Written by Meg Pemberton
Photo by Mika on Flickr
The Milestones that Serve as Reminders
There are moments in our lives, milestones that remind us of our mortality. Birthdays, first jobs, new careers, marriages, starting a family, and sadly the death of our parents. Some milestones our uniquely our own. Others are the milestones we share with those we love. A child’s first birthday, high school graduation, buying their first car. As we check off each milestone we are reminded that we are aging. Each milestone tells us to get ready in one way or another. As we traverse the miles getting ready for our old age is important.
The following are four milestones that have significant meaning for our future. Each is the time to reflect, discuss, and ensure certain plans are in place and shared with loved ones. Decisions about how you’d like your future, your old age, to be should start with the early milestones we experience. Getting ready for your old age includes retirement planning, creating and preserving your legacy, and taking care of yourself so you can enjoy life as you age.
The Birth of our Children
Nothing screams adulthood more than becoming a parent! Suddenly, you are responsible for another life in a manner unlike any other responsibility you have ever had. You’re no longer a babysitter. This life you’ve created will rely on you for many, many years to come. You will be their sole provider. Initially you’ll be in survival mode. Once you’ve figured everything out, feeding, bathing, finding a routine, it’s time to think about the future.
Soon your bundle of joy will be off to school! Beyond the PTA meetings and fundraising you’ll need to start thinking about how to pay for their college! Morgan Stanley noted a 2014 report which estimated the average cost of raising a child to the age of 18 is $245,000. This is nearly 70% more expensive than it was just 15 years ago. Will your current level of savings be appropriate? The birth of our children should remind us to plan and save for the following.
- College costs.
- Retirement funds.
- Investing money for the future.
Our Aging Parents
Time flies while we are raising our children. As they are growing our parents are aging. The following statistics from the Pew Research Center are sobering. “Nearly half (47%) of adults in their 40s and 50s have a parent age 65 or older and are either raising a young child or financially supporting a grown child (age 18 or older). And about one in seven middle aged adults (15%) is providing financial support to both an aging parent and a child.” I was one of the 47% and the 15%. My Mom moved in with us when our oldest was a college senior and our youngest, a high school senior. Luckily, I had the support of a wonderful husband and several siblings. However, we hadn’t planned for the financial burden of caring for an elderly parent. It was difficult. Fortunately, we recovered.
Caring for our aging parents can prove to be quite a learning ground. We learn from their experiences with saving and planning for retirement and their “golden years;” the good, the bad, and the ugly. This milestone is the reminder to understand, plan for, and share our wishes for how we age and die.
- How will you share your legacy? Write a will.
- Do you want to be kept alive if there is no hope for recovery? Write a living will.
- How and where do you wish to age?
Your Invitation to Join the AARP
All kidding aside, receiving this in the mail does make you pause. I posted a picture of mine on Facebook with a snappy comment about being too young to join. But, I really wasn’t too young to join. My parents had both passed and our girls were both independent, employed, and creating their own lives when I received the invitation. After the Facebook banter and chuckles passed, reality set in. Was I ready for this thing called old age? Retirement? What would I do? Who would I become?
For me, the biggest question was whether or not I was physically ready for aging. Truth be told, I was not. Many of us are not. As a wife, mother, nurse, and caregiver for my parents, I had been caring for everyone but myself. The invitation was timely. I was lucky enough to retire and now I am taking care of myself (trying too!). The reminder this milestone provides is one of self-care. If you aren’t already doing so, it is never too late to begin.
- Eat healthy.
- Sleep (naps are a good thing!).
- Do things that make you happy.
- Don’t become reclusive.
You’re Children Move Out
Hallelujah! Right? Our oldest moved out this past weekend. Our youngest moved out a while ago. We are officially “empty nesters.” Things are really quiet around here. Lots of time to think. Where did the time go? What happens now? Suddenly, I am aging. We are aging. Are we ready? Living wills? Check. Money invested for retirement? Check. Is it enough? We shall see. What is our legacy? Do our daughters know? Do they know how we wish to live out our “old age?”
This milestone reminds us to ensure our “affairs” are in order. Hopefully, you’ve written wills, one directing who will receive your worldly goods and one a living will. However, we need to be sure our children and other loved ones know what our desires are for living out our last years and months.
- Fill out the “Five Wishes” document.
- Share your wishes and any related documents with your children, loved ones, and your physician(s).
Are you Ready?
Throughout our lives we pass many milestones. Some we celebrate, others we mourn. Most milestones prepare us for those to come in the future. As such they are reminders. As we age, noting the reminders of each and acting upon them will better prepare us for our old age.
Here’s a list of resources for use in planning and preparing.
- Five Wishes; Aging with Dignity
- Healthy People
- National Council on Aging
- US Department of Health and Human Resources
- Virginia Living Will