Monday, November 1, 2010

The Pitfalls of Planning

Mollie writes:

Well, you read it here first . . .

OK, OK, so maybe I'm a little anal when it comes to planning.  I have been married to an engineer for 33 years, and after our first year of marriage, I was starting to see the fruits of planning.  We'd planned for the unexpected when we bought our house, and, voila, when the new single paned glass windows on our new home proved inadequate for the fierce gorge winds in Gresham, Oregon, John and I had a little money squirreled away to buy better, double paned windows.

We postponed starting our family until we were sure we could survive on John's pay only.  The last year I worked before our first was born, we banked every cent I earned so we had a nice nest egg should things get rough.  Fortunately, we never needed it, so we were able to invest a chunk of money in a bank bond when interest rates reached 16%!

We bought only used cars until we could afford to pay cash for a new one, and paid cash for all our used cars, too.  We saved money every month and paid into John's retirement fund.  We were a churning, burning saving machine!    But that didn't happen without considerable planning and sacrifice on our part.

As a result, we had  enough money in savings so that the boys and I could go to Switzerland with John in 1986 when he was temporarily assigned to an engineering exchange there. We were able to pay cash for everything, and all our bills in advance before we left.  Boy, were we smug!  But, we should have been, because saving during the Reagan era was hard.  Everyone and their dog, it seemed, drove a new BMW and cruised the high seas on the Love Boat courtesy of their line of credit.  But John and I had been persnickety and had built up a nest egg that allowed us to go to Europe for three months with no debt.  Not bad!

It's no surprise that retirement has been untroubled.  With John's pension and our savings, we've been able to buy our dream retirement home with cash after 33 years of marriage.  It's a nice goal for folks just starting out.  But with most traditional mortgages spanning 30 years, a person ought to be thinking in these terms.  We avoided unreasonable debt and lived within our means, and, son-of-a-gun, it paid off.

So here I am, lamenting that maybe I "over-planned?"  We've lived on Whidbey Island for five years, moving into our home on Halloween, 2005.   It's November 1, 2010, and our sixth Halloween has passed with no Trick-or-Treaters.  What's an empty nester to do?

My point here is that when you plan, you make choices.  We chose for saving and living within our means and against debt and squandering money.  We chose to camp most vacations so that every so often we could take a really nice trip.  We drove beaters so that we could avoid car payments, and we chose the safety of planning over impulsive behavior.

But it's with some regret that I'm looking at a bowl full of undistributed Butterfinger candy bars.  It seems that when we chose to live on the South end of Whidbey Island, we chose a neighborhood with no minor children living within walking distance.  It seems that the best laid plans of domestic planners failed to include Halloween spooks!

So here I am with a ton of candy and no little spooks to take it.  No little butterflies graced my front porch, no little ghouls blinked at my costume.  It was a total waste of a perfectly good Halloween.

Planning is a good thing for young 'uns.  Save your money and do without things that are flashy so that you can have the occasional things that come into your life as opportunity arises.  But also keep in touch with your core self.  I'm thinking that our next home will be in a child-infested neighborhood!

Anyone want a Butterfinger?

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