April 30, 2008
When I hear my fellow baby boomers gleefully talk about their plans to retire ASAP, head for the Tuscan hills or otherwise continue their lifelong quest for "self-actualization," I have to bite my tongue.
It's not that I'm all work and no play. But there's just something -- lots of things -- wrong, in general, with retiring at 55, 62 or even 65. I would go so far as to call it profoundly selfish and unpatriotic.
For individuals, working longer can mean more income and savings and something to bequeath to one's children. For the nation, if millions of us worked until 67 instead of 62, Americans' wealth and consumption would increase appreciably, fueling stronger economic growth.
That added income would provide about $800 billion in additional tax revenue and reduce government benefit costs by at least $100 billion in 2045, according to Urban Institute calculations. This alone would cut the projected deficit in 2045 by 159 percent.
Well then, call us unpatriotic, because my husband's goal is to retire from the Army at 42 and be retired. Done. Finito. I don't know if that will stick because he might get bored being at home, but at the rate he's planning now, he will have the option of making it so.
And I dare some communist to say that what he's doing is "unpatriotic." He doesn't have to keep working an additional 25 years so he can fund social welfare programs. It's his responsibility to provide for himself and his family, nothing more. And as much as we've scrimped and saved and done without for the past six years so that we have the financial flexibility to do whatever he wants when he retires, I'll be damned if someone says that he has to work longer to help out deadbeats who didn't scrimp and save and do without.
Yes, we're selfish. I daresay the US would be a better place if everyone were a little more selfish, taking care of their own needs and doing what needs to be done to maximize profits and reach their goals. The Invisible freaking Hand.
Blood. Boiling. Calm. Down.
April 25, 2008
Twenty-one percent of those surveyed said a lottery would be the most practical strategy for accumulating several hundred thousand dollars, and that percentage was higher among lower-income people, with 38% of those who earn less than $25,000 pointing to the lottery as a solution.
Some Americans "both greatly overestimate their chances of hitting a lottery jackpot, and greatly underestimate their ability to build six-figure wealth by patiently making regular savings contributions over time," said Stephen Brobeck, executive director of CFA, in a telephone press conference.
Knock me over with a feather.
This ties in nicely with a blog post AirForceWife sent to me yesterday. FrugalDad wrote a blog post called Language of the Perpetual Poor, which contained this gem:
If you are ever around a gas station on Friday night you see them lined up at the counter forking over $20 of their hard-earned paycheck for their chance at financial glory. And just try telling them that $20 a week in a mutual fund averaging 8% growth for 30 years adds up to $130,000. Who can afford to invest in mutual funds?
So there you go, there's your six figures. Shoot, you'd be better off putting the money in a coffee can, as one commenter said she started doing instead of going on on the office pool.
In searching for these shocking lottery statistics, I also came across this anecdote to put it all in perspective:
"'Suppose you have one friend in Canada. If you put the names of everyone in Canada in a hat and draw one name at random, you are 2.5 times more likely to draw your friend's name than you are to win the Big Game,' according to Cal State-Hayward statistics professor Michael Orkin."
A big problem is that people are so mathematically ignorant that they don't even understand these odds. Here's how bad it is:
The study also identified a strong relation between financial literacy and retirement planning. Persons who understood finances more were more likely to take charge and plan for their retirement. Financial literacy was judged on the basis of being able to answer simple financial questions including:
Â“If the chances of getting a disease are 10 per cent, how many people out of 1,000 would be expected to get the disease?Â” Answer: 100. (Percentage of people answering correctly: 84.)
Â“If 5 people all have the winning number in the lottery and the prize is $2 million, how much will each of them get?Â” Answer: $400,000. (Percentage of people answering correctly: 56.)
Â“LetÂ’s say you have $200 in a savings account paying 10% per year interest. How much would you have in the account at the end of two years?Â” Answer: $242. (Percentage of people answering correctly: 18.)
This is just basic stuff, people. Yikes.
There are only two tricks to investing for long-term financial success: early and often. The lottery doesn't enter into it.
April 24, 2008
I seriously thought about this all day, about moms who don't stray from child's side. I thought a lot about my own childhood, and about CaliValleyGirl's (she should regale you with tales of her childhood independence), and about leaving a child alone in the car for a few moments.
