If you’re a certain age, you probably played Kick the Can.
Do you remember this game? Someone is designated as “it” and a tin can is placed in an open space. The other players run off and hide while “it” covers their eyes and counts to ten. “It” then tries to find and tag each of the players. Any player who is tagged is sent to jail, where all the captured players congregate. Any player who has not been caught kicks the can. If they can do this without being caught, then all of the captured players are set free.
Kick the Can isn’t just a kids’ game. Adults play it, too. For some people, Kick the Can is a way of life. It’s about putting off action until the last possible moment—the ultimate procrastination. Why do now what you can put off until tomorrow?
For example, we all know that exercise is good for us, right? But when do people start to take exercise seriously? For most people, it’s AFTER they’ve had the heart attack. That’s when they take up jogging and weightlifting and everything they should have been doing all along.
It’s the same with finances. What’s the best time to start saving money? When we are young. When do we start saving money? Many people wait until their 50s and early 60s to start getting serious, when retirement is right around the corner and we can’t avoid it anymore.
Some say that baseball is America’s pastime and football is America’s sport, but I believe that Kick the Can is America’s true passion. That’s why we have such pathetic results later in life.
Kick the Can isn’t the only game Americans play. We’re also very accomplished at the Not My Fault game. Everything is somebody else’s fault. We cannot imagine taking total responsibility for ourselves.
What does this have to do with retirement? In my opinion, Kick the Can and Not My Fault are two of the biggest reasons for retirement plan failure. The ugly reality is that 70% of Americans will not be able to take their last breath in their own homes. They end up in a hospital, in a hospice house, in a nursing home, places almost no one wants to be.
Why does that happen? It’s because we Kick the Can instead of making a plan, and then say Not My Fault when natural consequences kick in. We neglect our health for decades and then blame someone else when it fails. We put off planning for the day when we might not be able to live at home without going broke or sentencing our family to life as our unpaid caregivers, and then blame someone else when our money runs out and we become a burden to those we love.
Maybe you’ve had your life turned into chaos by a family member who played Kick the Can until the end, someone whose Not My Fault became your problem. If you want things to be different for you and your family, it’s possible. Just do the right kind of planning and start now.
Rajiv Nagaich is an elder law attorney, author, adjunct law school professor, and retirement planning visionary who has achieved national recognition for his cutting-edge work with retirees and his contributions to the practice of elder law. He is the founder of two firms based in Federal Way: Life Point Law, an elder law and estate planning firm, and AgingOptions, a firm that provides retirement-related education to consumers and professionals. For more information, visit AgingOptions.com, LifePointLaw.com or call