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July 17th, 2008

more retirement hand-wringing

This time, it's the don't-borrow-from-your-retirement crowd, with a refreshing dose of, geez, guys, sometimes ya just _have_ to.

http://www.boston.com/business/articles/2008/07/16/workers_break_retirement_piggy_bank_in_tight_times/

Some tragedy here; a woman borrowing when her daughter dies because she needs to take care of her grandkids. Tough stuff.

The last couple paragraphs are really wacky. After noting that retirement accounts are pretty much the last money standing post-SS reform and real pensions going away, a study by Hewitt Associates is quoted.

"four out five workers aren't socking away enough money into their 401(k) accounts to keep up their standard of living after retirement.

On average, employees are projected to replace just 85 percent of their income in retirement, compared with the 126 percent they would need when factoring in inflation, longer life spans and medical costs, the study by Hewitt found."

There are _so many weirdnesses about this_, it's hard to know exactly where to start. First, precisely when did it become de rigeur to say you have to replace all of your income when you retire? Much less _more_ than your income? The theory in the past was that you'd have no debt, and you'd be old so you wouldn't be eating as much, buying clothes as often, buying furniture _ever again_, etc. And maybe you'd downsize to a smaller residence so your utilities and etc. would be smaller. Blah blah blah. R. thinks the old advice was somewhere between 50% and 70%, which isn't that far off from my (completely unsupported) recollection.

Without digging through the study, it's hard to know what this factoring in inflation thing means. I figure if they're talking about replacing income, it's real-dollar income, not nominal -- but maybe they mean nominal and then all bets are off in terms of what 100%+ nominal replacement would mean in real dollars (but then, I _know_ people who went into the '70s with what seemed like a huge stack and came out of the '80s way ahead in nominal terms -- and abysmally behind in real terms). Then there's the longer life span/medical cost question. Having talked to some of my slightly older friends who are dealing with the dying-parent problem, I'm hearing a whole lot of, gee, in the end, after all that fighting over what would be a fair way to divvy up the inheritance among the siblings, it turned out it all got eaten up by doctor's bills. There's a real concern there -- but I'm kind of suspicious there isn't enough money in the world to adequately insulate anyone there.

Do I advocate dipping into retirement savings for anything? NO! Am I gonna get on someone's case if they decide they just hafta? Probably not. Their life.

But on the other hand, I really do think we ought to be seriously worrying a whole lot less about whether we can afford our "entitlement programs" like social security, and a whole lot more about how we feel about living in a world in which old people are so freaking poor they die from the heat, the cold, the starvation, etc. Because that's the way things _used_ to be.

ETA:

This brochure still includes an old estimate: 80-90% of preretirement income as a "quick estimate". Again, no discussion of real vs. nominal, altho they do discuss the inflation issue they take the lame-ass way out (3.5% even forever. We _wish_.).

I find it striking that everyone just sort of _assumes_ there's nothing that one can do about health care expenses except (a) buy insurance and (b) pay whatever insurance and/or Medicare/Medicaid doesn't cover. Having listened to my sister call 'round to a variety of doctor's office to inquire as to the cost of having a procedure done (mole removal, IIRC), there's obviously _some_ amount of shopping that can have an impact on costs. On the whole, however, it seems like the easiest way to keep the health care expenses down (after personal due diligence on the exercise and reasonable food selection front) is to decide up front and get whoever is holding your health care power of attorney and so forth on board with what you _do not_ want treatment for.

I realize it's kind of a shocking idea: hey, I'm not going to get tested for cancer X and if I get it, I don't want to treat it, other than palliative care (and you could extend this to all kinds of conditions, if you were so inclined). I still think it's an idea worth giving some serious thought to.

ETA2:

'Cause people are already winding up in the not-getting-treatment-zone, whether they plan to be there or not:

http://www.ama-assn.org/amednews/2008/07/21/gvl10721.htm

really cool charts

Okay, they're just a bunch of numbers. But still. H. Gilbert Welch and other people I respect put together relative risk per thousand of dying from a bunch of common stuff. Reduce your fear and anxiety by perusing these:

http://www.vaoutcomes.org/riskcharts.php
No, I'm not posting more about the I-was-raped, wait, let's talk about the definition of rape in the context of running an unlicensed massage operation out of one's own home and maybe someone didn't pay up for a happy ending.

Nope. Having covered the sex, I'll now move on to the drugs. Because remember, we don't _need_ a new police station; after all, it's not like the police in this town have anything to do. It's not like there's a constant parade of vandalism at public facilities. Oh, and with the price of gas as high as it is? Maybe he shouldn't be driving his official car so far away (all the way to Nashua! 12, maybe 13 miles each way! Heavens above!) after all does he really _need_ it? Actually, yeah.

Poor guy.

But that's not what I'm writing about today, either. Nope. Today is this:

http://www.nashuatelegraph.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20080717/NEWS01/18691946

There was some excitement (okay, a _lot_ of excitement) visible from the road a few days ago and now the press release is out and an initial court date has happened. What is going on here in our Small, Crime-Free (almost) Southern New England Town with Rural Character?

