Why It’s Important to Pay Attention to the Long Game

After my children started school, I began thinking about some of my own unrealized dreams. By working part-time, I was able to put myself through college. After college, I felt like I needed to get a good paying job to justify having gone to school against the wishes of my former husband. I didn’t have a long-term plan; I didn’t realize it was important to pay attention to the long game.  I just worked because that’s what I thought I should do.

Wishful Thinking Wasn’t a Plan

My job did provide health insurance -something my family didn’t have until I started working. My income also provided extra money for needed clothing, household repairs, and a reliable car. We even took some decent vacations for the first time in our lives.  I also had a retirement pension for the first time in my life. As I continued to work, I focused on what we needed or wanted in the immediate future, not the distant future.

I did have a younger co-worker who told me she planned to retire by the time she was fifty-two. She explained that all she needed to do was to put in 30 years with an employer that offered the same pension plan and then she’d be set for the rest of her life. I couldn’t fathom planning for something so far away.

After nearly six years, I decided I was tired of my job and made the decision to go to graduate school. My co-worker cautioned me against taking money out of my retirement account. I didn’t listen to her because I wanted to believe that somehow everything would simply work out. Instead of thinking about the long-term implications, I took all my money out of my retirement account and headed off to school. As it turned out, I was eligible for grants, low-cost loans, and scholarships. I didn’t think about what I was doing.

Short-sightedness from the Past Affected the Future

Within ten years, I was divorced, and my future retirement was completely my own responsibility. Eventually,  I ended up having the same pension plan that I’d had when I took my funds out. Because of an earlier decision, I not only ended up having to work longer than I’d planned, I also ended up with a lower tier plan that I would have had if I had planned for the long game.

In spite of my short-term thinking, I still was more fortunate than many because I did end up with a pension. Pensions are not nearly as common as they once were. Because of this, planning for the future is more important than ever. There is a good chance that many of us will live into our nineties and beyond. We’ve got to think about all the years ahead of us and how we want to live those years.

Financial and Nonfinancial Planning Must Be Part of Our Long Game Planning.

I now know that it is not only important to prepare for our financial futures, but it is also just as important to prepare for the nonfinancial aspects of our lives to come.  None of us will be forever young. Based on longevity calculators, my genetic make-up, and lifestyle, it is quite possible that I’ll live another 30 years. At this point, my remaining years don’t sound like such a long time!  I want to make the most of those years.

Even though I did finally get a grasp on needed financial planning (thanks largely to my son, a financial planner), I still needed to think about how I wanted to live my remaining years. I do realize that I will not be ‘forever young.’  I have had to think about how adjustments I will need to make as I age, the importance of continuing to exercise and eating right, and the importance of staying involved with others and having a sense of purpose.

We all need to get a grasp on what life will be like for us in the coming years. We do have a certain amount of choice, but there will be things outside our control. It’s time to embrace our present selves as well as our future selves; then and only then, can we enjoy our lives to the fullest. Financial and nonfinancial planning must be part of our long game planning.

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