What the meltdown means to me, a boomer looking ahead to retirement

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I once asked Walter Jon Williams, the science fiction writer, for advice about becoming a professional fiction writer. His first suggestion? Marry a civil service employee. Every writer needs a stable foundation. Luckily, I have that covered.

My supposed retirement funds are spread across multiple 401Ks, IRAs, and pension funds. Following the commonly held wisdom that the market will, in the long run, outpace more staid investments, I've stayed in, watching my mutual funds dwindle and my retirement drift further into the future. Frankly, I don't mind all that much, since I like to work and plan to do so for many years to come.

I do, however, mind on my wife's behalf. She's been a social worker for her entire career, never earning much, but providing us with the insurance umbrella that has allowed me to take on chancy career options. If health care weren't so expensive, she could well anticipate retiring in a couple of years. As it stands now, however, she'll have to work until she's eligible for Medicare; even then, since she's a year older, we'll have to deal with a year when I'm not covered.

In the short run, the impact of the meltdown won't hamstring us. However, if the market continues to bleed, much of our flexibility will disappear, including the option of early retirement. If it bleeds enough, tax revenue shortfalls on the local, state and national level could threaten funding for social welfare programs such as the one for which my wife works.

When civil servants start to lose their jobs, we'll all be crying in our Metamucil.


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