How Much False Wealth Is In Your Life?

Share

For my last full year as a public servant (2006), my base salary was $76K. Add overtime and benefits, and I easily cost the taxpayers more than a hundred grand.

Was I worth it? In other words, did my skills warrant compensation in excess of a hundred grand? Let’s look at the facts.

My title was Construction Inspector One, but I was no longer inspecting construction work for the Highway Division. I was developing and maintaining Access databases.

Was I good? Yes. But I wasn’t great. I was a self-taught ham-and-egger who had an intermediate level of database skills at best. I could craft a normalized Access database and write all the queries and VBA code necessary to ensure data integrity and spit out management-friendly reports. But I knew nothing about big-boy databases such as SQL Server or DB2. And I certainly couldn’t design a front-end application written in C++.

Did I have a degree in computer science? No. I had a master’s degree in public administration.

Did I have a Microsoft certification in Access database development? No.

Were Access database dudes so scarce that my hundred grand compensation was a bargain for the Highway Division? No. Intermediate-level Access database developers were not in short supply—at least not in New York. In fact, the 19-year-old son of one of our municipality’s muckety-mucks was a computer science major who worked for us between semesters, and his database and programming skills blew mine away. The Highway Division could have easily saved itself thirty or forty grand by firing my arse and hiring him.

So why was my compensation over one hundred grand?

It’s simple. That’s what our union contract stipulated. Anyone who was in his or her fourteenth year as a Construction Inspector One was paid a base salary of $76K. It had nothing to do with merit. It was all based on time served. I could have been the worst database developer in the world and I still would have been paid $76K—and provided with free health care, copious amounts of PTO, and a very enviable pension.

In effect, my compensation was a lie. It was false wealth. And I knew it. That’s part of the reason why Mrs. Groovy and I moved to North Carolina. Yes, we grew tired of New York snow, taxes, and traffic. More importantly, though, I loathed the municipality I work for and desperately needed to move on. But there was no way I could start a new career on Long Island. The drop in compensation would have been too great. My skills, database or otherwise, just weren’t worth a hundred grand a year in the real world. So I needed a place where my true worth in the labor market comfortably exceeded the cost of living. Fortunately for Mrs. Groovy and me, Charlotte, North Carolina fit that bill.

Is There False Wealth in Your Life?

In 2034, the Social Security trust fund will be depleted. The money coming into the system from payroll taxes will only be able to pay for 79% of promised benefits.

According to my last Social Security statement, my monthly benefit would be $2,400 if I waited until I was 70 before collecting. But that $2,400 is false wealth. A more honest monthly benefit would be $1,896 ($2,400 x .79).

Social Security, of course, affects nearly everyone. For those collecting Social Security now, you need not worry about false wealth. Your benefits are secure. But for those of you who are my age (55) or younger, you have false wealth in your life. Unless there are some fairly bold adjustments to the law, promised Social Security benefits are unsustainable.

Are you a state employee? Congratulations. You have even more false wealth in your life. Every state pension in the union is underfunded. On average, states have only funded 74% of their pension liabilities. Some states are particularly bad. Rhode Island, 59%. Connecticut, 55%. Kentucky 51%. Illinois, 43%. Ouch.

Are you a government employee who is being promised paid healthcare in retirement? Hello, false wealth. State healthcare obligations are even more underfunded than state pension obligations. Only seven states have funded more than 30% of their healthcare liabilities. And healthcare benefits aren’t nearly as secure as pension benefits. In New York, for instance, public pensions are protected by the state constitution. Any shortfall in pension fund payouts will be made up by the taxpayers, either through greater taxation or through reduced spending on schools, roads, parks, and social services. There’s no constitutional protection for retiree healthcare, however. If New York’s fiscal health deteriorates badly, retiree healthcare will become an easy target.

Do you telecommute? If you do, be brutally honest with yourself. Are you doing anything special? If not, you’re more than likely the recipient of false wealth. Your job can easily be performed by someone in Bangalore for a third of the cost.

