I lost my bi-focals this morning, which prompted a half-hour search of the house. (Good thing I could find my old glasses, or I would’ve been hard-put to find the new ones!)

Along the way, I reflected on the fact that I seem to lose things frequently. Does this mean I’m becoming more forgetful, or just that retirement gives me fewer distractions from my forgetfulness? Probably the latter, because I admit that I spent many frustrating hours looking for misplaced necessities when I was a younger fellow. That’s cold comfort: I may not be losing my mind, but everything else is at risk!

I wondered as I rummaged through the heap of receipts and old keys on top of my bureau whether I should list my bi-focals among the valuables on my homeowner’s insurance policy. I bought them just a few weeks ago, so I know how costly they would be to replace. Suppose the insurance company would let me do that? And if they did, what else should I put on my list of declared vulnerables…I mean, valuables?

Computer equipment and software, of course. DVD’s and CD’s of home movies and conversations with Mom and Dad. Heirlooms? No, my heirlooms are so bulky and obtrusive that I couldn’t lose track of them. (How could I possibly lose track of an upright piano?) But cooking utensils are another story. They’re not large or expensive, but incredibly valuable when I lose them at a critical point in preparing a meal. This part of my valuables list could be quite long.

I concluded that trying to insure against all losses would be a hopeless cause, since I am the loser. So I began wondering (on my third paw-over of the desk) whether searching for lost necessities has any unexpected benefits.

I sometimes find other things that have gone missing. While digging through a garage storage cupboard for something last spring, I found a cable TV box that Comcast insisted I still had—and that I had just as adamantly insisted I never had. There it was in its original box, unopened. I probably saved a couple of hundred dollars by turning it in. (No, I don’t remember what I was looking for that day. Probably something far less valuable.)

Also, searching for lost things can make me aware of long-neglected cleaning and straightening chores, like that mound of stuff on top of my dresser. I’ve learned to promptly consign such housekeeping tasks to a neatly prioritized to-do list. And just as promptly, I lose it.

I guess I’m just a loser. My siblings and closest friends already know this, of course. But confession is good for the soul, and I certainly don’t want to lose that!

shutterstock_238020544Friends and I who are now called “seniors” take two distinctly different approaches to risk. Some of us feel more willing than ever to try new things. Our motto might be, “What have I got to lose?” Others are so fearful of making foolish decisions that they live in a state of paralysis. If they ever dare to entertain the question, “What have I got to lose?” their immediate response is, “Everything!

These two views largely determine the outcome of our decisions, as well as the level of angst we experience when we make decisions.

I’ve seen some friends spend their “golden years” trying to save enough, insure enough, and hedge enough bets to reduce their risk to zero. By the time they cover every conceivable contingency, life has passed them by. I feel a deep sadness when I peer into their coffins.

We need to admit that risk a fact of life, even at the end of it. So let’s keep a few essential realities in mind when we make decisions now:

  • Physical death is a sure thing. Physical life is not.
  • Financial failure can be guaranteed. Financial success cannot.
  • Sorrow will come looking for you. Happiness will not.
  • Do nothing risky and you will receive the inevitable rewards of inaction.
  • But act with faith in the providence of God and–while you may lose things familiar and secure–the rewards can be far greater.

Worth remembering on this day when financial markets are in turmoil and the Dow Jones has fallen more than 600 points.