flanging 67

Retirement is another important objective of our contracts.  Brighton’s contribution to a pension plan was negotiated in every contract.  With each contract their contribution rate went up a little.  Trinity did not do pensions.  But they maintained ours for us, without contributing anything toward it.  What Trinity did offer was a 401K plan.  Which I maxed out every year.  I’m a big believer in saving for retirement any way you can.  When the dot com crash of 2000 happened, a lot of people cashed in their mutual funds.  They couldn’t stand losing so much money.  What they didn’t understand was that it isn’t real money until you spend it.  As long as it’s in the bank it’s only numbers.  But a lot of guys couldn’t leave it alone, anyway.  The saw the money accumulate, then eventually got into it for medical expenses, home mortgages, educational expenses, anything they were allowed to spend it on.  They believed better to spend it now than to let it disappear.  I held onto mine.  In fact, I had mine in high risk investments, I wanted the biggest return I could get.  Then the real estate crash of 2008 winnowed out a lot more people.  Not me.  I kept mine in high risk.  And it’s paid off.  The market always comes back.  The day it doesn’t is the day the country goes belly-up.  If that happens, your money is going to disappear anyway.  So bet on the market.  It’s like betting on your country.  Now that I am near retiring, I’ve moved my funds into less risky investments.  So that’s another nice little bundle waiting for me to retire.

A quick side note.  My mother had an uncanny knack with the market.  My parents moved up to Mason to be close to me and my sister so we could help them.  My mother was sickly and my dad needed help taking care of her.  They moved into an apartment, and hated it.  After their year’s lease ended, they cashed out a lot of stock to pay cash for a condo.  They loved the condo.  But my dad kept harping on how high the stock they had sold was going.  For a little while.  Then the crash of 2000 happened, and he shut up about it.  They cashed in their stock at near the highest price they could get for it.  Then my father died in 2007.  My mother cashed in everything.  She wanted everything liquid, where she could easily keep track of it and get to it whenever she wanted.  This was several months before the crash of 2008, so once again she cashed out at the top of the game.  She had a good track record with their stocks.

When Enerfab bought us from Trinity, we joined the Boilermakers union.  And the Boilermakers have their own pension, run by the union, that Enerfab contributes to.  After 2008 this pension got into trouble.  It lost a lot of value and, due to the pension reforms enacted after the crash, the amount of money we needed to contribute to it to keep the fund solvent skyrocketed.  But before that happened, we had to vote whether to accept the new rates, or close the fund and pay out what was in there.  There was a lot of screaming and hollering and blood-curdling threats, and the vote was close.  But we voted to maintain the pension, whatever it took.  The way the market has come back, that’s proven to have been a wise choice.  Besides, if we had accepted a pay-out, it wouldn’t have been that much, and we probably would have spent the money on other things.   Now that pension has grown nicely, too, and is awaiting my coming of age.

And, of course, there’s Social Security.  But then Social Security is going bust, right?  I have heard that ever since I started working, in 1970.  For five decades I’ve heard that you can’t count on Social Security, it’s going bankrupt, there won’t be any money in it by the time I retire.  Guess what?  I’m retiring, and it’s still here and it’s going to pay out just fine.  Of course it’s in trouble.  What financial institution hasn’t been in trouble at some time?  It needs to be tweaked.  Either taxes raised, or benefits cut, or most likely some combination of the two.  But it isn’t going under.  Social Security is backed by the Federal government.  And the day Social Security crashes will be the day the entire government crashes.  And if that ever happens, then nobody’s money will be any good.  You think they are having inflation in Venezuela right now?  If the day comes when the American government can’t pay its bills, then Western civilization will crash.

I’ve always been a big believer in saving for a rainy day.  Only now it doesn’t look so rainy.

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