Fresh Attacks on Social Security and Retirement Benefits Leave Us With Just One Option…
Maybe you saw this bit of recent news: ExxonMobil management has declared that shareholders are more valuable than workers. That’s about the most honest take on the financially troubled oil giant’s decision this month to conserve cash by eliminating its 401(k) retirement-savings plan match for employees…while preserving the dividend it pays to shareholders.
And if Exxon’s move isn’t enough, we have the recent presidential executive order on payroll tax cuts that, if ultimately implemented, would effectively destroy Social Security by choking off its funding mechanism.
Two things here: First, these callous moves only serve to exacerbate the income inequality dilemma that, at some point, could explode violently. And, second, it further underscores just why we—older workers and retirees—must rely on ourselves to ensure our own retirement happiness.
It’s a cynical way to look at this, but facts are facts when the direct actions of government and Corporate America literally drain money from the pockets of workers and retirees—money that for many people marks the border between poverty and getting by with a sense of dignity.
Frankly, I’ve given up on America taking care of her people, and I long ago gave up on American companies doing right by their workers (Exxon is just the latest miscreant).
I have faith now in one entity…
We are our own strength. We have the power to shape our future. And these latest events—Exxon shortchanging its workers and the White House pushing to strangle Social Security—are proof that we have few remaining options.
Sure, the payroll cut proposal will likely never see the light of day because of political opposition and lawsuits questioning the legality of a president setting tax law unilaterally. Still, it’s a stark reminder that there are those in politics who are continually stalking Social Security with an elephant gun. One day, they might just get a clean shot at the beast.
Which is why I have taken control of my own future and why I write about all the ways you can do the same.
I have conversations with friends and former colleagues back in the States who believe that freelancing and the strategies I lay out for earning an income online are not truly doable by most people…that one need be a unique animal like me to survive in this particular jungle. Indeed, a woman I’ve been friends with for 30 years refuses to believe she could make meaningful money as a freelance copyeditor and proofreader, despite the fact that she’s the best damn editor I’ve ever had, despite the fact that her job in traditional journalism is clearly at risk and she knows it, and despite the fact that I show her the jobs I’m regularly landing.
You can lead a horse to water…but you cannot convince it the water is not poisoned no matter how much of it you drink yourself.
Part of me thinks I shouldn’t care so much that people don’t listen to me when I show them the opportunities they have to earn a real income and live a happier, less stressful, potentially more secure life. But the thing is, I do care. It bothers me, for instance, that my friend doesn’t see the possibilities awaiting her, particularly when I hear her talking about her job worries.
It’s antiquated thinking rooted in the way we boomers and Gen Xers grew up—absent the global reach of the internet.
These days, however…well, I talk to so many retirees and pre-retirees who are banking serious cash doing their own thing. They’re not part of any corporate retirement-savings plan; they don’t even care if Social Security exists. One told me she’d lost Social Security because she renounced her citizenship when she chose to live in Europe, “and I don’t really care.” (I told her she was wrong; you don’t lose Social Security with citizenship renunciation. She checked and, realizing I was right, Skyped me to say “I still don’t care.”)
They are exploiting their skills, their talents, their interests, and their passions to create their own income stream that isn’t reliant on some company or some government. Yahoo.com had the perfect story last week, about a 64-year-old retired English teacher bringing in $3,000 a month offering proofreading, editing, and transcription services on Fiverr, an online freelance portal. She told Yahoo, “I knew Fiverr existed, but I didn’t know it was so vast and there were so many things you could do. I went over to the site and thought about the types of gigs I could do with my skill set—and there’s a lot of things you can do to make money. It took a little while to get started and get people to buy things, but somebody picked up my gig, made an order, and left a good review, and it just went from there.”
Which precisely describes my experience, too.
So, who knows what will become of Social Security? Who knows how many companies will follow Exxon’s lead and axe their 401(k) contributions? Who knows if Congress, now facing an unsustainable debt load of 154% of gross domestic product and growing, will ultimately revoke the tax advantages of individual retirement accounts (IRAs) and 401(k)s?
Build your own freelance side-hustle and you have a self-reliant income source for as long as you wish it to exist.
By Jeff D. Opdyke