Do you work in a factory or perform grunt work (i.e., cut grass, clean hotel rooms, lay brick, etc.)? Beware false wealth. Robots, outsourcing, and temporary work visas are relentlessly eroding your job security. When I was growing up, for instance, landscaping jobs were dominated by high school and college kids off for the summer. No more. A good percentage of those jobs are now filled by foreign labor, legally and illegally. The guy who does the landscaping for my development gets all his laborers from Mexico. Every year he pays $20K for twenty temporary work visas.

Do you work in higher education, healthcare, or the defense industry? The federal government is $19 trillion in debt. At some point it will no longer be able to pay for $100K bachelor degrees, $100K cancer treatments, and billion dollar fighter jets. The amount of false wealth in your field is therefore immense. Beware.

What to Do?

The point of this post is not to scare you. I’m just trying to raise your awareness. A lot of us have jobs, incomes, and benefits that are unsustainable. Governments can only borrow so much. Employers can only ignore labor costs for so long. At some point, the day of reckoning will arrive, and the false wealth will disappear. And all I want you to do is to be cognizant of this and prepare for it.

First, get out debt. When the false wealth goes away, those with no debt will fare a lot better than those with debt up to their eyeballs.

Second, make a mental calculation of your false wealth. Is it 10% of your income? Is it 25% percent? Then, whatever that calculation may be, live below it. If you take home $5K a month and 20% of that is a lie, spend like you take home $4K and save an extra $1K. Again, those who do this will fare a lot better than those who don’t when the false wealth goes away.

Okay, groovy freedomists, that’s all I got. How much false wealth is in your life? Are you preparing for it? Or is my idea of false wealth total flapdoodle?* Let me know what you think when you get a chance.

And have a groovy weekend.

* I used the word “flapdoodle” in honor of Penny’s one year blogiversary over at Shepicksuppennies. Penny has such a wonderful vocabulary, and I try every now and then to match her linguistic heights. So thank you Penny for inspiring my writing. And for those of you who are curious, “flapdoodle” is a ten-dollar word for “bullshit.”

Share our groovy posts!
Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+Pin on Pinterest

44 Comments

  1. You scared the crap out of me with this one. I work in the defense industry as a contractor. I know it’s a house of cards, but I prefer to keep my head in the sand. At least I don’t work for the big guys who are relying on expensive products to continue paying forever, products that the government doesn’t need (fighter jet that was never asked for rings a bell). I work for a tiny company and our contracts are for work that the government can’t do efficiently on it’s own. Margins are going down, competitive advantages are being eliminated with bidding wars, and competition is up. But…gov’t waste is alive and well. No matter how much money I save the gov’t, they find ways to waste more. My efforts seem useless, like patching up holes in the Titanic as the lifeboats are being loaded. As long as someone is wasting money, we can continue to win small scale contracts. That’s the positive outlook for my work situation, not so much for the government fiscal situation, though.

    Anyway, thanks for making me think about false income. I need to cut down my debt and get more streams of income going…ASAP. You have ramped up my fear level, and that leads me to frantic action.

    • Mr. Groovy

      Sorry, Brian. If it’s any consolation, I’m scared too. That $19 trillion national debt is pretty sobering. I don’t see how this ends well. I worked for local government for 21 years, so I know what you mean about waste. “Patching up holes in the Titanic as the lifeboats are being loaded,” is a very apt analogy. But, then again, I’m just a little ol’ country blogger. Maybe our elites know what the hell they’re doing. But just to be on the safe side, I’m with you. Get out of debt and have multiple streams of income. Mrs. Groovy and I are even taking it a step further than that sound advice. We’re buying some land so we can grow some food, and we’re investing in some chickens and solar. Our goal is to be as little dependent as possible on government and others. The next 20 years should be interesting. Thanks for stopping by, my friend. It’s always great commiserating with a fellow handwringer.

  2. This worries me A LOT for my mom, who is relying on her Kentucky (remember that line) state pension for her retirement. Yikes.

    My dad, who is in his ’50s, was bragging to me the other day about how his 401k has a whole $45,000 in it. Sooooo, I’m pretty concerned for them now.

