Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Where to now?

Hitting the big 4-0 has been a real shakeup for me. I’ve always viewed 40 as the end. Not in the youth-obsessed, “I’m too old” way. I just have always bargained with God/Fate to just let me live to 40.

It started when I was 16 and coming out in the mid-80s. I assumed I would die from AIDS. I just wanted to have some life first. For years, I assumed I had 3 years to live because I never got an AIDS test. I just assumed I was positive because I had done stupid things – being a repressed, horny teenager with access to the backrooms and baths of Philadelphia but without the self-esteem or self-control required to be 100% vigilant about safe sex.

Then after the miracle drugs came out, I had various family members get cancer around 40 so I was able to sustain the fear of an early death. This was coupled with seeing my Dad work 16 hour days his whole life and then die before he could enjoy retirement or relaxation.

It shaped my life. My life plan was to work and make some money early so I could take a “retirement” by 35 and enjoy my last years before I died. Kind of like a compacted life. I told myself that if I could have that “full” life experience, I could die happy.

And I can. I feel like I’ve had a wonderful, full life and have done most of the things I’ve wanted and am grateful that I’ve lived this long.

Now the question is “what do I do next?”. I know that I now need to save for the real retirement at 65-70 and that kind of terrifies me. What if I live to 80? How am I going to pay for it? I want to do something that I enjoy so my days are not spent in the misery of Wall Street working for nasty, vicious people. But I also know that finding a job will get increasingly difficult in the next 2 decades. So I need to make money while I can.

I would like to work for 30-40K a year and have minimal stress. But what happens when I’m laid off at 55? I will have saved no money and getting any job will be difficult.

The cruelty of life after 40 is settling in. And I’m appreciating why money becomes so important. Without it, there is no safety net.

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