I used to be a really great saver. My first saving account involved writing ridiculously small numbers into a paper book which somehow was done at the Post Office. Not sure that the Post Office was ever a bank, but in 1970’s UK.. who knows. Maybe it was all part of an elaborate IRA scam, but I don’t think my pounds really would have funded much beyond the occasional packet of cookies.
Once I started working (paper round at 10, washing dishes at 13, washing dishes at 16, 17, … well you see the career potential already).. the world was my savings account. Until I discovered the more gratifying and instant life long obsession… spending. Money meant you could buy things. Candy. Comic books. McDonald’s (hey I was 10). Soon I was depositing my Saturday dish washing salary into my savings account only to remove it the following day. The only thing better than seeing those numbers on my statement climb was seeing the cash poking out of the new machine know as the ‘ATM’ (or to me, a metallic Fantasy Island)
Fast forward 20 years and I notice that I’ve not really changed. I’ve saved enormous amounts, only to be followed by speedy withdrawals to fund essentials like houses, cars, bills, broken roofs..em… Burberry coats. I’m not a shopaholic but retirement always seemed like such a long way off, the numbers in my IRA always seemed high enough for a surreptitious withdrawal here and there. So I rationalized my spending. Then rationalized ceasing to save. And now I’m hungrily Googling any article which tells me how to simultaneously pay off my debts while piling up my savings and stabilizing my fast fading retirement plans.
How did I manage to hold down relatively high paying jobs for the last 20 years, pay into retirement accounts since the age of 23 and STILL be panicking about whether I’ll ever be able to retire? When did retirement even become something to worry about? I mean that’s like worrying about your burial.. isn’t it? Except its not. With no partner and certainly no white knight with a trust fund anywhere in my future, it suddenly IS something I worry about. Right up there with cancer and whether I can ru off that chocolate cupcake in the morning.
My girlfriend has the answer. She calls it the Golden Girls Plan and while it doesn’t involve Florida – per se- it does involve the reality that we (and quite a few of our friends) are likely to be single and 60 in the bizarrely close future. At which time we become the Golden Girls. Shacked up together in some largish house, somewhere warm, pooling our funds and continuing our slightly unfathomable lives. While no-one is required to Bea Arthur their future, the plan does make a strange kind of sense. Most people are able to retire because they’ve paid off their house, they’ve pooled their funds with spouses and they rely on each other in those times of need. The Golden Girls plan involves mirroring that relationship, except with women friends not spouses. A new version of the worlds oldest sorority.
As much as I’ve laughed at it, I have to hand it to her – it increasingly makes sense. So while I continue to try and save, be the responsible adult (say no to the motorcycle, yes to the CD), I am reassured that like me, there are hundreds of women out there facing the same future whether they know it or not. And me, I’ll have my Golden Girls.