Hey, just out of curiosity, how's your IRA coming along? What, you don't have an IRA yet? That's a problem for "future you" to deal with? The young men in the midst of the AIDS epidemic felt the same way. Peter recalls that "the palpable threat of possibly never reaching middle age, let alone retirement, caused a lot of us to shut out that whole vision." So they did the completely logical thing and lived like they were gonna die young. "After my own diagnosis, I assumed I'd never even make it to Y2K, so while I didn't max out my cards like some guys, I saw no point in accumulating savings," Peter says.
By the '90s, medical science had revolutionized HIV treatment. It appeared that they might not die after all, and that left a lot of men in a precarious situation: "After the superdrugs arrived in the mid-1990s, a running joke acknowledged this peculiar situation -- thousands of men in their 40s or 50s with no nest egg suddenly realizing they'd survive -- saying 'It's great that we're all gonna live, but it sure is gonna fuck up a lot of plans,'" Peter says. "Viatication (a choice offered to some types of policyholders during the death-sentence era that works much like a reverse mortgage, where your life insurance benefit is paid to you while alive) made news often in the early 1990s, and spawned a lot of predictable jokes about who'd go bankrupt if the cure arrived tomorrow."
Thomas Alleman/The San Francisco Sentinel
The punch line of course being "Who the fuck cares if thousands of people get to live."
At the time these treatments became available, Peter was in bad shape and began preparing for the worst. "My concern, obviously, was comfort and stability for whatever time I had left, not retirement," he says. "HAART changed all that." On the one hand, his improvement was nothing short of miraculous, even allowing him to return to work. On the other hand, "for a while, it didn't even register that I now had to devise a strategy and goals." A lot of scrambling to make up for lost time has helped Peter stabilize his finances, but "it's not nearly what an ordinary 60-year-old should have," he says. "I'm still expecting to be able to stay in my home when I retire and not starve. That said, I'll never be taking a cruise or flying overseas. I don't own a car."
Well hey, look on the bright side, Peter: There's still an off chance the Yellowstone Caldera could go super-volcano, or there's runaway climate change and hyper storms, obviously we got asteroid impacts, and the robot scourge is looking pretty promising these days ...
Manna has a Twitter sometimes.
For more insider perspectives, check out 5 Realities Of Life When You Know You're Going To Die and 6 Surprising Ways Life Looks Different With Terminal Disease.
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