by Keith A. Owens
So last week our hero (that would be me) was sorely distressed to discover that the amount of money he had been planning on receiving from his retirement account – and other sources – than had been anticipated and planned for. As a matter of fact your hero wound up receiving somewhere in the neighborhood of $8,000 less than he had originally been told he was going to receive from his retirement funds.
Gee. Tough break, you say. Yeah. No kidding, I say (because this is a family-friendly discussion and I cannot say how I would truly respond to someone whose only reaction to my predicament would be to say ‘Gee. Tough break.’ Right?).
So exactly how did this happen? You might also ask. Well, in a nutshell it has to do with something known as the stock market. My retirement funds were invested in a variety of relatively (so I had been told) moderate risk stocks. Even if I had chosen to take the riskier option to get more return (which I did upon my employer’s advice) the company investing our funds still had a policy that kept them from investing employee retirement funds in the really wack funds, because that would be wrong. So this is me, being fiscally responsible and planning for my family’s future, right? Because for every dollar of my income that goes into the mandated retirement fund, my good government job invested a five-to-one match, meaning $5 was being invested on my behalf for every $1 of my income. Or something like that. And every so often throughout my employment I would get these statements showing how my stock portfolio was performing and how my money was just growing and growing and growing and…
And then the bottom fell out of the economy. But even after the initial earthquake, my portfolio did semi-decent from what I could tell. Not like I’m an expert in reading stock reports. But from what I could see, the ticker was still pointing upwards and that was a good thing. Mo’ money, mo’ money, and all that. So, cool. All I need to do is just keep this good government job for at least 5-10 more years and I figured me and the wife would have a decent amount saved up, plus some other things should be in the works that should have put us on a fairly stable path, or at least stable for us.
Then I was laid off. So immediately I call up the retirement folks to find out the procedure for getting my money out so we could have something to, you know, buy food and all that. Because the unemployment insurance to which I am entitled only covered the mortgage. Period. So the guy does the math and tells me how much to expect. It’s a decent amount and I’m glad. Then the check arrives about a month later and a significant chunk of what had been promised is missing. What gives? I ask after calling back. Stock market goes up, stock market goes down, is essentially what he said. The amount I had in the stock market a month ago had dropped by $8,000 by the time the paperwork was all approved and my money was pulled out.
Gee. Tough break.
The lesson here for a fledgling self-employed person? Don’t count on not one dime, not one penny, until that dime and/or penny is resting comfortably inside your warm little hand. Make your plans based on what you know you have, not on what you hope and pray you will have once this and that comes through from wherever whenever.
In short? Be honest with yourself. Because you’re only hurting yourself, your family, and your business if you aren’t.
Do you have a self-employment story? Let us know in the comments!
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