So I was fascinated to find this article this evening:
Would you let your fourth-grader ride public transportation without an adult? Probably not. Still, when Lenore Skenazy, a columnist for the New York Sun, wrote about letting her son take the subway alone to get back to her Manhattan home from a department store on the Upper East Side, she didn't expect to get hit with a tsunami of criticism from readers.
"Long story short: My son got home, ecstatic with independence," Skenazy wrote on April 4 in the New York Sun. "Long story longer: Half the people I've told this episode to now want to turn me in for child abuse. As if keeping kids under lock and key and helmet and cell phone and nanny and surveillance is the right way to rear kids. It's not. It's debilitatingÂ—for us and for them."
I honestly think it's cool that she let her kid ride the subway. I was only a little older than he when I rode my bike to school, an event which I immortalized when I previously wrote about letting kids have freedom:
On my last day of fifth grade, my mom let me ride my bike to school. Some of my friends who lived closer to the school got to ride their bikes often, but we lived in a neighborhood that was further away and so I was a bus-riding kid. (Oh, and every day my brother and I walked down the street to the bus stop and waited alone.) But finally my mom said I was old enough to earn the right to ride my bike to school. I just google mapped it, and it seems I rode roughly two miles. And I felt SO COOL. I was one of the big kids now. I was independent. I had Done Something Awesome. And without a helmet.
My mom and I talked about that not too long ago. She says looking back she can't believe all the parents let their kids ride bikes to school. And she's not sure she'd let me do it today. Even she has a hard time remembering when cartoon characters didn't need helmets.
I needed to ride that bike to school. Heck, I still remember it. As a crowning achievement, as a milestone, as a step on the way to Growing Up. The thing that scares me is wondering if I will be able to let my kids take those steps too.
The Newsweek article says this:
Back in 1972, when many of today's parents were kids, 87 percent of children who lived within a mile of school walked or biked every day. But today, the Centers for Disease Control report that only 13 percent of children bike, walk or otherwise get themselves to school.
My husband is pretty adamant that we won't be driving our kid to his bus stop. And likely we won't have to; the local bus stop seems to stop every 100 feet to let a new kid out right in front of his house. We want to have a relaxed and groovy approach to parenting. (Ha, the last thing Sarah is is relaxed and groovy.)
Of course, these feelings are all theoretical. I want to be a cool, independence-fostering mom. But I've also been plagued by hovering thoughts.
I know a couple, they tried for eight years to have their daughter. She was born dangerously premature, and she ended up being their only child. She's now 30, and when I think about how hard it was for them to have this child, I wonder how they ever let her leave the house. How did they let her ride a bike or start driving or go to college? How did they ever let her out of their sight? She was irreplaceable. Literally.
Since having a baby has proven so hard, I can imagine it will be even harder to let my kid become independent. I will have to really work at not smothering the kid.
I will have to remind myself how I felt when I rode that bike to school. My kid needs to feel that too.
Oh good heavens: I Left My Son in San Francisco.
April 23, 2008
Politicians love a "crisis." John McCain, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama all think that the government should bail out homeowners who can't pay their mortgages. When they say the government should do this, they mean the taxpayers, including those who are paying their mortgages. They also think the government should regulate the lending and investment industries further.
Because "crisis" justifies making government bigger.
It's why we now have a global warming "crisis" and in previous years we had "crises" over avian flu, the Y2K threat to computers, imaginary cancer spikes caused by pesticides, killer bees flying up from Mexico, and uncontrolled population growth leading to a "Population Bomb" that will bring "riots and mass starvation" by the year 2000.
In my email, I mentioned the HBO series John Adams and remarked how deeply it struck me when John Adams told Congress that it wasn't his place to give his opinion when they were deadlocked. Imagine any politician today saying it's not his place to give his opinion! Nowadays, politicans tie millions of dollars to their opinions and give both out freely. And imagine telling our early presidents that they need to help people pay for their homes or stop the spread of disease. No way that was the government's job back then. But it sure is now. Hurricane hit your city? Free trailers for everyone. And here's a voucher to go buy a new Gucci purse.
