Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Taking Risks

We met with a financial advisor last week who told us to keep doing what we are doing--which means taking no risks at this point in our lives.  As we really have taken few risks anyway with our retirement funds, that seemed just fine to us.  Our finances have not been a priority  but we have done well anyway thanks to years of contributions automatically withdrawn out of paychecks--Jim's mostly, but some for me as well.  Words like annuities, IRAs, life insurance, bonds, stocks, etc. make me want to shut down.  We're trying to do better.  It's not too late to learn!

However, this conversation brought back memories of earlier times in our lives when we were definitely risk takers as far as our finances went--and maybe just in life in general.

In 1970 we spent a summer travelling in Europe with friends, sharing gas expenses and living in pup tents.   We had money for seven weeks which somehow had to last for 13 weeks due to our inability to enter Jordan for an organized dig.  We came home with $17 in our pockets.  We couldn't seem to wire our families for more money--we tried.  In fact, most of the time they didn't know where we were.  I can't believe our doing this to them, particularly because my mother had passed away in 1969 so we were aware that there could be crises in which we would need to be found.  I can't imagine our own children doing this to us What a difference cell phones, social media, and ATMs make.

Then, in 1971 Jim won a Fulbright scholarship to study in St. Andrews, Scotland for one year.   We thought that as long as I couldn't work abroad anyway, we would love to have a child.  We didn't think past that year and all the years that Jim would have of further graduate work when I would need to work.   Jeff was born in February of 1972 and how glad we have always been that we took that risk!  As it turned out, I did work in Scotland as an "assistant music mistress" teaching piano at a boarding school for young ladies and we saved some money for the next year.

The following year I worked part-time as a secretary at Harvard while Jim began his studies there.  I made $45 a week and our rent was $210 a month.  Our landlords liked us and they loved Jeff, so they lowered the rent and fed us at least once a week.  We used a street clinic for health needs and applied for USDA surplus foods and WIC coupons.   My dad sent along an occasional check.  Jim did some pulpit supply work, preaching in the New England area.

I really hated being a secretary and when there was little work to do in June, I took a leave of absence.  In the fall, I began training for a teaching position and quit the secretarial position without a definite commitment of being hired as a teacher.  I was sure they would want me and they did!   How could we have taken that risk?  However, that position as a tutor of the "perceptually handicapped"  was life-changing, as I learned a method for teaching dyslexic children and adults that is validated today by many and that I used to teach reading and writing for years.  

Somehow we survived those risks.  If our own children lived on the edge like that, I would be really concerned.  I am thankful they don't and that we can have such a comfortable life now in spite of our risky behaviors and our lack of financial planning.

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