A year from now, I will be eligible to retire. It’s a good feeling to know that for the rest of my life, I will receive a guaranteed monthly payment, adequate to maintain a middle-class lifestyle. Before I decide to retire, however, I’ll have to consider my options and decide the most prudent financial direction, but it looks like I’ll be okay.
I’m fortunate, I have a pension. Many people in the tradeshow business don’t have the same secure retirement outlook that I enjoy. Some are relying on 401k and some may not even have that. Many are depending on Social Security to be their sole source of income, and given the acrimony surrounding this program, their retirement may not be as secure as they think.
Recently, it’s become fashionable in certain circles to blame the poverty that many older people face on their lack of proper financial planning. However, this is done most often by those who find themselves in very fortunate circumstances, either through birth or just dumb luck.
I’m sure if they faced the prospect of their old age spent in poverty and deprivation, they would be the first to demand adequate financial assistance for the elderly.
Those fortunate enough to have pension programs at work find themselves the target of envy by those who don’t; anger and bitterness has characterized the attitude toward pension recipients. Corporations and governmental agencies that are eager to avoid their financial commitments fuel this hostility with rhetoric, which is both inaccurate and shameful.
Let’s keep this in mind: Pensions are nothing other than deferred compensation for work already performed. It’s as if you obtained an item by putting a down payment and promising to pay the rest at a later date.
When the time comes to pay up, you refuse to submit the balance as agreed because you didn’t feel like it. In this situation, the legal system wouldn’t have much sympathy for you, and you would be required to fulfill your commitment.
For some reason, however, pensions seem to evoke a different image in the mind of the general public. They view this as a program where you are continuing to get paid after you are no longer performing work. The concept of a pension is fairly simple; you defer part of your salary and this goes into a fund where it is invested, receives interest over many decades until retirement and then you begin to receive the money earned years ago. It is not welfare, or a hand out. It’s deferred compensation.
Most of the problems facing pension programs are the result of inadequate funding over a period of years. Instead of submitting pension funds on a timely basis, the necessary payments are put off until later. The organization’s bottom line is artificially and temporarily inflated, but this results in bigger problems down the road. Then, when these commitments are due, people complain about the crushing financial burden caused by these loafers who want to get paid after they’re no longer working.
Advancing age has far too many challenges to add financial worries on top of declining health and other issues. Our industry demands a lot of us. We work long, hard hours and give it the best years of our lives.
It takes too much out of you to walk away with nothing to show for your efforts except a worn-out body.