Tuesday, February 21, 2012

"Dying broke" is good? "Frightened savers?" What's that about?

I've been slightly under the weather this weekend, so when I couldn't figure out what this Toronto Star column was about, I blamed it on my loopy-headed frame of mind.

If you read the comments, it turns out I wasn't alone.  "Not sure whether to classify this article as misinformed, or tongue in cheek," says one.  "Or you can live fiscally responsibly, position yourself to be able to live on your own, and then put in the ear plugs to drown out the whining from all those who didn't but expect you to support them!" says another.

The fundamental error in logic here (don't say The Fallacy Detective hasn't enriched my life) is that we're being told it's all either/or.  Save your money and be boring and obsessed with saving.  Or spend your money and have a life.  (That's the part that I wasn't sure whether to take seriously.)  "In between birth and retirement comes an actual life.  Frightened savers forget this."

The (free) satellite TV channel we watch is loaded with advertisements about foreclosures and credit problems--legitimate fears.  But I'd rather be frightened enough to save something, rather than have fun spending and then be frightened by how I'm going to pay the dentist bills, or by how I can get the collection agency to stop calling.  [Clarification: yes, those things, and worse, can happen due to circumstances beyond our control.  I'm talking here only about what could have been prevented by careful planning and the kind of self-control that the column's author seems to be sneering at.]

Sounds like a pretty clear case of grasshopper and ant, if you ask me.

4 comments:

Sarah said...

Well, I'd agree that it's better to try and prepare for the future like the ant than sing the summer away like the grasshopper, but don't forget that even the best laid plans, like the mouse, sometimes go awry. :)

Not everyone who is elderly and in need is there due to poor planning.

Mama Squirrel said...

Of course not, and I don't think I implied that. Lots of things are beyond our control.

But to supposedly have to make a choice between "happy"+spendthrift and "miserable"+frugal? I don't agree that it's an either/or; who says that savers can't also have a great life, or that spendthrifts won't have their choices catch up with them one way or another? But if I had to make the choice, I'd pick frugal.

Sarah said...

You're right.

It was the quote from the commenter on the article, "Or you can live fiscally responsibly, position yourself to be able to live on your own, and then put in the ear plugs to drown out the whining from all those who didn't but expect you to support them!" that pushed my button. My poor great-aunt lost a huge amount of her savings due to some unfortunate circumstances and had to live with a lot of help in her final years.

I'm sorry. Feel free to delete my remarks.

Mama Squirrel said...

Not at all, and your points are very reasonable. And I know people who have used their money so hard to help others that they had little left for retirement. Not storing up treasures on earth, and so on. That doesn't seem to be what she's describing either, though.

The only stuff I delete here is spam--and for some reason I have been getting an awful lot of that lately.

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