Retirement? Hell No

Sunday, March 26, 2006
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Brad, over at Wendy McElroy’s pad, pens some thoughts on retirement. I never cease to discuss this topic with folks. Retirement. People in their 30s and 40s, who put $50 a week in their 401k accounts, actually believe that this will get them to retirement at 65, or worse, they think 60. They listen to the financial planners and buy into the crap about the “constant growth” of their brokerage accounts, and they believe that money, once deposited, grows magically and perpetually. Brad says: “Whether 30 or 35 years, my point remains the same: I, and most people I know, will never retire.”

Brad is right. And those that are 45 and have so little socked away are even worse off. Of course, the dumbshit financial planners–who are salesmen and nothing more–run off their little magic formulas based on consistent growth, but they never take into account instances like 1% interest rates or dotcom busts–a time where nearly 100% of all mainstream/standard portfolios lost ground. At the time of NASDAQ’s bust, I was still working in public accounting, and all day each day I looked at portfolios that were down 2 years running. Some were only 15%, others were 40%. But no one–outside of the shorts and contrarians–was up. Stick that into your financial planning tables dear Financial Planners. Most people, if they can save enough to “retire,” do not because they are too much in debt and live over their heads. Then there are the many that absolutely cannot save enough for retirement because of myriad factors that are more difficult to control: having kids, being a stay-at-home Mom, financial disasters, marriage break-up, lower income, etc.

Of course the whole notion of “retirement”–doing nothing and living off the hard work of others–is ludicrous. People perfecly healthy and able retire in their 50s and 60s on the promise made by some corporation or government that those who come behind them will provide them with a great lifestyle of leisure.

The State created this awful thing known as retirement–post-Great Depression–in order to make room for a young, bulging work force. Without Social Security, there would have been no safety net to provide the life-of-leisure mentality. The corporations–always a step behind Big Brother–then fell into the unsustainable trap by promising to provide for the needs of their workers into perpetuity. So as the percentage of retirees grow and unsustainability comes toward a head-on crash (see the auto industry), corporations–even the biggest of them–are no longer able to provide lucrative, post-retirement, welfare rolls. Hence the 401k and independent saving. But the average person still believes that three kids, three college degrees, a constant supply of two new cars, credit card vacations, and a bigger house every five years will allow for a “savings” account to take them from age 60 to age 85. Perhaps this mode of thinking is a result of the poor math skills passed on by the government school system.

It’s time to retire the concept of retiring. It’s just one more welfare system that we have to worry about supporting. If you are in your 30s or 40s, shut up about retirement unless you make a whole lot of money. Do the math and get real. Learn to play golf on days off and travel on your vacation time, like the rest of us do.

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