This week is the one year Anniversary of when I left the working world. Not voluntarily, it was forced on me by an accident at work which I have detailed in numerous blogs and forum posts, along with at least a couple of rants. Nevertheless, voluntarily or involuntarily the result is the same, I am "retired".
For the first 7 months of this retirement, it wasn't exactly bliss out on a Florida Golf Course. Besides the physical issues stemming from the accident, I was under a lot of financial and emotional stress, since it wasn't clear when or even if I would have any income to pay my bills. I wasn't eligible for Unemployment Insurance because I wasn't able to go to work of any sort. In fact just getting out of bed is hard many days. The insurance company representing my old employer "contraverted" the Workman's Compensation claim, which basically means they deny responsibility to pay up. That case is still under litigation a full year later now.
The final source of support in this situation is Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), and for this it takes a minimum of 4-6 months to get processed, and then only around 40% of applicants get their bennies on the first round. Another 40% get it on the second try, and then 20% are left twisting in the wind. Finding out anything about what is going on with your application during the initial supposed 4-6 months is about impossible, so you just wait and hope for the best. It's very stressful though as you watch your savings account dwindle paying your monthly bills, and this of course assumes you have such a savings account with enough money to pay all your bills for at least 6 months, which relatively few people have.
The blame for this lack of savings is often laid at the feet of the individual, but the fact is that unless you make a fairly high income, saving much money is quite difficult to do. Every month you struggle to meet your regular bills, and then when minor disasters come up each year like an impacted wisdom tooth or the tranny on your 8 year old Toyota gives out, whatever savings you accrued to that point ends up being used to cover the small annual disasters you face. If you lose a job for any reason and are unemployed for a few months, even if you get your UE Bennies it's not as much as you made in salary, so again you start dipping into your small pile of savings to cover that period. Over 30 or 40 years of the typical working lifespan in the industrial era, I think just about everyone suffers 1 or 2 periods of unemployment.
Anyhow, fortunately for me as a Doomer I did have my Nest Egg, and I also have made it a point to live very cheap, I keep my bills low and stay out of debt. An early experience in my life of amassing a fairly decent credit card bill for the time made me very penurious. It was all of about $6000 and seems like Chump Change now, but at the time it was $6000 more than I had or even was worth in any assets. All I had was a 7 year old Toyota Tercel 4WD Wagon, vintage 1983 worth about $1500, but they can't take your only transportation from you in a BK. So I declared Chapter 7 Bankruptcy, the bank didn't even bother to show up at the hearing and I was out from under the debt. I never went in debt again, in fact I never even held a credit card since then.
When my final BIG DISASTER occurred, I was not in the majority of people with less than 6 months of savings to cover bills, I had enough to cover more than a year. While not being in immediate danger of becoming Homeless though, it was stressfull watching the carefully harbored digibits in the Credit Union account dwindle each month, and I busied myself making plans for what I would do if I reached a low enough threshold where I would have to give up my digs and go live in my RV.
A HUGE source of psychological comfort and relief for me during this dark time were my friends on the Diner, 4 of whom offered me a place to come and park my RV while trying to get everything sorted out. These folks know who they are, and they have my eternal gratitude. Don't let anyone ever tell you that you can't make true FRIENDS over the internet, you can. True Friendship cannot be measured when times are good, you only know who your true friends are when times get rough.
Finally for me, after 7 months The Finger of God stepped in one more time to keep me going, I got my first SSDI check in November of 2015, and the digibits have been dropped in my Credit Union Account each month on the 4th Wednesday of the month ever since. The Credit Union Account no longer dwindles, now it grows again, although not by too much each month. My bills though are low enough though that SSDI covers them with a little bit to spare.
Many people look at SSDI recipients as "leeches" or the "Free Shit Army" as they liked to phrase it on The Burning Platform when I participated on that Temple of Libertarian nonsense. Fact is though, SSDI wasn't "free" at all. It was a mandatory Insurance Ponzi Scheme that I paid into for every year of my more than 40 year working lifespan. Just like if you have Fire Insurance on your McMansion and it burns down, if you have faithfully paid your monthly premium you EXPECT to be paid off by the Insurance Company! Of course they often try to weasel out on these claims, like the Workman's Comp Insurance company I am battling with is trying to do, but if your claim is valid you are ENTITLED to compensation! "Entitlements" are used pejoratively, as though there is something wrong with being entitled to a pension after working 30 years on a GM Production Line?