"Police responding to a call about an overdose at the Pepperell Road residence Sunday found Craig Watson, 25, a Florida resident, lying on a couch, dead, with a belt around his left arm and a hypodermic needle on the floor at his feet, according to court documents."

Oooops. Gotta feel for his relatives, because he sure isn't feeling anything any more. I think that justifies some search, don't you? A judge agreed and issued a search warrant. Good police practice! No rush here; we'll just hang with the body while we fill out all the paperwork so there's no debate about the legitimacy of the search and what we find in the course of it. Oh, and get the dogs while you're at it.

"During a search of the residence with drug sniffing dogs, police found heroin, bags of marijuana, hallucinogenic mushrooms, cash and a number of marijuana pipes, according to court records."

I particularly like that cash got lumped in there with all the illegals. They don't mention, say, bedding, chairs, cheap posters on the wall, the kitchen sink, etc. which presumably they _also_ found. But they did mention the cash. It might make more sense if they mentioned _how much_ cash (presumably an unusual amount).

The article covers the details of the charges for the arrest, what they've been arraigned for, bail, etc. However, All You Need to Know Is: What's everyone in jail for? Violating the Terms of Their Probation! And once again, one of the two guys is Violatin' his Probation.

Need another reason to question the wisdom of living in the suburbs Because It Is Cheap? No? Oh, all right, then.

ETA: Previous arrest information? http://www.wickedlocal.com/concord/archive/x1151540245

How to Apologize

And I'm serious about this. A lot of people don't apologize well. They don't seem to grasp that a good apology is All About the Groveling. But check out these quotes:

http://www.housingwire.com/2008/07/17/jp-morgans-dimon-prime-mortgages-look-terrible/

“Prime looks terrible,” he told analysts on the call. “And we’re sorry, and there’s nothing else we can say.”

“We were wrong, we obviously wish we hadn’t done it,” Dimon told analysts. “We’re very early in the loss curve.”

Hopefully someone has a box of kleenex handy for him. Or maybe a beer. Something for the tears.

oil! Oil! West Texas below $130!

Wow!

Closed at $129.29.

Maybe we'll all survive the heating season after all. That'd be nice.

I mean, it's still $129.29, so if you're hoping the trade-in value of your SUV is going to recover I'm still skeptical.
I have a lot of points on TitleTrader. And TitleTrader can be a little exhausting to try to find something I want (think the most disorganized -- but searchable -- used bookstore, possibly ever). Lately, I've been trying to play to its strengths by treating it as a paperback exchange and getting my genre romance fix there. Unfortunately, I have a nasty habit of buying the authors I really, really like in hardcover (or, lately, kindle) editions. But that still leaves the second tier, like SEP. Or, lately, Nora Roberts.

And, since I know Nora Roberts hangs out online and is a _very nice person_, with a lot of fans, I will not be snarky. Much.

I'm still waiting for book one in the Three Sisters Trilogy, which is about three siblings on an island who have to fulfill a prophecy. In part, I got this because I'm reasonably certain I read something very, very, very like this back in the 1990s, only the siblings owned a bar and I think it was set in Ireland. If you know what I read, I'm mildly curious. In any event, book 2 of the series (_Heaven and Earth_) involves the fiery sister, Ripley, who incarnates Earth (I am not going to ask, so I don't see why you should either) and her romance with Mac, who is a geek boy fascinated by the paranormal. Enough of the plot from book 1 is recapitulated here and there that I didn't feel particularly lost at any point so if you want to read one of these, you shouldn't have any difficulty. There's a really awesome bookstore with a cafe attached. There's a lot of food. There are workout scenes. You know the drill.

Book three (_Face the Fire_) is about the maddeningly calm incarnation of Fire (see? Do Not Ask. She does have red hair, however, which just goes to show that some things are irresistible), and her back-on-again relationship with her teenage/college years lover who (duh) took off for a decade to actually have a life off the island before returning to run the hotel. There's some competition (she owns the cafe bookstore called, believe it or not, Cafe Book). We finally find out who Water is (given that this was all about The Three Sisters, but there are four elements, it was a mildly interesting question). All the real estate gets parceled out (well, except who is going to live in the little yellow cottage *now*, the reader might ask plaintively. Can _I_ rent it for the season?). There are more pets.

Books by Nora Roberts have a certain shape to them. You know everyone, by the end of the trilogy, is probably going to be knocking boots/married/knocked up by the end of it (altho really, where is Mel or Charles or Harrison for Lulu? Hmmm? I mean, the books are about magic. Conjure up someone for Lulu!). And the Big Bad is going to get its ass handed to it in some extremely picturesque way.

So. If you're in the mood, these are reasonable choices. But if you're scratching your head trying to figure out the appeal, I'm probably the wrong person to ask. You might, however, notice that every other woman on the plane is probably reading the latest from La Nora. Or something from the backlist. Or whatever.