Scratchy toilet paper, lattes and retirement

My husband Larry and I hate scratchy toilet paper so much that when we travel, we pick up some “Charmin Ultra Soft” at a local store.

Larry, who likes to be prepared for any emergency, even keeps a roll of his preferred cushy paper in the trunks of both of our cars.

Larry says…

You just never know when it’ll come in handy”

(There are some questions you learn to stop asking…)

So why am I telling you about our personal hygiene preferences?

Last year, the Obama administration floated a proposal to tie already paltry Social Security cost-of-living increases to a different measure, which assumes you’ll just switch to buying cheaper brands when your favorites become more expensive due to inflation.

bakings-soda-toile-paperNow there’s something to look forward to – spending your golden years using scratchy toilet paper and brushing your teeth with baking soda. (Even though this proposal wasn’t included in the 2015 budget plan Obama submitted earlier this month, the administration is keeping it in its back pocket, just in case.)

Last week I was interviewed via Skype on WGN-TV in Chicago about the good, the bad, and the ugly of the “myRA” proposal Obama unveiled in January as a savings option for the 50% or so of U.S. workers who have no access to employer-sponsored retirement plans.

Watch the interview and read my comments on the myRA proposal here.

At one point the TV host mentioned that one of the good things about the proposed myRA is that you can fund it with contributions as low as $5 a month.

In general, I agree that saving something is better than saving nothing. But by even proposing a savings alternative that allows contributions as low as $5 a month, I think we’re sending the wrong message to a culture that is woefully unprepared for retirement.

What I really wanted to say to the interviewer was, “Just buy a latte and enjoy the five bucks now while you can! Or splurge on the ultra-soft toilet paper!”

Life is just too short. In the last year, so many people I care about have had a family member stricken by life-threatening illnesses that I’ve lost count. None of us know when our time on this earth is up.

New Reports Reveal Americans Are (Still) in Denial

Here are the highlights (lowlights?) of some recent reports and surveys…

  • A Bloomberg National poll taken earlier this month revealed that the vast majority of Americans say the five-year bull market in the U.S. has had “little or no effect on their financial well-being.” And only 21% said the market’s gains have made them “feel more financially secure.”

As David Skelly, a 47-year-old policeman lamented, “I don’t think there’s anything real behind it. It’s just an artificial boom.”

Maybe people are starting to wake up to the fact that there is a huge difference between “paper” wealth and “real” wealth, as I’ve written about recently. See “Are we living in the United States of Amnesia?

  • Last week, the Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI) released its 24th annual Retirement Confidence Survey. It concluded that “worker savings remain low, and only a minority appear to be taking basic steps to prepare for retirement.”Retirement
  • A sizeable percentage report virtually no savings or investments. 36% say they have less than $1,000, and fully 60% report the total value of their households savings and investments is less than $25,000 (excluding the value of their home and any company pension)
  • The EBRI study found “most workers haven’t (ever) tried to estimate their retirement savings needs.”
  • The report also found that employees are unlikely to make big changes to their retirement savings habits – even when they learn how much (or how little) retirement income they are likely to receive based on their current account balances.

When you hit retirement, what kind of lifestyle do you think you’ll have on $25,000 or even $100,000 spread over several decades? That greeter job at Wal-Mart? (I’m not against smiling, I’d just prefer to do it for fun rather than $8.47 per hour.) Living off your kids (who have their own children and retirements to worry about)? Sharing Tabby’s food while waiting for the monthly pittance from Social Security to arrive?

One wit really hit it on the head when he observed, “I have enough money to live comfortably for the rest of my life – if I die by next Tuesday!

Given that 60% of Americans have less than $25,000 saved, I hope they don’t mind scratchy toilet paper. What do you think? Tell us in the comments box below.

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