Perhaps that should be a model for how we conduct our financial affairs in our middle years:
I’m busy taking steps to insure I at least have my house paid off, my debts gone, and a bit of money around when I’m in my 60s. I drive an Accord and I’ve sold two of my three Porsches. I’ve spent more money on bicycles for my kid in the past year than I’ve spent on Italian menswear, although admittedly in both cases I’ve laid out more cash than was strictly prudent.
Still. I’m trying to think about what I’ll have in the future. It won’t be anything like what I’d have if I had devoted the last 15 years to saving money and living within my means. I didn’t do that. I devoted the last 15 years to having unprotected sex with random women, most of whom were already married, in the carbon-fiber-clad cockpits of leased luxury vehicles. I don’t want to say how much money I spent in that lifestyle. The sum would be inconsequential to Sheryl Sandberg but it would make the average American dry-heave.
You know what? I don’t regret it. I don’t regret any of the money I spent on cars. I don’t regret any of the money I spent on hotel rooms, expensive meals, linen Kiton sportcoats, last-minute flights, or arrive-and-drive expenses. I might be 45 years old but I’m not stupid enough to think of that as “middle-aged.” That implies that I’ll live to be 90. Let’s say I’d saved all that money and I retired at 65 with $5 or $10 million bucks. What would I do with it? Would I go back and sleep with all those women I’d missed out on because I was driving a seven-year-old Sentra and pinching my pennies? Would I enter all the races that I’d skipped in the past to save money? Would I buy my son an expensive bicycle for his birthday, even if it’s his 35th birthday?
And how would I feel if I wound up with a late-stage cancer diagnosis of my own at the age of 61? As I lay dying in a semi-private hospital room, watching my savings disappear at the rate of two Brioni sportcoats a day for amenities to include one IV drip and three assisted trips to the toilet per day, how would I feel about all those days I’d spent behind the wheel of a Sentra, waiting for the future that would never actually arrive?
The most specific advice here, I think, is to avoid the Nissan Sentra at any cost.
Still, settling down a bit and taking a wife — his own, not someone else’s — might buy him a few years at the far end. Maybe. My relatively sedate existence isn’t likely to buy me a ninth decade, or even an eighth. And the only way I’m going to retire with five or ten million bucks is if some wacko billionaire decides to bestow twenty million on me. It’s times like these that I appreciate the wisdom of Katie Scarlett O’Hara: “I can’t think about that right now. If I do, I’ll go crazy. I’ll think about that tomorrow.”
Oh, and my son is already thirty-five.