Posted by: philipfontana | January 28, 2012

The start of something new

It was just last weekend that I sat down to put my words on paper, so to speak, Windows actually, to see if what was going on in my head had the makings of an article with some substance.  I was pleasantly surprised upon reading the first draft that I definitely was on to something worthwhile for me and my senior peers.  I polished and revised it the next day and by Sunday night it was e-mailed to two newspapers.  To my surprise, the one newspaper that chose my article for publication did not contact me as per standard journalistic procedure.  They went to press with my article based on my record of previously published articles in that periodical,  the Morris County, New Jersey newspaper, the Daily Record. My article which follows was published on the Editorial Page of the Daily Record on Wednesday, January 25, 2012.

Excuse Us For Living

     Excuse us for living, but you can’t blame this one on all of us Baby Boomers who turned 65 last year in 2011.  It was Governor Chris Christie who proposed cutting New Jersey’s State income tax 10% “across the board” over the next 3 years starting in fiscal 2013.  How can he reconcile this proposal with the State of New Jersey’s shortfall to the pension fund of $54 billion?  The math does not agree with Governor Christie’s proclamation in his recent State of the State address that “the New Jersey comeback has begun.”

Excuse us for living, but all we were doing forty some years ago was looking for employment.  Fresh out of college, some of us returning from the war in Vietnam, we needed jobs.  I became a teacher.  We didn’t have the foggiest notion that State pension benefits would be projected to be a $5 billion yearly contribution on the part of the State by the year 2018!

Excuse us for living, but when we entered the workforce, Medicare was brand new under a revision of the Social Security Act in 1965.  We could not possibly have imagined almost half a century later that its behemoth financial implications as a Federal budget entitlement would total $516 billion in benefits for 2010.  All our years of employment, it was just another deduction on our pay slips.

Excuse us for living, but as far as Social Security was concerned, it had existed for decades, since 1935, when we entered the work force.  As far as we knew, again, it was just another payroll deduction we accepted as a workplace requirement.  In fact, the age of retirement for full Social Security was raised upward from 65 on a sliding scale based on our year of birth.  Yet, despite such reform efforts, the Social Security entitlement totaled $712.5 billion for the year 2010.

Excuse us for living, but many of us did not live extravagantly, but used credit cards in our early married years to get by and paid them off yearly.  We bought used cars.  A down payment of 25% purchased our first home at mortgage rates of 9+% interest, only to see our home values severely plummet now in our early retirement years.  And finally, in our last 20-25 years of work, once children’s college educations were paid for, we were able to put money in the bank as our retirement “nest egg.”

Excuse us for living, but our lives have fallen far short of the dreams we had for our retirement years.  Sadly, September 11, 2001 took the lives of over 3000 innocent people and shattered the lives of their loved ones forever.  For our selfish selves, it has meant living in a world of fear:  terrorism and wars and security restrictions and infringements on our freedoms.

Excuse us for living, but the economic plunge of 2008 and the Great Recession have frozen our twilight years at best.  Perhaps, “the norm” will recover and the “boom and bust” economic cycle will once again rebound into something somewhat closer to what we used to call “prosperity.”  But the facts are that not everyone’s 401(k)s have recovered the losses of 2008.  And for those of us of more modest means, we live with .9% interest on our savings accounts and .7% interest on our checking.  CD rates at the highest are 2.68% for five years and deferred fixed annuities are in the 2+% range for five years.  The brightest star so far has been the Social Security 3.6% Cost Of Living Adjustment (COLA) for 2012 after zero dollars in the previous year.  That’s encouraging since Governor Christie and the State Legislature in the newly adopted pension reforms of 2011 suspended pension COLAs until the pension fund is solvent, projected to take 30 years, when we are all pushing up daisies.

Excuse us for living, but we will carry on despite it all.  We will count our blessings, maybe even including an extra $80 for a taxpayer with $50,000 income from Governor Christie’s proposed 10% income tax cut.

Excuse us for living.

