The "Super Committee" became the "Super Dud" when 12 politicians couldn't put their differences aside long enough to accomplish anything other than sound bites and finger pointing. In a turn of developments almost mind-numbing in its disregard for the will of the the people to tame the deficit, some in Congress now propose to soften the automatic cuts that are triggered by the committee's failure. In a case of "we really didn't mean to show any backbone," now that they are facing the reality of massive, across the board cuts in about a year, there is a movement to change the rules of the very game they invented and passed into law just a few months ago.
This is not a rant, nor a political post. There is more than enough blame to go around. The Republicans and Democrats are failing us in a way their election-centric brains can't even recognize. But, what is becoming more clear with each passing dose of stupidity from Washington is that we, as retirees or wanna be retirees, are really on our own. We can't count on our "leaders" to do the right thing. So, let's proceed from the very logical position that any hope of having a satisfying retirement is largely up to us.
Financially, we must take control of our own money. If your bank is treating you poorly or layering on the fees, move to another bank or credit union. If you are comfortable with an Internet bank, go for it. If you have a financial advisor or stock broker, are you confident he or she understands your desires, your risk tolerance, and your goals? Sit down with them and review your account. Question everything that doesn't make sense to you. If you are unhappy give that person new marching orders or switch to someone else.
We can't afford to be uninformed about the world of money. If you don't use a budget, start. If you have no idea how much interest your credit card company charges, find out. If you don't understand your pension or IRA, use the Internet to get educated. If you don't understand some aspect of the financial world that affects you, ask questions and get answers you can understand. If you still believe these folks are really looking out for your best interests and ignorance is bliss, then you are likely heading toward a rude awakening.
The government may be unable to figure out how to tame a deficit, but luckily we are quite a bit smarter. We can choose to not spend more than we make. It is easy to eliminate things from our life that cost more than they are worth to us. We understand we can't afford every want when we want it. Instant gratification is a freeway to financial ruin. Simplifying our lifestyle, cooking more meals at home, using coupons and shopping grocery store specials can save hundreds, if not thousands of dollars a year. We know a 50" LED TV won't really make us any happier than last year's 42" model. We know we can do just fine without the newest 4G smart phone.
What are your health care options? For many of us, the choices are poor: no coverage, expensive coverage with more holes than swiss cheese, or hoping to make it until Medicare or the health care law changes, in whatever their final form, take effect. Have you researched all your options? Are you waiting for Washington to solve the problems? It isn't likely to happen anytime soon.
Many drug store chains offer all sorts of free or discounted tests at various times of the year. Hospitals often sponsor health fairs that have free testing. Take full advantage of these offers. A no-cost blood or colon cancer test can save you hundreds of dollars, and more importantly, your life. Free glaucoma screening could undercover a problem before you lose your eyesight. Watch the paper and check on the Internet for these opportunities. We can, and must take more responsibility for our health and its care.
We control how much we spend on travel, leisure, and entertainment. Leading a satisfying retirement is really about making smart choices. If you have saved enough money for the 12 day Caribbean cruise and it is important to you, take it. If you don't have the money, then stay off the ship. Spend the time finding things going on around you that are free or very low cost. I am lucky to live in a major metropolitan area that, on any given night of the week, has dozens of free or nearly free music events, plays, art exhibits, lectures or films to choose from. Unlike the government, I don't spend money I don't have but I can be as entertained and stimulated as I choose to be.
Obviously, there are critical parts of our retirement life that are out of our control. We have little say in what ultimately happens to the deficit debacle. The AARP notwithstanding, if there are going to be cuts in Social Security and Medicare/Medicaid coverage we will have no choice but to adapt. Taxes may go up and deductions down. We can adjust our way to living to a degree to make those changes less damaging, but ultimately we will pay the bill.
At least at this moment, I don't expect the government to make the smart and painful decisions required. I imagine we will have to get to the point where many European countries are before the politics stops and the triage starts.
Fortunately, I also believe that I, and you, can do a lot on our own to make our retirement as good as it can be. Attitude is free and makes a world of difference. We control more of our own destiny than we may think. Washington is telling us, as clearly as they can, that we are responsible for much of our fate. We are on our own and I am glad. I have faith in me.