Gratitude * Sunday
Sunday’s heartfelt tradition.
A time to slow down, to reflect, to be grateful.
A list of gratitudes, our gratefulness feeds one another.
Quoted from Taryn Wilson
Joining the Gratitude Sunday Tradition at Wooly Moss Roots.
Squirrel rage against
who knows what. The cold? A dog?
Rage on, loud tree rat.
Today is the first day I qualify to collect Social Security Retirement Benefits. Don’t think for a minute I can afford to retire, but I would have loved to have done so when I was 55. At 55 I still had a modicum of health left. Sad to report in this particular human body I get to carry on this life in pain of one sort or another. Pain is distressing but I’m not sure that’s necessarily bad; at least if you are feeling pain, you know you are still alive.
Retirement is a relatively new cultural convention. In the past people worked until they couldn’t. Money was not the almighty and people cared for each other or let their folks die in almshouses. We don’t have those anymore, you know, places where poor people can go and be taken care of and die in poverty and peace with a tiny bit of dignity. Now we have expensive senior warehouses instead of caring for our elders in our homes where they can live out what they have in greater dignity with people they love. Let’s pretend we have an ideal world – I know there are mean people, dysfunctional families, greed, jealousy, and abuse. I’m not blind or deaf or naïve (mostly), but let’s expect the best behavior rather than the worst.
The idea of financial security in our older years came about in the 1930s during Franklin D. Roosevelt’s presidency after the Great Depression left more than 50% of our elders living in poverty. It’s a great idea to help support the least able of us, elders or not, relatives or not. Some people think it’s not such a great idea, though I suspect those people have their own and have no concept of what it is like to not have anything to begin with (maybe not even a wit), to have lost everything you worked for all your life, or having to rebuild in a compromised economy especially if you lack education or skills. We do not have an equal playing field; we do not all enjoy the same or similar advantages, like education, fresh food, health care. And to top that off we make artificial competitions between arbitrary differences like color of skin or systems of belief or gender or appearance or age. As a society we are only as good as the least of us.
I am one of those freaks who has to know as much as I can before I make a decision about what to do. So I’ve been studying “retirement”: what I’m going to need, what to look forward to, how to do it financially, how to do the financial part to my advantage. It’s mostly about “if I can’t work how do I afford to live in the manner to which I am accustomed”. I’m not terribly fond of money in the first place so it’s proving to be a difficult course for me. By no means am I a financial expert. But I have learned a few things. And of course cranky old me is happy to share.
First, take care of yourself. Yes. I mean it. From the very first job you have at whatever age, begin putting small amounts into a retirement fund of your own. It can be a traditional or non-traditional IRA, or your own private account, but do not touch the money until you are 59 and 1/2. You can increase the amount you save with every raise or job change. If you have it done through automatic deposit you won’t even feel it, until you see the monthly statement and see how it grows. Yes, banks can fail, any financial institution can fail, but if it comes to that our world is seriously screwed. Do not, and I repeat, do not rely on the pension you are promised through any place of work, or Social Security, as they may fail as well, though we can remain ever hopeful those systems remain in place. If your place of business offers you a retirement fund with matching contribute the maximum amount. That’s like free money, and you get to earn the interest.
Second, if you have a pension coming from your place of work, know what you qualify for. The Human Resources department should be able to tell you when you qualify to collect it, how much you qualify for, and how to request your pension disbursements. Many places of business give you a yearly statement of what you qualify for this year and a projection if the amount changes per year.
Third, before you begin collecting your Social Security benefits, know what you are entitled to. It might be to your advantage to delay receiving benefits if you can get a significantly increased amount. Or not, depending on how your health is holding out. Social Security employees can only tell you the facts, they cannot help you decide when is the best time for you and your individual circumstances to apply to receive your benefits.
So those three basics with this caveat. You may be entitled to retire beginning at 62, but remember you don’t qualify for Medicare until you are 65, so you might have three years in which you have to provide your own health insurance. Also Medicare doesn’t pay for everything so you may still have out of pocket medical expenses.
My take on the whole rigamarole? I would love to change things up a bit. Here I go wishing again, but it’s my day so I will. I’d love to see the retirement age reduced beginning at 55 instead of 62 even though modern medicine is causing us to live longer. Many of us will choose to continue working as long as we can. I’d like to see the benefit amount increased because after working for 40 or 50 years of my adult life between my employers and me, I think our contributions should have a larger affect on our elder’s lives. And if we can’t have national health for all citizens, at the very least Medicare should cover everything and without bankrupting a person’s estate.
I’m guessing if I gave the subject more thought I could even come up with ways to help make all this happen. To start with, the distribution of how my tax dollars are used is not how I would choose. It’s a matter of changing where we spend the money and how we responsibly make the money grow. I don’t think that’s quite how it happens now. I don’t get to make the rules, but since it is my day I’ll have my say.
And now I say let’s celebrate all those journeys around the sun with Paul McCartney. Because it shouldn’t be just about the money.
Color Watch – blooming attractions in my neighborhoods this week – Mister Kitty aka George Murphy, who kept butting into the clover picture; a pale pink and green clover against my brown fence; the grape vine I thought I killed last spring, no grapes this year, but beautiful bright green and yellow cascades of leaves; easier to see now they are turning shades of yellow, some of the grape leaves are quite large.
Current View – Young Ones (2014, R) a future with no water, and murder and mayhem still prevail. Disney’s Tomorrowland (2015, PG) also set in the future starring George Clooney and Hugh Laurie. George Clooney, ’nuff said. Season 2 of NBC’s The Blacklist with James Spader. Intense, riveting, violent, not my life.
Currently Reading – Black-Eyed Susans (2015, fiction) by Julia Heaberlin; Health at Every Size: The Surprising Truth About Your Weight (2010, health) by Linda Bacon; Shakespeare’s Wife (2009, history) by Germaine Greer. Yes, concurrently.
This week I have been grateful for:
- My sister, my one and only forever.
- Finding time for lunch out with my sister. Good food, good to talk, sharing memories and opinions.
- The hubster, who over the years has developed an aversion to restaurants, who agreed to go out to breakfast with me this morning.
- The fine and interesting gifts I have received (I celebrate all month so I count everything in October as part of that Celebration): lovely good wishes, an Asian style back scrubber (you wet it, soap it, grasp it like a towel at either end, sling it around to your back and pull it back and forth, mmm, good scrub, rinse and hang); my own copy of “Mr Blandings Builds His Dream House” (1948; Cary Grant, because, well, Cary Grant, an all time favorite movie on my top 10 list); a flowy silky caftan, a new blouse for work; some cash; a sister charm; kisses; lunch out; a new October table topper.
- Sweet cool refreshing rain today.
- Electricity and indoor lights on gray days.
- How much brighter a gray day looks when you go outside into it rather than viewing it from indoors.
- Rain on my skin.
- Buttery Comice pears. The changing of fruits through the seasons.
- My indoor aquatic center, enjoyment no matter the weather or time of day.
Hoping you have a lovely week.
Namaste. Peace. Blessings.
Floral ribbon border by Laurel Burch