Well, it’s been a year — and then some — since I wrote.
I’m happy to report that, since I last wrote, the acute depression I was suffering as 2004 wound down — generated exclusively by the results of the 2004 election and therefore properly diagnosed as Post Election Distress Syndrome, or PEDS — passed, so that by January the bliss ninny was back, and I was able to get back to my knitting.
So I came out of my funk, but my worst fears — and then some — about what that election would mean, have in fact come about. Drat.
So as the year starts it feels like we’re in the bad part of the 1980s, when Japan was on an economic tear and we couldn’t do anything right, so that the continued existence over the duration of our lives of the safe, happy place we called home was less assured. But this time the threat comes from our own government, with a big helping hand from China/India/etc. (who are just doing what we would do in their place, i.e., trying to put food on the table of our loved ones) and sucker punches that might even be nuclear the next time around.
For one indication of what we’re doing to undermine our continued prosperity, just look at the new health insurance premiums you’ll be paying this year compared to last year. For many folks, those premiums have roughly doubled in two years, taking what used to be an item of normal monthly expense into the realm of big capital expenditure.
The government hasn’t done anything about that and, in fact, with Part D of Medicare (the so-called “prescription drug benefit,” which is a creature entirely of Republican pedigree), has put all of its heft behind the system as-is — yup, they’ve said “we like it just the way it is” — with private insurers running the show and Big Pharma being allowed to negotiate price with small units rather than large units, all the better to command big dollars with which to buy commercials on the evening news, all the better to get people to buy expensive prescription drugs that their very own doctors don’t want to tell them about because the drugs aren’t really needed, all so that Big Media can make ever more money with the airwaves that we as a people have now fully ceded to them, even though doing so has killed the muscle that the first amendment once had (keep your fingers crossed that the Internet can even that score), even though the first amendment is one of the things that has most helped us be a wonderful place, and even though our elections have been corrupted by the dominance of Big Media (which, now that you ask, is also responsible for Britney Spears putting real musicians out of business).
But enough about what politics hath wrought, enough rant. There’s plenty of time for that. Instead, let’s look at how all of us economic beings (this is, after all, a blog about financial health) feel in the first week of the new year.
It’s good to do so because, at this time of the year more so than any other, we can all judge how well we’ve aligned our economic selves with the other parts of our selves. We can do that by seeing how we feel as we climb back into the saddle — back into our working selves — after being mostly off work for a week or maybe even two.
So how’s it feel?
Many of us find that climbing back into the saddle after being essentially off work for a week or maybe even two is pure torture. We’ve realized how much more we like life when we’re not doing what we do to be economic beings, and even though we might wonder whether we would find it as much fun if our lives were always like one big holiday break, we imagine that we could figure out how to make it great, and that, at the very least, we‘d like to have the challenge.
Others of us find the climb back into the saddle tantamount to coming home, as, for us, being away from work is like being away from our selves — removed from that which is us. Those of us who feel that way probably figured out ways to be working here and there over the holiday, because not working is, in essence, not being.
A subset of us folks in this latter category feel that torture element especially strongly because for us the holidays means family time, and, in an unhappy twist, being with family is like being away from home.
A lucky few of us, though, are at home both when we’re at work and when we’re at play and everywhere in between; we’ve aligned our economic selves with the other parts of our selves (Schedule C filers and business owners note: when it gets harder and harder to distinguish between personal and business expenses, you are accomplishing something that is very good medicine for most people).
So as we climb back into the saddle after our time off, and as we stare at a brand spanking new year ahead of us, all shiny and fresh, we feel good on all accounts: we’re happy to be back at work because there are so many exciting things to look forward to, and to accomplish, in the coming year, just as we’re happy to have had wonderful time off with family and fewer accomplishings to check off the old list. Both are good; both are in balance; both feed the other; both make our world go ’round.
If you are lucky enough and smart enough to get to that lofty state (methinks it takes both), then retirement takes on an entirely different meaning. Indeed, for those few who find the balance described above, the whole idea of a cliff retirement (i.e., the kind of retirement where one day you’re working full time and the next day you’re never going to work again for the rest of your life) looks risky, fraught with peril and just plain ol’ out of balance. Why come to think of it, it could even kill ya!
So as you sit there in your particular saddle the afternoon of January 5, 2006 (or whenever it is that you might be reading this), here’s hoping that you feel both (a) reluctant to be back in the saddle (because you had such a great holiday and want more more more) and excited (because you are so very much looking forward to making the year a wonderful one for your economic self, with much promise, lots to do, and lots of creation and good to be accomplished).
Here’s hoping, then, that both the rearview mirror and the forwardview window make you feel equally (precisely equally) smile-ful, that you feel equally (precisely equally) smile-ful when you contemplate both the social parts and the working parts of your days to come, and that your only regret (not often contemplated, but necessarily contemplated as you go along on your merry bliss-ninny way) is the fact of your own inevitable mortality. But that regret is for a day not today!