Retirement comes from sound decisions earlier

March 13, 2013 

Whether you are raising children now, or you have in the past, think about this question: What decisions did you allow them to make on their own? I have been thinking about this question ever since a friend relayed a story to me. He was having dinner with his children and grandchildren and was amazed when the parents asked the small children, “What do you want to eat?” They were not in a restaurant; they were at home. Every day, the parents ask their young children what they want, and every day the children get what they want to eat, which is usually chicken nuggets. My friend commented, “How can you teach a child to eat healthy by only feeding them what they want?” Good question.

So, by what age should you allow your children to make what decisions? I researched the “expert” opinions and found this basic advice, “Part of your children learning to make good decisions is allowing them to make poor ones.” Yes, this can be true, and it can also be dangerous. My concern is that a lifetime of poor decision-making leads to a poor life. And the key to learning the difference between good and bad decisions are the resulting consequences. Consequences help us to understand what we’ve done wrong, and why we don’t want to do that again. What’s the worst decision you ever made, and what was the consequence? Ouch!

The problem is that these consequences often don’t show up for years, and when they do, it’s too late to do anything to avoid them. What are the consequences of only eating what you want to eat your whole life? What are the consequences of spending money and never saving any? What are the consequences of buying your children anything they want? What are the consequences of going into a lot of debt to get the things you want now, instead of saving for them? What are the consequences of (fill in the blank)?

I see a lot of adults who are falling into this trap. They want to retire, even though they haven’t saved enough, even though they are absolutely assured to run out of money in retirement. The facts that I share with them have no impact. They want to retire, and they want me to tell them that it is a good decision. I explain why I disagree and share my concerns, but they are not interested in hearing this. They do not want to hear about consequences. They just want the chicken nuggets, for the rest of their lives.

Consider where you are financially, right now. Why do you make the financial decisions you make? Do you need to delay some gratification now, to fund a secure retirement in the future? If so, how will you do this? And if you have created a culture, in your home, of everyone getting what they want, how will you begin to change this?

Sherri Goss is vice president of Rosenberg Financial Group Inc., with offices in Macon and Warner Robins. Contact her at 922-8100 or

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