Retirement: A Horror Story

Wow. Two months can sure fly by fast. Sorry for taking so long to post again! I’m heading into the final weeks of my undergraduate education, so the future’s bright even if life has been all too crazy these past couple of months.

Now, on to the post:

Image from http://georgedelapaz.blogspot.com

Frankly, I’m a little frightened for our future.

Okay, so that’s a bit sensationalist. Let me explain: recently I happened to be reading a Yahoo news article (not a great source of news by any stretch of the imagination, but at least you can filter out the majority of the bullcrap) when I noticed a poll at the bottom of the article. The poll’s question was, “Are Social Security and Medicare crucial to your retirement security?” At that point in time, approximately 601,000 people had responded…and 78% of them said that yes, they’re crucial.

That’s kind of frightening, and if it doesn’t frighten you maybe it should. Social Security benefits are paid out of the Social Security Trust Fund, operated by the Social Security Administration. That, supposedly, has about $2.7 trillion in it, held in trust for the benefit of America’s seniors and disabled. Unfortunately, if the Social Security Trust Fund were a warehouse, it’d be pretty much empty aside from a sticky-note from the federal government labeled, “IOU” laying around somewhere on the floor.

The government can just pay it back when that becomes necessary, right? Sure- that is definitely a possibility. Unfortunately, the government is wallowing in $16+ trillion total debt (including this debt), is near its debt ceiling, hasn’t had a real budget since 2009, and has proven incapable of finding a solution to this problem for several years. So it might not be all that likely as possibilities go.

I could make a whole series of posts about why our current entitlements structure is unsustainable, but here I want to look at the other side of the coin: personal effort, planning, and saving. If you want to retire with dignity, it’s on you to make sure that happens. No one else cares about your retirement like you do. Not your company. Not your government. Not even your kids. America is known for having one of the most individualistic societies of the modern world. With that individualism comes a requirement to be self-reliant, because you cannot live your life the way you want to and still fit in a nice, neat little government-proscribed box.

From the above it’s pretty clear that the government’s not really in much position to help, aside from keeping you over the poverty line by a razor-thin margin…maybe. Personally, that’s not the picture I want to see of my future retirement. It’s time we started stepping up as individuals to look ahead, choose where we want the future to take us, and start pushing ahead in that direction. That’s life, really: the pursuit of goals and dreams of all shapes and sizes. It’s warm and uplifting, and even though storms still come it will always be better than the cold comfort of subsistence on government handouts.

Thanks for reading,

-Taylor

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About Taylor Kothe

I'm a husband, accountant, and sometime blogger from Tulsa, Oklahoma. My passion is for personal finance, especially as it relates to teaching everyday people how to handle their everyday incomes and expenses. If you've ever found yourself lost in a rising tide of strange financial terms and incomprehensible policies, you're far from alone. So let's put our heads together and see if we can de-mystify some of the financial challenges that we all face.

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