What do we count as essential to our quality of life? Is it trusted relationships and a warm home? A garden or allotment? Is it enough money to go on world cruises or into a luxury residential home? Is it enough money to leave to charities or to our children? People are asking ourselves whether and how they can provide for:
a) a longish old age
b) care in infirmity
b) for their children, if they have them.
The issue reminds me of "impossible" questions in a long illness which I faced in my relative youth. How does one make decisions based on "unknowns", such as whether one will recover? One needs some kind of computer "risk assessment" programme, but there is nothing available. This issue is all about risk assessment:
I would say that one must decide first, what matters most in life to you and then, in this climate, subtract the real luxuries. To have a large house or to be warm and cosy in winter? Have someone you trust to care for you and to care for them? Eat well, be healthy and live longer or indulge? Travel in retirement? Not run out of money for heating at 84, when inflation has eaten a pension away (as happens to the elderly poor)? Help your children to a home and mortgage and or let children grow tough and creative, through struggle? Retire early and forfeit some pension? Do what you always wanted to do? Work to leave another kind of legacy?
The difficulty lies in juggling 3 unknown variables:
- the cost of living in 20-40 years time;
- not knowing how long we and our spouse will live and in what state of health;
- what our pension will be when we can retire
Life outcomes are certainly difficult to predict, at the best of times. “The race is not necessarily to the swift or the battle to the strong but time and chance happen to us all” (Ecclesiastes). Ill health or inherited disability genes ("The Fall") play a major part in most people's outcomes and destinies. For some, extra marital affairs can cause financial ruin, but not always. Now, health will play an even greater part in our old age outcomes. The way of the predictable, hard working plodding “tortoise” rather than the “glamorous hare” tends to pay off, in the long run. Now, Wisdom seems to suggest that to durability and prudence, one must add: creativity, new ways of working, private enterprise or more freelance working to one's main job, if one still is lucky enough to have one.
For those with faith, the Parable of God as bird Provider, still applies in old age, as in the rest of life. Yes, He feeds the birds, O ye of little faith. Will He not also feed you who are worth many sparrows? However, He still expects us to do the best we can with what He has given us, then just trust everything to Him.
My Christian grandmother was an example. As a widow she got to 60 and had no pension, inspite of working hard, as a professional woman all her life and being frugal, darning socks. Suddenly, with weeks to go before her retirement, a wealthy widower proposed to her. Any worries that had broken her sleep during her widowhood about how she would fund her old age, soon evaporated.