Age 64 (and 10 months), Nurse.
Emma wasn’t exactly sure how many cups of tea she’d made that morning but found herself putting the kettle on once again. On Sundays, she’d usually go for a hike with a group from the village, but today, she’d promised herself to sit down with a calculator and start adding up her annual expenditure. She would need to have a clear budget ready for the day she’d start drawing on her superannuation – how weird to think that her salary would suddenly turn off – just like a light switch!
Yet again, her thoughts roamed, avoiding the mathematical task at hand, and pondered the pros and cons of being an independent woman. Perks included having the freedom of choice; drawbacks included bearing the full responsibility for any risky decisions. She thought the former was tremendously freeing, while the latter sometimes thwarted that very same freedom. She smiled impishly and sipped her tea.
When it came to money, Emma regretted at times not having a counterpart with whom to share the burden of the big decisions. Now, the time had come to make the biggest financial one of all – when to retire.
Emma was a senior nurse and had worked on the front lines of hospital emergencies for over three decades. She started training soon after leaving high school. At the age of 64, she could confidently say that she was good at her job; finance, on the other hand, was not her metier. She was never reckless with her money; on the contrary, she was careful – but careful was not the same as confident. If she were given a huge lump of cash – there’s no way on earth she’d be confident enough to splash out on the campervan she’d always wanted. Nobody had taught her, or her classmates in high school, how to make a lump sum last over several decades.
Now, it was up to her to make the big decisions on how to make her nest egg last for the rest of her life – the menu of ‘what ifs’ whirling in her head made her feel queasy. What if she were still going strong at the age of 97, like her dad? To this day, he still collected radishes in his vegetable patch for her – they had been her favourite as a child.
Emma suddenly glanced at the kitchen cabinet of a photo of her mother cuddling her as a newborn. She shook her head with unease. Equally, she might not make it past 71, like her dear mum. Emma lowered her eyes and thought of all the things her mum, Eve, had never got to do.
Emma wiped a tear from the corner of her eye and sighed. She just felt stuck.
She had no children, and her only sibling lived abroad. She had friends, of course, but wouldn’t want to burden anyone if life got difficult. As for her father, she was no longer his responsibility.
Emma eyed up the kettle and shrugged her shoulders. The answer to her problem was simple – if in doubt, defer thinking about it; it was the best solution she had. Perhaps it wasn’t too late to join the group on their walk after all.
She suddenly said aloud, ‘Emma, that approach will not do, and it’s now time to face it once and for all!’
But how was she going to do that when she had always gone out of her way to avoid planners? She only had one friend who had got advice and said it hadn’t been a good experience – the products thrust in her friend’s direction had not been helpful. Emma wished she had the name of a good firm – but found it hard to get a recommendation. She always felt like it was taboo to even ask.
Who was going to fill her with confidence about her life savings? Why was finance full of doubt and uncertainty?
Emma stood up, grabbed her coat from the back of the chair and walked out of the house.