Staying young through financial insecurity

Opinion: Columns

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By John Rice

At a gathering of my high school classmates, some complained they suddenly felt old. They were pre-occupied with their pensions, investments and, above all, keeping their health insurance coverage. They were financially comfortable but feared they would run out of money in retirement. Me? I never felt younger. I think it's because I'm still riding the financial rollercoaster I first boarded when I was young.

While some are winding down their careers, I'm working harder than ever. My detective business is crazy-busy. I haven't hustled like this since I was 26. I've been told that the detective business is a young man's game but I'm still knocking on basement windows and climbing rickety porches. Being busy is a blessing.

My living circumstances also bring back memories of my youth. Remember the thrill of renting your first apartment? How you had to buy all the basics. We've downsized to a place about the size of a '70s crash pad but much nicer. It's also better furnished. We're not sitting on bean bag chairs, inflatable furniture, or futons. 

The property also feels a bit like a '70s commune. I'm not talking about free love and drug-fueled parties but the fact that we all share the shoveling duties. Shoveling snow — now there's a youthful activity. But the greatest gift of our new place is that we feel like roommates. Remember college roommates, or sharing an apartment?

We've recaptured that feeling and refer to each other as "roomie." We are very respectful of each other because we're living in closer quarters. We don't want to be the roomie who leaves a mess in the kitchen. I must admit I'm the roomie who blasted my keyboard at 1 a.m. because I had the headphones plugged into the wrong hole. We all laughed at this "youthful" misadventure. 

Another hallmark of our youth was working entry level jobs. What could be more entry level than driving for a ride-sharing company? I have another friend who delivers pizzas. One of my relatives is pushing 60 and proclaims she's part of the working poor. She claims that commuting a long distance to her minimum wage-job is keeping her young.

I'm not suggesting that it's good to be old and broke, which isn't difficult to achieve. I'm just saying that financial challenges can keep us from becoming too comfortable. They can even rekindle young love. I know an older guy who recently drove a ride-share shift through the snow, just so he and his sweetie could split a deep dish pizza.

That kind of hustle is impressive but it's not exactly what we envisioned for our "golden years." I was picturing retiring to a warm climate, where my days would be filled with playing golf and my evenings with playing cards. I suppose that would get old and wouldn't be as invigorating as scraping ice off my windshield. 

Fighting winter keeps the blood circulating. Navigating icy sidewalks without falling, what an adrenaline rush! Staying active keeps the cobwebs from forming. I even picked up a basketball yesterday. I couldn't shoot it or dribble it but I did pick it up. 

I thought my premise — that financial challenges keep us young — was solid, until I proposed it to my oldest daughter. She countered that being rich actually keeps us young. She said that rich people eat the best quality food, exercise in exclusive clubs and vacation in exotic locations. They don't have to fly commercial, or perform mundane tasks. They pay other people to shovel the snow.

Now she tells me!

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