Thursday, April 29, 2010

Looking At My Golden Years

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.


Holte Ender said...

I have had the same disappointments, same anguish, same fears, same wide eyed look at the stock market when it all went to hell, same anger.

I am in my 60s now, drawing SS, wife still works, but not for much longer. You do have time to recover your losses and gain some, hope you do.

Life's a bitch Beach.

Commander Zaius said...

Life's a bitch...

LOL!!!!! There is a famous comeback I could use about my loving spouse but I will not use it. The funny thing in all this is I have plans to downsize to microscopic levels when I do retire and even possibly leave the country for some place with a far cheaper cost of living. My wife has other plans.

Still though the sad meeting with the new retirement councilor and seeing the subhumans testifying before Congress yesterday made me about as anger as I have been in a long time.

You are right I have "time" to recover but for a coworker who was less than six months to retiring when the world melted down he is not as lucky.

PENolan said...

So - does that mean you're going to be available? It's single, straight men in this age group are difficult to find.

Laura said...

Gosh! You could be dead before you're ever able to retire!!! :P
Sorry, I just had to...

I feel very strongly that you're going to win the lottery! :)
I'm having a premonition. :P


Commander Zaius said...

PENolan: Have to get my daughter in high school then I'm signing on a tramp freighter and sailing the world.

Sunshine: You know several years ago I played one set of number religiously for a long time but lost the slip I filled out to buy the lotto ticket. Now numbers don't stick in my head but a year or so later I will almost swear they hit. But that may just be wishful thinking on my part.

lime said...

you wanna know something really scary? i am sure you have more than we do.

Commander Zaius said...

Lime: Either way I bought my Saturday evening lotto ticket this morning.

Randal Graves said...

So what you're saying is that we should all go into the funeral home business.

At this point, my only goal is that when I croak, I leave my kids no debt and precise instructions what to do with my crap. As long as they're unburdened, I'll find a way to shuffle on by. If not, I can always be the insane, disheveled guy behind the McDonald's.

But please win the Powerball and send us all some money. ;-)

Marja said...

That doesn't look good. Yep the disadvantages of current day living.
In Holland they put the retirement age up to 67 and here it is stil 65but people get not enough money to come by so they keep working.
I worked in the home with a 72 year old man. He was my best friend though.
Well better make you days now golden so that you don't have to be disappointed.

and yes my american friend here told me all about

Commander Zaius said...

Randal: McDonald's? You and me both buddy. Did a stint as a pizza delivery guy a few years ago and I was surprised at the number of retired guys working that type of job to make ends meet.

Marja: I am very serious about jumping ship and leaving the country. But also I would have no problem downsizing to a camper-trailer living relatively close to the coast and spend my days fishing and throwing a small shrimp net from one of the bridges on local marshes. Its cheap living and I know several people doing it now.

Middle Ditch said...

Jump ship and leave the country? Where to!

It's just as bad here. I was a full time mum for twelve years because I didn't believe in leaving others to care for mine and now I'm penalized for it. When I retire ate the good old age of 63, I might just get enough money to feed myself. But who is going to pay the bills?

You know what? There is something in the saying 'Live hard, die young'.

David Barber said...

Same over here bud. I wish every week that a lottery win comes our way. But then I remind myself that you have to buy a ticket to be in with a chance of winning. :-) I look at it this way. We're happy. My kids are happy. If the shit hits the fan when we get older, we'll sell our house, buy a camper van and never pay taxes again. I'll park outside someones house who has some outside electric points and plug in. ;-)

PENolan said...

How much longer until she's in High School?

Oso said...

Hi Beach,
I'm a dedicated lottery guy. Been playing the same numbers over twenty years. Mathematically they got to come up someday, issue is just living long enough. 5-10 thousand years pretty much guarantees it.

Will "take no prisoners" Hart said...

The way that I see it, double b, we're all going to be working well, WELL, into our 70s. Betty White, you better move over, baby!

Commander Zaius said...

Middle Ditch: Several places are possible for me to jump ship. Just about any of the Central American countries, Thailand, Phillipines, and I believe a couple of South American countries. All have expat communities but all have various issues that need to be overlooked.

