Lookout Mountain, Chattanooga

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

It's all just a balancing act

I’m a planner. I’ve been a planner from way back. You’d think that would automatically make me well organized. Naaaaa. Achieving that goal is a constant struggle. Unless I’m expecting company, papers cover most available surfaces.

The trouble is I don’t like to file. Yuk. I do like to recycle, and therein lies the problem. I have to study every piece of mail that comes in before I can sort into toss, shred, or recycle-whole piles.

But when a bill comes in, I pay it. When a vacation’s in the works, I compare locations, airfare, and lodging possibilities for days on end. When the laundry’s wet, I dry it. And when my husband comes home from work, dinner’s waiting for him.

I tell you, I’m on top of things. Most of the time.

But in my twenties, I saved $10,000 and blew all of it going on a one-month European vacation and two years of court reporting school that didn’t pan out. By my early thirties, I’d saved another $15,000 and spent it on a wedding, a car, a baby, a house. In my mid thirties, the second baby arrived. Did we question long-term expenses? Heck, no! We lived on a wing, a prayer, and, Steve’s ability to pull in a steady paycheck. The urge to contribute to the family finances overwhelmed me on occasion, but it was never calculated to last.

And we never really worked out a budget. The mere word struck terror in my heart. We didn’t spend much and, therefore, no budget was needed. Or so I claimed. The truth was that I was afraid I’d find out I should spend even less.

But now retirement looms, and it’s time to ask—well, actually, considerably too late since this question should be addressed in one’s twenties:  Is retirement something we can afford? And, more importantly, when?

To my way of thinking, the best retirement calculator is T. Rowe Price’s: http://www3.troweprice.com/ric/ricweb/public/ric.do?adcode=7208&PlacementGUID=66B8A3E8203C44F389F50FE7E4482F7E

When using this, you’ll understand the need for another question: Where does the money go? And to figure that out, I just spent five hours poring over Quicken, labeling the expenditures I should’ve been labeling all along, and drilling into my head that I would need to continue to do so from this day hence.

Breathing a sigh of relief, I’ve determined that, at least, in my case, common sense = budget within means.

Phew. I don’t have to go back to work.

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