When we’re young, it’s easy to buck society’s norms. Punk rockers, protestors and hackers typically share one thing in common: they’re young. Death is not a looming threat. Retirement isn’t at the forefront of our minds.
As age begins to hang heavy around our waistlines and under our eyes, such thoughts begin to grow. More children means more pressure to make certain they’ll be taken care of when it’s time to go off to college or if something were to happen to us as parents. A desire to someday not have to work, to enjoy our aging years or at least know that someone will be there to pay the hospital bills starts to creep in.
I have long been outside of the normal confines of society. I ran away from home at 16 to live under my own rules, which lead to a period of homelessness and punk rockery. Later in life, I became a freelancer in lieu of the comfort of a paycheck and have been doing so successfully for the majority of my career. I’ve lived without health insurance and been burned when I purchased it for my babies’ mama. I’ve called a Volkswagen Bus and, more recently, an Airstream travel trailer my home. I never cared much for life insurance and saved practically none of my money, choosing to spend whatever might remain after taking care of a family of six on enjoying life in the now.
But lately, with the birth of our most recent son, I’ve been a bit daunted at the idea of “what if”?
What if something were to happen to me? The quality of life my family has grown to appreciate would disappear, in fact I’m pretty certain they’d be thrust into poverty. We own very little of actual value as we haven’t amassed property or possessions, instead we’ve spent our time and money on life experiences. I hope these experiences will one day help my sons grow into fine men, but for now, they’re all just children.
What if freelancing work stops coming in? This has only happened to me once in my entire decade+ of building the Internet, but Wal*Mart may one day open a “Cheap Websites” store or the Internet may simply be replaced by something newer and better that doesn’t require my services.
I have considered purchasing life insurance, something I previously thought was disgusting, the idea of betting against your own life, but now think might be a good idea. But how do I know they’ll even pay out? My experience with insurance has always been a negative one.
I have begun to save some money, certainly enough to get us through several rough months, were they to arrive, but nothing one might be able to retire on.
The end result is I feel like the pressures to do these things, pressures imposed by a society which is in my view largely driven by the wrong ideas. Religion is there to give us peace of mind that, when we die, something better will be waiting. So it removes the urgency to live a full life here on this planet. Saving for retirement is basically society’s way of saying, “We don’t respect the old, they are aged and useless. We will give them little and hope they die quickly.”
I’m left worrying a lot about things I have no control over and then that worrying no doubt leads to an increase in my aging and so the cycle continues endlessly. I have no doubt that my desire to question all that the status quo of the American Dream is has put me in a better position in life, from a career and ultimate happiness standpoint. Still…with age comes only more questions.
Currently, my plan is that if anything goes terribly wrong with our financial situation, we’ll all just live in a trailer park somewhere eating cat food and sewage fruit. Surely there’s a better way…?