Retirement Blues

So by now, most of the news hounds here have already heard this, but my heart just dropped when I read this from the AP.

“WASHINGTON – Just months before the start of last year’s stock market collapse, the federal agency that insures the retirement funds of 44 million Americans departed from its conservative investment strategy and decided to put much of its $64 billion insurance fund into stocks.

Switching from a heavy reliance on bonds, the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation decided to pour billions of dollars into speculative investments such as stocks in emerging foreign markets, real estate, and private equity funds.

The agency refused to say how much of the new investment strategy has been implemented or how the fund has fared during the downturn. The agency would only say that its fund was down 6.5 percent – and all of its stock-related investments were down 23 percent – as of last Sept. 30, the end of its fiscal year. But that was before most of the recent stock market decline and just before the investment switch was scheduled to begin in earnest.

No statistics on the fund’s subsequent performance were released.”

WTF?

As if it wasnt bad enough that upper end baby boomers are losing lots of equity in our homes and other real estate investments, our 401(k)’s have sunk low enough to walk under a closed door with a top hat on, and the future of Social Security is still a big question mark… the folks who have guaranteed pensions are facing this?

Oy.

I think this is a perfect example of what six asked today when he queried “who’s watching the watchers?”  Where was the congressional oversight on this subject? Where were the regulations governing how this money could be invested?  Unfettered free market capitalism strikes again.

Someone who’s as paranoid as I might wonder if this is a continuance of the jihad on unions and the working class. Or if it’s another case of incompetence? Investments Gone Wild? Peer pressure to perform amazing financial feats without a net?

I’m betting the latter.  People who make investments for a living are incredibly competitive. It’s part of what makes them good at what they do. And I’m sure there was pressure during the greed boom about “why arent OUR investments getting that rate of return?”  They couldnt stand it and jumped in, only to find the water over their heads.

It doesnt look good for those of us facing retirement in ten years or less.  If I were a betting person, I’d be putting my money in cat food stock. Because without real estate equity, 401(k)s, guaranteed pensions, and Social Security, there’s going to be a bunch of us gray hairs fighting the cats for their cheap tuna.

What the hell should we be doing to plan for retirement? Brushing up our resume’s?

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23 Comments

Filed under Populists, The Economy

23 responses to “Retirement Blues

  1. iggydonnelly

    I am trying not to be cynical here, but it seems to me the whole idea of retirement should be retired. I will be working until I am dead. I hope those left behind can get along without me – which means I have some work to do to prepare those who might be affected with that reality.

    As the Bob Dylan has said:
    http://www.stlyrics.com/lyrics/wonderboys/thingshavechanged.htm
    “Things have changed.”

  2. prairiepond

    Yeah Iggy. My body wont hold out for farming forever, but if arthritis doesnt get my fingers and dementia doesnt get my brain, I should be able to write until I die. Then they better cremate my laptop along with me so no one reads everything on it!

  3. prairiepond

    Heheheh. My body might not hold out for farming past next week….

  4. prairiepond

    …and in another instance of “who’s watching the watchers?”….

    From the AP

    FDA says to avoid pistachios amid salmonella scare

    By GARANCE BURKE, Associated Press Writer

    FRESNO, Calif. – Federal food safety officials warned Monday that consumers should stop eating all foods containing pistachios while they figure out the source of a possible salmonella contamination.

    Still reeling from the national salmonella outbreak in peanuts, the Food and Drug Administration said central California-based Setton Farms, the nation’s second-largest pistachio processor, was voluntarily recalling all of its 2008 crop — more than 1 million pounds of nuts.”

    Maybe the Slap Chopper guy should say “stay away from my nuts”!

  5. prairiepond

    Geez (Insert v-8 head slap here) I know why my business isnt growing! I’m not putting enough poison in my food. What a nitwit I am!

  6. iggydonnelly

    Bob Dylan singing “Things Have Changed” – the dude is rich enough to suppress what appears on the internet, youtube at least – – –

    http://www.dailymotion.com/video/xh96d_bob-dylan-things-have-changed

  7. I was trying to find percentage of blue collars that actually live till retirement.
    Trying to find any info in the .gov cyberworld is overwhelming.

  8. iggydonnelly

    Prairiepond,

    This is one very great, and very timely thread. You have no idea how much I appreciate your writing and skills.

    Thank you from the bottom of my heart for all you do.

    I.D.

  9. frigginloon

    Retirement? Please! The government has warned us in Friggin loon land to expect to work an extra 10 years to get back to where we are now. Which is jack! I better get a job then!:) Or commit a crime….

  10. frigginloon

    Whilst on this depressing point of ponder I came across this interesting little depresser for you all..

    How Much Is a Trillion $

    Imagine a single second
    A million of them is 11 days
    A Billion, 32 Years
    A Trillion, 32 000 Years

    I shall now return to placing my head back in the sand.

  11. fnord

    It wasn’t my key to retirement when it happened but marrying a younger man worked out well in that regard.

  12. prairiepond

    HA! Fnord. Does he have a younger sister? 🙂

    Hi Loonie. Dont snort up too much fine sand down there.

    “The government has warned us in Friggin loon land to expect to work an extra 10 years to get back to where we are now.”

    Well, at least your government is being honest with you. Ours is still trying to lull us back to sleep.