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Responses

  1. Great first post.

  2. Thanks for the launch, Andy!

  3. Thank you for being our voice…well said and the truth.
    Don and Vin

    • Vin & Don, Thanks for the nice words of encouragement now that we’ve launched. You deserve credit for the good feedback on the original article & telling me re a web blog to “go for it.” Thanks. Phil

  4. Great, timely article. Good lessons for the next generation as well.

  5. Ah, I hope the start of something new for you and all of us. Keep
    that literary wheel well oiled. We want more!

  6. Thanks, Peter, for your words, help in the task from way “across The Pond,” & encouragement as always. Love, Dad

  7. Bernadette!!! Thank you! My fan club of one! As you said, the start of something new. I “fell into this” by taking the time to write that recent article to the newspaper (among the many times & subjects I’m motivated to do so but do not!). And then just interacting with Peter & Andy, they just led me into this blog website despite my cries that I barely know what it’s all about! So, step by step. I don’t know about the literary wheel keeping well oiled & writing more. Thanks. But as our world unfolds, if I have a thought I think worthy of public consumption, at least now I can share it. Thanks! Phil

  8. 2nd fan aboard!! What a great blog. I’m totally impressed. I have one planned myself-just a matter of finding the time to establish it. I was looking through pics from Dad’s house today and came across a pic of a pregnant Aunt Anna and one of Uncle Joe in Saipan And of course pics of you and Geri with Dad at his celebratory birthday bashes.

    Write on, brother!!!

    Love, Joy

  9. Thanks, Phil! Your eloquence and exuberance have been the trademarks of your writing, whether about these grim retirement issues or your quests for a just tribute to an inspiring teacher at Rutgers. Now, there’s a topic.

    Keep up the good work. Thanks to your sons for their help with the blog.

    John

    • John! So nice of you to comment so. I appreciate the positive response coming from my literary scholar from the halls of Rutgers!
      “A just tribute to an inspiring teacher at Rutgers” as a topic. Your words made me want to bow my head both in respect to the man & in humility at the prospect of writing about him. You are right. Excuse us for living, but a great man has passed our way. In a few words, you have given me much to ponder for a future topic. Thanks, John. I especially appreciate hearing from you on this little occasion big for me.
      Phil

  10. Joy! Two fans make a Fan Club! Thanks for the nice comments! If you do start a blog, Name.com is only 10.99 a year to register the domain name & WordPress.com is 12.99 a year for the blog website here. Those pics sound great. Have one of Mom pregnant. Gave Donnie D. all Dad’s war photos & only have one from Saipan! Love to see it. All those birthday pictures with Uncle Tommy…what fun we had! Now I’m one of the old folk writing an old folks’ column! Love you back, Phil

  11. Bravo my friend!
    Well written. Was a pleasure to see you continue to use your communication skills.
    I very much enjoyed your messages under your tutelage. Still very inspiring.
    Yes, Excuse us for Living. It is a challenge to live with these new realities. Count our Blessings is what I encourage my sister to do. At the ripe old age of 66 this year, she is learning to be grateful for the little things. Please continue with this endeavor. I appreciate your keen insights. All the Best.
    Pacheek

    • John, You will always be my reality check counting our blessings as you always say despite having “to live with these new realities,” as you expressed it so well. Thanks for your compliments & encouragement. Phil

  12. “Excuse us for living,” just about sums it up. The only way our children’s children will enjoy any reasonable level of prosperity and security is when we kick the bucket. This will stop the draw down on Social Security, a treasure chest that was supposed to be inviolate, yet our government has borrowed against it for decades to fund whatever suited their fancies. The fun part will be the time between when we do stop working and contributing, and the period when we are collecting benefits. The “X” generation should thanks their lucky stars that there are still so many of us unable to retire, or the tipping point would already have occurred.

    Another thought. When our generation finally heads to happy hunting grounds, the workplace will produce a loud sucking sound that will be the void in the intellectual know-how, writing, interpersonal/social skills, and good ole Yankee ingenuity we brought to our professions and society. Unemployment will drop dramatically, and all will be right in the new world order.

    Our parents were truly “The Greatest Generation,” and ours was a close second. I wonder what historians will have to say about the iGeneration?

