Der mentsh trakht un got lakht. — Yiddish proverb
Winston Churchill believed that he had limited time. His father, Lord Randolph Churchill, had died just shy of his 46th birthday. Sir Winston lived into his 91st year, smoking cigars and drinking multiple glasses of whisky and soda, champagne and wine every day. Similarly, my father lived into his 91st year after having smoked for about 65 of those years. His sister, my beloved Aunt, died at the age of 61 from emphysema, never having smoked in her life. You just do not know what cards you’ve been dealt until the dealer turns them over. How do you handle the uncertainty? Plan, while making an effort to live now.
People are, on average, living longer. It can be a blessing, but it is a risk too. Coping with it may require changes in your savings and spending rates, your investment policy, what you insure against as you age and the habits that affect your health. So it makes sense to plan and to adapt. We can talk about those things if you would like. Feel free to get in touch; it’s what I do, but right here, right now, I would like to talk about embracing the things you would like to do while you are able to do them.
While it makes sense to plan as if your outcome is going to be similar to Sir Winston’s or my father’s, hedge by living life to the fullest in case you don’t have their genes or their luck. You probably don’t want to emulate their habits, but total risk aversion in your personal life may not be all that fulfilling either. I’m not opposed to risk; I took up mountain biking in my fifties and I still ski the steepest bumpiest runs that I can. And, at the extreme, I get Grandpa’s take on snorting heroin in Little Miss Sunshine, though copying him would be a bridge too far…at least for me.
Sheryl: [to Frank] He started snorting heroin.
Frank: [to Grandpa] You started snorting heroin?
Grandpa: [in response to Frank, aimed at Dwayne] Let me tell ya, don’t do that stuff. When you’re young, you’re crazy to do that shit.
Frank: [to Grandpa] Well what about you?
Grandpa: [to Frank] What about me? I’m old. When you’re old you’re crazy not to do it.
Perhaps physical challenges or chemical thrills are not your thing. There must be something, bridge, cooking, fishing, gardening, golf, volunteering… As Hamlet said, “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy“. Something I never would have dreamt of was running across this large group of ukulele players during our recent travels. It was the Santa Barbara Ukulele Club at their Saturday outing. There’s something for everyone.
So plan, but don’t lose sight of today. Enjoy the journey.