Before Halloween, I was eating Peanut Butter Cheerios for breakfast. I think they are so delicious; I could eat a whole box. My 18-month-old son was very interested as well, so I gave him a few to play with. He didn’t put any in his mouth, but he was playing with them at the table. He wasn’t wearing a shirt, and a few seconds later broke out in hives all over his chest. I took a picture to show the doctor, who said without hesitation, “Yep, that’s a peanut allergy. Here’s a prescription for an epi-pen and an allergy protocol for exposure.” Two weeks later he had a blood allergy test. As expected, he tested positive for a severe peanut allergy, and also came back positive for tree nuts and eggs. When we met with an allergist, I asked, “Now, just how crazy do I have to get?” Her response: “Very.” All those food labels that warn about “possible peanut contamination” or “shared equipment”pertain to us now. And parties? Well, it’s fine to say he can’t eat nuts. But if anybody else wants to eat them, they need to wash their hands and face before they touch him. Or touch anything that he may touch. So in a nutshell (he he…pun intended), just don’t have any nuts at a party, and by the way, it’s the day before Thanksgiving.
I’m a rather analytical person. If I have a problem, I do some research and I talk to people that are knowledgeable on the topic. I read books, joined an organization on food allergies, and became better friends with a woman with a 13-year-old son with a severe peanut allergy (who is still alive and has had only two reactions since his initial diagnosis at 18 months old, so she’s doing something right). All the research and specialists say the same thing: you have to be a little crazy. You have to read labels, bring your own cupcakes to parties, and avoid certain places such as Chinese restaurants and ice cream shops.
This crazy level of vigilance was not relaxing over the holidays. It did not allow me to sit back and enjoy the moment. I made nut-free baked goods, one that attempted to copy a store-bought cake that my husband’s family enjoys. It did not taste good. We had to ask well-meaning hosts to put away popcorn that could be contaminated and had to watch out for bakery-baked cookies that were brought. With all this, he still had a mild allergic reaction, and we’re not entirely sure to what.
Sometimes I feel crazy like this with financial planning. I look at most people’s current situation and wonder how they are going to reach their dreams. There are so many obstacles that this generation faces that the World War II generation and the Boomers did not. Traditional pensions do not exist for most people. College costs are soaring. People in their 20’s who need to be saving for retirement are faced with a challenging (to say the least) job market and are completely buried in student loans. Health care costs are at an all-time high. On top of this, our politicians are doing everything in their power to make Social Security insolvent by the time we reach retirement. Where’s my epi-pen for this insanity?
Finances can make you crazy. The same level of vigilance is needed for budgets, daily bill paying, and retirement planning as is needed to prevent an accidental exposure to allergies. Because of this, we recommend seeing a professional- someone who can help you make sense of it all, and someone who can take the crazy investing burden off your shoulders.