    • Mr. Groovy

      Sheesh! I hope you don’t end up having to support them. At least Kentucky is a low-cost state and Social Security could fund the bulk of a modest lifestyle. And of course if things get really bad they can move to Mississippi. So all is not lost. Thanks for stopping by Ms. Steward.

    • Mr. Groovy

      Hey, Chris. Yes, alimony that ends is false wealth–for the recipient anyway. For the one making the alimony payments, I guess it’s a form of false poverty.

  3. You scare the hell out of me with the false wealth! I need to prepare urgently.

    Our original plan was based on pension and then some to keep up with our lifestyle. Thank God that was changed into a self supporting system.

    That being said, when governments can no longer pay pensions and health care, people will earn less, spend less and companies might pay less dividend and be worth less… It plays in the back of my head…. Not sure yet what to think about it

    • Mr. Groovy

      I hear ya, AT. I’m scared too. I just don’t see how this ends well. Culturally, we’re very weak. Financially, we are up to our eyeballs and debt and the government wants to take on more liabilities. Just when the charade ends is anybody’s guess. Will it be at $25 trillion in debt? $30 trillion? $50 trillion? I shudder when I think of the financial carnage to come. Not going to be fun.

  4. I am not counting on SS, or my military retirement for that matter. I’m trying to develop multiple income streams. Of course I have some set up as I saw the problems early on just wasn’t aggressive enough then.

    I would like to see SS develop into like 401k or Thrift savings plan deals. Biggest Ponzi scheme ever.

    I’m not a hypocrite and I do believe every budget that congress has needs to be put under the microscope including the defense budget.

    Long term we could get rid of dept of education, dept of homeland security. CIA was only created for the Cold War intellegiance against Russia which was really a big sham.

    I’m sure there are more things that are alluding me
    Great article.

    • Mr. Groovy

      Where do I begin, Doug? I agree with everything you wrote. Before we had a Department of Education, we produced engineers and scientists who put a man on the moon. Now, with a Department of Education, we need to import IT talent. When we had a Department of War, we whipped the Japanese and Germans in WWII. Now, with a Department of Defense, we can’t whip ISIS. And don’t get me started on Social Security. If it’s such a wonderful program, why don’t they give new workers the option of joining? We all know why. Because if new workers had a choice, many if not most would go their own way, and the Ponzi scheme known as Social Security would collapse. My only advice to my fellow Americans is to prepare for the worst. Get out of debt, buy some land, and learn how to grow food and raise chickens. Our government’s great at sowing weakness and dependency. It sucks at solving problems and defending liberty. Thanks for stopping by, Doug. I really appreciated what you had to say.

  5. False wealth, what a great concept! We don’t count on SS in our retirement plans, but it does make us smile adding in some variation of it and seeing the positive boost. 🙂

    I have a pension from my last company that will start to pay out at 55. However, I don’t necessarily trust them to not reduce it, remove it, send me a check for less than that amount, or any combo of the above, so when we quit work and drop into a way lower tax bracket, we both plan on cashing them out. Hey, it’s money in hand versus false wealth.

    Just ask the motor city union retirees about reduced pensions, dropped medical benefits and the like that occurred years after they retired. Ugh…

    • Mr. Groovy

      Exactly, Mr. SSC. Detroit is a cautionary tale we should all heed. As long as you have saved at least twenty-five times your annual expenses, pensions, healthcare, and Social Security are the icing on the cake. You won’t like it if any of these benefits/entitlements are cut, but you’re not beholden to them. Even if the worst happens and those things are eliminated, you’ll still have the means for a fruitful retirement.

  6. I think this “false wealth” idea is pretty applicable to lawyers (like myself) that start their careers at large law firms. In my case, I went in knowing that my fairly high salary wouldn’t last forever, so I treated that money like it was a bonus. Rather than act like that money rightfully belonged to me, it was instead treated like a windfall that helped my pay off my student loans fast!

    What happened next? I couldn’t stand the job anymore and took a lower paying job with better hours and greater satisfaction. Since I had trained myself to treat the extra money like it was a windfall, and since I had paid off my debt, I was able to take the paycut without any change to my savings or lifestyle.

