Yesterday I spent some time researching some laws that have an impact on my retirement income – if I ever get to retire. Retirement is probably a fantasy for a lot of us now. My young friend Jessica told me that a lot of her young friends making a good deal of money can’t even make ends meet. Student loans are unbelievably deadly now and approach the price of a home in some cases. I’m afraid her generation may never know the feeling of being debt-free. The laws that are impacting my sanity right now are Social Security laws called the GPO and WEP. They impact public service workers because they offset Social Security benefits. Since I spent a lifetime contributing to Social Security, if I take the pension that I have here, I stand to lose a large portion of my SS benefit. It’s the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard, and it’s particularly devastating to some spouses of civil service workers who won’t get spousal support because of their situation and people who decided to give back and become teachers or public servants after a long career. And, of course, it mostly impacts those of us in the middle class or lower incomes. I’m lucky. I can make a decision now on what to do about continuing in state employment. Most people don’t find out about it until they try to collect their benefits and walk away with no SS benefits at all.
I was not informed of this impact on my retirement until I signed paperwork on the first day of my job. I had already moved and quit a job. I didn’t have a lot of choice. I’m 53 years old. Now is not the time to start playing with my retirement resources. I’ve been angry and afraid about it on and off. The problem is that it’s a formula, so I don’t know the potential impact. But, if I stay here five years and collect a pension, it will affect me. If I don’t stay here and withdraw my money, my contributions are not being invested for me. The latter seems like the lesser evil, but I have to sit down with a Social Security expert to figure it out. On and off, I try to not think about this because I’ve taken a course of action to move here for this job that is not easy to unravel, but I don’t think it’s wise to bury my head in the sand. I have information, and I have time to make decisions based on it.
If I retire, I probably won’t do it for another 10-12 years. I’m lucky. I have time. There is a bill in the House and Senate right now to repeal this legislation. The weird thing is that it doesn’t impact the entire country. I just happened to choose a state for public service where this is in effect. I could do similar work in many other states and not be impacted at all. So, if you are ever considering changing careers to get back into public service after working in the private sector – or if your spouse does – please be aware. You can get more information on this at this website.
I have several friends who are in financial uncertainty right now. One friend is even considering moving to a foreign country to take a job because it’s so much easier than getting back into the workforce here and the working environment is so much better in her field. What is wrong with this country? Why has money become so hard to come by, and why has the middle class unable to make ends meet? Why have work environments deteriorated into hell-holes? I talked with one of my friends last week who could not even get out of bed for a week because she’s faced with looking for another job. “I just cannot go back to a corporate job,” she said, “and make those awful business relationships.” I’ve come to the same point myself. I know everybody has somebody or something to blame, but I think the problems are very complicated. How have we come to accept working in hell as acceptable? Why, in a civilized society, do we accept horrible working conditions and raping our retired of their incomes just? And don’t even get me started on the pathetic health care system that’s stealing money and sanity from everybody? I’m just ranting. I don’t know the answers. I just know that I’m going to research what foreign countries might be great to live in, too. What the hell? Maybe there’s something saner than this.
So, I let some big things go the other night. I gave my financial future over to God. I let Him have it. I’m sick of it, and I can’t figure it out. I’m going to take steps to do what I need to do, but I can’t keep worrying about it all the time. It is what it is. A friend of mine who is in a financial conundrum said she realized that she’s been making Uncle Sam her Higher Power by focusing all of her decisions on getting some Social Security benefits. That really resonated with me. I’ve been making money and retirement income specifically my Higher Power. I’m not trying to get rich. I’m just trying to get by. But it has been stealing my serenity. So, I’m giving it back to Him to handle. It’s always been His anyway. I just twist myself in knots thinking I can figure out the puzzle.
I have a friend whose aging mother gets very little to live on every month. She’s in her 70s. My friend said her mother is obsessed with finding a man with health benefits. At least I’m not doing that – yet. I’m just obsessed with having a job with health benefits. Is that really what God sent me here on this planet to do? To survive? I’m disappointing Him and myself by not living my life according to my gifts and passions and focusing on where that elusive retirement money is ever going to come from. My brother Terry is my financial planner, and when I mentioned that my money is not being invested, he said, “Well, if the market crashes, you might be glad!” Wow, I hadn’t thought of that. When all is said and done, all I might have is this uninvested money that’s being held by the State of Louisiana. If I’m lucky, they’ll repeal that law and this will be a moot point anyway. The fact is I’ll probably be working until I die, so I’d better have a job I like doing and that makes a difference. Maybe I’ll be surprised and get rich. Or maybe I’ll marry a man – or woman – with health benefits. Or maybe I’ll move to Italy and drink dark coffee and cook lasagne on my farm in Tuscany. Options abound.