Tuesday, May 27, 2008


This is a riff on a Ravelry Rant of mine. Triggered by today's mail - I received my first invitation to join AARP.

I know for a lot of women that's a killer - ME?? OLD ENOUGH FOR AARP??? But...but...I'm still HOT!!! Right?? Right??? And yeah, I do have those thoughts too. But what really struck me was the Incongruity of an invite to join The American Association of Retired Persons, while smacking against the reality that I, and many of my friends, won't be able to afford to retire.

Not because we fucked up, bought McMansions and maxed the credit cards and bought boats and took vacations instead of investing in our retirement plans. I live in a 1600 sq. ft. house we bought as a Freddie Mac forclosure. My last vacation was sleeping on an air mattress at my son's house. I survived and even moved ahead after my husband died of cancer and my house was hit by 3 hurricanes in one year, I was able to manage everything thrown at me. I survived it all, and even held my own after a ruptured brain aneurysm. I am proud of what I have done, how I have survived it all, but I am still screwed because the Great Toilet of the Economy has been flushed, and I went down the drain with it.

I was unemployed for 5 months after my previous employer, a homebuilder, went into receivership - I finally started a good new job last week. Very good employer, good benefits, a 15% pay cut, but there were no other nibbles, let alone choices, so I have to accept it and smile. I really am grateful to have it, it really is a good opportunity in a hideous market. But it's 30 miles from my house, which has lost about $80K in value in the last year, which, silly me, I'd thought of as my "cushion" to put toward retirement planning. Invest in real estate! Yeah. Kiss that goodbye, and in FL the market is so dead it's not even worth listing it yet.

My new employer does allow us to flex hours to get out of the hideous Orlando traffic (public transportation nearly non-existent, and light rail plan killed AGAIN recently, because the old bastards who retire to FL do it because they think they'll never pay taxes again, so they vote against anything that involves money, and screw those working people). I have no option but to drive, all I can do is tweak my hours to make the commute as efficient as I can, and economize elsewhere to make up the cost of gas plus the pay cut, plus all of the other incidental costs of living rising as they are. Making up the savings I had to spend to live while out of work for 5 months is really not an option, so my emergency funds are depleted and my credit cards have balances and it'll take forever to pay them off on my new budget.

Oh, and did I mention that my 82 year old mother had to go into assisted living, which is costing approx $1,000 more each month than she gets in her monthly check? I am doing the math on her savings and will be selling off her assets and trying to figure out how to make this work. I think she'll be okay. She's far better off than I am, she at least HAS a guaranteed check every month.

I turn 50 next month, and today I got my first invite from AARP. The American Association of Retired Persons. Some years ago they shortened it to AARP, in recognition that most people didn't retire at 50. I think they're going to have to drop the R next, because my friends and I do not even dream about retirement - our 401Ks are losing value, the real estate we were told to invest in is tanking too, those of us who lost their jobs had to burn savings to live, those who still have jobs are scared every day that they're next. Retirement? Heh. We are so screwed. Which, in turn, hurts everybody, because much as we'd like to get out of the job market and leave it to you young'uns, a lot of us just can't.

The gas prices are just one part of an economic avalanche, and I don't think we have a clue about the ultimate effect.


Anonymous said...

I got CARDED today before I could order a margarita with dinner - and when I got home there was an AARP membership card solicitation waiting for me! Do I ever understand how you feel!

You are doing a great job with your mother and starting a new job. Is the brain fog better today?


ikate said...

Honey, my 36 year old husband gets stuff from the AARP so don't sweat it!! (Although at 6 years his junior I do tease him about it almost daily).

But I do get the rest of your rant. For our recent move, which was for better paying jobs with better future prospects but to a higher cost of living area, we took a major loss on selling our old house and had to (gulp, I hate even saying this) dip big time into our retirement accounts. It was that or let the house sit empty even longer while the market continued to slide and pay two mortgages and pay someone to keep up that house.

Luckily we got a house in the new "high rent" area for next to nothing due to that sliding market and we are young enough to pay back our accounts. I'm also lucky that my HR-manager father practically forced me to open an IRA the day I got my first job when I was 16 so at age 30 I did have that fund to dip into.

But, the way I see it, even if I invest heavily for the next 30 years I'll never have a "comfortable" retirement at age 60. Like my parents I will be doing the 8-5 until 66 or more. Don't even get me started on the monthly cost of daycare. And maybe by the time I retire my student loans will be paid off :)

Money is the cause of so much stress, isn't it??

Donna said...

I have no idea about the AARP stuff, and home ownership feels like a pipe dream here in Sydney right now, but last week petrol prices here reached $1.62 a litre. I believe there's around 3.8 litres to a gallon, so after you convert that to gallons, then convert the $AU to $US that's around $US5.92 a gallon. I'm thinking that I need to keep my retirement funds to run my car. Hey, I own that, maybe I should live in it! The world has gone mad.

Jan B. said...

I'm right there with ya'. In fact, I'm three years older, so I've been getting the AARP mailings for quite a while. I haven't seen any need to join yet, so they keep soliciting.

As to retirement...I still have two teenagers at home. I'll never retire. I honestly can't see how I could ever retire. Sad. Very sad.

Catherine said...

I really don't mind the AARP thing. I just wish I could see myself doing the R part of it. In my case, we were on track for retiring at 60 (saving diligently, buying a modest house in a good neighborhood, etc.) and then my husband got cancer and it ate most of our savings and then killed him. And I rallied - I got a job that paid better, I was able to refinance the house and keep going through everything that has hit me in the last few years. And now the crash of the financial sector (let the industry police itself - it'll be fine!) taking down my former employer and putting me out of work for nearly half a year, only to go back at a lower salary and a long commute with record high gas prices, I am crashing too. Though I did everything by the book and already survived loss of a spouse, three hurricanes and a brain aneurysm. The last straw was something I had no control over at all. And that is true for a hell of a lot of people.

dragon knitter said...

maybe turn that R into an A for Ancient? because, honey, ain't none of us retiring at 60 any more.

Anonymous said...

Damn straight none of us are retiring anymore. I laugh when my financial planner's umbrella company sends me the "Dream Book" where I'm supposed to list my "dreams for retirement", and my FP is going to magically make it happen. My husband went "off the grid" and became a hobbyist- he teaches and makes about $800/month teaching his hobby. But there is no backup plan if something happens to me. He was diagnosed with cancer last year and thankfully I work for a non-profit with fabulous benefits. They don't pay that great, but their bennies offset it. He's doing well, so I feel we dodged a bullet. So I feel like I'm working just for the benefits and will do so until the day I drop dead. We have no kids, few expenses, and we still barely make ends meet. What do families do- especially families that have no skills for living on a budget, which few enough people have done for the last decade.
I made my husband promise he would get me on a train somehow when that happens- triple life insurance pay-out if this job kills me on the road (and I often feel it will).

Catherine's right- we have followed all the rules, been the good child, and we are still screwed.


SNOWBIRD said...

I got my invite a couple of years ago and joined. When I got the card, I thought I would laminate it, put rhinestones around it and wear it as a badge of honor. I deserve all the recognition I can get after 30+ years of work. I let the membership last for a year and did not renew. I figured that I would have to be a little older to get the breaks at restaurants and other places. When that time comes, I'll join back up and decorate my card to wear as a badge of honor. 50 didn't hurt much. I still like rock n' roll, blue jeans and good worn out tee shirt.