I was at work the other day, using one of the public terminals, the ones that are actually connected to the internet. Most of my time at work is spent using computers that are on closed networks, but that is another story. I was doing my regular housekeeping chores of checking my email and updating my timecard, when I decided to check on my savings accounts. The first account that I decided to survey was my vacation time balance, it was looking a little peaked. It still hasn’t really recovered from summer vacation yet. I prescribe more work and less fun that ought to improve the health of that account.
I moved on to my 401k account. A couple of years ago, I had become afraid to even look at this account’s balance. The economy was in turmoil and the markets were in freefall. Regularly checking on this account then was like watching a dear friend waste away. Each return visit only confirmed ones worst fears. Eventually, it took an act of fortitude to simply summon up the strength for another visit; such was my dread in the fall of 2008.
But that was then and this is now. Two years later and after regular transfusions, I mean contributions; the old 401k is looking as healthy as ever. So it was with some measure of expectation and no longer trepidation that I visited this account again. I was pleased with the balances, they had fattened a little more, but what caught my eye was a new widget that had been added to the website, a retirement income calculator with a slider bar to adjust my age of retirement.
When the widget first came up, the slider bar was set at 65, the normal age of retirement. Above the slider bar was a bar chart that stacked Social Security, my pension and my 401k. Above the bar chart was a pleasing number. As I slid the slider bar all the way to the right, to 75, the already pleasing number doubled in size. That was nice to see, but 75 years of age is too far away. Come to think of it, 65 years is too far away also. So, I started to slide the slider bar to the left. I passed 65 and kept on sliding it closer to the present. The slider stopped at next year. The number was not so pleasing though. At this point, I turned to the guy sitting at the public terminal next to mine and asked him if it was a sign of a bad day that I was checking to see if I could retire next year? He laughed and said, “That’s not a bad day, that’s every day for me.”
The French have been rioting over a planned increase in their nation’s retirement age. The British also face similar austerity measures, but at least so far, they are only grumbling. Americans seemingly have not given this subject much thought, but after next week’s election austerity ought to be front and center. I am planning on Social Security being part of my retirement income. I’ve worked for over thirty years, so I am fully vested in the plan and I expect to collect. Woe be to the politician of whatever political stripe that attempts to mess with my retirement income. I have a good memory and I vote.