Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Fixed Income

If one believes the weather people, today is going to be a warm one. Some forecasters say somewhere in Maine could even get a shower or thunder shower before the day is over. The heat will leave us for a while after today. Tomorrow should reach only the low 70s. That could be a shock to the system.

It’s only the 26th of the month and we still have another five days; but another month is about to part from our lives forever. Of course this significance of this last Wednesday of August is it is the day that a group of us retired folk get together for a nice lunch. I look forward to these short sessions because they give me, and the rest of us, a chance to hash over the month’s events.

The food where we eat isn’t the best in the land, but it certainly is adequate for our needs. After all, we have this little get-together to be with friends once again, not because we want gourmet food. Besides, the price is right for people on a “fixed” income.

That “fixed income” business has always been a fascination to me. There really aren’t many who aren’t on a fixed income, or at least an income dependent on the whim, or prosperity, of someone else. When I worked I received the same basic salary each payday. Sure, we all hoped that at least once a year, and that’s usually all it ever was, we’d get some sort of “thank you” for our year’s accomplishments.

That “fixed” part could be changed a variety of ways. For example as I mentioned the other day, I began my work life in Maine with part time jobs which gave me a little extra from the fixed part of my income. My work didn’t offer any overtime so from that standpoint, my regular income was fixed. We did get a raise each year. It was the extra things, for some the overtime and for others a part time extra job, that added to that money.

I’ve heard the older people complain about trying to live on their fixed income. Now I’m one of them. It is true that my present income is much less than that I earned while working. But is it fixed? Only to the extent I make it so. This is the first year since I retired I won’t be getting at least a cost of living raise in my Social Security. The SSA has decided the cost of living hasn’t increased so we’re told that the COLA (cost of living adjustment) won’t be given at the end of this year or for next year.

Actually, if I were on the SSA drug plan, the cost of drugs would actually cause me to get less. If the Part B insurance premium increases, I will not get as much next year. And, naturally, if my secondary coverage (Medigap) increases, I’ll make less. Putting all the increases and decreases, small as they may be, together sort of cancels the “fixed” business.

All of that, however, even though I am retired doesn’t mean I have to have fixed income. What I earn is my choice. I could become a greeter at Wal-Mart and other stores also have people in that position. Of course the position isn’t so much to make customers feel welcome, but to maintain control of what comes in and goes out stores.

I’ve never checked, but perhaps there’s work at a call center I could do. Probably since I’ve been a computer network administrator and designer (was never what Novell would call a Certified Engineer) and have repaired computers and fixed software problems, I could start my own small business. I’m not going to make a long list here of all the things, considering my limited mobility, I could do. What I am trying to do is show that I have control over my income. I could settle, as I have, to simply live on my retirement incomes.

Gator Wife is a good example of how retired folk can manage their income. She retired a few years ago from a very good position as an office manager and earned a reasonably good wage. But she didn’t want to just sit around and do nothing, so she got an entry level pay part time job at a supermarket. The income helps but her being able to keep busy helps her even more.

So today a bunch of us on a “fixed” income will meet, solve the world and Red Sox problems, laugh over things now taking place in our former workplace, catch up on each other’s lives, and just have some good conversation. All that will make the food taste really good, too.


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