But then I read this in my favorite "Social Qs" column of the Style section of the New York Times by Philip Galanes yesterday, and I felt less alone:
QUESTION: My fiancé and I have been fighting over retirement planning. We are both 30, so this is not an imminent problem. He says there’s not much we can do right now because our combined incomes barely meet our frugal living expenses and college debt payments. I know he’s right, but I can’t stop worrying, which makes him feel like a loser. Please help me plot my next move.
Do you have a nagging worry that you can't quite shake? What is it? Can you define it?
Writer Philip Galanes first answers the question in his witty and charming way:
ANSWER: In these difficult financial times, remember that even the most industrious ant (co-starring in Aesop’s fable with the sybaritic grasshopper) only saved enough to last through one winter, not a 30-year retirement in Palm Springs. Times have changed, so take it easy on yourself (and your fiancé). Happily, you are young. With hard work and economizing, your financial picture may improve over the next 30 years.
And while I hate to add to your cost of living, consider speaking with a shrink if your anxiety doesn’t abate. Your worry may, in some small way, be tied to the giant matrimonial leap you’re about to make.
This is exactly where I go with brides -- where I work with brides: getting to the core meaning of what this "giant matrimonial leap" means to you. Because for this bride, it's not about financial planning or their retirement savings. It's about something else entirely, but it got displaced onto the retirement savings worry.
If this bride were to Skype with me, we'd unpack the problem together. First, I'd ask her to help me deeply understand her anxiety about retirement. I want to know the nitty-gritty details that keep her tossing and turning at night. Then we'd talk about her own relationship to money and savings; her family history of money and savings; even her grandparents retirement and family stories about retirement. I wonder, in the back of my mind, if there are any family stories around marriage, money, old age and retirement that are haunting her now. We'd also explore her relationship with her fiance and the plans for their life together -- her feelings about his career and work ethic, her feelings about becoming financially interdependent with him for the rest of her life. And so on. And so on.
And so on. This is how I work with brides. We dig deep and we discover, together. And insight can give clarity, context, and emotional relief.
Every bride is unique. And every bride tends to displace her natural, normal, developmentally-appropriate anxiety about getting married onto something else (like retirement) in her own unique way. My job is to help brides unpack and understand her own experience, so that she can feel grounded and prepared for her marriage ahead.