Thursday, April 10, 2008

In which I foresee the future and rant some

Today was a beautiful day, so beautiful and warm for the first time that it was hard to stay inside at work for so many hours.

Spring fever got the best of me this evening and I skipped the gym (again!) and wandered around the garden instead to encourage the bluebells and bleeding hearts in their progress towards blooming. I checked in with the fish in their temporary home until the pond is cleaned (soon!) and tried to find a frog or two hidden amongst the muck at the bottom. Once it started to get dark, I walked the farm fields in back hoping for woodcock. No luck; it's too late and I missed my chance for the year. I knew it was all wrong when I heard only robins caroling and no white-throated sparrows. Usually, I know to expect the peenting to begin once the white-throats have quieted down for the night. The robins are singing at dusk and the woodcock have moved on.

In short, it was another of those days that left with me nothing much to blog about. Around 9 pm I finally got to open the mail and found my topic for the day: my impending poverty.


My birthday's coming up in a couple months and as you working people know, Social Security sends out an estimated benefits statement each year. Mostly I don't pay much mind to it because the idea of retirement is so far off for me now that it feels like a waste of time to even contemplate it. But I spent some time looking at those numbers tonight and am sort of sorry I did.

The bad news is that if I continue to work two jobs until I'm 62 (another 25 years or so) I'll have earned enough to qualify myself for a whopping $576 in monthly benefits. $576 a month is way below the federal poverty level, you know.

Worse is that if I continue to work two jobs for another 30 years, I'll still qualify for benefits that keep me below the federal poverty level, but which are too high to entitle me to food stamps or any other sort of government assistance.

Worse still is that if I continue to work two jobs for another 33 years (until I'm 70 for christsakes!) I'll barely qualify for enough to keep me out of the poorhouse.

Does anyone else find this terribly depressing?

Can anyone wonder why I try to be so kind to my poor downtrodden clients? I'll be one of them someday!


Granted, I've not made lucrative career choices and don't believe it's up to the government to support me in my old age, but jeez! Where's the motivation to go to work on a sunny spring day?

The truth of the matter is that I can also expect a pension as a public employee, assuming the other taxpayers in my fine state don't whittle that away to nothing by the time I'm old and gray. 'Taxpayers' seem to think that we public employees, your teachers and public health nurses and garbage men, and even us dopey social workers, have too many perks and earn too much and shouldn't also earn a nice pension for our old age. The truth is in those numbers though... I earn so little as a public employee that, were it not for that anticipated pension, I'd be going to work everyday for the rest of eternity only to set myself up to be poor in the future.

I'm thinking of leaving it all behind... running off to join the circus or finding a band that needs a groupie or setting up a lemonade stand on some deserted beach in the Bahamas; anything to avoid the seeming drudgery of working everyday for nothing.

Maybe I should just find a really good financial advisor instead.


Susan Gets Native said...

I will join you in the search for a groupie-less band.

BTW, are gas station attendants in NJ considered government employees?

hee hee

Anonymous said...

Oh, I hear you. I have a very funny 5th grader who asks me whenever some student does something particularly annoying,"Are you sure you get paid enough?" I generally reply, "Nope, B, I'm quite sure I don't get paid enough."

It's the truth but then again I'm not teaching for the money (although it sure does help!). Maybe I do it for the laughs.

Jayne said...

Gone are the days when our Social Security could pretty much help take care of us in our old age. I suppose it's why the financial people bark all the time about 401K's and such. And with the cost of living increasing as it is, who knows what that amount will be monetarily when we reach retirement age. It is rather depressing, isn't it?

MojoMan said...

You have no need to worry about Social Security. There won't be ANY, because we Boomers will have used it all up long before you get a shot at it. Besides, you need to keep working forever. Who else is going to pay for this f-ing war?

Who wants to go to Denmark?

KGMom said...

