Life Phases & Money: Oh, How to Plan?!

I still think I'm 22. I come by in naturally since my 80-year-old mother still thinks she's 17. So it's either genetic or a learned behavior. Probably both.

Given this warped sense of my age, I guess it's no surprise that sometimes I have to do a mental double-take when I realize how old I am. And it's not just my age, it's the stage of life that baffles me too.

I think teaching college and being around young people all the time has kept me thinking I'm in my 20s. You would think it's the opposite, but actually...no. I still think they are my peers. Strange, but true.

What adds fuel to the fire is that a lot of my former students have friend-requested me on Facebook over the years. Now, that's great on one hand. But on the other hand, it just reinforced that some of them have been out of school longer than my kids have been alive!

I still have the mental timeline that I did when my kids were babies and toddlers (they are 15 and 13 now). In other words, I kind of still think of them that way. I know time has passed, but my mind is still stuck back there. Those years were difficult on me because I am not a naturally maternal person. But another reason is because my oldest son was such a difficult child to raise back then. I was always emotionally exhausted because I had to deal with his daily, hour-long tantrums. They happened so often and were so intense that I literally began to think there was something wrong with him.

And I know you're chuckling to yourself thinking that I must have just been a bad parent. Actually no. I never gave in to his tantrums. I knew if I did I'd have a spoiled brat on my hands when he was past the toddler stage...and maybe for the rest of his life. And I couldn't have that. So I suffered through.

But back to Facebook friends. More specifically, the former students on Facebook. You see, they're all having babies now. And that's absolutely age-appropriate, considering that most of them are in their 20s and 30s now. And don't get me wrong - I do NOT want to go back to that stage (for the reasons mentioned above). But I still feel like I'm in that stage. Not because of my kids' behavior - they have turned out to be very easy, awesome kids who are nice, polite, and get fantastic grades (I don't want to brag though).

No, the reason I still feel like I'm in that stage is because I think my psyche refuses to believe that time has passed that quickly! How can 2001 be 15 years ago?! I remember when 1990 seemed like science fiction because it was so far off in the future.

But I do need to accept my life stage. I have finally gotten to the point where I genuinely enjoy my children, but now I have to face the fact that they will be embarking on their own in the not-too-distant future. I mean, that's okay. It's the natural progression of life. But I'm not sure I'm financially ready for that!

The next phase is my oldest getting his driver's license. I keep reminding myself that I have to sign him up for driver's education, which isn't taught in the schools anymore...and will cost a whopping $500! Then, I need to think about his car. I have not had that conversation with my ex-husband yet (their dad), but I'm hoping he might give him his car. I could give him mine (it's almost paid off), but I am really worried about the tires. They frequently lose air, so I'm afraid there might be a defect and I want him to be safe. So those are some big decisions that need to be made. And if I give him my car, then that's another expense I'll have - buying myself a new car. It sure would be nice to be payment-free for a while and build up some more savings.

And then we have college. Yes, we have been saving for college, but the average cost of college per year at a public institution this year is $28,387. So you multiply that by 4 years...then you have $113,548 for a bachelor's degree. And that's just one kid. Multiply that by 2 kids, and you have $227,096. And that's just the bachelor's degree. Lucky for me, both of my sons want to go on for their doctorates. So add about 12 more years of school on to that and you have ... oh gosh I don't even want to know. It kind of freaks me out. And now I have thoroughly depressed myself.

But this article was not meant to be a downer. I am usually a happy person! My point is that we should not to feel sorry for ourselves, but instead we should plan. And to find ways to make more money if you need to.

I think it's probably overwhelming for most of us to do financial planning for our futures. Because after all, no one taught us how to do that! They made sure to teach us calculus, chemistry, physics, and history (which most of us never use in our lives), but no - not financial planning! I wrote another article about that before too. Go ahead and read it if you want.

I'll leave you with this. Instead doing the calculations and scaring yourself (like I just did above), take it one day at a time. Things always have a way of working out ... eventually.