Chick Wit: How Much is a Tracksuit?
I recently turned twenty-nine, which is the first birthday (for women) that people start consoling you over. But I wasn't bummed at all. I love cake. And I'm not afraid of getting older. I want to live forever.
I just don't want to work forever.
So this tax season, I realized I have to start saving for my retirement.
I've never been a procrastinator, but it's hard to feel like you need to plan for something thirty-five years in advance.
I haven't made plans for Memorial Day.
But when I started doing the math, I got scared. I don't make a lot of money, and since I've chosen to make a career telling stories, I probably never will. If I want the small amount of money I can live without to grow into enough money to live on, I need to start investing now.
Or in the womb.
I can't afford to grow into the idea that I'm going to grow old someday.
So I figure I've got about forty years of hustling until I'm seventy. By that time, I'll need to have saved enough money for, let's say, thirty more years of life.
Think living until 100 is optimistic? You seriously underestimate how much kale I eat.
When I graduated college, my mom gave me a book by Suze Orman called The Money Book for the Young, Fabulous, and Broke, and while the title was right on the money, there was one problem: it was published in 2007.
Before the economy hit the fan.
The advice was geared toward people working at traditional companies that provide retirement plans and employer-matching 401K's.
Do those jobs exist anymore? And are they hiring?
Most of my friends are self-employed or juggling one dream-career while working part-time elsewhere—in short, no benefits.
Social security will be long extinct by the time my generation goes gray. And unless Jurassic Park 4 is about finding pension-DNA stuck in tree sap, it's not coming back.
National debt finds a way.
Why doesn't anyone tell us how to do this? I went to Harvard, yet the entirety of my finance knowledge came from Kristen Wiig's SNL impression of Suze Orman and Google.
Is everybody my age secretly socking away cash and not telling me?
FOMO is Fear Of Missing Out. I have FORO.
Fear Of Running Out.
So I said farewell to youth and embraced retirement planning. I was so proud of myself for figuring out that I need an IRA, I didn't realize that was only step one. I still had to choose between a Roth IRA, a traditional IRA, a SEP IRA, and probably others
I'm supposed to know but don't.
They all shelter your investment from taxes but prevent you from withdrawing your money until you're fifty-nine-and-a-half.
I thought we stopped counting halves after age nine.
The IRS is so immature.
But there are all these minute differences about who can contribute to what, and which ones lower your taxable income, etc. For example, a Roth IRA allows you to withdraw money early to buy your first house.
Whereas a traditional IRA would prefer you wait until marriage.
When I opened my IRA, the bank associate asked me how much I'd like to contribute. I'd done my homework, and I knew the annual limit for people like me was pretty low, so told her I'd like to put away the maximum I'm allowed.
"Okay. But I can't tell you what that is." She smiled.
"You don't know?"
"Well, I'm not allowed to tell you. You'd have to ask your accountant."
Why is everything tax-related cloaked in secrecy? The IRS is this Oz-like master, with questionably corrupt forces at the top getting all the benefits, while the rest of us pay lots of money for purposes unknown, but we obey, because we're too confused by all the categories and acronyms and pages upon pages of rules, rules that if anyone actually read, would make absolutely no sense.
Is this the federal tax code or Scientology?
In either case, I don't want to get audited.
But I did it! I successfully started saving for my retirement. This calls for cake!
I can only lick the icing now, but in thirty-and-a-half years, I can eat a whole piece.
© Francesca Serritella 2015