I was supposed to save the inheritance I got from my grandmother,
(God bless her and much gratitude and love to her) on my “retirement”. My family
is upset, (to say the least) that I am not doing so. They think that I am wasting it, that me using it to travel the world, experience other cultures and have amazing adventures, is akin to acting like a spoiled rich girl.
But I’m not a rich girl, and I’m not acting like one. When I travel, I back-pack it, I couch-surf, I stay in hostels, volunteer housing, and occasionally with friends and people I meet along the way. I am not staying in luxury resorts and flying on private jets. If you check out my upcoming blog posts, you’ll see more on how I travel and my own travel philosophy.
While I realize I am lucky to have an inheritance at all, I didn’t inherit that much. What I currently have would likely take years and years to turn into six figures if I were to invest it. And given the market, I feel really uncomfortable doing so. Even if I invested it, (which I considered doing), and I stayed in the US or the UK, given inflation and the ever rising costs of living in both places, I likely wouldn’t be able to live on whatever it turns into for more than a few years- and that’s if and when I get to be that old.
My father and stepmum, who are encouraging me to work a “regular” job and save for retirement, are the same people who, even after saving and investing, living the “American dream” (which according to them is working 40+ hours a week for 40+ years), claim they don’t have enough money to retire. (My biological mum is a bit of a different story, more on her later). While my stepmum “officially” retired from her job as a public school teacher, she is still working her ass off as a substitute, claiming that her retirement isn’t enough. For whatever reason she isn’t using the money in her IRA that she claims is five figures. She is still saving it-and for what I don’t know. My dad, who has the same mindset she does, invested most of his retirement in the stock market and lost nearly ALL OF IT. He was then laid off about a year later from his cushy gov’t job that he’d had for 20+ years due to budget cuts, and due to not being able to find any work which was in turn due to the economy (ironically), but being desperate for money, he took a job as an assistant maintenance manager (a fancy word for a head janitor), and currently gets up every day at 5:30am to clean up shit and vomit. His arrogance and constant bragging to everyone about how much he was earning at one point in dividends and bonds or what not kind of came to bite him in the ass. But he in general is a cocky, abusive SOB but that is for another post.
I am lucky that they are letting me stay with her for the time being in the US (why I am not with my mum in the UK is a loooong story) without paying rent, and perhaps I am “spoiled” in that regard. But even so, for all the years they have worked and all the supposed wealth they should’ve accumulated, they shouldn’t have to be worried about finances. But they are. They claim to have IRA’s (like my mom), and that my dad will eventually be eligible for his pension, but that is all talk as clearly they are still working their asses off. Funny enough, they also remind me that social security is rumored to become non-existent when my generation reaches retirement age. So why even contribute to social security at all?
Given my situation and the fact that I can no longer work a regular job (nor do I want too), the reality of me retiring around my parents’ age is slim as well. There is also a chance that I may not be able to retire at all. I also don’t think it is healthy to not work at all, and I think that that is part of the reason my stepmum still works, so I agree with her on that. But I refuse to be dealing with children or cleaning toilets when I am in my 60’s like my dad and step-mum.
As a writer, I have the kind of work that doesn’t require me to stay in a certain place, nor does it require I have physical stamina like my stepmum and dad’s jobs do. While my work has its own drawbacks, and while I am currently unable to support myself fully, I believe that my writing career is still in the beginning stages and will only get better as I get older. Writing is also all I am able to do right now mentally; it is saving my life and keeping me going. If I didn’t have it I believe I would be dead. I have worked every kind of job you can imagine and, like my family, have nothing to show for it except experience. Due to a plethora of things (getting fired repeatedly, experiencing trauma, having mental health issues & Asperger’s, and lack of success in my original dream career), I have turned to writing (and applying for some disability) and it seems to be what I am meant to do, at least for now. I don’t really have a boss to answer to, I work when I want, from where I want, how I want, and I get to use my creativity. Even this frustrates my family as they seem to think that the only kind of job I should work is one in which I stay in the same place and hold for years on end. That is slavery to me. They also were against me applying for disability originally, but this I feel is a whole other story. (They pretty much feel that unless you don’t have legs you aren’t disabled; even after three mental-health hospitalizations [in the US & the UK], over 25 different types of psychotropic meds, dozens of doctors/therapists, a myriad of diagnoses, and numerous firings, I am apparently still fully capable of working a regular job).
