I hate listening to lawyers and tax experts talking about writing a will. They just keep on repeating the same old story that is has been set in Finnish law for decades. When you die your children inherit all of your stuff except that married partners get to live in the main residence for the rest of their lives. For almost everybody this happens without even writing and signing a will. It is the law.
But life before dying never gets much of a mention, and believe me, what you do before dying is much more important than what happens after you die. Nobody gets to have a drink and a sandwich at their own funeral.
Your columnist is reaching the grand age of 70 years this year and continues to work on projects for companies and governments… and do you want to know something? The time between being 50 years old and 70 years seems to have disappeared in an instant. How can 20 years can pass overnight?
But after 50, something important happens. The mortgage is paid off, the salary is normally higher and spending on children, clothes and furniture normally slows down so you end up with no debt, savings in the bank, a lovely home in Helsinki and perhaps a beautiful house on a perfect island, far from the maddening crowd.
If there are children, then there will also be grandchildren, all of whom will be taller and more distant like every next generation. And, of course, there will be a few older family members who need some help because of memory loss and other afflictions that age brings. But they too will be in their own bubble, with less and less to talk about other than their aches and pains.
So, from that point on, there are choices to be made because the next 40 to 50 years can be full of new and interesting things. From the viewpoint of 70 years, you can be optimistic and really think about a million possibilities for the next 30 or 40 years. Why not be optimistic and want to live longer and have fun rather than dying quicker as a dull, boring person?
The big question is what should you be doing now at 60 or at 70 years old? Should you work more or less? Should you continue to learn another language? What about learning more German and perhaps renting house in Munich for a few months? Or should you divorce, and enjoy “freedom from the rut of predictable days”?
My prescription for old age is to refuse to give in to it. The body does change, but not that much if you control the food input and do plenty of exercise. But that is not enough, the brain needs to be challenged. Retiring removes the trip to the office and the ups and downs of office life. After retiring, it can take 6 months to recover from not going to the office, and another 6 months to realize that life after retirement is so, so good.
You can read, get up late, watch a film until 01.00 in the morning. Or you can get up at 06.00 and go to the gym, learn another new language by going to China for a few months. It is easy get work as a board member for money, or you can just help others for free. The pension comes in every month without that horrible time-wasting HR talk with the boss every year.
It is so simple to just redesign your life with your partner and make him or her feel wanted and valuable. You can look after the grandchildren for a few days and take them on vacation for a week hiking in the Italian mountains if they are fun to be with… and why not? You can talk with anybody – young or old, black or white, male or female and not have to worry what other people think because most people love talking with strangers when you have no secret demands other than being nice…
So, write the stupid will, and that may make someone happy, but do not plan to leave them a huge amount of cash, because that is for you to enjoy before they put you in the silly wooden box that will soon be rotting like you empty body.
This article was first published in Forum för ekonomi in August 2018