Tuesday, May 18, 1999

A Creed to Prepare By

by Ron W. McFarland

The obituary recorded that Absolom Burris of Hyrum, Utah, was killed in a rock slide near Preston, Idaho, on April 20, 1930. Absolom was the foreman of the Amalgamatum limestone rock quarry. While he was attempting to dislodge some unstable rocks in a dangerous area of the quarry, a rock slide broke loose and crushed him to death.

The cold facts of the obituary disclose that Absolom was 71 years old. A check of the calendar reveals that April 20, 1930, was a holiday -- Easter Sunday as a matter of fact. Why was this father of 10 children, in his 72nd year of life, hauling limestone on Easter Sunday?

As I consider what I want my life to be like during my retirement years, I have often pondered the life and death of my great-grandfather Absolom. I have solemn respect for his noble work ethic and commitment to support his family by the sweat of his aged brow -- yet I also feel I can learn an important lesson by avoiding one aspect of his life: his lack of preparation for retirement.

In remembrance of Absolom, I formulated an axiom to use as my personal creed to accept my responsibility to prepare now for my retirement years.

Absolom's Axiom: "Living within my means NOW requires providing for my means in the FUTURE."

I like to think of this axiom as a self-evident truth that the days of able body and mind are the very time to provide for the inevitable days of feeble body and mind. I hold myself accountable. I abdicate this responsibility to no one. Not the federal or state government. Not my employer. Not my church. Not my wife. Not my children. I accept the responsibility myself.

It can be a difficult thing today for a person to provide the support of his or her family, let alone supporting them for both the present and the future. It requires the sacrifice of current -- often pressing -- wants in the "here and now" for the far-distant needs in the "then and there" of the future.

I am determined to spend Easter Sunday of the year 2033 with my wife, children, and grandchildren. I want this in the future, more than I want a late-model car or expensive clothes today. I want that Easter holiday then, enough to overcome my ignorance of investing now and devise a plan to get me there.

Overcoming investing ignorance can be likened to the plight of a 15-year-old who is apprehensive about getting a driver's license. Operating a motor vehicle can be a daunting prospect for the uninitiated. There is much to learn: road signs, rules, regulations, tests (written and actual). The risk of danger accompanies all who dare steer their own vehicle on the highway.

We can all relate to these feelings of apprehension because we all went through it. Yet, how many of us would decline the opportunity to drive now that we have overcome our initial apprehension? Driving becomes second nature once you've learned it and done it a while. So it is with investing. Yes there are new terms, rules, and regulations to learn. Yes, there are real-life ups, downs, and risk in the market just like on the highway. Yet, the rewards of investing are analogous to driving vs. walking -- you can get where you want to be much faster.

Have you thought about where you will spend Easter Sunday of your 72nd year? I hope you will join me by preparing now for a nice relaxing day with your loved ones.

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