Maybe I should save the money I have. Maybe I should invest it and see what happens. But in the meantime what will I do? Live in the US with my dad and step-mum, scrape by, and be miserable? And/or live on disability? I will likely only be getting somewhere between four to seven hundred dollars a month, and this doesn’t go very far in the US or in the UK, but it would go far in a developing country. I could maybe live in a trailer here on that money, and while I actually wouldn’t mind living in one, doing so in the US would make me miserable, and other expenses like food, medical costs, car insurance, phone bills, etc., would still be there.
My attitude towards life has never been long-term. While I know this has its drawbacks, it also has its plus sides. Living fully in the present, doing things while you are young, unattached and physically able and WANTING too, (like me) is what life is about in my opinion. I want to travel NOW, not when I am 65 and have a bad-hip or a pet or partner that I would have to take with me or leave behind. (I prefer solo travel). I would rather invest in experiences and adventure than stocks and bonds and mutual funds. I don’t want a mortgage or a house. I am fine with living in a little run-down room or a shack somewhere near a beach in an exotic locale. And I believe I will feel the same way when I am older.
There is also the chance that I won’t even make it to my old age (or even middle age), and then, what will I do? If I sat around for say, five to ten years waiting for the little money I invested to increase, and then I end up getting cancer or dying in a car accident, it will be a TOTAL fucking waste. The money I have will either be used to pay for my funeral or go to a relative or into possession of some gov’t agency. Not only will I not be happy, I won’t have accumulated all the experiences I wanted to before I got sick and/or killed. My therapist said that this was “catastrophizing”, but the reality is is that no one knows then they are going to go. Using the little money that I had saved from my first job to take that first solo trip to India, Nepal and China, was the BEST DECISION I EVER MADE IN MY LIFE.
So while it may not be financially smart, and may look to other people as a “waste”, to me it is an opportunity, a dream, a chance to really LIVE. I look at it as taking advantage of it in a good way. And my plan is not just to use the money on a “vacation”; on my upcoming around-the-world-trip I am planning, my ideal is to have a few different writing jobs from which I make a little money and to get some disability as I go. (Disability, as I stated before, won’t be enough to support me likely and many people still work on disability as long as they don’t earn over the limits). I also am planning to volunteer in a few countries. If I can earn around 800-1,000$ a month on writing and disability combined, and in addition have the money in my IRA as a back-up, I can travel for a year or more and eventually settle down somewhere. There is always the option that I can go back to the US with my dad and step-mum (or even to the UK with my mum), but frankly my family isn’t exactly healthy and I am much too enmeshed with them. It would be healthy for me to finally leave permanently. This also may be true for you.
This is my advice: money is replaceable. Jobs are replaceable. Experience and time aren’t. If you have the money and freedom to travel now, why aren’t you doing it? While I understand that you may not have the semi-luxury that I have in being able to work remotely, that doesn’t mean that you can’t ever work remotely. And while I also understand that you may not have the luxury of being able to stay with your family like I do currently rent-free, (and trust me it’s not that great), you have the luxury to couch-surf, WWOOF, and Workaway like everyone does if you want to. And I am sure a friend or relative would be willing to put you up for a bit if you decide to break your lease or sell your house before you travel the world, or if and when you decide to come back and don’t have the resources to get your own place.
Life is too short, too unpredictable, and too precious not to do the things you really want to do NOW, not later when you are in G-d-knows-what kind of a situation where you may not be able to.
Much love and gratitude,