    • Ken The “Tash,” You always amaze me. You get to the point, sum things up, & offer insights we never considered. –The impact of our generation kicking the bucket: our kids enjoying some level of prosperity, slowing the draw down on Social Security, a void in the workplace & culture of our know how & skills, a drop in unemployment. And you are so right about our parents truly being the Greatest Generation. It is on their coat tails that we are that close second of which you speak. Excuse us for living, Pop Tashian, but we tried our best at old PHS & in life to achieve what you all fought & worked for. Our big shortcoming is the society & culture we leave that breeds the iGeneration & “what’s the matter with kids today.” Phil

  13. Phil! What a great read! Thanks for including me! Can’t wait to read more!

    • Sunshine! Heather! Thanks for the kind response! Wouldn’t dream of leaving you out from my address book! Hope to write shorter entries from time to time. Wonder where you are working now. Phil

  14. Boy the world sure has turned upside down. Just imagine that now the stock market is a safer investment than CD’s. My advice, buy IBM and Exxon, start your own distillery, write the next killer app for the iPhone, play the power ball and pray for low inflation.

    • Jim, So nice of you to reply! I better take your investment advice! I was still looking for the boom & bust cycle to return, though slower it be! I was rooting for higher inflation & higher CD rates! Funny you should mention play power ball! I actually heard an investment adviser seriously say that playing the lottery in these economic times was part of a sound financial plan! We are in trouble!!! Phil

  15. Phil.
    Great kick off on your blog. I knew you could talk and now I discover you can write. Will be looking for future gems.

    Incidentally. the blog picture is the EXACT spot I would park myself at Mohonk House every time I took a tour there. While the passengers roamed the grounds I put my feet on that rail and I was in one of those middle chairs.
    Dave

    • David! Thank you so much especially appreciated from you! Future efforts will be less ambitious. My techy sons, without whose help this would not be possible, tell me that after this launch article I should make shorter comment on whatever stirs me.
      That’s the spot! Mohonk! You picked the best spot in the middle to put your feet up while your tour passengers roamed the grounds. I love to put the nickel, dime, whatever, into the machine to get fish food nuggets to feed the HUGE trout! What most people don’t know is that there is netting that keeps the fish in that area off the porch so guests in the rowboats fishing cannot catch them!
      Keep on chugging at that exercise & you will be new for spring!
      Thanks for the encouragement! Phil

  16. Hey Phil-
    a little late-tee-hee….your title reminded me of a scetch on Saturday Night Live-back when it was REALLY GOOD! Remember Steve Martin saying; “well excuse me?”

    Well I am off track-Just popping in the wish you well in your writings!

    Margaret Krass

    • Margaret!!!!!

      How nice! A treat hearing from you! Enjoyed Jim’s reply too last week! Yes, forgot about Steve Martin saying that! Thanks for the well wishes. My goal is really to write just one short paragraph every week or so & concentrate on linking to other websites & more people/readers. No sense writing to cyberspace for aliens!!!!
      Every year in Jan-Feb we decorate/paint a room. So right now life is hell in the upstairs hallway & stairwell, this year’s project. Eventually, we complete the job!
      Erin & Andy & Bart seem to be rolling along doing fine.
      May this reply find you & Jim “peachy.” Thanks again!

      Phil

  17. Hey Phil, so good to hear from you on Facebook. And what a treat to read your article “Excuse Us For Living”! Well done! I’m on my tablet, which is a very slow commo tool. I’ll write more when I get to my desk. So glad to reconnect.

    • Very special to me to hear from you. Someday soon may we gather a meaningful group of us. Jeffrey Aaron suggested his place in Highland Park.Thanks for the encouraging words re my new blog. Trying to spread the word on FB which I resisted for years.Meantime enjoying having my own blog to spout off & try to keep it light. Phil

  18. I can’t remember the last time I had a checking account that paid interest. None of them do out here. You have to get a savings account of have enough money to put into CDs, stocks, etc.

    • Russel Ray, Very true! We are now getting close to no interest in checking & savings accounts. We stay away from anything variable like the stock market with the rule, “if we have a penny today we want that penny tomorrow!” And thanks for all the activity on my “Excuse Us…” website from all you views to “Likes” & “Comments.” Phil


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