, I was thinking of my pension benefits and that I would not be able to collect them if I did not make it to 55, which is “early retirement age” under most corporate defined benefit pension plans.  A pension benefit, unlike a 401(k) plan, is a promise of a certain amount of money at retirement, usually based on the employee’s salary and years of service.  The benefit is only payable at retirement and if you don’t make it to retirement, no one gets your benefit -  i.e., there is no beneficiary.  I have officially made it to "early retirement" and have requested paperwork to get my benefits out of the plan.  I am allowed to take a “lump sum” which is the present value of the benefits that the company owes me due to my salary and service. The only way I can get these funds without a large tax penalty is to roll the lump sum into an IRA.  You can’t get your funds out of an IRA without penalties until age 59 ½, so I guess that’s my next financial milestone.  I suspect and hope I will be retired before my 59th birthday. It’s weird what you think of when you have cancer!

My mother had her first heart attack at age 55.  That’s another thing that I think about when turning 55.  My brother turned 55 a few years ago and he was thinking about that too.  He has not had a heart attack, thank goodness!  My mother died at age 63 from a second heart attack.  My father also died (age 69) from heart disease.  Before I was diagnosed with cancer, I always thought I would die of heart disease because it runs in my family. I still might.
My parents’ shorter than average longevity makes me think that perhaps I should do something more meaningful with my life.  I am thinking of retiring but I might be a little bored and frankly, I’m concerned about doing all spending and no accumulation anymore.  I wish I had a better sense of my longevity picture. 

Today I saw the article below on another blog I read called “The Big Picture”.  The article is called “What you Learn When You’re 60”.  I’ve shortened the list from the original blogpost.  I could definitely relate to most of these at my tender young age of 55.  Maybe I’m mature for my age.

by Bob Lefsetz

Death is not distant, it’s inevitable, and ever-closer.
No one knows anything. Confidence is a front. Everybody is insecure.

We’re all lonely looking to be connected.

You’ll regret choices earlier in your life, but you’ll accept them.

You’ll want the decade back when you were lost and drifting.
You’re never going to recover from some physical ills, aches and pains are part of the process of dying, and that’s what you’re doing, every day.

Your parents said television was the idiot box, and you feel guilty every time you watch for hours, but you’re addicted.
Being good-looking is overrated. Sure, it opens some doors, but it stunts you in other ways. Character is built by challenges, if you avoid them, you’re at a loss.

Having friends is better than having money.
If you were never on the path to riches, you will never be rich.

Doors are closing every day. If there’s something you want to do, start now.

Acceptance is no easier than it was when you were five, but it’s necessary in order to soldier on.
You really want to be involved with someone your own age, because no matter how attractive a younger person might be, they do not get the references.

People let you down.
Everybody is out for themselves. They make decisions accordingly. Don’t take it personally.

Some people were dead at thirty. It’s a full time job trying to stay alive.

Most of what you learned in school you’ve already forgotten.
If you’re working for the man, it’s just a matter of time before you lose your job.

People are dying to tell you their story. Ask them questions. They’ll tell you everything.
You’ll become more comfortable in your own skin.

You’ll be happier.
You’ll stop doing things you don’t want to do. Actually, this happens not long after you move out of your parents’ house.

You’ll stop being fascinated by that which consumed you previously. Sports may become meaningless.
You won’t know who the people they’re talking about in “People” and the rest of the gossip rags are, and you won’t care.

You’ll realize no one leaves their mark, except for a few people who didn’t know they were doing so, so it’s a futile pursuit.
Wrinkles only bother those who have them. Beauty changes when we get older. We’re looking for a glint in the eye, a sense of satisfaction and adventure.

If you’re up for anything, we’re attracted to you.
No one can keep a secret.

There are truly rich people and chances are you’re not one of them. Unless you’ve got a friend, you’ll rarely get the best seat, you’ll rarely get preferential treatment. You don’t want to see yourself as one of the unwashed masses, but you are.
You don’t want to be President.

Life is topsy-turvy, just because someone’s successful today, that does not mean they will be so tomorrow.
Even the best and the brightest have kids who screw up.

People oftentimes don’t want to hear the truth, you’ll have trouble getting ahead if you don’t know when to hold your tongue.
Everybody gets cancer, if you ain’t got it, your time is coming.

You think you want to live forever, but you don’t, because none of your friends will be around to share it with.
There are two types of people, those who want to retire and those who don’t.

There are two types of people, those who prepared for retirement and those who didn’t, and some have to continue to work when they don’t want to.
Your health may not allow you to continue to work, even if you want to.

It’s fun learning what the people you grew up with are up to, but you really don’t want to hang with any of them that you weren’t hanging with before the Internet.
People don’t change. Certainly not unless they want to. So expect the person who bugged you in school to still bug you as an adult. And know that chances are you can never ever get back together with your ex because what caused the breakup back then still exists.

Marriage is hard.
Divorce is even harder.

Sometimes life is better with a new partner, but sometimes it’s not.
People who want to make you feel inadequate feel inadequate themselves.

Not everybody grows up, some are still bullies.
The biggest rebel in school is complacent as an adult.

Some of your best friends will retreat to religion.
You’ll laugh at those trying to look younger, or follow their lead down the path of inadequacy.

You’ll see the passing of your parents as a precursor to your own demise. Once they’re gone, you’re next.
You’ll love making references to old movies and songs.

Unless you have children, the Top Forty will become meaningless.
You’ll be stunned that the biggest TV shows and stars of yore will become forgotten as time goes by.

You’ll be more interested in the news, and more interested in politics.
You’ll think it was better when you were young.

Even though you are closer to death, you won’t want to be young again. You had so many questions, you were so angst-ridden, you were searching. As the cliche goes, youth is wasted on the young.
The key to longevity is letting go of the past.

You’ll look back at one specific time in your life when you were happiest, and you’ll discover the people who shared the experience agree with you.
You’ll recognize hype for what it is. And become disillusioned by it and advertising.

You’ll realize every generation has a teen phenom, a boy band that captures girls’ hearts that fades away.
Being famous is overrated, you treasure your anonymity.

Life is for the living, so live it up!