While in no way do I consider myself “old” physically, emotionally, or mentally a bit of a mild shock hit me the other day concerning what until recently was strictly the abstract concept of old age retirement. Now understand I retired from the National Guard in 2005 after twenty-one years of combined service in both the active army and National Guard but the great fiscal guardians of taxpayer funds, both elected and bureaucratic, proclaimed long ago that such veterans (read: fools) like me cannot receive compensation for our services until the age of sixty. Even with National Guard retirement kicking in, I am looking at the year 2033 before I can even begin thinking about hanging up the “Gone Fishing” sign. Since two pillars of my retirement plan rely on government-managed money, the other being Social Security, that 2033 date is something I have only penciled in, so the real date could be something closer to next to never unless I happen to hit the lotto. This leaves me largely dependent on whatever private retirement nest egg I can build up and put it in the hands of monetary experts for investment like those trusted gentlemen from Goldman Sachs who testified before Congress yesterday claiming that their raping of the country was really cool and above board. This is why once a week I will fall to my knees before the lottery kiosk in the convenience store and before picking out my five numbers pray to Mighty God in Heaven for both a smallpox outbreak on Wall Street and for that week’s winning numbers.
Now I bear a huge chunk of responsibility for not being prepared as I should for old age. In my “younger” years working in the manufacturing segment of the economy I jumped from one electronic technician job to the other trying to stay ahead of that thing called global free-trade economics by the high paid but soulless syncopates on the business news networks. Despite my best efforts to build a 401k over those years I still had to ride out two economic-driven layoffs and a plant closing that had me part of the skeleton crew boxing factory equipment for the slow boat ride to China. Other things generally falling in the category called life happened as well like a couple of kids showing up, the purchase of transportation so I could get to work, repairs to the house, medical bills, and even vacations to get over the stress of living the glorious American Dream. This brings me to the recent event that shattered my complacency concerning my private retirement fund.
One of the neat things about working at a hospital as opposed to working the manufacturing field is that people will always be getting sick or injured and needing treatment as long as their health insurance isn’t suddenly canceled. However in manufacturing there are a finite number of widgets people can buy which results in layoffs or factories being sent overseas so the suits can squeeze out every cent in profit using slave labor.
Given this relative dependability at the hospital my 401k was merged with the other pitiful survivors from my previous jobs and for a while was doing okay. However, the economic meltdown and resulting stock market collapse played Hell with my retirement funds. As the financial world fell apart I was left with the thought that I would have liked to have been kissed first before serving as some bitch for a Wall Street metrosexual suffering from delusions of godhood.
However, not having friends in high places I lived without my bailout and soldiered on watching my beleaguered funds very slowly recover as the same shits who got us in this mess reward each other with colossal bonuses.
My employer transferred management of our personal retirement funds to a different company requiring everyone at a minimum to contact the new company so new investment strategies could be worked out. So the other day like a good subordinate with no other option being caught in the wheels of global banking I introduced myself to the nice lady who would guide me to my retirement dreams.
As I took a seat we exchanged the required small talk and got down to the business of figuring out how I would live out my golden years. It took several minutes for her to review both some stuff on her laptop screen I could not see and some papers I had brought with me.
“Well sir,” she said punching keys on the laptop with some sort of program on the screen reflecting off her glasses, “let’s see how we can get you to your retirement goals. I see we have your age, your other sources of retirement income, and how much you have it your 401k right now.” Some sort of unhappy number appeared on the screen because her professional honed mask of perky optimism collapsed like a house of cards for several seconds.
“Is there anything wrong?” I asked but I figured since she only makes money if I keep an account she would never tell me.
God bless her training because the perky mask of eternal optimism reasserted itself and she looked up at me with a smile that while friendly would have scared babies given how fake it was. “No sir, we are a team and I will see that you get as close to your goals as possible.”
Despite the opinion of many and I admit some actual evidence I am not a complete fool, I figured the news was bad and after reviewing the retirement printout I made my trip back to the convenience store to pray again for smallpox and winning lotto numbers.