Do you remember those days of your youth when the only time you thought of growing old was when you visited your grandparents? At those times it wasn’t about how long you might live, but of how old your grandparents were. Age was something that affected others. It had no bearing on how you conducted your life.
When a person leaves their teens behind, the last thing on their mind is middle age, and, heaven forbid, old age. The twenties are a time of exploration. Spreading your wings and flying. No longer are you under the protective roof of your parents. You’re out there taking in everything life has to give. I’m not saying that you are out there alone, forging your way in an unknown world. You’re out in the world experiencing life for the first time as an adult. You test your boundaries, and enjoy what pleasures you can find around you. Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead.
The 30’s begin that stage of life where you begin settling into a routine. It’s a time where you think you can make your mark in the world. For many, you’re beginning to settle into a career. There are those that are married, a few more than once, and some are beginning to raise a family. The pressures of life begin to mount.
I’d like to stop here and take a look back in history: most specifically that time that begins with the Summer of Love and ends with the falling of a Presidency—1965-1974. It was time in this nation’s history where the youth were experimenting with free love, communal life, and drugs. We citizens heard a revolution in music, read philosophical works that changed our way of thinking, and saw a nation violently shook by civil unrest. And, most depressingly of all, it was a time that the United States came face to face with the civil rights movement—a movement that was very much needed, but very sad to think that the need even existed.
I mention all this because during those days the attitude of the youth of this country was, “Never trust a person over 30.” Thirty seemed to be the cutoff between the young and the old. Ladies and gentlemen, I have known very old people that were only 25 years of age, and very young people who were 60. So, why pick 30? I’m sure someone has a reason, but 30? Why not 40? Because 30 is where a person begins to settle into the routine of life, and “the establishment” calls their name. They begin thinking about making their way in this world. Until then it’s all about experiencing what you find around yourself.
Now, let’s jump ahead to 60. But, you say, “Whoa, now. Wait a minute, Jim. What about 40 and 50?” Sorry, but those are days when the doldrums of life take hold and shake the hell out of you. You’ve survived your 20’s, muddled your way through your 30’s, and now your 40’s and 50’s find you in that dull routine called life. You work, eat, sleep, pay your bills, and deal with the pressures of everyday living as you slowly work your way to, oh no, old age.
But, then 60 rolls around and there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. Retirement looms big and bright. It rises up out of the darkness and it quietly calls your name. Now fear begins to set in. “Have I prepared adequately? This time of my life never crossed my mind when I was enjoying the free living times of my 20’s. Did I waste my 30’s by not thinking of this day? During my 40’s and 50’s it lurked somewhere in the recesses of my grey matter, but the pressures of everyday life kept upstaging it at every turn.”
Somewhere back there this little voice kept telling us to plan for the future. Most of us did not listen to that little voice. We were too caught up in enjoying life and surviving the everyday pressures we faced. Day to day issues trumped anything the future might hold.
But, 60 did, indeed, arrive—or, will. And, just down the road is 65 and then, oh my god, 70. The current life expectancy says I’m going to make to somewhere around 80, or beyond. Damn, that’s a lot of years to not have an income. Oh, sure, there’s Social Security. It pays the bills—we hope. Some of us have a pension. And, then there’s the 401k and our investments (ah, yeah, right). But, at 60 our mind has not caught up to our body. Most of us still think 20-30 years younger, sometimes even 40 years younger (think the beach during spring break—oh, my). You’ve all heard that saying, “I may not be as young as I once was, but I can be as young once as I once ever was.” Oh, and take it from me, you’re going to wish you hadn’t thought that way. Well, maybe once is okay. Twice if you’re damned lucky, and it’s a long weekend.
I bring all this up because it is very important that you realize that you must prepare for your future. Don’t let that future dictate how you live and enjoy today, but keep the thought of your retirement always on the edge of your thinking as you forge your path through life. Whether you be in your 20’s, 30’s, 40’s, 50’s, or even your 60’s set a little bit aside each day, week, month, year as you walk down the path of living. You’ll be glad you did. Every little bit helps when you’re not out there hustling for a paycheck. Being young once as you once ever was can be expensive. Trust me on this. Those doctor bills add up fast. But, what the hell, it’s only money.