Every once in a while I get my portfolio statement. I say “Portfolio,” with a chuckle because I made the late twenty-something mistake of raiding it for a business then using it to pay down student loan debt. These days a graduate could never raid a portfolio to get college debt under control–they’d have to rob a small bank, sell some of the Vatican’s art, or hold Martha Stewart’s dog hostage.

Be that as it may, that’s what I did, and I can’t deny it. If you ask me, I’ll say I did it so I could tell future generations of young people, “Don’t do that, it’s dumb” or “When you’re stupid in your 20’s it takes compound-hard work to dig out in your 40’s.”  I want my mistakes to provide teachable moments. I have plenty of teachable moments.

One of my two statements came in the mail yesterday. I don’t look at the company names anymore. I open them and file them under “bad economy” and “worse economy.”

When dealing with money, the trick is to not think of it as money. Some of the best companies on earth have figured this out. When I’m shopping on Amazon, I don’t feel like I’m spending.  I simply push the button and stuff comes to me. Not money, Christmas.

With Uber, I push the button and a car appears like a genie from a lamp. I get the receipt later when I check email. It feels totally free. Free is good. If people had to deal with money all the time, they’d get obsessive or crazy, either counting like Scrooge if they had any–always needing a farthing more–or panicking when they didn’t. Panic isn’t productive.

I solved this years ago. I started thinking of my retirement statements not as funds, but in terms of how many cans of cat food I could buy. Then, I’d mentally ration them out by life expectancy according to how I felt that day. My aim was to end up a can or two on top at the final moments.

This quarter, I lost a lot of cans in the market–about $2K cans of budget cat food and about half as much if I buy premium. It’s a tough call–as a simple person, I recognize I can live twice as long on the cheap stuff, but being a sustainable foodie, I’d like my cat food to be local and farm-fresh–certainly no GMOs or fillers. Gluten free should be an option, too. I go back and forth on gluten in my own diet, but I have a lot of celiac and paleo friends. They’ll no doubt come for dinner in retirement if they don’t keel over first.

As I read labels on popular brands I realize I need something more–vegetarian options. I don’t eat meat. These cans are filled with dead chickens and cows.

“But we’re not vegetarian,” says some neighborhood cat trespassing in my yard. He’s eyeballing my chickens.

“Some of you aren’t…but I bet some are. They need choices too.” Note to self to find someone from PETA to create a line of retirement vittles for me. Not too gourmet pricy, that defeats the whole purpose of retiring on a dime.

“Your retirement plan’s awful!” says the cat. “You’re not considering cost of living increase, housing, or medical. Social Security will be demolished by then!”

I tell him to be quiet. It’s an election year. No sane politician will touch Social Security. Besides, if I wanted retirement advice to begin with, I wouldn’t have been so stupid in my twenties. I’d rather go down the street and ask the cow. She’s not so snarky.

“The cow won’t be there for long,” says the cat. “Check the ingredients on the cans…”

I have no more use for this cat. I shoo him away and spend some quality time with my chickens feeding them clovers and dandelions. They’re my new retirement plan. A lifetime supply of eggs and a coop. That’s food and shelter right there. I’ve got some medicinal herbs in my garden. That’s all I need.

Retirement plan in hand, I don’t need to translate my financial statements into cans of cat food any more, nor do I have to ask members of PETA to design a new food source for me. I’ll have plenty of omelets and good clucking company.

Either that, or there’s always Soylent Green.

You never know what elections will bring…It’s always good to have a Plan B…