Monday, April 18, 2011

When A Parent Retires

My dad is planning to retire at the end of the year - he'll be 66. Mom is a bit younger and plans to work several more years. I'm no expert, but my parents often ask me for financial advice. (I think they ask me because I'm their only child and they want to keep me in the loop.) They're in really good financial shape, have done everything the conventional wisdom suggests, and are good at saving and living beneath their means - so I should feel good about this. Yay for being proactive and all. But the prospect of dad's retirement - and thoughts of his mortality - make me sad. I'm uncharacteristically up at 1:30am now pondering the changes that are coming. He's loved his job, but says he wants to stay home and write. I hope that will make him happy.

He's asked for some input from me about rolling over his 401k into an IRA. I had to do some research, and I think it is a good decision. A Roth IRA would be ideal. From my research Roths are truly incredible devices that can allow a person to transfer tax free $ to their heirs - IF they play the IRS rules right. Anyway, he scared me a bit when he emailed me the name of this investment company I had never heard of - and I keep hammering him to stick with a trusted name that's well-known and fully insured. Which reminds me that he is also vulnerable. Really we all are, but it feels like folks his age facing these choices are especially so. I guess part of me thinks he is susceptible to being duped, even though to my knowledge he's never made any imprudent decisions - except one recent decision. He read something in AARP or some such publication that convinced him to apply for Medicare a few months before this certain milestone birthday... or else he might not get full benefits. WTF? So he applied and the govt sent him a bill! I think he sorted it out, and maybe that was a lesson not to believe everything you read, and to make sure you apply the general principles to the particulars of your own situation. Navigating this shit seems like a bit of a minefield. Hopefully I can be helpful and not worry and lose sleep for no good reason.

In other news, last week I was sure I had a blood clot in my right leg due to the birth control pills I started taking in January. Turns out I'm just a hypopchondriac who probably needs better neurochemicals. (I kid. But not really.) I had these weird pains in my legs that were a lot like the first day of my period was back in my pre-synthetic-hormone-poppin' days. It was the first cycle where I skipped the placebo pills and started taking the next pack of active pills so that I would not have a period for a few months. I think my odd, slightly-painful leg reaction, accompanied by one pimple and a whole lot of moodiness, was just my body getting used to the excellent idea that I'll only have 4 periods a year. Hooray for that.


the milliner said...

I just read something today along the lines of 'It takes as much planning and patience to take care of your aging parents as it does your children.'

I think there comes a time in everyone's life where the reality of their parents mortality hits home hard. It really is a big turning point in your relationship with your parents. But IME, once you're over the hump of the shock of the realisation regarding mortality, it gets a lot more manageable and even less scary. I had to confront it when my dad got sick more than 10 years ago. There were a few rough years when he was at his sickest, and periods of him telling me things I didn't really want to hear. And I do see how both of my parents are becoming more susceptible to making bad decisions or being more easily duped. Which was shocking when I first realised that they were becoming more vulnerable this way as they have never been like that (i.e. always saw through the BS). But I think getting older does have it's effects. They are less connected. Less aware. And probably a bit scared as years advance.

Anyhow, my dad's prognosis at the time he got sick was 5 years and well, we're past 10 and he's in better shape now than he has been at any point since he's been sick.

I guess this is my long winded way of saying, it'll work out and try to make the most of your relationship with your parents - especially while they're in good shape.

Take care of yourself as you work through the emotions surrounding all of this. It's hard. But I think it's a great opportunity to become closer with our parents.

Melba said...

This does not apply to me. It will not happen. My parents will never get old and will never change and will stay just the way there are.

I'm not delusional... I'm joking. But seriously, I don't see this kind of thing coming any time soon for me. Though I know that one day it will sneak up on me slap me in the face.

mom2boy said...

My parents are divorced and in such totally different places in every way imaginable. My mom lives less than an hour away and we don't speak. She's sick, unemployed, no health insurance, I don't even know what she does on a day to day basis other than live off her ever shrinking inheritance.

My dad is healthy, happy, remarried and has a job I don't see him retiring from anytime soon. His mother is still alive. He's going to have to deal with that before I think I'll have to deal with him becoming less able to take care of himself. That and his wife is my age so she's perfectly capable of taking care of the two of them until the end. I really don't want to think about life without my dad in it...

Jac. said...

I don't really have to worry about this any time soon either. My dad is 73, has been "retired" for almost 15 years and has heart problems. I say "retired" because he lost a job at 53 and never found his way back to work.

BUT, my mum is 50, works high-level in international banking in a sunny caribbean location and makes good money. She can retire at full pay at the age of 57 and be good for the rest of her life. And, because my mum is so young, I'm fairly confident that my dad will be her problem (barring some unforeseen accident). Lucky me.

hush said...

@the milliner - Great quote, and wonderful observations about making the most of the time and relationships with parents that we have right now.

@Melba - LOL, and I agree 100%. Denial ain't just an Egyptian river.

@mom2boy - DH hasn't had a relationship with either of his living parents for about the last 4 years. So, I can relate as to the many effed up reasons why a parent might need to be cut out of one's life, and I totally support those deicions. OTOH, I'm glad to hear your dad is a positive person in your life! And this also applies to @Jac's dad - Having a young wife is definitely a plus when it comes to aging issues. ;)

@Jac - "works high-level in international banking in a sunny caribbean location and makes good money" wow - that sounds pretty fabulous!