Monday, July 4, 2016

'Most of us are going to come up $250,000 short for retirement.'

Money money money money
Ryan Gray
There are a (thankfully small) handful of folks at the top of our society that truly don’t understand how the rest of us live.
I was listening to “Talk of the Nation” on NPR today, and I got so steamed I finally turned the radio off.

I like NPR; I like Neal Conan’s “Talk of the Nation.” But his subject was ‘Meager savings set up Not-so-golden years.’ He had on two guests: a talking head, Jack Vanderhei from the “Employee Benefit Research Institute,” and Washington Post business writer Michelle Singletary. The show mentioned that nearly a quarter of us have less than $1000 saved for retirement (my peeps), more than half of us have less than $25,000 set aside (definitely my peeps) and, the kicker: ‘Many of us are going to find we are $250,000 or more short of what we need for retirement.’ Many of us? What planet are these people living on?

The callers to the show tried again and again to tell them that the $250,000 figure was worse than a pipe dream. It’s worse than an unrealistic goal. It’s just downright discouraging. None of us mortals has a chance of saving $250,000, let alone whatever ideal figure these head-in-the-clouds effete snobs think we’re going to fall $250,000 short of.
Why do I need $250,000 to retire? If I wanted a yacht, I’d want it now, while I’m still young enough to enjoy it. If I feel like a swim, well, there are swimming pools all over Arizona, most free or cheap to use. I don’t need a McMansion. Most of the older folks in my world are content with a smaller place – less to clean and maintain for starters. And, frankly, those that are not content with a small place are probably not content with… anything.

One of the callers even tried to tell the ‘experts’ that the solution was contentment, not a huge 401K. He said he’s been living just fine on his social security for 20 years, and has even managed to save a bit; something he was never able to do when he was working. He tried to explain how his priorities changed, that he’s found a meaningful life by taking care of stray animals, and he fit that into his budget by giving up his car. He might as well have been speaking Martian for what they got out of his comments.

In our society you MUST go to college… what horrors await you if you don’t are unspeakable. You MUST work a 40-hour-a-week job. You MUST have retirement plan. And, apparently, you MUST have $250,000.

Look, I know a young man, no college, went to air conditioning trade school 4 years ago. It cost him $9,000 and took 10 months. At the end of the 10 months he had contractors bidding on his services. He paid off his student loan in a year, and now makes $35 an hour. 

How many college grads can say that? 

A friend of mine, no college, saved enough money working at the post office that when his coworker was about to lose his Dodge Viper to the bank, my friend had the savings to buy it, fix it, and sell it for a $5000 profit. Another friend of mine in Oregon, no college, passionate about all things mopar (Dodge/Chrysler products) makes a few hundred dollars a week in his spare time buying and selling hemi parts on Ebay. A lady I know in Worcester, Massachusetts, no college, several years ago discovered that the store she was buying her carpet from was going to send a piece of her carpet to Boston to have an edge sewn onto it. She invested $1,000 in a special sewing machine to edge carpeting, and quickly had more business than she could handle. And a friend of mine right nearby in Apache Junction, no college, managed to save enough as a house painter to buy a used bucket truck to help him reach jobs a lot of painters had to turn down. Since then, he’s found lucrative work for that truck fixing business’s signs and changing parking lot light bulbs.

Only one of the above-mentioned folks has anything like a quarter mil in the bank, but none of them is worried about retirement.

Years ago I read a great line: “There are two ways to make ends meet: one is to get a longer string; the other is to have less stuff that you’re trying to wrap the string around.”

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