Satisfying Retirement In A Changing World: Imagine If We Treated All Problems This Way: No, Wait. We Do.


We notice a 5-year-old child is struggling with reading. We assume she’ll figure it out in time so we ignore the problem. 

By 10 she has fallen behind all her classmates in her ability to comprehend the words in her books. and is at risk of being kept back a grade.

The teacher suggests she spend more time practicing her reading and a little less on video games. Her parents don’t seem all that concerned.

At nineteen she finally graduates and tries for a job at a local restaurant but can’t read the IRS’s W-4 form properly, or even parts of the menu. The owner agrees to use pictures instead of words for each menu item. After all, we are a very visual society.

Far Fetched? Maybe, or maybe not.

Now, take that train of thought and apply it to some of the mess we face in our country at the moment.

The Covid pandemic is sickening 150,000 each day…I say that again…EACH DAY. It has killed over 260,000. The response from tens of millions? It is no biggie. I haven’t gotten sick so what’s the problem. Wear a mask? And look weak? Restrict my freedoms? This is America. I am free to get sick and make you sick. Where are the hot sports for infection and death at the moment? The two Dakotas, one of which is run by a Governor who refuses to take meaningful steps to save her fellow citizens. 

Frankly, I assumed it was a joke until I read several confirming reports, about a person who died even while denying his Covid case was real. The patient asked the attending nurse to tell him the truth…was it pneumonia, strong flu? Why did he need the tubes and masks if he didn’t have the pandemic? This individual literally died while using his last breaths to deny the reality of the virus killing him. That has to be one of the saddest stories I have ever encountered about the harm that a world of “alternate facts” can cause. 

The election from hell drags on. Every time there seems to be a clear path forward someone puts up a barrier. The reality is unable to be faced. So, keep saying “it ain’t so” until it ain’t. 

You might not like the name, climate change, so call it something that isn’t so scary…how about “weird weather?” Regardless, whatever its name it is reality. Coastal cities are flooding on a regular basis. Hurricanes are getting more intense and forming more frequently. Places like Phoenix are getting hotter and drier. The desert southwest will become unlivable within my grandchildren’s’ lifetime. The climate will continue to change whether we want to admit it or not.

How about the looming disaster facing our Social Security benefits, a train wreck that has been right in front of us for at least twenty years. While the exact date is up for debate (like everything else), at some point in the next 15 years or so the payments to Social Security recipients will have to come from the trust fund, something that hasn’t happened since 1982. When that happens, benefits will be cut by at least 20%. And, that will be just the first cut, but it will not be the deepest or last. 

All the warnings and all the demographic trends haven’t been enough to motivate politicians to do their job for this problem. Like nearly every important issue of the last few decades, those fine folks in Washington wait until the clock has hit 11:59 before even admitting there is a problem. Knowing that a cut in the monthly checks to nearly 79 million of us is looming isn’t enough yet to prompt any serious responses.

This leads me back to my story at the beginning. Knowing about a problem and ignoring it too long never produces the best results. Emergency patches always contain glitches or unintended consequences that must be repaired. By waiting until the last minute, or beyond, the lives of tens of millions of us will be balancing on a razor’s edge of uncertainty.

During our retirement, I believe the dangers of not facing a problem head-on are substantial. The same logic applies to how everyday problems, challenges, and hard decisions are resolved.

Wouldn’t it be refreshing if we started dealing with what we know is coming instead of turning away or simply closing our eyes, looking for the mythical “they” to solve all the problems so we can skip merrily through life?