I am not a person who believes in the power of the cosmos, karma, what goes around comes around, you know the drill. In fact, when it comes to what comes around I think it may go around again, and again…working to fuck up my life, but as I pondered the new prompt and thought to myself, “I don’t really have anything to say about good money advice I’ve received”, but just when I though I didn’t, karma, or her more timely sister dharma dropped a conversation with a friend, well maybe ex-friend in my lap. That’s how it is with this blog, or retrospective thing I guess. Just when you thought you found a way out, you get pulled back in. Salute to “The Godfather Part III”
Stop, drop and roll is what the tell you when you're in a fire, but what's the right thing to do when you're under fire by a long time friend who knows just a bit more about money than you...and isn't afraid to tell you! This happened today.
I work for a very big company, I won’t say what, but it is owned by a liberal lying bastard who happens to have bought a home in 1958 somewhere in Nebraska. He owns a lot of shit. And the people who run my company appear to be A) replicants of the greedy bastard, created in the basement of the Tyrell factory, or B) Midwestern gentlemen who have swallowed the Kool-Aid and are trying to shove that putrid concoction down my throat. The old fucker gets on TV a lot and has some very big friends. I think I’ve said enough.
Anyway, I’ve worked for this company for 38 years, and for the most part it’s been pretty good. But I am of an age now where I’m ready to stop doing this, and my mindset has turned to and “I don’t really give a fuck what you say” attitude. That’s the reason for joining this blog, besides the prompting of a good friend. I have a book in mind, in fact several, but I rarely have the time to practice, so at this point in my life I am just making myself do it.
The other thing is an emergency surgery I had a month and a half ago. I’ve been fat for the better part of my life. I’ve been called names, I’ve called fat people names, but at this point I just laugh at them. I had been having some painful events about every four or five months and on a fateful day in August I would end up in the ER where they would snatch my gall bladder and refuse to give it back. I cajoled, begged and demanded that my fleshly goods be returned to me…in as good an order as possible, but no, it was not to be. When I came to the surgeon, an affable fellow, but very dry, without much of a sense of humor laid on me that they had experienced a little more trouble with removing my gall bladder than they had expected. You see, it seems the problem with my gall bladder wasn’t stones or some deterioration of the bladder itself. My liver…had killed it. I had been fat so long that it had troubled my liver, who in turn decided to take it out on my gall bladder.
Now, I am not a drinker, at least not on par with a lot of people I know. I can’t even keep up with either of my daughters, nor do I dare challenge my nephew, who at 6’3” can put a fair amount of beer away…and anything else for that matter. We drink a lot of beer out here in Portland. Did you know that’s where I am, well if you read my first story I guess you do. We drink a lot of beer because they make a lot of beer in Portland. I love my microbrews. I am not the typical microbrew drinker from Oregon, in fact I really don’t like IPAs. Did the beer police hear that? I hope not. No, I like lagers, ambers and goldens. They are less hoppy and don’t taste like ear wax. One of my favorite I encourage you who read this to try is a beautiful golden called ESG from Terminal Gravity Brewery in Enterprise, Oregon, population 2,900 or so. In the Northeastern corner of Oregon, at the headway to Hells Canyon and truly one of the most beautiful parts of our state. No, I am not with the Wallowa County Chamber of Commerce, it is just that damn beautiful. For those of your who have travelled our state and visited Cannon Beach, another beautiful village, think about the craftiness, shopiness, artiness plopped down in the middle of the Wallowa Mountains, where it typically begins snowing in September.
So, what the shit does this have to do with money, surgery or the blog? Well, here goes. My surgeon, Dr. Kim, told me that as of this minute, that minute for you time travelers, I was a tee totaler. Being that I am not a big drinker, repeating myself, I can live with that. I have an advanced case of cirrhosis of the liver, not from drinking….but from eating….too much. If I didn’t commit to losing a good deal of weight my liver was toast, I probably wouldn’t get that back either, and I would need a transplant. And if I ever want to get that book in a hard cover with forward by John Irving, I need to get my ass motivated. So here I am.
I thought about the prompt for a couple days, it was sent out on Monday I believe. I mulled over in my head some type of poetry, rhyme, maybe a rap, “Money ain’t funny, it can get you someplace sunny…” Livin for the dollar, make you holler, la la la…..shit. I had given up. It wasn’t working. What do I know about money, and what was the smartest advice I had ever received about it?
Well, it wasn’t from my dad, who was fuckin’ around on my mother so much he didn’t spend much time with my younger brother or I, I mean he said save it, but never really took the time to show us how to make it work…you know the kind of stuff that asshole in Nebraska puts in the newspapers and his books.
I get too bored listening to the Wall Street Journal report on PBS, and other than Liz Clayman’s massive boobs and beautiful read hair, I don’t really care about what she says. Cramer? Hell no. Any of our local talking heads? No. Sam Waterstone….maybeeeeee no.
My wife and I contribute consistently and regularly to our 401K plans and we both have reasonable retirement programs, thankfully because the jackass from Nebraska has eliminated them for all new employees at my company. 401K only.
So I was out, gave up, threw in the towel, was not going to respond, until…at 5:00 this morning I got a text from a friend of mine, Mark, the business manager for a school district in a small city in Washington.
