When our family moved to Rural America in the summer of 2016 my husband and I made the decision to keep our townhouse in Phoenix, Arizona as part of our retirement plan. We even invested a great deal into remodeling before we moved so it would be ready for us in our golden years.

It sounded perfect. An absolute dream come true. We’ll spend the spring, summer and autumn months in Iowa and the frigid, subzero winter months basking in the warmth of the sun on the other side of the country.

Recently we began to question ourselves and each other. What was our logic when we determined this was a good idea? At what age is too old to travel? Why did we think we could maintain a townhouse from 1,500 miles away? Considering one of our reasons for moving when we did was to escape the escalating homicide and crime rate, why would we want to go back to that? 

We are now in the process of selling the townhouse, and in exchange, we purchased a 1961 Franklin Starlight Camper. I love the camper. I worship it, but I still have another twenty years until I can start cashing in on retirement. Will I have such adoration for it then? 

Why are we so focused on planning for the future? We say things like, I’ll travel when I retire or I’ll be a snowbird, or some plan we think in the moment is paradise but only to change our minds about every aspect of our lives between now and then as every aspect of the world continues to change along with us.

I’m not saying don’t get a job with a 401K. I’m not saying don’t contribute to Social Security each pay period (if Social Security is even a thing in the future). I believe yes, if given the opportunity definitely do so.

Holding off on making a set plan for ourselves and our lives doesn’t mean not to build financial security because when it comes time to retire and you make a plan that best suits the current you, one that will bring you true contentment — you’ll still have bills to pay.

However, what constitutes saving for retirement? Some might say work a job for twenty years stashing away bits of money each month. Some might say invest and make your money grow. Some might say a shit ton of money is necessary.

Regardless of your preference we make decisions today based off who we believe we are today, or what we want today. This just isn’t logical. As we near the end of our road who knows what’s going to happen.

We will change. Outside of dying, change is the only guarantee we have in life. Even if we were to sit in the same spot for 20 years everything around us will still change, therefore causing us to change if for no other reason then to adapt.

I have a friend who is approaching his 30th birthday. He feels embarrassed to tell his friends back home that he rents a room in someone’s house and works in a gas station. I asked him if he felt this way because he thought they would judge him or because he’s judging himself. His response was the latter. He has this expectation of himself and his life and he’s disappointed with where he’s at right now.

When I was his age perhaps I would have related to those feelings but as someone who views things differently now than I did when I was his age, I pointed out that he has a roof over his head, a job to go to and a small amount of funds being matched each pay period. If I knew then what I know now, I’d said he’s doing good. I know better now.

Our societal structure claims it is designed to work a job for 20 years and then we will hit the magic mark of pensions, 401k’s, IRA’s and mutual funds but this is an impossible feat and we all know it. So why do we set our standards to a structure that we are fully aware is designed to fail us?

My husband and I have worked our 20 years and saved for retirement but we’re in between-ers meaning since the summer of 2016 when we relocated across the country we left behind our jobs we were able to “retire” from and now work whatever job to make ends meet until we can, in fact, retire.

Our societal structure and system only allow the possibility to save so much and given that we are middle aged we certainly do not have enough retirement to cash in now and last the rest of our lifetimes, not to mention the penalties of touching it before we’re 55.

As we linger now in the in-between-er years we realize how much we’ve changed. What we dreamed of two decades ago is no longer how we feel today. We don’t even feel the same as we did two years ago when we decided to hold onto the townhouse, and two years from now we may no longer be fascinated with the idea of spending weeks at a time traveling from campsite to campsite and spending our nights in a 15 FT X 7 FT camper together.

What has happened for us though, is we’ve learned that a job is a job and business hours come and go. The remainder is our time to do the things we’ve wanted to do but had always been too focused on working (literally) toward the future. We’ve discovered there is a great divide between money and life, dreams and reality, vulnerability and security.

I feel confident in saying I know who I am and what I want, but that’s only for today. Everything in my life will change either subtly or monumentally a day, week or year from now.

Erika Sauter lives is a small town in Iowa with her husband, two children and eight cats. Her work has been featured in over a dozen media publications and her artwork hangs in homes and offices across the United States. Visit Erika atPatreon.com.
Erika Sauter lives is a small town in Iowa with her husband, two children and eight cats. Her work has been featured in over a dozen media publications and her artwork hangs in homes and offices across the United States. Visit Erika atPatreon.com.

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