The Blatt Watch by Peter Blatt: Financial Planning: The similarities between birthday candles and retirement

Financial Planning can teach us when a behavior does not need to be corrected

Financial Planning Palm Beach Gardens

Peter and his family.

Last night it was my mother-in-law’s birthday. We went to Jetty’s restaurant in Jupiter for the early bird special. At the end of the meal our waitress brought over a piece of pumpkin cheesecake for my mother-in-law, and said to her “Happy Birthday”, in an angry tone, threw down the plate and walked away. This was a strange occurrence as the rest of the meal was good, and service was fine. We all looked at each other, a moment of silence occurred, and then we proceeded to eat the rest of our desserts. The poor delivery of the cake was because of last minute planning and someone making a change reluctantly. This reminds me of the question that never seems to really be asked: What can I do to ensure my comfortable retirement?

pumpkin cheesecakeNow as an aside to why the waitress was angry was because Jetty’s does not have birthday candles. My father-in-law, John, asked the waitress to bring out a piece of cake for my mother-in-law, Shelia. She did not want to disappoint our party, so she just agreed. Then my 12-year old son, Ethan, told her to bring out a birthday cake for his Grammy. She could not tell a 12-year old, “no”. Then when I finally asked she closed her eyes walked away from the table and angrily threw the cake down. All of us at the time did not know the other had asked. We only wanted to please Sheila. The waitress just wanted to please the rest of us.

Now, imagine the waitress is you, and you want to retire. Pretend, my father-in-law is your spouse, and he only wants you to join him and enjoy retirement. He can only tell you where he wants you to end up, but not how to get there. He does not have that knowledge, only the information that would allow him to retire. My son represents family (either grandchildren or the younger generation) that wants you to just enjoy your life and do the right thing for you. He cannot understand why you just can’t spend more time with him. The rest of the table represents society that continues to move on, even if you stop working. The waitresses’ frustration is an example of not being able to communicate your limitations.

Now how could the waitress fix this concern? She could have just said “I’m sorry, we don’t have birthday candles”. She could have said I don’t know how to ensure my comfortable retirement. We all have jobs that demand that we don’t disappoint our bosses or coworkers. We always seem to put others first. To help us ensure our retirement, we need to stop pleasing others first, but to ask for help.

I would have told her, “that’s okay, we can make do without the birthday candle”. If I knew they didn’t have candles, I would have brought one.

Peter Blatt

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