Get any two people who are over 55 in a room at the same time and I guarantee this is what they will be talking about: Do you have enough money for retirement? The short answer is likely "No, no you don't" because so few of us actually do.
But there is something else going on here as well: We are learning which of our friends are the ground squirrels.
The ground squirrels are the people who stored their acorns for the long winter ahead. They didn't travel for pleasure, remodel their kitchens or move up to bigger houses. They bought used cars and drove them for 200,000 miles before buying another used car, always paying cash. They only ate out in restaurants on special occasions or on someone else's dime. They drank only the wine that was on sale that week, and thought it was news-worth-sharing if the price of gas dropped by three pennies.
The ground squirrels were staycationing before staycationing became a thing. When they did travel, it was generally for family gatherings and they stayed with relatives or friends, never in a hotel. They clipped coupons, stocked up when items went on sale, and knew which resale clothing stores had the best boys' navy blazers for the one occasion a year their son needed to wear one. They packed lunches for the office every day and would always pick up the pizza to avoid the $2.50 delivery charge. They knew when their vet ran his once-a-month low-cost vaccination clinic and that was the day all their pets got their shots. Valet parking is akin to a crime against nature -- their nature.
Me? I am not a ground squirrel. I do none of those things. In fact, I am the anti-Christ of ground squirrels. And I'm probably about to pay for it big time. At 66, I am still working full-time and when the topic of "Do you have enough money for retirement?" comes up, I generally stick my fingers in my ears and stop listening.
I take little comfort in knowing I'm not alone, and yes, I do have deep concerns about where I'll be when the music stops: House rich, cash poor, kids in college, and learning how to live like a ground squirrel. There is some irony in the fact that the people who never enjoyed spending money will be the ones who have the most of it, while those of us whose lives were defined by our spending will be cutting the ride short.
I'm not complaining, mind you. And you'll see no fingers of blame pointed at anyone from me. When it comes to retirement, the thrifty squirrels won -- fair and square.
I just have one question to ask: Do squirrels ever share? I read once that they do....
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