Random Thoughts from a Restless Mind

Dr. Darrell White's Personal Blog

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Memory for the Long Haul: Sunday musings…2/12/2023

Last week Beth and I received an updated financial projection from our financial advisors. Did I already tell you this? I can’t remember. Should I be worried about that? The not remembering part? I don’t know. Seems like maybe not remembering is a thing. I’m just not sure if I’m remembering less than what I’m supposed to be remembering.


While I type Beth is pitching in the purging process of yet another family abode. This one, the apartment my Mom moved into after leaving my “ancestral” home, is the tiniest purge yet. Beth, along with my sisters and sister-in-law, have stripped the apartment bare, having already moved whatever essentials Mom was able to cram into her little suite at the Independent Living facility, Atria. The girls have done a marvelous job. All that remains are four last photo albums to go through. Life toward the end becomes ever smaller with each move.

We asked our financial advisors what would happen if we assumed that our annual financial outlays increase by 50%. Now, that may seem like a silly question to ask if you are not independently wealthy with a high likelihood of passing on multi-generational wealth, but our first go-round on this wheel saw us waving our final goodbyes and leaving behind a really silly amount of money. Sadly, our question was just an opportunity for our advisors to hit us with the full blunt force of the power of compounding. Watch your spending and you wind up with more money than you know what to do with at 92. Up your outlay? Start laying down cat food at 72.


Each couple in my generation has one remaining parent. For Beth and me it’s my Mom. She is now 84, soon to be 85. Dad died at 84. If memory serves my in-laws were 81 or so. All sort of within range of their predicted life expectancies, give or take. Some died rather young. Both Peter and Joanne lost their Mom’s to tumors in their 50’s, for example. Everyone still alive will reach, or exceed their statistical life expectancy.

There was a very interesting and thought-provoking article in yesterday’s WSJ about the difference between life expectancy–for me, at the moment, roughly 20 more years–and longevity. The author, Josh Zumbrun (pretty cool last name their, Josh!), cautions that one should be mindful, at the very least, of the possibility of living much longer than your life expectancy. Using myself as an example (and choosing the low ends of the estimates), my chances of living to be 90 are about 40%. Hitting 100? Almost 15%. As expected, Zumbrun goes on to point out the very real risk of outliving your savings, with the very real parallel risk that Social Security alone won’t be sufficient to cover your expenses the rest of the way. After all, he’s writing in the WSJ.

That’s not really what I think about when I look into my future and contemplate the possibility of a very long life. Oh, I do get the ramifications, specifically as to how they relate to being bludgeoned by the (lack of) compounding of our savings if Beth and I ramp up our spending any time soon after we retire. (Yes Dollie, I know that this means fewer “Tuesday Wines”. I’m paying attention). That part is just math, and to a degree I get to choose the integers (how long I work; how much we spend and when), at least for now. No, that’s not the lesson I’ve drawn from watching the survivors.

I don’t want to be alone.

When I sat down a couple of hours ago and started writing that line was originally “I don’t want to be left behind.” A riff off the more direct “I don’t want to die last”. But after scribbling that down in my notes I looked again at the survivors. The ones who have managed to survive their sorrow and maintain contact with peers, those with whom they share history or those with whom they have only recently connected, seem to be content. At the very least. While not forgetting those they’ve lost, they carry on. They are not alone. This can mean different things to different people, of course. A new significant other for some; family members of the same, or younger generations for others. It’s the not being alone that seems to matter, at least from what I’ve observed.

Do you ever reach a point where you’ve truly had enough? Fulfilled all of your goals? Done everything on all of your lists? I really wish I’d had the foresight to ask my Mom and Dad something along those lines while they were fully in control of their memories. I wonder if I would have thought to ask my Gramp if he’d lived beyond my teen years. Gamma was very clear in the last 5 or even 10 years of her life: she’d done all she needed to do and was content, ready, for many of those years. Was it the loss of her one great love, my Gramp? I wish I’d asked, but to be honest it just made me sad because it forced me to think about a world without her.

It always seemed to me that a part of Gamma was always alone, even when she was with those of us who were still there to love her. I think that she felt that she’d been left behind.

Just as I was unable to contemplate their loss when I had my parents in full, my grandparents in full, so, too, am I incapable of truly exploring what life will look like when/if I am 90. Or more. What was I saying before? Oh yeah, I remember, the savings part. All things being equal I’d like the chance to see how long we can stretch it. It would be really cool to see the intersection of longevity and compound interest. I’ll be fine with each purge, each time life gets smaller.

Unless I’m alone. I’ve seen alone. I don’t want to do it alone.

I’ll see you next week…

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