The second Wednesday of every month now holds a special significance for me. You see, this specific Wednesday, based on the numerical date of my birth, is when the Social Security Administration makes SS retiree payments to me. (Others receive it on the first Wednesday, others the third, I’m sure it took thousands of man hours to concoct this elaborate scheme, instead of just paying everyone all at once each month.)
This Wednesday is my first payment, and as a “wild hippie teenager” in the 60s/70s, I never thought I would live to see this day. The motto of my generation was “Life hard, drive fast, and leave a good-looking corpse.” Unfortunately, some of my colleagues followed that lifestyle and aren’t around to chat with on Facebook. Me–it was more of just something written on my tee-shirt.
Collecting Social Security stirs up mixed feelings. There is, of course, the financial gratitude (who doesn’t like free money?), but it also gets one thinking about the “end.” To put it mildly, I now have official Federal Government confirmation that I am running way past the 50-yard line in the game of life, and the cemetery end zone is getting closer in sight.
If you’re middle-aged, you’ve probably read dozens of articles explaining the advantages and disadvantages of claiming SS at the earliest possible age (for a reduced monthly amount), as opposed to waiting until your full retirement age, which is dependant on the year you were born. As a late-stage baby boomer, my full retirement age is 70, so I had my SS statement which explained how much I would collect at age 62 compared to age 70…I did the math…and according to my calculations, I would have to live until 111 to make waiting until age 70 financially worthwhile.
My wife immediately spotted the error in my math, because getting older doesn’t necessarily mean you’re getting smarter. I complained to her, “I don’t get this at all. How can I do a mathematical formula to determine what makes more sense if I don’t know how long I’m going to live!?” Not only don’t I have a crystal ball, but it seems kind of cocky of me, almost an affront to God, to assume he’s going to keep me around until I’m 85. If he’s seen my table manners and heard me curse, I’m sure he has other plans for me.
If I knew the date of my demise for sure, then I could do some math which would make sense. What’s more, my family tree isn’t exactly strewn with colorful characters like Grandpa Ben who philandered with every loose woman in the village, smoked two packs of cigarettes a day, and lived until 101, Or Great Aunt Edna, who drank a quart of whiskey with every supper and only died because she fell in a well at 105 hauling home a bear she had just shot in the woods.
My family tree is Eastern European, and not the good Eastern European kind either that lives long. We’re the bad kind, the weak stock. Bad genes, bad habits. bad luck are more our style. (Now that would be an appropriate tee-shirt for me to wear these days!)
So I decided to collect at the earliest date possible, age 62, so if I dropped dead the day after my first payment, at least I got something out of the bastards, (Just kidding. Go America! But better me getting the money than some illegal tunneling in from Mexico.)
As my big day approaches, I’m still undecided on how to celebrate. Expensive meal? Buy something cool? Weekend trip?
Or instead of celebrating, should I be mourning, and thinking about finally paying that money for my Neptune Society service, and paying off some bills, so my wife’s not stuck with them when I kick the bucket?
Oh…the hell with it. Gonna buy something cool.
I intend to stick around as long as Great Aunt Edna did.
Editor’s note: No bears were harmed in the writing of this article…