    In contrast, I know fellow lawyers who are still stuck there. They didn’t treat their income like the false wealth that it was, and now they have no choice but to do whatever it takes to keep making that type of money in order to keep up the lifestyle.

    Anyway, you really hit the idea home, and I think its similar to how I thought about my income.

    • Mr. Groovy

      Hey, Financial Panther. Sorry it took so long to respond. I don’t know what I was thinking. And this is such a great comment. Awesome job in recognizing the false wealth in your pay. Because you had the foresight to do that, you were able to effect a much better career path. Kudos. Your strategy is applicable in so many fields. Imagine if you were an autoworker in Detroit in the 80s. By that time your false wealth would have been manifest. After all, it’s hard to stay employed when you make $70/hr and your competition in Korea and Mexico make $10/hr. So you could have sold your house and started to save like a banshee. This way, when the inevitable demise of your job came about, you would have been fine. You could have relocated down south and lived like a king. But sadly, Americans back in the 80s were even more financially unsophisticated than they are today. Meh. Think of all the unnecessary financial carnage. But hopefully people are starting to wake up. The concept of “false wealth” is even more important today. Those, like yourself, who recognize this, will be fine. Those who don’t will be in trouble. Thanks for stopping by, FP. Great, great, great comment.

  7. Mr. Groovy, as awesome as ever. Great post on a serious issue, and “False Wealth” is a great name for the “underfunded” issue!! In my retirement cash flow projection, for my Social Security assumption I’m using 75% of what SS says they’ll pay on my statement. It’s best to hedge your best, be realistic in your planning, and think through your downside risk. Great reminder!

    • Mr. Groovy

      Hey, Fritz! Welcome back. Sorry about the weather and “The Dolphin” over in Switzerland. You still had a kick-ass performance, though. And I love your Social Security assumption. Mrs. Groovy and I are also assuming 75% of our promised benefits. If we get more, great. If we don’t, oh well. Like you said, you got to “think through your downside risk.” That’s an awesome summation of my post. I love it. Thanks for stopping by, my friend. Always a pleasure.

  8. I have a company sponsored pension that will start to pay out when I hit 55. Just part of our income stream. It is a large pharma company in the top tier so I don’t worry too much about an Enron situation. But hey, one never knows…..

    As Roger Moore once said, “better to be prepared for an illness than to wait for a cure”.

    Regarding SS, it’s like predicting the direction of the stock market. I will enlist the help of a deranged orangutan to help me with that one. Know any that I could hire on a contract basis? Pay is crap but the bananas are very tasty…..

    • Mr. Groovy

      LOL, Mr. PIE. I think we’re all looking for that deranged orangutan who can predict the future of SS. But Mr. Moore very eloquently laid out our best option: “better to be prepared for an illness than to wait for a cure.” And that “illness” is surely coming–big time. Thanks for stopping by, Mr. PIE. Mrs. Groovy is still laughing at your comment.

  9. What a great post. This is something I’ve thought about and the main reason why I try to live well below my means and save/invest as much as I can. Just wish I had realized all this sooner so I would be even better off.

    My experience has mainly been in the private sector but I did work for a state university for 2-3 years in my mid-20s. We had to pay into the state retirement system but also had the option of a 403b. When I left, I opted to remove my funds from the state system, although they tried to get me to keep the money there. Even in my 20s I knew that it was a sinking ship! My pay there was dictated by the unions and also based on years of service, which isn’t something I agree with. I witnessed the worst work ethic by people of all ages and will never go back. Oh, the stories I could tell…

    I also worked for a company that funded a pension for it’s employees, putting the equivalent of 5% of our base salary into an individual account for each person (Vanguard was the administrator). I removed those funds as well and rolled them into an IRA, since there’s always a chance something could go wrong and the insurance wouldn’t cover the payouts. It wasn’t a lot of money but I didn’t want to take any chances.

    My current employer has offshore employees in India so I’m well aware that many of us are replaceable. To me, that’s one of the best reasons to be financially independent — we really don’t know what the future holds regarding automation and a global workforce. It seems like many people realize this but are failing to plan for it.

