Saving the Splurge

I didn’t mean to write posts two weeks in a row which were inspired by articles, but I’ve been reading a lot of pieces I’d love to discuss with you. The latest is this one, from the Wall Street Journal, about a baby boomer who had less than $15 in her bank account, and retirement looming ahead (by the way, if you find yourself behind the paywall, you can try this and click on one of the top results which should give you access to the article).

As a quick summary, the piece shares the story of a retiree who when times were flush, spent on luxuries including  an $18,000 golf course membership, BMW roadster, Mercedes, fur coats and LV bags. Then, at one point as her savings and accounts dwindled, she had less than $15 in her bank account.

The subject of the article, Kathleen Wolf


What I liked about this piece in particular was that it painted a fair picture of the subject, who came across better than you might think in a piece like this. She was honest about how she got into her predicament “I was just playing at being a rich person, I wasn’t rich,” and by the end she had made the decision to move to Iowa, to take responsibility for a sustainable retirement solution. I thought that was incredibly admirable and brave, especially as a single woman with no family living nearby.

Whenever I read articles like these, I have to admit I take a special interest because it’s a a huge personal fear of mine to retire without adequate resources. It’s one of those irrational fears that I think I’ll always have, even if I was a zillionaire (so let’s make that happen universe, just to test out the theory, shall we)? You know those experiments they do, where you’re given a box of assorted chocolates and the order you eat the flavors in is supposed to shed insight into how you approach life? I’m definitely the person who saves most of their favorite pieces for the very end, to enjoy last.

Especially in today’s ah…unique political climate, and now that I have a child, I’ve found myself especially paranoid lately. That doesn’t mean that I still haven’t been splurging (in fact, just this weekend I ran into a friend and reader at Neiman Marcus which resulted in some major trouble), but lately in the balance of plan for the future versus enjoy today, I’ve been finding myself leaning towards the former. What about all of you?

I guess the question I’d like to ask is…what order do you eat your chocolates in?

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  • Reply
    christine brightside
    February 20, 2017 at 8:14 am

    Thanks for sharing this interesting article. I can relate to your fear of running out of resources more than I can express in words. To be honest I even consulted a therapist a couple of years ago because I was not able to enjoy “today’s life and its pleasures”, and it took me ages to decide over expenses on “non sense items” or “necessary for life items” such as bags, luxurious beauty stuff etc. It took me years to be able to splurge on classic highend items, and luckily my husband is easier going with buying an expensive handbag for me 😉 and I definitely learned a lot from him when it comes to rewarding myself for working my a** off, for winning a deal, for whatever reason. My therapist found out that one of my deep-rooted needs is financial security in combination with independence, so I tend to sit on my money instead of enjoying it – result of securing as much as I can. I signed a capital value life insurance when I was 19, I even chose my jobs according to the attractiveness of the employer’s the corporate pension plan. Just to make sure that in case I find myself unmarried and lonely at 65, I would have been able to buy estate, and have enough money for a decent retirement life. Now when I look at my accounts and my retirement provisions (various from several employers), I can start spending some money, as long as my husband is able to convince me of the asset / investment aspect of a thing (a condo, a Birkin bag…) … but about once a month I have a nightmare on being old, lonely and without money ;-P

    • Reply
      February 20, 2017 at 9:36 pm

      Thank you for sharing this! I feel so much better knowing that I’m not alone….!

  • Reply
    February 21, 2017 at 12:32 pm

    I used to worry about this a lot when I was younger but I no longer do. I retired at 63 and have been fine. (I’m 67.) If the entire market crashed by 50%, I’d certainly be worried, but I would still be fine, although I’d definitely cut back on luxuries. I’ve been debt adverse all my life but I eliminated all debt when I was 50 by downsizing from my “dream house” to a smaller cottage that I love. That eliminated the mortgage and enabled me to invest a lot for for retirement. I live in central California which is much more affordable than most of the rest of the state. (I did not have an extremely lucrative career . My highest income was $85K, which was certainly comfortable, but that was only for 2-3 years pror to retirement. ) I think avoiding debt was the single strongest decision I made.

    FYI: Ive always loved your fashion industry interviews. Perhaps you might start doing ‘financial lifestyle’ interviews. It would be easy to disguise interviewees just like you did in your other interviews, if that were a concern…..

    • Reply
      February 22, 2017 at 9:02 pm

      Hi Diane, thanks so much for sharing your personal experience. You’ve made extremely responsible and intelligent decisions. I’d love to do the interview series you mentioned, sometimes it’s hard to ask people to volunteer…I’ll have to give it a think. Please email me if you’d be interested yourself!

      • Reply
        February 23, 2017 at 6:13 pm

        Love her suggestion! Financial style, can’t wait to read it.

  • Reply
    February 21, 2017 at 5:35 pm

    A worry of mine as well. I always enjoy your blog posts. I would also love more financial related articles!

  • Reply
    February 21, 2017 at 9:46 pm

    Hi Katherine,

    This is an amazing topic. Apparently the “bag lady fear” is incredibly pervasive among women. I don’t know if it’s a holdover psychically or genetically from almost all of the female population in the US being dependent on the men in our lives – likely the situation with our grandmothers, if not our mothers. I too find DH much more free with big spends than I am (he wants me to take the Barenia Birkin out in the rain NOW) , and I am always assessing what is “secure” financially. So no, you are by far not alone.
    I would also love to see more of this examination…clearly we all love luxury, but what is our response to it? Especially in this climate.

    • Reply
      February 22, 2017 at 9:01 pm

      I’ve received quite a few emails too, amazing to hear I’m far from alone on this! And enjoy that B 🙂

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