Okay, my bullshit detector’s buzzing right now, but I guess that’s no great surprise, considering the fact that I’ve been perusing the Wall Street Journal. Yeah, that’s the paper for people with money.
But the tagline promised something at least mildly entertaining: software that will age you to retirement age, which is allegedly still 65. Well, for those who read WSJ and have the capital to actually fund something called retirement.
The theory behind the software, according to the article, is that it “may be just what it takes to shock Americans into saving more. At Stanford and other universities, computer scientists, economists, neuroscientists and psychologists are teaming up to find innovative ways of turning impulsive spenders into patient savers.”
I’ve had retirement accounts a few times, like when I worked at Syracuse University or at the awful cubicle prison. But, like everything else, they were transient, and wound up getting spent on rent or car repairs. As far as I’m concerned, and have long realized, I will retire the day I die.
Now, unlike relatives like my grandfather, who started in the coal mines at 13 and desperately needed retirement so he didn’t keel over on the job from black lung, what I do isn’t labor-intensive. And, provided my mind doesn’t turn to mush, I’ll be working for the rest of my life, as a choice and necessity.
But even if I keep at if, and become the next art star, best seller or whatever, I don’t see myself having a lot in common with these WSJ style of savers. Nobody has to shock me into saving, and anyone who does need that kind of nudge has no clue what the world is really like.
I’ve been lucky – I’ve had the opportunity to traverse multiple socio-economic levels, which either gives me more insight or just makes me lame for being so skint. Whatever the case, there is something going on in and around the shoppers clamoring to the malls in this country:
Many Americans were totally untouched and unfazed by recent economic woes. They continue along on their lives as usual, without a second thought for anything beyond the nightly news reports. (“The economy’s all better!” “Buy! Buy!”)
But, for those on the edge to begin with, living barely or not even within their means, with little to no savings, no cushion and nowhere else to turn, the world is forever changed.
The mortgage crisis was engineered by greed and paid for on the backs of working Americans. For every foreclosure number you hear on the news, try to remember that it’s not just statistics, it’s families put out of their homes.
And if you have kids, have they ever gone hungry? What would you do if your child were crying from starvation? What if there was nothing you could do.
I know what it’s like to go into a fully stocked grocery store and not be able to afford anything, no matter how hungry I may be, or walk past a restaurant bustling with people and remember the days when I ate at some of the most expensive places on a regular basis.
But, I also know that nearly one in four children goes to bed hungry here in our grand superpower, according to ConAgra and Feeding America, while the infant mortality rate is 6.42 percent, just below Cuba, if you use the U.N. Population Division’s figures.
Which is the real story, but also the one you’ll never read. Because, who wants to help those below them when they can buy the latest gadget, right? I know most of you reading this feel the same way as me – many of us have had long conversations, or lived together in poverty – but is there anything that can be done about everyone else?
Which is what I don’t know. I don’t have money or power. I drive old cars, I don’t own an iPod, I don’t care if I’m ever rich, just that my life is.
Which means I’m stuck to paying attention to the decline and writing stuff here. I can’t force everyone to do the right thing.
But I have to wonder if many even know what that is anymore. After all, the push to get people to save is yet another Wall Street money scam:
“Mutual-fund and insurance companies, sniffing trillions of dollars on which they could earn management fees, have pushed relentlessly to get people to save more,” according to the article.
So seeing myself morphed into an old woman is hardly necessary to get me to save, once I have something to save. I know what I looked like at 20, 30 and now at 40. I’m sure I’ll look much like myself at 50, 60 and beyond. I may have more grey hair – but I’ve been dyeing that shit out for years – and if I have more wrinkles, so be it. I still get carded for cigarettes and alcohol. I really could care less. Does the fact that I grow older every second make me a lesser person?
Besides, I have a sneaking suspicion the folks they’re trying to get to save money, thus making the corporations more money, will indeed be spurred into action by the Magic 8-Ball geezer pics … to the plastic surgeons.