Thursday, December 21, 2017

Retired at Last, Retired at Last, Thank God Almighty, Retired at Last!

I finally pulled the plug.

I called the Georgia Bar yesterday and put my membership on "inactive" status.  This means I no longer have to pay bar dues, maintain malpractice insurance, or obtain CLE credits.  It also means I can no longer practice law.   My Virginia Bar membership is already inactive.   Inactive status is handy, as if I ever need to go back to work, I can simply reactivate my membership, pay the dues, get the CLE credits and I'm back in business.  God willing, I'll never have to do that.  Even if I had to, they probably wouldn't let me.

A reader writes asking for advice, as to whether he should retire at age 53.   I don't give advice here, and that kind of advice is along the lines of who should I marry? and should we have children? which are personal questions I would not touch with a ten-foot pole.  He has enough money to retire, perhaps, although health insurance is the big variable.   With the slow destruction of Obamacare, it is unclear whether we will have cheap, affordable health insurance in the next few years.

And it gets expensive, after age 55 until age 65, when you can go on Medicare (and even then, supplemental plans aren't cheap!).   The reader has a kid not yet in college.  Maybe best to wait until that hurdle is over.  The health insurance thing is the real wild card.

But, he is smart to be in a position where he could retire at that age, because, quite frankly, in your 50's, no one wants to hire you.

Facebook got into trouble yet again (you ever notice how these "tech" companies are always stepping in the dogshit?  Uber, Facebook, Amazon, whatever, they are always in the news with some new scandal).   Apparently they can target ads based on age, and an employer wanted to put ads on Facebook for job openings that targeted people only under the age of 38.

Now, if you are in your 20's and struggling to find a job, it may seem weird to you that employers only want younger people.   After all, the narrative the Russian Troll farms are spewing out to divide us against each other is that old people have all the cushy jobs and that Millennials are getting the shaft.  It isn't as simple as that.

As I noted time and time again, age 55 is a good time to be given the heave-ho from your job - and you may (like my Father) never find another job in your lifetime.   Oh, sure, he worked as a "financial adviser" selling a few IRA's (he put me in American funds - thanks for the load, Dad!) and retirement plans.  But that was really a part-time job.   And over the years, I've seen this happen to a lot of people - friends of mine.   Even me.

While I am voluntarily retiring, the reality is, if I wanted to go find a "job" even in this heated job market, I would find no takers.  I would have a hard time getting a job at Wal-Mart.  As another friend of mine who was self-employed for many years put it, "we are virtually unemployable!"  We've been off-the-leash for too long and would not take well to the yoke and harness.   And worse yet, we'd be a bad influence on the other children - giving them ideas of what life is like beyond the confines of the cubicle.

No, employers want young people.  People with fresh, relevant educations, who have a lot of energy and very low expectations.   People who will come to work every day so they can make car payments on a new Acura.   People who will be beholden to an employer.  People who think they're lucky to get a job.  They don't want someone who is independently wealthy who may question decisions made by management regarding dumping toxic waste in third-world countries.  No no, not that.

The law business is typical.   In the Patent field, every job listing is looking for someone with "2-5 years experience" which means someone who knows enough to do the work, but isn't smart enough yet to figure out the entire partnership track thing is a lot of hooey.   Six years experience?  Not interested.  Thirty years?  Definitely not interested.

Which is why I say, it is important to be prepared to be laid off at age 55, as our reader is, and have your debts paid off, or at least paid down, and have some savings in the bank.   A lot of folks laid off in their 50's wake up one day to discover that they are heavily in debt, have no savings for retirement, and now no job or career.  They went from a high-flying "player" one day, with a corner office, a reserved parking space, a new leased luxury SUV, and a fancy mini-mansion in a desirable suburb, to being flat broke and, in some instances, virtually homeless.

And that is the weird thing.  You can live a life of apparent wealth, but end up broke in short order, if everything you own is paid for with borrowed money, and you've borrowed that money basically by not funding your retirement.  And a lot of people live this way and think it is "normal" until the day they wake up and find out their life was basically one long con.

The future is hard to predict.   Health insurance costs could easily skyrocket if Obamacare comes further unglued.  My premiums, without subsidy, are already over $2000 a month, which is just idiotic.   Inflation could wipe out my savings.   Social Security could be cut.   You can't count on things to go 100% as you plan. 

But on the other hand, the "I'll just work until I'm 70" idea is also flawed.   Because a lot of people kick the bucket at age 71, or worse yet, age 69.

So, we'll see where this goes.  If we spend wisely and live frugally, we should have more than enough money to live 30 years or more.    Which is probably longer than I have a realistic expectation of living.

Lionel Hutz no longer exists!