When I first started teaching, our teachers' union had a workshop on the state retirement plan for teachers. My eyes tend to glaze over and my attention wonder when anything financial is under discussion, but somehow I did take away from that session the image of a three legged stool. The presenter said that the state teachers' pension was only one leg of a three legged stool. The other two legs were social security and personal savings. The intention was to get us thinking that the quality of our retirement was more under our control if we planned wisely and saved for the life we wanted for our retirement years.
Well, who at the tender age of 21 or so believes they will ever retire? And who, on a beginning teacher's salary in those days, was very successful at socking away spare cash? And once a young family starts to grow, who even has enough for mortgage and groceries, let alone spare cash to stash in a piggy bank? No one in my social circle, for sure.
But as time passed and salaries rose and bills got paid off and retirement got nearer and nearer, I suddenly got the wisdom of saving some money, even investing some money. At one point just before we retired, it looked like Mike and I would have a pretty easy time of it. Our mortgage was paid off, our cars were paid for, Mike had managed to sell his half of his business, we had money in the bank and in investment accounts. A year later, the financial picture was hardly so rosy.
Okay, so our stool is a little bit wobbly. Our savings and investments have been way less productive than we had hoped and planned. Last summer we had a lot of unexpected hits with things going kaflooey with vehicles and the house. Those things will happen. Still, we have managed to maintain a comfortable lifestyle and are content in retirement. Our wants and needs are fairly simple.
Oh, but now I have to worry about managing guilt. Don't I feel guilty that I have a pension when so many people do not? Don't I feel guilty that when I am soon enough eligible for social security, my signing up would be tantamount to taking money that could be spent improving schools and the quality of education for the children who are, after all, the future of this country?
Don't I feel guilty that, should I become seriously ill in the future, Medicare will prolong my then useless life at the expense of health care for the working poor who will be essentially footing my bills?
Yes, I feel bad that some people have lost their pensions or never had them. Will giving up my personal pension be a better solution than working to change a business climate that no longer accepts any responsibility for the future of its employees? I think not. And it seems to me that the people who cry the most about having to support social security are the same people most likely to vote against school budgets and blame public education for the country's problems anyway. Don't play that "taking money away from education" card with me. Please.
As for Medicare...from what I can tell, it is not patients who getting rich from the money spent. It's hard to believe that critically ill people are bilking the system for their own gain.
So that's it. I'm just not going to feel guilty. I'm off the enjoy another day.