Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Somewhat Retiring...

I got off on quite the link-chasing tangent this morning after reading this lil piece of economic news at CNN… “Household incomes rise but ... Census Bureau reports slight rise in 2006 incomes but as a group, households aren't doing as well as before the 2001 recession. Ah, there always seems to be a Big But(t) in the picture when it comes to economic news. Or at least the picture Our Media like to paint, anyway.

The rise in household income and decline in poverty are positive developments, and they were expected given low unemployment last year. But U.S. households have yet to return to the higher income and lower poverty levels they reached during the last recession.

"In 2006, the poverty rate remained higher, and median income for non-elderly households remained $1,300 lower, than in 2001, when the last recession hit bottom," said Robert Greenstein, executive director of the liberal Center on Budget and Policy Priorities in a statement. "It is virtually unprecedented for poverty to be higher and the income of working-age households lower in the fifth year of a recovery than in the last year of the previous recession."

Didja notice anything unusual in the last paragraph? Correct me if I’m wrong, but I DO believe it’s quite rare for a news organization to identify a source as “liberal,” as in “…director of the liberal Center on Budget and Policy Priorities…” Media use the adjective “conservative” all the damned time when describing the political orientation of various and sundry pundits…too often, in my mind… but good on CNN for using, at least once, an appropriate modifier for the economic wet-blanket crowd. Refreshing, that.

But, the point above is neither here nor there. What occupied most of my time this morning were a series of articles about retirement linked in the article referenced above and in subsequent pieces I read. There was this one, for starters: Retirement at risk: Who's falling short.” And that article led to this one: Shrinking Social Security; A new report says Social Security will replace less of your income than it did before, thanks to taxes, Medicare and the reality of hitting your 60's. And there were links within those links that cried out to be followed…and follow I did. What emerged was a rather depressing set of statistics and factoids about the doom facing my cohort and those that follow close on our heels: We’re not prepared, most of us, for retirement and what’s worse is few people are doing much of anything to rectify the situation. A lot of folks can’t save or contribute as much as they need to that ol’ 401(k) because…well, there’s just too much stuff we need right now… an iPhone, a new car (followed by another new car, next year), a bigger house, perhaps a little vacation place on the lake, a boat for the vacation house, college for the kids (if even that…), a cruise or two, a new wardrobe (“everything I own is ‘out!’”), yadda, yadda, yadda. And then all of a sudden you’re 65 and find yourself still working, with few, if any, alternatives.

I had a conversation with a friend the other night who’s in that boat I just described: 65 and still working. And a self-admission that although retirement beckons (“I’m getting tired”), the debt load is such that retirement is absolutely, positively out of the question…both now and for the foreseeable future. And savings? Non-existent. But the cash flow is good, the bills get paid, and the acquisition merry-go-round is still whirling. I fear for my friend. And others, too. Time is short.

Two years on and it ain’t just the rebuilding:

President Bush is visiting New Orleans to mark the second anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, as are Democratic presidential candidates Barack Obama, John Edwards and Hillary Clinton, and Republican candidates Mike Huckabee and Duncan Hunter. The White House will probably release a fact sheet detailing how many billions of dollars the government has spent on Gulf Coast recovery. The Democrats, no doubt, will call for more money and action. Here's hoping at least one political visitor will be brave enough to say the truth: that while many New Orleans residents are courageously taking the initiative to rebuild their homes, they cannot build an effective police and prosecutorial force on their own.

I’m afraid I just don’t have the intestinal fortitude required to live in N’Awlins these days. Not after reading this piece, anyway. Let’s hope things are going better on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, and from all indications I’ve seen/heard, they are. Rebuilding is slow work under the best of circumstances, but it’s damned near impossible in a lawless environment. Pretty sad.

Our weather has changed here on The High Plains, thanks to a cold front that moved in overnight. The forecast is for widely scattered t-storms all day and tomorrow, too. It’s lightly raining as I tap this out, and that’s a good thing. Rain is usually good in this part of the world, unlike other places where just one more drop might cause a psychopathic response in the mass population. This cold front is bringing a ten-degree reduction in temps along with rain. Both are welcome…especially the cooler temperatures.

Today’s Pic: Another in the “SN3 Plays in the Puddles” series of pics from July, 1998. There’s another reason I’m posting this particular pic— it’s one of only three pictures (another, and not a particularly good pic here) of my beloved and much-missed ‘96 Impala SS. And this pic ain’t all that good either, come to think on it. Nice shot of the front wheel and turn signal, in addition to illustrating the quality of the wax job. That car really glistened when it was clean and washed up nice.

I don’t know exactly why I never took decent pictures of this car. Perhaps it just never occurred to me to actually…you know…DO it.



  1. July was real bad in san antonio
    But on the plus side I haven' had to water the yarg all YEAR! unheard of really.

    I have been in Houston for the last 10 days doing the KBR thing and we have been getting rained on in the pm for the last 3 days here.

  2. Yesterday while walking in Kensington Area, I saw an old green Rambler like my mom had when I was a kid. You bet I took pictures of it. I loved that boxy old car. I remember being so impressed that the front seat would lay all the way back.

  3. I was talking to one of my co-workers recently about my 401(k). "I can't afford to put money into one of those," she said. "I can't afford NOT to," I replied. I wonder how she will support herself when she retires.

  4. It is difficult to explain to the younger generation about starting early. I have some HR functions at the job I'm at now and we have a 401k with the company matching 3%, and they still don't do it. I practically scream at them "IT'S FREE MONEY"...
    I think we have the same front you do Buck, we were in the 90's now we are in the 80's with afternoon showers... Much needed relief.


  5. The years really sneek up on you...I'm so glad that I started my 401K when I was 21 (1989). It seemed so silly at the time, retirement was not even imaginable then. Retirement savings always come before college savings. You can borrow for college, not retirement.
    Shelly, I agree with the "free money" how can you turn that down?

  6. Lou sez: I remember being so impressed that the front seat would lay all the way back.

    There were more than a few fathers of teen-aged girls back in the Rambler's day that were less than impressed with THAT particular feature. Most of said father's had a standing rule about 'em, too: "You're not taking MY daughter out in that car!!"

    Re: 401(k)s... This may sound strange, but I didn't participate in my last company's 401(k) program. First of all: no matching contributions, which are getting fairly rare, in any amount, these days. Second: I received a fairly substantial "signing bonus" when I joined that company, which its entirety...into my existing 401(k). That "contribution" more than made up for the the lack of regularly-scheduled deposits in the 401(k) for the next two-plus years.

    One of the reasons I get concerned about a lack of planning for retirement on the part of my peers is the fact I got started rather late in life in preparing for retirement...I was well past my 40th birthday before I got "serious." Things just happened to work out fairly well, despite the fact that my portfolio took a HORRENDOUS hit during the dot-bomb crash of a 40% "hit." That hurt. But it didn't kill.

  7. My company doesn't match my 401(k) contributions, but I figure it's still better than nothing. I got started in my early 30s, but the woman I spoke of is 45. I hope she knows what she is doing.


Just be polite... that's all I ask.