Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Sighing Over My 40l(k)

Regardless of whatever advice I hand out, I’m only human. I was cleaning out a file drawer and decided to find out if the financial institution in charge of my 401(k) had perhaps cut me a break by waiving a fee on the account. The recent stock catastrophe undoubtedly dropped my total below the cutoff amount for it being a no-fee situation. Sadly, the fee was not waived. And even more sadly, my inquiry resulted in learning the current dollar value of my account.

Pause a moment for a sigh.

Of course I knew it would be bad. And that it doesn’t matter much, since I don’t ever intend to retire. Writers don’t. I certainly couldn’t retire on the pitiful amount of money in my 40l(k) before this. So it’s not as if I have lost anything really big. Actually, that’s not what I’m sighing over. People in my family live a long time. I have an excellent chance of being around to see my 401(k) regain and surpass its former value. I am not particularly upset over the drop per se. Well, no more than anyone is in this worldwide economic mess.

What makes me a little sad is that there were years in my life when I earned less than the dollar amount that just vanished from my 401(k). Those of you with big fat 401(k)s have already experienced this reaction, perhaps. But I hadn’t looked at it this way before. During some of those years, I didn’t have the option of easy saving for retirement in a tax-sheltered account; they did not exist for ordinary individuals and I would have been far too intimidated to approach a broker to purchase tax-free municipals or the like. Which was what old people did, anyway. And I was young and stupid. Back then the most I did was save the excess from my paycheck, and invest it in CDs. And then cash them in a couple of years later to live high on the hog. For which I am not even sorry; I quite enjoyed spending the money I had earned.

But the paper loss I learned about today seems like an awful lot of money to have (temporarily, I hope) disappeared. I think of all the mornings I didn’t get to stay in bed, the nights when I had to end the evening earlier than I wanted to because there was work the next day, and all the extremely painful shoes I had to wear as part of the uniform of a working woman. And I sigh.

Okay. Done. It’s the past. Tomorrow could be a better day.

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