Thursday, February 10, 2011


Disclaimer: I wrote this on a single stream of thought. So it is probably incoherent and full of errors.

I read an article that was meant to help people see where they stack up financially with their retirement goals. It also showed where you stack up with other Americans. We know that even some of the poorest Americans are far far more wealthy than a vast majority of people in the world. This article came with a handy calculator that shows how you compare with people your age and the median average of the entire US population.

I was very pleased to read that we compare well to the median and are doing much better than our peers. All this has been nothing short of God's blessing and I realize that they could be taken at any point in time. I say this because I have more trust in God's provisions than I do my ability or anything else I might say to make it seem like I or WE (my wife and I) have done on our own.

We have less debt, actually we have no debt except our house and even then we have less house debt than the average American. We have investments, college savings accounts, retirement accounts and emergency savings. The only category we were completely and utterly surpassed by our peers is how much our cars are worth. Ours are only worth something to us.

The problem I have is I actually feel broke. It has been a great help that my wife has picked up some tutoring jobs. We've been able to save at a much higher rate than we were previously, and we did just buy a new TV which I got a great deal on for under $400. But overall my spoiled American self wonders why I can't drive new cars. I want an iPhone and cable but I can't make myself spend the money on those things knowing that I could be putting more money to my house or to retirement or to my kids college fund. I can't see how this system can survive when it is so difficult to not spend money on things some see as basics and adequately save for the future.

My financial planner tells me that my daughter's bachelors degree will cost about 230k for in-state public tuition. My AS & BS in Computer Science plus almost completing a BS in Math and including my teaching courses cost about 40k. I've done the math and my degree depending on a bunch of IF's and not really math might have paid for myself. The IF's are usually centered around would I have gotten my current job. Would I have gotten paid at the level I'm paid for my current job. My field does not require degrees. They are nice to have but I work with lots of other IT professionals some with and some without degrees. I could have landed similar jobs with certifications. I know I probably could have landed better jobs with certifications and experience rather than just my degree and experience.

I don't see how a 230k degree, if the financial people are right, will ever be worth it, especially if people have to pay interest on the loans from those degrees. I also have a hard time wondering how people will retire. I again have done math, my financial planner has done the math and based on our current savings we'll live a comfortable retired life. The scary thing is we are miles, if not hundreds of miles, ahead of our peers in terms of retirement. They are no where close to where we are. I'm not bragging, I'm just trying to imagine how a system can function with so many people unable to retire when their bodies start getting old. Will parents get taken care of by their kids or work until they die? Are the kids taking care of them those same kids who either do not have degrees or are saddled with lots of debt not just school debt? If they are paying all their money toward debt how can they buy new things? If they can't buy new things how can the companies they work for make money?

Now I am full of doom and gloom, but this isn't doom and gloom these are real questions for people who don't have savings and drive new cars, with fancy houses and nice iPhones. I'm concerned that the America we know is going to radically change in the next 20 years and that worries me for my kids sake. On the other hand, I guess I'll really find out about God's provision.

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