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.