Tomorrow is today when planning for retirement…

August 23, 2015

I can’t afford to retire.

When did I figure that out?

Well I always knew it really.

I never planned for retirement.

Always thought that was in the future — I’ll take care if that later.

Later came and went.

Quite by accident I did manage to save a few bucks back over the last several years but not nearly enough for a bona fide retirement.

But that is not stopping me — so far.

I’m into my second day of at least semi-retirement. And I can’t write that without feeling self-conscious or that I have to make the pun because I’m retiring from driving a semi truck.

Been doing that for most of the past two decades — had to take some time off for cancer treatment and associated hospital stays, but other than that it’s been nearly 24-7 on the big truck. Well I did have that one job where I was home each day but an interruption caused by my cancer ended that, so it was back out on the long road.

I took a month off and went to Spain last year — actually two weeks in Spain total, the rest prep for and then doing other things after that.

But at 66 and with an incurable form of cancer — albeit in essentially what is remission — that could come back at any time, I feel I need to live life a little before I can no longer live life.

But on this second day, realities of continuing family responsibility (I’m a widower but have two adult daughters), as well as the reality that I still have to pay fairly expensive apartment rent, and all those other pesky living expenses, I’m wondering if I should not save my place back at the old job if I can or work more than I had planned (if that is even an option for me). I was almost in a panic mood about all of this yesterday but no as much today. Too much personal information I know.

No particular message here. Maybe just that sometimes we don’t appreciate our work for what it is — survival!

I’m jealous of those who planned wisely for their retirement. But I could have done that. Like so many, I know, I always thought I could not afford to put back extra for retirement.

Okay, no more about that. I am in good health and am thankful for that. And did I mention? I’m going to Spain again.

This time I’m set to enroll in a Spanish language course there. I know some Spanish already — took three semesters of college level Spanish and have used it somewhat on my job — Spanish light you might call it. I can order a meal, do greetings, make light observations, so on.

Some people have sports; I have language — and politics of which I often write — as a kind of hobby or even avocation.

So I’m looking forward to how my form of retirement works out.

If you are younger than I and have not planned out your retirement income, take my advice: don’t make excuses. Also make sure you study up on Social Security. There are some pitfalls having to do with when to claim it, even possibly using a spouse or ex-spouse’s claim, and so on. While the folks at Social Security may help you it is up to you to understand it all and make it work for you. You have to read their booklets (available online of course) and then re-read them, and then maybe go to a secondary source for more explanation possibly. I made what may be a blunder, which I will not go into. But if you study all that before early retirement age and before full-retirement age, you will be in good shape. And it has to go without saying, you virtually cannot depend upon Social Security alone.

And don’t assume it is too late — I mean it might be, but give it a shot.

 

 

 

 

 


Why not lower the retirement age instead of raising it? And if there is a problem with Social Security, so fix it already…

February 6, 2011

With so many people out of work, what is the sense of raising the retirement age? Wouldn’t it make more sense to encourage people to retire, even retire early, to make more jobs available for younger people?

And really what is all this bologna about the insolvency of Social Security? If there is a problem with the program, fix it and be done with it (of course when politicians spend more time trying to get re-elected than dealing with the problems of government, that is a problem). And the Social Security trust fund should not be used as a piggy bank for other endeavors.

And I think it probably was a wise idea to make all people (well almost all) contribute to Social Security and as part of the bargain make it available to everyone, regardless of personal assets. You have to pay for it, but you cannot be denied it when you retire.

But instead of steadily raising the retirement age from 65 to 66 or 67 or higher, it seems to me it ought to be lowered if anything. Life is too short to have to labor the whole time. And it seems the trend is for there to be fewer and fewer jobs as technology steadily advances.

There is always the argument that people should be allowed to keep more of their own money, not pay it out in Social Security tax withholding, and make their own decisions on how to invest for their retirement. Certainly for those with the means, wise investing is the answer. But so many people have neither the means nor the savvy and we saw what happened to all those 401K accounts. Do you really want to put your retirement on the gaming tables, the stock market? Let me clue you in: the game is rigged.

