Retirement – May You Survive It
I had no plans to retire when I did. I loved my job as an estimating engineer for an asphalt company. It was made to conform to my requirements of that time. If it was too hot out, I went to the library and “worked” from there… I loved taking a set of blueprints and figuring
the costs of the project from a weed and brush covered patch to a completed structure. My boss had a very comfortable motor home that he made available to me as my construction office. And from there I could supervise the entire operation with the only portion being, perhaps the construction of the building going up there… I did the soils engineering, the concrete work, the curbs and gutters, and even the striping of the lot. It was a wonderful position for me and I had not idea of ever leaving it.
Unfortunately, God and my body knew better… a routine visit to my doctor ended in conversation… “Thom, you need to stop working. Your body is not working right and we need to find out why. I know your heart is in atrial fibrillation and you are not getting enough oxygen. What else is wrong I need to know now.”
“But Doctor,” I replied, “I simply don’t want to stop working… I love what I am doing and it is not at all stressful on me…”
“You’re not hearing me,” he replied. “If you do not stop now and get the tests done that you need, we will most likely be burying you in another month or two at most…”
I left my job… I was not prepared to do so.. I had no retirement packages as I’d spent almost all my life as self-employed. There was always “time enough for that later…” Well… as I looked at my future, and a bleak one it was, “later” had arrived and I was woefully unprepared… The result was, I receive Social Security Disability. That is what I live on… that is all the dollars I receive. It is not much. I do qualify, due to my extremely low income (I’d have to get a substantial raise to even qualify at the poverty level…) I receive some help in food and I live in a rent subsidized apartment building which houses others in my general situation… I am most grateful for this as without it, I would have no idea how I would survive.
There has been a major change in life style from the time of my parents to the time of my children. In my parent’s day, when their parents aged, they became part of the children’s family. If they didn’t live in the same house, at least they lived close by and the children saw to the parents and tended their needs. That is not so in my children’s day… Chances are, at the very least, the children live hundreds to thousands of miles away from the parents. In most cases the children are struggling on their own to make ends meet and there is no way an aged parent could be assimilated. It is sad… I learned so much form my grandfather that I could never have learned from my father and today’s generations have lost that.
Ten days ago I received notice from the Social Security Administration that I was in line for an increase in my allowance… of $12!!! Four days ago, I completed my re certification for my rent subsidy… and my rent increased by $10… I have not received, as of yet, the change downward in my food assistance nor have I received notice of the increase in cost for my Medicare. When both of these come in, I will realize a net DECREASE in total income of some five to ten dollars per month. This is the eighth year in a row that this has occurred. Each time I receive an increase in my Social Security Benefit, my real income decreases!!! I wrote to my Congressman four years ago to ask that we please do not get any more raises as I cannot afford them. I never heard back…
Today, I went to buy a few groceries.. just milk, bananas and some other fruit and nothing else and it totaled over $30… I then had the oil in my car changed and a tail light replaced… they told me I needed to replace my windshield wipers, something I well knew, so I said to go ahead… then they hit me with the bill… over $85!! Had these people not seen that my income went DOWN, not up? A 1.6% raise in the cost of living? Where are these people looking? Certainly not at anything I have to buy.
Mind you please, I am not complaining about my lot in life. I am reconciled to it and I must admit, I have been having a ball with it. Recently, as my friend Arla and I were sailing through Mississippi and Alabama enroute to a gathering in Western Georgia, we were laughing at the concept of two senior citizens driving through the night to gather with a bunch of fellow enthusiasts… the fact that we two were, without doubt those who received the least income of any we knew, we marveled that WE were going to be there… and at many other such events… while so many said they could not “afford” to be there…
No… it was not a matter of “affording” to be there, it was a matter that it was not a high enough priority to be there. If it were, there would have been a way found to make the trip!
Now, all chiding and cajoling aside… I’m going to ask you to do something I did not do… That NO ONE has to experience this circumstance is my fervent prayer… to avoid this situation, you have only to do ONE SMALL THING…
PUT 10% OF YOUR INCOME INTO A RETIREMENT FUND AND LEAVE IT ALONE…
I know.. I can hear you saying… “But I can’t afford that… I barely make it through the month now.” Let me tell you a secret… are you listening? Closely now… NOTHING WILL CHANGE! You will not miss that money. If you take it out before you start spending and pretend it was never there, you will not miss it!! You will budget around it like you never had it and soon, you will wonder why you ever worried. If you do that little, you will have a HUGE chunk to retire on and you will not have to worry about Congress and how much their raise in your benefits is going to cost you!
If I, at age 35, had done only that, when that Doctor told me I had to retire I would have had over $4 million in that account!!! If you are that age or younger, you would EXCEED that figure at your retirement date. It makes no difference what age you are, it will mean you will not be required to live on Social Security alone.. and that is a God-send.
Need help finding a way to fund that 10%? Do you smoke? QUIT… do you use credit cards? QUIT! Benjamin Franklin said, in 1753, “When it comes to compound interest, there are two types of people, those who understand it and those who pay it!!! Don’t pay it… do without til you can pay cash… if I had payments today, I could not afford to attend a gathering in Oklahoma either. If I paid out the exorbitant cost of tobacco products today, I could not afford to attend the Elk Meadows Ronnyvoo either… Let me confide something in you… that NEW car you need? One that is two years old and has 30,000 miles on it will do you just as well and at a HUGELY decreased price. And, when you go to buy that car, remember this, the price marked on the window includes a $4,000 mark up… negotiate that away. Typically, dealers will accept a $500 profit on a car deal… sometimes less. Don’t buy payment, buy PRICE… and pay cash!
That you can do this is my prayer so that NO ONE ever has to live with this fear in their life. NEVER!