The term "predatory lending" just gets my goat. Forced lending? Ha. You can't make someone borrow money from you. If you make $30,000 a year and bought a $400,000 house, it's no one's fault but your own. I wish John Adams could be here today to stare incredulously at those people's faces and tell them to get real.
April 21, 2008
John Hawkins found the most horrific article about why men don't do housework. Now there's room for complaining about my husband and his violent toothbrushing (the man brushes his teeth so hard that he sprays everywhere, showering the bathroom in white spots), which I have been known to gripe about on the phone with certain valley girls from Cali. But this article, it's just too much.
And yet everyone acts as if Jeremy deserves some kind of medal just for making a run to the supermarket. No one has ever suggested that IÂ’m a heroine for doing the things every mother is expected to do. I admit that my husband helps out more than many men, but hereÂ’s another news flash: It isnÂ’t because heÂ’s such a fabulously enlightened being. Left to his own devices, he would doubtless park himself in front of the TV like some sitcom male-chauvinist couch potato while I did all the work. The reason Jeremy Â“helpsÂ” as much as he does (an offensive terminology that itself suggests whoÂ’s really being held responsible) is simple: He doesnÂ’t have a choice.
OK, I'll say it. My husband does deserve a medal for helping me around the house. I do most of the housework, and I'm darned lazy at it. Right now I am blogging in the middle of the day with election coverage on the TV, and I just set down my crochet project to pick up the laptop. La-zy. I did do several loads of laundry earlier, cleaned out my husband's dresser drawers, took out the trash, weeded the front flowerbeds, and unloaded and loaded the dishwasher. But really, I still had time to watch two Laws & Orders, make a preemie hat, talk on the phone with Erin, my mom, and my mother-in-law, and eat several pieces of candy on the sofa. The fact that my husband helps make dinner, change the sheets, and load the dishwasher is indeed a sign of his sainthood. Because he woke up at 0430 this morning to spend more than 12 hours at work and then will come home to study for an economics final.
I'm the one who would doubtless park myself on the sofa all day, watching cop dramas and knitting to my heart's content. I clean up the house because I don't have a choice. It's my job since I don't have a job. And once he deploys, I won't have anyone around to shame me into doing housework. The house will probably be a disaster. Charlie sure ain't gonna pull his weight.
I'm lucky my husband puts up with piles of yarn, laundry, and dirty dishes at all. He could easily chew my butt for not working harder around the house while he's at work all week and getting his MBA on the weekends. But he doesn't care, as long as food's on the table and his socks are clean. And he'd have every right to ask me to do more. The oven needs cleaning, as do the windowsills.
I am the one who counts my blessings around here.
My husband is a dream.
Officials with Marriott International have agreed to meet with pro-family leaders to discuss the hotel giant's policy of selling in-room pornographic movies to consumers at some of its properties.
The letter stressed that pulling the plug on pornography would be in keeping with Marriott's public statement of "promoting the well-being of children and families."
What a bunch of meddling busybodies. If a businessman alone in his hotel room wants to pay outrageous sums of money to watch a dirty movie, why is it anybody else's business?
I mean, don't get me wrong, buying those movies at a hotel is dumb. They're expensive! Shoot, all in-room movies are expensive. Last week the Red Roof Inn wanted to charge us $5.95 to watch an episode of Dexter. Uh, no. But people have the right to spend their money however stupidly they choose. And if they want to spend it on certain types of movies, that's their business.
I just don't get how offering these movies, for a fee, harms children and families who stay in the hotel. This is like the easiest way to prevent your kid from watching dirty movies. If you share a room, there's no way the kid will see it. If the kids have their own room, you'll know about it immediately the next morning when you settle your bill. That's easier control over your kids than you have at home, where any kid at school can hand your precious baby a DVD to take home and hide.
And they're the easiest thing in the world to avoid. Don't want to watch them? Don't buy them! What a novel idea. Just skip that selection on the menu. It's not like the dirty movies are on every channel for free. That will only happen when you take your kids to Europe on vacation.
This kind of stuff drives me nuts. If you don't like sex/violence/nudity/Nip Tuck on TV, don't watch. Change the channel. But seriously, don't try to pressure advertisers and hotel chains to make it so no one can watch. That's manipulative and pathetic.
