Sunday, August 14, 2016

You think it is going to get worse before it gets better?

John Mauldin thinks it is going to get worse as well.  Much worse.

Mauldin's normally optimistic outlook has become somewhat tempered in the last year or so.  He's still an optimist over the long term (say, the lifespan of our children and grandchildren), but for many of us who are middle age and older, unless you are somewhere between very comfortable and outright rich, retirement is not going to be "the golden years" we heard so much about when we were younger.

I can tell you that Mrs. Freeholder and I have looked and continue to look very carefully at our retirement and our options.  We are fortunate in that we will both benefit from defined-benefit retirement plans, at least as long as they last.  We have some money set aside in various sorts of investments.  We have been very careful and have paid off, with the exception of one, every long term bill we have.  The exception is our RV, and that, quite honestly, the bank can have if it hits the fan.  If things get that bad, I don't think I'll be too concerned about my credit, thanks all the same.

And then there is Social Security, maybe.  I've never counted on it being there, but if it is, that will be what I think of as "gravy money".  Gravy money is what buys the extras, the nice-to-haves and the splurges.

It's easy for us to look at the 2016 election, throw up our hands and say "We are so-o-o screwed!" as we go to the fridge for another beer.  While that's likely, the problems that will result from whichever garage sale reject that winds up in the White House are going to pale in comparison to what awaits us when the global economy decides to crap the bed.  There are very few left alive that remember the last time that happened, but there are a lot of books that chronicle those times.  It might not be a bad idea to pick up a couple and read them, just to get an idea of how bad things were.  This is need-to-know information, because this is the sort of thing you will likely be retiring into.

I think we will have to be prepared for things to be worse this time.  There are more people who are further removed from our rural, agricultural past this time around.  I will hazard a guess that well over half the people in the US have never planted a seed and nurtured it to fruition, more or less actually gardened.  Even if they have, living in a major metro area, the amount of open space available to garden for most people is zero.  Even if you're among the fortunate and own a house rather than own/rent an apartment or condo, your yard is the size of a postage stamp.  Even the most intensive gardening methods can only get so much out of a few hundred square feet.

Even the success of that depends on the residents maintaining some semblance of the rule of law, and in those areas, I don't see that happening.  Several generations of welfare have created a class of people who have no respect for themselves, for others or for property rights of any sort.  And the police will likely phone it in when it truly hits the fan.  They have families of their own, and no one wants to be the guy who shot the next Freddie Grey.

So yeah, there's all of that to think about in planning for your retirement.

While many have urged those who prep to "Get out of the cities now!" to quote just one who shall  remain unnamed, that isn't always an available option.  Family ties, jobs, the need for health care and a host of other reasons, good bad and indifferent, keep many of us in suburban if not urban addresses.  And I'll be honest about it--while I like the country, I like the suburbs too.  I like fast Internet service.  I like (a few) of the channels on cable TV.  I like being able to go out to various restaurants.  I enjoy a movie now and then.  As much as I like Amazon, don't believe it when UPS says UPS delivers everywhere.  I like to go to a ball game every so often.  As I get older, it's pretty comforting to know that the hospital is a few minutes rather than a few hours away.  Given a choice, I'm going to take the suburbs.  Maybe that makes me a bad prepper, but so be it.  It's my decision.

We all have to make our bets and play the hands that we are dealt.  Mrs. Freeholder and I are making ours and doing so consciously.  Are you making yours, and are you consciously doing so, or sleepwalking into the future?  It's going to make a difference in the next few years.