Archive for retirement

Looong Term Investing

Posted in Economy, Humor with tags , on November 22, 2008 by gyma

Retirement? What Retirement!

Posted in Economy with tags , on November 21, 2008 by gyma

windsor-vanguard

I know I’m not alone and misery loves company, but still….

This is where I’ve had the bulk of my retirement parked for more than 30 years.  It’s currently selling at 7.17 a share.  About a year ago it was selling for more than $20 a share. 

I’ve tried educating myself about this stuff many times, but it doesn’t seem to sink in very deeply.  A friend of mine says that as long as the prices continue to fall, the number of shares increases.  If you aren’t buying additional shares, is this true?  She told me this because she claims when you hit bottom you’ll have more shares so the DJIA doesn’t have to bounce back to 14,000 in order to recoup losses.

Can anybody explain this to me?!

Congressional Pension Plans

Posted in Politics with tags , on October 28, 2008 by gyma

Now that Gov. Palin has proven it doesn’t take much to qualify for elected office, perhaps I should be looking at a career in politics.  Actually I should have started a few years ago so I could collect a nice little pension upon retiring.

Did you know that members of congress can retire with a pension at age 62 and 5 years of service?  Or if they have 20 years of service, they can retire at age 50, or at any time with 25 years?  Not too shabby.  The formula is based on salary and years of service, but what got me interested was this recent article claiming that Rep. George Miller (D-CA) could retire and receive $122,000 per year in pension!  And congressional pensions are eligible for annual COLAs so they should be able to live quite comfortably into their dotage.

It sounds as though congress has provided quite well for themselves – hefty raises, flush pensions, and a gold-plated health insurance plan.  Too bad they don’t think the rest of us deserve what they have.

Getting Older

Posted in retirement with tags , on October 14, 2008 by gyma

(click on comic to view larger image)

I saw this cartoon in last week’s newspaper and decided to share it.  I liked it because of the references to children’s books – the “Old Mother Hubbard” nursery rhyme and “There Was an Old Woman Who Swallowed a Fly.”

But beyond those references it got me thinking about the aging process and how I feel about it.  I hear many women profess this to be the best time of their lives.  Unfortunately, that’s not the case for me.

The reasons I’ve heard most often are that once their children are grown, they have time for themselves, and something about knowing themselves better.  Perhaps the two go hand in hand since childrearing can be all consuming for many years.

I don’t have children so my 20s and 30s were much different.  During this time we bought a sailboat and taught ourselves to sail, I went to college and earned 2 degrees, we lived in 4 different states and traveled a great deal.  I was fit and healthy and filled with the thought that anything and everything was possible.  I didn’t worry about finances because we always lived beneath our means and because we rented it was easy to go where the jobs were.  More than once we sold everything and moved to another part of the country without a place to live, a job, or sometimes both.  I thrived on the unknown and discovering new friends and natural wonders.

Now in my fifties, for the first time in my life, I feel constraint and loss of opportunity at every turn.  We own our house free and clear, but rather than feeling comforted by that, I feel we must stay here rather than give up that safety in order to find better employment opportunities.  I no longer believe that my degrees from some of the best schools in California mean anything or that they would help me obtain a decent job.  So giving up this small bit of security feels foolish.  Yet my ability to find interesting work is severely limited – I’m either overqualified or don’t have specific enough experience.  So many other people are looking for jobs that every advertised position garners hundreds of applications.

I’ll be starting a new job on Monday, managing a website that collects and analyzes county-specific data.  I am a one-person department who will rely heavily on volunteers (ugh).  The benefits and pay are pitiful, between a third and one half of my previous position.  But it is a job and the commute is under 20 miles one way.  Considering the large sums of money I’ve lost in the last 18 months, I’ll probably have to work until it’s no longer possible. 

So no, I’m not enjoying this stage of my life at all!

So. Very. Angry.

Posted in Money Matters, Politics with tags , , , on September 18, 2008 by gyma

I’ve been closely following the financial news over the last week and I’m really angry over what our elected officials have done to this country.  We’ve been repeatedly lied to for too many years and I no longer have any confidence in our government.  Can Barack Obama change it?  I honestly don’t know.  What I do know is I’m not willing to give Republicans another shot at trying to right this sinking ship.  And where in the hell has our dear leader, George W. Bush, been hiding?  Not that I want to see his pathetic face, but the least he could do was get on television and attempt to make us feel better.  Not. A. Peep.

At the end 1999 we bought our current house.  My husband was retired with social security income, we were 100% debt free and I had a part-time job at the public library making $17/hr.  We had more money invested in IRAs than we were requesting to borrow.  We also had a 45% down payment and wanted to finance less than $100K for this house.  Our payments would have been less than rent for a 1-bedroom apartment.  But no one wanted to give us a loan.  We had purchased our previous home for cash and had taken out a small home equity loan to do some remodeling.  We had excellent credit.  And no one wanted to give us a loan!  We ended up getting a loan with an interest rate nearly 2% higher than everyone else.