Being approved as a Certified Cripple by SSDI also makes it possible for me to get an "Early Pension" from the Union I worked for for 17 years, back in the day. When this comes through, it will add a bit more to the Monthly Mailbox Money I am ENTITLED to, because much like SSDI, my Union Dues were a REQUIRED monthly payment I had to make every month I was working in that industry. So that will add to my buffer level when it does finally come through, although there are delays on that one because they want a copy of my Divorce Decree from 30 years ago, which of course I no longer have and now am trying to get from the NYS Dept of Health. 12-14 weeks on that one supposedly, we'll see.
After all of this, sometime in the next year, maybe by summer I hope to have the Workman's Comp case tied up and settled as well, to finish out the first couple of years of my retirement, which while pretty stressful and not too physically comfortable at least I GOT! Moving down the road into the future, it becomes less and less likely that SS will hold up, that Pension Plans will hold up or that 401Ks and Stock Portfolios of "investments" will hold up too well either. So all the Pigmen who were ENTITLED to a comfortable retirement by living off their investments also won't be doing too good. Retirement as a whole is pretty much an industrial society concept, and in Ag Cultures and H-G cultures, once you past the point of being able to do SOMETHING the society valued, you died.
I in fact do have something to give back to the society which nurtured me, although it does not pay any money currently and actually costs me money to do, which is run the Doomstead Diner. How many people the Diner reaches is an open question, but overall the numbers are pretty good across all the sites under the Diner banner. So I have a REASON to keep going, which is to write for the Doomstead Diner. 🙂
Besides their work, besides raising the kids who leave the nest, besides Hobbies like playing Golf in Florida or visiting National Parks, once retired many folks find themselves without purpose, and that is really what leads you into death. This is a problem I do not have, every day there are new things to write about for the Diner, and in fact I usually am overloaded with projects I want to pursue. Who can I get on for the next interview? What topics to discuss in the next Collapse Cafe? What is sufficiently PISSING ME OFF to rant on? What pictures to select for the latest rant? I am bizzier than ever as a crippled and retired doomer than I ever was as a member of the for pay working world! LOL.
So overall, although it is not the retirement I dreamed of in my youth, this is not too bad as retirements go. I'd like to be in better physical shape of course, but at least my mental faculties are still in decent shape (although some Diners might dispute that. lol). I'm still hopeful that things will improve some too once all the bureaucratic and legal nonsense is tidied up. I'm in the midst of a debate with myself on whether I am physically capable of taking myself out on the road one more time to explore North America, to witness for myself the Collapse of Industrial Civilization as it manifests itself in communities around this land mass. Or perhaps I need to just stay here in my little cave and keep writing until the Internet Goes Dark. I don't know which one I will pick right now, but either way it is OK with me. I lived a pretty interesting life in the Age of Oil, and I didn't compromise my principles very much to make it through either. I certainly got a heck of a lot more than most folks who preceeded me got during their time walking the earth, and more than most folks who succeed me will get either. So all in all, a pretty good go round on this trip in a Meat Package for me on Planet Earth.
I no longer worry about or fear death, although I hope not to have an extended and painful one. I am ready to go into the Great Beyond any day, any time, and for this go round my legacy of the Doomstead Diner will stand until the Internet Goes Dark. Not sure what legacies I left in previous iterations of my life in a meat package on Earth, although I am pretty certain of a few of them. I know spiritually that I have always been a Nomad and always been a Freedom Seeker. I know that I have each time been anti-authoritarian and put the natural world above technological development. I know that in every iteration, I have been an independent soul who cares about others. I know this world will end, but souls are eternal in this universe and others. I know that my soul, when it leaves this meat package this time, will find again another place to seek FREEDOM.
I was there once before, I am certain of it, Navigating the first cat rigged sailing canoe that made it to the Big Island of Hawaii. I will be there again after this retirement is finished and I take my next trip to the Great Beyond.