    • Mr. Groovy

      You nailed it on so many fronts. I too “witnessed the worst work ethic by people of all ages” when I worked for government. Grown men would work two or three hours a day and complain about it. When I told them there were children in the Far East and India working harder than them for a fraction of their salaries and they should be ashamed of themselves, they would look at me like I had two heads. And my company offshores to India as well. When I asked a co-worker who oversees a team of Indian programmers how much they are paid, she said maybe $15K. That’s awfully hard to compete against, providing cultural and linguistic hurdles can be surmounted. Thanks for sharing, Kate. Awesome comment.

  10. I think you are right that living below your means and saving the difference is the only safeguard. Mr. Mt has a military pension, and who knows. After over a decade of conflict, I worry Congress is writing checks they can’t cash. Some people talk about the 3 leg stool, I want as many legs as we can get. Stocks, rentals, maybe vacation rentals in the future. And low expenses, they pay off no matter what happens.

    • Mr. Groovy

      I hear ya, Ms. Mt. Let Mr. Mt know that I’m truly grateful for his service. I wish I could say his military pension is immune from cuts, but we’re so far in the hole, I don’t see how anyone comes out unscathed. You definitely have the right game plan, though. Keep expenses low, debt negligible or non-existent, and have multiple streams of income. Thanks for stopping by, Ms. Mt. Oh, can you do me a favor? Please put more pictures of Montana on your blog. Montana is the most beautiful state Mrs. Groovy and I have seen so far. If it was up to Mrs. Groovy, we would be moving there in a heartbeat.

  11. And in the meantime, the cost of education is increasing like everyone is a millionaire. Is that false ‘future potential pay back’?

    The situation for social security and public pensions is actually probably better for public servants. I can’t imagine the government going against benefits promised to so many people. That would be political suicide. I can however imagine that they will slowly phase out these promises and create some other kidn of tax so everyone can chip in.

    In general however, I agree that it’s probably safe to consider that not every promise will be delivered. We live below our means and create a safety net to address this. I’m not counting on social security either, but if I get the 75%, I’ll happily take it!

    • Mr. Groovy

      Don’t get me started. I don’t know what pisses me off most about higher education–the medieval muumuus it forces students to wear at graduation, the minor leagues it runs for the NFL and NBA, the proliferation of anti-freedom, anti-America professors in its ranks, or the fact that fewer than half the classes you are required to take for your degree actually pertain to your major? What a freakin’ joke. And then we’re supposed to kiss higher ed’s ass and thank it profusely for “saving” civilization. Yeah, right. As if Western Civilization depends $100K sociology degrees. We definitely need a new credential. The bachelor’s degree is way too expensive and way too outdated. It serves big-education’s administrators and professors far more than it serves America’s young people. It’s demise can’t happen soon enough.

      You make an excellent point about Social Security and public pensions. The politics favors the recipients. There will be cuts, but they’ll be made on the benefits of future recipients, not the benefits of current recipients and soon-to-be recipients. So look for the age of full Social Security benefits to be bumped up. And look for Social Security benefits to be means-tested. The one thing going for public pensions is public healthcare. There’s no way states and municipalities can continue to pay for retiree healthcare. So if anything goes, it will be retiree healthcare. That will be the firewall that protects public pensions.

      Thanks for stopping by, TMM. You made some excellent points and you got me fired up. Well done.

  12. Jaime

    To be honest Mr. Groovy, if someone offered me $76+ to program Access databases I would have done it!

    There are so few sure ways of making a living these days, plus it was legitimate work. LOL.

    • Mr. Groovy

      Absolutely! $76K–plus free healthcare, copious amounts of paid PTO, and a generous pension–is ridiculous compensation for an Access database programmer. And don’t forget, this was 10 years ago. Today, my salary would be over $100K and my total compensation would be in the $130K-$150K range. And I really did enjoy the work. But government wore me down. It was just too rife with politics. The only way to get ahead was to become a part-time Republican. And that’s because the Republicans controlled my municipality. If the Democrats were in charge, I would have had to become a part-time Democrat. It was all pay-to-play.