Laura--your plaintive post inspires me in so many directions. First, you are being "encouraged" by Uncle Sam to NOT retire at 62, hence the penalty of low payout--note how it "jumps" (a small jump, albeit) if you wait a bit. I once did a spread sheet to show which way would garner me the most payout--being on of those underpaid types, myself.
Then, I thought how you started out the evening in the fields and outdoors--much more inspiring than looking at the mail indoors.
And I thought of the New Testament words--"Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin. . ." That whole section deals with worrying about the future. Sorry--starting to sound preachy.
I totally agree with you--and I think our compensation is all out of whack for what people contribute to the greater good. Teachers, public servants, social workers--all of you do far more for the good of humanity than do sports figures, movie stars, corporate CEOs, and the like.

Rabbits' Guy said...

Ok .. a little input from one on "the dark side" where you somewhat fear to go!

First, put all you can into whatever you have like a 401K and get whatever contribution your employer makes. Keep it up and don't dip into it!

Then, try to buy a house/condo that you can afford in a place with a proven value growth where you suspect people will always like to live. Home equity growth is a great thing! Move "up" whenyou can afford it.

Third .. don't read those ss bene. statements very deeply until about age 60!!! Your actual benefit depends so much on your salary history and you have a long way to go there!

Fourth, try to work a job with benfits and some sort of pension, as you do!

Anyway, that is one way to be able to no doubt have a comfortable older age, albeit a rather conservative one.

Or go win the lottery or start a lucrative business or marry a rich, older guy with a bad cough, or sign up for adsense on your blog???

Mary said...

That's why I get out of the office every chance I can get. I'm over being a dedicated, over-time lovin' employee.

I hate that piece of paper, too, Laura.

John said...

I worry about the condition of the state's pension fund because I know people who will depend on it in the near future. It really is a shame that NJ's finances got so messed up in the 90's. A lot of people will be hurt by that. I think that people of our generation will need to make what provision we can for ourselves.

Larry said...

Don't worry-There's still time for George Bush to find a solution for you.-I won't even bother looking at my statement-I haven't made "lucrative" career choices either.

LauraHinNJ said...

OK Susan, I've about had enough of that joke.

A groupie-less band.. we'll have to think on that I imagine.

Liza: Yes... the laughter is a fun part of the *pay*. BTW, that 5th grader of yours sounds adorable.

Jayne: Depressing, yes. I try to take full advantage of whatever savings/retirement stuff is available in addition to my pension plan, but worry anyway that I'll be living in a cardboard box someday.

Mojoman: Thanks for that.. for the frustrated laugh and for saying a part of what I was thinking. I can think of lots better ways to spend billions of dollars, can't you?

KGMom: Can I ask you to be preachy once in a while?

Maybe I'll learn a thing or two?

My dad always said there's nothing new under the sun and in fact, I think he told the story of my grandparents doing a lot of complaining when SS deductions were first being taken from people's paychecks. Funny that we've come to depend on them, at least somewhat, in the span of a couple decades.

Rabbit's Guy: I'm doing most of those things... still there's worry.

Mary: Right.. what's the point of work when there's so much other fun stuff to do.


John: Right. I should probably start playing the lottery.

Larry: I try to remind myself of the reasons for my non-lucrative career choices. There's more than money - and I believe that, mostly.


ReluctantChickenFarmer said...

Well I think that working until 75 is way over rated. No friggin way.

Anyway, you can count on the current crop of politicians to fix the problem. They are all real in touch with the "middle class", seeing that each of them made well over $1 million last year. I would love to get to ask the simple question of each of the current a-holes, "When was the last time you pushed a cart in the grocery store ? " or "How much does a gallon of milk cost?". I bet none of them could answer either question. In touch with the middle class my ass.
Anyway. enjoy your retirement. I am planning on selling eggs and apples. Maybe we could sell apples, eggs and lemondade on the same corner. Cool. See you in 30 years. Friggin idiots. (Sorry, you caught me on a bad politician morning.......)

LauraHinNJ said...

Kev: Maybe you'll be glad to know that your little sister is slaving away for a couple years after you've moved on to selling eggs. Someone will have to take care of you old folks, right?