The woman highlighted in the article, after all, is not going to be saved by Social Security; she’s 57. Without massive changes in spending, she’s headed for bankruptcy long before she’s eligible to collect benefits. That’s not to say that she’s a profligate spendthrift who deserves the pain she’s suffering; rather, the errors she’s made are incredibly common. That’s why it’s worth running through some of the most common mistakes that land people in these kinds of messes …
I still can’t think too hard about 2007 without a shudder: Both wage-earners in the house unemployed, me just out of the hospital after major surgery, the housing market just beginning to bottom out. Three months of this, during which I daydreamed about selling all our shit and moving us to Europe. All the pets got sick and died. The car’s transmission needed to be rebuilt (either that or buy a new one, which we would totally get a loan for given that neither of us had jobs). We racked up credit card debt that we just now, just in May, finished paying off.
Had we made all the choices up until that point that we could have made in order to best prepare ourselves for what was happening? Of course not. Looking back, I wished like hell we had eloped. I wish we’d never bought a place. I wish we hadn’t done surgery on Stripe (Joey and Fox I was okay with, but seriously, Stripe, I was around the fucking bend about that animal). I thought of all the stupid shit I owned and how much of a loss I’d take if I sold it all. Who could pass a test like the one above, in which all your choices are viewed through the lens of being insufficiently ready for the apocalypse? I mean, by that logic, if the zombies take over tomorrow, I will have been a failure as a human being for not having gotten an Olympic medal in marksmanship and for not owning a collection of shovels.
(Which reminds me, it’s payday, I should stock up on flour. The squirrels are really fat and it’s going to be a long cold winter. When we’re all out of food I will not give you any bread, but will lecture you self-importantly about how you should have done likewise.)
Which is the point of stupid glibertarian bullshit like this anyway. It’s not to actually give advice, it’s to excuse the reader from giving a damn about the story being told, and cast the writer as a better person for having wound up on the winning side. God, in a discussion about the presently superfucked economy, do I ever NOT want to debate how many vacations you should have taken or not taken. The whole thing … she may not deserve her pain, but let’s talk about how you can avoid it by being a good girl. Save for retirement starting at 13 and sacrifice your unemployment for part-time work that pays less (bzuh?) and do everything RIGHT, and you won’t be fucked by the universe. It’s so easy!
Trouble is, I get to the end of a piece like this and say, “So what now?” What now? We’ve delineated all the choices Good and Virtuous People should make, which helps the people currently screwed … how? How does this WORK? It is generally good advice not to smoke so as not to get cancer; if I’m coughing up a lung does telling me I should have quit years ago cure me? Our economy is screwed, and this has fuck-all to do with how much people have saved for retirement, or how much Social Security costs, or how high the taxes on the Go Galt Dancers are. It has to do with meeting structural changes with U RAH RAH tax cuts for 40 fucking years, pretending aggressively that lots of things that aren’t the problem are, and picking through the trash of anybody who dares speak up to find a suspiciously high electric bill.
Which I’ve got zero time for. Gotta go buy some shovels.