Tuesday, July 21, 2009


In college, I was voted most likely to succeed.

On graduation day, I was one of three valedictorians.

But all it takes to make me look like an idiot is the mention of the word "investment."

I begin to stare blankly into oblivion, wondering why a girl who graduated with a 4.0 can't seem to grasp the whole saving-money-for-retirement thing.

I blame it on my education. I mean, shouldn't they teach you this stuff? Isn't it slightly more important than say, Aristotelian logic?

Yes. Yes, it is.

At least the real world thinks so.

Odd, because I could go on and on about Aristotelian logic.

How unfortunate for me.

So today I met with my investment advisor.

A nice fellow named Greg.*

Greg wanted to know what I knew about investing. Our conversation went something like this:

"Hi, Annie. I'm going to help you switch your investment portfolio from Fidelity to Merrill Lynch. How long have you been employed here?"

"A year and a half." I say, only wincing slightly.

"And how much are you currently investing?"

Uh... "I'm not sure."

Greg proceeds to look at me like the idiot I apparently am (kindly, though, and with a hint of pity). "Well, your employer matches any 2% contribution with 2%, so I assume you're giving at least that much."

I nod and smile. "Sure."

"And if you contribute more than 2%, your employer matches it by 15%."

Um, okay. Are we talking 2% of my income? Because, maybe I shouldn't be giving that much. I mean, that's a lot. Isn't it? As I'm thinking this, the blank stare arrives, scaring Greg, and my naivete immediately provokes the inevitable question. "How old are you, Annie?"


A relieved look comes over poor Greg's face. "Ah, well, at least your investing something. That's just great."

I immediately feel like I just got an A on a paper. "Great!"

"So, may I suggest that you increase your current contribution? The more you begin giving now, the more you'll have at retirement."

No, duh, Greg. I'm not a complete moron.

I don't say this. Instead, I just smile and nod.

"I'd recommend treating it just like a bill. Even if you just increase your contribution to 6%, we're talking about hundreds of thousands-- possibly millions-- of dollars by retirement."

I'd like to believe poor Greg. Really, I would. Only, here's my problem with this philosophy: I'll be almost dead by the time I retire. And really, who needs millions of dollars on their death bed? I'd rather get to buy the occasional carton of ice cream now. (This is a slight exaggeration. I do care about my future. Really, I do. Just sometimes, Baskin Robbins calls my name. And it tastes better than Merrill Lynch.)

My second issue with Greg's little philosophy? This blasted economy. I overhear adults talking all the time about their lost retirement funds. Um, where did they go? Does this mean mine are going somewhere? Because that doesn't seem fair. It is my money, after all. If I wanted it to disappear, I would have found a suitable place for it to disappear to.

As I'm thinking this, Greg is asking me to fill out paperwork. I gladly comply. Finally, something I can do without making a fool of myself. (And for now, I remain happily contributing 2%. I'll increase to 6%, Greg, when I'm not the primary breadwinner. How's that for a compromise?)

"Now, Annie, it looks like you're currently contributing to a portfolio in preparation for retirement in 2050."

He loses me there. 2050?!? For a girl still working in her first job, just thinking that far in advance is a little much. I mean, how old will I be in 2050? 64?!? I think I'm going to throw up.

"It's a pretty aggressive plan."

Aggressive? Why would I want an aggressive retirement plan? Especially if all my money is going to disappear anyway?

"You are welcome to stick to this plan, or we can disperse your funds into a variety of portfolios."

That seems like a mistake. I have pictures of George Bailey and Bedford Falls breaking into mayhem. Soup lines during the Depression. Dust bowls. Grapes of wrath.

"I think I'll just stick to the one."

"That's just fine. Just go with your original choice."

It's then I remember. My husband did all this. Just a few months ago. He filled out all the paperwork. I believe I had handed it all to him with these words: "Handle this. I don't understand a word."

Great. Some feminist I make.

I can hammer a nail.

Cook dinner in a crappy oven.

Drill a hole.

Paint a wall.

Keep up with the bills and manage our finances.

But I distinctly remember throwing my retirement plan into the hands of my capable husband.

That decision is haunting me now.

If for no other reason than Greg is looking at me like I've lost my marbles.

I just smile and nod.

And I almost inform him I was college valedictorian.

Like that means anything.

*Names protected.


Jordan Jones said...

Way to stick it out in there. :) That stuff's intimidating. Even for a 4.0 student.

katie said...

I totally understand. I get a nice glaze over my eyes when I here 401k.

Anonymous said...

I too think that I am a pretty well rounded independent woman...but I get the same feeling about 401k's etc. as I do when I go into a Home Depot. One part nerves and one part cluelessness. Cheers to us:)

Melissa said...

So true, A -- I want to just put my "retirement" in a metal box under the bed - it won't "grow" doing that, but then it won't "disappear" either! I don't even look at my "retirement" savings statements because it will make me want to throw up, seeing what I've lost...but, God is good and I just pray He'll continue to "never leave me"...M

katie said...

double comment - but I just saw this and thought of you!