  13. I worked for the city I grew up in over the summer for 2 years. There was a guy that had been working for the city mowing lawns for 40 years. He told me how much he made, and how much time off he had accrued and I was absolutely blown away. When he retired, the city would still be paying him for 1.5 years because they do not have a use it or lose it time off rule.

    His job could easily be done (and was done part time) by high school students.

    Corporations aren’t scared to prove you are replaceable! Great post!

    • Mr. Groovy

      How true, AE. How true. When I left government in 2006, our contract stipulated 5 annual personal days, 13 annual sick days, 25 annual vacation days, and 15 paid holidays. We could bank up to 60 vacation days and 240 sick days. So unused vacation, sick, and personal days would roll over (unused personal days would turn into banked sick days). I needlessly used a lot of my time early in my career. But I eventually woke up and was able to bank a year’s worth of time before I left. And the really crazy part of this is that your banked time is paid at your final hourly wage, not the hourly wage you had when you earned the time. When I started my government career in 1986 I was making $7 an hour. When I ended it twenty years later, I was making $37 an hour. So I got paid $37/hour for hours I earned while making $10, $12, or $14 an hour. It’s insanity. But, hey, it’s only the taxpayers’ money.

      P.S. I love your last line, “Corporations aren’t scared to prove you are replaceable.” What a great way to put things into perspective. Freakin’ awesome, AE.

  14. Rolling on the floor laughing for sure. I thought me being from Illinois was the inspiring part. Vocabulary words for the win! Especially fun ones. That’s how I con my students into reading Shakespeare: let’s learn dozens of insults that people won’t recognize. 😉

    This post is horrifying and absolutely necessary. It is also why I am scared for me and my colleagues. Mostly, my colleagues who are banking 100% on a pension. We aren’t entitled to Social Security, and I know the state can’t fund hardly anything right now. So where that money will come from in 10, 20, or 30 years is anyone’s guess. Excuse me while I go manually push through another deposit into my Roth.

    • Mr. Groovy

      Great Shakespearean ploy. I can’t remember what play, but one player called another player a “bot.” We looked up bot in the dictionary and it was the name for an “intestinal maggot.” Ever since then we went around calling people “bots.” It was hilarious. On a more sobering note, though, I do feel for Illinois residents, especially government workers. My boss and her husband just relocated from Chicago to Nashville, so they’ll avoid the fiscal bloodbath when it occurs. But what about people like yourself who have a public pension? You can move to another state after retirement to avoid the inevitable tax increases, but that won’t save you from a reduced benefit. My guess is that pension payouts will be somewhat reduced. Free healthcare, though, will surely be dropped. By all means, then, load up those Roths. With two well-stocked Roths and two state pensions (even if somewhat reduced), you should be fine. I hope I’m wrong, Penny, but I just don’t see how Illinois can turn things around. Forty-three percent funded? Really? That’s a tough hole to dig out of. But you realize this and are planning accordingly. I hope more of your colleagues realize this before it’s too late.

      P.S. Mrs. Groovy and I really do love your vocabulary. And what we like most about your word choice is this: you use words, not to show off, but to convey thoughts and ideas with precision. It’s beautiful.

  15. Great, great topic and it is so important to bring attention to the problem of underfunded pensions. It is because of the ‘False Wealth’ you’ve described that I have long suggested that people develop multiple streams of income and plan for more than they think they will need in retirement because it is more and more likely that something beyond their control will happen to negatively impact one or more of those sources.

    • Mr. Groovy

      Amen, James. You and I are definitely kindred spirits. Multiple streams of income are what’s going to separate a comfortable retirement from a dreary retirement. Like you said, for most retirees, “it is more and more likely that something beyond their control” will negatively impact Social Security or a government pension. A little preparation now can forestall a lot of future misery.

