Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Your Retirement Account = Empty!

I got a statement in the mail the other day for my "retirement savings". It was a sad and measly $803. These days there is so little left there that the bank is charging me to gamble it away. As I was stuffing the statement into my desk drawer, I pulled out statements from better times. Ah, the good old days. I once had $26,000 in that account. But then came the "dot com boom" followed by ... well ... the Bush administration. This got it down to about $18,500. The rest is - blog history.

Here is a quote from myself from just about 2 years ago.

In an attempt to satisfy the mortgage company I cashed in on my retirement account. There’s very little left. A thousand bucks, or so. With the money we paid off our tax debts with mounting interest, our car which was nearing repossession status, and all of our utility bills which were starting to come to the mailbox in festive orange colors. That ought to do it, I thought. I put it all in front of the mortgage company. In my naivety I guess I thought that they would be willing to help me lower my payments. But the response instead was “that’s great, but you still don’t make enough money”.

I used to wonder how many others there were out there in the same situation. Now I don't have to wonder - because we all know. When the banks started to lose records amount of money, and a couple were writing off record losses I had an interesting conversation with my dad (an accountant and banker since about ... birth). I asked "what the hell causes something like that dad?" and he said "people like you, son". And there you had it. The start of the collapse of the big banks. Or as we look back on these events, the "inevitable".

I used to feel pretty lousy and put a lot of blame on myself. I thought I was smart about things. Despite a lousy credit history I was able to negotiate a decent fixed mortgage rate. I held off "Dominion Homes" on every stupid luxury they tried to sell us (carpet upgrades, designer paints, etc). We built a budget based the mortgage payment that we were promised. But them some interesting things happened. That first mortgage payment was almost twice what they told me it would be. I never got the raise I thought I had coming. I eventually got laid off. I would never make it back to the level of income that I was at eight years ago. These days, I still make less and everything seems to cost twice as much. Well, it doesn't seem that way. It IS that way.

But this year, I am getting the best birthday and Christmas gift of all time. Hope. As Obama prepares to take office, he is out gathering the best talents that he can lay hands on. He is preparing for war on this big, broken, horrible mess.

As we all look ahead I wonder what will become of this broken economy. I wonder about all those people who gave up everything they had saved to start over. At 32. At 50. At 65. I think about all the families who have lost it all, and yet still manage to hold some sort of hope for themselves, and this country.

I know that the economy is not going to "bounce back". We aren't going to wake up tomorrow and find great big stimulus checks in our mailbox. We aren't going to get letters in the mail telling us that we can all come back and live in the homes we gave up. Our lost retirement savings are not going to replenish themselves.

No. We are in for a long and bitter battle. But we have hope. My hope is that I can look back on my Blog many years from now (as I often do) and high five my "past self" for thinking the way I do now.

Why so optimistic?
- We put the RIGHT GUY in the White House. Never mind that he is black (I know what a big deal this is). But, he is the right guy for the job. And WE elected him! Thanks America!
- Obama says thanks but no thanks to lobbyists YOU GO BHO!
- Hard hitter Rahm Emanuel chosen to join White House Chief of Staff White House staff, prepare to GET TO WORK.
- Arnold Schwarzenegger (a Republican!) continues to fight for the rights of gays. Arnie, we're with you.

Why so sad?
I know there are some folks out there who actually think that McCain was the right guy for the job. All I can tell you is: shut up, and watch how this is done.

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