The retirement horse…rounding the bend

Some of you may remember my comparison of managing my budget to a horse race.  I still feel that way. Although a horse race seems like something that’d be exciting to watch. I just get anxious watching and thinking about my budget. Not really the same kind of excitement.

I’m particularly anxious since I’ve spent an hour on the phone with the fella that manages my retirement funds. I say “manage” lightly. Hey, I don’t blame him. I haven’t given him any money for about four or five years, and I have just under $80K invested. I’m not the biggest fish in his professional pond. Plus, I have a responsibility to manage my own money too. After all, it is MY money.

Still, he had some good news for me.  When the market was starting to take a dive in 2008 I gave him a call with my nervous nelly “get me the hell out of risk” voice. We made a few changes.  He suggested I shouldn’t be so nervous nelly way back then.  In retrospect, I was totally right (I have no idea why), but anyway, that was then.  The few moves we made did protect me a bit.  I almost have as much money saved today as I did when I made that call. A lot of people are far worse off.

Now, he reminds me that we need to be a bit less risky.  That’s a fund manager’s way of telling you that you’re not 20-something anymore.  Nice.

He’s a nice man, and I think he does give a damn about my success.  Do all these guys talk a different language? He talked about things that I have no idea what he meant. I must have told him four times – you’ve lost me. Do they get so involved in the industry jargon they forget how to talk to the average person?

I also don’t get how they think that a fund that has netted a pathetic (or below zero) return over the last three years looks like something we should get into. Now there may be logic here, but I’ve failed to hear it explained in a way that makes it compelling.

Despite some frustrating moments in our chat, we resolved to move some things around. I’m happy about that. I’m also committed to looking at it from time-to-time and seeing how we’re doing with those changes.

Lastly, I promised I’d go back to my budget and see if I could find something to turn into a regular contribution again.

Frankly, for 2010, I don’t know how much that regular contribution would be. For most months, $50 looks like too much. Still, I’m convinced I have to contribute something, even if it is $30 a month.  Once this debt monkey is off my back, I can contribute a respectable amount.

If I’m going to give myself choices in the future, I can’t go into it with debt, and a pathetic retirement savings. If I ignore my budget and what I know needs to be done, I’ll be left with no choices. That’s not the life I want to live.

I also don’t want to live a life of being a slave to my spreadsheet. I’m feeling very dull these days. I spent $40 at the thrift store on the weekend, and I’m not sure what to do with my guilt about it. Honestly – $40. My budget is so tight that means I’m really roasted this month. I can’t live like this forever. Well, I probably could, but I don’t want to.

This is the burden that debt has given me. Where’d the debt come from? I did it to myself. I don’t want to go blissfully through my days thinking it isn’t a problem and not paying attention to it. I hope it’s worth it – this journey. It sure isn’t easy.

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