Friday, May 9, 2008

Rainy Days and Social Security Statements Always Get Me Down

Every five years or so I actually open my official Social Security Statement and read it.

I really appreciate the expert advice, like this whippersnapper: "Saving and investing wisely are important not only for you and your family, but for the entire country." Whoa! Tell it like it is, Big Bro!

It continues: "If you want to learn more about how and why to save, you should visit, a federal government website dedicated to teaching all Americans the basics of financial management." What a comedian! I'm overcome with a paroxysm of gut-wrenching, foot-stomping laughter. I know he can't teach all Americans the basics of financial management because he DOES NOT KNOW the basics of financial management. He is trillions of dollars in debt and always ready to sign our names to another IOU. He's fat. He's jolly. And he's always ready to party. What a hoot!

To keep from cracking myself up entirely and to recover my dignity, I skip over to page 2.

The first part always starts the same, just like a fairy tale: Once upon a time, "you earned 14 credits of work. To get retirement benefits, you need 40 credits of work."

With that encouraging bit of information, I can't wait to move on to the next juicy tidbit, Disability. "To get benefits if you become disabled right now, you need 26 credits of work. Your records show you have at least 14 credits at this time." Gosh, this is looking grim. I don't think I'll have enough credits to graduate. I'll be marked as a Social Security dropout for life. Scanning quickly through the other categories, I see that I do not qualify for benefits any time, any place, not no way, not no how.

Thankfully Big Brother sends me these reports, otherwise I might get the Big Head and forget that I am an underachiever of official Social Security credits. Woe is me. SIGH.

One fine day, I'll open my report, and it will say something new. It will say: "You chose to stay home with your children. Not only that, but you even homeschooled them, saving the government thousands upon thousands of dollars. Big Brother is SOOOOOO proud of you! So proud in fact that Social Security is going to award you an honorary diploma worth 26 credits of work.

Suddenly, I hear the Everly Brothers singing, Dream, dream, dream, dream.

I go back to page 1 and read, "Social Security is a compact between generations." Well, what do you know about that? A compact. Between generations. I picture happy old people in white robes shaking hands with happy young people in overalls. Wow! And I had always thought it was a compulsory tax, collected at the point of a gun. Will wonders never cease!

Uh-oh. A dark cloud appears inside my silver lining as I read: "In 2017 we will begin paying more in benefits than we collect in taxes. Without changes, by 2041 the Social Security Trust Fund will be exhausted. . ."

Hey, I'm already exhausted, but I still do my duty. Anyway, the money has been set aside, right? Basic financial management--the workers pay in, you set it aside. Right?

I fold my report and put it away. I think positive. In five more years. . .oh, no. Images of McCain, Obama, and Polly Esther Clinton loom forbodingly in my imagination. Maybe I'll wait ten years before I look at my Social Security Statement again.

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