I have always run my finances out of a mode of scarcity. I’ve said that I only needed whatever it took to live. I paid the bills and made up a monthly budget, based on whatever money I (or we, when I was married) had coming in, and I balanced it every month. If I ran out before the month ended, I revised my budget to reflect that reality. Same thing if I had a surplus for several months. I followed the budget throughout the month, always aware of where I stood. I hesitated about telling my husband, Jerry, if we had a surplus, because if I did, he was sure to spend it. Sometimes I told him, sometimes not. I always had some money put away for emergencies or modest vacations. Jerry and I had talked about the fact that my income would go down after he died, but we were both confident that I would be fine, because I am an expert on getting by with what I have.
I thought my careful control of spending was healthy, but I think I had it wrong. I had a fear of running out of money. Perhaps this stemmed from the ten-year period back in the 1970s when I was widowed the first time, living with my young daughter on a fixed income, supplemented occasionally with temporary jobs. I was proud that I could afford to dress her in nice clothes and let her join the Girl Scouts and take gymnastics. I would save for anything else that I felt was important, including trips to visit family and friends. I was not going to let lack of money get in the way of a good life for us. I had my husband’s life insurance invested, and never touched it, because I was saving it for her college fund. I felt like I was on top of the situation, but I remember asking her when she was 11, some months after my second marriage to Jerry, if she felt that her life had changed much. She replied immediately, “We have more money now.” I wondered then how many times she had wanted me to buy her something and never said anything because she knew we couldn’t afford it.
This year my life has changed: Jerry has passed on and I now have investments to manage that I can check whenever I want. I never paid much attention to them before, because Jerry handled them and reported that they were doing well. As I delved into my holdings, I came to realize that I could loosen the purse strings, and I am no longer just getting along. I can afford to do things I have only dreamed about.
This is a paradigm shift for me; I am still trying to absorb it all. So how am I going to spend this money I didn’t even know I had? I do have home maintenance to take care of. I have already started giving more to charity, and I plan to travel, if I can find one or more people to go with me. My younger sister Denise and I want to visit our siblings in Florida and California, maybe even Canada. She also lost her husband, shortly after Jerry died, so we both are free to travel. We are going on a Viking cruise to Alaska next July together, and I hope that is the first of many excursions.
This change in my thinking comes directly out of the grief process I am working my way through. I am developing a new image of myself as a person alone; I am evolving, and it feels good. I am also aware that I need to take advantage of my good health while it lasts, before I am truly “old.” The “faraway places with strange-sounding names” are really just around the corner. It is time to get started on all my adventures!