Everyone dies, and planning for it is enlivening

I’ve done a handful of things in my life that made me think, “I’m an adult now” — you know, the usual milestones:

- Got a driver’s license
- Voted for the first time
- Rented a hotel room for the first time
- Rented a car for the first time
- Bought my first house

Looking back, those all seem quaint compared to my current first: Hired a financial planner and an attorney to get my retirement and estate in order.

At 42, I think I’m officially an adult now.

It’s no secret in the gay community that finances and estates and inheritances are tricky things for couples. Even as we continue our march toward marriage equality and the 1,138 federal benefits that come with it, LGBT couples in committed relationships in most states still need to jump through dozens more hoops to ensure our significant others have legal access to our assets without enormous tax burdens.

My partner and I are confident we will be able to legally marry in Michigan soon and have access to all the benefits our straight married friends have. But we are also intensely aware that life is short. So we started making phone calls.

We now have our very own financial adviser and attorney. We are having long, serious conversations about Important Things (sometimes over a bottle of wine — we were told that helps). We are making decisions and signing lots of papers.

I'm excited about money in an entirely new way, even though it doesn't feel like we have any right now. Still, it seems we’re ahead of the curve. All kinds of studies and articles talk about how many Americans are woefully unprepared for their road to retirement. Gen Xers like me seem to be in the scariest situation. The Great Recession caused many in my generation to lose nearly half of our already fairly meager retirement investments, and most of us work in jobs that don’t offer a pension.

There are plenty of reasons people put off this kind of planning. Talking about money is stressful. Inertia is powerful – it’s easy to just not think about it. Ignorance is bliss.

But not really.

Once my partner and I got over the initial scary part (“Document all of your monthly expenses. For real. No fibbing.”), it became a bit like a competition for us. Can we win this retirement game?

We now look forward to meetings with our financial adviser (it helps that we also share a love of  Barenaked Ladies with her). We have regular conversations about our plan. And we’re finding it all to be – for lack of a better word – fun. It’s forcing us to think about life in a futuristic way. We’re talking about actual plans and goals for 20 years from now. It’s pretty cool.

While we never thought we wouldn’t have to work and save to reach retirement, it’s no longer a nebulous concept with some seemingly unattainable number. That feels good. And grown-up.

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