I Don’t Want To Be A Deadbeat Geezer

Old Man

Image courtesy of Ambro / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Over the weekend my mom had major back surgery to correct her scoliosis. The surgery involved attaching metal rods to her spine to straighten it, and “rouging up” the vertebrae which would cause them to fuse together as she heals. My mom has a long road ahead of her as the estimated recovery time is at least a year. But the result should be a better quality of life than what she had, and definitely better than what her life would have become as her scoliosis continued to get worse.

The nine hour surgery gave my dad and I the opportunity to talk about a lot of things, including something he and I have never discussed before: finances. He informed me that both he and my mom have long term disability insurance. He also shared with me the total amount they have in their various retirement accounts. He went on to detail how much they receive from Social Security, and the amount they withdraw from their retirement accounts each month. Continuing on, he said he was telling me this not to brag, but to assure my brother and me that we would never have to worry about having the financial burden of supporting them.

My parents’ didn’t have flashy occupations. My father managed a lumber yard, and my mom worked in retail at a gift ship, or as a checkout clerk at a grocery store. Yet they’ve managed to put themselves in a position to continue to live comfortably after retirement. Doing some quick math, I calculated that if their investments had even a modest return each year, at the current rate of withdrawal, their funds would never run out.

Let me say that again: At the current rate of withdrawal, their funds would never run out.

Even in retirement, my parents continue to live in such a manner that they have exactly what they need. Nothing more, nothing less. They continue to be prepared for the future, whatever it may bring, and whatever it may cost.

That doesn’t mean that they aren’t enjoying their golden years. They have a passion for travel, and in the last 10 years they’ve traveled to many destinations including Hawaii, Europe,  and a fantastic cruise up the Western coast to Alaska. They sound amazingly happy when they describe their trips. It’s almost like two teenagers remembering their first date. They are already planning their next excursion when my mom is fully recovered from her surgery.

My wife and I’s current yearly income is at least double what my parents ever made in any given year. Yet here we are in our late thirties, struggling to get out of debt, and just beginning to find our way financially.  I felt proud of what my parents have accomplished, but I also felt ashamed that I had done so much less with so much more. Although the funds we have put into our retirement accounts continue to grow, we had to stop contributing to them when we entered our debt management plan.

The conversation with my dad gave me another reason to be anxious to be out from under the weight of credit card debt. I want to save for Vonnie and I’s later years not only to ensure our own financial security, but also for the financial security of our children. I want to be able to say the very same thing to Tristan and Tori in 30 years that my father said to me this weekend.

Don’t worry kids, your mother and I will never be a financial burden on you.

On Saturday morning, I went to visit my mom in the ICU. She was in some pain, and talked slowly. But she was alert, making jokes, and having conversations with all of us. One of her nurses said that she had seen a lot of people have this sort of back surgery in the last few years, but she hadn’t seen anyone bounce back and do as well so quickly as my mother. Because of how well she was doing, she would be transferred from the ICU to a normal room shortly. That news didn’t surprise me a bit.

That ICU is expensive.

About Travis

20 Responses to “I Don’t Want To Be A Deadbeat Geezer”

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  1. JMK says:

    Best wishes to your mom.
    A friend of mine had the same surgery when she was 12 and spent nearly a year with her torso in a cast and then brace. They delayed the surgery as long as they could to allow her to grow as tall as possible, because once the bars were installed her torso wouldn’t grow any further. She’s not tall (may be 5’1″?) but none of her family is, so maybe she was done growing. She’s in her late 40s now and has really had no trouble as a result of the surgery. The only difference was that all three of her children were born by planned cesarean delivery (she has no flexibility in her back and an epidural would be impossible with the fused bones.
    On the up side she had the best posture of anyone I’ve ever known because she physically can’t slouch!
    FYI – your mom may need to travel with a copy of her xrays so airport/cruise line security can see what is setting off the machines.

    • Travis says:

      Thanks so much, JMK – she is doing really well…they had her up and walking today! They say she’s 3 inches taller now – can you imagine – 3 inches!?!?

      Good call on the copy of the xrays…I’ll have to pass that along to her. 🙂

  2. Best wishes to your Mom Travis! My Mom had a very similar surgery a number of years ago and the recovery time was in the neighborhood of 12-18 months. Your conversation with your Dad offers great insight in to how making wise choices with one’s money can really set you up for solid ground.

    • Travis says:

      My conversation with my Dad was really an eye opener, John. I had always viewed retirement saving as one of those things where if we didn’t save enough, then we’d just be poor in retirement. I never thought of the possibility of being a financial drain on our kids!