I tried to read up on how exactly the Social Security program works and is funded but it made my eyes buggy. Like so many things it seems far more complicated than it needs to be.

(Well, actually in concept, I guess, the way it works is relatively simple and I address that further down, but it still makes my eyes hurt.)

And its critics are right on one thing. People should not depend totally on Social Security for their retirement. And I think the program should remain modest so that people do not get complacent and fail to use sound financial practices in their own life.

But you know?  It‘s nice to have something there in case everything else does not turn out the way you planned it. And more importantly it adds stability to the economy that would just not be there without it. It also adds stability to the social structure.

What with the economic turmoil the nation and world has been going through, we here in the U.S. could easily wind up like Egypt, except maybe it would be a bunch of oldsters in the streets.

P.s.

I plead to being fairly ignorant as to exactly how the Social Security system works. I mean I know that basically current workers pay out the benefits for retirees with their Social Security payroll tax withholdings, and I know that reportedly the system for the first time ever is now paying out more than it takes in. I also know it has a trust fund to feed from (and from what I read it is nowhere near going broke). It starts getting murky when I read that when the government takes in more money that it will pay out for Social Security (which apparently is not the case this year) it takes that excess money and invests it in government securities. But those securities will eventually have to be paid back with interest by the government. So the government is lending money to itself and then eventually paying itself back — now that’s a neat trick if you can do it.

It does seem a bit of a hocus pocus or legerdemain to me.

Maybe there should be some kind of privatization of Social Security, using sound business practices (something that has apparently been lacking in much of the business community), but there would have to be safeguards, it could not be straight up capitalism where you win some and lose some — we’re talking Social SECURITY here, not the lottery.

I think social programs such as Social Security have a place in the free enterprise system as long as they are not expanded to the extent that people become complacent and simply look for big brother government to take care of them.

I have seen no evidence that pure cradle-to-grave socialism works well over the long haul or is more desirable than free enterprise and capitalism. The Scandinavian countries have come closest to it, but they have had their own problems now. Nations such as China and Vietnam and Cuba are mixing their communism with capitalism.

And the United States cannot and should not simply try to be like everyone else anyway. We are unique and proud of it and people all over the world still want to come here — go figure.


You won’t miss your Social Security or government-supported health care until you have had it and lost it…

November 5, 2010

Maybe the vast majority of American voters really do want to repeal — not fix or adjust — the new health care law, and maybe they want to privatize Social Security or scuttle it altogether — I find that hard to believe, but maybe. Certainly the Republicans, with the help of the Tea Party, feel they have the political capital to do just that.

I don’t know if the health care law is helping me or not but I do know that something needed to be done and the whole system is not sustainable as it is, that is unless we are willing to let vast numbers of people go without adequate health care.

Like a stuck record I keep saying that President Obama should have concentrated on making sure that those without any health care coverage had coverage made available to them and left it at that, but I think he saw what he thought was a one-time opportunity to enact something that has been talked about nearly a century or more, with a, believe it or not, Republican president, Theodore Roosevelt, bringing it up in the first place.

I think Obama misjudged, and I think he realizes it now. Vast numbers of people are without work and just as many or more are scared they will be in the unemployment lines and others who had investments in bonds and notes have seen interest rates drop to near zero, due to the Great Recession/Depression — there goes that.

While I think the Republican/Tea Party bunch exaggerate when they claim the Obama administration is trying to turn the USA into some kind of socialist/communist state, there is something there. Many Democrats are into a kind of socialist ideology whether they like to think so or not. I think there is a place for social programs, but one can get carried away.

Maybe the best way to sell social programs is to gut what we have and let people see what it is like to go naked, so to speak.

To at least paraphrase a song I know: I never missed it until I had it and I lost it, and now I can’t live without it anymore.