Incidentally, one time when I was in like high school or something, my family was at a hotel and tried to order an in-room movie. We hit the button, and the movie started, but something wasn't right: it was grainy, and the music was...funny. And then the name of the movie showed up, and gosh I wish I could remember what it was. Something erotic. Obviously the wrong movie had shown up on the screen. So my mom calls the front desk, but she's left the movie playing while she's dialing. My dad was like, "Uh, I think you might want to stop this from playing," while my younger brothers are shushing him and staring intently at the screen. Ha.
April 17, 2008
You know your life is particularly stressful when the pep talk you give is, "The next few weeks are going to be insane, but you just have to make it through them. And then you leave." When deployment is the light at the end of the tunnel, you have too much on your plate.
April 15, 2008
Secondly, our 2008 Census Dress Rehearsal. Wanna know the choices for race?
- Mexican, Mexican Am, Chicano
- Puerto Rican
- Other Hispanic, write in Argentinean, Colombian, Dominican, Nicaraguan, Salvadoran, Spaniard
- American Indian or Alaska Native (print name of tribe)
- Asian Indian
- Native Hawaiian
- Guamanian or Chamorro
- Other Pacific Islander, write in Fijian or Tongan
- Other Asian, write in Hmong, Laotian, Thai, Pakistani, Cambodian
Oh yeah, and White or Black.
Christ on a cracker, where to begin? These are not races; these are national identities! We're really going to let Asians self-identify as Japanese, Korean, or Laotian but white Europeans can go f themselves? Oh, and remember, Arabs are considered "white." So we'll lump Swedes, Sicilians, Bulgarians, and Arabs all together, but heaven forbid we don't know whether you're Fijian or Tongan living in the US.
This makes me so mad I can't even see straight.
Who cares about any of this? You know what prevents us from moving from the color of one's skin to the content of his character? This bullcrap. I have the audacity of hope that one day we won't have to check stupid effing boxes like this, that one day we'll just all be called Americans.
Is that too much to ask? Really? Because otherwise I want a write-in tally for German-Irish-English-Native-American-American.
Anyway, today is the day for Boortz to shine. Read here.
April 04, 2008
And all of a sudden, I am sad. I am really going to miss him while he's gone.
I went and read the things I missed about him last time he was gone. Ha, they're all still true. Mostly this time, I will miss his company. Last time, I had many good friends whose husbands were deployed with mine, but now...well, I don't have any friends here in town. All of my friends are internet-based, and when the husband won't be coming home at the end of the day, I fear time is going to drag.
But anyway, enough about that. My husband is signing out on block leave today, so tomorrow we're headed across the country to visit his parents before he deploys. And while everything is up to date in most of the city, they haven't gone as fer as they can go at his parents' house. My in-laws don't have internet access, so I will be taking a week off of blogging. Don't have too much fun without me...
April 02, 2008
As much as I want a baby now, that's how much I did not want a baby previously. I can't say that I would've used the word "punished," but I would not have been happy if I had gotten pregnant before I was ready. Not happy.
Right before my husband left for Iraq the last time, he was out on a training exercise for a month. During that time, my grandmother died. I was stressed with his upcoming deployment and being half a world away while my mother was losing her only living parent. And I was ten days late for my period. Even though my husband was in the field and there was no possible way I could've been pregnant, I was freaked out. I did not want a baby. I had been married for a year and a half, we had the same good relationship that we have now, and yet I did not want to have a baby yet. Not at all. I know we would've gone on to be OK with it and been a great family, but still I'm glad I wasn't pregnant back then. Even knowing what I know now -- how hard it's been to start a family -- I still can't honestly say I would've wanted it to happen four years ago.
Much less before I was married. No freaking way.
So that's my thoughts on that. I don't think "punished" was the right word to use, but I completely understand Obama's idea that a baby isn't always a blessed miracle. And while today it is really hard for me to think about all the unwanted babies in the world when we want one so badly, I still can't say I think it's appropriate to saddle young girls with a baby they don't want. Having to have a baby you don't want is the flip side of the coin to not being able to have a baby you desperately want. I wish no one ever had to live through either scenario.
Rachel Lucas has more thoughts on the matter: Reality always trumps idealism.
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