On personal finance

money-down-the-toiletWARNING: Ill-informed rant ahead.  More so than usual, yes.

Shut up.

I got another quarterly statement from MetLife today.  I have something called a 401A.  I phrase it that way not because I’m trying to be cute or lead into an explanation but because I really don’t have the vaguest idea what the shit a 401A actually is.   I know it has something to do with retirement and I know that it is pathetically small; I’ve supposedly been paying into this thing (or maybe someone else pays into it, I dunno) for, what, seven years now?– something like that, and the total amount in the account is still less than the amount of a single paycheck.  They helpfully inform me that I can look forward to a monthly retirement income of $64 (that’s not a typo) based on what I have in my account.

I have some other account with some other company; it has even less money in it.  I think I started paying into that in Chicago, maybe, and then I left that job but I still have the account?  I should probably “roll it over” into something; I hear that money can be “rolled over” in some circumstances and I think maybe this might have something to do with that.

And then there’s my TRF, or Teacher’s Retirement Fund.  Off the top of my head I have no idea how much is in that or what it’s good for, but if I’ve gotten my quarterly report from MetLife I’m probably due to get a statement from them soon too.

That, right there, constitutes the entire sum of both my knowledge of how investments work and the current state of my “retirement fund.”  I just actually tried– I think about this every time I get a quarterly statement, but this time I actually did something about it– to log into MetLife’s website to see if I have the option to be “more aggressive” (that’s a money thing, right?) with how they’re allocating my money, because the $8 that my fund increased in value over the last quarter seems… paltry.

The site is insisting that I give them my PIN.  I don’t have a PIN, or at least I don’t think I do; I’m certain I’ve never logged into the website before.  I clicked the button helpfully labeled “Lost your PIN?” and they have informed me that they’re mailing it to me.  Because it is 1986.

Here’s the thing:  I know, intellectually, that I probably ought to care about and be paying close attention to this stuff.  I also know politically that my generation is not going to be allowed to retire.  That’s an illusion; retirement is basically done as a concept in American society for anyone under 40.  That TRF money?  I’ll eat my own dick if that’s still available to me in any meaningful form when I’m 65, or 70, or whatever age they think I ought to be working to by the time I supposedly get to be that old.  That shit’s gonna be stolen, no doubt by some rich ratfucker who deserves it more than I do.  It’s funny money; I don’t believe for a second that it’s actually real or that it will ever actually make its way to me.  I don’t particularly trust the 401A either, for much the same reasons.

I’d like to increase the amount that is getting put into this 401A plan (the corp is kicking in a contribution– at least, I’m pretty sure this money is coming from them, not me– but I’m pretty sure I can tell payroll to pull more out for it if I want) but the state legislature has made it their goal over the last several years to make sure that no teacher in Indiana ever gets a raise again, and so it’s not like there’s extra money becoming available that I could dedicate to investments.

I think I’ll go buy some lottery tickets.  Or– ooh!  A Bitcoin!

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Luther M. Siler

The author of SKYLIGHTS, THE BENEVOLENCE ARCHIVES and several other books.

4 thoughts on “On personal finance

  1. I am financially illiterate. I hired a financial planner. My plan is to keep my teaching job as long as I can. Write my million dollar novel. Go somewhere warm for the winter where the flu does not exist. Eat, sleep, and be merry. Never die to the things of youth. Okay. I would hire a financial planner, or call into the Dave Ramsey show.

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  2. Yes, financial planner is the way to go! I am in my late 50’s and it was good I did hire one! I had my money in TIAA-CREF which may be like the one you mentioned…it’s a ‘teacher’ acct. Well, my planner told me that they don’t let you take the damn money out for like 10 yrs once you want it! So you turn 65 and want it and it takes yrs to start getting it! So we have already started requesting it to move it into accts that he’s set up for me! It’s nuts. Moral to the story: READ THE FINE PRINT! I never did before this. It’s worth them taking a little because they can help you, esp if it’s someone you trust!

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  3. Let me first explain that I am an Accountant and not a financial planner; however, I am into finances. Ok, now for the simple explanation of your 401a and 401k. The 401k is designed for You and Your employer to contribute money to your account; basically, your 401k is setup like this: your employer contributes 3% match up to 5% with 1/2% for every percent after the 3. You contribute $3.00, and your employer contributes $3.00 = $6.00 (the $3.00 your employer contributed is free money). Your 401a, is setup by Your Employer to designate a certain percentage/match to an account for your retirement. Your employer determines what the amount or match is, and can designate who is allowed into the 401a program. The 401a program is designed as an incentive for employees to stay (work) a long time for the company. If at any time you leave a company, your 401k and 401a money can be rolled into another account WITHOUT any tax repercussions. So, if you have another 401k or another retirement account and that account allows rollovers, you can roll both your 401k and 401a into that account. If you decided to take the money out of either account (not all accounts will allow you to take the money before retirement), but let’s say for the sake of these accounts, you can take the money and run, you would be penalized 20% for FWH and another 10% for an Early Penalty Distribution. You pay the 20% up front, and the 10% when you do your taxes at year end. Hopes this helps.

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