    “Move along here, nothing to see. Move along here…”

  13. prairiepond

    I love you too Iggy and Fnord and SEKB for doing all you do to make this blog a great place.

    You technical and linguistic wizards, you!

  14. prairiepond

    Is it just me, or does anyone else think no one in our government knows what to do about the mess we’re in? To tell the truth, I really dont know either. And I usually have some answers, even if they are not correct answers. But I’m stumped about what we as a nation should do.

    I have this increasingly uneasy feeling that our ship of state is drifting with no direction. And the rudder’s broken and the fuel’s getting low, along with the rum. The crew is getting restless.

    • fnord

      Who let the rum run short? I want an investigation, charges filed, someone’s neck better be on the block!

      I gotta run too. See y’all this evening. Have a great day!

  15. PP, if I had any answers (right, wrong, inappropriate), I’d darn sure share them.

    I agree; I don’t think anyone in the government (or outside government for that matter) knows what to try to do, much less what to do. It’s easy to say things like “let them fail” (applicable to the banking industry and the auto industry), but then what? The banking industry is left in shambles; there are no autos being manufactured, no replacement parts for the vehicles on the road being made, and a whole lot of folks without employment.

    Say, for example, GM and Chrysler go into bankruptcy, Chapter 11. OK, what happens to the parts suppliers while these corporations are reorganizing? What effect does this have on consumers? Will there be any market for vehicles made by the reorganized companies, or will there be a natural reluctance to purchase one, “just in case”? Does Toyota, Honda, et al, fill the vacuum?

    Don’t have a clue; not a one.

  16. wicked

    I’m like Iggy. What’s retirement? And now that I think of it, what’s a weekend? Day off? Overtime? Worker’s Comp? Vacation?

  17. Count me in with both Iggy and wicked.

    An old saw: “Old lawyers never die, they just lose their appeal” seem appropriate to me at this point.

  18. lilacluvr

    The days of retiring at 65 are long, long gone. The days of working for the same company for years and then retiring are gone forever.

    I am 55, about to turn 56, and I am in no way thinking of retiring any time soon. Even with health insurance, my cancer journey took alot of our savings. And then our son was diagnosed with celiac disease after months of doctors not knowing what the problem was. He lost 40lbs in 6 months. He had to take 3 months of FMLA. We’ve been helping him with his family until he is back on his feet.

    It is true, just one major health care crisis can wipe a person out financially. I know from personal experience.

    But, I still have my family together, we are all in better health now, and we get by. It’s a good thing my husband and I both work in health care. That is one industry that is not too affected by the downturn in the economy.

    And so what, did I really want to retire at 65? We did our traveling during our younger years when my husband was moved around by his health care corporation in the 80’s and 90’s. And that health nursing home corporation is not even in business any longer. They sold out, then that company sold, then that company sold, etc. But the nursing homes we managed are still there – they just have different names.

    And this is progress?

  19. Given that the days of retirement at age 65 are long over, and given that the first of the “baby boomers” are now approaching or have attained that age, what do employment prospects look like for those newly entering the workforce?

    While those newly entering have training in some areas (computer usage for example) that many older workers do not have, that lack of knowledge in a specific skill is offset by all the years of experience gained. I know that many scoff, but I’m of the mind that older workers can learn the basic skills needed to continue to be productive in the workforce; it may take some a bit longer, but they can learn.

    You will note my bolding usage above. I find that the general computer user I’ve met over the past fifteen years or so are truly ignorant of the workings of the computer, such that there is no real knowledge of what to do when the system crashes. A state of ignorance, BTW, which has been encouraged by Microsoft and Apple. Not that I blame them for that; it is, after all, much better for the bottom line to sell another application or to provide paid tech support as opposed to the user being able to deal with it on his/her own.

  20. wicked

    A few years ago, although I can’t remember exactly when, I was listening to a discussion on the radio about the boomers retiring. At that time, the thought was that there would be too many jobs left open with no one to fill them. The whole thing being that as the boomers begin/began to retire, the unemployment situation would correct itself naturally and perhaps over-correct in the opposite directions causing totally different problems.

    I guess I’m just simple enough to think that too many jobs would be a good thing. 🙂

  21. Yes, wicked, that was the thought; tied into what I call the myth of all jobs filled by the Baby Boomers being necessary. Much has changed since then, and a realization has occurred that there are many jobs that were in the economy that bluntly no longer needed to exist.

    Too many jobs available raises other issues, such as immigration issues, etc., to get enough folks to fill them. Does this create pressure for larger families so that there are enough bodies to fill positions, even though that is (might be) not best for the long-term (think more rapid depletion of scarce natural resources such as water).

  22. wicked

    I’m not sure what to think, 6, except the country and the world have gone mad. Being the leader in everything isn’t all good, but that’s what the U.S. has been doing for decades. Not sure that’s what the FF had in mind. I feel that because of that, we’re in the mess we’re in now. It boils down to greed, and the majority of us are guilty of it in some way or another. “Excess” seems to the be the word of the forty or so decades.

    It may be a good thing that some jobs no longer exist. Is it the natural progression of progress? Maybe in time and if we work hard enough at it, we’ll have the job/worker situation in balance. In the grand scheme of things, maybe this is all “supposed to be”. We do learn best by our mistakes. Well, some of us. Others not so much.