Personal Finance Education at the Class Reunion
I’ve returned from my 40th high school reunion weekend. I had a fabulous experience, nostalgic and otherwise.
Because of our ages, some of my classmates (e.g., school teachers) have already retired, others are closing in, and others have suffered severely from recent economic events. Those in the latter category are having to regroup and rethink their plans. There is a lot of information and wisdom that can be absorbed by asking questions and listening to the answers.
In other words, a class reunion is a perfect environment for receiving a condensed but effective personal finance education.
I tried to take advantage of learning opportunities at each of our reunion events. If I ran into a classmate who had retired, I wanted to know if he or she enjoyed it, if it was as fulfilling as they had hoped, and if they were looking to “unretire.” All of the responses I received were either positive about the retirement experience or “it’s too soon to tell.” That was encouraging.
One of my classmates had recently been forced into deciding between retiring or continuing to work for his long time employer but in a substantially less desirable situation. He chose retirement and seemed content about his decision to escape the corporate environment.
A few others in my class – looking back 5-10 years – had been perceived by us to be high rollers in areas such as commercial real estate development. This weekend we learned that at least for some of them, times and circumstances have radically changed, and in a negative way. That was unfortunate. It reinforced the importance of saving and investing when times are good so that you can weather the storm of a poor economic environment.
A couple of classmates were apparent victims of age discrimination. One had been a long-time employee in corporate sales. Nine positions were recently eliminated in her 50 person sales group. All but one of those terminated was over 50. (The ninth was 46.) The lesson to learn from that experience is to try to put yourself on a career path where the decision-maker about your future is you, not a soul-less corporate bean counter.
A couple of classmates showed up carting around oxygen tanks or manifesting other signs of chronic, disabling conditions. At age 58, that’s frightening. I felt bad for them. I was relieved that I had purchased long term care policies last year for Mrs. ToughMoneyLove and for me.
There are many other stories that could be told about the Class of 1969 and personal finance. I’m not going to bore you with all of them. I do want to emphasize this:
Go to your reunions for the fun and friendship. While there, take advantage of the opportunities to learn about money and life. Watch, ask questions, listen and learn from your classmates. Their successes and failures provide lessons that are far more powerful than anything you can experience in the classroom.
Thanks again to the Class of ’69.