David: I don't buy a ticket for every drawing during the week but I usaully waste a dollar for at least one. Your fallback sounds a lot like mine. It use to be very cheap for retired people living in South Carolina. The coast had lots of trailer parks for retired people but developers bought out the property and built condos.

PENolan: The short answer is too long but in actual numbers about seven years.

Oso: Ain't that a kick in the pants. Someone once said for that reason alone I was foolish to buy a ticket, this guy was one of the at home investors with some online acount. My response was that since the big boys on Wall Street were doing the samething with my money without asking I was just joining the club with the small amount I had left.

Will: One of the reasons I get accused of being a commie is because the Wall Street types who at least in the form of capitalism I learned about was suppose to return profits and investmehts into expanding and improving current businesses while providing funds to allow new businesses to start up. From what I can follow these slimes were doing nothing but playing billion dollar casinos short circuiting the very system they seem to worship.

Yeah, I may end up working to I drop dead, like I said above I know a guy who will be doing that. But I would love to hang a few Wall Streets types from New York lampposts as payback.

Rhiannon said...

What's a retirement plan? I'm almost a senior citizen and living on food stamps and county housing. If I wasn't I wouldn't have survived, no matter how hard I tried. I would have been out on the street. Having my serious health problem saved my life..getting accepted for my disability..ironic how bizarre this country works. I didn't get the real help I needed Dr. wise because no medical insurance for so many years. Now I'm at the lowest of poverty, only now do I get medicaid..not that it's that great but at least I know I can see the Drs. when I need to now. Too bad things have to get so very bad before you can get any help at all and you have not family that gives a sh*t...sorry just trying to get people to think. There are a lot of homeless "heroes" out there, from the gulf war to the Iraq and war in Afganistan, and there are alone many women out here in this good ole USA who also have PTDS...including me...we've been through a lot of trauma by struggling to being in a foxhole and "watching our back" all the time because we have we wouldn't get attacked again..too many bad trauma's in your life create PTSD, so in real combat war and also there are many men and women out here in this country "fighting for survival" and we somehow are getting through it...not easy but getting some help...medical help for my brain damage and also help for the PTSD...met so many women around me where I live that have anyway sorry didn't mean to bring you down..just was trying to get you thinking that life could be a bit worse for you...I've learned to appreciate every little blessing that I have..a bed to sleep on...and a very small apartment..I didn't used to have either not too long ago. No one would know by looking at me...funny how that goes in this country..our "assumptions"..

You got a family and a home...that is such a blessing for you and your family

Keep being you and stand up for yourself...and your family.


Commander Zaius said...

Rhia: You wrote: anyway sorry didn't mean to bring you down...

No worries, you are always welcome here.

Joe "Truth 101" Kelly said...

Kids these days make retirement a pipe dream. I'll never get mine off the payroll BB.

Good luck with your companies "retirement advisor." I fired mine, so to speak. When the two of them admitted that they didn't have an IRA and really nothing more than their company's 401k, or B, whatever, I thought I'd be a fool to take advice from these clowns.

I left a broker once ater he recommended I start an IRA instead of buying a stock I'd spent three months researching. He admitted that he had three IRA's aand cashed them all out to buy crap.

I could go on forever.

Distributorcap said...

lost in this whole mess of the meltdown is the fact people between the ages of 40-60 (esp 55-60) have been hit SOO hard, there might not be a 'recovery' -- many will be forced into working longer and harder - which will mean less job turnover and an increase in stress related illnesses

i feel for you - i know how tough this is - i watched my 401k and savings evaporate. and i like a lot others just pretend it never happened.

but of course congress and goldman sachs act as if this was all some sort of bad deal when you landed on park place or boardwalk

Commander Zaius said...

Truth 101: Its totally crazy really, but you are right. I'll be paying for college for the kids next to forever.

DCap: Had a guy at work who was just a few months away from retiring when he lost it all. He freely admits he will never be able to retire now. The kicker is that he is a Teabagger.