  3. Your folks are an inspiration, and they do help us all put things in perspective. Hope your parents continue to enjoy life for many years to come. And when that DMP is over, you are going to feel soooo good!

    • Travis says:

      I agree, Kurt – you know how when you’re a teenager you think your parents are sooooo dumb? And then in college and young adult hood you wonder when they got so smart? yeah, I lived that all over again this weekend. My parents are the best role models a person could ever ask for.

  4. I hope her recovery goes as quick as possible le and everything heals right. That is awesome that your parents worked so hard to be financially set for life! You are on the right track too with your debt payoff and I am sure you will attack saving for retirement aggressively as well to catch up!

    • Travis says:

      My mom is amazing….she was up and walking around today and should be out of the hospital later this week. For what they did to her during surgery, I can’t even believe it! You better believe that once we have that money in our pocket each month instead of paying down our debt that the retirement contribution will get a kick in the ass! 🙂

  5. Mackenzie says:

    Hope your mom has a swift and safe recovery!

    It’s nice that your parents are so well prepared for the future. I too, wish that I was better prepared financially. It’s hard sometimes looking back on money squandered, but I guess all we can do is learn from our mistakes…

    I hope one day, my husband and I can be like your parents and travel on some great trips 🙂

    • Travis says:

      I hope Vonnie and I can travel as well, Mackenzie – This world is FULL of great places to see, and experiences to be had. We better start saving….LOL.

  6. Travis, SO glad to hear your mom is doing well!! I don’t wonder if one of the reasons for her bouncing back quickly is that she doesn’t have the stress of worrying about how they’ll pay for this surgery, etc. Rick and I have the same goals as you guys do: not being a burden to the kids, but instead, we’d like to be a blessing to them when they’re adults, you know? It’s a good thing we’re both starting now. Better late than never. 🙂

    • Travis says:

      That’s a great point, Laurie – not having the stress of worrying about how to pay for something ROCKS! This is something I’ve learned very well over the last year or so. It’s nice to hear we have the same goals….gives me a warm fuzzy that we’re both on the right path – right? 🙂

  7. Such an inspiring story of carefully managed finances. Really stresses the importance of living within your means. Thanks for sharing.

    • Travis says:

      Thanks Tony – it’s amazing to know that they have the means to enjoy the rest of their lives without having to worry about money – I hope I will know that feeling when I get to be their age as well!

  8. Lisa says:

    I am glad your Mom is doing so well and wish your family continued blessings. Your story
    makes me wonder how to get my folks to talk about finances. They are retired and travel and
    in great health, but as they age, I wonder how their future will pan out? I don’t even know if they have a will, and they are from the generation where you don’t talk about your money to your kids/anyone. I just wonder where and how I step into this conversation with them.

    • Travis says:

      Thanks for your well wishes, Lisa – it is much appreciated. 🙂 I understand what you mean about a “generation where you don’t talk about your money to your kids/anyone.” I was *shocked* that my dad brought up the subject, and gave me as much detail as he did. He’s not one to open up much about anything – but this was completely unexpected. If I could offer a suggestion (I do not proclaim to be an expert), but maybe a little passive aggression would be in order? Say something about your Will (assume you do have one?) and then make some comment concerning “I’m sure you have one too.” I’m the king of passive aggression. It just sounds like the sledgehammer approach may not work well, so a piece by piece, little by little approach may work better. Just something to think about…..or maybe it will spark a better idea for you. Good Luck, and come back and let us all know how it went!

  9. I bet your mom is a firecracker! Prayers for a quick recovery. I hope to be able to say the same to my kids too.

    • Travis says:

      Oh she’s definitely got some fire in her, Brent….and that kind of attitude will work wonders for her recovery. I just got an email from my dad saying she’s impressing the physical therapists that are helping her get back on her feet….

  10. Best wishes to your mom and for a speedy recovery! Your parents sounds like an amazing couple. I’m glad your father talked to your about their financial situation AND that they are in such a great place. It’s so important that parents and kids (young or old) talk about money. Too many don’t and I see a lot of kids stumbling on their own because no one showed them how to manage their money or run a household.

    • Travis says:

      Thanks so much, Shannon! My mom is doing awesome – I’m going to see her this weekend, and am anxious to see her in action and see her most recent progress.

      Honestly, I think that was the very first financial discussion I’ve ever had with my father….it was strange, uncomfortable, and simply awesome all at the same time!

      Thanks for dropping by, Shannon – great to connect with you – I don’t think we’ve ever crossed paths before!

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