The conversation started by him telling me about a truck he is going to buy, to pull the 5th wheel he lives in. It will be his home during retirement, which as he reminded me is still 11 years away. He told me his truck is going to cost $60,000 after tax. Sales tax in Washington state is about 8.2%, so that’s a lot of truck. I suggested maybe he could find a good used one, to which, he of a degree in finance from the University of Washington, and a degree in Accounting from Central Washington University, reminded me that it just didn’t “pencil” out. A used truck would be more costly per mile than a brand new one. I believe I may have used that same argument on my wife when I was considering a sports car or something. Dollar per mile, I’ll remember that.
We, well he, started talking about retirement, his being 11 years away and he openly wondered when I would retire. Mind you now, this is at 5:12 in the morning, and I am at work, working, needing to focus on my tasks. My shift is 05:00 to 14:00 and I’m pretty conscientious about my work. So his query about when I and my wife would retire was responded to with a “don’t know”
He then went on to text me how it takes eight years for a person to make up the years between 62 and 65 if you wait until 65 to retire, and that he is going to wait until his full retirement age at 66 years and 10 months because the men in his family tend to live to be 100. He asks me what my full retirement age, and I tell him I don’t know, but that I am going to start taking my Social Security at 62. What started then was a downhill course that ended up in me receiving the Best Money Advice I have ever received. I told him that I planned to retire when I felt like it, which must have offended his live to 100 practicalities. You see the men in my family are lucky to see 80, My uncle died at 75 and my dad was 79. And I had just received a death sentence, barring me being able to do something that having a lovely wife, beautiful kids, a mesmerizing granddaughter had not inspired me to do. “Mark, when I feel like retiring, I will retire.”
A couple of back and forths about reducing my net take from Social Security, telling me I had to wait a few months after my 62nd birthday, which is not true. My one word responses, “No”, “No”, “NOOO damnit” I reminded him, maybe not so delicately, that he was the one who told me Social Security wouldn’t even exist by the time we retired. Thank God I’m 6 years older than him. I thought to myself that he might not live to 100 if he didn’t shut the fuck up about my retirement and my income after such.
He must have picked up that tilt, because he told me, that he was just letting me know cause most people don’t realize what it means to retire at 62. I thought I saw a puppy being run over by a steam roller. The puppy might have had his face.
I responded for him to relax, he knows about my diagnosis, and the fact that I recently had a scan for adrenal cancer, which killed all the women in my family to this point. My mother, my aunt and my grandmother. I continued that If I die that the difference between 62 and 66 won’t matter a small fuck. Speaking of the f-word, he responded with an FO Jeff.
He then proceeded to tell me he was going to block me and he would like me to block him as well.
Mark, I think you need counseling, I replied.
He then responded that he thought I needed counseling and then asked me to delete him again.
I responded in typical ME fashion, “I’ll decide” And that was the end of that.
I leave you my faithful readers with this. I had struggled with this topic, but after that fateful encounter I know I had my selection, which would practically write itself. The absolute best money advice I have ever received, although I’m sure he didn’t realize it would be this, was to block my ex-friend, who had surely blocked me. I can feel the Benjamins welling in my pocket as I write. I wonder if I can be disciplined about this savings plan, and I wonder if the rule of 72’s applies?
I love the insouciant tone of this story, the way it meanders and then focuses, and I fully understand why blocking your ex-friend is, for you, great financial advice. I’m sure you’ll find more than compensatory pleasures in your new, beer-deprived lifestyle.
Hope you are feeling better! Love how you tell us where your story inspiration came from. Don’t blame you for blocking your ex-friend. Also love your honesty! This is told with a bracing truth that is palpable and I appreciate it and you. Thanks for sharing it with us.
Thank you for the comment Betsy! The process is interesting, I am nothing if not honest, and I will definitely not mince words to be honest. Which I think is one of my most enduring characteristics. Others have read this and have sent condolences which I appreciate, but my brother, who knows both people in this writing laughed himself silly. I don’t know, this is something I should have started years ago, and thank you for the honest feedback. I read your story on “Cowboys” enjoyed it very much and agree completely. I am going to spend an afternoon one weekend reading many of the stories I am not getting to read. Have a great weekend!
Wow! 38 years? What a survivor. After 10 years at that place I was definitely “rode hard and put away wet.” Sometimes when you zoom out for the big picture and take into account all the factors, the answer that doesn’t “pencil out” is, indeed, the best choice.
I don’t think there is a very big supply of livers in the human spare parts store, so getting the eating trip together is definitely the way to go and I am personally very glad you’ve chosen that route.. In fact I have had to hop on that same wagon albeit for different yet equally important reasons. High five.
Too bad that guy blocked you. You could have told him to come buy a truck in Oregon and not pay sales tax on it. lol
Hi Constance…Lies, all lies. It’s a story right? Anyway, that was the only part that was a stretch. Let’s say 23 years over two stints that started in 1978. I took some time off in the 90s
I re-read your story tonight and laughed all over again at the puppy/Mark/steam roller visual. Great story, great voice. Hope you’ll write again soon.