Sunday, February 07, 2016

Prepping isn't just about emergencies and disasters

Have you ever considered that?  As someone who has seen more sunrises than I have left to see, one thing that I have considered more and more of late is the concept of how I have to change my prepping as I age.  Things that were once easy are now more difficult if not outright impossible.  A good example is my Get Home bag.  Where once it weighed 40 pounds and had plenty of options and backups, I've now slimmed it down to 30 pounds and given up options and some backups, and I'm looking for ways to slim it down even further.  Why?  A pinched sciatic nerve really affects your load carrying capacity.  My choice is either to carry what I can carry comfortably for the entire trip, or carry what I can carry for a day or two and then face then next 2-4 days in pain, unable to move quickly, carrying what I can carry in my pockets.  Not a difficult choice, really.

However, I have carried that prepping mindset further into the aging thing and have had for years.  If you knew my real name, you could go back to the old misc.survivalism Usenet group (now that's dating myself) and find threads where the topic of discussion was "How long before our obviously rotting civilization comes crashing down?"  We all had our opinions and our reasoning, with mine being the mid-20teens for demographic reasons.  Time remains to see if I was correct.

Because of that belief, one thing I have never counted on for my old age was good old FDR's Socialist Insecurity System.  While my parents collect Social Security checks until they day they died, I don't know if I will ever see a dime of the money that has been lifted from my paychecks from the time I was 14 1/2 years old and got my first job where they had to withhold taxes.  If I should get checks from it at the current benefit rate, it will be a really nice addition to the pot, but I refuse to count on it.

I do have a government pension which I am currently drawing (and for those of you who would call me names for having worked for the government and drawing that pension, trust me, no one who works in the bowels of government gets those fat paychecks, fancy offices or great taxpayer-financed trips we all love to hate--we earn our keep just like everyone else with a job, even if we are often directed to do stupid shit that we know is stupid) that amounts to roughly 1/3 of my old paycheck.  I am drawing it because I hit a magic combination of years of "service" and age, and through fortunate circumstances was finally able to bail out and head back into the private sector.  How long will that government pension hold up?  That depends on the legislature--they giveth and trust me, they can damn well taketh away.  They've done it before with the pension system.

The new employer does not have a pension plan, but does have a non-matching 401(k).  Given the progressives' continual noises about "helping us" with our 401(k) plans, not only have I not taken advantage of this, but I have emptied my old ones into various accounts where they will have a more difficult time getting their grasping hands on my money.

I have, for many years, also never failed to "pay myself", just as I have paid my bills.  Every month, some amount has went into some sort of savings or investment vehicle, even if it was just a stash of cash.  This is a hard and fast rule that I haven't broken in nearly 30 years.

All of this can be boiled down to the old saying:  "Failing to plan is planning to fail."  While I do not pretend to be a financial wizard, so far I've done OK.  If things hold together for a few more years, I should be in a decent place where I can consider retiring with a reasonable assurance that I will not have to eat dog food at some future point.

Unfortunately, there are a lot of people who just don't plan ahead for retirement and aging.  Many of them are serial poor financial decision makers, and eventually age, failing health and a lack of funds puts them in a bad situation.  I'm human enough to feel some sympathy for them, but realistic enough to know that they got themselves into their predicament through their own lack of foresight.  One of those people is 79 year old Dolores Westfall.  Dolores seems to be a very nice little old lady who is doing all she can to get by on the meager resources she has available to her.  But as you read that article, you will see a pattern emerge.  Dolores is one of those serial poor decision makers, and now she is paying the price for it.  Unfortunately for Dolores, she still hasn't learned her lesson.  Faced with a choice of spending $100 on needed dental work or on an architectural tour, Dolores goes with the tour, because it's "food for her soul".  Sweetheart, I don't know about you, but I'd rather not have to gum the food for my body--my soul will just have to hang for a while.

I will give Delores credit, as she is not whining that it is someone else's fault, nor is she crying to be bailed out.  She is working, moving from job to job, and trying to keep things together on her own.  With no family to help her, she is pretty well alone in her struggle.  That's a bad place to be.  Sounds like the warnings we in the prepping community hear about "lone wolf survivalists", doesn't it?

Some kind soul reading her story is probably going to set up a GoFundMe account to help out Dolores, and that's grand.  I might even chip in a few bucks if I hear about it.  But there are too many Doloreses out there.  As with emergency preparedness, it's your personal responsibility to prepare yourself for your old age and retirement, whatever form you want it to take.  Start early and it isn't too hard.  Start late, and you may well find yourself in Dolores' shoes.

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