    • Mr. Groovy

      Here’s one for you, Claudia. When I had my annual wellness exam, the physician assistant saw that my ears had some wax build-up and suggest I have it removed. I said sure. A tech then came in and spent all of five minutes cleaning out my ears with a big syringe. Since I have a high deductible policy, I knew I was going to pay for the cleaning out of pocket. Know how much I was charged? $125! For a freakin’ ear cleaning! Never again. I now use over-the-counter wax removal twice a year. But this is another example in our lives (healthcare) where the status quo is unsustainable. At some point, it will implode and those employed in healthcare and higher education are going to take a big haircut.

    • Mr. Groovy

      I love it, Vicki. Multiple streams of income is the key. If one falters, the others are there to sustain you. Well said. It’s so great when another flapdoodle minimizer chimes in.

  16. While I personally think some version of SS will exist when I’m eligible for it, nothing in my plans includes receiving any. There is too much outside of my control for the next 3 or 4 decades to trust that the government will manage it properly.

    • Mr. Groovy

      Agreed. I don’t think SS is going away either. But I firmly believe benefits will be cut, either through a higher retirement age or greater taxation. And like you said, ZJ, it’s definitely beyond our control. We can vote all we want to maintain the status quo, but if the money ain’t there, the politicians can’t save it. Look what happened to Detroit.

    • Mr. Groovy

      Exactly, Gary! Hope for the best and prepare for the worst. So if things really do hit the proverbial fan, you’re ready.

  17. You’re scaring me with this post since I work in government =). Most of my colleagues go crazy when I say this, but I’d prefer a matching 401k (especially one with a generous match) versus a pension. As a taxpayer as well as a state employee, the pension just seems unsustainable. In my tier, my pension vests in 5 years and I no longer contribute ANYTHING after 10 years. Yet, somehow I’ll get a generous pension for working until 55 with 30 yrs. Whenever there is a new contract, they just water down the benefits for the new hires so as not to touch the benefits of the older employees (hardly fair). Back to the generous 401k…at least with that, I know the money is mine and they can’t reduce it. But many co-workers don’t like the responsibility of managing their own finances and planning for retirement and feel it’s the employer’s responsibility to fund it.

    • Mr. Groovy

      Hey, Andrew. My retirement plan is very similar. Pension vests after 5 years. Employee contributes 3% of income towards retirement for the first 10 years. After that, employee contributes nothing. I worked 21 years for government. I think in my first 10 years I put maybe $8K into the system. I’ll have to double-check that number. I’m pretty confident it was less than $10K. Anyway, I start collecting my mini-pension in two months (age 55). If I live to 85, which is highly likely since longevity runs on both sides of my family, I’ll collect over $600K. And that’s for a mini-pension. If I stayed with my government employer and didn’t move to North Carolina, I’d be entitled to a full pension–and free healthcare to boot. That would mean I would collect over $1.6 million by the time I was 85. How sustainable is this system? Put in $10K and get $600K? Hey, if our political elite can pull it off, more power to them. I’m not counting on it, though. Thanks for sharing, Andrew. The numbers are sobering. And, thankfully, you realize it. You’re a wise man.

  18. You make a lot of good points and it’s scary how many unfunded commitments there are for both public and private entities in the USA and Europe. Not sure if that’s the same in Canada.

    Luckily in Australia nearly everyone’s retirement balance is an actual fund that has been contributed to and controlled by each individual – no unfunded liability by our entities.

    I don’t think there’s any false wealth in our life at the moment, but it’s all around us. I am afraid of what the future will bring with so many technologies that can replace people easily. (No-one can spend money if they aren’t earning money).

    I hope it’s not as bad as that 🙂

    Tristan

    • Mr. Groovy

      I’m pretty sure Canada is just as screwed up as America and Europe. I’ll have to double-check that, though. I think Australia, Chile, and Singapore are the only countries that do retirement right. I wish we had your system over here. I can’t imagine how much money I would have now if every dollar my employers’ and I put into Social Security were put into my 401(k) instead! Not only would I be significantly more wealthy, I’d be less beholden to the political class. I wouldn’t have to lick some politician’s boots so he would deign to “save” Social Security. Meh. Thanks for stopping by, Tristan. And thanks for reminding me that there are better ways out there to do retirement.

Comments are closed.