Good Reason

It's okay to be wrong. It's not okay to stay wrong.

A lifetime script

I have this memory of climbing into my parents’ bed (which I used to do all the time) and talking to my dad. I must have been about six. For some reason, I was curious about how-many-years-old I was, and what would happen at the various ages I’d be. For every integer I gave him, Dad told me what would happen. At eight, I’d get baptised.

What about twelve? At twelve, you get the Aaronic Priesthood.

What about 18? At 18, you can vote.
What about 19? At 19, you’ll go on your mission.

What about 25? At 25, you might get married. (Dad got married at 25, so he thought that was the right age for me.)

And so on. I always liked that talk with my Dad because it gave me the idea that life could have a structure. Not having one kind of worried me.

Recently, I was clicking around the tools in my E*TRADE account (I have Tesla stock, thank you) and found an unusual timeline for retirement planning. Well, not exactly unusual, but it describes a perfectly planned, sedate life. But it was unusual for me to see it in this formulation.

Here’s the graphic.

If that’s too small to see, it reads like this:

Where are you in life?
Age 20–29 (Starting Your Career)
Age 30–39 (Building a Family)
Age 40–49 (Climbing the Ladder)
Age 50–59 (Planning for Retirement)
Age 60+ (Living in Retirement)

A life in five easy pieces, carved into orderly ten-year chunks.

I want to say, oh how sterile. A cookie-cutter plan for a boring life.

But I don’t feel that way at all. In fact, I love seeing this plan. It’s the closest I’ve found to a sensible cultural script. Doesn’t the career-then-family idea seem more like what people actually do, and probably should do? I wish I’d seen this simple menu when I was young and starting out. It would have given me a template to work from, maybe to deviate from. But something. Some much-needed direction. And it wouldn’t have been the Mormon plan I got, which was really dumb:

Mormon Plan for Mormon Males
Age 19–29 (Mission, Marriage, and Work, all at once)
Age 29–death (Endless String of Callings, Endure ‘Til the End)

Whereas what really happened was this:

What Daniel Actually Did
Age 20–29 (Mission, Marriage, Kids, Uni — Bumping Around Clueless)
Age 30–35 (Actually Figure Out Who I Was and What the Hell Was Going On)
Age 36–40 (Reboot; Divest Self of Unwanted Baggage, Do Things Properly This Time)
Age 40–45 (Starting Your Career)

And from here on out, it’s:

Age 46–60 (You’re Much Too Old to Be Climbing Silly Ladders, Just Keep Being Awesome)
Age 60+ (Most Interesting Man in the World)

Okay, so I wasn’t very good at following plans. But I’m glad I threw off the terrible plan other people gave me, and chose my own. Even so, I’m keeping an eye on the E*TRADE plan, just as a reminder that the clock is ticking, and there are some jobs to be done along the way, regardless of where I am now, or where I’ve been.


  1. Plans go off the rails so often for me that I feel like I shouldn't waste time planning ever again, but that's probably a bad idea.

  2. Here's another perspective on the life stages (also related to retirement planning)

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