I can’t tell you how angry this makes me now.  As it turned out we paid off that crappy loan in 8 years and once again are 100% debt free.  Not so for much of the rest of this country.

Reading this article by Dean Starkman in the Columbia  Journalism Review only makes me angrier.  Much angrier.  Starkman talks not only about the total lack of regulation, the greed and malpractice of the Wizards of Wall Street, but also the media’s failure to accurately report what was happening.  Epic Fail all the way around.  From the article:

From 2004, Countrywide led the market in rolling out new “products” that were basically bureaucratic ways of approving a loan to anybody. The complaint said Countrywide threatened to fire underwriters for (my emphasis) attempting to verify a borrower’s ability to pay.

We’re being told not to panic but in the next sentence we’re hearing this is far from over.  Now I’m angry and spooked.  I’ve lost tens of thousands of dollars in about a year, which represents 7.5 years worth of contributions to my 401K.  I now understand the money I earned in the market was all based on a scam, a house of cards that is now tumbling down all around us.  I can only hope George W. Bush and John and Cindy McCain are heavily invested in this crap, too, and their losses are in the tens of millions.

This country can’t continue sticking its finger in the dike every time a large financial or insurance institution starts to fall.  Comprehensive overhaul is needed and sooner rather than later.  But I’m not hearing much of that coming out of Washington these days.  Rather I hear John McCain, who’s own party has been in charge these last 8 years, talking about how he’s going to spank Wall Street and everything will be better.  Yeah, right.  If you believe that, I have a Bridge to Nowhere I’d like to sell you.

Since the last 8 years of gains on Wall Street were built on quicksand, I can’t comprehend how long it will take for this to bottom out and begin reversing.  With less than 10 years to recover my losses, I made the very difficult decision last night to get out of the market this morning and that’s what I did.  Cashed out completely and now I’ll be able to sleep better.  When the check arrives I’ll seek out a financially healthy local bank and put it in a CD and wait out the storm.  Sad as this is, money market accounts aren’t even safe investments these days!

[h/t Hullabaloo]

Another Job Rejection

Posted in Jobs with tags , , on August 18, 2008 by gyma

I interviewed for a job last week and I didn’t think it was going to be a good match.  When I asked the supervisor what qualities she thought were needed to be happy and successful on the job, she replied that she wanted someone who was over-the-top with energy and could take the department to the next level.  Perky came to my mind and I am pretty sure my perkiness evaporated sometime during my 20s.  I still have enthusiasm for the right job, but I was trying to think what I might say if offered the job.

Well, I needn’t spend too much time worrying since I received a call this morning telling me someone else was chosen for the job.  Part of me was relieved, but honestly part of me is sad that I’m no longer able to find a job that’s a good fit.

In thinking about previous job interviews, I realized I often said what I thought the interviewer wanted to hear rather what I truly believed.  This meant I was often offered jobs I didn’t want, but I was too insecure to say “No thanks, I’ll wait for something better.” 

Now that I’m older and wiser I’ve decided I need to be more honest in presenting myself in an effort to find a good match.  I’m also wondering how long I can afford to do this before desperation sets in.  We’re plugging along financially, but one serious illness would most likely ruin us, and the longer I’m unemployed, the more difficult I feel it will be to even get interviews.

And one last thought – I refuse to work at Wal-Mart.  I’d rather eat peanut butter and beans and eggs the rest of my life.  Although peanut butter, beans, and eggs aren’t as cheap as they once were.

Playing the Lottery

Posted in Money Matters with tags , on August 16, 2008 by gyma

I rarely pay any attention to the lottery, but I spent some time in Chicago a few months ago visiting friends.  These are really bright people (Princeton-educated Ph.D.s, employed at the U of Chicago) and I was surprised to discover they play the lottery when the jackpot reaches a certain amount.  These folks are fairly well-off and really don’t need the extra money.

We, on the other hand, are living on about $16,000 a year, and I don’t have any health insurance coverage.  So we really could use the lottery jackpot!  Not too long ago I read about a young man in South Carolina who won the jackpot the very first time he purchased a ticket.  And he was disciplined enough to purchase only one!  I don’t remember what the payout was, but it was in the several millions.

So, when I go to the grocery store now I always check the billboard above the customer service desk where the jackpot amount is displayed in large, red lights.  When it rose to $80-something million recently, I decided to splurge and bought not one, but two, tickets.  Of course I didn’t match even one number, so I pissed away $2 in a heartbeat.

But!  I could have been that winner – some lucky soul in Pennsylvania won the entire jackpot that week.

Will I play again?  Maybe, but it truly is a waste of money, right?